|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 4th district
January 3, 1981 - January 3, 2015
|Chair of the House Science Committee|
January 3, 2011 - January 3, 2013
|Member of the Texas Senate|
from the 9th district
January 8, 1963 - January 9, 1973
Ralph Moody Hall
May 3, 1923
Fate, Texas, U.S.
|Died||March 7, 2019 (aged 95)|
Rockwall, Texas, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (Before 2004)|
Republican (After 2004)
Mary Ellen Murphy
(m. 1944; died 2008)
|Education||Texas Christian University|
University of Texas, Austin
Southern Methodist University (LLB)
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1942-1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Ralph Moody Hall (May 3, 1923 - March 7, 2019) was an American politician who served as the United States Representative for Texas's 4th congressional district from 1981 to 2015. He was first elected in 1980, and was the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology from 2011 to 2013. He was also a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. In 2004, he switched to the Republican Party after having been a member of the Democratic Party for more than 50 years.
At 91, he was the oldest serving member of Congress at the end of his last term in office, the oldest person to ever serve in the House of Representatives, the oldest person ever elected to a House term and the oldest House member ever to cast a vote, and the last member of Congress from the G.I. Generation. Michigan Congressman John Dingell and he were the last two World War II veterans serving in Congress.
On March 6, 2014, Hall was challenged in the Republican primary by five other Republicans. He received 45.42% of the vote, which was under 50%, the amount required to avoid a runoff election. In the runoff, Hall faced former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, who finished second in the primary with 28.77% of the vote. On May 27, 2014, Ratcliffe defeated Hall in the runoff election, 53 to 47%.
Hall was born in Fate, Texas, and was a lifelong resident of Rockwall County, northeast of Dallas. He graduated from Rockwall High School in 1941. He joined the U.S. Navy on December 10, 1942, serving as an aircraft carrier pilot from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, attaining the rank of lieutenant.
He attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth during 1943. After the war, he attended the University of Texas (1946-47), and received a law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1951. He was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951 and maintained a private law practice in Rockwall for many years.
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Hall was elected county judge of Rockwall County, Texas, in November 1950. He held that position until 1962.
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He was the president and CEO of Texas Aluminum Corp. and general counsel of Texas Extrusion Co., Inc. He was founding member and chairman of Lakeside National Bank of Rockwall, and was chairman of the directors of Lakeside News, Inc. He was a counsel for the aircraft parts maker Howmet Corporation from 1970 to 1974.
As of 2006, he was serving as the chairman, president, or director of Crowley Holding Co., Bank of Crowley, Lakeside National Bank, Lakeside Bancshares Inc., North & East Trading Co., and Linrock Inc.
In 1980, incumbent Democratic U.S. congressman Ray Roberts of Texas' 4th congressional district decided to retire. Hall won the Democratic primary with 57% of the vote. In the general election, he defeated Republican business manager John Wright, with 52% of the vote, the closest race in the district's history and the lowest winning percentage in a general election in Hall's political career. He was the fourth person to represent the 4th District since its creation in 1903. The district's second congressman, Rayburn, the longtime Speaker of the House, represented the district for 48 years. He has never won re-election in a general election with less than 58% of the vote. He also never won re-election in a Democratic or Republican primary with less than 66% of the vote, except in 2010.
In November 2004, Hall ran for his first full term as a Republican. He got heavy White House backing, from then-President George W. Bush also a Texan, in the three-way GOP primary that year, defeating two opponents. Hall won the primary with 78% of the vote, and the general election with 67% of the vote, defeating Democratic candidate Jim Nickerson and Libertarian Kevin D. Anderson.
Hall defeated Democratic candidate Glenn Melancon and Libertarian candidate Kurt Helm in the 2006 general election with 67% of the vote.
In the general election, Hall again faced Democratic nominee Glenn Melancon and was re-elected with 69% of the vote.
In the Republican primary, Hall won the nomination with 57% of the vote, his worst performance in a primary election since his first election in 1980. It was a six-candidate race, with his closest opponent, Steve Clark, winning 30% of the vote. In the general election, he won re-election with 73% of the vote against Democratic candidate VaLinda Hathcox and two other candidates.
Hall won the Republican primary with 58% of the vote. He won over Democratic candidate VaLinda Hathcox in the general election for the second race in a row, this time by 73 to 24%.
In the March 4, 2014 Republican primary, Hall led a six-candidate field with 29,815 votes (45.4%). Because he did not obtain a majority of the ballots cast, Hall was forced to enter the May 27, 2014 runoff election with the runner-up, former U.S. Attorney John Lee Ratcliffe of Heath, who received 18,891 votes (28.8%).
