Houses provide more than shelter; they chronicle people’s lives.
In 1919, R.A. and Effie McClurkan Sledge built the house at 906 W. Hickory St. City building permit No. 186 was for a one-story gable-roofed Craftsman-style house with exposed rafter tails and half-timbered gable ends. The Sledges were beloved community members who worked with H.H. Hardin to build 20 houses between 1900 and 1925.
Stephen “Mac” McReynolds Richardson, who would eventually buy 906 W. Hickory, was born in Argyle in 1879. His family moved to Denton the following year. By age 9, Mac started a newspaper career as a paperboy for the Denton Record-Chronicle. Mac’s 1918 draft card indicated he had blue eyes and brown hair.
Richardson married 21-year-old Annie Kittrell on Jan. 2, 1903. After moving to Brady in the Texas Hill Country to run the local newspaper, they lived in Sweetwater for a year while he worked as a paper salesman.
The Richardsons returned to Denton in 1919, and Mac became the Linotype operator for the Record-Chronicle. The Linotype typesetting machine became commercially available in 1914, so Denton used the latest technology. The machine allowed printers to set a 90-character hot metal line of type at a time. Matrices were melted for reuse. The big, noisy Linotype represented a technological advance over setting print one character at a time.
Mac and Annie Richardson purchased the house at 906 W. Hickory in 1921. Newspaper accounts show the Richardsons hosting three decades of special occasions. In 1925, Annie hosted a “dainty three-course breakfast” for the Pool-Dugan bridal party with pink and green decorations and radiant pink roses. Annie was the matron of honor for the wedding that evening at 716 W. Oak.
Mac died unexpectedly on a Sunday morning in 1932 after a brief illness thought not to be serious. He was 52. He was very involved in the First Christian Church and the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization that might have helped his family after his death.
Later that year, daughter Louise married James Graham. The couple moved into the house with Annie. A back bedroom added to the house accommodated granddaughters Jimmie Lou, Jo Ann and Shirley. Because of the Great Depression between 1929 and 1933, multiple generations often shared houses.
After Mac’s death, the newspaper chronicled social events that Annie Richardson continued to host at the house, including numerous church gatherings and dinners. Jimmie Lou and Jo Ann’s letters to Santa were published in the newspaper in 1934. By 1946, daughter Louise began hosting the First Christian Church Women’s Guild and their Christmas party.
Annie taught English at Denton High, and Louise taught at the junior high.
In 1948, granddaughter Jimmie Lou, a senior at Denton High School, was installed as the worthy adviser (the highest office) for the Rainbow Girls youth service organization. She was initiated into Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority the following year at North Texas State Teachers College, present-day University of North Texas. Jimmie Lou married Southern Methodist University student Robert Nobles at the Little Chapel-in-the-Woods in 1951 after a series of wedding showers and coffees hosted by West Hickory and Congress Street neighbors.
Granddaughter Jo Ann graduated from Texas Woman’s University. She married Jerry Clark late in 1951 at the First United Methodist Church. They moved to Austin, where he worked as an engineer for radio station KTXN while pursuing a master’s degree. Jo Ann worked as the secretary for the Parole Division of the Secretary of State’s Office.
In February 1952, the paper announced Annie celebrated a “delayed Christmas” with all three daughters. Louise lived with her. Jo Ann visited from Austin, dropping by the Record-Chronicle, where she worked before marriage. Jimmie Lou and Bob Nobles visited from Kansas City, where he was a student at the School of Osteopathy. Youngest daughter Shirley Mac was there as well.
Annie died in 1960. She’s buried at I.O.O.F. Cemetery alongside Mac.
Louise and James Graham became the second owners of 906 W Hickory. Louise continued her mother’s passion for hosting gatherings at the house.
After containing three generations of family activity, the house was offered for sale in 1972. The real estate agent highlighted its large kitchen, three bedrooms and fireplace. When it didn’t sell immediately, the agent noted the house was zoned for apartments. The house remained intact; it’s being restored.
Denton regularly saw a steady increase in DWI arrests year after year, but the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 stalled that increase. Now, a Denton police sergeant says the number of driving while intoxicated arrests is back up and higher than the 2019 record.
By Dec. 31, 2021, the Denton Police Department had made 937 DWI arrests, up from the previous record of 711 in 2019. While he didn’t have the exact number on hand, Sgt. Daryn Briggs with the traffic division said the number of arrests in 2020 was below 2019’s then-record.
“It didn’t really surprise us because it was the start of the pandemic,” Briggs said.
Now that 2021, another year of living in a pandemic, has come to a close, Briggs said the number of officers making those arrests and residents’ changing behaviors could be factors in why arrests went up so drastically.
“A large portion of our success — just from the department, we had 78 different officers making [DWI] arrests in 2021,” Briggs said. “It’d be hard for us to find another agency our size as actively involved with that many people in DWI enforcement.”
He said that’s only one piece of the puzzle, and another part could be changing behaviors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m not a behavioral scientist, but I have 28 years of experience on this job, and there is post-pandemic behavior by a large part of the population where there’s not as many limits, or self-imposed limits,” Briggs said. “Even during the height of the pandemic, we were still making plenty of DWI arrests when bars were closed because people were drinking at home or at restaurants.”
