ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Charles Walter Stenholm, who served on the democratic ticket as the Texas U.S. Congressional representative from 1979 to 2005, passed away May 17, 2023. The Stamford native and Texas Tech Alum was best known for his ability to reach across the aisle.
“Charlie was all about relationships, and it didn’t matter if you were a democrat or a republican, or a Methodist or a Baptist. He was gonna talk to you,” said friend and former political staffer, Woody Anderson.
Anderson worked with Stenholm from day one. He traveled on Stenholm’s campaign bus from county to county, helping win votes for his 1978 congressional run.
“He was pretty much a pro from the day I met him. It was really pretty easy for us, we just kinda followed his lead,” Anderson recalled.
He was, by all accounts, a man of the people. Known around Washington as “The cotton farmer from Stamford,” Stenholm spent his early years tilling the fields he would one day legislate. Although he spent many years in politics, he always made sure he didn’t lose that “salt of the earth” edge.
“He always said he had ‘tractor seat common sense,'” remarked Anderson, “in that If he ever felt like he was losing that tractor seat common sense, then he’d come home during a break in congress and he’d go out on a tractor and he’d regain that.”
Stenholm had a hand in passing many bills that benefited his district in Texas, as well as the nation as a whole. From his work with crop insurance safety measures, to his handling of the 1980s financial crisis, Stenholm always made sure his people didn’t fall below the line.
“He bridged the gap on all farm bills. He was the one that was instrumental in putting both sides together,” longtime friend and former political staffer, Mark Lundgren, vouched.
Lundgren also served on Stenholm’s team, calling him a friend and a mentor.
“He would always tell us that your political head should not rear but two months outside of an election,” remembered Lundgren. “We’re here to do the peoples work and politics should not come in to play.”
For all his success, he wasn’t without regret. Anderson told KTAB/KRBC Stenholm’s biggest disappointment was the failure to pass a balanced budget amendment.
The proposal would have amended the constitution to require that the national budget be balanced. It was a heavy undertaking, but one he was righteously devoted to most all his career.
“Well, he never could muster the votes,” Lundgren said. “He never quit working on that.”
The amendment was a dream perhaps too big for Stenholm’s time. Even in his passing, his legacy remains.
“He was the kind of statesman that our forefathers had envisioned,” added Lundgren.
A political figure that was proud of his past, and dedicated to his people even in retirement, Stenholm lost his re-election campaign in 2004, but continued to fight for agricultural development and safety well into his later years.
His name appears as a sponsor or drafter on nearly 4000 pieces of legislation to date.
Memorial Services for Charlie Stenholm will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, June 3 at Bethel Lutheran Church in the Ericksdahl Community under the direction of Tankersley Funeral Home in Stamford.