By the turn of the twentieth century, Beaumont, Texas had acquired a reputation as a rough place. Situated in the oil-soaked chaos of Spindletop, Jefferson County was a hotbed of vice. For decades, gambling and prostitution thrived as elected officials either looked the other way or took money to keep quiet.

That is, until 1960 when a swashbuckling young state legislator blew into town and spearheaded an intensive investigation into the rampant vice and governmental corruption that supported it. He tangled with a flamboyant sheriff and locked horns with some of the area’s most powerful leaders. And, at a time when such things were virtually unheard of, he and his committee played it out on live television.

When the dust finally cleared, the local governments of Jefferson County were turned inside out; but it would take a persistent citizenry months of legal warfare before law and order were finally restored.


Laura Cerniglia O’Toole was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She first learned about the James Commission investigation as a student at the University of Texas. Intrigued by stories of the investigation that took place in the early 60’s in Beaumont, she made it the topic of her thesis, "Purging a Corrupt Government: The Clean-up of Jefferson County", for which she received Special Honors in the Plan II Honors Program. Years later, she teamed up with Wanda Landrey, a noted local author, to write Betting Booze and Brothels. Ms. O’Toole graduated from the Plan II Honors Program and the Law School at the University of Texas. She lives and practices law in Austin, Texas with her husband, Brian, and their two children.
Wanda A. Landrey, a native of Beaumont and a descendant of early East Texas pioneers, is a historian, writer, and researcher. In addition to Betting, Booze and Brothels: Vice, Corruption and Justice in Jefferson County, Texas from Spindletop to the 1960s, Mrs. Landrey has written five other books: Outlaws in the Big Thicket, Boardin’ in the Big Thicket: Reminiscences and Recipes of Early Big Thicket Boarding Houses, The Historic Belle-Jim Hotel, and two children’s novels, Lost in the Big Thicket and The Ghosts of Spindletop Hill. Mrs. Landrey holds B.A and M.A. degrees from Lamar University in Beaumont. She resides in Beaumont with her husband, Floyd A. Landrey, of the Moore Landrey law firm.

Published by Eakin Press, A Division of Sunbelt Media, Inc., Austin, Texas