Reuben Senterfitt, ex-Texas House speaker, dies

BUDA, Texas (AP) — Former Texas House speaker Reuben Senterfitt, who co-authored legislation that created the world-famous M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, died Wednesday at age 96 after developing complications from pneumonia, his family said in a statement.

The longtime state lawmaker died at an assisted-living center in Buda, his son Barry Senterfitt told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. The funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in San Saba, with burial in the San Saba City Cemetery.

Senterfitt first won election to the Texas House in 1941 at age 23 as a representative of San Saba County in Central Texas. In his first year in the House, he co-authored a bill that created the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, which became one of the leading cancer research institutions in the nation.

He served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific in World War II while retaining his office.

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In 1949, Senterfitt sponsored legislation that created the veterans’ land program aimed at helping veterans buy land at low interest. He also helped Speaker Durwood Manford in creating the Legislative Budget Board and the Texas Legislative Council. He also pressed for the state’s pay-as-you-go constitutional amendment that requires balanced biennial budgets, along with a list of public education reforms.

He served two terms as speaker, from 1951 to 1955, becoming the second person to serve two consecutive terms in that office. During his speakership, Senterfitt unified the separate appropriations bills previously used into one general appropriations bill.

Senterfitt left the House in 1955 to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1956. He lost in the primary to eventual governor Price Daniel.