Interview with Sam Millsap

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Table of Contents 
  •  Background & Parents 
  •  VIRGINIA MARIE RAYMOND: So thank you, so it is April 2nd, 2010. We are in San Antonio, at the office of Mr. Sam Millsap, an attorney. Behind the camera is Rosemarie Caldwell my name is Virginia Marie Raymond. Thank you again Mr. Millsap for letting is meet with you this morning.  
  •   SAM MILLSAP: Happy to do it.  
  •   RAYMOND: Thank you so much and we’ve reviewed the consent and you’ve agreed to be interviewed, you know what we’re doing with the information, non-commercial education only.  
  •  MILLSAP: Right.  
  •   RAYMOND: We’re not going to make millionaires out of this interview. [laughter] sad to say. So thank you again. So I wonder, would you mind just telling me about your background?  
  •   MILLSAP: I was raised here in San Antonio, born in Austin. Parents—our mother grew up in east Texas, her parents were sharecroppers; they scratched together a life in Penola County and decided to move to Carthage for my grandmother opened a hamburger joint and my mother went to work when she was seven or eight years old in that hamburger joint. My father was born and raised west of there in an area south of Ft. Worth, the Covington Cleburne area, in fact there’s even a town up there in that immediate area called Millsap. My father by the time he was ten years old was almost totally blind and, in spite of the fact that he was severely handicapped, was not only a great athlete in high school at the Texas State School for the Blind, but knew nothing really but success his entire life in business and other endeavors. My mother and father found each other at a honky-tonk in Dallas, my father was playing the drums in the band and my mother was there with my grandparents. And they got married. My dad was employed at the time by the State Commission for the Blind in Austin, and they continued, or, he continued in that job for a time and then decided to open his own what was really just a snack bar in San Antonio. And then over time, over—I say time, over four decades—my mother and father working together built a very successful cafeteria business here in San Antonio. I provide that background because I think that—you can point to, or I think I can point to certain specific things that have caused me, for better or for worse, to be what I am today. And, ’cause I told my mother not long ago I always thought that my father, until he died was the person who really pushed me, and when I say pushed I don’t mean that he actually pushed me, but I mean his presence, what he represented, pushed me. I’ve realized in the last fifteen years since my father died that it was my mother probably even more than my father whose life, I think, became the model for my life in many ways. Anyway, I—public schools here in San Antonio; University of Texas—successful student; University of Texas law school—successful law student; very active in political stuff when I was in school—successfully. Lots of honors, you know, just kind of the typical, typical background of somebody who’s highly motivated and who manages to do well. The other thing that I would point to, I think, is one of those really, really, really crucial things that happened in my life that has had a dramatic effect on all my life ever since, was the fact that I became when I was I guess a junior at the University of Texas I became a member of a group called the Tejas Club. Tejas Club is like a fraternity, but it’s not a fraternity, it’s an independent club. And I had no idea my soon to be brother-in-law was a member of the Tejas Club, and he took me over there, and that was sort of the way that all happened, but I had at that point in my life a fascination with politics—had read a lot, really a lot, about politics, going back to when I was thirteen or fourteen years old, but never had a—and frankly had never thought about how that interest might be expressed. I get into the Tejas Club, and it’s just a political cauldron. And so what I was able to do then over the next two and a half years until I got married was to really measure myself against people at the University of Texas who were also interested in politics. You know, cut my teeth, do things that—try things that would be valuable to me later on. I mean, one of the things that people talk about from time to time is the fact that political activity at the University of Texas simply duplicates itself in real life, and while that’s probably an overstatement, what is not an overstatement is that the campaigns that get fought at the University of Texas are just as bare knuckled and just as hard ball as the ones that get fought at the retail level in real life. When I ran for DA in 1982, my campaign for DA was namby-pamby compared to campaigns that I managed when I was at the University of Texas. And so those associations and those experiences coupled with the parents I had and the examples that they set for me, what their lives represented, I think really prepared me to do all of the things that I’ve done in my life. I think, more importantly, I watch people who seem to have difficulty deciding what to do and who seem to be fearful of change and I can—I think the thing that I would point to is the most significant gift maybe that my mom and dad gave me was the belief that I should have complete confidence in myself and my own judgment. My mother spent her entire life, she’s still alive, and she’s still doin’ it. She’s eighty years old, but she has spent her entire life telling me that I’m special, you know? And whether it’s true or not, the point is over time that message takes. Now the main effect of being told over and over again, “You’re special you’re special”, and then beginning to achieve success in school, whatever, and more importantly, not ever knowing failure—one of the things that I tell my wife that I think about, and I don’t think about it as much as I used to, but I’ve often thought about the fact that my life has been such a cakewalk, really, that one of the things that I’ve never been forced to do is find out how tough I am, you know? I’ve never been put in a position where toughness was required, because it’s been so easy. But as I move forward, the point that I was gonna make is as I move forward into the what I refer to as the real world and started trying different things, there has never been a time when I’ve decided to do something or when I’ve thought about doing something and ever had any real fear or concern about whether I could do it. Whether I would be successful, whether it would turn out the way I wanted it to turn out. It’s really helpful to always find yourself at a place like that. My wife would say that what it often does is it produces a lot of madness, too, because you do some goofy things. But, and I have, but you know if you do something that’s goofy, you acknowledge the mistake, and you go on, you do something else. And that’s really not hard to do. Anyway, that’s my background.  
