Transcript of John Goodwin Tower

This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.

Texas became a two-party state in 1961, when conservative Republican John Tower was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was the first Republican senator from Texas since Reconstruction.

Born in 1925, Tower grew up in East Texas, the son of a Methodist minister. He served in the Navy during World War II and then earned a master’s degree in political science from SMU. Tower was teaching at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls when he decided to enter politics. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1960, losing to Lyndon B. Johnson. But Tower won the seat the following spring, in a special election called after Johnson assumed the vice presidency.

During four senate terms, Tower was a dominant voice for conservative Texas Republicans. He chaired the powerful Armed Services Committee and promoted the energy and banking industries. Intelligent and sometimes prickly, Tower was a master at moving legislation through Congress. He was a political mentor to Senator John McCain, and to many Texas Republicans including future President George H. W. Bush.

Tower retired from the Senate in 1985. Four years later, President Bush nominated him for Secretary of Defense, but the Senate rejected the nomination. Tower was deeply wounded by the defeat.

In 1991, Tower died tragically, along with his daughter Marian, in a commuter plane crash in Georgia.

More information about John Goodwin Tower and other Texas Originals is available at This program is produced by KUHF Houston Public Radio and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.