History of RCRW
Early History of Rockwall County Republican Women (RCRW)
By Billie Tuttle, the first President of RCRW
My husband, Leon Tuttle, and I moved to Rockwall on Election Day, May 6, 1972. My first involvement with the Republican Party in Rockwall was in 1974 when I voted in the Republican Primary. Forty-four people voted in that primary at Dr. Sherman Spark’s clinic. That was twice as many as had voted there in 1972.
Dr. Sparks was the Republican County Chairman. Over the next two years Dr. Sparks held several meetings at his cabana on the hill off highway 66. Usually there were six or eight people attending, the Wallaces, Dunns, Lawhorns (Bill’s parents), Tuttles, Al Wingo and Dr. Sparks.
In the spring of 1975 Jim and Gerry Glasgow moved to Rockwall from Longview. Jim was the District Committeeman on the SREC at that time. Gerry immediately called on Dr. Sparks and inquired about organizing a Republican Women’s club in Rockwall. I have always thought of Gerry Glasgow as the founder of this club.
I remember getting a call from Dr. Sparks asking me to attend a meeting with the other Republican ladies, but I had a conflict and didn’t attend. A few days later I received a letter in the mail from Dixie Clem, the TFRW District Director of our district. The letter said, “Congratulations! You have been elected President of the Rockwall County Republican Women.”
Needless to say I was surprised! There was a list of ten names of the new members attached to the letter. My name was on the list.
After making a couple of phone calls I found out that only three local women had attended the meeting, Gerry Glasgow, Evelyn Wallace and Marge Dunn, along with Dixie Clem and Dr. Sparks. I think Dixie thought it was hopeless and didn’t want to make another trip back to Rockwall, so Dr. Sparks furnished the list of names and paid dues for all those who were not there because TFRW requires at least ten members in order to be a club.
The three who were there proceeded to elect officers and I learned a lesson from that: Always attend the meetings if you don’t want to get elected to do something!
I thought about it and discussed this new honor which had been bestowed upon me with my husband and I decided to accept the office and see what I could do. I found out I could do a lot with the help of a lot of very enthusiastic women!
I called the other officers together and we decided to hold a general meeting in May soon after the Primary. Dr. Sparks decided that forty-four people were too large a crowd for his clinic along with his patients so in 1976 the primary was moved to Dobbs Elementary School. We anticipated the crowd would be considerably larger than in 1974. This was a wise move. Over 300 people showed up to vote. We posted a sign-up sheet for the club at the polling place and a lot of women signed up. We were really rolling!
Our first general meeting was held in May 1976 at the cabana in Lakeside Village where Gerry lived. We put an announcement in the Rockwall Success, crossed our fingers and waited. Much to our surprise at least twenty women showed up for the first meeting. Among them were Martha Sue Keegan, Barbara Lawhorn, Joan Huff, Carolyn Swafford, Marge Dunn, Sandra McKay, Gerry Glasgow, several others and myself. Most of them paid dues and the Rockwall Republican Women were off and running!
We decided to have a barbecue and campaign rally that summer at the high school cafeteria. It was a first for Republicans in Rockwall and really shocked the community. We sold 149 tickets, but only about 75 people showed up. A lot of people didn’t want it known that they were Republican sympathizers. We deemed the barbecue a great success and held it annually for about 20 years. Some of our featured speakers were Governor Bill Clements, Senator John Tower, Texas Secretary of State George Strake and others. I believe it was 1980 and Martha Hanover was club President when we had Governor Clements at the barbecue and over 600 guests attended the event held in a large tent with an overflow crowd onto land that is now the Northshore subdivision. It was awesome! The Greenville paper reported that 5,000 people had attended!
We also held a white elephant sale that first year. At that time there was no community center or any other appropriate place to hold a large garage sale, so I was given the duty to go see Bill and Raymond Cameron to ask if we could hold our sale on the parking lot of the Cameron Building. When I arrived at their office Bill, Raymond and Bill’s wife Ida Joe were all in the office. I explained what we wanted to do and they all looked at me like I was crazy. They laughed a little and then graciously agreed to let us use their parking lot. Raymond Cameron was the Democrat County Chairman at that time! I’m sure they never dreamed we would still be around by the next election.
By early fall 1976 we decided that we had enough support to open a Republican campaign headquarters before the general election. The best location we could get was in Shorty Rogers old barbershop on the square. A month before the general election we held a grand opening, barber chairs and all. The headquarters was staffed mostly by the Dunns, Tuttles, Keegans, Lawhorns, Huffs, McKays, Wallaces, Hatfields, Sparks, Glasgows and a few others. Once again we shocked the community, but most people around town still didn’t think the Republicans were here to stay.
