The story of how House District 23 Mayes Middleton’s family earned the fortune that he inherited.
On December 9, 2020, at the height of the coronavirus, the Texas Freedom Caucus put out a video with several legislators pushing to open the state back up. As the average Covid-19 infections in Texas were going up 20,000 new cases per day and 250 Texans were dying from the pandemic every single day, these elected officials were pushing to open the capital back up.
During 2020, Republicans had pushed to keep low wage workers at their places of employment and businesses open, despite the cost of human life. Because of that, thousands upon thousands of Texans died, many of them were people who make less than the cost of living. In April 2020, the Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, said on national TV that people should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy.
That became the official position of Texas Republicans, “low wage workers should sacrifice their lives, so their employers could continue to pad their pockets.”
Mayes Middleton, Texas State House Representative of District 23, was the first rep on the Texas Freedom Caucus’ video, so I was wondering if he had any financial or business ties that would explain why he was wanting to continue and sacrifice the lives of thousands more Texans. I began looking into his background, the bills he previously authored and voted on, and I began looking at his connections. What I found shocked me. Although, it shouldn’t have, because the stories of corruption in Texas are long and surround nearly every elected Republican, all the same, connecting each dot shocked me. And each thread I pulled at revealed another layer of jaw dropping information.
Middleton has had known ties with Empower Texans, a group that paints themselves out to be a conservative political advocacy group, however, they are a dominionist group. Dominion political ideology seeks to turn America into a Christian nationalist country based on their interpretations of the bible. In Texas, it has long been known that Empower Texans has been run by billionaires and multi-millionaires and uses dark money to fund the very worst of our elected officials.
Mayes Middleton sat on the board of directors of Empower Texans for many years before he became an elected official. While Middleton paints himself out to be a rancher and a business owner, that is an exaggeration of the truth. Another thing Middleton frequently brags about is being a seventh-generation Texan.
Why do they do that?
When white Texas Republicans brag about what generation Texan they are, it has always made me uncomfortable. A lot of people in Texas had family from Texas 100 or 150 years ago, but that usually isn’t part of their identity.
What was Texas like for Black, Hispanic, or Indigenous people in 1850? What about 1900? 1950? It was horrific, during slavery and after. In some parts of deep rural Texas, it is still horrific. There are still known sundown towns all over the state. Who was making Texas horrific for BIPOC all those years ago? White people. So, when all these white Republicans are bragging about how they had white ancestors in Texas 100 years ago or 150 years ago, that’s a dog whistle.
When I have heard Republicans brag about what generation Texan they are, I have sometimes researched their ancestry. I do this hoping to find some dark family secret or scandal. And I have found plenty. There are elected officials that lie about what generation Texan they are or have murderers in their family. However, Middleton’s background is more interesting than most.
Where did Mayes Middleton’s money come from?
Mayes Middleton is the president and CEO of Middleton Oil Company. Quite an accomplishment for anyone still in their 30s, as Middleton is. However, it’s not like he built the company himself, from the ground up. Middleton Oil Company was founded by Mayes Middleton’s father, John Gregg Middleton in 1972. Middleton Oil Company is a 50-year-old oil company with over 60 operational wells all over Texas.
Mayes Middleton was rich way before he got elected in Texas, before he served on the board of Empower Texans, before he became CEO of his father’s oil company, and before he was even born.
Mayes Middleton’s father, John Middleton, wasn’t a self-made millionaire, either.
John Middleton’s obituary listed him as the grandson of Archie David Middleton and Effie Mayes. It was an odd placement in an obituary. Both of John Gregg Middleton’s grandparents had been dead around 60 years before he died at the age of 71 in 2013.
Going further than that, Mayes Middleton’s grandfather wasn’t a self-made millionaire either. His grandfather, Randall Middleton, also owned a lot of oil-wells all over the state and was elbows deep in state politics. In fact, when he died. Texas House Representative Billy Walker had a memorial resolution adopted to honor Randall Middleton in 1951. As it would appear, long before the millionaire, Mayes Middleton was passing bills for his own self-benefit, the Middleton family already had a grip on Texas politics.
The hordes of money the Middleton family has accrued didn’t start with Randall Middleton, either. His father, Archie Middleton, like his heirs, made mountains of money in the early 1900s from both oil and cattle.
Although Mayes Middleton’s great-grandfather died an extremely wealthy man, his fortune wasn’t self-made either. When Archie Middleton was a baby and smallpox killed his parents, so he was sent to live with his grandfather Erastus Moss.
Most of us have believed that all the money and wealth made from slave labor before the Civil War was gone to the generations who live today, lost over generations of financial irresponsibility, or during the great depression. However, for Mayes Middleton, that isn’t the case.
- Mays Middleton’s wealth was inherited from his father John Middleton.
- John Middleton’s wealth was inherited from his father Randall Middleton.
