Governor of Guam 1961-1963

William Partlow “Bill” Daniel (1915-2006) was the fifth appointed civilian governor of Guam serving from 1961 to 1963. He was a lawyer and prominent businessman, as well as a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives. During Daniel’s term as governor, the Navy’s security clearance restricting entry into Guam was lifted, allowing for the island’s eventual growth of tourism and trade in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early Life

Daniel was born on 20 November 1915 in Dayton, Liberty County, Texas, to Marion Price and Nannie Partlow Daniel. The Daniels were a prominent, wealthy and prestigious family. As a young child, Bill Daniel had contracted polio; he had also been born with an arm and a leg that were shorter than normal, as well as a curvature of the spine that made him unable to keep up with other children. According to his biographer David Gracy, Daniel’s physical disabilities from childhood made him sympathetic to causes for the disabled. It also made him sympathetic to those he perceived as “the underdog.”

After graduating from high school, Daniel attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He later attended Baylor Law School, working as a trainer for the football and baseball teams while completing school. He served as president of his class and was active in several organizations, such as the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. He graduated from law school in 1938. Shortly afterward he met and married Vara Faye Martin, a local music teacher, in 1939.

Daniel began practicing law and quickly became a prominent figure in the courtroom. By 1942 he was elected Liberty County Attorney, resigning shortly afterward to serve in World War II. After the war, he ran and served three unopposed terms in the Texas House of Representatives, from 1949 to 1954. After his stint as governor of Guam, he remained active in trial and appellate law, with offices in Liberty, Romayor and Houston, Texas, and was even a recipient of the Texas Bar Foundation’s “Outstanding Fifty-Year Lawyer Award” for his record as a civil and criminal trial lawyer in State and Federal Courts.

Later in his life as an elder statesman, Daniel was frequently consulted by US presidents and other governors of Texas including Ann Richard and George Bush. In addition, he managed and operated his sprawling Plantation-Ranch, located in Liberty, raising animals and engaging in numerous charitable events and activities for the State.

Governor of Guam

In May 1961 at the age of 47, Daniel was appointed governor of Guam by Democratic President John F. Kennedy for a four-year term to succeed Joseph Flores, the first Chamorro appointed governor. Daniel was the younger brother of Texas governor Price Daniel and an avid supporter and friend of then vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson, also from Texas. Their influence likely played a key role in the younger Daniel’s appointment by Kennedy, who had just been elected president and in whose campaign Bill Daniel had been very active. In addition, Manuel F.L. Guerrero was named as Secretary of Guam, a position he previously held under Governor Richard Barrett Lowe’s administration from 1956-1959.

At the time of his appointment as governor, Daniel was already a colorful public figure who had many accomplishments in his personal and professional life. He was once described as a “lawyer, ranchman, big game hunter, public speaker, rodeo performer, philanthropist, family man, humanitarian, sincere Methodist Churchman, civic leader, ex-serviceman of World War II, former county attorney and state representative.” In addition, Daniel was an actor. In fact, his appointment as governor of Guam came shortly after his appearance in the major motion picture, The Alamo, starring John Wayne. He had played three different roles in the film, including the role of Colonel Neill and provided some 300 horses and handled 400 Texas longhorns for the production.

Publicly, Daniel’s appointment was seen by Washington as vital for the United States’ presence and strategic interests in the Pacific region. Locally, Daniel’s appointment was viewed with uncertainty. People had been expecting another Guamanian governor after Governor Joseph Flores and were taken aback that an outsider had been chosen. To quell fears and to learn more about the newly appointed governor, two members of the Guam legislature, Adrian L. Cristobal and Jesus C. Okiyama, traveled to Liberty, Texas, to meet Daniel and inform him of some of the problems he would face as governor. Although the new governor knew very little about the island, he was aware of the security clearance requirement for travelers to gain entry into the territory. He had experienced the restriction himself during his earlier travels around the Pacific before he began his term.

With the visit from Okiyama and Cristobal, Daniel was reminded about the challenge of eliminating the security clearance as well as the island’s economic woes. At the time, he was told, Guam had no industry and imported more than ninety percent of its food. Despite the island having an Organic Act which was signed in 1950, the territory still had no representation in the US Congress. In addition, the Navy practiced an unfair dual-wage system, whereby Chamorros or other locals were paid considerably less for the same work done by statesiders on Guam on temporary tours of duty. There was also the issue of the military’s control of sizable pieces of land taken after the war for recreation exclusively for military personnel. Daniel saw the island’s people as the underdogs in their relationship with the US Navy, particularly regarding the security clearance issue, the unfair dual-wage system, and postwar land appropriations.

The new governor took to heart the concerns conveyed to him. In his inaugural address on 20 May 1961 to a crowd of more than 3,000 in the Plaza de España, Daniel spoke of how he intended to increase self-government, upgrade educational opportunities and facilities, reinvigorate agricultural production and make Guam a “showcase of democracy.” He urged the people of Guam to demonstrate to the world, especially to peoples of Asia and the Far East, “how free and equal people live and work together through our initiative, industry, love of Guam and kindness to our fellow man.”