Although the GOP success at the polls was limited that year, we did feel we had done well in Rockwall and we had a victory party at the headquarters on election night. The Democrats ruled the courthouse and gathered on the courthouse lawn to post the election returns on the big chalkboard. Their crowd was much larger than ours, but ours grew steadily through the years. By 1984 our crowd was larger than theirs and before the final returns came in most of the Democrats had gone home.
From 1976 to 1978 our club membership grew to 75 dues paying members. We were saddened by the loss of our beloved Gerry Glasgow to breast cancer in the spring of 1978. I missed her very much because I had always looked to her for guidance and I’m sure that the rest of the club did too.
We kept working and 1978 turned out to be an outstanding year. Dr. Sparks owned a small frame house across the street from his clinic and he let us use it for our campaign headquarters that year. Martha Sue Keegan was Campaign Headquarters Chairman and did a superb job of organizing the door to door campaign and staffing the headquarters. Under Martha Sue’s leadership and with the help of a lot of other people, we elected our first Republican County Commissioner, George Lyons, from precinct two. We also elected Frank Eikenburg, State Representative; Senator John Tower and the icing on the cake was the election of Bill Clements to the Governor’s office. It was wonderful! The headquarters house was overflowing with people on election night. We had lots of food and champagne and everybody had a great time.
In January of 1979 several people from Rockwall attended Governor Clements’ inauguration in Austin. The group included the Keegans, Dicksons, McKays, Tuttles and Jim Glasgow. Sandra McKay was on crutches from a skiing accident, but it didn’t slow her down. We went to the ball and the parade and had lunch on the Capitol grounds and stood for two or three hours of ceremony in front of the Capitol steps. About midnight as the ball was ending; we stopped former Governor John Connally on the sidewalk in front of the Driskill Hotel and got his autograph on a program.
We return to Rockwall and got back to work. The off years when there are no elections are always less hectic and we used those years to raise money and do more public service projects.
For several years our club participated in the Aspasian’s Arts and Crafts Fair on the square. Since everything had to be made by hand, we had to be creative. The first year we made sack lunches and sold them. It was a lot of work, but we made some money. The next year we decided not to do lunches and the Aspasians took our idea and we never got it back. After that we had a photo booth with costumes. It rained on that one. One year we painted bricks and tried to sell them for door stops without much success. Several times we had bake sales. These were more profitable than the photo booth or the bricks. One year we made funnel cakes. If you’ve ever stood all day in the hot sun and fried anything, you know why we didn’t do that again!
For several years our most profitable fundraisers were garage sales. I believe it was 1981 when we held a garage sale at Marsha McKinney’s home and raised enough money to buy the flag pole that now graces the lawn of our courthouse on the square. Another time we held a garage sale at the Rotary Hall and did very well.
One of our public service projects was the donation of books to both the Rockwall County Library and to the Rockwall I.S.D. This is a relatively inexpensive project and is well received by the public.
We’ve participated in the Helping Hands Christmas project for needy families; built and entered floats in the Christmas parade; and tried to be visible at most public events. Any time we could get a story in the local paper we did.
For several years we gave a scholarship to a graduating Rockwall High School senior. I’m glad to say we have now reinstated the scholarship program.
Even though some of these events didn’t raise a lot of money, I have always felt they were worthwhile because they kept us visible and gave us a lot of publicity in the newspaper. Everyone knew the Republican Women were alive and well!
1980 was an outstanding year. Republicans were able to oust Jimmy Carter from the White House and elect Ronald Reagan. Our club worked very hard on that election. Karen Quinn was chairman of the Reagan phone bank in Rockwall and she and her volunteers worked extremely hard to win a Reagan landslide in Rockwall County.
Winning has been a lot easier for Republicans since then. We’ve reached the point now where there are very few Democrats on the ballot in Rockwall.
2007 was another good year for us. The candidate forum was great. People were enthusiastic and it got the momentum going. We had a booth at the Founder’s Day Festival and held our third annual fashion show, a tradition founded by club President, Jay Broderick in 2005. These were all very successful projects.
Under President Brenda Zielke’s leadership 2008 was one of our best years.
Our fashion show was moved to the new Bella Harbor Hilton Hotel and raised a record amount of contributions.
The Democrats are working hard. If we don’t keep working, they’ll regain strength and we’ll be back where we started.
We need to be enthusiastic.
We need to be active.
We need to be visible in the community.
We need to make headlines.