  •  RAYMOND: When you say goofy, I have to ask.  
  •   MILLSAP: Oh gosh, I don’t know, you know, just—Geez, I don’t know—Just the point, I was gonna make is that just as it’s been easy for me to move forward, on those occasions when something has—when I realize that some sort of change is necessary, it doesn’t take me any time to do that. The one time that I can think of that I think is important, I went through law school, and I was very successful in law school, and like the other people in my law school class who were successful, when you graduate you don’t just go out and hang up a shingle. If you’re successful enough, you go to—there are certain sort of obvious places where you go. It’s almost like for the successful person who’s moving through the University of Texas process, it’s almost like there’s a checklist of things that you do. And so, when you get out of law school, if you’re successful you either go to Baker Botts, Fullbright and Juworski, or Vincent Elkins—this was in the 1970s. Now today there are a great many more wonderful law firms, huge law firms in Texas. But when I came out of law school I had offers from all of those firms, and so I went to Baker and Botts. And within six months of the time I was at Baker and Bots I was just horribly, horribly unhappy. And Baker and Botts is one of those places that you, because of what it represents and because of what a life in a firm like that can provide in terms of financial security, it’s not something that people walk away from very quickly once they’re there. And yet when I decided that I was gonna do something else, I just left immediately, I was probably, I ended up being there only about a year. At the time that I left, some of my cohorts laughed and said that I had probably spent the shortest amount of time at Baker and Botts of anybody in history. Now I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but you know the point is that when I realized that it was not the place for me, then it just didn’t make sense for me to be there anymore. I acknowledged that I had made a mistake, and I made the change and moved on down the road. That’s what I mean by that. Goofy’s not the right word. But it seems sorta goofy looking back on it now. [laughter]  
  •   RAYMOND: I have to—I wanna find out more of course when we get to your law career, but before we do, you said that the Tejas Club was a political cauldron, what were the issues that were boiling at that point?  
  •   MILLSAP: Well, the issues—It wasn’t so much the national or international issues, I’m talking about student politics. The stuff we thought mattered so much when we were students, but that we now realize really didn’t matter at all. Except that what we were doing is we were crashing into each other, you know? And so you have all these little baby politicians that are crashing into each other and learning about themselves. Learning about each other. The relationships that I established when I was at the University of Texas were incredible. Lloyd Doggett was one of the people that was a very good friend when I was in school. I helped him run for president of the student body—he’s a United States Congressman today. Joe Cryer who just retired as the president of our chamber here in San Antonio and who’s been a leader in our community for twenty years, twenty-five years, these are all people I met at the Tejas Club. Roy Spence, who was not actually a member of the Tejas Club, but who I got to know because I was in the Tejas Club—when he was a baby, before he became a media mogul, I guess he was a mogul by the time he did my campaigns, you know in 1982 when I ran for DA and in 1986, he was my TV guy, and he was my media guy, and not because I paid him as much as other people paid him but because he was my friend from school. And I remember somebody talking about the fact that I guess Spence was a pretty big hitter at the time because I remember somebody in my campaign talking about the fact that they were so surprised that I seemed so relaxed when I was talking to Roy. You know, “Don’t you realize this is Roy Spence?” Well, I’m talking to my old buddy from, my old beer drinking buddy that I’ve been rafting down the river with I mean it’s not, anyway it’s a relationship thing. We were, it’s really interesting, the University of Texas I really think that, I don’t think that the issues that were going on around the country in the mid-to-late sixties ever hit the University of Texas as hard as they hit other campuses. We were opposed to the war. We fully supported the civil rights movement, but it was not something that – the campus wasn’t boiling because of those issues like places like Berkeley and Columbia and other universities around the country, and it’s probably because of just the conservative nature of the state. Frank Erwin was the chairman of the board of regents at the time, and he was the guy that everybody loved to hate. We were