Ralph Moody Hall (born May 3, 1923) is a United States Representative from Texas's 4th congressional district. First elected in 1980, Hall is the chairman of the Science Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He is the dean of the Texas congressional delegation, as well as the oldest serving member of either House of Congress.
Early life, education, and law career
Hall is a lifelong resident of Rockwall County, near Dallas. He was born in Fate, Texas. He graduated from Rockwall High School in 1941. Hall joined the U.S.
Navy on December 10, 1942, serving as a lieutenant (senior grade) aircraft carrier pilot from 1942 to 1945, during World War II.
Hall 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.
Early political career (1950-1973)
Hall was elected county judge of Rockwall County in November 1950. He held that position until 1962.
In 1962, Hall was elected to the Texas State Senate after incumbent Ray Roberts won a special election to replace Sam Rayburn in Congress.
1972 statewide election
In 1972, Hall ran for Texas Lieutenant Governor and lost the Democratic primary, getting only 15% of the vote. Bill Hobby won the primary with a plurality of 33%, and won the general election.
Business career (1973-1980)
Hall was the president/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, Hall was serving as the unpaid chairman, president or director of Crowley Holding Co., Bank of Crowley, Lakeside National Bank, Lakeside Bancshares Inc., North & East Trading Co., and Linrock Inc.
U.S. House of Representatives (1980-Present)
In 1980, incumbent Democrat 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. Hall is only 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. Hall has never won re-election in a general election with less than 58% of the vote. He also never won re-election in a primary (Democrat or Republican) 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 in the three-way GOP primary that year, defeating Mike Murphy and Mike Moshe. Republican leadership even tried to persuade at least one Republican candidate to get out of the race, which the candidate captured on tape. Hall won the primary with 78% of the vote, and the general election with 6% of the vote defeating Democrat Jim Nickerson and Libertarian Kevin D. Anderson.
Hall defeated Democrat Glenn Melancon and Libertarian Kurt Helm in the 2006 general election with 67% of the vote.
Hall defeated fellow Republican Joshua Kowert, an economics professor from Sherman.
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 just 57% of the vote, the worst performance in a primary election since Hall's first election in 1980. It was a six candidate race. His closest opponent was Steve Clark, who got just 30%. In the general election, Hall won re-election with 73% of the vote against Democrat VaLinda Hathcox and two other candidates.
- Conservative Democrat
Hall described himself as "an old-time conservative Democrat." Indeed, he was one of the most conservative Democrats in the House for many years. 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 Clinton. He endorsed George W. Bush for President in 2000, one of the first Democrats 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 (for instance, Rockwall County includes a small portion of Dallas itself) and areas such as Tyler broke away from their Democratic roots. The 4th has not supported a Democrat for president since 1964. Despite this district's increasingly Republican tilt, Hall won 10 more terms as a Democrat with an average of 60 percent of the vote. In 1994, for instance, Hall was reelected by a convincing 19-point margin even as other conservative Democrats lost their seats. By the 1990s, Hall was the only elected Democrat above the county level in much of the district. In some areas, he was the only elected Democrat at any level. It was taken for granted that Hall would be succeeded by a Republican once he retired.
As mentioned above, Hall's voting record has been largely conservative. However, like many Democrats, Hall voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1999, he was one of six Democrats who supported a GOP tax cut plan. He has been an original cosponsor of bills to repeal the estate tax and the marriage tax penalty.
In late 2002, Hall voted for the resolution allowing the use of force in Iraq. In March 2003, Hall voted for a budget that included Bush's 10-year, $726 billion tax cut plan. The plan passed the House 215-212.
In May 2010, Hall introduced a motion to recommit H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, due to Republican opposition. The motion passed by a vote of 292 to 126. Hall's motion stated that Federal employees disciplined for viewing pornography would be fired or barred from receiving their salaries. Representative Bart Gordon, Chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, responded negatively to Hall's motion, deeming the introduction of anti-pornography provisions to unrelated legislation "a cynical effort to undermine an important bill."
- 2004 party switch
Hall was frequently rumored as a candidate to switch parties, especially after the Republicans took control of the House in 1995. Even as Democrats with far less conservative voting records (such as Greg Laughlin, Jimmy Hayes, Billy Tauzin and Nathan Deal) switched parties, Hall insisted 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 Democrats.
In 2003, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay engineered a controversial mid-decade redistricting. Hall was the only Anglo Democrat not targeted by the remap. However, 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 most 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. Hall 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 fellow Democrats' criticism of President Bush; he hadn't attended Democratic caucus meetings for some time due to the barbs thrown at 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, the Republican Party allowed Hall 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.
- Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
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. Hall 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, Hall 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 Hall 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 and Slaughter and their wives, Abramoff billed the CNMI $12,800.
In September 1997, Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) 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 fifteen times in the two months following Abercrombie's remarks. In November 1997, Hall 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." Hall 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, Hall 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 Fourth Congressional District he represents, Hall 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.
Hall 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." Hall’s comments in the Congressional Record in 1997 do not mention minimum wage and the CNMI receives no foreign aid.
- Views on climate change
On December 1, 2011, Hall gave an interview to National Journal in which he expressed disbelief in anthopogenic climate change. He accused climate scientists of concocting the evidence for anthopogenic climate change in order to receive federal research grants, citing the Climategate controversy and calling investigations which had largely exonerated them "straw-man reviews". He stated that "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." Hall 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 married the former Mary Ellen Murphy on November 14, 1944, while he was serving in the Navy in Pensacola, Florida. They had three sons, Hampton, Brett, and Blakeley, and (as of 2002) had 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."
February 13th, 2012