Marshall Clinton Formby, Jr. (April 12, 1911–December 27, 1984), was a Texas attorney, newspaper publisher, radio executive, and a Democratic politician who served a term in the Texas State Senate from District 30 from 1941 to 1945. He was a defender of West Texas interests and entitled a 1962 book, These Are My People. Formby was a maternal uncle of current Republican State Senator Robert L. Duncan, an attorney from Lubbock who formerly held the District 28 seat until he became chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.
Early years and education
Formby was born in the same house as his father, Marshall Formby, Sr. (1877–1957), a farmer and school board member, in the Bethel community near rural Como in Hopkins County in East Texas. His mother was the former Rosa Mae Freeman (1882–1971)
When Marshall was five years of age, the family relocated to McAdoo in Dickens County in West Texas. As a child, he was nicknamed "Potts" because he frequently played in an iron wash pot. Young Formby attended public schools in McAdoo through his junior year of high school. In 1928, he received his diploma from Spur High School in Spur, also in Dickens County.
In 1932, Formby received a Bachelor of Arts in government from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. While in college, he worked as a regional correspondent for several newspapers and was a student editor of The Daily Toreador After college, he briefly owned and operated a drug store in McAdoo. In 1936, worked briefly as a police reporter for the Tribune in Miami, Florida.
Returning to McAdoo specifically to run for office, he became at twenty-five the youngest county judge in Texas. He worked to reduce property taxes and brought Dickens County on a cash basis for the first time in some fifteen years. During his last year as county judge, Formby was president of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association."He loved people and politics. He was for the little guy," said nephew and business partner Clint Formby.
In 1937, Judge Formby received a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. While at UT, he was a correspondent covering the Texas State Legislature for the Amarillo Times in Amarillo.
Soon a state senator, his legislative service was interrupted by World War II, in which he served in Europe in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He was discharged as a captain. Formby married the former Sharleen Wells (born September 30, 1918), later Sharleen Rhoads of Midland after Formby's death. The couple, who met in Austin, had two children, Frances Formby Seales of Lubbock (born 1955) and David W. Formby (born 1957) of Plainview, and two grandchildren. A native of Barberton, Ohio, Sharleen graduated as an English major from a junior college. She married Formby on September 8, 1946, in Seale, Alabama. (Ironically, their daughter married a man named "Seales".) Sharleen taught at the Army War College in Washington, D.C., and later attended the University of Texas Graduate School, where she studied radio communication. In August 1947, the Formbys moved to Plainview.
For a time he operated the weekly Aspermont Star in Aspermont in Stonewall County in West Texas and later the Plainview Tribune. In the late 1940s, he pursued his Juris Doctor degree, which he received in 1951 from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
After his admission to the bar in 1952, Formby returned to Plainview to join the firm of LaFont and Tudor, founded by Judge Harold M. LaFont and later known as LaFont, Formby, Hamilton, LaFont, and Hamilton In 1953, he was appointed to the Texas Highway Commission, since the Texas Transportation Commission, by Governor Allan Shivers. From 1957 to 1959, he was chairman of the commission and worked particularly to bring highway improvements to West Texas. During his time on the commission, he visited all but 3 of Texas's 254 counties.
Clint Formby, a radio broadcaster from Hereford and a cousin of Senator Robert Duncan, described his uncle Marshall as a person who "swam upstream . . . and had his mind set on what he wanted to do." Duncan's mother was Formby's sister, the former Mae Robena Formby (1921–2009), who was named by Marshall Formby and his brother, John C. Formby (1902–1989), Clint's father. Clint Formby's wife, the former Margaret Clark, was the founder of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, which began in Hereford and was subsequently relocated to Fort Worth.
He owned or co-owned radio stations KPAN-AM&FM in Hereford, KFLD in Floydada, KTVE in Tulia, KSML in Seminole, KACT (AM) in Andrews, and KLVT in Levelland in Hockley County. KPAN had first been considered for establishment in Canyon in Randall County south of Amarillo. It bills itself as "the only radio station in the world that gives a hoot about Hereford, Texas". By the middle 1950s, Clint Formby had become a partner in the station, and later the sole owner of KPAN and other outlets. Clint Formby was known for his "Old Philosopher" program (the longest running radio program hosted by a single individual in radio history, 1955–2011). Clint Formby's son, Larry "Chip" Formby (born 1953) still works at the station, along with Clint's grandsons, Jonathan and Lane Formby.
From 1967 to 1971, he was a member of the Texas Tech regents under appointment of Governor John B. Connally, Jr. In 1962, Formby had been among the intraparty rivals defeated by Connally for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Time termed Formby "a conservative" in the primary contest but did not elaborate on what were his slim chances of winning the nomination. The other contestants were sitting Governor Marion Price Daniel, Sr., who sought an unprecedented fourth two-year term; Don Yarborough, a liberal lawyer and supporter of organized labor from Houston; former Attorney General Will Wilson, later a Republican convert, and retired Army General Edwin A. Walker, known for his staunch anti-communism. Connally went on to defeat the Republican Jack Cox, himself a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives and an oil-equipment executive from Houston. John Connally, meanwhile, served three two-year terms as governor from 1963 to 1969, the only office to which he was ever elected.
Death and legacy
Formby died in Plainview, his principal city of residence since 1947. He was a deacon of the First Baptist Church there, a member of the advisory council of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and served on the public relations board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He was active in Rotary International and the Masonic lodge. He was the president of the Texas Tech Ex-Students Association. While serving on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Formby made the recommendation to rename "Texas Technological College" as Texas Tech University.
The Marshall Formby State Jail in Plainview is named in his honor. Under a state Senate bill introduced by Formby's nephew Robert Duncan, Interstate 27 between its intersection with United States Highway 84 in Lubbock and its intersection with Interstate Highway 40 in Amarillo, was in 2005 named the Marshall Formby Memorial Highway. There is also a Marshall Formby Foundation in Plainview. In 1997, the auditorium at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections at Texas Tech, where Formby's papers are housed, was named in his honor. In 2005, Formby was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Texas Broadcasters Association.
The historical plaque at Formby's grave in McAdoo says that he "exemplifies the hard working, never say quit character of West Texans whom he so vividly portrayed in . . . These Are My People (1962). . .in politics, in business, and in community affairs. Formby represented the small town, rural character of Depression-era Texas west of the one hundredth meridian, a place where it seldom rained, the wind always seemed to blow, and settlers met obstacles head on with a gritty spirit and a will to succeed."