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The Republican Party of Texas

The Republican Party of Texas
A Political History

From Reconstruction to the twenty-first century, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Texas presents a comprehensive history of his party and its meandering path from limited local appeal to political dominance.

Series: Jack and Doris Smothers Endowment in Texas History, Life, and Culture

June 2021
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496 pages | 6 x 9 |

On July 4, 1867, a group of men assembled in Houston to establish the Republican Party of Texas. Combatting entrenched statewide support for the Democratic Party and their own internal divisions, Republicans struggled to gain a foothold in the Lone Star State, which had sided with the Confederacy and aligned with the Democratic platform. In The Republican Party of Texas, Wayne Thorburn, former executive director of the Texas GOP, chronicles over one hundred and fifty years of the defeats and victories of the party that became the dominant political force in Texas in the modern era.

Thorburn documents the organizational structure of the Texas GOP, drawing attention to prominent names, such as Harry Wurzbach and George W. Bush, alongside lesser-known community leaders who bolstered local support. The 1960s and 1970s proved a watershed era for Texas Republicans as they shored up ideological divides and elected the first Republican governor and more state senators and congressional representatives than ever before. From decisions about candidates and shifting allegiances and political stances, to race-based divisions and strategic cooperation with leaders in the Democratic Party, Thorburn unearths the development of the GOP in Texas to understand the unique Texan conservatism that prevails today.

  • Preface
  • 1. Nineteenth-Century Republicanism
  • 2. The Early-Twentieth-Century Republicans
  • 3. Creager and Wurzbach: The Patronage Wars
  • 4. From Roosevelt to Truman
  • 5. The Eisenhower Years
  • 6. The 1960s Breakthrough
  • 7. After Goldwater
  • 8. The Highs and Lows of the 1970s
  • 9. Breaking the Glass Ceiling
  • 10. The Reagan-Bush Years
  • 11. George W. Bush and the Republican Majority
  • 12. The Year That Changed Texas Politics
  • 13. Bush 43 and Governor Perry
  • 14. The Bush Era Transitions
  • 15. Donald Trump and the Republican Future
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Wayne Thorburn is a former executive director of the Republican Party of Texas and the author of Red State: An Insider’s Story of How the GOP Came to Dominate Texas Politics and A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement.


“Students of American politics will find Thorburn’s history valuable.”

“[A] granular blow-by-blow account...Political historians will appreciate the fine-grained details.”
Publishers Weekly

“A richly informed, crisply written story of the Texas GOP’s emergence, long isolation, and then rise to dominance. It’s a great read for any Lone Star State political junkie.”
Karl Rove

“Historians will appreciate Thorburn’s attention to nuance and detail, but they will also benefit from his study’s impressive breadth. Replete with individual characters and behind-the-scenes battlefronts, this is, ultimately, a sweeping history that spans more than a century and a half of Texas Republican Party development. In search of insider information on the state GOP, scholars will undoubtedly reference Thorburn’s work for decades to come.”
Sean P. Cunningham, Texas Tech University, author of American Politics in the Postwar Sunbelt: Conservative Growth in a Battleground Region

“A valuable overview of the party's growth from its nineteenth-century roots to its twenty-first-century position of political dominance. Thorburn traces the contributions of campaign volunteers, party leaders, candidates, and officeholders as they helped to transform Texas politics. Anyone interested in Texas history will find this a valuable resource.”
Tom DeLay, former majority leader, US House of Representatives

“Wayne Thorburn's latest book provides a comprehensive history of Texas Republican politics from the party's founding in 1867 up to the present.  For those who wish to understand Texas politics, it is a valuable and readable history that will be of interest regardless of one's partisan loyalties.”
Kent Hance, chancellor emeritus, Texas Tech University System

“With a sure hand and a keen eye, Wayne Thorburn details the peculiar evolution of the Texas Republican Party, as it moved from 'relative irrelevance' to dominance of Lone Star politics.”
Kenneth Heineman, professor of history and global security studies, Angelo State University