Friday, November 23, 2012

Boniface Juvenal Leyendecker (1866-1953)

   We continue our stay in the Lonestar State for today's profile on Mr. Boniface Juvenal Leyendecker, a lifelong resident of the city of Laredo. During a career in public service that lasted over five decades, Leyendecker went from being a railroad worker to county assessor to state representative, being elected to the latter office when he was over 70! While little exists online detailing the life of this intriguingly named man, a few archived newspaper articles have been located that give a substantial overview of his career in the public forum. 
  Boniface J. Leyendecker was born on May 3, 1866 in Laredo, the son of John Zirvas (1827-1902) and Julia Benavides Leyendecker (1837-1926). John Leyendecker had earlier distinguished himself as an assistant quartermaster for the Confederacy during the Civil War and later represented Colorado County in the Texas Legislature from 1873-1874. Young Boniface would attend the public schools of Laredo and as a young man found employment as a teller in the National Bank of Laredo.
   Leyendecker eventually left that employ and became engaged in railroad work, serving as a passenger conductor for the Mexican National Railroad, running from Laredo to San Luis Potosi. A 1937 edition of the Laredo Times gives note that he served as a conductor for over a decade, and it is also mentioned that he had previously been a brakeman and express messenger. In 1890 Leyendecker married Galveston native Cecila Dellmar, with whom he had several children, including the following: Louis Lawrence (birthdate unknown), Pauline (1894-1969), Boniface Jr. (1896-1966), Cecilia (birthdate unknown), John Zirvas (1901-1971), Henry George (1903-1972) and Ernest Abbott (birthdate unknown).
   In the late 1890s, Leyendecker made his first foray into local politics, being elected as an alderman to the Laredo city council. In 1902 he was named as district clerk for the Webb County district court, continuing in this position for a number of years. During this time Leyendecker also made his name known in local farming circles, becoming a partner in the firm of Leyendecker and Mullally, a business devoted to the manufacture of farming implements used in the conversion of Mexican sugar cane into syrup and molasses. The Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas, Volume II makes note of the firm being "pioneers in this industry in the Laredo Country, and it is to be expected that the whole region will benefit greatly from their experiments.
   In addition to his farming pursuits, Leyendecker continued to be actively involved in the political affairs of his native county of Webb, serving as tax assessor for that county for over twenty-six years (1908-1934). He was also named as President of the Texas Tax Assessors Association from 1931-1932. Four years later Leyendecker won election to the Texas State House of Representatives from Webb County, taking office at the ripe old age of 71! 

                                Bonnie Leyendecker as he looked late in his legislative tenure, circa 1945.

    Familiarly known as "Bonnie" by his contemporaries, Leyendecker served in the House of Representatives from 1937-1947, holding a seat on a number of legislative committees during his decade-long tenure. They are listed as follows: Live Stock and Stock Raising, Gaming and Liquor Laws, Public Health, Engrossed Bills, State Affairs, Aeronautics, and lastly, chairman of the committee on Banks and Banking. The Laredo Times newspaper gave a substantial write up on his legislative service in 1943, mentioning "Bonnie" as a "short, quick man, rarely seen without his cigar" and that he maintained a fascination with a rather odd non-political subject, astrology. The Times quotes him as saying that "I absolutely believe that the study of astrology would make a Christian out of an atheist.....How can one study the stars and the planets and the mysterious ways in which they move without believing in a Supreme Being?"
   Boniface Leyendecker retired from political life at the end of the Texas Legislature's 49th session in 1947. He was 80 years old at the time of his retirement and is mentioned as being the oldest member of the House from the time of his first election until his leaving office. In the months before his death, Leyendecker is reported as suffering from a state of impaired health, and he died in Laredo on June 27, 1953 at age 87. He was shortly thereafter interred at the Laredo Catholic Cemetery. His obituary below appeared in the San Antonio Express on the day following his death.

The San Antonio Express, June 28, 1953.

This write up on Leyendecker appeared in the April 11, 1943 edition of the Laredo Times.

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