- Randall Middleton’s wealth was inherited from his father Archie Middleton.
- Archie Middleton’s wealth was inherited from his grandfather Erastus Moss.
- Erastus Moss inherited his wealth from his father Henry K. Moss.
The Moss Family.
The entire Moss family owned slaves. Henry Moss would have been called a planter or a slave holder. In fact, the Moss family in Louisiana accumulated a great deal of wealth after he was given hundreds of acres of land (for free) from a Spanish Land Grant. When emancipation happened, he had 57 slaves that he freed. He gave those slaves some land when they were freed in an area that is now known as Mossville.
The Moss’ were some of the first colonizers of Southwest Louisiana.
For years the Black community of Mossville has been suffering from environmental racism. Back in the 1940s, oil companies placed a network of pipes with poisonous chemicals and then surrounded it with chemical plants. This part of Louisiana, not far from Lake Charles, is now known as cancer alley. A while back a documentary was even made about this. For generations, this Black neighborhood, much of which was below the poverty line suffered from the chemicals that were leaked into their water.
This is classic American story.
When slavery ended, Mayes Middleton’s family held on to the money they had and continued to prosper in the cattle industry and the oil business. They built a great deal of wealth which they could each hand down to their children.
On the other hand, the slaves that Middleton’s ancestors were forced to set free, suffered in poverty. They had no wealth to pass down. They made it through Jim Crow, segregation, but still suffer from systematic and environmental racism. And for generations, they were poisoned and killed by the oil business.
This isn’t just a classic American story, it’s a classic story of how systematic racism works in America.
Middleton touts the fact that he’s a seventh-generation Texan and the seventh generation to live in Chambers County, Texas. I did the research, it’s true. But it’s important to understand where these people come from, like Mayes Middleton, who is willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of people to Covid, so that business owners, like himself, can continue to make money off the sacrifice from others.
Mayes Middleton has never had to live paycheck to paycheck, like over 80% of America does. Mayes Middleton has never had to choose between paying for electricity or buying food. And since Mayes Middleton comes from “old money,” it is likely he hasn’t known many people that financially struggle as so many in the district do. Mayes Middleton is a millionaire, as was his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and many generations before that.
In the case of Mayes Middleton, his heritage included the colonization of Texas. As we all know, when Texas was colonized, genocide was committed against the Indigenous Americans who lived here first. In the time when his family was setting up a home to live in Chambers County, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans were being slaughtered. While Mayes Middleton sees that as something to be proud of, most of us will never be able to see a positive side to the genocide committed by our forefathers.
It’s important to highlight the origin of Middleton’s wealth because when you learn about what he’s done and the things he plans on doing, it becomes more nefarious when you see how his agenda will directly affect people who in their lifetimes will never even a fraction of the money that Middleton has accumulated.
Would any of this matter if Mayes Middleton was using his privilege and legislative power to do good things?
It wouldn’t. If Middleton recognized that he was a great privilege and his family and career caused so much harm to others and was actively working to make this world a better place, it wouldn’t matter.
Other than where Middleton’s family got their money from, what do we know about what he’s actually done?
Mayes Middleton contributed several hundred thousand dollars to Empower Texans, even before he sat on the board of directors. According to the Public Accountability Project, which wrote a long-detailed article about the financing of Empower Texans, Middleton and two other oil executives donated a combined 1.1 million dollars to the organization between 2008 and 2015.
Through the late 2000s and early 2010s, Middleton not only poured money into Empowered Texans but also to far-right conservative political candidates all over the state.
Then, in 2017, when Chambers County was trying to pass a bond for a new county jail, Mayes Middleton began showing up to the county commissioner hearings. With the passage of the bond, Chamber County residents would see an increase in taxes. The jail was run down, overcrowded, and didn’t have enough bathrooms. Like most rich people, Mayes Middleton did what he could to block this bond. He showed up to the commissioner hearings and passed out ethics rules to the County Judge and Commissioners. He even offered to donate 27 acres to the county for them to build a new jail on. Can you imagine being so rich, that you would just give away 27 acres of land, simply to prevent your taxes from going up? He would have been able to use that giveaway as a tax write-off, too.
In the May 11, 2017 issue of the Baytown Sun Middleton was quoted saying, “The taxpayers come first, the government comes second.”
By taxpayers, he meant himself and by government, he meant the inmates in the Chambers County jail who were living in run-down conditions.
His stance on opening the government in 2020 at the cost of human life was far from his first display of how the peasants don’t matter to him.
By the summer of 2017, he was able to paint himself as a conservative activist and ran for office for House District 23, primarying a sitting Republican with the guise that he was running on, “to defend life, liberty, and private property against big government.”
