Paul Walter Eggers (April 20, 1919 – June 21, 2013) was an Indiana native who was the Republican nominee for governor of Texas in both 1968 and 1970, when the state still had two-year gubernatorial terms. (Under a 1972 state constitutional amendment, the terms were doubled in 1974 to the current four years.) Eggers' races for governor were his only attempts at elected office. At the time, he was a largely unknown tax attorney in Wichita Falls in North Texas.
By 1970, Eggers had relocated from Wichita Falls to Dallas. He was a close friend and associate of Republican U.S. Senator John G. Tower. Eggers' amiable personality was shown in his campaign posters, and he waged aggressive though underfunded races against the conservative Democratic nominee, Preston Smith, a theater owner from Lubbock, who was the lieutenant governor under retiring Governor John B. Connally, Jr.
Eggers was born to a minister, Ernest H. Eggers, and the former Ottilie W. Carre in Seymour in Jackson County in southern Indiana. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941 from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he played football. In 1978, Valparaiso University named him a "Distinguished Alumnus". He served in World War II as a major in the United States Army Air Forces. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and on December 29 of that year married Frances Kramer. They had one son, Steven Paul Eggers (born 1957) of Dallas. In 1948, Eggers received his J.D. degree from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin and was thereafter licensed to practice in Texas. After his divorce from his first wife, Eggers married Virginia McMillin (born 1928) on February 23, 1974. He was in private practice and a partner in three law firms, Eggers, Sherrill, & Pace (1952–1969) in Wichita Falls and Eggers & Wylie (1977–1979), and Eggers & Greene (1979–1993), both in Dallas. Eggers was a long-term active member of the Episcopal Church. He was chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas from 1978 to 1992, when he was designated chancellor-emeritus.
In 1967, Eggers headed a citizens group which developed plans to open the first senior citizens center in Wichita Falls for leisure activities for persons sixty years of age and older. The center, which offers dances, book reviews, lectures, and hot lunches, opened in May 1968. The project began on a three-year trial basis and became an integral part of Senior Citizens Services of North Texas. About the time that work began on the senior citizens center, Eggers was named to the board of directors of the City National Bank of Wichita Falls.
The 1968 campaign
To secure the 1968 party nomination, Eggers, with 65,501 votes (62.5 percent), handily defeated two challengers, John Trice (28,849) and Wallace Sisk (10,415). In 1964, Trice had been the GOP candidate for Texas Attorney General against the incumbent Waggoner Carr, who two years later was the Democratic opponent of Senator Tower. The Republican primary vote for all three intraparty rivals was only 5.6 percent of the total Democratic primary turnout.Time called Eggers a "virtually unknown candidate who is unlikely to make Texas history by becoming the first Republican Governor since Reconstruction."
Preston Smith won the 1968 nomination in a runoff against the liberal Don Yarborough of Houston, no relation to another Texas liberal with the same surname, U.S. Senator Ralph W. Yarborough of Austin. In the general election of 1968, the heavily favored Smith received 1,662,019 ballots (57 percent) to Eggers' 1,254,333 votes (43 percent).
Eggers was considered somewhat moderate for a Texas Republican candidate. He seemed to vacillate on whether to seek the support of disenchanted liberal Democrats who opposed Smith's rather conservative positions or to maintain the active goodwill of the strong conservative base within the Texas GOP. In the end, Eggers lost, and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota, with the support of retiring U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and John Connally, held Texas, his sole Southern state, in his national loss to Richard M. Nixon.
The election of 1970
In 1970, Eggers again ran for the Republican nomination to the Texas governorship, having defeated Roger Martin 101,875 to 7,146 votes. In the general election, he ran against Smith, who won the Democratic nomination without opposition. President Nixon came to East Texas in an attempt to convince conservative Democrats to support the Republican ticket. In Longview, the seat of Gregg County, he formally endorsed both Eggers and U.S. Senate nominee George H.W. Bush, with his greater comments reserved for Bush, then a U.S. Representative from Houston.
