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The White Island (1963)


Sound | 1963

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  •  About Padre Island 
  •  The Karankawa people comprised several nomadic groups, including the Kohanis, Cocos, Capoques, and Copanes. They primarily lived along what is now the Texas coast between Galveston Bay and Corpus Christi Bay. Contrary to Ray Miller’s narration, the Karankawa settled on Padre Island after being driven from their native lands by Anglo settlers in the 1800s. From 1825 to 1827, a volunteer militia commissioned by Stephen F. Austin killed Karankawa found east of the Guadalupe River. Such attacks, along with European diseases, caused the indigenous population to swiftly dwindle. Ethnologist Albert Gatschet could find no living Karanawa by 1891.  
  •  On the development of a national seashore 
  •  Features of the Padre Island landscape 
  •  The SS Nicaragua, a cargo ship run aground at the Devil’s Elbow on October 16, 1912 
  •  Recreational opportunities 
  •  Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas talks to Miller about the park’s ecological and recreational importance. Yarborough introduced the Congressional bill about designating Padre Island as a national seashore in 1958. The public largely sided with his argument for preservation, giving him the nickname, ”the People’s Senator.”   
  •  Accommodations in nearby Corpus Christi 
  •   Access through Port Isabel to South Padre Island 
  •  Proximity to Brownsville and its sister city, Matamoros, Mexico 
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  • About the video
  • Ralph Yarborough Ralph Yarborough
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Produced by the Special Projects Division of Houston’s KPRC-TV, this 1963 television documentary previews what visitors to the Padre Island National Seashore can look forward to. Protecting 70 miles of coastline, dunes, and prairies, the park is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. President John F. Kennedy signed legislation establishing the island as a national seashore in September 1962. KPRC News Director Ray Miller serves as program host and narrator, giving a brief history of the island before reviewing the burgeoning development plans and recreational opportunities. He also interviews Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, who introduced the legislation calling for national seashore designation.
United States Senator Ralph Webster Yarborough, known as "Smilin' Ralph," represented Texas from 1957 through 1971. Yarborough was born in Chandler, Texas in 1903 as the seventh of nine children, and went on study at the Sam Houston State Teachers College as a young man before attending the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated from the law school in 1927.
In 1931, Yarborough began a short but notable career as an assistant attorney general.  As an expert in Texas land law assigned to represent the interests of the Permanent School Fund, Yarborough won a number of cases against major oil companies such as Magnolia Petroleum and Mid-Kansas, through which he was able to guarantee that public schools and universities receive revenues from Texas oil. This litigation has since brought billions of dollars to public education.
In 1938, Yarborough decided to run for attorney general but lost; it would take another 12 years for him to run for any kind of office again. In the interim, he served in the Texas National Guard and the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1952, running against conservative incumbent R. Allan Shivers for the governorship, Yarborough lost his second race. He continued this losing streak against Shivers in the 1954 primary and then again against Senator Marion Price Daniel, Sr. in 1956. In 1957, however, he was able to win Daniel's vacated seat in the Senate next to Lyndon Baines Johnson.
In the Senate, Yarborough pursued a progressive agenda, first refusing to sign the Southern Manifesto against desegregation and then being one of only five Southern senators to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1957. For the environment, he pushed through a bill to elevate Padre Island to the status of National Seashore.  For education, he introduced the first Bilingual Education Act in 1967, which was signed into law a year later.  He worked to expand health care funding and to extend the G.I. Bill to Cold War veterans.  In 1969, Yarborough chaired the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.
Aside from his legislation, Yarborough is also remembered for riding in the 1963 Dallas motorcade in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The story goes that, being at odds with several of the other politicians on the President's tour, Yarborough originally refused to share a car with Johnson, who was friends with his rivals. This so outraged Kennedy that on the morning of the motorcade he took Yarborough aside and threatened to end their friendship if Yarborough did not cooperate.  The Senator conceded and ended up just two cars behind the President when he was fatally shot that afternoon.  When interviewed about that day, Yarborough described it as "the most tragic event of my life."
In 1970, Yarborough lost his seat in an upset election against Lloyd Bentsen. While he ran once more for office, he did not win again.
In 1996, Yarborough died at the age of 92. He is buried in Austin at the Texas State Cemetery.
Newsman Ray Miller (1919 - 2008) began his broadcasting career in 1938 in his home town of Fort Worth. He relocated to Houston soon thereafter, where he joined KPRC Radio. When KPRC purchased Houston’s first television station in 1951, Miller adopted the burgeoning medium, eventually winning a Peabody Award. In 1969, Miller created The Eyes of Texas, a regional television series examining all things Texas. On the air for 30 years, the series became Houston’s longest-running local television program. Miller retired in 1979, serving as news director at both KPRC Radio and KPRC-TV for over 40 years. During his decades-long tenure at KPRC, Miller mentored a number of journalists, including Dan Rather and former US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. 
After retiring from television production, Miller became a local historian, writing several books and travel guides about historic attractions in Houston and Galveston. He also worked with the Harris County Historical Commission to secure markers for numerous sites.