May 14, 2013-Billie Sol Estes dies at the age of 88 in his sleep at his home in Granbury, Texas. Estes was convicted in 1963 on charges of fraud and embezzlement and his conviction and imprisonment sent shock waves through the halls of Washington, D.C., including the oval office. Once a close friend of Lyndon Johnson, Ralph Yarborough and Sam Rayburn, the former Texas wheeler-dealer found himself alone in multiple battles against the U.S. government. The evidence and testimony in the cases was sometimes flimsy or non-existent, but nonetheless, he was convicted in two separate trials resulting in two separate prison sentences. A self-made millionaire, Estes showed a flair for arithmetic and his skill at generating revenue is still a tale of legend. Highly connected to powerful politicians and officials in the Democratic party, Estes became a top player in Texas and U.S. politics. He was largely convicted in the court of public opinion resulting in his image being forever tainted. His oldest daughter Pam, tells her side of the story and the experiences of Estes and his family as they fought two legal battles for her father’s freedom.
One would expect a memoir by his daughter to be slightly biased, but she does an excellent job of being critical of her father when necessary but clearly displays her love for her dad and highlights the many great qualities he possessed which would also be used by his enemies to engineer his downfall. A strong supporter of civil rights and integration, Estes sent hundreds of Mexican-American and African-American children to school at the height of his career. His integration beliefs would cause him to receive significant backlash, but he pushed on disregarding what others thought of his actions. Later in his life he would be haunted by several demons, and his daughter doesn’t hide them at all. I firmly believe that there are some discussions that are never had between parent and child, not because it’s not possible, but because we accept our parents as they are. Estes’ actions and career will always be subjected to ridicule and examination, but the fact remains that he is a crucial part to the history of Texas politics, the career of Lyndon Johnson and American history.