From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
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Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million

Article first published in Vol. 30, 2012.

By Arturo Aceves, Jr., Jacklynn Gutierrez, Joshua Gutierrez, Crystal Leon and Christopher Russell

View PDF article

Woodrow Wilson BeanBig Bend National Park. Thomason General Hospital.  Transmountain Road. The Sun Bowl Stadium. What do all these things have in common? None  of them might be here today without the determination and drive of one of El Paso’s most infl uential leaders. He was a lawyer, a soldier, a judge and politician, as well as one of the most influential figures in the history of El Paso’s Democratic Party: the legendary Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Bean, Sr.

Image caption: Woodrow Wilson Bean, shown here in 1975, was a dynamic personality. (Photo courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso Library, Special Collections Department, El Paso Herald Post Records, Box 9-Historical People, MS348)

Bean was born August 28, 1917, in the small Texas ranching town of Esperanza, located southwest of Sierra Blanca. His earliest memories of El Paso date back to the early 1920s, when he and his mother would make the trip into town. “I vividly recall a lot of horses on the streets,” Bean told Wilma Cleveland in a 1968 Institute of Oral History interview for the University of Texas at El Paso. “Strange as it may seem, El Paso was not a very modern town in those days.”

At an early age, Bean and his two brothers and sister were orphaned. He spent the next 13 years of his life at the Masonic Home in Fort Hancock. “They were fine people,” Bean told Grace Hartger in a 1976 article in El Paso Today. “It was a wonderful place to grow up.” According to Gary Scharrer in an El Paso Times article dated May 11, 1985, Bean said it was at the Masonic orphanage where he “learned compassion, honesty and idealism and my basic belief in God … that never leaves you.”

Bean told Hartger that he had made up his mind at the age of ten to become a politician because he loved people and felt politics was a very rewarding career. “I like to see things built and I just love the hub-bub of the thing,” he stated. “You can sit back and say, ‘Doggone, you did a little something.’”

After leaving the home, Bean attempted his first stint in college at Texas A&M University. He stayed only one year before donning his goggles to become the next Red Baron by enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1939 as a cadet. The Red Baron he was not, and after crashing a couple of planes, Bean returned to civilian life and enrolled at Southern Methodist University where he graduated with a major in government and politics.

It was while Bean was enrolled at SMU that he first got involved with politics by assisting two fraternity brothers in getting elected: one as student president, the other as editor of the school paper.

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At the very young age of 22, Bean began his political career when he won the 1940 race for state legislature against Ellis Mayfi eld and Marvin Whittington. According to a 1947 El Paso Times article written by Bo Byers, Bean credited that victory to his ability to speak Spanish because he was able to facilitate a relationship with people of Mexican descent in El Paso, a relationship that would serve him well over the years.

The adventurous spirit that led Bean to join the Air Corps had not abandoned the new politician. In fact, according to a May 25, 1985, El Paso Times article, Bean hitchhiked between El Paso and Austin during his first term in the state legislature.

During that term, Bean managed to get appointed to the Appropriations Committee, the most powerful committee in the legislature. How did he do this as the new kid on the block? “Politics … and don’t let anyone kid you. That’s why it’s so fascinating,” he told El Paso Times reporter Gary Sharrer, who wrote about Bean over many years. Sharrer added, “For Bean, politics [meant] knowing how to compromise and trade, how to collect favors from friends.” It was a skill the young politician would hone and perfect and use for his constituents for decades.  

Even though the young legislator had no more than 15 cents in his pocket, according to Sharrer, Bean helped to allocate millions of dollars in state money. It was during that time that Bean authored a bill, along with Sen. H. L. Windfield, that allocated funds to purchase the land for Big Bend National Park, which Bean believed would help bring tourism to El Paso. Bean also allocated money for the building of an auditorium for the Texas College of Mines, now known as UTEP.

Not much more could be accomplished during Bean’s first term because of World War II. He joined the Marine Corps as a private in 1941 and served in the South Pacific. While still in Japan in 1946, Bean declared himself a candidate for the state legislature once again. He returned home victorious, not only as a captain in the Marines, but also as a reelected state representative. Bean told Cleveland that the reason he did so well in the election was because he “wasn’t here to mess things up.”

Back in the legislature, Bean was again appointed to the Appropriations Committee and started allocating funds for the further development of UTEP. In 1947, Bean also was instrumental in opening an agricultural experimental station in El Paso’s Lower Valley, now a branch of Texas A&M University, which aided ranchers in developing cattle.

In 1947, Bean experienced his first political defeat when he ran for the Congressional seat vacated by retiring Judge R. E. Thomason. Ken Reagan of Midland won the position by 150 votes. Reagan beat Bean once again for the same seat the following year.

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Bean told Cleveland that after being “soundly thrashed” the second time by Reagan, he engaged in ranching and farming until 1949 when Bean was again elected to the state legislature after the resignation of Bill Jameson. In 1950, Bean served in a special session of the state legislature, and then in that same year, he lost his first bid to become El Paso county judge. Shortly thereafter, overseas conflicts arose again, and in 1950, Bean was called back into active duty by the Marine Corps to join the fight in Korea.

After returning to El Paso in 1953, Bean opened his law office. At that time, he once again ran for the state legislature, only to be defeated. “It looked like I was really through with politics and would be a practicing attorney here,” Bean told Cleveland, “which I was enjoying very much.” However, Bean’s political career was hardly over. In 1954, he was elected chairman of the El Paso County Democratic Party, then reelected in 1956. It was then that Bean first met Sen. John F. Kennedy and his aide, Theodore Sorenson. Bean invited Sen. Kennedy to El Paso to speak at a Democratic rally here, the first time he had spoken publicly in Texas. Bean even took Kennedy on a tour of Juárez. 

Regarding Kennedy, Sharrer recalled the story dating back to 1960 when Bean sent more than 100 jail trusties to the local airport to drum up support for the future president Kennedy on a quick campaign stop. Resourceful? No one doubted that about Woodrow Bean.

In 1958, Bean was elected El Paso county judge and made his most significant achievements for El Paso. Bean sponsored the bond issue that made possible the building of the Sun Bowl, an El Paso landmark. He also worked tirelessly with American and Mexican officials to bring about another gateway, the Bridge of the Americas, also known as the Córdova Bridge, to connect El Paso with her sister city, Juárez. Besides these two huge successes, Bean also began what he considered his greatest accomplishment, the construction of a county hospital, Thomason General Hospital, named for his good friend, Judge R. E. Thomason.

Bean had to fight a lot of people to get the hospital built in central El Paso, including the El Paso Medical Association. Judge Bean wanted it built where the people who would use it lived, but doctors wanted it built in an area more convenient to them. In his interview with Cleveland, Bean said, “After a showdown meeting with the Medical Association, who I never got along with, never did and probably never will, I told them that the hospital was going to [be] built there or there wasn’t going to be any hospital built.” Now a teaching hospital, it is known as University Medical Center today.

Officially, El Paso’s Transmountain Road has the name “Woodrow Bean” in front of it, and the road through the mountains was another triumph of Bean’s time in office.

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In order to build the highway, it was necessary to cut 150 feet right through the mountain, the deepest cut the Texas Highway Department had ever made up to that time. “The people thought I was out of my mind,” Bean stated to Cleveland. After all, the road just connected two sections of desert in 1969.

Today, Transmountain Road is part of Loop 375 and connects a highly developed part of West El Paso County with the East and decreases traffic on I-10. It provides drivers beautiful vistas on the West side and close-up views of the rugged high desert mountains on the East side. Even if El Paso only gets a flurry of the white stuff in winter, snow is usually deep enough to enjoy at the top of Transmountain Road, a mile high in elevation.

In the early 1960s, while Bean was a front-runner in a U.S. Congressional race, he found himself in some legal hot water for failing to file his federal income tax from 1956 to 1960. Bean was convicted on five misdemeanor counts of failure to file, each with a $1,000 fine. Jail time was suspended. He was forced to resign from his seat as county judge in 1962 and also resigned from the El Paso Bar Association.

One would think that this was the end of Bean’s political career, but that wasn’t the case. Bean was elected to the Electoral College in the late 1960s, and in 1972, he became chairman of the El Paso County Housing Authority. It was during his time with the Housing Authority that Bean attributed his greatest political coup when he was able to acquire $50 million of impounded money from President Nixon, which Bean used to triple the amount of public housing in El Paso, from 2,000 to 6,000 units.

