STEWART, VERNON JAMES (1929 ~ 2006). Vernon James Stewart was born on March 23, 1929, in Wichita Falls to Lester J. Stewart and Floy Estelle Vernon Stewart. Growing up in Wichita Falls, Stewart was educated in public schools, graduating from Wichita Falls High School. Upon his graduation, Stewart enrolled in Hardin Junior College which is now known as Midwestern State University. Stewart was the founding member of the Indian Band at Hardin. After two years, Stewart attended the University of Texas and then earned a law degree from Baylor University.
At the young age of 23, Stewart was elected to Place 1 of the old 60th District in 1952. This was at the time Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock was a representative from Hillsboro and Governor Dolph Briscoe was still a representative from Uvalde.(1) Stewart held his legislative position for 20 years until redistricting in 1972, which forced him to run against Representative Dave Allred, the son of the popular Texas Governor James V Allred in the Democratic primary. Representative Stewart was the longest running legislator to represent the North Texas area.
During his 20 year tenure in the House, Representative Stewart was known for crafting many bills such as making Midwestern University a state-supported school, providing aid to the Wichita Falls State Hospital, bills that would support the Veteran's benefits such as free auto license plates, and bills that would enable an active persuance of recycling to reduce solid waste disposal. Other bills included a control on lobbyists and their access to Texas legislators and a strong code of ethics for lawmakers. These bills, however, died in the Senate. During his time in office, Representative Stewart served as chairman of the Juvenile Crime and Deliquency Committee. In addition to schools, veterans, and environment bills, Representative Stewart was able to author several bills regarding cemeteries, judicial qualifications, and oil and gas leases.
Representative Stewart was a lawyer by trade and served the community by becoming a long-time advisor to the YMCA Youth and Government Program. He was also a member of the Kiwanis.
At the age of 76, Representative Stewart passed away on January 24, 2006, in the town where he was born, raised, schooled and gave back to. Stewart's funeral was held Friday, January 27, 2006, in Wichita Falls where Representative David Farabee was in attendance. Farabee, the democratic representative of Wichita Falls spoke at Stewart's funeral saying, "...Every kid from Wichita Falls who went to the University of Texas had a job in his office if they needed it...Many have gone on to be leaders in this community."
Representative Vernon James Stewart was cremated, and is at present, not interred at the Texas State Cemetery.
(1) Representative David Farabee's (D-Wichita Falls) remarks at Stewart's funeral.
Sources: Austin American Statesman, Associated Press, Tuesday, January 31, 2006, B4; Times Record News, Judith K. McGinnis, January 30, 2006, www.timesrecordnews.com/trn/local_news/article/0,1891,TRN_5784_4426063,00.html; Times Record News, Obituaries, January 30, 2006, www.timesrecordnews.com/trn/local_obituaries/article/0,1891,TRN_5786_4426713,00.html.