Portrait of a southern Progressive: The political life and times of Governor Pat M. Neff of Texas, 1871-1952

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Pat M. Neff was a product of his political place and time. Born in Texas in 1871, during Reconstruction, he matured and prospered while his native state did the same as it transitioned from Old South to New South. Neff spent most of his life in Waco, a town that combined New South Progressivism with religious conservatism. This duality was reflected in Neff's own personality. On moral or religious issues, he was conservative. On economic and social issues, he was Progressive. He thus was a typical Southern Progressive who de-emphasized social and political change in favor of economic development. For ... continued below

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Stanley, Mark May 2011.

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  • Stanley, Mark

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Pat M. Neff was a product of his political place and time. Born in Texas in 1871, during Reconstruction, he matured and prospered while his native state did the same as it transitioned from Old South to New South. Neff spent most of his life in Waco, a town that combined New South Progressivism with religious conservatism. This duality was reflected in Neff's own personality. On moral or religious issues, he was conservative. On economic and social issues, he was Progressive. He thus was a typical Southern Progressive who de-emphasized social and political change in favor of economic development. For instance, as governor from 1921 to 1925, his work to develop and conserve Texas' water resources brought urbanization and industrialization that made the New South a reality in the state. Neff was a devout Baptist which influenced his politics and philosophy. He was president of Baylor University, a Baptist institution, for fifteen years after leaving the governor s office and he led the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the 1940s. He combined Progressive and Christian values as he argued for the establishment of the United Nations and advocated forgiveness and brotherhood after World War II. The war's end marked the beginning of the American civil rights movement. Many within the SBC advocated an end to racism and discrimination, others did not. Neff's unwillingness to challenge racial traditions was typical of southern Progressives.
The convergence of national politics and southern evangelical religion is evident in the final chapter of Neff's career. His selection of President Harry S. Truman as the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Baylor offended many religious conservatives. Neff overcame the opposition but it damaged his reputation and ultimately forced his resignation, ending his public career. By the time of his death in 1952, Texas had become everything the New South was supposed to be-urbanized and industrialized. Neff's activities were crucial to making that happen.

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  • May 2011

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  • Jan. 9, 2012, 9:53 p.m.

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  • June 14, 2017, 3:35 p.m.

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Stanley, Mark. Portrait of a southern Progressive: The political life and times of Governor Pat M. Neff of Texas, 1871-1952, dissertation, May 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67950/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .