Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

A Guide to the Ken Towery Papers, 1954-2003

Investigation into the Veterans' Land Board Scandal


Creator: Towery, Ken, 1923-
Title: Ken Towery Papers
Dates: 1954-2003
Dates (Bulk): Bulk, 1954-1955
Abstract: Ken Towery (1923- ), Pultizer Prize-winning Texas reporter and former POW, was born in 1923 in Monroe County, Mississippi. His papers contain newspapers, clippings, magazines, and moving images documenting his investigation of the Veterans Land Board Scandal in 1954-1955.
Identification: AR.272
Quantity: 1.67 Linear feet, (3 oversized boxes)
Location: File Vault
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

Biographical Note

Ken Towery (1923- ), Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and former POW, was born in 1923 in Monroe County, Mississippi. After World War II, Towery attended Southwest Texas Junior College and became the managing editor of the Cuero Daily Record in Cuero, Texas.

In 1955, Towery was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting for breaking the story and publishing a series of articles exposing fraud and corruption in the Texas Veterans Land Programs. Towery had discovered that white Cuero businessmen were paying black and hispanic veterans to sign over veterans loan applications to buy land. The Veterans Land Board was investigated by the State Legislature, and Texas Land Commissioner Bascom Giles was indicted and served three years in the Texas State Penitentiary. In total, twenty people were indicted in nine counties.

Towery went on to work in government service and was active in politics and political campaigns.


  • Kaderli, Elizabeth, "Veterans' Land Board Scandal,"Handbook of Texas Online (accessed October 15, 2009)
  • Towery, Ken, The Chow Dipper: A Personal and Political Odyssey. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1994
  • Ken Towery Papers (KT.AR.272). Archives and Records, Texas General Land Office.

Scope and Contents of the Records

The Ken Towery Papers, 1954-2003, contain newspapers, clippings, magazines, and moving images. The bulk of the collection is comprised of newspapers, magazines, and clippings containing articles about Towery and the Veterans Land Board Scandal investigation and trials in Austin and DeWitt County.

The scandal, during which local white businessmen coerced African-American and Mexican-American veterans into signing over rights to land-purchase loans, is well documented as reported by the local daily six-page paper where the story first broke. Of note are editorials and letters to the editor that reflect local perspectives. Also included are articles by Towery and others and UP wires from Austin.

This collection also contains the May 3, 1955 edition of Edward R. Murrow’s CBS television program See It Now, which highlighted Towery’s investigation and Pulitzer Prize, and footage of the 2003 ceremony at which Towery donated his papers to the Texas General Land Office.


The Papers are organized into 3 series:
I. Partial and Complete Newspapers and Clippings, 1954-1955
II. Magazines, 1955
III. Moving Images, 1955, 2003


Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

Materials may be under copyright protection. US copyright law does allow for reproduction of materials under copyright for uses such as critique, criticism, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, locating copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form.

Index Terms

Giles, Bascom, Land Commissioner, 1900-1993
Texas. Veterans' Land Board.
Towery, Ken, 1923- -- Archives
Cuero (Tex.)
Moving Images
Veterans Land Board Scandal
Veterans--Loans--Law and Legislation

Related Materials

The Virginia C. McNeal Conkle Scrapbook documents the indictments against former Land Commissioner Bascom Giles and others who participated in the Veteran's Land Board Scandal as covered through the Austin print media.

Virginia C. McNeal Conkle Scrapbook (OS.CSB). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.

The Cuero Record is also held by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the University of Texas Libraries, Victoria College/University of Houston-Victoria, Victoria Public Library, Houston Public Library, and Corpus Christi Public Library. Contact the institution for information on issues held.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Ken Towery Papers (AR.272). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.

Accession Information

Ken Towery donated his papers to the Texas General Land Office on October 1, 2003.

Processing Information

Finding aid by Lauren Goodley, October 2009, updated by Daniel Alonzo, 2013, based on a previous inventory by Jerry Drake.

Digital Copies

Texas General Land Office employees can download and view digitized video of "See it Now" and the Towery Papers donation ceremony on the Docushare server: http://docushare.glo.state.tx.us/docushare/dsweb/View/Collection-38755

External customers must visit the GLO Archives & Records Reading Room at 1700 N. Congress Ave. Suite 935 Austin, Texas.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Partial and Complete Newspapers and Clippings, 1954-1955

OS 111 Cuero Record (Texas) - partial and complete issues 1954-1955
Cuero Record, "Investigation under way here on land deals," p. 1, col. 6., 1954-11-11
Cuero Record, "Land Commissioner says Wofford has part in agitation," p. 1, col. 5, 1954-11-14
Cuero Record, "Land corporations are well protected," p. 1, col. 3, 1954-11-15
Cuero Record, "Inquiring reporter checks the records," p. 1, col. 4, 1954-11-16
Cuero Record, "New angle possible for land corporation," p. 1, col. 3, 1954-11-17
Cuero Record, "Signed up to get some 'bonus land,'" p. 1, col. 6, 1954-11-18
Cuero Record, "He can't understand involvement," p. 1, col. 5, 1954-11-19
Cuero Record, "Board orders probe," p. 1, col. 7, 1954-11-21
Cuero Record, "Grand Jury probe of land deals assured, Green," p. 1, col. 5, 1954-11-22
Cuero Record, "Closed door meet airs complaints of vet land fraud," p. 1, col. 4, 1954-11-23
Cuero Record, "Charges filed in land fraud probe," p. 1, col. 4, 1954-11-24
Cuero Record, "Ernster bound over for grand jury," p. 1, col. 3, 1954-11-26
Cuero Record, "Sheriff makes statement concerning land probe," p. 1, col. 6, 1954-11-29
Cuero Record, "Amend law, says Bell," p. 1, col. 5, 1954-12-03
Cuero Record, "Land board tightens vet appraisal," p. 1, col. 8, 1954-12-07
Cuero Record, "Land board hears 'deal,'" p. 1, col. 5, 1954-12-16
Cuero Record, "Land probers in Austin," p. 1, col. 6, 1954-12-17
Cuero Record, "Smooth sailing for companies," p. 1, col. 4, 1954-12-19
Cuero Record, [relevant article not found], 1954-12-20
Cuero Record, "Land probe in top ten 1954 stories," p. 1, col. 6,; "Shepperd asks board refuse Looney offer," p. 1, col. 7, 1954-12-21
Cuero Record, "Land hearing opens," p. 1, col. 4, 1954-12-27
Cuero Record, "Giles protests hearing dealing with fraction of total transactions," p. 1, col. 5, 1954-12-28
Cuero Record, "Shivers asks land probe be continued," p. 1, col. 4, 1954-12-29
Cuero Record, "Attorney General due in Cuero for opening of county grand jury," p. 1, col. 6, 1954-12-30
Cuero Record, "Giles had warning," p. 1, col. 6, 1954-12-31
Cuero Record, "Telephone call threatens Shepperd," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-01-03
Cuero Record, [Photo with caption. Pictured: Wiley Cheatham, Wayne Hartman, and John Ben Shepperd], p. 1, col. 3, 1955-01-04
Cuero Record, "Grand jury begins probe of veteran land sales," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-01-05
Cuero Record, "State Capitol News," p. 2, col. 2, 1955-01-06
Cuero Record, "Bell surprised by resignation of Bascom Giles," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-01-07
Cuero Record, "Cheatham denies Bell statement of probe discussion," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-01-09
Cuero Record, "Shepperd in Cuero for grand jury," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-01-10
Cuero Record, "State Legion meeting to discuss land deals," p. 1, col. 4, 1955-01-11
Cuero Record, "Rudder promises vet's program to be honest," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-01-12
Cuero Record, "Senate land probers behind closed doors," p. 1, col. 4, 1955-01-13
Cuero Record, [relevant article not found], 1955-01-14
Cuero Record, "Giles, Sheffield linked in realty transactions," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-01-16
Cuero Record, "Land dealer refuses to testify," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-01-17
Cuero Record, "Legislator testifies in land deal," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-01-18
Cuero Record, [Advertisement Letter by Victoria Real Estate Co.], 1955-01-19
Cuero Record, "Grand jury to reconvene Monday morn," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-01-21
Cuero Record, "Land deal probe will be intensified on Monday," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-01-23
