Lake Ralph Hall, a 12,000-acre project planned in Fannin County, won final approval last week. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who has left an enduring impact on East Texas.
He may not be ours anymore — redistricting moved Rep. Ralph Hall westward in 2004 — but we can still claim the Rockwall native.
The 90-year-old Republican is now the oldest serving member of Congress (and one of two remaining World War II veterans), but he’s usually the first to point out that he’s alive, well and going strong.
Hall began his career as a fiscally conservative Democrat.
“Oh, I worked on Smith County for 15 years before I really started getting support there,” Hall said in 2004, as he closed his Smith County office. “It was such a conservative county that it had a real hard time voting for a Democrat. But then, little by little, we got to know each other.”
Hall’s “blue dog” conservatism eventually won over voters, even Republican stalwarts. It helped that he was a qualified supporter of President Reagan and the first President Bush, and an even stronger supporter of the post-Sept. 11 policies of President George W. Bush. And he never accepted campaign contributions from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
He brought plenty of federal projects to East Texas, including facilities for veterans (Hall himself was an aircraft carrier pilot). But his focus was really on personal relationships.
“Everybody gets projects and appropriations,” Hall said then. “Not everyone gets to work with the kind of people I have. I’ll remember all the people who have worked so hard to build Smith County, and the people who have dedicated their lives to bettering East Texas.”
Hall said he himself became somewhat rooted in the red clay of East Texas.
“I was there so much, folks thought I lived there,” he said. “One ol’ boy told me he saw more of me than he did his neighbors. That always tickled me, but for sure, when I drove my car out of the driveway in Rockwall, it always wanted to head down I-20.”
Hall’s party switch came in early 2004, after the Republican-led Texas Legislature redrew district lines that pared away much of Hall’s East Texas constituency and placed him more firmly in the younger, more Republican Dallas suburbs.
And those suburbs will be the primary beneficiaries of Lake Ralph Hall, which is scheduled for completion in 2023.
But even that big new lake won’t really be enough to satisfy the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s thirst.
“While it would provide more than 10 billion gallons a year for the Upper Trinity Regional Water District’s customers, that is not even one-tenth of what the area surrounding the lake is projected to need by 2060,” the Texas Tribune reports.
Still, the lake will help stave off the urban regions’ demands for water in the near future. That’s important for East Texas, because we’ll need the water we have.
For years, Rep. Ralph Hall guarded the interests of East Texas.
The lake named after the congenial congressman will continue to do so.