focused on him and at one point I remember him making this statement and we used to—I think back on these experiences, when Erwin was chairman of the board of regents, and Doggett was president of the student body, when there was a big issue that came up that effected students, what we would do at the end of the day is we would—Erwin was a heavy, heavy, heavy drinker – and any time he wasn’t actively meddling in the University of Texas, he was at the Forty Acres Club drinking. And so Doggett, Cryer, and I would go over and drink whiskey with Frank Erwin and talk University of Texas politics. Now Erwin was probably the most brilliant, strategic thinker that I’ve ever been exposed to, and he was even brilliant when he’d had too much to drink. But I don’t think I could even begin to identify all of the political lessons that I learned sitting at the Forty Acres club with Frank Erwin and Lloyd Doggett and Joe Cryer and two or three other people. When I talk about politics, that’s what I’m talking about. One of the things I always worried about as I was leaving the University of Texas, I knew that I would be in politics at some point, and one of the things that caused me great concern was whether there was really any core to me. Because I remember when I read All the President’s Men, and in advance I had heard about Donald Segretti and the dirty tricks, these were guys who had cut their teeth at the University of Southern California. Well, when I was reading about the kind of stuff that Segretti did and his people did when they were in college, we did the same things. It was almost like there was no compass back in those days that guided at least me, there was never any thought about what was right and what was wrong, the only question is what’s effective and what’s not effective. I had a good friend who was running for editor of The Daily Texan in the mid-late sixties, and he was running against a woman who was actually supported by the Texan staff, and because of things that happened right before the election, we made the determination that if the newspaper went out on election day that he would lose the election. And so the question became, How do we keep The Daily Texan from getting to the dorms in the fraternity houses? And what we did was really pretty amazing. We lost the election, but what we did is we actually—we knew where the Texan was printed, we knew how many trucks they used to get it to the campus and what their system was, and what we did is we organized a group of cars that followed these trucks around, and as the bundles of newspapers would be thrown out at the dorms and the fraternity houses, our people would go in right behind them and pick the papers up. [laughter] Now, what a horrible thing to do. I mean there’s not anybody, I’m sixty-two years old today and I am a purist on the first amendment, on the importance of freedom of speech, and yet at the same time when I was at the University of Texas I didn’t think twice about keeping the papers from going out because it wasn’t useful to me, politically, for it to go out one day. So I had a real concern about whether there was something missing and whether I would always be somebody who was just driven by whatever happened to work, no matter how amoral or immoral it might be in politics. I found out the good thing about the fact that I was in politics early was that I was in a position where the ability to make those kind of decisions and do things for the right reasons was really important and I learned very quickly is that there was a core and that I could make good decisions and did make good decisions for the right reasons. But that’s what I mean by the politics, it’s not like we were all marching against the war. The only time I was ever gassed when I was at the University of Texas was by mistake. See, part of the thing you have to remember when you’re as involved in all of this stuff as I was, we would all look at each other and what we saw were future governors. Or at least, what we saw were people we were gonna run against for governor, someday. And so all of these guys that I was running around with at the University of Texas were pretty boring people because we were thinking constantly about our images and making sure we didn’t do anything that might be regrettable later on. And so the only time I was ever gassed, I was standing in the parking lot of a hamburger joint, watching people march against the war and it was probably in ’71 or ’72, and it was the invasion of Cambodia—or not the invasion, well, I guess it was an invasion. But anyway, it was probably the thing that agitated the student body more than anything else while I was there, and I was against it, but I didn’t march because I didn’t want my picture taken, that sort of thing, because it might not be good for me when I ran for governor. [laughter]  
  •  RAYMOND: So you go to Baker Botts and what about Baker Botts was not you?  
