Politicians

When They Were Young: Sheila Jackson Lee and John Whitmire

Older and wiser now?
Older and wiser now? Screenshot

The two leading candidates for Houston's next mayor are Sheila Jackson Lee and John Whitmire — two people the Houston Press has been writing about for a very long time.

Two of the more entertaining stories about them were written for the Press in the mid-'90s by veteran journalist Tim Fleck who lived and breathed local politics.

We thought you might like to take a trip back to the past — theirs and yours —  with this look back so many years later.

First Up:  What's Driving Miss Sheila?, published on February 20, 1997, telling about her move from Houston City Council to her first term in Congress which began in 1995.

The opening graphs:

Only five days into her first term as a member of Congress, Sheila Jackson Lee hurried into her small office in the Longworth Building. Back home, while serving on the Houston City Council, Lee had forged a reputation as a brusque and imperious boss, and her short time in Washington hadn't changed her. "I want that ASAP" seemed to be her favorite phrase — and on this day, she had a rush order for her legislative director, Meredith Jones.

In January 1995, the 104th Congress was fizzing with the arrival of Newt Gingrich's freshman warriors. Lee, one of the relatively few new Democrats, was determined to make a splash on the House floor. She coolly informed Jones that the staff had 30 minutes to craft an amendment to a piece of legislation that neither they, nor Lee, had ever seen.


And then going back a couple more years there's John Whitmire Was on a Roll Coming Into the 1995 Legislature. But...  which went live on July 13, 1995.

As it begins:

John Whitmire was riding high back on April 12 when he took to the floor of the Texas Senate for a rare "personal privilege" speech. The legislative battle over auto emissions testing, in which Whitmire had been in the forefront, was at a critical juncture. The veteran senator already had gotten considerable mileage out of his highly publicized efforts to kill or revise the mandatory tailpipe examinations. Watching him strut and pace that day on a small patch of the Senate floor, more than one person was moved to wonder what higher office "Boogie" — the nickname Whitmire had acquired years before as a partying young lawmaker — had his sights on.

Attorney general, or, maybe, lieutenant governor? Or perhaps Whitmire desired to follow in the footsteps of his former sister-in-law, Kathy Whitmire, and become mayor of his hometown.


Does anyone remember that he used to be called "Boogie"?

We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did. And a tip of the hat to longtime TV journalist and now Rice University director of News and Media Relations Doug Miller who reminded us about these gems. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing