Breckenridge Texan

Charles W. Stenholm

Charles W. Stenholm

The Honorable Charles Walter Stenholm (D-TX) (“Charlie”) passed away on May 17, 2023. He was 84 years old. He represented Texas 17th congressional district, including Stephens County, in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 2005.

Charlie was born on October 26, 1938, in Stamford, Texas. His parents, Irene and Lambert, raised Charlie (their only child) in a Swedish farming community called Ericksdahl, just east of Stamford. Charlie graduated from Stamford High School where he was active in sports and FFA, participating on two state-championship football teams and earning the Lone Star Degree (the highest FFA honor).

Afterward, Charlie enrolled at Tarleton State University. He played football and basketball for the Tarleton State “Plowboys,” was a member of ROTC and FFA, and graduated with an A.S. degree. He then attended Texas Tech University from which he earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in agriculture education.

Charlie met his future wife, Cynthia Ann Watson (“Cindy”), in 1960. She first spotted Charlie while he was playing intramural softball. The couple soon held weekly dates: on Fridays, Charlie took Cindy to the local bowling alley and bought her a hamburger; on Sundays, he took her to Church. As Cindy recalls, “I knew he would take care of me.” Indeed, they would faithfully take care of each other for sixty-one years upon their marriage in 1961 until death did them part.

In 1962, the Stenholms settled down in Stamford, started their family, and were active in Ericksdahl Bethel Lutheran Church. Charlie taught vocational agriculture at nearby Avoca High School and helped run the family farm. In 1965, he became Executive VP of the Rolling Plains Cotton Growers. Four years later, he became the Stamford Electric Cooperative’s GM before re-focusing on farming in 1977.

In 1978, Texas’s 17th congressional district elected Charlie to the U.S. House of Representatives, which district he served proudly for 13 terms in Washington, D.C. until 2005. Congressman Stenholm helped lead the House Agriculture Committee, including as the Ranking Democrat Member his last eight years in office. Overall, Charlie earned a reputation for building bipartisan alliances on policy issues including agriculture, energy, budget, rural healthcare, and Social Security. As he would say, “‘Compromise’ is not a four-letter word.”

After public office, Charlie was a Senior Policy Advisor for OFW Law and board member of The Concord Coalition and The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. In 2010, the Stenholms moved to Granbury, Texas, where Charlie gradually retired. During that time, Charlie enjoyed golfing and playing bridge with friends, teaching a weekly class on agriculture and energy policy at Tarleton State, attending Bible study, writing news articles, tracking the weather, and spending time with Cindy and their family.

Charlie is survived by Cindy, their three children — Chris, Cary (and wife, Cryst), and Courtney (and husband, Daniel) — as well as their four grandchildren: Cole, Chase, Cameron, and Chandler.

Ericksdahl Bethel Lutheran Church (10625 N FM 600, Avoca, TX 79503) will celebrate Charlie’s life on June 3, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, Charlie would very likely appreciate a donation to the just-mentioned Church or to the Charles W. Stenholm endowment at Tarleton State University. If mailing a donation to the Church, please use the following address: Bethel Lutheran Church, c/o Tena Tankersley, PO Box 828, Stamford, TX 79553.



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