A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from August 15, 2007
“Washington is the only insane asylum in the world run by its own inmates” ("Pappy” O’Daniel)

"Washington is the only insane asylum in the world run by its own inmates” was said by Texas Senator Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel in 1942. Needless to say, O’Daniel wasn’t popular in Washington and was an ineffective senator.

Handbook of Texas Online
O’DANIEL, WILBERT LEE (1890-1969). Wilbert Lee (Pappy) O’Daniel, Texas governor and United States senator, was born in Malta, Ohio, on March 11, 1890, one of two children of William Barnes and Alice Ann (Thompson) O’Daniel.

Wikipedia: W. Lee O’Daniel
Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel (March 11, 1890 - May 11, 1969) was a radio personality and a Democratic Party politician from Texas.

O’Daniel was born in Malta, Ohio, and as a young child moved to Reno County, Kansas. He worked in the flour milling business and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1925 to work for Burrus Mills. O’Daniel soon took over its radio advertising, wrote songs, and hired a group of musicians. His band was originally called the Light Crust Doughboys. Notable musicians such as Bob Wills got their start with O’Daniel. After the Doughboys split up, O’Daniel formed the Western Swing band Pappy O’Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys. The new group was named after O’Daniel’s Hillbilly Flour Company.

In 1938, he ran for governor of Texas as a Democrat. O’Daniel’s campaign hailed his flour and the need for pensions and tax cuts. He promised to block a sales tax and raise pensions. O’Daniel won the Democratic party primary election easily with 51% of the vote over 12 opponents. In office, he proposed a new sales tax, which was voted down by the Texas Legislature. He handily won re-election in 1940.

In 1941, O’Daniel ran for the United States Senate in a special election. He defeated Lyndon Johnson by 1,306 votes in one of the more controversial elections in state history. His victory made him the only person to ever defeat Johnson for elected office. As a senator, O’Daniel was ineffective, and most of his legislation was defeated. He endorsed the Texas Regulars in the 1944 presidential election. O’Daniel refused to run for another term in 1948, but ran for governor of Texas in 1956 and 1958 and claimed that the Brown v. Board of Education decision was part of a communist conspiracy. He finished third in the Democratic primaries both times.

The film O Brother, Where Art Thou? featured a character named Menelaus “Pappy” O’Daniel, loosely based on the real O’Daniel. The film’s character was played by Charles Durning.

Google Books
Texas Politics Today
by William Earl Maxwell, Edwin S. Davis, Ernest Crain, and Elizabeth N. Flores
Thomson Wadsworth
12th edition
Pg. 9:
O’Daniel served with a notable lack of distinction in the Senate but was reelected to a full six-year term in 1942. His lack of effectiveness in Washington was possibly related to his habit of making derogatory remarks about other politicians, such as “Washington is the only lunatic asylum in the world run by its own inmates.”

24 June 1942, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, “O’Daniel Hits New Low In Cheapness,” pg. 4, col. 2:
The cheap and contemptible demagoguery of Senator Wilbert Lee O’Daniel, who has the effrontery after his thoroughly useless year in Washington to ask the people of Texas to send him back there for six years more—has reached a new record low.

O’Daniel, speaking at Houston, said: “You’ll never realize how much it means to live in Texas till you live in a foreign country, like the county seat of America where I have been. The folks up there haven’t even time to say hello, they are in such a hurry to go somewhere and do nothing. Washington is the only insane asylum in the world run by its own inmates.”

1 July 1942, Dallas Morning News, section one, pg. 6:
“In referring to our national capital, Washington, as the only insane asylum run by its own inmates, Senator O’Daniel has again disgraced Texas and given aid to Adolf Hitler,” Moody declared in his Brownsville speech.

19 July 1942, Dallas Morning News, “O’Daniel Broke 15 Pledges, Says Allred,” section one, pg. 3:
He says we will win this war quickly under fine leadership at Washington, but he says Washington is the only insane asylum run by its own inmates.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, August 15, 2007 • Permalink