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About Beauford Halbert Jester
Beauford Halbert Jester (January 12, 1893 – July 11, 1949) was the 36th Governor of Texas, serving from 1947 until 1949, when he died of a heart attack. He is the only Texas governor ever to have died in office. Jester was the son of George Taylor Jester.
He won the governorship in the Democratic primary in a run-off election in 1946 by defeating Homer Rainey, who had been discharged by the regents as the president of the University of Texas at Austin in 1944 in a dispute over academic freedom.
As governor Jester created the Board of Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools, the Texas Youth Development Council, and reformed the state prison system. He also increased funding for state hospitals and orphanages, enacted strong right-to-work laws, and supported an anti-lynching law.
Jester was easily re-elected to a second term in 1948. He then helped implement the most extensive education reforms the state of the time through the 1949 Gilmer-Aiken Act, the first comprehensive system for Texas school funding.
Jester was born in Corsicana, the seat of Navarro County in east Texas, attended the University of Texas at Austin and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He later studied law at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His studies were interrupted by the First World War. In 1919, he resumed his law studies at the University of Texas, from which he received his LL.B a year later. He returned to Corsicana to practice law, and was president of the Navarro County Bar Association for many years. Jester also served as director of the state bar association from 1940-1941. Jester was elected to statewide office in 1942 as a member of the Texas Railroad Commission serving until 1947.
For many years, Jester was a member of the University of Texas Board of Regents, and from 1933-1935 was the youngest man to ever serve as president of that body. In honor of his service, the Jester Center on the University of Texas campus was named after him in 1968. This contains Jester Dormitory, the largest residential facility on campus, housing just under 3,000 students, as well as classroom and faculty space. Also, a Texas Department of Corrections complex of prisons, the Jester Prison Farm, was named after Jester—featured in the 1974 movie, The Sugarland Express.
In 1964, Jester Park was dedicated by the City of Corsicana in memory of Beauford Jester. The 24-acre (97,000 m2) park is home to the Lefty Frizzell Memorial and the Pioneer Village, which recreates the lives of the city's pioneers with replicas of historic buildings.
Jester is interred in Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana.