Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18:2 (Fall 2008) 245-46. Copyright © 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The political earth shook in 1978 when, for the first time since Reconstruction, a Republican won Texas's most coveted electoral prize, the governorship. In his new book, Twilight of the Texas Democrats, historian Kenneth Bridges provides what for years to come will be undoubtedly the most well-written and comprehensive account of this critical moment. Bridges's book is a fast-paced, traditional political narrative. Though the author briefly contextualizes the political culture of the late 1970s by retracing Texas history from the Civil War to the modern era, the book's primary focus and major characters are the candidates and campaign managers active in Texas during the late 1970s. Bridges provides a nuanced and comprehensive narrative of the 1978 election battle between Republican Bill Clements and Democrat John Hill. That narrative illustrates what many historians have previously argued, that Clements's victory in 1978 was the seminal moment in a longer contest between partisan and ideological factions and can justifiably be viewed as a significant turning point in the emergence of a legitimate two-party system in Texas.