A three-year map of hot spots for DWI arrests shows many of those arrests happen near the center of the city.
Unlike in 2020, Briggs said last year there was a death in which the suspect was believed to be intoxicated. That driver, Damon Brown of Aubrey, was charged with murder in November rather than intoxication manslaughter because he’d been convicted of DWI three or more times in the past. Aman Jason Qureshi of Aubrey was found dead at the scene of the crash in October.
Brown’s arrest was one of four murder arrests in Denton in 2021.
South of Denton, police in Corinth arrested a driver in April on two counts of intoxication manslaughter after he allegedly hit and killed two people on Interstate 35E while they were changing a tire.
Briggs said Denton police saw crashes last year in which a person suspected of driving intoxicated was killed, but wasn’t considered to have caused the crash.
Briggs said people on the front lines — restaurant and bar staffers, and friends and families at gatherings — have to be vigilant in keeping someone who is under the influence from driving.
“People just have to be willing to step up and insert themselves into the situation — and the people that drink, [their loved ones aren’t] trying to ruin their lives; they’re trying to prevent a tragedy from happening,” Briggs said. “The next step, and people are good at this, is calling 911 when they see someone driving already. Month in and month out, a majority of our arrests come from 911 calls where someone is taking the initiative and calling when they see an impaired driver.”
At a crowded rally in downtown Austin, Beto O’Rourke ticked off his usual laundry list of campaign promises: stabilizing the power grid, rolling back the state’s new permitless carry law and expanding health care access.
But the El Paso Democrat got some of the loudest cheers of the night when he promised to legalize marijuana in Texas, something he said “most of us, regardless of party, actually agree on.”
“I’ve been warned that this may or may not be a popular thing to say in Austin, Texas,” O’Rourke said to the crowd gathered in Republic Square Park in December. “But when I am governor, we are going to legalize marijuana.”
The support is nothing new for the gubernatorial candidate. O’Rourke has championed legalization efforts throughout his political career, ever since his time as a member of the El Paso City Council. He also nodded at the policy throughout his failed campaigns for U.S. Senate and for president.
But in his early run for governor, O’Rourke, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has repeatedly mentioned legalizing marijuana on the campaign trail across Texas. Advocates hope the increased attention will give momentum to legalization efforts in a state with some of the harshest penalties and highest arrest rates for marijuana possession.
O’Rourke’s advocacy around the issue dates back at least to his time on the El Paso City Council in 2009 when he pushed for a resolution calling on Congress to have “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition” of marijuana.
Despite unanimously passing the City Council, then-Mayor John Cook vetoed the nonbinding measure. Cook got some help from then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who warned council members the city could lose federal funds if they continued with their effort.
O’Rourke went on to challenge and defeat Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary for his congressional seat. During that race, Reyes released an ad attacking O’Rourke’s position on marijuana legalization.
“Legalizing drugs is not the answer. Even our children understand that,” a narrator said in a video campaign ad that showed children shaking their heads. “Say NO to Drugs. Say NO to Beto.”
While O’Rourke did not campaign on the policy throughout that race, advocates at the time pointed to his victory as a sign of the changing attitudes around marijuana legalization.
O’Rourke’s viewpoint is influenced by his hometown of El Paso, which he writes about extensively in his 2011 book Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico, co-written with fellow City Council member Susie Byrd.
For 15 years before 2008, there was an average of 236 murders per year in Ciudad Juárez, the sister city of El Paso, O’Rourke wrote. That number rose to 316 in 2007 before skyrocketing to 1,623 in 2008. There was a “pernicious influence,” O’Rourke wrote: the “multibillion dollar hemispheric vice between supply and demand,” where “North America consumes illegal drugs” and “Mexico supplies them.”
The book draws a correlation between government crackdowns on the illicit trade and the number of murders. By regulating, controlling and taxing the marijuana market, O’Rourke and Byrd posit the U.S. could save lives. The authors call for restricting sales to adults, providing licenses to help regulate, limiting smoking to nonpublic spaces and prohibiting advertisers from appealing to children.
Once in Congress, O’Rourke continued efforts to roll back federal marijuana regulations — to no avail.
In 2017, he introduced a bill repealing a rule that prevented federal funds from going to states that don’t enforce a law revoking or suspending driver’s licenses over drug offense convictions. He supported several failed attempts to protect states who had legalized the drug from federal incursion. O’Rourke sought to compel courts to seal records for nonviolent offenses involving marijuana. He co-sponsored a bill that would allow students convicted of marijuana possession to maintain their eligibility for federal aid. He also supported various measures to increase research into and expand the availability of medical cannabis, particularly for veterans.
None of those bills became law.
If O’Rourke becomes governor, his plans to legalize marijuana would face another set of hurdles in the form of the Texas Legislature, particularly Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the state Senate.
After the House in April 2019 gave preliminary approval to a bill that would have reduced criminal penalties for Texans possessing small amounts of marijuana, Patrick declared the measure dead in the Senate.