Ratcliffe defeated Hall in a contentious and expensive March 21 runoff. With the loss, Hall became the only sitting Republican U.S. representative from Texas to unsuccessfully seek renomination to his or her seat out of 257 attempts since statehood. No Democrat even filed, meaning that the runoff was the real contest for the seat. Accordingly, Ratcliffe was elected unopposed, and assumed office on January 3, 2015.
Hall described himself as "an old-time conservative Democrat." For many years, he was one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. He was an early supporter of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and also favored legislation requiring a super majority on any tax increases. He frequently clashed with the Clinton Administration, and voted for three of the four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. He endorsed George W. Bush for President in 2000, becoming one of the few Democratic politicians to do so. The two had been friends for many years.
While Hall was very conservative even by Texas Democratic standards, his conservatism can be attributed to the demographics of the 4th District. It had once been reliably Democratic, but became increasingly friendly to Republicans as Dallas' suburban growth spilled into the western portion of the district; indeed, the district included a small portion of Dallas itself. The 4th has not supported the Democratic nominee for president since 1964. Despite this district's increasingly Republican tilt, Hall won 10 more terms as a Democrat with an average of 60% of the vote. In 1994, for instance, he was re-elected by a 19-point margin, even as other conservative Democratic congressmen lost their seats. By the turn of the century, he was the only elected Democratic official above the county level in what had become one of the most conservative districts in Texas.
Like many in the Democratic Party, he voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1999, he was one of six Democratic congressmen who supported a Republican tax cut plan. He has been an original co-sponsor of bills to repeal the estate tax and the marriage tax.
In late 2002, he voted for the resolution allowing the use of force in Iraq. In March 2003, he voted for a budget that included Bush's 10-year, $726 billion tax cut plan. The plan passed the House 215-212.
Hall was frequently rumored to switch parties, especially after the Republicans took control of the House in 1995. Even as Democrats with far less conservative voting records than Hall's, such as Greg Laughlin, Jimmy Hayes, Billy Tauzin, and Nathan Deal, all switched parties, he insisted that he would remain a Democrat as long as it did not hurt his constituents. He said that he had an obligation to "pull my party back toward the middle." He was one of the co-founders of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democratic congressmen.
In 2003, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay engineered a controversial mid-decade redistricting. Hall was the only White Democratic congressman not targeted by the remap, but his district was shifted slightly to the north. Tyler, the heart of the 4th for a century, was shifted to the neighboring 1st District. It did, however, pick up a portion of Collin County, which had been part of the district until the 1980s round of redistricting.
In January 2004, on the final day for candidates to file to get their names on the ballot for the March 9, 2004, primary, Hall switched parties and became a Republican. He said that Republicans refused to put money for his district into a spending bill, and when he asked why, "the only reason I was given was that I was a Democrat." He also cited concerns with his Democratic criticism of President Bush; he had not attended Democratic caucus meetings for some time due to the criticism leveled at Bush, his longtime friend. He told the press, "The country is at war. When the country is at war you need to support the president. Some of my fellow congressmen have not been doing that."
After the switch, which became official on January 5, 2004, the GOP allowed him to keep his seniority. He became chairman of the House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. He also joined the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative House Republicans.
The Northern Mariana Islands are a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific with a large garment industry. Billing records of Preston Gates Ellis and Rouvelas Meeds, an international law firm employed by the CNMI, the government of the islands, show numerous contacts between the law firm and Hall's office. He said his dealings with the law firm were with Lloyd Meeds, a partner with the firm, which at the time listed 36 attorneys on staff, not with Jack Abramoff, the firm's representative for the CNMI contract. In 2006, he said of the Northern Marianas, "They were good allies, and I believed their government should handle their affairs and not have us impose labor laws on them."
In December 1996, Hall and E.K. Slaughter, a friend, and their wives visited the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The trip was arranged by the National Security Caucus Foundation (NSCF), which told him that the trip would be paid for by that group. Greg Hilton, the director of the now-defunct NCSF, had no funding for such trips; he only arranged them with CNMI officials. Hilton said he was led to believe by officials of Preston Gates that the CNMI would pay the expenses and be reimbursed by the private sector. In fact, Preston Gates paid the expenses for such trips and billed the CNMI for reimbursement. For the trip of Hall, Slaughter and their wives, Abramoff billed the CNMI $12,800.
In September 1997, Democratic Representative Neil Abercrombie placed remarks in the Congressional Record describing a teenager described as "Katrina", whose story had been widely publicized, stating that an "employer had lured her to the CNMI under false pretenses" and that "she was also forced into service as a prostitute."
Abramoff's staff contacted Hall's office 15 times in the two months following Abercrombie's remarks. In November 1997, he entered into the Congressional Record a statement saying that upon reviewing those remarks, he had "felt that Congressman Abercrombie had relied on an erroneous and misleading article published by the Reader's Digest some months ago." The article, according to Hall, said that the teenager "was forced to perform lewd sex acts with customers before a video camera." He quoted a report by the acting attorney general of the CNMI in response: "in fact...she wanted to do nude dancing...to support her family." The remarks by Abercrombie did not cite that source, and the Reader's Digest June 1997 story by Henry Hurt, "Shame on American Soil", does not refer to a child named Katrina.
