All About Houston, Texas Geographic Area
Texas is the second most populous (after California) and the second largest of the 50 U.S. states (after Alaska) in the United States of America. Geographically located in the south central part of the country, Texas shares an international border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south and borders the U.S. states of New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east. Texas has an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2) and a growing population of over 26.9 million residents (July 2014).
Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, while San Antonio is the second largest in the state and seventh largest in the United States. Dallas–Fort Worth and Greater Houston are the eighth and tenth largest United States metropolitan areas, respectively. Other major cities include El Paso and Austin—the state capital. Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as a former independent republic and as a reminder of the state's struggle for independence from Mexico. The "Lone Star" can be found on the Texas state flag and on the Texas state seal today. The origin of the state name, Texas, is from the word, "Tejas", which means 'friends' in the Caddo language.
Due to its size and geologic features such as the Balcones Fault, Texas contains diverse landscapes that resemble both the American South and Southwest. Although Texas is popularly associated with the Southwestern deserts, less than 10 percent of the land area is desert. Most of the population centers are located in areas of former prairies, grasslands, forests, and the coastline. Traveling from east to west, one can observe terrain that ranges from coastal swamps and piney woods, to rolling plains and rugged hills, and finally the desert and mountains of the Big Bend.
The term "six flags over Texas", as can be seen in the Grand Prairie-based large national and international amusement park operator Six Flags, came from the several nations that had ruled over the territory. Spain was the first European country to claim the area of Texas. France held a short-lived colony in Texas. Mexico controlled the territory until 1836 when Texas won its independence, becoming an independent Republic. In 1845 it joined the United States as the 28th state. The state's annexation set off a chain of events that caused the Mexican–American War in 1846. A slave state, Texas declared its secession from the United States in early 1861, and officially joined the Confederate States of America on March 2 of the same year. After the consequent Civil War and the restoration of its representation in the federal government, Texas entered a long period of economic stagnation.
One Texas industry that thrived after the Civil War was cattle. Due to its long history as a center of the industry, Texas is associated with the image of the cowboy. The state's economic fortunes changed in the early 20th century, when oil discoveries initiated an economic boom in the state. With strong investments in universities, Texas developed a diversified economy and high tech industry in the mid-20th century. As of 2010 it shares the top of the list of the most Fortune 500 companies with California at 57. With a growing base of industry, the state leads in many industries, including agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, computers and electronics, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. Texas has led the nation in export revenue since 2002 and has the second-highest gross state product.
The name Texas, based on the Caddo word tejas meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in East Texas.
During the Spanish colonial rule, the area was officially known as the Nuevo Reino de Filipinas: La Provincia de Texas. Antonio Margil de Jesús was known to be the first person to use the name in a letter to the Viceroy of Mexico on July 20, 1716. The name was not popularly used in daily speech but often appeared in legal documents until the end of the 1800s.[clarification needed]
Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2). Though 10 percent larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany or Japan, it ranks only 27th worldwide amongst country subdivisions by size. If it were still an independent country, Texas would be the 40th largest behind Chile and Zambia.
Texas is in the south-central part of the United States of America. Three of its borders are defined by rivers. The Rio Grande forms a natural border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south. The Red River forms a natural border with Oklahoma and Arkansas to the north. The Sabine River forms a natural border with Louisiana to the east. The Texas Panhandle has an eastern border with Oklahoma at 100° W, a northern border with Oklahoma at 36°30' N and a western border with New Mexico at 103° W. El Paso lies on the state's western tip at 32° N and the Rio Grande.
With 10 climatic regions, 14 soil regions and 11 distinct ecological regions, regional classification becomes problematic with differences in soils, topography, geology, rainfall, and plant and animal communities. One classification system divides Texas, in order from southeast to west, into the following: Gulf Coastal Plains, Interior Lowlands, Great Plains, and Basin and Range Province.
The Gulf Coastal Plains region wraps around the Gulf of Mexico on the southeast section of the state. Vegetation in this region consists of thick piney woods. The Interior Lowlands region consists of gently rolling to hilly forested land and is part of a larger pine-hardwood forest.
The Great Plains region in central Texas is located in spans through the state's panhandle and Llano Estacado to the state's hill country near Austin. This region is dominated by prairie and steppe. "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos" region is the state's Basin and Range Province. The most varied of the regions, this area includes Sand Hills, the Stockton Plateau, desert valleys, wooded mountain slopes and desert grasslands.
Texas has 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers, with the Rio Grande as the largest. Other major rivers include the Pecos, the Brazos, Colorado, and Red River, which forms the border with Oklahoma. While Texas has few natural lakes, Texans have built over 100 artificial reservoirs.
The size and unique history of Texas make its regional affiliation debatable; it can be fairly considered a Southern or a Southwestern state, or both. The vast geographic, economic, and cultural diversity within the state itself prohibits easy categorization of the whole state into a recognized region of the United States. Notable extremes range from East Texas which is often considered an extension of the Deep South, to Far West Texas which is generally acknowledged to be part of the interior Southwest.
Texas is the southernmost part of the Great Plains, which ends in the south against the folded Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. The continental crust forms a stable Mesoproterozoic craton which changes across a broad continental margin and transitional crust into true oceanic crust of the Gulf of Mexico. The oldest rocks in Texas date from the Mesoproterozoic and are about 1,600 million years old.
These Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks underlie most of the state, and are exposed in three places: Llano uplift, Van Horn, and the Franklin Mountains, near El Paso. Sedimentary rocks overlay most of these ancient rocks. The oldest sediments were deposited on the flanks of a rifted continental margin, or passive margin that developed during Cambrian time.
This margin existed until Laurasia and Gondwana collided in the Pennsylvanian subperiod to form Pangea. This is the buried crest of the Appalachian Mountains–Ouachita Mountains zone of Pennsylvanian continental collision. This orogenic crest is today buried beneath the Dallas–Waco—Austin–San Antonio trend.
The late Paleozoic mountains collapsed as rifting in the Jurassic period began to open the Gulf of Mexico. Pangea began to break up in the Triassic, but seafloor spreading to form the Gulf of Mexico occurred only in the mid and late Jurassic. The shoreline shifted again to the eastern margin of the state and the Gulf of Mexico passive margin began to form. Today 9 to 12 miles (14 to 19 km) of sediments are buried beneath the Texas continental shelf and a large proportion of remaining US oil reserves are located here. At the start of its formation, the incipient Gulf of Mexico basin was restricted and seawater often evaporated completely to form thick evaporite deposits of Jurassic age. These salt deposits formed salt dome diapirs, and are found in East Texas along the Gulf coast.
East Texas outcrops consist of Cretaceous and Paleogene sediments which contain important deposits of Eocene lignite. The Mississippian and Pennsylvanian sediments in the north; Permian sediments in the west; and Cretaceous sediments in the east, along the Gulf coast and out on the Texas continental shelf contain oil. Oligocene volcanic rocks are found in far west Texas in the Big Bend area. A blanket of Miocene sediments known as the Ogallala formation in the western high plains region is an important aquifer. Located far from an active plate tectonic boundary, Texas has no volcanoes and few earthquakes.
