United Citizens for Law Enforcement

My uncle was a very responsible and respected church elder in Port Arthur, Texas. He was active in civic affairs, and was president of the Texas chapter of his professional society.

Anyway, Port Arthur and Beaumont, both in Jefferson County, Texas, next to the Louisiana border, were hotbeds of crime and corruption. They are both refinery towns, and there were always lots of roughnecks and tanker sailors around, and the oil money was flowing like, well, oil. When my younger cousin finished high school, my uncle felt that it was time to take a risk, stand up for something, and fight the forces of evil around Lake Sabine.

He and others founded United Citizens for Law Enforcement (UCLE). They organized and worked with the federal authorities to get criminal indictments against the sheriff, the county probate judge, the mayors of both major cities in the county, and the police chiefs of both cities.

At one point during the investigation my uncle got a call from an informant who was tired of being shaken down by the cops. She said she was a madam, and she wanted to give him evidence. He felt like it was a complete set-up, but he agreed to meet her at his office. As a precaution, he had his wife (my fastidious aunt!) hidden in the closet, sitting on an overturned trash can, listening through the transom. (Is that an evocative image or what?)

It was an honest deal. He got a lot of good information that the federal prosecutors were able to use. My aunt never spoke to any of us about what she heard that night.

The first case was a federal trial of the Criminal District Attorney of Jefferson County. It was televised gavel-to-gavel, since this was before the Supreme Court ruling that effectively ended unrestricted televising of trials. My uncle's sister, my mother, was a schoolteacher three states away. Since she was off for the summer, she decided to go to Port Arthur for the first trial. We have fond memories of seeing her on television on the front row of the spectators at the trial.

That first trial won a conviction.

Shortly after the first conviction was obtained, the other federal indictments were suddenly and unexpectedly dropped. No reason was given. But everyone assumed that it was because LBJ had suddenly and unexpectedly become President.

My uncle was called into his boss's office the next day and told that he was fired. He was also told that he would be given three months severance pay, but only on condition that he agree never to tell anyone that he got a dime, and that he leave town right away. He moved to Dallas and got a great job.

- as told by my father