Coke Robert Stevenson (1888-1975), Governor of Texas, named for Methodist bishop Thomas Coke, was born on March 20, 1888, in a log cabin in Mason County, Texas. His father was a schoolteacher and surveyor in various Hill Country areas, including Sutton County, where Stevenson finished his formal schooling. As a teenager Coke went into the business of hauling freight between Junction and Brady. He studied history and bookkeeping by the light of campfires, sold the freight line, and went to work for the Junction State Bank. He studied law at night, left the bank to practice law, and organized and became president of the First National Bank in Junction.
As a young man he was involved in many small businesses in Kimble County, including the Junction Warehouse Company, a motion-picture house, a hardware store, an automobile agency, a weekly newspaper, a drug business, and the establishment of the Las Lomas Hotel in Junction. In Kimble County he served as county attorney (1914-18) and as county judge (1919-21). He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1928, and he was a member of that body from 1929 to 1939. He served as speaker of the House from 1933 to 1937, the first person ever to hold that office for two successive terms. Stevenson was elected Lieutenant Governor of Texas, and served from 1939 to August 4, 1941, when he became Governor after W. Lee O'Daniel resigned to become United States Senator. Stevenson was elected Governor on his own in 1942. He was reelected in 1944 by an overwhelming vote, and his tenure from August 1941, to January 1947, was the longest consecutive service of any Texas governor up to that time.
Stevenson's record in the Legislature showed a concern for soil conservation laws, expansion of and a permanent financing policy for the state highway system, an enlarged building program for the University of Texas, and increases in teachers' salaries. He was a strong believer in fiscal responsibility, and as Governor he emphasized conservative financial policies; his administration began with a state treasury deficit and ended with a surplus. Not an extremist on states rights, he was nevertheless against the centralization of governmental power, and he opposed some of the domestic policies of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
Coke Stevenson was married to Fay Wright on Dec. 24, 1912; they had one son. During Stevenson's first year as Governor, in January 1942, his wife died. He remained a widower until January 16, 1954, when he married widow Marguerite (King) Heap; they had one daughter. When he left the Governor's Mansion in 1947, Stevenson returned to his 15,000-acre ranch at Telegraph, near Junction. His last political race, for United States Senator in 1948, was the only one he ever lost, and it perhaps gave him more national attention than he had ever received before. That election, which he lost to Lyndon Baines Johnson by 87 votes, was the closest senatorial race in the nation's history.
Stevenson, a tall, quiet, pipe-smoking, Western-type man, died at the age of 87 on June 28, 1975, in Shannon Memorial Hospital in San Angelo. He was buried on his ranch in Kimble County.
Eldon S. Branda, "Coke Robert Stevenson" in Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2009.