Bascom Giles
Year In Office: 1945

Born September 21, 1900, on a farm near Manor, Travis County, Texas, where he now resides, having reoccupied the old Giles homestead, “Farmhaven”, established in 1850 by his great grandfather, Samuel Bolivar Giles.

He is the son of Banton W. Giles and Leora Norwood Giles, both members of pioneer Travis County families. The Giles arrived in the Republic of Texas on Christmas Day 1836, stopping at old Washington on the Brazos, later settling in Travis County in 1850; and Mrs. Giles’ family, the Washingtons, settled in Travis County in 1845. Each generation of these families has contributed its share in the development of Travis County and Texas, identified with every constructive effort in our agricultural, educational, legislative, religious and social advancement and furnishing its quota of soldiers for our wars.

Brother Giles married Miss Effie Dean Rogan in 1921. Has two sons, Lt. James Bascom Giles, Jr., a graduate of West Point, now in the United States Army, and Sgt. Rogan Banton Giles, with the Army Air Forces.

Brother Bascom Giles entered the General Land Office in September, 1919, as a draftsman, and during the seventeen years spent in that office he was advanced to examining engineer. In November, 1936, he became associated with the State Tax Board as Chief Abstractor, which position he resigned on April 8, 1938, to make his first race for public office, Commissioner of the General Land Office. He was elected in 1938 to this most important office and as Land Commissioner has rendered to his State outstanding service.

Brother Giles applied for the degrees of Masonry in Austin Lodge No. 12 in October, 1921, which was the first stated meeting after his twenty first birthday, and his membership has remained continuously in the same Lodge. He received a Masonic Certificate in the Esoteric Work at the next Grand Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge, and has held one continuously since. Was very active in the Blue Lodge for a number of years, advancing through all the chairs, both appointive and elective. Served as Master in 1932 and 1933. He received the Scottish Rite Degrees in 1926 and was very active in the conferring of these degrees, having served as degree master of the 30th Degree for several years. A member of Ben Hur Shrine Temple, was captain of the Patrol Drill Team for a number of years, and was elected and served as potentate in 1939. He has been regular in attendance at the Grand Lodge since 1922, served on the Finance and several other committees and as Grand Pursuivant before being elected Grand Junior Warden in 1941. A member of the Jurisprudence Committee.

Those of us who know of the tremendous burden that was placed upon his shoulders cannot help but marvel at the efficiency and dispatch with which he discharged his duties as Grand Master during the year. The correspondence of the Grand Master’s office reached an all-time high; yet was answered promptly and efficiently and, though carrying the added responsibilities of one of the State’s busiest and most important positions, at no time during his administration did anyone hear any complaint or excuse from Brother Giles when called upon to serve the Craft.

In addition to the constructive program carried on by him throughout the State during the year, a major part of his program was his desire to have the Grand Lodge approve the building of a new Masonic Memorial Temple sufficient to house the ever-growing needs of our Grand Lodge, with auditorium space to accommodate the constantly increasing attendance on our Grand Annual Communications, and to serve as a memorial to the many Texas Masons who have served in the armed forces of our nation in defending those great principles for which Freemasonry has always stood. Suffice it to say, that when his building program was submitted to the Grand Lodge, it was adopted practically unanimously.

During his administration the Grand Lodge showed its greatest increase in membership, and during no other period of.


Following serve as Grand Master, Giles conceived of a plan to reward Texas’ veterans with the ability to buy land at low interest rates subsidized by the taxpayers. In 1946, the voters amended the state constitution to authorize $100 million in public funds to enable veterans to buy land, creating the Texas Veterans Land Board. Under the program, qualified veterans could purchase ranch or farmland for a 5% down payment, with 40 years to pay off the balance. The state furnished the unpaid balance and held title until the veteran had retired the loan.[1]

In November 1954, a reporter for the Cuero Record, Roland Kenneth “Ken” Towery discovered that there was fraud going on in the Texas Veterans Land program. Many of the veterans who purchased land in block sales were not even aware that they had purchased land. In fact, many were led to believe that they were getting free land as part of a veteran entitlement program or else were receiving some type of veterans’ compensation from the state. Towery arranged a meeting with Giles, and before Towery could ask a question, Giles denied involvement, attributing the irregularities to local land speculators. Struck by the fact that Giles had defended himself before even being accused of anything, Towery ran the story.

Giles was reelected as land commissioner in 1954, but faced criminal investigation by Texas attorney general, John Ben Shepperd. Giles failed to appear to take the oath of office in January, 1955 and was eventually convicted of fraud and bribery and served three years of a six-year prison term. Towery won the Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting.[2]

Final years

Giles moved to Venice, Florida, where he died in a car accident in 1993.

[1] “Bonus for the Boys”. Time. August 8, 1955.
[2] “Bascom Giles Handed Six-Year Term”. The Victoria Advocate. August 17, 1955. via Google News Archive.