There’s been some momentum for more progressive marijuana policies within Patrick’s party in recent sessions. In 2019, state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, and state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed bills that would relax laws restricting medical cannabis access. Both of those reforms failed to become law. But Gov. Greg Abbott in May did sign a watered-down expansion of Texas’ medical marijuana program to include people with cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patrick did not comment for this story. In a previous statement to The Texas Tribune, a Patrick spokesperson said the lieutenant governor is “strongly opposed to weakening any laws against marijuana [and] remains wary of the various medicinal use proposals that could become a vehicle for expanding access to this drug.”
Abbott didn’t answer questions on his position regarding marijuana legalization.
Legalization advocates hope O’Rourke’s candidacy can move opinions among state leaders on relaxing marijuana restrictions.
“Hopefully with Beto O’Rourke presumably being the Democratic nominee, we can push the other candidates in the race to talk about this issue more, to come to the table and have a conversation about how these policies are having negative impacts on our state,” said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
Marijuana legalization draws some broad support across the state. According to a June 2021 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, 60% of Texas voters say at least a small amount of marijuana should be legal. That figure includes 73% of Democrats, 74% of independents and 43% of Republicans.
Mike Siegel, the co-founder of Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit focused on supporting progressive policies around “workers, wages, and weed,” said the issue is an opportunity for O’Rourke to reach independent or nonaligned voters.
“[Marijuana policy] is a major opportunity for [O’Rourke] to reach out to middle of the road, independent or nonaligned voters and even some Republican voters,” Siegel said. “A governor’s race that’s high-profile like the one that is coming up, where it could be Beto O’Rourke versus Greg Abbott, that’s the best opportunity to push these populist wedge issues.”
But Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said marijuana legalization isn’t a “terribly important issue” for voters on its own. Its political salience depends on the issues tied to the policy, he said, whether that is the economy, criminal justice system or health care.
Advocates for legalization tie the issue to racial justice. In his 2011 book, O’Rourke linked the drug’s prohibition in the early 20th century to racist fears of Mexican immigrants. Advocates today highlight the racial disparities in existing law’s enforcement. Black Texans are 2.6 times more likely than white Texans to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to an April 2020 ACLU report. In 2018, Texas had the highest total number of marijuana possession arrests in the country, according to the report, which found the state ranks 41st for largest racial disparities in such arrests.
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who served as political director on O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign, said the tide is turning on policies relating to cannabis enforcement. For example, House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, co-authored the 2019 bill that would have reduced penalties for possession before Patrick killed it.
“A Gov. O’Rourke would certainly turn that tide a lot quicker because of his position on these issues. But ultimately, to get something to the governor’s desk, you’ve got to get it through the Senate,” Moody said. “Our focus has to be on changing hearts and minds in the Senate.”
Moody would know something about changing opinions. Now one of the Legislature’s biggest proponents of reducing penalties for marjiuana charges, he said he disagreed with O’Rourke’s position on marijuana a decade ago. Overhauling American drug policy wasn’t going to “flip the switch on violence,” he said of his feelings at the time. But he said he’s since grown “much more comfortable” with the idea that legalization is “a major piece of the puzzle.”
O’Rourke was “ahead of the curve” on marijuana legalization, Moody said, a quality he added the public should seek from their leaders.
For Moody, El Paso — which became the first U.S. city to outlaw marijuana usage in 1915 — is the place to lead that charge.
“If you’re going to right the wrong, if you think this is a scourge on our system, and it began here, then let’s let it end here. Let’s lead the way to end it,” Moody said. “That certainly is something that weighs heavily on my mind and on my shoulders when I work on this policy, and I imagine it’s the same for [O’Rourke].”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, his campaign said Monday.
In a short news release, Patrick senior adviser Allen Blakemore said the lieutenant governor experienced mild symptoms and tested positive for the virus last week but has subsequently tested negative and is completing his quarantine period.
“His symptoms were mild and no one else in the household was infected,” Blakemore said. “He continues working from home and will return to a public schedule by the end of the week.”
The release did not say what day Patrick received the positive test or why it was not disclosed earlier.
When Gov. Greg Abbott tested positive for COVID-19 in August, his office disclosed that information the same day. Abbott isolated at the Governor’s Mansion and received Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment. His office notified everyone he’d been in close contact with. Abbott had attended a “standing room only” campaign event in Collin County the night before his positive test.
Four days later, Abbott tested negative and credited his vaccination for keeping the infection “brief and mild.”
Patrick tweeted in November that he was vaccinated and encouraged “others to do their own research.” Like Abbott, his public statements have been more focused on fighting mandates than promoting immunization.
Patrick’s infection came as the state was running out of sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody treatment known to be effective against the omicron variant, and Abbott called on federal authorities to send more doses of the treatment to the state and open up new COVID-19 testing sites.
Texas is in the midst of an omicron surge that began last month. As of Wednesday, the state’s positivity rate was 26.5%. During the height of the pandemic, state officials had said a positivity rate of more than 10% was cause for concern.