Warren G. Harding: In search of a fishing thrill

By RENE TORRES, Special to the Star

President Warren G. Harding came to Texas in 1920, right after the Republican Party’s big triumph in the national elections. His visit to this region was something he had promised his good friend R.B. Creager, who at the time, was a high-ranking GOP member from Brownsville.

The GOP won, and a few days later the new president- elect of the United States arrived in Brownsville. One of the first galas took place at Gulf Coast Lines railroad station, which followed with a parade to Brownsville’s Country Club, where a reception was held. That evening, President Harding made his way to Fort Brown where he addressed a cheering crowd estimated at 20,000.

Harding was an avid fisherman and the lure of catching that elusive tarpon took him to Port Isabel, where he stayed for several days. The tarpon on the Texas coast leaped into his glory as the fish of the day in the fall of 1920. It was then that President elect Warren G. Harding paid a visit in search for the thrill of snatchin’ the “Silver King” of the Gulf.

While at Port Isabel, he was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Creager, on the bluff overlooking Laguna Madre. R. B. Creager was the Republican (Red Party) Chairman for Cameron County. As it turned out while the president-elect did catch a tarpon, his wife caught an even larger one. According to a newspaper report, “It was at this time that he posed for the famed ‘sombrero’ pictures that depicted him in a wide brimmed Mexican straw hat.”

He was never advertised as being an ardent golfer, however he, and his entourage, took advantage of a warm November day to play 18 holes of golf at the Brownsville Country Club. Local high school boys served as caddies. The president wrote a letter of appreciation for their service and the following are his words:

To the fine Brownsville Seniors, who volunteered to caddy and keep a watchful eye on wild balls, gratitude and good wishes. In life’s game of golf, drive hard and straight, approach confidently and putt deliberately. May you all turn up a fine score over the course of American opportunity…November 12, 1920?

According to his letter — it seems that the boys were chasing the ball all over the course. The president displayed that his swing was plagued with hooks and slices — making his game a rough affair (pun intended).