John Whitmire

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John Whitmire
Member of the Texas Senate
from the 15th district
Assumed office
January 11, 1983
Preceded byJack C. Ogg
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 82nd district
In office
January 9, 1973 – January 11, 1983
Preceded byBill Heatley
Succeeded byNolan J. Robnett
Personal details
John Harris Whitmire

(1949-08-13) August 13, 1949 (age 69)
Hillsboro, Texas, USA
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Rebecca Lynn Dalby (1976-Divorced[1])
RelationsKathy Whitmire (former sister-in-law)
ResidenceHouston, Texas
Alma materUniversity of Houston
Bates College of Law

John Harris Whitmire (born August 13, 1949)[2] is an American attorney and politician who is the longest-serving of current members of the Texas State Senate. Since 1983, he has representing District 15, which includes much of northern Houston, Texas, his tenure earns him the title of Dean of the Senate. Previously he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1973 through 1982, he also served as the Acting Governor of Texas in 1993[3] as part of the Governor for A Day tradition.

Early life and education[edit]

Whitmire was born in Hillsboro north of Waco, Texas, to James Madison Whitmire, the Hill County clerk, and the former Ruth Marie Harris, a nurse,[2] he came from humble beginnings and moved more that three times as a child; but his fondest memories were of his early childhood in Whitney, Texas where he had no running water but had the strong support of his neighbors.[4] He cherishes this time in his life so much, you can still find his blue corduroy Future Farmers of America jacket, with "Whitney" largely embroidered on it hanging behind his desk in the Capitol. In his early teenage years, he moved to North Houston and attended Waltrip High School. Whitmire attended college at the University of Houston to study political science while paying for his education by working for the Texas State Welfare Department to which he credits his understanding of ordinary people facing difficult times.

Texas House of Representatives[edit]

Under pressure from the Federal Courts, the 1971 legislature drew up Texas' first single-member district plan for the House of Representatives.[5] Whitmire's political science professor Richard Murray was the one to inspire him to run for office as he illustrated the newly drawn district lines that newly encompassed John's home, church, old high school and the hospital where his mother worked. Having only voted once in his life, John Whitmire suspended his studies and left his job to enter the race.

In the 1972 election for House District 82, Whitmire won the primary runoff election and easily won the general election. In 1973, John Whitmire at twenty-three, was sworn into the Texas House of Representatives. Whitmire served in the Texas House with colleagues Gene Green, Craig Washington and Mickey Leland and eventually finished his undergraduate degree, he began his law studies at the Bates College of Law, then passed the bar in 1981.

In his first House session, Whitmire was voted by Texas Monthly magazine as part of "the furniture", meaning he left no distinguishing mark of performance in the regular 1973 session. Others receiving the "furniture" designation included State Representative Joe Sage, one of the first two Republicans to represent Bexar County since Reconstruction. Sage served only one term in the House.[6]

Texas Senate[edit]

In 1982, Senator Jack Ogg vacated his seat to pursue the Attorney General position.[7] Whitmire captured the Senate District 15 seat, taking office in 1983. Senator Whitmire quickly became an ally to policemen, farmers, firefighters, and fought for the rights for municipal and state employees. [3] Recognizing Whitmire's success and commitment to the citizens of Texas, Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock appointed him to the Chair of Senate Criminal Justice Committee where he rewrote the state's criminal laws.

Whitmire handily won reelection to the state Senate in the general election held on November 6, 2018. With 152,728 votes (65.2 percent), he defeated the Republican candidate, Randy Orr, who polled 75,423 (32.2 percent). Another 6,266 votes (2.7percent) went to the Libertarian choice, Gilberto "Gil" Velasquez, Jr.[8]

In the district[edit]

  • Led the effort in securing 3.75 million to preserve the West 11th Street Park
  • was successful in securing federal stimulus money for the preservation of the Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland papers maintained by the Barbara Jordan - Mickey Leland School Of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University as a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Safe Clear[edit]

From its inception Senator Whitmire questioned, as a matter of public safety, the use of wrecker drivers in the Safe Clear program who had not undergone sufficient criminal background checks, he challenged the city's privatization and profiting off of state roads by leasing sections to tow companies for mandatory tow purposes. Whitmire also reminded the city that the gasoline tax and state general sales tax are used to pay for and maintain our highways. After a two-hour meeting with Mayor Bill White, an agreement was made on modifications to Safe Clear; as a result of his efforts, positive modifications were made to the Safe Clear program. Senator Whitmire and Mayor White were able to take numerous steps towards the common goal of safer freeways in Houston.[9]

Criminal justice[edit]

Senator Whitmire serves as Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and works to bring about needed changes to the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems.