Cuero Record, "Bascom Giles balks," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-01-24
Cuero Record, "Grand jurors hear Hagan's bookeeper," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-01-25
Cuero Record, "Former Appraiser, attorneys appear before grand jury," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-01-26
Cuero Record, "Grand jury to recess land probe until March," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-01-27
Cuero Record, "Phone threat received here," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-01-30
Cuero Record, "Shepperd to testify under oath," p. 1, col. 2, "Committee approves Briscoe proposal on vet land probe," p. 1, col. 3, "County veterans call open meeting," p. 1, col. 8, 1955-02-01
Cuero Record, "Legislative committees work on probe," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-02-02
Cuero Record, "Grand jury denies allegations," [regarding statute of limitations], p. 1, col. 6, 1955-02-03
Cuero Record, "County veterans adopt land probe resolutions," p. 1, col. 7 1955-02-04
Cuero Record, "Shepperd will file more recovery suits," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-02-06
Cuero Record, "District judge makes statement concerning veteran's land probe," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-02-07
Cuero Record, "Shepperd-Phillips row grows over land memo," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-02-08
Cuero Record, "Attorney general's staff members here," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-02-09
Cuero Record, "Grand jury reconvenes inquiry of land deals," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-02-10
Cuero Record, "House committee told Giles ordered speedup of 'blocks,'" p. 1, col. 4, 1955-02-11
Cuero Record, "Cheatham gets Shepperd bid," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-02-13
Cuero Record, "Shepperd files new State's recovery suit," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-02-14
Cuero Record, "Phillips-Hardeman row breaks out in committee," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-02-15
Cuero Record, "State brings eight suit in land deal," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-02-16
Cuero Record, "Shepperd assigns help to local land probers," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-02-18
Cuero Record, "Bexar jury first with land fraud indictments," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-02-22
Cuero Record, "Grand jury reports," p. 1, col. 2, 4, 1955-02-23
Cuero Record, "Session today for bonding of defendants," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-02-24
Cuero Record, "Defendants are free after posting $96,000 in bonds," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-02-25
Cuero Record, "Cheatham says no to offer of State job," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-02-28
Cuero Record, "Gov. may recommend more courts to handle veteran land scandals," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-03-01
Cuero Record, "Town Talk," p. 1, col. 1, item 3, 1955-03-02
Cuero Record, "Jury reconvenes; hears McLarty won't testify," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-03-03
Cuero Record, "Bell received checks from land sales fund, bank's records reveal," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-03-04
Cuero Record, "Giles bond at $100,000," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-03-06
Cuero Record, "Sheffield sought by investigators," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-03-07
Cuero Record, "Bell supoened for grand jury," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-03-08
Cuero Record, "Bell paid $2,500 attorney fee in block deal for 'know how,'" p. 1, col. 3, 1955-03-09
Cuero Record, "Hallettsville Senator before grand jury here," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-03-10
Cuero Record, "Vets report offers of $200-$1,200 in 'deals,'" p. 1, col. 8, 1955-03-13
Cuero Record, "Town talk," p. 1, col. 1, 1955-03-14
Cuero Record, "Rudder asks complete land office look-see," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-03-15
Cuero Record, "State files civil suit for lien against Giles property," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-03-16
Cuero Record, "Grand jury in recess," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-03-18
