Unique Texas town names: Cotulla

A U.S. president was once a teacher in the South Texas town

Cotulla has a long and storied history, including being the brief home of a president

As it is with most towns, the railroad is why the town of Cotulla found its place on a map. But before the railroad, the town owes its existence to one man. His statue prominently displayed in the town’s center, Joseph Cotulla was a Polish immigrant. Moving to South Texas, he found water and thereby quick success. His list of accomplishments is long.

Joseph Cotulla is buried in the town’s cemetery, along with many others from the Cotulla family.

These days, Cotulla is fueled by two industries.

“Oil; it has been. Before that it was hunting," explained Patsy Leigh, Cotulla Main Street manager.

Over time, attention has been drawn away from the city’s once-bustling downtown, including the now-closed Ben’s Western Wear. It was a legendary throwback to the days of old and once home to a cowboy hat museum. In fact, George Strait’s hat was once on display there.

Ben's Western Wear, Cotulla (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)
Ben's Western Wear, Cotulla (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Speaking of George Strait, he owns land not too far away from Cotulla, while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s grandparents also owned a ranch near the town. He would often spend summers working on his grandfather’s ranch. Fun fact: the two are distant cousins. The list of big names with ties to Cotulla does not end there. Perhaps the most well-known resident was a teacher at Welhausen Elementary (which now houses the La Salle County appraisal district). A young Lyndon B. Johnson taught at the school and went on to become the 36th President of the United States.

“What was really, I think, influential to him was that he really saw the poverty of Cotulla, which there is a significant amount, sadly, and he saw the discrimination and the racism," explained Dolph Briscoe IV, a historian at Texas A&M University San Antonio and a former resident of Cotulla.

“When the civil rights act was passed and he signed it,” said Cotulla’s City Administrator Larry Dovalina. " He very pointedly mentioned the city of Cotulla."

Hailey Kinsel, a world champion barrel racer, also hails from Cotulla.

The town also has one other claim to fame: it is often one of the hottest spots on the weather map.

“Heat is a state of mind and I guess if your mind handles it, it’s not hot," joked Dovalina.

While that may be up for interpretation, Cotulla’s contribution to Texas history is not.

About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.