Walter Frank Woodul, Sr. (1892-1984), state legislator and lieutenant governor, was born September 25, 1892, in Laredo, Texas to Washington H. and Susan R. (Carmichael) Woodul. He was educated in the public schools of Corpus Christi and Alice, where he was valedictorian of his 1909 graduating class. From 1910 to 1911, he taught in a country school near Ralston, Oklahoma, but moved to Wichita, Kansas to study shorthand.
Upon returning to Texas, Woodul worked as a legal stenographer in Laredo and Austin. While in Austin, he attended the University of Texas Law School, but left before receiving a degree. His early departure was a direct result of the Mexican Revolution and the Mexican raiders who were crossing the Rio Grande and attacking and killing Americans along the border. Once back in Laredo, Woodul enlisted in the Laredo Company of the National Guard.
While in the National Guard, Woodul began both his legal and political careers. In 1916, he was elected to represent Laredo and Webb County in the Texas House of Representatives. The day after taking his seat in the legislature, January 10, 1917, he was licensed to practice law in Texas.
Though he only served part of a term in the Legislature, Woodul had a very distinguished time in office. He was chairman of the State Affairs Committee, vice-chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, was instrumental in establishing the Texas State Highway Commission and wrote the appropriations bill organizing Texas' 36th Infantry Division of the American Expeditionary Force.
Woodul's service as a state representative took place during a very turbulent time in American and Texas history, the United States had just begun fighting in World War I and Governor James Ferguson's Administration was rocked by scandal, which ultimately led to his impeachment. The 35th Legislature was convened for five sessions, the regular session and four additional called sessions, but Woodul only served through the second called session, January 9 through August 30, 1917.
At the close of this session, he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General of Texas and devoted his time to the United States recent entry in World War I. He later entered the army as a captain and was stationed in South Carolina. He saw no overseas service and was honorably discharged in 1919.
During this time, Woodul married Ethel Eldridge of Sugar Land, Texas, on September 12, 1917. Ethel's father, William Thomas Eldridge, was an entrepreneur in the railroad industry and co-founder of the company that eventually become the Imperial Sugar Company.
After returning to Texas and civilian life, Woodul and his wife, Ethel, settled in Houston, where he established a law practice and later became division attorney for the International and Great Northern Railroad Company. After the birth of their son, Walter Frank, Jr., in 1922, Woodul was named president of the company. After the company's consolidation with the Missouri Pacific Lines, Woodul stayed on as general counsel.
Active in numerous civic and professional organizations in Houston, Woodul served as president of the Houston Salesmanship Club and was responsible for the observance of their annual Gridiron Dinner. He was also a director in the Kiwanis Club, the Harris County Bar Association and was chairman of the county-wide Organization on Drainage in Harris County. In 1928, after being named director of the Gulf Coast Good Roads Association, Woodul's interest in politics was rekindled. It was through this organization that he used his prior legislative experience to lobby for adequate highways.
With this renewed interest in politics, Woodul, in 1928, announced his candidacy for the Texas Senate to support Chairman of the Highway Commission, Ross Sterling, and his initiatives in highway development. Leading the Democratic ticket, Woodul was elected and took his seat on January 8, 1929.
After serving three terms in the Senate, 1929 to 1934, Woodul ran for Lieutenant Governor. Defeating six opponents in the Democratic primary run-off, he was inaugurated as Texas' thirtieth Lieutenant Governor. Taking office in January, 1935, Woodul used his legislative experience to guide the Senate. He faithfully maintained the Senate Rules, encouraged debate amongst the members and barred lobbyists from the Senate floor during proceedings. He also served as chairman of the Texas Centennial, the state's celebration of its 100th anniversary.
After leaving public office in 1939, Woodul returned to his law practice in Houston and his civic interests. Though no longer a public official, he still maintained an interest in state affairs. In the spring of 1945, Governor Coke Stevenson appointed him to serve as a member of the board of regents of the State Teachers Colleges. On May 27, 1959, Governor Price Daniel appointed him to serve as a member of the Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools. His term ended on February 15, 1965.
More than likely representing his wife, Ethel, and her family's interest in the Imperial Sugar Company, Woodul began serving on the board of directors on February 20, 1939. After serving nearly thirty, years he voluntarily resigned on December 19, 1969. In his letter of resignation, he stated that he was 77 years old and wanted to limit his traveling and catch up on his historical reading.
After retiring from his legal practice in 1958, the Wooduls moved to Austin, where he died on October 1, 1984, at the age of 92. He was buried two days later in the Texas State Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: link: Texas State cemetery (Holdings of the Secretary of State's Office; the Imperial Sugar Company; and the Texas Legislative Reference Library).
Reprinted with permission from the Handbook of Texas Online, a joint project of the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. © 2003, The Texas State Historical Association.