  •   MILLSAP: At that point in my life, I was not interested in the law. I went to law school because I was gonna be in politics, and the law seemed to be the easiest way to get there. Baker and Boots was a place where you—well, let me back up and say this: I’ve talked about the fact that everything was always easy for me. The first time that I was ever in a classroom and could look at a human being and say with certainty, This guy may be smarter than I am, this guy is as smart as I am, or this woman is as smart as I am. Up until that time I mean I had never been, you hear the phrase “he was always the smartest guy in the room” well, whether I was or not, I believed I was, up to that point. By the time I got to law school, the thing that I knew was that there were a handful of people who were scary smart, and those people, not only were they scary smart, but there was an even smaller number that were part of that group who worked around the clock. And so once you realize that, the thing that you know is that there’s no way—if you’re gonna live a normal life, there is no way that you can compete with those people. When you get to Baker and Botts, when you get to Fullbright and Juworski, or Vincent Elkins, the only people who are there are those people. I mean I remember at one point—when I say I did well in law school, I was in the top 6, or 7, 8 percent, something like that. But Baker Botts, and Fullbright and Juworski and all the mega-firms, they took the grand-chancellor types. The grand chancellor types were the guys that had the very highest averages. When I was talking to—the guy that I got closest to in the interview process was the fellow at Baker and Botts that hired me and we got close enough that I was able to ask him at one point what it was about my resume that he found particularly attractive, because I mean I had a lot of good stuff and all but I didn’t really think I was in that league, and I had really never thought about it. And as it turned out, it had nothing to do with my average or anything, one of the things that my involvement in all of the stuff at the University of Texas led to was that I became a member of the Friar’s Society, which is the big, big, big honorary—or at least it was in those days, I don’t know whether it still is or not—it was the highest honor that you could get at the University of Texas. And in my last semester I had been the president of the Friar’s Society, or the Abbott, as it’s called.  
  •   RAYMOND: Which?  
  •   MILLSAP: Abbott.  
  •  RAYMOND: Abbott?  
  •   MILLSAP: A-B-B-O-T-T. And so I asked Walter Workman, I said “what is it about my resume that you liked?” He was from the University of Arkansas, and all he knew what he heard about the Friar’s Society, and all that stuff. He said, “Sam, you’re a member of the Friar’s Society.” He said “You’re the Abbott, you’re friar number one.” [laughter] So the reason I was getting all this play from these law firms was not because I was a smart guy who had done well in law school, although I had, it was because of the way that I had positioned myself in the associations that I had and the things that I achieved outside the classroom when I was at the University of Texas. So I get to Baker and Botts, geez, I mean I look around and the only people that are there with me are these beasts who are smarter than I am and who are working twenty-four hours a day, okay? And so the thing that you know, and there were like, I don’t remember, ten or twelve of us in our class. The thing that you know is at the end of six years or seven years what’s gonna happen is that three or four of you are gonna become partners in the law firm. And it was really, really easy for me to look at this situation and say, You are not gonna be successful here. You are not gonna do what you have to do to compete with these people. It is entirely possible that if you play the game on their terms and have no life for the next six or seven years like they will have, you may still not compete successfully with these people. And so a big part of the motivator was that I just bailed out because I didn’t want to live that way. And because I knew that I didn’t want to live that way, the thing that I also knew was that for the first time in my life, I knew that I would not be successful. The other thing though—there were other things—atmosphere, too much competition. I mean I remember working on one project for—oh God, it was just a huge project, and then what ended up happening in the end, I found out that the partner that I was doing the work for took credit for my hours. Life is too short to deal with that kind of stuff. I went to—it was really interesting, I was not really unhappy at Baker and Botts until the night that Lloyd Doggett was elected to the state senate in Austin. We all jumped in the car—there were four or five of us, two or three guys that were with me at Baker and Botts, and we jumped in the car and drove to Austin for Lloyd’s victory party. And these guys just complained bitterly all the way up and all the way back about Baker and Botts and what was going on, saying this is horrible and that’s horrible, so I listened to all of it, and it was really interesting because I was dewy-eyed at that point, and it was all so neat to be a big shot with a big firm and all that sort of thing, to be treated like a prize bull. And then I get back after this little short trip and all of a sudden I look around and I start seeing these things that these guys had been complaining about. And so the net effect of it all was that I was out of there in record time. Came back here—and when I say I wasn’t interested in the law—where I was headed, and I was headed as fast as I could go, was into politics. And part of what I realized was a key part of that was getting back to San Antonio. One of the things, by the way, that I should also say, when I went through