In his remarks, he also said, "I intend to seek further information on matters as reported by the Reader's Digest author--and I would hope that a fair-minded person like Congressman Abercrombie would accompany me early next year if, and when, we can both work a visit into our schedule--a visit that would not involve the expenditure of any American tax dollars.
Asked in 2006 how the 1996 trip benefited the Texas 4th Congressional District he represents, he said, "I think it benefits my constituents if you do anything that benefits the peace through strength people, when you're going out to bring information to them to help win the Cold War. That's a benefit to them, to their strategic interests." The last gasps of the Cold War ended in 1991.
He also said "the whole thing was about ... them setting their own minimum wage. They had told me they would waive their foreign aid in return for setting their own minimum wage." His comments in the Congressional Record in 1997 do not mention a minimum wage and the CNMI receives no foreign aid.
On December 1, 2011, Hall gave an interview to National Journal in which he expressed disbelief in anthropogenic climate change. He accused climate scientists of concocting the evidence for anthropogenic climate change to receive federal research grants, citing the Climategate controversy and calling investigations which had largely exonerated them "straw-man reviews". He stated, "I'm really more fearful of freezing. And I don't have any science to prove that, but we have a lot of science that tells us they're not basing it on real scientific facts." He responded to allegations that Republicans could be called anti-science in light of these views by saying, "I'm not anti-science, I'm pro-science, but we ought to have some believable science.... We have to be more careful what outlays we make for something that hasn't been proved."
Hall introduced into the House the North Texas Invasive Species Barrier Act of 2014 (H.R. 4032; 113th Congress), a bill that would exempt the North Texas Municipal Water District from prosecution under the Lacey Act for transferring water containing invasive species from Oklahoma to Texas. The Lacey Act protects plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for various violations, including transferring invasive species across state borders.
Hall married the former Mary Ellen Murphy on November 14, 1944, while he was serving in the United States Navy in Pensacola, Florida. They had three sons, Hampton, Brett, and Blakeley, and (as of 2013) have five grandchildren. She died on August 27, 2008.
In January 2004, regarding his switch of party, Hall said "I talked with some of my family. Some agreed, some did not. My wife didn't agree. She'd rather I quit than switch parties."
|1980||? Ralph Hall||102,787||52%||John Wright||93,915||48%||No nominee|
|1982||? Ralph Hall||94,134||74%||Pete Collumb||32,221||25%||Bruce Iiams||1,141||1%|
|1984||? Ralph Hall||120,749||58%||Thomas Blow||87,553||42%||No nominee||(Assorted)||39||0%|
|1986||? Ralph Hall||97,540||72%||Thomas Blow||38,578||28%||No nominee|
|1988||? Ralph Hall||139,379||66%||Randy Sutton||67,337||32%||Melanie Dunn||3,152||2%|
|1990||? Ralph Hall||108,300||100%||No nominee||No nominee||Tim McChord (Write-in)||394||0%|
|1992||? Ralph Hall||128,008||58%||David Bridges||83,875||38%||Steven Rothacker||8,450||4%|
|1994||? Ralph Hall||99,303||59%||David Bridges||67,267||40%||Steven Rothacker||2,377||1%|
|1996||? Ralph Hall||132,126||64%||Jerry Hall||71,065||34%||Steven Rothacker||3,172||2%||Enos Denham (Natural Law Party)||814||0%|
|1998||? Ralph Hall||82,989||58%||Jim Lohmeyer||58,954||41%||Jim Simon||2,137||1%|
|2000||? Ralph Hall||145,887||60%||Jon Newton||91,574||38%||Joe Turner||4,417||2%|
|2002||? Ralph Hall||97,304||58%||John Graves||67,939||40%||Barbara Robinson||3,042||2%|
|2004||Jim Nickerson||81,585||30%||? Ralph Hall||182,866||68%||Kevin Anderson||3,491||1%|
|2006||Glenn Melancon||55,278||33%||? Ralph Hall||106,495||64%||Kurt Helm||3,496||2%|
|2008||Glenn Melancon||88,067||29%||? Ralph Hall||206,906||69%||Fred Annett||5,771||2%|
|2010||VaLinda Hathcox||40,975||22%||? Ralph Hall||136,338||73%||Jim Prindle||4,729||3%||Shane Shepard (Independent)||4,244||2%|
|2012||VaLinda Hathcox||60,214||24%||? Ralph Hall||182,679||73%||Thomas Griffing||7,262||3%|
Source: "Office of the House Clerk - Electoral Statistics". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 4th congressional district
| Chair of House Science Committee
| Oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives