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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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Late last month, former residents of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in the Texas panhandle called for restitution from the reform school, bringing allegations from the 1960s to 1990s of psychological abuse, rape, and even torture. In a recent interview, current CEO Dan Adams made no attempt to deny the claims.

Earlier this year, former Texas Congressman Bill Sarpalius told Houston Matters he faced abuse from both staffers and other boys while he was growing up at the ranch. He and his brothers were sent to live there after his father left his family, and his mother became a suicidal alcoholic.

His memoir, 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 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 U.S. Congressman.