my period when I was concerned whether there was any core, I made the decision that well, I actually made the decision that there was no core, and that the only way that I could protect myself, I guess from the discovery over and over again that there were no guiding principles was just not to ever go into politics. I thought that if I did something else that maybe that weakness would not show itself, or that that tendency toward the practical would not show itself quite so often. I made the decision—it’s really ironic—I was so connected that the thing that I concluded when I was in law school was that the way that I would maximize the likelihood that I would not go into politics was to leave Texas. I believed that if I stayed in Texas, I was destined to be in politics just because of who I knew and what I had learned. And so I ended up spending a summer clerking with a big law firm in Denver, and I remember at the end of that summer there was a guy named Buck Fredrickson who was the person who hired me, and he had just incredible insight into people, and he and I had never talked about politics or anything, and I don’t know whether he had done research on me or what, but anyway, at the end of the summer we were talking and they offered me a job and he said, “You know I’m offering you this job and I hope that you’ll come here, but I want you to know that if I were you, and if I understood about myself what you understand about yourself, I would go home and do what I was made to do.” He said, “Don’t run away.” It was like talking to somebody who’s inside your head. He said, “Don’t run away from who you are.” That was important at that point in my life, and I did make the decision almost immediately after that to go to Baker and Botts rather than to go back to Colorado. And I suppose probably I knew at that point that those decisions were pushing me in the direction of political activity. Well by the time I left Baker and Botts, which was only two years later I guess and came back to San Antonio, I was moving straight toward a race. See, one of the things you have to remember—it’s so interesting how things change and how plans are destroyed by things that you have absolutely no control over. In the late seventies, early ‘eighties, when I was getting ready to make my first race, Texas was a Democratic state. I was a Democrat, I am a Democrat, Texas was—the Republicans, there were like eight of them or something like that, and they were goofballs. In ’82 when I ran the first time, Texas was a Democratic state. And so what I had in front of me, I believed at that point, was the opportunity to do whatever I was smart enough and big enough to do in Texas politics in part because I was a Democrat and comfortable being a Democrat. And of course what happened is that within a very, very, very, very short period of time, all of that changed. I can remember when—I'm jumping ahead now—but I can remember when I was getting to run for reelection in 1986, summer of 1985, my political people sat me down and told me that I had to switch parties if I wanted to be reelected. And I had seen the polls at that point, I was very popular, and the question in 1986 was—I mean the real question was not whether I was going to run for reelection, the real question was whether I was gonna go ahead and run for Attorney General in ’86 because I had name ID in south Texas because of the cases that I had been involved with. My statewide name ID was pretty comparable to Jim Mattox, and all my name ID was in south Texas—his was just sort of spread over the entire state. And I mean what I could see because my name ID was in south Texas, and that’s where the heart of the democratic base is, the thing that I could see was that I could beat Jim Mattox in a Democratic primary. So the question for me was whether I would run for reelection or run for Attorney General. Mattox had been indicted at that point also, so it was very attractive. But anyway, my political people come to me and they say, You can’t win re-election unless you switch parties. And I remember telling them because I had seen these polls, “I am so popular that I could win reelection on the socialist worker’s ticket.” [laughter] And then of course what happened is that I made a big deal, a very public deal, about staying in the party and in fact it was such a big deal the Chicago Tribune sent a reporter down, who traveled with me—I say travelled, he moved around the city with me for three days because this whole thing about whether Democrats were gonna stay Democrats in 1985 was a big deal all over the country. And apparently the Republicans really wanted me to switch, and so somehow the Chicago Tribune found out about it, they’ve sent a guy down, and anyway I didn’t switch, and I lost in 1986. And so for me at that point in my life I was 39 years old. I had been the youngest major metropolitan District Attorney in the country when I was elected. When I left the office I was still the youngest, I had done these incredible things as District Attorney that nobody had done, but it was over. And not only was it over, but there was no prospect of any future because one of the things that was abundantly clear to me that had never mattered much even four or five years earlier, was that I am really a Democrat. I'm not--I could never switch and be a Republican. I couldn’t do it. And so the thing that I could see is that I was going to have to move to a different state if I wanted to be in politics. So I had spent the first forty years of my life, or, the last 25 years of my life getting ready to do something that was done, and that was an interesting time, that was probably the hardest time of my life was in that. There was a four or five year period of transition from the life I had from the first me to the current me. But anyway, I’ve jumped ahead, and I apologize for that—I'm sorry go ahead.  
  •   RAYMOND: No, no apologies at all, I was just checking the clock to see where we were, so we have about twenty minutes and then we need to take a break.  
  •   MILLSAP: Okay, I know I get—  
  •   RAYMOND: I know you’ll have a lot to say, no no this is good—  
  •   MILLSAP: —I say too much.  
  •   RAYMOND: This is very good, this is really great. I’m writing a lot and seeing things from a different perspective, it’s great, but I just took you there because I know you’re going to have a lot to say about being a DA and we’ll need to break at some point.  
  •   MILLSAP: Okay.  
  •  RAYMOND: So, you run for office.  
  •   MILLSAP: I run, I win, huge win. I probably should tell you why I ran because it’s also, I think instructive. One of the things that I always knew—today, when I travel around and talk about the death penalty, one of the things that I capitalize on because I’m talking as often as possible to conservatives, I capitalize as much as I can on my law enforcement background and I try to cozy up to these people and do cozy up to these people by emphasizing the fact that I’m not a liberal. One of my early lines is always, “I am no wild-eyed, point-headed liberal social scientist type.” The truth is that I am, and not a social scientist type, but an unreconstructed, unapologetic, sixties’ liberal. And so as I was getting ready to make my first race, the question was never entirely, Is this what I wanna do for the rest of my life or is this what I wanna do right now? The question was, How do I serve my long term interests by what I do now? How do I set the stage for the next race with this race? And so the thing that occurred to me that was really, really important was that if I spent a term or two terms as DA, what that would enable me to do is to take these incredibly right-wing sounding positions on law enforcement issues and that the practical effect of having done that for three or four years and being the take no prisoners, scorched-earth DA, the practical effect of that is I would to some extent inoculate myself when I then began to take more liberal positions on other issues, so it was a perfect thing for me to do. I was not the typical candidate for District Attorney. The guy that runs for DA or the woman that runs for DA typically is somebody who’s been in the DA’s office or somebody who is in the criminal justice system. I had never been involved in criminal justice at all, I was representing banks and utility companies and railroads and as my father said, I was a “white shoe” lawyer, and white shoe lawyers didn’t run for DA. And so all through this period where I’m thinking this through and analyzing it, and this was over a two or three year period, one of the things that happened was the incumbent district attorney said some really really, really, nasty things about people who live in public housing. At that time, what the housing authority was thinking about doing was breaking up public housing units and making smaller residential facilities that would be spread out all over town, i.e., they would be put in your neighborhood. And so the incumbent DA at that point who was this really surly guy, nasty surly guy—I didn’t like him at all—he said putting these housing projects in your neighborhood would be like putting little prisons in your neighborhood because “those people” would leave the housing unit and go out and commit crimes in your community. Well, when my mom and dad, when my dad decided to leave the state commission for the blind and come to San Antonio and put this little snack bar together, my mom and dad didn’t have two quarters to rub together, and when we came here, we lived in public housing. And like lots of other people who simply didn’t have the resources to create an alternative, what my mom and dad did was to take advantage of that fact that that cheap opportunity was there. They lived there for a time, and then they moved on and created for themselves the American dream. And so, I don’t think I’ve ever been as mad, as unhappy, and I was thirty—and I’m still a kid at that point, and of course the argument all through my whole campaign is that I was too young, didn’t have enough experience, all that sort of thing—but I don’t think I’ve ever been as unhappy, as mad as I was when I heard that statement. And that was what really pushed me, finally, into the race. And I ran. I literally beat his brains out in the campaign. I got to the point, I had one of the wonderful stories—you know most of the times in a political campaign, when you lose, you can look back and you can figure out what it was that happened, why you lost. What happened in that campaign, Bill White never had any idea what happened to him. Are we okay?  
  •  RAYMOND: Yeah.  
  •   MILLSAP: Bill White never had any idea what happened to him because I got to the point, I had by the middle of March—this is back when we still had primaries in May—by the middle of March I had raised as much money as I could raise. A challenger who’s running against an incumbent DA has a limited—nobody wants to oppose the incumbent DA because of the power that he has—and I had raised as much money as I was gonna raise, and I still had to buy a TV. And what the polls were showing was that I had pulled even with him but, where do I go at that point? He hadn’t spent a lot of money at that point, I had spent over $100,000 which, in those days, was a lot of money. And I’m talking to my mom and dad, “Mom, I gotta have money, I gotta have money,” and my mom and dad’s position was that they would put as much money to the campaign as they could afford to put into the campaign, because they were paying all of my bills and everything, my mortgage payment, buying groceries, they were just incredible because I wasn’t working at the time, I was running full time. Bill White made the mistake of attacking my father. At a press conference, Bill White had discovered—Bill White, by the way, was the incumbent DA. He made the mistake of attacking my father. He went back and he found an old—it’s 20 years old—delinquent tax on one of my dad’s coffee shops, he had a hundred dollars that he owed in property that he hadn’t paid or something ridiculous, and I didn’t hear the news. First time I heard about it was when the phone rang at six thirty the next morning. I answered the telephone, my mother and my father are on the telephone, and my dad asked me, “Have you heard the news?” and I said, “No.” He said, “Well, this is the news,” and he repeated the story and he said, “Son, you know our position up to now has been that we would put as much money into this campaign as we could afford. Your mother and I have talked about this this morning, and our position has changed this morning. We’ve decided that we will put as much money in this campaign as it takes.” [laughter] And that’s exactly what they did. And so what I was able to do then, without any difficulty from that point forward was fund the rest of my campaign, I didn’t have to spend any time chasing around after money. We went to the bank, my signature wasn’t worth a dime, my father cosigned the note, I had all the money I needed for the rest of the campaign, and I beat the hell out of Bill White, and that was where it started.  
  •   RAYMOND: Thank you, before we change the tape in a second, what was the name of the cafeteria business your parents had?  
  •  MILLSAP: SD Millsap, Inc. And the other name, at one point it was called Millsap Enterprises, but I think that was way, way back.  
  •   RAYMOND: Good, well we’re gonna take a little break.  
  •   MILLSAP: Okay.  
  •   RAYMOND: Thank you so much. We’re gonna just switch tapes.  
  •   MILLSAP: You tell me if my answers are too long.  
  •   RAYMOND: They are not, they’re great, this is really incredibly helpful.  
  •   MILLSAP: It’s just kinda fun to think back on all this stuff, you know?  
  •   RAYMOND: Well, it’s really interesting to hear about these times and how politics worked then and just ponder on what’s different now.  
  •   MILLSAP: Well you know, in the meantime—and this won’t matter because I don’t think this is of any significance, but between those University of Texas experiences, which ended in ’72 I guess, and the point in time when I made my first race in ‘81, the other thing that I did during that period that was of just as much value as those experiences at the University of Texas is that when Bob Kruger was the congressman down here and when he was getting ready to run for the United States Senate in ’78, I worked for him, spent a lot of time with him helping him get ready to run. And then when John Hill ran for governor in ’78, Joe Cryer and I were his coordinators in south Texas and so we learned in those two campaigns, we really learned the other part of it, the real world retail part of it. Incredible experience. And at that point, it was during that period when I really did discover that I had the core that I had worried about, because Hill was just an incredible horse’s ass. He’s a great man, but a real horse’s ass.  
  •   RAYMOND: I wanna hear about this, so let’s just take a pause.  
  •  MILLSAP: Okay. [laughter] 
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Title:Interview with Sam Millsap
Abstract:Sam Millsap is a former Bexar County District Attorney who is now in private civil practice in San Antonio. In this interview, he describes his background, education, work in state politics, and decision to run for office. Describing his tenure as D.A., he describes his work on to discover, chargee, prosecute, and in aid in the prosecution by other counties of Genene Jones. He also explains that he had no doubt about the guilt of Rubén Cantú, who was executed on August 24, 1993 for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Millsap explains that his recognition of Mr. Cantú's innocence of the crime for which he was executed has caused him to oppose the death penalty, and in fact to campaign for its abolition.
Sequence:1 of 5
  • Sam MillsapRole: Narrator
  • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
  • Virginia Marie RaymondRole: Interviewer
  • Rosemarie CaldwellRole: Videographer
  • Lillian LeoneRole: Transcriber
Date Created:2010/04/02
Geographic Focus:North America--United States--Texas--Bexar County
Geographic Base:North America--United States--Texas--Travis County--Austin
Type of Resource:Moving image

    Source Metadata

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    Carrier Number: of
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    Continues with Video 2 of the TAVP Interview with Mr. Sam Millsap

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