City Attorney

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In 1932, my grandparents, Jake V. Gallegos and Mary Letcher, had been married for a couple of years. In February, they had a baby, my mom, Mary Louise. In his memoirs, grandpa writes about his start in public office, becoming a city attorney under J. W. Bullington.

I found a photo of a 1936 banquet of all the public officials, including my grandpa, with the mayor, J. W. Bullington, who is seated at the head of the table (image: Banquet Given by Mayor J. W. Bullington, 1936).

Banquet Given by Mayor J. W. Bullington for City Officials of Tucumcari, N.M. dated Jan. 2, 1936. Jake Gallegos is seated on the right, second from the front. (Click to view larger image.)
Bullington Family Shares History: An article highlighting their family history from the Quay County Sun, 2012. (Click to view article.)

J. W. Bullington and his family were early residents of the area and had made the trip by covered wagon in a snowstorm in1906, according to a nice little article of their family history I found from the Quay County Sun (image: Bullington Family Shares History).

J.W. Bullington dies suddenly of a heart attack in August 1940, reported by the Amarillo Daily News. (Click to view larger image.)

Unfortunately, J. W. passed away suddenly of a heart attack in 1940 (image: J. W. Bullington). At the time of his death, he had served three terms as mayor and was a candidate for justice of the peace.

—My grandfather served as city attorney for 11 years. In his story, he tells of how he got his start.—

It was 1932. There was an upcoming city election in Tucumcari.

J. W. Bullington owned a second hand store in town. He sold much of his merchandise on credit. He was a good man. He ran for mayor against Dick Rivers.

Dick Rivers was a jeweler and the candidate of the business people. Bullington was an ordinary man, but he had made many friends. Paul Dodge, owner of the local newspaper, the Tucumcari Daily News, supported Dick Rivers.

Tucumcari News Racketeers: April 7, 1932, Headline reads, “Voters Ignominiously Defeat the Racketeers’ City Candidates: Bullington Wins for Mayor by 202 Majority.” A headline that apparently caused some to be pretty upset. (Click to view larger image.)

Bullington defeated Rivers. The day after the election, the headline read, “Bullington Defeats Racketeers”! Supporters of Rivers were madder than hell! (Image: Tucumcari News Racketeers)

The newly elected mayor appointed the administrative officials. Bulling­ton chose me, J. V. Gallegos: as City Attorney. Dan Kelly, a councilman, opposed me. He filibustered the appointment and finally Bullington appointed M. B. Keator. Mr. Keator had practiced law about 20 years in Tucumcari and was an estab­lished attorney.

Kelly’s main objection to me, so I heard, was that I was originally from Las Vegas, N.M., where “politicians were crooked.” Therefore I was tainted.

In less than a year after Keator was appointed as City Attorney, Kelly went to Bullington and complained, ”Keator hasn’t attended to the matters of the city, I want you to fire him.” Bullington responded, ”You’re the one who sponsored Keator, and I will not fire him!”

When two years had passed, there was another city election. Bullington defeated another businessman by the name of Arch Hurley.  Following this election. Dan Kelly became my biggest supporter and persisted in his request of Bullington to appoint me city attorney. Bullington did appoint me. I served as city attorney for 11 years, under several differ­ent mayors in Tucumcari.


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