A wide range of animals and insects live in Texas. It is the home to 65 species of mammals, 213 species of reptiles and amphibians, and the greatest diversity of bird life in the United States—590 native species in all. At least 12 species have been introduced and now reproduce freely in Texas.
Texas plays host to several species of wasps. Texas is one of the regions that has the highest abundance of Polistes exclamans. Additionally, Texas has provided an important ground for the study of Polistes annularis.
During the spring Texas wildflowers such as the state flower, the bluebonnet, line highways throughout Texas. During the Johnson Administration the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, worked to draw attention to Texas wildflowers.
The large size of Texas and its location at the intersection of multiple climate zones gives the state highly variable weather. The Panhandle of the state has colder winters than North Texas, while the Gulf Coast has mild winters. Texas has wide variations in precipitation patterns. El Paso, on the western end of the state, averages 8.7 inches (220 mm) of annual rainfall, while parts of southeast Texas average as much as 64 inches (1,600 mm) per year. Dallas in the North Central region averages a more moderate 37 inches (940 mm) per year.
Snow falls multiple times each winter in the Panhandle and mountainous areas of West Texas, once or twice a year in North Texas, and once every few years in Central and East Texas. Snow rarely falls south of San Antonio or on the coast except in rare circumstances. Of note is the 2004 Christmas Eve snowstorm, when 6 inches (150 mm) of snow fell as far south as Kingsville, where the average high temperature in December is 65 °F.
Maximum temperatures in the summer months average from the 80s °F (26 °C) in the mountains of West Texas and on Galveston Island to around 100 °F (38 °C) in the Rio Grande Valley, but most areas of Texas see consistent summer high temperatures in the 90 °F (32 °C) range.
Night-time summer temperatures range from the upper 50s °F (14 °C) in the West Texas mountains to 80 °F (27 °C) in Galveston.
Thunderstorms strike Texas often, especially the eastern and northern portions of the state. Tornado Alley covers the northern section of Texas. The state experiences the most tornadoes in the United States, an average of 139 a year. These strike most frequently in North Texas and the Panhandle. Tornadoes in Texas generally occur in the months of April, May, and June.
Some of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history have impacted Texas. A hurricane in 1875 killed approximately 400 people in Indianola, followed by another hurricane in 1886 that destroyed the town. These events allowed Galveston to take over as the chief port city. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 subsequently devastated that city, killing approximately 8,000 people (possibly as many as 12,000), making it the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
Other devastating Texas hurricanes include the 1915 Galveston Hurricane, Hurricane Audrey in 1957 which killed over 600 people, Hurricane Carla in 1961, Hurricane Beulah in 1967, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. Tropical storms have also caused their share of damage: Allison in 1989 and again during 2001, and Claudette in 1979 among them.
Texas emits the most greenhouse gases in the U.S. The state emits nearly 1.5 trillion pounds (680 billion kg) of carbon dioxide annually. As an independent nation, Texas would rank as the world's seventh-largest producer of greenhouse gases. Causes of the state's vast greenhouse gas emissions include the state's large number of coal power plants and the state's refining and manufacturing industries. In 2010, there were 2,553 "emission events" which poured 44.6 million pounds of contaminants into the Texas sky.
Texas lies between two major cultural spheres of Pre-Columbian North America: the Southwestern and the Plains areas. Archaeologists have found that three major indigenous cultures lived in this territory, and reached their developmental peak before the first European contact. These were:
No culture was dominant in the present-day Texas region, and many peoples inhabited the area. Native American tribes that lived inside the boundaries of present-day Texas include the Alabama, Apache, Atakapan, Bidai, Caddo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Choctaw, Coushatta, Hasinai, Jumano, Karankawa, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Tonkawa, and Wichita. The name Texas derives from táyshaʔ, a word in the Caddoan language of the Hasinai, which means "friends" or "allies".
Whether a Native American tribe was friendly or warlike was critical to the fates of European explorers and settlers in that land. Friendly tribes taught newcomers how to grow indigenous crops, prepare foods, and hunt wild game. Warlike tribes made life difficult and dangerous for Europeans through their attacks and resistance to the newcomers.
The first historical document related to Texas was a map of the Gulf Coast, created in 1519 by Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda. Nine years later, shipwrecked Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his cohort became the first Europeans in what is now Texas. Cabeza de Vaca reported that in 1528, when the Spanish landed in the area, "half the natives died from a disease of the bowels and blamed us."
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado describes his 1541 encounter with "Two kinds of people travel around these plains with the cows; one is called Querechos and the others Teyas; they are very well built, and painted, and are enemies of each other. They have no other settlement or location than comes from traveling around with the cows. They kill all of these they wish, and tan the hides, with which they clothe themselves and make their tents, and they eat the flesh, sometimes even raw, and they also even drink the blood when thirsty. The tents they make are like field tents, and they set them up over some poles they have made for this purpose, which come together and are tied at the top, and when they go from one place to another they carry them on some dogs they have, of which they have many, and they load them with the tents and poles and other things, for the country is so level, as I said, that they can make use of these, because they carry the poles dragging along on the ground. The sun is what they worship most."
European powers ignored the area until accidentally settling there in 1685. Miscalculations by René Robert Cavelier de La Salle resulted in his establishing the colony of Fort Saint Louis at Matagorda Bay rather than along the Mississippi River. The colony lasted only four years before succumbing to harsh conditions and hostile natives.
In 1690 Spanish authorities, concerned that France posed competitive threat, constructed several missions in East Texas. After Native American resistance, the Spanish missionaries returned to Mexico. When France began settling Louisiana, mostly in the southern part of the state, in 1716 Spanish authorities responded by founding a new series of missions in East Texas. Two years later, they created San Antonio as the first Spanish civilian settlement in the area.
Hostile native tribes and distance from nearby Spanish colonies discouraged settlers from moving to the area. It was one of New Spain's least populated provinces. In 1749, the Spanish peace treaty with the Lipan Apache angered many tribes, including the Comanche, Tonkawa, and Hasinai. The Comanche signed a treaty with Spain in 1785 and later helped to defeat the Lipan Apache and Karankawa tribes. With more numerous missions being established, priests led a peaceful conversion of most tribes. By the end of the 18th century only a few nomadic tribes had not converted to Christianity.
When the United States purchased Louisiana from France in 1803, American authorities insisted that the agreement also included Texas. The boundary between New Spain and the United States was finally set at the Sabine River in 1819, at what is now the border between Texas and Louisiana. Eager for new land, many United States settlers refused to recognize the agreement. Several filibusters raised armies to invade the area west of the Sabine River. In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence included the Texas territory, which became part of Mexico. Due to its low population, Mexico made the area part of the state of Coahuila y Tejas.
Hoping that more settlers would reduce the near-constant Comanche raids, Mexican Texas liberalized its immigration policies to permit immigrants from outside Mexico and Spain. Under the Mexican immigration system, large swathes of land were allotted to empresarios, who recruited settlers from the United States, Europe, and the Mexican interior. The first grant, to Moses Austin, was passed to his son Stephen F. Austin after his death.
Austin's settlers, the Old Three Hundred, made places along the Brazos River in 1822. Twenty-three other empresarios brought settlers to the state, the majority of whom were from the United States. The population of Texas grew rapidly. In 1825, Texas had a population of approximately 3,500, with most of Mexican descent. By 1834, Texas had grown to approximately 37,800 people, with only 7,800 of Mexican descent.
Many immigrants openly flouted Mexican law, especially the prohibition against slavery. Combined with United States' attempts to purchase Texas, Mexican authorities decided in 1830 to prohibit continued immigration from the United States. New laws also called for the enforcement of customs duties angering both native Mexican citizens (Tejanos) and recent immigrants.
The Anahuac Disturbances in 1832 were the first open revolt against Mexican rule and they coincided with a revolt in Mexico against the nation's president. Texians sided with the federalists against the current government and drove all Mexican soldiers out of East Texas. They took advantage of the lack of oversight to agitate for more political freedom. Texians met at the Convention of 1832 to discuss requesting independent statehood, among other issues. The following year, Texians reiterated their demands at the Convention of 1833.
Within Mexico, tensions continued between federalists and centralists. In early 1835, wary Texians formed Committees of Correspondence and Safety. The unrest erupted into armed conflict in late 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales. This launched the Texas Revolution, and over the next two months, the Texians defeated all Mexican troops in the region. Texians elected delegates to the Consultation, which created a provisional government. The provisional government soon collapsed from infighting, and Texas was without clear governance for the first two months of 1836.
During this time of political turmoil, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna personally led an army to end the revolt. The Mexican expedition was initially successful. General Jose de Urrea defeated all the Texian resistance along the coast culminating in the Goliad Massacre. Santa Anna's forces, after a thirteen-day siege, overwhelmed Texian defenders at the Battle of the Alamo. News of the defeats sparked panic amongst Texas settlers.
The newly elected Texian delegates to the Convention of 1836 quickly signed a Declaration of Independence on March 2, forming the Republic of Texas. After electing interim officers, the Convention disbanded. The new government joined the other settlers in Texas in the Runaway Scrape, fleeing from the approaching Mexican army. After several weeks of retreat, the Texian Army commanded by Sam Houston attacked and defeated Santa Anna's forces at the Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured and forced to sign the Treaties of Velasco, ending the war.
While Texas had won their independence, political battles raged between two factions of the new Republic. The nationalist faction, led by Mirabeau B. Lamar, advocated the continued independence of Texas, the expulsion of the Native Americans, and the expansion of the Republic to the Pacific Ocean. Their opponents, led by Sam Houston, advocated the annexation of Texas to the United States and peaceful co-existence with Native Americans. The conflict between the factions was typified by an incident known as the Texas Archive War.
Mexico launched two small expeditions into Texas in 1842. The town of San Antonio was captured twice and Texans were defeated in battle in the Dawson Massacre. Despite these successes, Mexico did not keep an occupying force in Texas, and the republic survived. The republic's inability to defend itself added momentum to Texas's eventual annexation into the United States.
As early as 1837, the Republic made several attempts to negotiate annexation with the United States. Opposition within the republic from the nationalist faction, along with strong abolitionist opposition within the United States, slowed Texas's admission into the Union. Texas was finally annexed when the expansionist James K. Polk won the election of 1844. On December 29, 1845, Congress admitted Texas to the U.S. as a constituent state of the Union.
After Texas's annexation, Mexico broke diplomatic relations with the United States. While the United States claimed that Texas's border stretched to the Rio Grande, Mexico claimed it was the Nueces River. While the former Republic of Texas could not enforce its border claims, the United States had the military strength and the political will to do so. President Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor south to the Rio Grande on January 13, 1846. A few months later Mexican troops routed an American cavalry patrol in the disputed area in the Thornton Affair starting the Mexican-American War. The first battles of the war were fought in Texas: the Siege of Fort Texas, Battle of Palo Alto and Battle of Resaca de la Palma. After these decisive victories, the United States invaded Mexican territory ending the fighting in Texas.
After a series of United States victories, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the two-year war. In return, for US$18,250,000, Mexico gave the U.S. undisputed control of Texas, ceded the Mexican Cession in 1848, most of which today is called the American Southwest, and Texas's borders were established at the Rio Grande.
The Compromise of 1850 set Texas's boundaries at their present form. U.S. Senator James Pearce of Maryland drafted the final proposal where Texas ceded its claims to land which later became half of present day New Mexico, a third of Colorado, and small portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming to the federal government, in return for the assumption of $10 million of the old republic's debt. Post-war Texas grew rapidly as migrants poured into the cotton lands of the state.
They also brought or purchased enslaved African Americans, whose numbers tripled in the state from 1850 to 1860, from 58,000 to 182,566.
Texas was at war again after the election of 1860. At this time, blacks comprised 30 percent of the state's population, and they were overwhelmingly enslaved. When Abraham Lincoln was elected, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Five other Lower South states quickly followed. A State Convention considering secession opened in Austin on January 28, 1861. On February 1, by a vote of 166–8, the Convention adopted an Ordinance of Secession from the United States. Texas voters approved this Ordinance on February 23, 1861. Texas joined the newly created Confederate States of America on March 4, 1861 ratifying the permanent C.S. Constitution on March 23.
Not all Texans favored secession initially, although many of the same would later support the Southern cause. Texas's most notable Unionist was the state Governor, Sam Houston. Not wanting to aggravate the situation, Houston refused two offers from President Lincoln for Union troops to keep him in office. After refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, Houston was deposed as Governor.
While far from the major battlefields of the American Civil War, Texas contributed large numbers of men and equipment to the rest of the Confederacy. Union troops briefly occupied the state's primary port, Galveston. Texas's border with Mexico was known as the "backdoor of the Confederacy" because trade occurred at the border, bypassing the Union blockade. The Confederacy repulsed all Union attempts to shut down this route, but Texas's role as a supply state was marginalized in mid-1863 after the Union capture of the Mississippi River. The final battle of the Civil War was fought near Brownsville, Texas at Palmito Ranch with a Confederate victory.
Texas descended into anarchy for two months between the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia and the assumption of authority by Union General Gordon Granger. Violence marked the early months of Reconstruction. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston by General Gordon Granger, almost two and a half years after the original announcement. President Johnson, in 1866, declared the civilian government restored in Texas. Despite not meeting reconstruction requirements, Congress resumed allowing elected Texas representatives into the federal government in 1870. Social volatility continued as the state struggled with agricultural depression and labor issues.
In 1900, Texas received the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history during the Galveston hurricane. On January 10, 1901, the first major oil well in Texas, Spindletop, was found south of Beaumont. Other fields were later discovered nearby in East Texas, West Texas, and under the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting "Oil Boom" transformed Texas. Oil production eventually averaged three million barrels per day at its peak in 1972.
In 1901, the Democratic-dominated state legislature passed a bill requiring payment of a poll tax for voting, which effectively disfranchised most blacks, many poor whites and Latinos. Establishing white primaries ensured minorities were excluded from the formal political process. The number of voters dropped dramatically, and the Democrats crushed competition from the Republican and Populist parties.
