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Houston Matters

How Bill Sarpalius Went From Homelessness, To A Boys Ranch, To Congress

The former congressman talks about his difficult childhood in Houston and how life at a boys ranch in the Texas panhandle changed his trajectory.


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Former Texas Congressman Bill Sarpalius had a challenging childhood in Houston. He was diagnosed with polio and fell behind in school. Then, when Sarpalius was ten, his father left him, his mother and two brothers. His mother was an alcoholic and became suicidal.

Homeless, Sarpalius and his brothers were eventually placed in Cal Farley's Boys Ranch near Amarillo.

His new book, The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch, details his experience at the ranch, how he attempted to help his alcoholic mother, and the challenges he faced in politics.

In the audio above, Sarpalius tells his story to Houston Matters producer Maggie Martin.

After spending part of his childhood at a boys ranch in the Texas panhandle, Bill Sarpalius became a Texas legislator and later a US Congressman.