THE GRAND DUKE FROM BOYS RANCH
EUGENIA AND HUGH M. STEWART ’26 SERIES
foreword by Bill Hobby
Genre: Memoir / Texana / Politics / Eastern European History
Date of Publication: April 16, 2018
Number of Pages: 336 pages w/50 B&W photos
As a boy in Houston, Bill Sarpalius, his brothers, and their mother lived an itinerant life. Bill dug food out of trashcans, and he and his brothers moved from one school to the next. They squatted in a vacant home while their mother, affectionately called “Honey,” battled alcoholism and suicidal tendencies. In an act of desperation, she handed her three sons over to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch north of Amarillo.
At the time, Bill was thirteen years old and could not read. Life at Boys Ranch had its own set of harrowing challenges, however. He found himself living in fear of some staff and older boys. He became involved in Future Farmers of America and discovered a talent for public speaking. When he graduated, he had a hundred dollars and no place to go. He worked hard, earned a scholarship from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and obtained a college degree. After a brief career as a teacher and in agribusiness, he won a seat in the Texas Senate. Driven by the memory of his suffering mother, he launched the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse in an effort to help people struggling with addiction.
Sarpalius later served in the United States Congress. As a Lithuanian American, he took a special interest in that nation’s fight for independence from the Soviet Union. For his efforts, Sarpalius received the highest honor possible to a non-Lithuanian citizen and was named a “Grand Duke.”The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is a unique political memoir—the story of a life full of unlikely paths that is at once heartbreaking and inspirational.
PRAISE FOR THE GRAND DUKE FROM BOYS RANCH:
“The autobiography of Bill Sarpalius reads like a 20 -century version of the American dream – equal parts heartbreak and inspiration, culminating in an unlikely political career capped by three terms in the U.S. Congress.” — University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs
“The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is an inspiring tale of perseverance and personal courage.” — Si Dunn, Lone Star Literary Life
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The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch – My Review
“Then I had to call the parents of those children who had not been accepted. They always cried, asking me what would happen to their son. Every night I went to bed agonizing over what would happen to the other fourteen boys.”
First – this is not your typical politician story.
Second – if you are a lover of Texas history, then you will learn some history along the way.
Third – Bill Sarpalius loves dogs.
The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is a recounting of Bill Sarpalius’s life. Once you read or hear the word politician you immediately think “Oh, a rich guy or woman!” That’s not the case with Bill. His story recounts almost painfully at times, his life of turmoil before becoming a US Congressman. Told with no highfaluting language, it’s a down to earth narration of his experiences growing up, attending college, to his life in Washington, D.C.
He had me in tears at one point in the story recalling how he saved one young boy in Littlefield. My stomach was turning until I realized Bill took some poetic license in retelling this young boy’s story. The geography of the town does not allow this to be true. There was never a gas station across from any school in Littlefield. I should know because my dad and my uncle owned several in Littlefield during the time Bill is recounting this story. If the story is indeed true from that small town, then I would like to have seen a follow-up in the book on the boy in the story.
Besides that, there were a couple of things I think would improve the book from my perspective – some summarizing of passages and adding some excerpts of some of his speeches that propelled him to what he became. What moved those people so much during his speeches?
Sarpalius’s story is inspiring because it gives hope to anyone that no matter what life throws at you, you can become more and succeed at doing good.
“The morale of our people is high,” he said. “There are at least a thousand people in the courtyard between the wall and the parliament building day and night, ready to defend this building against a Soviet attack.”
There are clever bits of history throughout the book like the bills he helped get passed here in Texas to him being instrumental in helping Lithuania. Of course, he did what he could to help dogs in Texas. I naturally admire anyone who loves dogs as much as I do.
BILL SARPALIUS represented the Texas 13th Congressional District from 1989 to 1995, and from 1981 to 1989 he served in the Texas State Senate. He currently is a motivational speaker and serves as CEO of Advantage Associates International. He divides his time between Maryland and Houston, Texas.
MEET THE AUTHOR!
BARNES & NOBLE, #2665
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2018
2415 Soncy Road
Amarillo, TX 79124
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