The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl dealt a double blow to the state's economy, which had significantly improved since the Civil War. Migrants abandoned the worst hit sections of Texas during the Dust Bowl years. Especially from this period on, blacks left Texas in the Great Migration to get work in the Northern United States or California and to escape the oppression of segregation. In 1940, Texas was 74 percent Anglo, 14.4 percent black, and 11.5 percent Hispanic.
World War II had a dramatic impact on Texas, as federal money poured in to build military bases, munitions factories, POW detention camps and Army hospitals; 750,000 young men left for service; the cities exploded with new industry; the colleges took on new roles; and hundreds of thousands of poor farmers left for much better paying war jobs, never to return to agriculture. Texas manufactured 3.1 percent of total United States military armaments produced during World War II, ranking eleventh among the 48 states.
Texas modernized and expanded its system of higher education through the 1960s. The state created a comprehensive plan for higher education, funded in large part by oil revenues, and a central state apparatus designed to manage state institutions more efficiently. These changes helped Texas universities receive federal research funds.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Like many states, it explicitly provides for a separation of powers. The state's Bill of Rights is much larger than its federal counterpart, and has provisions unique to Texas.
Texas has a plural executive branch system limiting the power of the Governor. Except for the Secretary of State, voters elect executive officers independently; thus candidates are directly answerable to the public, not the Governor. This election system has led to some executive branches split between parties. When Republican President George W. Bush served as Texas's governor, the state had a Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock. The executive branch positions consist of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Land Commissioner, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of State.
The bicameral Texas Legislature consists of the House of Representatives, with 150 members, and a Senate, with 31 members. The Speaker of the House leads the House, and the Lieutenant Governor, the Senate. The Legislature meets in regular session biennially for just over 100 days, but the Governor can call for special sessions as often as desired (notably, the Legislature cannot call itself into session). The state's fiscal year spans from the previous calendar year's September 1 to the current year's August 31. Thus, the FY 2015 dates from September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2015.
The judiciary of Texas is one of the most complex in the United States, with many layers and overlapping jurisdictions. Texas has two courts of last resort: the Texas Supreme Court, for civil cases, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Except for some municipal benches, partisan elections select judges at all levels of the judiciary; the Governor fills vacancies by appointment. Texas is notable for its use of capital punishment; having led the country in executions since capital punishment was reinstated in the Gregg v. Georgia case (see Capital punishment in Texas).
The Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption. They have acted as riot police and as detectives, protected the Texas governor, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force both for the republic and the state. The Texas Rangers were unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and formally constituted in 1835. The Rangers were part of several important events of Texas history and some of the best-known criminal cases in the history of the Old West.
As in other "Solid South" states, most whites resented the Republican Party after the American Civil War. White Democrats wrested power back in the state legislature from the biracial coalition at the end of Reconstruction. In the early 20th century, the legislature passed bills to impose poll taxes, followed by white primaries; these measures effectively disfranchised most blacks, poor whites and Mexican-Americans. In the 1890s, 100,000 blacks voted in the state; by 1906, only 5,000 managed to vote. As a result, the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics from the end of Reconstruction until after passage in the mid-1960s of the civil rights legislation enforcing constitutional rights. The state has since become a Republican stronghold.
The Texas political atmosphere leans towards fiscal and social conservatism. Since 1980, most Texas voters have supported Republican presidential candidates. In 2000 and 2004, Republican George W. Bush won Texas with 60.1 percent of the vote, partly due to his "favorite son" status as a former Governor of the state. John McCain won the state in 2008, but with a smaller margin of victory compared to Bush at 55 percent of the vote. Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio consistently lean Democratic in both local and statewide elections. Counties along the Rio Grande next to the Mexican border generally vote for Democrats, while most rural and suburban areas of Texas vote Republican.
The 2003 Texas redistricting of Congressional districts led by the Republican Tom DeLay, was called by the New York Times "an extreme case of partisan gerrymandering". A group of Democratic legislators, the "Texas Eleven", fled the state in a quorum-busting effort. Despite these efforts, the legislature passed a map heavily in favor of Republicans. Protests of the redistricting reached the national Supreme Court in the case League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, but the ruling went in the Republicans' favor.
As of the general elections of 2014, a large majority of the members of Texas's U.S. House delegation are Republican, along with both U.S. Senators. In the 114th United States Congress, of the 36 Congressional districts in Texas, 25 are held by Republicans and 11 by Democrats. Texas's Senators are John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Since 1994, Texans have not elected a Democrat to a statewide office. The state's Democratic presence comes primarily from some minority groups in East Texas and South Texas as well as urban voters, particularly in Beaumont, El Paso, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.
Texas has 254 counties— the most nationwide. Each county runs on Commissioners' Court system consisting of four elected commissioners (one from each of four precincts in the county, roughly divided according to population) and a county judge elected at large from the entire county. County government runs similar to a "weak" mayor-council system; the county judge has no veto authority, but votes along with the other commissioners.
Although Texas permits cities and counties to enter "interlocal agreements" to share services, the state does not allow consolidated city-county governments, nor does it have metropolitan governments. Counties are not granted home rule status; their powers are strictly defined by state law. The state does not have townships— areas within a county are either incorporated or unincorporated. Incorporated areas are part of a municipality. The county provides limited services to unincorporated areas and to some smaller incorporated areas. Municipalities are classified either "general law" cities or "home rule". A municipality may elect home rule status once it exceeds 5,000 population with voter approval.
Texas also permits the creation of "special districts", which provide limited services. The most common is the school district, but can also include hospital districts, community college districts, and utility districts (one utility district located near Austin was the plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court case involving the Voting Rights Act).
Municipal, school district, and special district elections are nonpartisan, though the party affiliation of a candidate may be well-known. County and state elections are partisan.
Texas has a reputation of harsh criminal punishment for criminal offenses. It is one of the 32 states that practice capital punishment, and since the US Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976, 40% of all US executions have taken place in Texas. As of 2008, Texas had the 4th highest incarceration rate in the US. Texas also has strong self defense laws, allowing citizens to use lethal force to defend themselves, their families, or their property.
As of 2010, Texas had a gross state product (GSP) of $1.207 trillion, the second highest in the U.S. Its GSP is comparable to the GDP of India or Canada, which are the world's 12th- and 11th-largest economies, respectively. Texas' economy is the fourth-largest of any country subdivision globally, behind England (as part of the UK), California, and Tokyo Prefecture. Its Per Capita personal income in 2009 was $36,484, ranking 29th in the nation.
Texas's large population, abundance of natural resources, thriving cities and leading centers of higher education have contributed to a large and diverse economy. Since oil was discovered, the state's economy has reflected the state of the petroleum industry. In recent times, urban centers of the state have increased in size, containing two-thirds of the population in 2005. The state's economic growth has led to urban sprawl and its associated symptoms.
As of April 2013, the state's unemployment rate is 6.4 percent.
In 2010, Site Selection Magazine ranked Texas as the most business-friendly state in the nation, in part because of the state's three-billion-dollar Texas Enterprise Fund. Texas has the joint-highest number of Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States, along with California.