Cuero Record, "Commissioners delay division of car taxes," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-03-23
Cuero Record, "DeWitt grand jury reports to people," p. 1, col. 3; "$28,112 went to Bell in vet land deal fees," p. 1, col. 3; "Twenty-one inditments [sic] are handed up by DeWitt jurymen," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-03-24
Cuero Record, "Jurymen's report mailed to lawmakers for action," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-03-25
Cuero Record, "Shepperd issues land probe tally," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-03-28
Cuero Record, "Giles faces suit brought by 4 vets," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-04-01
Cuero Record, "Carey indicted by grand jury in land deals," p. 1, col. 3, 1955-04-17
Cuero Record, "Clark says 'confusion' led to addition of name," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-04-26
Cuero Record, "Shivers, Shepperd deny minutes of meetings," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-04-28
Cuero Record, "Towery Pulitzer Winner," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-05-02
Cuero Record, "Veteran's land probe television interviews tonight for Cueroites," p. 1, col. 5, 1955-05-03
Cuero Record, "House probers invite Shepperd to appear for land probe info," p. 5, col. 5, 1955-05-04
Cuero Record, "Resolution praises work of Ken Towery," p. 1, col. 4, 1955-05-05
Cuero Record, "Texas house votes look at land fees," p. 8, col. 3, 1955-05-06
Cuero Record, "Trial date for Ernster, McLarty set for Jun 13," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-05-08
Cuero Record, "Governor, A-G defend actions on land board," p. 1, col. 2; "Ernster claimed land board backing, says vet," p. 1, col. 4, 1955-05-11
Cuero Record, "House approves program doubling vet land fund," p. 1, col. 8, 1955-05-18
Cuero Record, "Trial of Bascom Giles postponed until August," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-05-23
Cuero Record, "'Delay of justice' hit by Cuero legionnaires," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-05-25
Cuero Record, "New grand jury boasts 2 county women," p. 1, col. 8, 1955-05-29
Cuero Record, "Giles theft charge trial set for July," p. 1, col. 8, 1955-06-02
Cuero Record, "Jury indicts C. O. Hagan," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-06-05
Cuero Record, "Judge denies record story of remark to DeWitt county jurors," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-06-08
Cuero Record, "Land deal cases Monday," p. 1, col. 6, 1955-06-12
Cuero Record, "Plea for venue change enters third day here," p. 1, col. 2, 1955-06-15
Cuero Record, "John J. Bell indicted," p. 1, col. 7, 1955-07-08
Cuero Record, "Bell conspiracy case set for December 12th," p. 1, col. 4, 1955-09-12
Cuero Record, "Ken Towery puts himself and Record on map," p. 13, col. 1, 1955-11-20
OS 111 State Journal, "He Got Hotter’N a Peanut Popper when He Couldn’t Oust the Check," Ken Towery interview with Early Goodson, p. 4. 1954-11-27
Yorktown News, "Vets Question DA at Protest Meeting," p. 1, 8. 1955-02-09
Houston Press, "Cuero, Where Land Probe Began; Meet the Men Behind the Guns," Margaret Davis, p. 1-2. 1955-02-15
Houston Press, "How One 'Missent' Check Started a Multi-Million Dollar Scandal," Margaret Davis, p. 1-2.; "Says writing not his on land minutes," p. 1-2. 1955-02-16
Houston Press, "How a Small Town Editor Gave the Go-Ahead on Land Probe," Margaret Davis, p. 1-2. 1955-02-17
Houston Post, "Pulitzer Prize Sought for Cuero Paper Editor," James O. Holley, section 4, page 7. 1955-03-13

Magazines, 1955

OS 109 Time, "Press: One for the Record," p. 84, 1955-03-07
Town Journal, "Busting the Texas Land Scandal," Karl Wisehart, p. 27, 60, 1955-08
Redbook, "The man who broke the $100,000,000 land scandal," Joe Phipps and Robert Robinson, p. 34-35, 72-76, 1955-09
Redbook, "Letters to the Editor," p. 40, 1955-11
Saturday Evening Post, "Those Texas scandals," Craig Thompson, p. 19, 81, 86, 89, 1955-11-12
Look, "These scandalous years in Texas," Dan C. Fowler, p. 65-66, 68-69, 71-72, 1955-11-15

Moving Images 1955, 2003

OS 110 "See It Now", CBS News broadcast, 16 mm, May 3, 1955
OS 109 "See It Now", CBS News, broadcast May 3, 1955 and Donation of Towery Papers Ceremony, DVD, October 1, 2003
"See It Now", CBS News broadcast, copy, VHS, 2009