THE ART OF POLITICS AND CELEBRITY
Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe and his wife, Janey, and U.S. Vice President John Nance Garner left lasting legacies in their hometown including an opera house, a museum, and a collection of fine art housed in a downtown bank. Indeed, Uvalde has had its share of celebrities, famous and infamous. Singer/songwriter/movie star Dale Evans, “Queen of the Cowgirls,” was a native daughter; actor Matthew McConaughey is a native son. Art imitated life when McConaughey portrayed bank robber Willis Newton in “The Newton Boys,” a film about the Uvalde-based brothers who robbed banks and trains in the 1920s. The notorious outlaw-turned-acting-county sheriff King Fisher supplied real-life drama in the 19th Century, and is buried in Uvalde’s Pioneer Cemetery.
Now a Texas Main Street City, downtown Uvalde boasts an old-fashioned soda fountain at the Rexall Drug Store, in business since 1883; the 1928 Uvalde County Courthouse, designed by architect Henry T. Phelps in the Neo-classical style with cast stone segmental arches and Ionic porticoes at the entrances; and an 1891 opera house that was and remains a regional cultural center. The upstairs auditorium hosts live theater and musical performances.
Congressman John Nance Garner, whose nickname was “Cactus Jack,” was a colorful politician who served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and as Vice President of the United States (1933-1941) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Garner’s Uvalde home now serves as the Briscoe-Garner Museum. Currently closed for renovations, some of the exhibits are temporarily displayed at the First National Bank of Uvalde. There’s more Southwest Texas history at El Progreso Memorial Library, established in 1903 and now located in a modern building. Archives document the families, businesses and organizations of Uvalde and 10 surrounding counties and a museum hosts traveling exhibits.