In 2010, there were 346,000 millionaires in Texas, constituting the second-largest population of millionaires in the nation.
Texas has a "low taxes, low services" reputation. According to the Tax Foundation, Texans' state and local tax burdens rank among the lowest in the nation, 7th lowest nationally; state and local taxes cost $3,580 per capita, or 8.4 percent of resident incomes. Texas is one of seven states that lack a state income tax.
Instead, the state collects revenue from property taxes (though these are collected at the county, city, and school district level; Texas has a state constitutional prohibition against a state property tax) and sales taxes. The state sales tax rate is 6.25 percent, but local taxing jurisdictions (cities, counties, special purpose districts, and transit authorities) may also impose sales and use tax up to 2 percent for a total maximum combined rate of 8.25 percent.
Texas is a "tax donor state"; in 2005, for every dollar Texans paid to the federal government in federal income taxes, the state received approximately $0.94 in benefits.
Texas has the most farms and the highest acreage in the United States. Texas leads the nation in livestock production. Cattle is the state's most valuable agricultural product, and the state leads nationally in production of sheep and goat products. Texas leads the nation in production of cotton. The state grows significant amounts of cereal crops and produce. Texas has a large commercial fishing industry. With mineral resources, Texas leads in creating cement, crushed stone, lime, salt, sand and gravel.
Texas throughout the 21st century has been hammered by drought. This has cost the state billions of dollars in livestock and crops.
Ever since the discovery of oil at Spindletop, energy has been a dominant force politically and economically within the state. If Texas were its own country it would be the sixth largest oil producer in the world.
The Railroad Commission of Texas, contrary to its name, regulates the state's oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, and surface coal and uranium mining. Until the 1970s, the commission controlled the price of petroleum because of its ability to regulate Texas's oil reserves. The founders of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) used the Texas agency as one of their models for petroleum price control.
Texas has known petroleum deposits of about 5 billion barrels (790,000,000 m3), which makes up approximately one-fourth of the known U.S. reserves. The state's refineries can process 4.6 million barrels (730,000 m3) of oil a day. The Baytown Refinery in the Houston area is the largest refinery in America. Texas also leads in natural gas production, producing one-fourth of the nation's supply. Several petroleum companies are based in Texas such as: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Tesoro, and Valero, Western Refining.
The state is a leader in renewable energy commercialization; it produces the most wind power in the nation. The Roscoe Wind Farm in Roscoe, Texas, is the world's largest wind farm as of October 2009 with a 781.5 megawatt (MW) capacity. The Energy Information Administration states that the state's large agriculture and forestry industries could give Texas an enormous amount biomass for use in biofuels. The state also has the highest solar power potential for development in the nation.
According to the Energy Information Administration, Texans consume, on average, the fifth most energy in the nation per capita and as a whole, following behind Wyoming, Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Iowa. Unlike the rest of the nation, most of Texas is on its own alternating current power grid, the Texas Interconnection. Texas has a deregulated electric service.
With large universities systems coupled with initiatives like the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a wide array of different high tech industries have developed in Texas. The Austin area is nicknamed the "Silicon Hills" and the north Dallas area the "Silicon Prairie". Texas has the headquarters of many high technology companies, such as Dell, Inc., Texas Instruments, Perot Systems, Rackspace and AT&T.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (NASA JSC) located in Southeast Houston, sits as the crown jewel of Texas's aeronautics industry. Fort Worth hosts both Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics division and Bell Helicopter Textron. Lockheed builds the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the largest Western fighter program, and its successor, the F-35 Lightning II in Fort Worth.
Texas's affluence stimulates a strong commercial sector consisting of retail, wholesale, banking and insurance, and construction industries. Examples of Fortune 500 companies not based on Texas traditional industries are AT&T, Kimberly-Clark, Blockbuster, J. C. Penney, Whole Foods Market, and Tenet Healthcare. Nationally, the Dallas–Fort Worth area, home to the second shopping mall in the United States, has the most shopping malls per capita of any American metropolitan area.
Mexico, the state's largest trading partner, imports a third of the state's exports because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA has encouraged the formation of controversial maquiladoras on the Texas/Mexico border.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Texas was 26,448,193 on July 1, 2013, a 5.2 percent increase since the 2010 United States Census.
As of 2004, the state had 3.5 million foreign-born residents (15.6 percent of the state population), of which an estimated 1.2 million are illegal aliens. Texas from 2000–2006 had the fastest growing illegal immigration rate in the nation. In 2010, illegal aliens constituted an estimated 6.0 percent of the population. This was the fifth highest percentage of any state in the country. In 2015, the population of illegal aliens living in Texas was around 0.8 million.
Texas' Rio Grande Valley is ground zero for illegal immigration across the Southwest border. According to a June 2014 Los Angeles Times article, Illegal immigrants are arriving at a rate of more than 35,000 a month. It is expected that the number of minors traveling alone from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador is growing and will reach up to 90,000 by the end of 2014. Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans make up roughly 75% of illegals in South Texas.
Texas's population density is 34.8 persons/km2 which is slightly higher than the average population density of the U.S. as a whole, at 31 persons/km2. In contrast, while Texas and France are similarly sized geographically, the European country has a population density of 116 persons/km2.
Two-thirds of all Texans live in a major metropolitan area such as Houston. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area is the largest in Texas. While Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is larger than that of Houston.
According to the 2010 United States census, the racial composition of Texas was the following:
In addition, 37.6 percent of the population are Hispanic or Latino (of any race) (31.6 percent Mexican, 0.9 percent Salvadoran, 0.5 percent Puerto Rican, 0.4 percent Honduran, 0.3 percent Guatemalan 0.3 percent Spaniard, 0.2 percent Colombian, 0.2 percent Cuban)
German, Irish, and English Americans are the three largest European ancestry groups in Texas. German Americans make up 11.3 percent of the population, and number over 2.7 million members. Irish Americans make up 8.2 percent of the population, and number over 1.9 million members. There are roughly 600,000 French Americans and 472,000 Italian Americans residing in Texas; these two ethnic groups make up 2.5 percent and 2.0 percent of the population respectively. In the 1980 United States Census the largest ancestry group reported in Texas was English with 3,083,323 Texans citing that they were of English or mostly English ancestry making them 27 percent of the state at the time. Their ancestry primarily goes back to the original thirteen colonies and thus many of them today identify as "American" in ancestry, though they are of predominately British stock. There are nearly 200,000 Czech-Americans living in Texas, the largest number of any state.
African Americans are the largest racial minority in Texas. Their proportion of population has declined since the early 20th century, after many left the state in the Great Migration. Blacks of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin make up 11.5 percent of the population; blacks of non-Hispanic origin form 11.3 percent of the populace. African Americans of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin number at roughly 2.7 million individuals.
Native Americans are a smaller minority in the state. Native Americans make up 0.5 percent of Texas' population, and number over 118,000 individuals. Native Americans of non-Hispanic origin make up 0.3 percent of the population, and number over 75,000 individuals. Cherokee made up 0.1 percent of the population, and numbered over 19,400 members. In contrast, only 583 identified as Chippewa.
