Amid all the changes in state government brought about by the November election, Joe Straus remains the most notable constant. The San Antonio Republican was first elected speaker of the House in 2009 after widespread dissatisfaction with the heavy-handed leadership style of Tom Craddick, the first Republican speaker since Reconstruction, led to Craddick’s ouster.
Less than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor—which gutted the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman—legislatures and judiciaries in state after state have overturned bans on same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians can now marry in 36 states and Washington, D.C. Texas remains one of the last holdouts.
You can scoff, if you like, at the bromide that journalists should comfort the afflicted, yet for all the stories we publish both in the magazine and online—covering everything from politics to food—our staff writers reserve a special pride for shining a light on the injustices suffered by people caught in the system. So it was particularly rewarding to hear two updates to recent stories as we were working on the February 2015 issue.
Five years ago, Russell Montgomery was managing a Starbucks and dreaming of starting his own business. His wife, Elizabeyta, suggested knife making, because he had been fascinated by sharp edges as a kid—the blades of the skates he used as a competitive ice skater, the viking axes he spent hours throwing at trees.
Joe Bowers arrived in the Panhandle in 1897 with one goal in mind: to become a cowboy. He was 25 years old and tired of walking behind a plow on his family’s cotton farm in Bell County, so he took a job breaking horses for his cousins, Burl and Frank Jackson, who had a ranch near Miami, in Roberts County. Bowers cowboyed on various ranches and managed to lose his left arm while trying to fix a windmill. Then he met Lizzie Martin, a friend of Frank’s wife, and they were married on Christmas Eve 1898.
Late last June, the price of a barrel of oil, which stood at $108, began to slide. By July 14 it had dropped to $102. By August 19 it had reached $94. But it wasn’t until autumn, when West Texas Intermediate crude—the benchmark for U.S. oil prices—slid below $90, that producers and investors began to worry. The price kept slipping. On November 26, it stood at a measly $74. Then, a day later, on Thanksgiving, OPEC announced that, contrary to the hopes of many, it would do nothing to cut production.
On November 10 Giovanni Capriglione, a Republican state representative from Southlake, appeared on a panel convened by the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party and took a lonely stand. The topic that evening was the 2015 legislative session, which would begin January 13. It had been less than a week since Republicans had once again swept the statewide elections, this time by unexpectedly large margins.
When Cathy Cochran joined Texas’s highest criminal court, in 2001, she had little idea the state was about to radically reform its approach to crime and punishment.
•A hummingbird that had flown off course on its migration south was taken by airplane from Minnesota to Texas, where it was released into the wild. A Woodlands house with a three-story closet was put on the market for $12.9 million.
•Fathers at Lakewood Elementary School raised money to buy a car for the longtime crossing guard, whose vehicle had been repossessed following his wife’s costly illness.
Make Some Room, The Suffers (self-released, January 20)
Yes, this is a four-song EP from an unsigned Houston band. But when that band dominates the Houston Press Music Awards, attention must be paid. And given this ten-piece ensemble’s razor-sharp funk revivalism and front woman Kam Franklin’s powerhouse voice, it’s tough to imagine they’ll remain unsigned for long. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, watch out.