From the May 28, 1948 edition of the Bartlett, Texas Tribune.
Out of the fifty states in the Union, the state of Texas has managed to accumulate some of the most peculiarly named political figures in the nation's history, and if you've followed the "Strangest Names In American Political History" for any length of time you'll remember that the Lonestar State has been very well represented here, with men such as Copenitus Bannister Maynard (a state representative from 1929-31), Dethloff Willrodt (a state representative from 1899-1901) and Boniface Juvenal Leyendecker (a state representative from 1937-1947) receiving write-ups on their political service and outstandingly different names.
With all of these oddly named Texas politicians popping up on the site, one may ask "can Texas produce a public official with a name stranger than Copenitus Bannister Maynard?" As the following article will illustrate, the bar of unique names has indeed been raised, and this author must state that you'd be hard-pressed to find a name stranger than the one that belongs to Austin, Texas native Omicron Pi Lockhart! Despite being saddled with this truly bizarre name, Mr. Lockhart didn't let it keep him from pursuing an exemplary career in public service within the Texas state government. Despite his lack of years (he died aged only 54), Mr. Lockhart served as Texas State Life Insurance Commissioner and Chairman of the Texas State Board of Insurance Commissioners. In addition to the aforementioned positions, Lockhart was also an alternate delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention and later launched a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives for Texas' 10th district in the 1948 Democratic Primary.
Briefly described in Robert Caro's 1990 work Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson II as a "minor state official", this small assessment of Lockhart could not be further from the truth, and a fairer statement would be that history seems to have forgotten the life and contributions of this amazingly named Texan, and this author is quite perplexed as to why not one biographical work giving background on Mr. Lockhart is to be found anywhere online! The following passages aim to shed more light on Omicron Pi Lockhart's life and public career in the Lonestar State, and will hopefully restore some measure of prominence to a sadly forgotten Texas political figure with a very memorable name.
Born in Milam County, Texas on June 18, 1900, Omicron Pi Lockhart was the son of Baptist minister and "classical scholar" Thomas Jefferson Lockhart (1859-1934) and his wife, the former Martha Louisa Hurt (1865-1919). At some point prior to his children's births, Thomas Lockhart came into the possession of a bible written in the Greek alphabet, and for reasons known only to him named several of his children after letters in the Greek alphabet, and they are listed as follows in order of birth: Alpha Omega (1886-1971), Beta Gamma (1888-1962), Lewis Buckner Hightower (born 1891), Delta Epsilon (1889-1933), Zeta Eta (born 1893), Theta Lota (1896-1925), Lambda Mu (born 1898), Omicron Pi (1900-1955), Rho (or Rhoes) Sigma (1903-1904) and Upsilon Phi (1908-1988)...truly some interestingly named offspring!
Mentioned in the Bartlett Tribune as having "been reared on a Texas farm", Omicron P. Lockhart attended schools in Rogers, Bell County, Texas and later studied at Texas A & M University. He was a graduate of the San Marcos Teachers College and after the completion of his college education became a school teacher, being listed as Superintendent of Schools for Rowena, Texas in a 1922 Texas Educational Bulletin under the initials "O.P. Lockhart" (his abbreviated name has proven to be a prevalent theme during the course of research for this article.)
Despite having scant information detailing his early life, the Lubbock Morning Avalanche details that Lockhart taught school for a period of about three years and during the 1920s became connected with a "chain bakery firm", eventually moving to Austin with this business, "which he later purchased and operated 17 years." Lockhart married on June 5, 1921 to Ms. Helen Corine Prinzing (1903-1989) and later had one daughter, Kathleen Lockhart Hutchens (1927-2007).
Following his removal to the Texas state capitol, O.P. Lockhart became active in Democratic political circles, eventually becoming a close friend and confidant of Wilbert Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel (1890-1969), a future Governor of Texas and later, a U.S. Senator. Lockhart's immersion in Democratic politics led him to serve as a member of the Texas State Democratic Committee beginning in 1938, and in 1940 was an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated Franklin Roosevelt for an unprecedented third term. Lockhart's friendship with Pappy O' Daniel eventually grew to such an extent that he served as a campaign manager for O'Daniel during the latter's successful run for Texas Governor in 1939. Taking into account his friend's past service and connection to the Austin business community, O'Daniel appointed Lockhart to be Texas State Life Insurance Commissioner, to which office he was sworn in June of 1941. In addition to serving in this capacity, Lockhart also served as chairman of the Texas State Board of Insurance Commissioners during his term, which extended from 1941-1945.
O.P. Lockhart being sworn in as Insurance Commissioner in June 1941, with Texas Governor Pappy O'Daniel at his left. Picture courtesy of the Portal to Texas History website.
The early portion of Lockhart's term as insurance commissioner was highlighted by the 1942 edition of the Lubbock Morning Avalanche, which noted that he "had attracted attention to himself in both insurance and legal circles due to his war on insurance racketeers." The Avalanche further related in its report on Lockhart's work that:
"He has recently been pressing investigation and prosecution of those men selling policies which are deceptive in their wording or which are presented in a fraudulent manner, such as the so called "single premium policy." The buyers of this policy are often led to believe that they will not have to pay for over three of the notes given in payment for the policy. Investigation and prosecution have resulted in the jailing of four of these salesmen, Mr. Lockhart has declared."Lockhart had similar concerns about fraudulent insurance practices in August of 1944 when the Claude News reported on the Texas Insurance Board's warning of "bad life insurance policies" being advertised and sold in Texas by out of state insurance companies that weren't licensed in the state. Lockhart is quoted in the Claude News as taking great concern with the actions of these companies, stating that:
"The polices issued by many of such companies are policies that would not be approved for the use of companies licensed to operate in this State, because they are couched in misleading terms and seem to provide more benefits than can be collected."
Hard at work at the commissioner's desk, this portrait of Omicron P. Lockhart was taken early in his term. Picture courtesy of the Portal to Texas History website.
Lockhart left the office of insurance commissioner in 1945 and three years later announced that he would be seeking the nomination for U.S. Representative from Texas' 10th district. This primary election had been occasioned by a vacancy in the house caused by then-Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson being elected to the U.S. Senate, thereby vacating his seat in the house. As one of six Democratic candidates vying to fill Johnson's seat, Lockhart's candidacy was profiled in the May 1948 of the Bartlett Tribune and News, which contained a substantial column devoted to Lockhart's campaign. Noting his past experience as a Democratic state committeeman and Life Insurance Commissioner, the Bartlett News touted Lockhart's political platform, noting that:
"Mr. Lockhart stated that the principle things he will work for in Congress are the expansion of Rural Electrification, the extension of Soil Conservation to all farms, bringing small industries into towns in the district, the simplification of government procedure for financing homes, and creating guaranteed markets for farm products."
A Lockhart election notice from the Bartlett Tribune, July 9, 1948.
Following the announcement of his candidacy, Lockhart gave a radio address on May 27, 1948, and also made a whirlwind tour of the district he hoped to represent in Congress, and by July of that year had concluded "that he had personally met and talked with over 10,000 people in his campaign for Congress." Lockhart had earlier gave mention that he would
"Conduct a people's campaign. During the next two months I am going to go from store to store, farm to farm and house to house to meet as many of you as I personally can. I need your help and I want your help. If you can give me a little of your time or wish to tell me of some issue that you are interested in, please write to me at Austin, Texas. I intend to be YOUR Congressman."Texas newspaper reports of 1948 relate that each of the six Democratic congressional candidates crisscrossed the 10th district espousing their political stances to their constituents, hoping to ensure their vote. As one of these candidates, Omicron Lockhart took time to "press the flesh" throughout the district and on June 24th attended a "rally of citizens" meeting at the 126th district courtroom in Austin, where he was a featured speaker. The purpose of this meeting (the plight of poor senior citizens in Texas state asylums) garnered a large write-up in the Caldwell News, which quoted much of Lockhart's rally address. Speaking out for seniors who had sought "refuge in the insane asylums" because of inadequate pensions, Lockhart also had harsh words for big government and politicians who were slaves to big interests, along with those who didn't take the welfare of their constituents seriously. Cautioning that one should "Choose your Congressman wisely", Lockhart intoned that:
"America is not getting the job done, either at home or abroad, because the people are being fed patriotic speeches and extravagant promises to cover up inactivity and double dealing. The people should look behind the scenes to see who is supporting the candidates for office, and more particularly the candidates for Congress. Beware of the candidates who makes a big show of money support. He gives you promises, but he takes orders from the men who back him."This Lockhart campaign advertisement appeared in the Caldwell News, July 16,1948.
Unfortunately for Lockhart's campaign, competing against five other men for a seat in Congress proved to be an uphill battle, and on the election day primary (July 24, 1948), placed fifth in the vote count, garnering only 5,386 votes compared to Homer Thornberry's winning total of 23,256. Thornberry would later go on to win the congressional seat in the November 1948 election and served in the House of Representatives until 1963. In a rather interesting twist, two other oddly named men, Creekmore Fath (1914-2009) and Magnesse Louwayne Foster (1909-1972) were also candidates in the July 1948 primary, with Fath polling higher numbers than O.P. Lockhart!
Despite his loss, Lockhart spent the remainder of his life active in civic affairs in Austin, and in the years before his death was the president of both the O.P. Lockart Insurance Company and the Home Savings Life Insurance Company of Austin. The Lubbock Morning Avalanche notes that Omicron Pi Lockhart died of an apparent heart attack at the Austin Country Club on April 17, 1955, just two months shy of his 55th birthday and was survived by his wife and daughter. Following their respective deaths in 1989 and 2007, Helen Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart Hutchens were interred alongside Omicron at the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.
From the Lubbock Morning Avalanche, April 19, 1955.