Asian Americans are a sizable minority group in Texas. Americans of Asian descent form 3.8 percent of the population, with those of non-Hispanic descent making up 3.7 percent of the populace. They total more than 808,000 individuals. Non-Hispanic Asians number over 795,000. Just over 200,000 Indians make Texas their home. Texas is also home to over 187,000 Vietnamese and 136,000 Chinese. In addition to 92,000 Filipinos and 62,000 Koreans, there are 18,000 Japanese Americans living in the state. Lastly, over 111,000 people are of other Asian ancestry groups, such as Cambodian, Thai, and Hmong. Sugar Land, a city within the Houston metropolitan area, and Plano, located within the Dallas metropolitan area, both have high concentrations of ethnic Chinese and Korean residents. The Houston and Dallas areas, and to a lesser extent, the Austin metropolitan area, all contain substantial Vietnamese communities.
Americans with origins from the Pacific are the smallest minority in Texas. According to the survey, only 18,000 Texans are Pacific Islanders; 16,400 are of non-Hispanic descent. There are roughly 5,400 Native Hawaiians, 5,300 Guamanians, and 6,400 people from other groups. Samoan Americans were scant; only 2,920 people were from this group. The city of Euless, a suburb of Fort Worth, contains a sizable population of Tongan Americans, at nearly 900 people, over one percent of the city's population. Killeen has a sufficient population of Samoans and Guamanian, and people of Pacific Islander descent surpass one percent of the city's population.
Multiracial individuals are also a visible minority in Texas. People identifying as multiracial form 1.9 percent of the population, and number over 448,000 people. Almost 80,000 Texans claim African and European heritage, and make up 0.3 percent of the population. People of European and Native American heritage number over 108,800 (close to the number of Native Americans), and make up 0.5 percent of the population. People of European and Asian heritage number over 57,600, and form just 0.2 percent of the population. People of African and Native American heritage were even smaller in number (15,300), and make up just 0.1 percent of the total population.
Hispanics and Latinos are the second largest group in Texas after non-Hispanic European Americans. Over 8.5 million people claim Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. This group forms 36 percent of Texas' population. People of Mexican descent alone number over 7.3 million, and make up 30.7 percent of the population. Over 104,000 Puerto Ricans live in the state. Roughly 38,000 Cubans reside in the state. Over 1.1 million people (4.7 percent of the population) are of varying Hispanic and Latino ancestries, such as Costa Rican, Venezuelan, and Argentine. The Hispanics in Texas are more likely than in some other states (such as California) to identify as white; according to the 2010 U.S. Census, Texas is home to 6,304,207 White Hispanics and 2,594,206 Hispanics of "some other race" (usually mestizo).
German descendants inhabit much of central and southeast-central Texas. Over one-third of Texas residents are of Hispanic origin; while many have recently arrived, some Tejanos have ancestors with multi-generational ties to 18th century Texas. In addition to the descendants of the state's former slave population, many African American college graduates have come to the state for work recently in the New Great Migration. Recently, the Asian population in Texas has grown—primarily in Houston and Dallas. Other communities with a significantly growing Asian American population is in Austin, Corpus Christi, and the Sharyland area next McAllen, Texas. Currently, three federally recognized Native American tribes reside in Texas: the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe, and the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo.
In 2010, 49 percent of all births were Hispanics; 35 percent were non-Hispanic whites; 11.5 percent were non-Hispanic blacks, and 4.3 percent were Asians/Pacific Islanders. Based on Census Bureau data released on February 2011, for the first time in recent history, Texas' white population is below 50 percent (45 percent) and Hispanics grew to 38 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, the total population growth by 20.6 percent, but Hispanics growth by 65 percent, whereas non-Hispanic whites only grew by 4.2 percent. Texas has the fifth highest rate of teenage births in the nation and a plurality of these are to Hispanics.
The state has three cities with populations exceeding one million: Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. These three rank among the 10 most populous cities of the United States. As of 2010, six Texas cities had populations greater than 600,000 people. Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso are among the 20 largest U.S. cities. Texas has four metropolitan areas with populations greater than a million: Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown, San Antonio–New Braunfels, and Austin–Round Rock–San Marcos. The Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston metropolitan areas number about 6.3 million and 5.7 million residents, respectively.
Three interstate highways—I-35 to the west (Dallas–Fort Worth to San Antonio, with Austin in between), I-45 to the east (Dallas to Houston), and I-10 to the south (San Antonio to Houston) define the Texas Urban Triangle region. The region of 60,000 square miles (160,000 km2) contains most of the state's largest cities and metropolitan areas as well as 17 million people, nearly 75 percent of Texas's total population. Houston and Dallas have been recognized as beta world cities. These cities are spread out amongst the state. Texas has 254 counties, which is more than any state by 95 (Georgia).
In contrast to the cities, unincorporated rural settlements known as colonias often lack basic infrastructure and are marked by poverty. The office of the Texas Attorney General in 2011 that Texas had about 2,294 colonias and estimates that about 500,000 lived in the colonias. Hidalgo County, as of 2011, has the largest number of colonias. Texas has the largest number of people of all states, living in colonias.
The most common accent and/or dialect spoken by natives throughout Texas is sometimes referred to as Texan English, which itself is a sub-variety of a broader category of American English known as Southern American English. In some areas of the state—particularly in the large cities – Western American English and General American English, have been on the increase. Chicano English—due to a growing Hispanic population—is widespread in South Texas, while African American Vernacular English, is especially notable in historically minority areas of urban Texas.
As of 2010, 65.8% (14,740,304) of Texas residents age 5 and older spoke only English at home, while 29.2% (6,543,702) spoke Spanish, 0.75 percent (168,886) Vietnamese, and Chinese (which includes Cantonese and Mandarin) was spoken by 0.56% (122,921) of the population over the age of five.
Other languages spoken include German (including Texas German) by 0.33% (73,137,) Tagalog with 0.29% (73,137) speakers, and French (including Cajun French) was spoken by 0.25% (55,773) of Texans. Reportedly, Cherokee is the most widely spoken Native American language in Texas.
In total, 34.2% (7,660,406) of Texas's population aged five and older spoke a language at home other than English.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church (4,673,500); the Southern Baptist Convention (3,721,318); the United Methodist Church with (1,035,168); and Islam (421,972).
Known as the buckle of the Bible Belt, East Texas is socially conservative. The Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex is home to three major evangelical seminaries and a host of monasteries. Lakewood Church in Houston, boasts the largest attendance in the nation averaging more than 43,000 weekly.
Adherents of many other religions reside predominantly in the urban centers of Texas. In 1990, the Islamic population was approximately 140,000 with more recent figures putting the current population of Muslims between 350,000 to 400,000. The Jewish population is around 128,000. Approximately 146,000 adherents of religions such as Hinduism and Sikhism live in Texas. It is the fifth-largest Muslim-populated state in the country.