Nixon declared his endorsement of Eggers: "I happen to know him personally and like him ... I appointed him as the General Counsel for the Treasury Department. He rendered distinguished service. And there he learned what it means to handle the great problems involving the finance of the United States of America. He is a man who, in state government, will know how important it is to keep down that spending so that you can keep down your taxes. That is the kind of a man you want in the governor's office in Austin. He is a man who understands the other problems of government, one who will take a firm stand for the enforcement of the law in a fair way; one who will be firm for equality of opportunity for all people, and, above everything else, who will be for progress for this state."
Nixon also addressed the use of school busing as a tool to promote desegregation of public schools. Nixon said: "If you are going to have quality education for a child, and particularly for a young child, you will have it best by having that child go to school closest to home in his own neighborhood and not some place else. That is why George Bush, John Tower, I, and Paul Eggers all stand firmly for the neighborhood school and against busing, which the law does not require solely for the purpose of racial balance. Because that is quality education."
In a low-turnout general election in 1970, Smith received 1,197,726 votes (53.6 percent) to Eggers' 1,037,723 (46.4 percent).
In 1970, Eggers registered one of the stronger Republican gubernatorial showings. Eight years earlier, in the 1962 Republican race against then Democrat John Connally, the Houston oilman Jack Cox, a former Democrat, ran nearly as well as Eggers in 1970. Eggers ultimately finished with about the same 46 percent margin as his ticket-mate, George H. W. Bush, who lost to Democratic former U.S. Representative Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., also of Houston. Eggers trailed Bush by 34,000 votes. In 1964, Bush had also fallen short in the U.S. Senate race against Democrat Ralph Yarborough. In the 1970 campaign, Bush defended his support in Congress for the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which forbade discrimination in the sale and rental of most housing in the United States. Eggers recalls Bush's admonition to opponents of open housing in that campaign: "If you don't want to vote for me because of open housing, then don't vote for me."
John Tower in Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir recalled that Lloyd Bentsen "moved to the right" and cut into Bush's natural base. Eggers, Tower said, "was nickeled and dimed to death in the cow counties by Preston Smith, who ran well in the traditionally Democratic rural areas."
In 1969, between his two gubernatorial races, as Nixon had mentioned in Longview, Eggers served briefly in the Treasury Department.
In 1976, Eggers led a slate of delegates in Texas's 5th congressional district pledged to U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., but he lost his race and hence his delegate slot, 5,203 to 11,975 to backers of Ford's ultimately unsuccessful intraparty challenger, former Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California. Similarly, Robert Mosbacher in the Houston-based 7th congressional district lost his slot to Reagan backer Walter Mengden, a member of the Texas State Senate.
In August 1983, Tower flew to Austin on a private plane, with Eggers among his entourage on board, to announce that he would not seek a fifth term in 1984. When Tower left office early in 1985, Eggers joined him in the formation of a consulting firm. In 1997, six years after Tower's death, Eggers, then seventy-eight, and three others were charged with defrauding investors in a scheme involving "nonexistent bank obligations", according to Mary Jo White, then the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The four were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The complaint filed in United States Magistrates Court in Manhattan cited a brochure entitled Secured High-Yield Investment Program, which claimed that a $500,000 investment would bring a return of $10,390,625 within 60 days.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons shows no record of Eggers having been imprisoned as a result of the charges filed against him in 1997.
From 1987 to 1990, Eggers was named by Republican Governor Bill Clements as chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Drug Abuse.
Though he did not seek office after 1970, Eggers supported various Republican candidates over the years, including the unsuccessful campaigns of Thomas Pauken for the U.S. House in Dallas and Howard Callaway for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, both in 1980. Callaway had been President Gerald R. Ford's first campaign manager in 1975. Eggers donated to the pre-general election race of the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984 and to U.S. Representative Phil Gramm, Tower's successor in the U.S. Senate. In the summer of 1995, Eggers donated to the short-lived presidential bid of then Governor Pete Wilson of California. He also contributed to the Texas Republican Party in Austin.
Until his death, Paul and Virginia Eggers resided in Dallas, where he had been a member of the Brook Hollow Golf Club.
Eggers and his identical twin brother, Arthur Eggers, received the Silver Anniversary All American Award in 1966 from Sports Illustrated magazine in recognition of "extraordinary achievement" in the twenty-five years since playing their last college football game. He also had a second brother, the Reverend Ernest Eggers, and three sisters.