Freeing the Tulia 13[edit]

Senator Whitmire passed legislation to free the Texans who were imprisoned as a result of the notorious Tulia drug raid; that incident resulted in the conviction of 38 Texans based on the testimony of one individual who has since been indicted and arrested for perjury. The legislation allowed the judge to release the prisoners on bond pending the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals. On June 10, 2003, the Tulia defendants were freed on bond as provided for in Senator Whitmire's legislation, they were later pardoned by the Governor.[10]

Diversion programs[edit]

Senator Whitmire worked closely with his colleagues and was successful in obtaining funding for the largest expansion of treatment and rehabilitation programs in decades; the Legislature appropriated more than $200 million to add more than 8,000 new treatment beds for inmates, parolees, and probationers. The additional beds gives judges alternatives to prisons, provide treatment alternatives for parolees or probationers who were otherwise being revoked to prison for minor or technical violations; the funding also established a DWI prison unit to rehabilitate low level DWI offenders.

Juvenile justice reform[edit]

In 2007, when scandal hit the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), Texas incarcerated more than 4,700 juvenile offenders in institutions, halfway houses, and contracted care. In 2009, Senator Whitmire partnered with local juvenile probation departments across Texas to secure additional funding to allow judges and probation departments to keep nonviolent juvenile offenders in programs and facilities in their communities where they can get the adequate care needed.

By diverting nonviolent offenders from TYC, the State of Texas was able to close the older, more remote TYC facilities; and juveniles now have greater access to community-based comprehensive education and treatment programs already successfully run by local juvenile probation departments; the results not only saved money, but provide for a much better outcome for the youthful offender when they are placed near their families and near the services and care they need to turn their lives around.[11]

The Texas Youth Commission was merged with the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission; the Texas Juvenile Justice Department coordinate services for youth offenders with the goal of keeping more kids in the community while providing a secure state run system for our more violent offenders.

Pipeline to prison[edit]

Across Texas, school districts were hiring police departments, issuing tickets, requiring families to go to court, and creating the first encounter with the justice system; those students were cited for behavior that while disruptive to the classroom were not grounds for citation, expulsion, or a criminal record. Senator Whitmire passed legislation to ensure that kids under twelve would no longer receive criminal charges for truancy. Children over twelve can receive a Class C misdemeanor for truancy. If conditions are met, the case will be expunged with no criminal record.

End to Special Last Meals[edit]

Whitmire was outraged when convicted murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered a large last meal which he did not eat prior to his September 21, 2011, execution. Whitmire said that this was Brewer's attempt to "make a mockery out of the process." The senator contacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and asked the agency to end the practice of last meals or he would get the State Legislature to pass a bill doing so. The agency replied that last meal requests were accommodated "within reason" from food available in the prison kitchen, but it agreed to end the practice immediately at Whitmire's insistence.[12]

Health care[edit]

Pharmaceutical drug law[edit]

Whitmire authored Senate Bill 410 intended to regulate the function of the State Board of Pharmacy; the bill also contained provisions regulating out-of-state pharmacies such as "Internet Pharmacies". Senate Bill 410 allows the State Board to publish on their website a list of free and reduced programs offered by various pharmaceutical companies; the bill also made way for the State Board to inspect Canadian pharmacies therefore giving Texans an opportunity to buy less expensive prescription drugs safely. This bill was signed by Governor Perry and went into effect September 1, 2005.[13]


  • Led the charge in the Senate to guarantee an across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors during the 81st legislative session
  • Flibustered a school finance bill that he felt did not give equal education dollars to poorer school districts during the first special session of the 79th legislative session.


In 2003, Whitmire was one of the "Texas Eleven", a group of Democrats who fled the state for New Mexico in 2003 in a quorum-busting effort aimed at preventing the passage of redistricting legislation that would have benefited Texas Republicans, he went back to the legislature, creating a quorum undoing the efforts of the rest of the Texas Ten.