Historically, Texas culture comes from a blend of Southern (Dixie), Western (frontier), and Southwestern (Mexican/Anglo fusion) influences, varying in degrees of such from one intrastate region to another. A popular food item, the breakfast burrito, draws from all three, having a soft flour tortilla wrapped around bacon and scrambled eggs or other hot, cooked fillings. Adding to Texas's traditional culture, established in the 18th and 19th centuries, immigration has made Texas a melting pot of cultures from around the world.
Texas has made a strong mark on national and international pop culture. The state is strongly associated with the image of the cowboy shown in westerns and in country western music. The state's numerous oil tycoons are also a popular pop culture topic as seen in the hit TV series Dallas.
The internationally known slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" began as an anti-littering advertisement. Since the campaign's inception in 1986, the phrase has become "an identity statement, a declaration of Texas swagger".
Texas-sized is an expression that can be used in two ways: to describe something that is approximately the size of the U.S. state of Texas, or to describe something (usually but not always originating from Texas) that is large compared to other objects of its type. Texas was the largest U.S. state, until Alaska became a state in 1959. The physical size of the state and the bigger-than-life attitude of some of its inhabitants has led to the saying that "Everything is bigger in Texas."
Houston is one of only five American cities with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines: the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet, and The Alley Theatre. Known for the vibrancy of its visual and performing arts, the Houston Theater District—a 17-block area in the heart of Downtown Houston— ranks second in the country in the number of theater seats in a concentrated downtown area, with 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,480 movie seats.
Founded in 1892, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, also called "The Modern", is Texas's oldest art museum. Fort Worth also has the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and the Bass Performance Hall downtown. The Arts District of Downtown Dallas has arts venues such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
The Deep Ellum district within Dallas became popular during the 1920s and 1930s as the prime jazz and blues hotspot in the Southern United States. The name Deep Ellum comes from local people pronouncing "Deep Elm" as "Deep Ellum". Artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith played in early Deep Ellum clubs.
Austin, The Live Music Capital of the World, boasts "more live music venues per capita than such music hotbeds as Nashville, Memphis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas or New York City." The city's music revolves around the nightclubs on 6th Street; events like the film, music, and multimedia festival South by Southwest; the longest-running concert music program on American television, Austin City Limits; and the Austin City Limits Music Festival held in Zilker Park.
Since 1980, San Antonio has evolved into "The Tejano Music Capital Of The World." The Tejano Music Awards have provided a forum to create greater awareness and appreciation for Tejano music and culture.
The second president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, is the Father of Texas Education. During his term, the state set aside three leagues of land in each county for equipping public schools. An additional 50 leagues of land set aside for the support of two universities would later become the basis of the state's Permanent University Fund. Lamar's actions set the foundation for a Texas-wide public school system.
Between 2006 and 2007, Texas spent $7,275 per pupil ranking it below the national average of $9,389. The pupil/teacher ratio was 14.9, below the national average of 15.3. Texas paid instructors $41,744, below the national average of $46,593. The state provided 88.0 percent of the funding for education, the federal government 12.0 percent. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) administers the state's public school systems. Texas has over 1,000 school districts- all districts except the Stafford Municipal School District are independent from municipal government and many cross city boundaries. School districts have the power to tax their residents and to assert eminent domain over privately owned property. Due to court-mandated equitable school financing for school districts, the state has a controversial tax redistribution system called the"Robin Hood plan". This plan transfers property tax revenue from wealthy school districts to poor ones. The TEA has no authority over private or home school activities.
Students in Texas take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) in primary and secondary school. STAAR assess students' attainment of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies skills required under Texas education standards and the No Child Left Behind Act. The test replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test in the 2011–2012 school year.
The state's two most widely-recognized flagship universities are The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, ranked as the 52nd and 69th best universities in the nation according to the 2014 edition of U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges", respectively. Some observers also include the University of Houston and Texas Tech University as tier one flagships alongside UT Austin and A&M. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) ranks the state's public universities into three distinct tiers:
Texas's controversial alternative affirmative action plan, Texas House Bill 588, guarantees Texas students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class automatic admission to state-funded universities. The bill encourages demographic diversity while avoiding problems stemming from the Hopwood v. Texas (1996) case.
Thirty-six (36) separate and distinct public universities exist in Texas, of which 32 belong to one of the six state university systems. Discovery of minerals on Permanent University Fund land, particularly oil, has helped fund the rapid growth of the state's two largest university systems: The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M System. The four other university systems: the University of Houston System, the University of North Texas System, the Texas State System, and the Texas Tech System are not funded by the Permanent University Fund.
The Carnegie Foundation classifies three of Texas's universities as Tier One research institutions: The University of Texas at Austin, the Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are flagship universities of the state of Texas. Both were established by the Texas Constitution and hold stakes in the Permanent University Fund. The state has been putting effort to expand the number of flagship universities by elevating some of its seven institutions designated as "emerging research universities." The two that are expected to emerge first are the University of Houston and Texas Tech University, likely in that order according to discussions on the House floor of the 82nd Texas Legislature.
The state is home to various private institutions of higher learning—ranging from liberal arts colleges to a nationally recognized top-tier research university. Rice University in Houston is one of the leading teaching and research universities of the United States and is ranked the nation's 17th-best overall university by U.S. News & World Report. Trinity University, a private, primarily undergraduate liberal arts university in San Antonio, has ranked first among universities granting primarily bachelor's and select master's degrees in the Western United States for 20 consecutive years by U.S. News. The former republic chartered the private universities Baylor University, University of Mary Hardin–Baylor, and Southwestern University.
Universities in Texas host three presidential libraries: George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at The University of Texas at Austin, and the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University.
The Commonwealth Fund ranks the Texas healthcare system the third worst in the nation. Texas ranks close to last in access to healthcare, quality of care, avoidable hospital spending, and equity among various groups. Causes of the state's poor rankings include politics, a high poverty rate, and the highest rate of illegal immigration in the nation. In May 2006, Texas initiated the program "code red" in response to the report that the state had 25.1 percent of the population without health insurance, the largest proportion in the nation. Texas also has controversial non-economic damages caps for medical malpractice lawsuits, set at $250,000, in an attempt to "curb rising malpractice premiums, and control escalating healthcare costs".
The Trust for America's Health ranked Texas 15th highest in adult obesity, with 27.2 percent of the state's population measured as obese. The 2008 Men's Health obesity survey ranked four Texas cities among the top 25 fattest cities in America; Houston ranked 6th, Dallas 7th, El Paso 8th, and Arlington 14th. Texas had only one city, Austin, ranked 21st, in the top 25 among the "fittest cities" in America. The same survey has evaluated the state's obesity initiatives favorably with a "B+". The state is ranked forty-second in the percentage of residents who engage in regular exercise.
Many elite research medical centers are located in Texas. The state has nine medical schools, three dental schools, and two optometry schools. Texas has two Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories: one at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, and the other at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio—the first privately owned BSL-4 lab in the United States.
The Texas Medical Center in Houston, holds the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions, with 47 member institutions. Texas Medical Center performs the most heart transplants in the world. The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is a highly regarded academic institution that centers around cancer patient care, research, education and prevention.
San Antonio's South Texas Medical Center facilities rank sixth in clinical medicine research impact in the United States. The University of Texas Health Science Center is another highly ranked research and educational institution in San Antonio.
