James E. “Pete” Laney1943 -
James E. “Pete” Laney grew up on a cotton farm in Hale Center, Texas. He attended Texas Tech University where he received a degree in agriculture economics. Upon graduating from Texas Tech, he returned to the family farm following three generations on the family farm. Pete still operates that family farm to this day. In addition to farming, Pete also devoted his life to public service. He served in the Texas House of Representatives for 34 years and was elected by House members to five terms as Speaker of the House (1993-2003) and retired from the Legislature in 2007. He was married to Nelda Laney for 53 years, until her passing in 2016.
In his first term as Speaker in 1993, Pete led the House to adopt wide-ranging reforms that have reshaped the legislative process to this day making it more open and transparent for legislators and the public. A true testament to his upbringing and rural roots, at the conclusion of the 1993 Regular Session of the Legislature, Texas Monthly wrote that he “ran the fairest, cleanest, most open, most democratic House in memory.” During his tenure as Speaker, the legislature enacted the most comprehensive water plan in Texas history, invested the state’s record budget surplus in public education, children’s health care, and tax cuts, passed legislation providing health care coverage for Texas public school teachers and created the Office of Rural Community Affairs to address the needs of rural Texans. He has also been a staunch supporter for the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, and throughout his years of service passed legislation to protect the State’s most precious resources.
He was widely praised for demonstrating integrity and character in his leadership that fostered a bipartisan atmosphere for legislators to work together with mutual respect and place public needs ahead of personal interests and partisan politics. Mr. Laney did this all while making his living as a fulltime farmer northwest of Hale Center, Texas.
During the time her husband served as Speaker of the House, Nelda Laney initiated a plan to create Texas Capitol collectible ornaments to help fund preservation and education projects at the statehouse. She managed all phases of the process through its first seven years and raised millions of dollars as the commemorative pieces became a popular tradition. Her dedication and hard work are on full display at our state capitol every day.
Widely acclaimed for his public service, among numerous accolades Pete has been honored by the Texas Legislative Conference, John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Texas Game Warden Association, and Child Welfare League of America, as well as by the Headliners Club and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Progressive Farmer magazine has recognized him as Man of the Year in Service to Texas Agriculture. Texas Tech University has named him a Distinguished Alumnus, and Wayland Baptist University has conferred on him an honorary doctorate. Mr. Laney continues to be a voice for agriculture in the State of Texas. He is often called upon by public servants and others to provide insight and wisdom in helping shape agriculture policy in the State of Texas. He also continues to dedicate his time to others and is very proud to serve on the Board of the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital.
Mr. Laney has three children, KaLyn Laney of Austin, Jamey Laney Phillips and her husband Ronald of Lubbock, and J Pete and Melonie Laney of Austin. He also has 6 grandchildren, Austin, Grant, Gavin, and Holden Phillips, and Clayton and Kendall Laney.