Alvin Jacob Wirtz

Male 1888 - 1951

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  • Born  24 May 1888  Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender  Male 
    Died  27 Oct 1951  Austin, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Buried  Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Person ID  I25491  Virts
    Last Modified  11 Sep 2015 

    Father  Lewis Michael Wirtz,   b. 13 Jun 1854, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Feb 1915 
    Mother  Dora A. Dent,   b. 27 Jul 1863,   d. 27 May 1898 
    Married  21 Oct 1883 
    Family ID  F10304  Group Sheet

    Family  Kitty Stamps Stamps,   b. 18 Jan 1888, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married  18 Nov 1913  Guadalupe County, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
     1. Ida May Wirtz,   b. Abt 1918, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified  11 Sep 2015 
    Family ID  F26468  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • Alvin J. Wirtz, the "father of LCRA," played an instrumental role in creating the organization.

      An attorney and former Texas state Senator, Wirtz developed an expertise in water, utility and political issues. His role in creating LCRA grew out of his need to obtain funding in the early 1930s (during the Great Depression) to complete the construction of a dam on the Colorado River by a client that had gone bankrupt. When his search for private investors proved fruitless, Wirtz sought funds from one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal public works program. Wirtz also wrote the legislation creating LCRA and steered the bill through four legislative sessions to its eventual approval in November 1934.

      As LCRA's first general counsel, Wirtz maintained federal support for construction of Buchanan and Inks dams and worked for federal approval for what would become Mansfield Dam to manage and store floodwaters.

      Wirtz and Lyndon B. Johnson became great friends when Johnson, as a congressional assistant in Washington, helped direct Wirtz to the right people to discuss federal funding for the Buchanan Dam project. Later, Wirtz supported Johnson when he embarked on his first U.S. Senate campaign. Wirtz and Johnson forged a relationship that created and expanded LCRA's public power and other programs that transformed Central Texas and helped shape the LCRA of today.

      Wirtz served as LCRA's General Counsel from 1935-1940, when he was appointed Undersecretary of the Interior (1940-1941). He returned to his Austin law firm in 1941 and briefly served as a consultant on power affairs under Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes.

      Johnson's Mentor, Senator Alvin Jacob Wirtz

      Alvin Jacob Wirtz was a lawyer and legislator, first a state senator from Texas, then a United States Senator for the same state. In 1935, Wirtz came to Washington and helped organize the Lower Colorado River Authority. He specialized in oil and water law and was appointed general counsel to the newly established LCRA. Working closely with United States Representative Lyndon Johnson, he helped the river authority secure grants and loans from the Public Works Administration, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and the Rural Electrification Administration.

      More than any one person, Alvin Wirtz helped pave Lyndon Johnson's early rise to power. Ed Clark, a colleague of Wirtz' for years said of him, "What he wanted was P-O-W-E-R - power over other men. He wanted power, but he didn't want to get it by running for office. He liked to sit quietly, smoke a cigar. He would sit and work in his library, and plan and scheme, and usually he would get somebody out in front of him so that nobody knew it was Alvin Wirtz who was doing it. He would sit and scheme in the dark. He wasn't an outgoing person. But he was the kind of person who didn't want to lose any fights. And he didn't lose many."

      As an attorney, Wirtz had a reputation among collegues for being ruthless. A San Antonio attorney observed that he was "a conniver - a conniver like I never saw before or since. Sharp, cunning." Another attorney commented that "He would gut you if he could. But you would probably never know he did it. I mean, that was a man who would do anything - and he would still be smiling when he slipped you the knife."

      In 1917 Wirtz moved his family to Seguin, where he continued his law practice until 1934. From 1922 to 1930 Wirtz served as state senator from Guadalupe County. During his time in the legislature, Wirtz became involved with a group of citizens interested in the development of the Guadalupe River as a source of hydroelectric power. As someone driven by a need to obtain power over men, Wirtz viewed dams as a means of acquiring it.

      In 1934 Wirtz moved to Austin after being run out of Seguin by disgruntled farmers who believed his dam projects had cheated them out of their land. This was result of his dealings with businessman Samuel Insull of Chicago. Insull had retained Wirtz to procure land from farmers along the Guadalupe River for the purpose of building six small dams for irrigation. The farmers were unwilling to sell, but through legal maneuvering, Wirtz got the government to purchase the farmers' land at low prices. On February 26, 1934, Tom Hollamon, Sr - a sixty-seven-year-old farmer and former Texas Ranger - walked into Wirtz's office, where he was meeting with Insull representatives, and began shooting. Before being disarmed, one Chicago financier was dead. Hollamon was arrested for murder, but Wirtz was quickly run out of town by the locals.

      In Austin Wirtz organized the law firm of Powell, Wirtz, Rauhut, and Gideon. Things seemed bleak for awhile, but Roosevelt's New Deal gave him a chance to revive his dream of becoming a power mogul. During Roosevelt's "Hundred Days" portion of the New Deal, $3.3 billion of federal money was slowly released into the economy for public works which included dams. Eventually a $10,000,000 dam project, the Marshall Ford Dam, became the vehicle by which Wirtz could acquire the power he sought. The contract was awarded to one of Wirtz' clients, Brown & Root.

  • Sources 
    1. [S3784] Texas Death Certificate No. 54610.

    2. [S1753] Texas, County Marriage Records, 1837-1977.