Security Clearance Lifted

The Daniel Administration’s most significant accomplishment indeed was the suspension of security clearances for entry into Guam in 1962. The security clearance for all civilian travel to the island was originally put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the beginning of World War II, and had remained in place through the 1950s because of Cold War era politics and military activities in the Marianas. Besides the new military bases on Guam there was a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) training base in Saipan known as Naval Technical Training Unit (NTTU) where it is rumored that Chinese and Korean spies were trained. It shut down when security clearance was lifted.

His first experience of the security clearance came in 1960 after shooting footage of his animal handling skills for a Hollywood film set in Africa called Kwaheri. He was on his way back to the US when, on a stopover in Sydney, Australia, he tried to get to the closest American soil – Guam – but was rejected because he did not have the proper security clearance to enter the island.

A year later as governor, once again, Daniel experienced the effect of the security clearance on his way to Guam from Honolulu to begin his term in office. Biographer Gracy recounted the story of how, on Daniel’s flight to Guam, a young Chamorro woman was unable to board the plane because her three-week old baby did not have the proper security clearances. In defiance, Daniel took the baby in his arms and carried the infant past the armed naval guard and boarded the plane, followed by the baby’s mother, then his own wife and children.

So opposed to this policy was the governor that Daniel made it his mission to revoke the security clearance requirements. He made his request to personal friend – and fellow Texan – Secretary of the Navy John Connally who agreed to suspend the security clearance. However, three months after it was announced, Connally left office and his successor reneged on the agreement. It was not until 21 August 1962 that the entry restrictions were permanently revoked by Executive Order #11045. The lifting of the security clearance was seen by many as a second Liberation of Guam, and was deemed essential for the introduction of new business opportunities and the buildup of Guam’s economy throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

Daniel is also remembered for his effort to improve agriculture on Guam through his program called “Operation Guam Friendship.” Believing that the island’s cattle herds could be improved by importing cattle from his home state, he persuaded his brother and other Texas farmers and wealthy stateside friends to donate animals to Guam’s Department of Agriculture. Dubbed “Governor Bill’s Noah’s Ark” in 1962, Daniel acquired a shipment of seventeen prize Texas bulls, as well as a forty quail and six white-tailed Texas deer to be raised on the island. In addition, eight quarter horse stallions, eight milk goats, two boars, four peacocks and a pair of Texas armadillos were brought to Guam. The armadillos were meant to be bred and reduce the giant African snail population that was decimating some of Guam’s food plants. The pair, however, were stolen and presumed eaten.

Daniel also tried to promote food production on Guam by encouraging people to tend their own gardens and reduce their dependence on imported foods. He used the grounds of the Governor’s house to demonstrate gardening and initiated the planting of more than 2000 gardens by individuals and classes at the public schools in a program known as “Return-to-the-Soil.”

Many of Daniel’s challenges had to do with the island’s economy which was experiencing a downturn from the reduction of military spending. When the security clearance was lifted, Daniel pushed through the legislature a package of bills, including one highly unpopular with the business community that increased individual taxes by 10%, in an effort to stave off the impact of the recession as the security clearance went into effect. He also began to focus on tourism as a viable industry for the island. As an outdoorsman, he was taken by Guam’s natural environment. He wanted to capitalize on the beautiful beaches and landscapes, focus on creating a tourist industry, and turn the island into the “Miami Beach of the Orient.” Toward this end, Daniel implemented islandwide cleanup programs to remove junk cars and garbage in makeshift dumps along village streets, to try and control the stray dog population, and to clear land of the ubiquitous tangentangen plant.

The Daniel Administration also saw improvements in Guam’s educational system. He signed legislation to fund the College of Guam and allow its transition from a two-year to a four-year institution, alleviating the need for students to travel off-island to receive a baccalaureate education. In fact, Daniel helped develop an AGR 101 course in agricultural management, and often took time to teach the 7 a.m. class to continue encouraging self-sufficiency and improve agriculture on Guam. Daniel also tried to address what he perceived to be a problem in Guam’s schools – Chamorro children unable to communicate well in English. He made personal efforts to institute television classes in basic English targeting young children who spoke only Chamorro at home so their first experience in school would be easier.

Daniel was also interested in increasing opportunities for vocational education, as well as in the welfare of handicapped or disabled children and adults – a reflection of his own charitable work back in Texas. While governor, he invited several hundred young handicapped children to screen the film The Alamo and served them refreshments.

Daniel’s antics and appearance made a lasting impression on many Guamanians at the time, though not always a positive one. According to historian Robert Rogers, Daniel “wore gaudy country-western clothes at public functions and rode a big white horse named Alamo, unwittingly reminding Guamanians of the haughty Spanish governors in the old Juan Malo stories.” He was often photographed with his imported farm animals, including one well-circulated image of himself and two cattle in the governor’s office. Daniel also renamed the governor’s residence, known as Government House, to the Governor’s Palace, and even rode his horse up the residence’s steps. However, the renaming of the residence, biographer Gracy asserts, was part of a larger campaign to instill pride in the history and heritage of the Chamorro people.

Although it was apparent almost immediately that Daniel’s activities and priorities were not a good fit for Guam, it was not until a few months into his administration that critical voices began to emerge from the local press. A scathing editorial in January 1962 by the Guam Daily News, for example, asserted that “Your attempt to better Guam would fare much better if, somehow, you could lose the idea that you are dealing with an inferior breed of people.”

Daniel was also criticized for giving a distorted image of the island in his visits to the continental United States and trying to build himself up personally. Another editorial in the Guam Daily News accused Daniel of misrepresenting the island when he claimed there were only fourteen head of cattle in Guam and that he was responsible for increasing the breed from contributions by “rich Texas friends.” In the same editorial, it was pointed out that Daniel had been quoted in the Vallejo News Chronicle saying that too many Americans had to be recruited to teach in Guam’s schools and that the governor initiated the change of the territorial college from a two-year to a four-year institution. However, this process, the Guam Daily News noted, had begun long before Daniel took office.

Rumors about the governor’s resignation reached scandalous proportions. Rogers cites an incident in 1962 in which Daniel tried to use his privilege and power as Governor to obtain three pieces of fur from a local dealer for his wife. Fur, apparently, was less expensive purchased on Guam and was a desirable commodity for wealthy visitors passing through on the way to Hong Kong. Daniel purchased one piece and decided to keep the other two as “gifts.” The dealer, however, insisted on full payment and argued with Daniel, who allegedly grabbed or choked the dealer by his necktie. A complaint was filed with the local police.

Quite possibly to avoid embarrassment, Daniel resigned in September 1962, but his resignation was not effective until four months later in January 1963. Daniel’s biographer contends most people on Guam mistakenly assumed the governor’s resignation was connected to this incident, but that, in fact, the story was used by certain individuals to politically discredit Daniel.

In the months following his announcement, Daniel became a “goodwill ambassador” for Guam until his term ran out, taking several trips off-island. Officially it was stated that while Daniel would have liked to remain in office longer, his resignation would help pave the way for an elected governor for Guam and for the appointment of a Guamanian interim governor. It was uncertain whether his resignation was voluntary or involuntary, however, the Guam Daily News asserted that a “graceful exit” for the Governor was being arranged to avoid embarrassment to President Kennedy. Daniel had always been “lukewarm” in his support for a proposed elected governor. In the editorial, Daniel was criticized:

“In any event, it is perhaps just as well that he is vacating the governorship. While he must be credited with some good accomplishments, it has been apparent that all this was designed as much for a personal buildup of himself. His difficulties here appear to stem form the fact that he is primarily a politician, not an administrator; and he brought the wrong kind of politicking gimmicks and a personality that is unconvincing, and invariably suspect. In a word, he was unresponsive to the need to be acclaimed to his environments; rather, he seemed to insist that his environments – especially people – become acclimated to him, all things else notwithstanding. And in the end, it didn’t work well for him or for Guam.”

Daniel’s resignation was not seen as something that would impact Congress as other key lawmakers who expressed similar sentiments for an elected governor were unable to garner Congress’s approval.

Nevertheless, there were others in the Guam community who were supportive of Daniel’s administration and its accomplishments, including his intervention and negotiation for the return of unused federal lands, the development of parks and beaches for public use, improvements to infrastructure, including streets, street lights and the placement of Chamorros in government jobs.

One thing was certain, his successor would be a Chamorro. Manuel Leon Guerrero was appointed to take over the governorship, a position he held until 1969 and the wheels were set in motion for an elected governor of Guam.

Daniel’s connection to Guam remained even after he left office. In 1968, as part of a personal envoy of President Lyndon Johnson, Daniel and his wife delivered $16 million to Guam and the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Micronesia). Earlier, he had set up a $50,000 matching gift account to fund scholarships and other projects at the University of Guam. He regularly sent donation checks to the Governor of Guam and the Catholic Church for relief after the island’s numerous destructive typhoons. Daniel was one of two civilian governors invited back to Guam in 2000 to participate in the celebration of 50 years of the Organic Act and civilian government. He returned the following year in July 2001 as one of the Grand Marshals for the island’s Liberation Day celebration and parade. That same month the museum at the Guam International Airport was dedicated to Daniel and his wife.

Daniel and his wife Vara Faye had four children – William, Vara Ann, Susan and Dani (nicknamed “Toy”). He passed away on 20 June 2006 at the age of 90 at his home in Liberty.

By Dominica Tolentino

For further reading

Gracy, David B., II. “Texas Tornado Lawyer: Gov. Bill Daniel’s Grit and Benevolences on Guam, 1961-1963,” 2001.

_____. Sunrise! Governor Bill Daniel and the Second Liberation of Guam. Hillsboro, TX: Hill College Press, 2010.

Rogers, Robert. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995.