  • Dean of the Texas Senate, 2003[14]
  • Named one of the Top Ten Best Legislators by Texas Monthly Magazine, 2003[15]
  • Named a Top Five Legislator by Gallery Watch
  • Outstanding Legislator by the Judicial Advisory Committee to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice
  • Outstanding Legislator by Texans Standing Tall for his efforts to prevent underage drinking.
  • Legislator of the Year Award from the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association, 2006
  • Legislator of the Year award from the North Texas Crime Commission, 2009
  • Named one of the Top Ten Best Legislators by Texas Monthly Magazine, 2011[16]

Election history[edit]

Whitmire won re-nomination to Senate District 15 in the Democratic primary election held on March 4, 2014, he defeated his intraparty challenger, Damian LaCroix, 9,756 (75.1 percent) to 3,232 votes (24.9 percent).[17]

Election history of District 15 from 1992[18]

Previous elections[edit]


Texas general election, 2002: Senate District 15[19]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Michael P. Wolfe 41,003 39.63 +4.69
Democratic John Whitmire 62,458 60.37 -4.69
Majority 21,455 20.71 -9.38
Turnout 103,461 -29.76
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 2000: Senate District 15[20]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Warren A. Lawless 51,465 34.94 -3.01
Democratic John Whitmire 95,826 65.06 +3.01
Majority 44,361 30.12 +6.02
Turnout 147,291 +12.65
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1996: Senate District 15[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Tom Kelly 49,619 37.95 +37.95
Democratic John Whitmire 81,134 62.05 -37.95
Majority 31,515 24.10 -75.90
Turnout 130,753 +97.09
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1994: Senate District 15[22]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic John Whitmire 66,341 100.00 +30.12
Majority 66,341 100.00 +55.79
Turnout 66,341 -33.62
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1992: Senate District 15[23]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic John Whitmire 69,844 69.88
Republican Thomas V. Kelly 25,660 25.67
Libertarian George Hollenback 4,438 4.44
Majority 44,184 44.21
Turnout 99,942
Democratic hold
Democratic Party Primary Runoff Election, 1992: Senate District 15[24]
Candidate Votes % ±
Roman O. Martinez 15,390 47.61
John Whitmire 16,938 52.39
Turnout 32,328
Democratic Party Primary Election, 1992: Senate District 15[25]
Candidate Votes % ±
David Alley 1,587 4.97
Roman O. Martinez 15,575 48.87
John Whitmire 14,707 46.14
Turnout 31,869


  2. ^ a b Texas Department of State Health Services, Vital Records. "Birth Certificate for John Harris Whitmire" (Third party index of birth records for Hill County). Retrieved December 19, 2006.[dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Governor John Whitmire" (PDF). Legislative Reference Library.
  4. ^ Root, Jay. "For Dean of Senate, Public and Private Blur". The Texas Tribune.
  5. ^ "Overview: Texas House Districts 1846–1982". Texas Legislative Council.
  6. ^ "The Ten Best (And, Sigh, The Ten Worst) Legislators". Texas Monthly. July 1973. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  7. ^ McNeely, Henderson, Dave, Jim (2008). Bob Bullock: God Bless Texas. University of Texas Press. p. 152.
  8. ^ "Election Returns". Texas Secretary of State. November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  9. ^ Whitmire, John (2005). "Legislative Report" (PDF) (Fall). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 14, 2013.
  10. ^ Whitmire, John (2004). "Legislative Report" (PDF) (Fall). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 14, 2013.
  11. ^ Whitmire, John (2010). "Capitol Report" (PDF) (Fall). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Fernandez, Manny (September 22, 2011). "Texas Death Row Kitchen Cooks Its Last 'Last Meal'". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  13. ^ "Texas Legislature Online - 79(R) History for SB 410". Texas Legislature Online.
  14. ^ "Senator John Whitmire: District 15".
  15. ^ "The Best and Worst Legislators 2003".
  16. ^ "The Best and Worst Legislators 2011".
  17. ^ "Democratic primary election returns, March 4, 2014 (Senate District 15)". Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 8, 2014.
  18. ^ Uncontested primary elections are not shown.
  19. ^ "2002 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  20. ^ "2000 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  21. ^ "1996 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  22. ^ "1994 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  23. ^ "1992 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  24. ^ "1992 Democratic Party Primary Runoff Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  25. ^ "1992 Democratic Party Primary Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2006.

External links[edit]

Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
William S. "Bill" Heatley
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 82 (Houston)

Succeeded by
Nolan J. Robnett
Texas Senate
Preceded by
Jack C. Ogg
Texas State Senator
from District 15 (Houston)