In a 1985 El Paso Times story on Bean, Scharrer wrote that Bean knew Texan Anne Armstrong, a special assistant to Nixon, and had backed a bill that benefited her family many years before. Armstrong was able to help her fellow Texan when no other state housing agency received such funds. Politics? You bet. In 1974, Gov. Briscoe appointed Bean chairman of a special advisory council for the state Housing Authority. Hartger wrote that Bean was always “on.” He craved publicity, good or bad. El Paso Herald-Post writer Richard Estrada wrote that Bean often said, “I don’t care what they print about me as long as they spell m’ name right.” When he was a reporter for the Herald-Post, Joe Old recalled a conversation with Bean’s good friend Malcolm McGregor, who accounted for Bean’s constant filing for office by saying that it was “glandular.” When the filing deadline came around, Bean didn’t seem to have control and his glands took over.

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The career politician was elected to an important office again in 1974, this time to the State Board of Education. He advocated higher teacher pay and smaller class size. He wanted El Paso’s children to go to school together because they lived in the same neighborhoods, a major reason for his push for public housing. On July 14, 1985, Bean told the El Paso Times that he considered this election to be his greatest victory. “That’s when I found out that people weren’t mad at the judge anymore,” he stated. “I knew they had forgiven and forgotten.”

Bean ran for public office three more times but lost, despite his belief that he had been “forgiven.” In 1975, Bean ran for mayor of El Paso only to lose in a close runoff with Don Henderson. In 1976, he ran for railroad commissioner unsuccessfully. Then in 1982, Bean ran another unsuccessful campaign, this time for the Texas Supreme Court. Defeat at the ballot box never stopped Woodrow Bean from planning his next race, however, not even when he landed in the hospital. “I would like a last hurrah,” he laughingly told Sharrer in May 1985.

Bean was known for his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit, and this led to health problems throughout his life. His first heart attack came at the age of 36. In his May 1985 interview with Sharrer done while sitting in a hospital bed, Bean stated, “Had I known I was gonna live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” Lung cancer had struck the judge.

From his hospital bed, Bean gave advice to aspiring politicians. “Never get mad at anyone. You never get even,” he stated to Scharrer. “And do good for all of the people. that’s what politics is all about … And you’ve got to pay your taxes.”  The judge loved to laugh, and he did so, even in the hospital. He told everyone to ignore the “no visitors” sign on his door and he talked with numerous friends daily. “I’ve even had a couple bankers come to see me,” Bean joked, never having been a buddy of the establishment.

Bean reduced his smoking habit to about 15 cigarettes a day while in the hospital, and as Gary Sharrer wrote, promised to quit “tomorrow.” Bean lost his battle with lung cancer on July 14, 1985. On that day, former El Paso Mayor Fred Hervey and Bean’s adversary stated to the El Paso Times that Bean was “an easy-going politician. … He was one in a million.”

The day after Bean’s death, Richard Estrada, editor of Border Politics for the El Paso Herald-Post, wrote, “An era has passed.” Calling Bean an “ally of Mexican American blue collars,” among other things, Estrada said his personality consisted of “equal parts of compassion, ambition, courage and assertiveness.” Bean was a staunch New Deal Democrat, who pushed for a decent county hospital for the indigent and adequate housing for the poor and elderly. He insisted that decent housing was necessary for students to finish high school.

Bean was a character. He was a big man with a bigger voice and people listened when he spoke. They may not have agreed with what he said, but they listened. As Estrada said, “‘El Frijol’ (the Bean) reveled in smoke-filled rooms, in convention halls, in the limelight of interviews and in the camaraderie of the Florida and Central Cafes in Juárez.”

The El Paso County Democratic Party honored Bean in April of 1999 with a video that chronicled his legacy. Don Kirkpatrick, producer and director of the video, told the El Paso Times in June 2002 that Bean was one of El Paso’s most effective politicians. “Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, he did some great things,” Kirkpatrick stated, “and there’s just no denying that.”

Woodrow Wilson Bean, Sr. was an old-time politician. Today, some of what he said and did might be considered politically incorrect, but no one could deny that he didn’t produce results. Estrada wrote that Bean “loved his family, his country, politics, his friends, people in general, cigarettes, vodka (‘put a lime twist in there: makes it taste just like lemonade!’), Stetsons and boots. In just about that order.” N’uff said.




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