Tablet Opinion

Bob Ray Sanders: Jerry Patterson not a typical politician

This column may help defeat Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson in his quest to become the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

But that’s certainly not my intent.

You see, I have a great deal of respect for Patterson, a man with whom I’ve disagreed a lot over the years, but one I also have admired for his tenacity, truthfulness, hard work and unabashed love for the state of Texas.

Of course, a liberal like me using words such as respect and admire regarding a man as conservative as Patterson most assuredly will cause problems for him among many loyalists who make up his party’s base. They will wonder how in the world we could get along.

Sometimes I wonder the same thing, considering some of our disagreements in the past.

It is only natural that I’m at odds with the commissioner over the gun issue, especially considering that he authored the concealed handgun law when he was in the Texas Senate. I still don’t consider that accomplishment something to be bragged about, but I lost that fight.

We have argued on occasion over his office’s sale of public land for private development — me believing that those properties should remain a part of the public trust; he insisting that his fiduciary responsibility demands that he continue to find additional earnings for the Permanent School Fund that supports public education.

Both of us have a love of Texas history and our own heritage. One of Patterson’s ancestors, great-grandfather James Monroe Cole, fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War; my great-grandfather, Major Cheney, was born a slave.

Although Patterson and I believe that history should not be adulterated or falsely enhanced, and definitely not suppressed, we disagreed about whether the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and its logo of the Confederate battle flag belonged on a specialty license plate, a request that subsequently was denied.

In that case, Patterson, a Vietnam veteran, rebutted that a SCV specialty plate, which some called offensive, was similar to another plate he sponsored honoring the Buffalo Soldiers, black troops who served on the Western frontier after the Civil War and whose actions might also be offensive to some.

“But an examination of the Buffalo Soldiers’ actions could easily offend anyone familiar with history,” he wrote in a 2011opinion column for the Star-Telegram. “They were sent to Texas on a mission to subjugate and enslave the American Indian population, which is exactly what they did. Their fierce determination forced Indians into reservations to live essentially as prisoners of war held by the U.S. government.”

As I said, he knows his Texas history, and he loves to tell the stories of this state. When the Legislature transferred control of the Alamo from the Daughters of the Texas Republic to the Texas General Land Office in 2011, that was one of the best things that could have happened to the state’s top tourist attraction.

Patterson wasted no time in planning ways to bring even more people to the historical icon, including returning William Barret Travis’ “Victory or Death” letter to the Alamo last year for a two-week exhibit. It was the first time the letter had been there since it left 177 years earlier during the siege by Santa Anna’s army.

What I like most about Patterson is that no matter how much he may disagree with me, he has always been civil, never mean-spirited. Perhaps that’s because he is a confident man. He is a politician who is true to himself and to his constituents. You don’t have to wonder about what he really thinks, because he will tell you straight up.

Unlike many public officials, Patterson is not going to lie to you or pretend he’s something he’s not just to get your vote or win your affection.

I hope my admiration for him won’t cost him too many votes at the ballot box March 4.