Both the American Heart Association and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center call Dallas home. The Southwestern Medical Center ranks "among the top academic medical centers in the world". The institution's medical school employs the most medical school Nobel laureates in the world.
Texans have historically had difficulties traversing Texas due to the state's large size and rough terrain. Texas has compensated by building both America's largest highway and railway systems in length. The regulatory authority, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) maintains the state's immense highway system, regulates aviation, and public transportation systems.
Located centrally in North America, the state is an important transportation hub. From the Dallas/Fort Worth area, trucks can reach 93 percent of the nation's population within 48 hours, and 37 percent within 24 hours. Texas has 33 foreign trade zones (FTZ), the most in the nation. In 2004, a combined total of $298 billion of goods passed though Texas FTZs.
The first Texas freeway was the Gulf Freeway opened in 1948 in Houston. As of 2005, 79,535 miles (127,999 km) of public highway crisscrossed Texas (up from 71,000 miles (114,263 km) in 1984). To fund recent growth in the state highways, Texas has 17 toll roads (see list) with several additional tollways proposed. In central Texas, the southern section of the State Highway 130 toll road has a speed limit of 85 miles per hour (137 km/h), the highest in the nation. All federal and state highways in Texas are paved.
Texas has 730 airports, second most of any state in the nation. Largest in Texas by size and passengers served, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the second largest by area in the United States, and fourth in the world with 18,076 acres (73.15 km2). In traffic, DFW is the busiest in the state, the fourth busiest in the United States, and sixth worldwide. American Airlines Group's American / American Eagle, the world's largest airline in total passengers-miles transported and passenger fleet size, uses DFW as its largest and main hub. Southwest Airlines, headquartered in Dallas, has its operations at Dallas Love Field. It ranks as the largest airline in the United States by number of passengers carried domestically per year and the largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried.
Texas's second-largest air facility is Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). It served as the largest hub for the former Continental Airlines, which was based in Houston; it serves as the largest hub for United Airlines, the world's third-largest airline, by passenger-miles flown. IAH offers service to the most Mexican destinations of any U.S. airport. The next five largest airports in the state all serve over 3 million passengers annually; they include:Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, San Antonio International Airport, Dallas Love Field and El Paso International Airport. The smallest airport in the state to be designated an international airport is Del Rio International Airport.
Around 1,150 seaports dot Texas's coast with over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of channels. Ports employ nearly one-million people and handle an average of 317 million metric tons. Texas ports connect with the rest of the U.S. Atlantic seaboard with the Gulf section of the Intracoastal Waterway. The Port of Houston today is the busiest port in the United States in foreign tonnage, second in overall tonnage, and tenth worldwide in tonnage. The Houston Ship Channel spans 530 feet (160 m) wide by 45 feet (14 m) deep by 50 miles (80 km) long.
Part of the state's tradition of cowboys is derived from the massive cattle drives which its ranchers organized in the nineteenth century to drive livestock to railroads and markets in Kansas, for shipment to the East. Towns along the way, such as Baxter Springs, the first cow town in Kansas, developed to handle the seasonal workers and tens of thousands of head of cattle being driven.
The first railroad to operate in Texas was the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, opening in August 1853. The first railroad to enter Texas from the north, completed in 1872, was the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. With increasing railroad access, the ranchers did not have to take their livestock up to the Midwest, and shipped beef out from Texas. This caused a decline in the economies of the cow towns.
Since 1911, Texas has led the nation in length of railroad miles within the state. Texas railway length peaked in 1932 at 17,078 miles (27,484 km), but declined to 14,006 miles (22,540 km) by 2000. While the Railroad Commission of Texas originally regulated state railroads, in 2005 the state reassigned these duties to TxDOT.
Both Dallas and Houston feature light rail systems. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) built the first light rail system in the Southwest United States, completed in 1996. The Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter rail service, which connects Fort Worth and Dallas, is provided by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T) and DART. In the Austin area, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates a commuter rail service known as Capital MetroRail to the northwestern suburbs. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) operates light rail lines in the Houston area.
Amtrak provides Texas with limited intercity passenger rail service. Three scheduled routes serve the state: the daily Texas Eagle (Chicago–San Antonio); the tri-weekly Sunset Limited (New Orleans–Los Angeles), with stops in Texas; and the daily Heartland Flyer (Fort Worth–Oklahoma City).
Terminal D at DFW Airport in Dallas.
Terminal E at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
Port of Houston along the Houston Ship Channel
METRORail in Houston
DART Rail in Dallas
Capital MetroRail in Austin
While American football has long been considered "king" in the state, Texans today enjoy a wide variety of sports.
Texans can cheer for a plethora of professional sports teams. Within the "Big Four" professional leagues, Texas has two NFL teams (the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans), two Major League Baseball teams (the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros), three NBA teams (the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Dallas Mavericks), and one National Hockey League team (the Dallas Stars). The Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex is one of only twelve American metropolitan areas that hosts sports teams from all the "Big Four" professional leagues. Outside of the "Big Four" leagues, Texas also has one WNBA team (the San Antonio Stars) and two Major League Soccer teams (the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas).
Collegiate athletics have deep significance in Texas culture, especially football. The state has ten Division I-FBS schools, the most in the nation. Four of the state's universities, the Baylor Bears, Texas Longhorns, TCU Horned Frogs, and Texas Tech Red Raiders, compete in the Big 12 Conference. The Texas A&M Aggies left the Big 12 and joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, which led the Big 12 to invite TCU to join; TCU was previously in the Mountain West Conference. The Houston Cougars and the SMU Mustangs compete in the American Athletic Conference. Four of the state's schools claim at least one national championship in football: the Texas Longhorns, the Texas A&M Aggies, the TCU Horned Frogs, and the SMU Mustangs.
According to a survey of Division I-A coaches the rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin, the Red River Shootout, ranks the third best in the nation. The TCU Horned Frogs and SMU Mustangs also share a rivalry and compete annually in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. A fierce rivalry, the Lone Star Showdown, also exists between the state's two largest universities, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin. The athletics portion of the Lone Star Showdown rivalry has been put on hold after the Texas A&M Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference.
The University Interscholastic League (UIL) organizes most primary and secondary school competitions. Events organized by UIL include contests in athletics (the most popular being high school football) as well as artistic and academic subjects.
Texans also enjoy the rodeo. The world's first rodeo was hosted in Pecos, Texas. The annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest rodeo in the world. It begins with trail rides that originate from several points throughout the state that convene at Reliant Park. The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth is the oldest continuously running rodeo incorporating many of the state's most historic traditions into its annual events. Dallas hosts the State Fair of Texas each year at Fair Park.
Texas Motor Speedway hosts annual NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar Series auto races since 1997. Since 2012, Austin's Circuit of the Americas plays host to a round of the Formula 1 World Championship —the first at a permanent road circuit in the United States since the 1980 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International—, as well as Grand Prix motorcycle racing, FIA World Endurance Championship and United SportsCar Championship races.
Cowboys Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys
Playoff game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007
The Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers
BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo