His Time in Jail and
the Big Downtown Parade that Followed
Herbert Y. Cartwright, Jr.
the time Herbert Y. Cartwright, Jr., and I were sitting in Vivian Serio Renfrow's
daddy's place, The Tap Room and Grill, eating compted corned beef sandwiches,
he had to have weighed-in at 300 pounds.
Vincent Serio couldn't stand
the thought that there may be people in his place from time to time who didn't
know each other. That's why he introduced Mr. Herbie and me, and why he put us
together at the table in the back.
The Tap Room and Grill was a narrow
deli on the 23rd Street side of the Maceos' Turf Athletic Club building. It was
dark inside with the air conditioning and lazy ceiling fans stirring the pungent
but somehow sweet blended smells of spiced meats, cheeses from everywhere, and
Mr. Vincent was so pleased with himself that he had introduced
Mr. Herbie and me, that he said our lunch was on the house. Mr. Herbie was 47,
and I was 22. Mr. Vincent was older than both of us. Mr. Herbie was the legendary
Galveston mayor. I worked at the bank.
Herbie came from Georgia when his family moved here to be in the steamship business.
He was three. He went to Galveston schools, got a degree in business from the
University of Texas, then came home to go into the real estate and casualty insurance
Y. Cartwright, Jr.
Photo courtesy John B. Cartwright and Peggy Rapp
|A few years later,
when prominent businessman George Fraser was mayor, his ways of running the city
started getting under Mr. Herbie's skin. Mr. Herbie had a worn out car that he
sold for about $250. With that as his treasury and a personal door to door campaign
throughout every Galveston neighborhood, at 32, he got voters to kick-out Mayor
That was in 1947, a time when nobody would think of calling Las
Vegas "Sin City." It was reserved and uncontested to be Galveston's
nom de plume. And Mr. Herbie made no bones about it, he was proud that it was.
When Mr. Herbie asked for your vote, he'd end with, "Thanks a million!"
then throw in a big straight-toothed smile. For the same reason wags like to call
the Galveston Historical Foundation the "Galveston Hysterical Foundation,"
because they think it's amusing, a joke that quickly became tired with a cruel
and undeserved inference of peculation was calling Mr. Herbie, "Thanks for
the Million Cartwright."
Herbie came in with a long succession of plans. Many got him into temporary hot
water. For an example, he didn't think traffic had enough room to travel Broadway,
so he finessed taking out scores of oaks and oleanders and then widening the thoroughfare
by a couple of lanes. One who was outraged was W.L. Moody, Jr., whose mansion,
along with those of many of the other wealthy families, was on the street.
Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Herbie's Broadway plan was a good one. Back in those days there was constant traffic
from tractor-pulled trains of steel-wheeled trailers full of cotton bails driving
Broadway from the warehouses to the wharves. Before Mayor Herbie widened the street,
if you got behind one of those slow trailer trains, you were in for a long and
The next thing on his agenda was to get the wharves away
from private control so that it could be governed by the city. It required raising
a $2.5 million bond issue so the city could get rid of the indenture that kept
private enterprise in control. Mayor Herbie got the votes he needed, but then
he had to come up with a source for the $2.5 million.
Mr. Moody was
still smarting from what Mayor Herbie's Broadway project had done to the view
from his mansion's windows. Nevertheless, he went to see Mr. Moody and sold him
100% of the new bond issue. Taking back control of the Galveston Wharves didn't
cost the citizens anything. While Mayor Herbie was in office, the wharves' finances
stayed in the black.
Mayor Herbie was elected for four terms, then defeated
by radio station owner George Roy Clough, an opponent whose challenge was seriously
under estimated. Two terms later, Mayor Herbie was reinstated by the voters.
While the list of his accomplishments is awesome, like that he talked Lipton
Tea Company into locating a plant in Galveston, and convinced two eastern developers
to spend millions to raise the grade of Pelican Island so it could be used, and
got the bridge built connecting Pelican Island to Galveston, his real forte was
representing all of the people.
Buddy Herz's aunt Lillian, a knowledgeable
observer of Galveston history, wrote, "While the friend and confidant of
business and professional men... he represented the little fellow with friendliness
time hard-nosed jurist Judge Donald Markle threw Mayor Herbie into jail. There
was an auction going on that Mayor Herbie didn't agree with. He shut it down.
The operators took him to court, and Judge Markel, his life-long friend, ordered
him to let the auction continue. Furious, Mayor Herbie walked out of the courtroom,
and had all of the auction operators arrested and jailed. Judge Donnie ordered
them released then immediately threw Mayor Herbie in jail for contempt.
Galvestonians sent flowers and gifts by the hundreds to his cell. Restauranteur
Mike Gaido had every meal prepared and brought to him from Gaido's kitchen, even
having his cook come in early so he could prepare Mayor Herbie's breakfast.
When Mayor Herbie was released, hundreds came to watch him become a free
man again. That produced an impromptu hero's parade throughout the streets of
downtown, the mayor riding on the trunk of a new Cadillac convertible, waving
to his admirers. And wouldn't you know, Judge Donnie, on crutches because of an
earlier bout with polio, was photographed on the parade's front row.
I miss Mayor Herbie, I miss Mr. Vincent and his Tap Room and Grill, and I miss
Judge Donnie. They were the best.
Cherry's Galveston Memories May
14 , 2007 column
Copyright William S. Cherry
All rights reserved
Bill Cherry, a Dallas
Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County
Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands,
and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.
Cherry's Galveston Memories