Then when Governor Greg Abbott endorsed Middleton over the sitting Republican, Middleton became a shoo-in. During that election cycle, Middleton donated $55,000 to Greg Abbott’s campaign, while his opponent, Wayne Faircloth donated nothing to Abbott. It’s almost as if Middleton bought that endorsement.
As we all now know, Middleton won that election.
During that election cycle, Faircloth attacked Middleton on several issues, one being that he was a millionaire extremist, and the other accused Middleton of not living in the district. As it turns out, both were true. House District 23 encompasses Chambers County and parts of Galveston County. I went to the counties’ tax assessor’s websites and investigated it. As it turns out, Middleton does own several commercial properties in Chambers County, however, he doesn’t seem to own any homes there. Not in his name, nor his company’s name, anyway.
According to Big Jolly, a far-right Republican blog based in Houston, the year prior to his first run, Middleton paid nearly $50,000 in property tax to Houston ISD. Big Jolly even went as far to defend Middleton not living in the district, citing it wasn’t a big deal, since he was active in the community.
$50,000 is a lot more than most of us pay in property taxes. Considering that’s just the portion that went to HISD, it makes Middleton’s attacks on public education less surprising.
Soon after elected, Middleton joined the far-right House Freedom Caucus and was elected as their secretary-treasurer. Now, in 2020, he serves as the chair.
So, what did he do during his freshman year in the Texas House?
He co-sponsored the “Preborn Nondiscrimination Act,” which prohibits women from getting an abortion if the fetus has a suspected disability. This bill passed. Now, in Texas, if you learn you are pregnant and there is a fetal abnormality, you can’t terminate your pregnancy based on that. That would be discrimination.
Middleton also co-sponsored SB1978. The bill says to “prohibit the government from taking any adverse action against a person/entity based in whole or part of membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation, or other support provided to a religious organization.” In laymen’s terms, this bill was a bill that protected people and organizations that discriminate, mainly targeted at the LGBTQ community.
It wasn’t just the bills he introduced or co-sponsored that Mayes Middleton took part in that ultimately will hurt the people that need the protection the most, but his votes were in-line with his positions.
During the last legislative session, Texas-based a bill that decriminalized up to an ounce of marijuana. This didn’t make it legal, but it moved possession of marijuana up to an ounce as a Class C misdemeanor. To no surprise, Representative Middleton voted against this bill. While it did pass, it’s important to remember that Middleton spent his life in high-priced private schools and immersed in a world of socialites and hobnobbing. He likely has had little exposure to the devastating effects that marijuana prohibition has had specifically in the Black community.
Countless studies show that Black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate, however, in Texas, Black people are 2.6x more likely to be arrested for marijuana. In early 2020, the ACLU released a report called “Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform.” This report highlighted the racial disparities in Texas and marijuana arrests, as well as the effects it has on the Black community. In Texas, Black people are overwhelmingly targeted and punished regarding our marijuana laws. During 2018 alone, 44% of drug arrests in Texas were related to marijuana and that totaled out to 70,000 marijuana arrests in one year.
When the ACLU broke it down to which counties a Black person is more likely to be targeted and arrested than a white person, Chambers County led the way. Yes, the same Chambers County that Mayes Middleton calls home, (even though he doesn’t live there). While statewide a Black person is 2.6x more likely to be arrested for marijuana than a white person, in Chambers County that number skyrockets to 9.3x more likely. Yet, Middleton voted no on a bill that would lessen the penalties.
Then, there are his extreme fundamentalist positions.
You may not know this, but during the last session there was a bill passed that authorizes 2% of the revenue brought in by the state by license plate fees to be appropriated to the “Choose Life Grant Program.” This program funds deeply religious organizations that have these “Pregnancy Centers.” They advertise free pregnancy tests to lower-income women. Then, when the women come in and find out they are pregnant, they pressure them to not get an abortion. They do this by showing them chopped up fetuses and scaring them with eternal damnation. What this does is guilt low-income women, who can’t even afford a pregnancy test into having a baby, which they can’t afford either.
Middleton voted yes on that bill. But he didn’t vote to increase food stamps, welfare, or expand Medicaid. Just another Republican that demands a baby be born and then let it starve once it is. But, for someone with millions of dollars, like Middleton, there is no way he can possibly comprehend what it’s like to be poor, have a child, and not have the money to buy food or diapers.
Mayes Middleton votes along party lines, but unlike most of his Republican peers, he’s self-funded. This means he will work for his own far-right extremist agenda, pushing for and voting on bills that will help him and those like him, (rich and white).
His position on guns is almost demented.
The strangest thing I learned about Mayes Middleton while researching his past was that his given name is David Mayes Middleton II. Why is this strange? Because his father’s name was John Gregg Middleton. However, John Middleton’s brother was named David Mayes Middleton. Perhaps this is a common practice among rich people, naming your child a junior when the senior is not the father, or perhaps there is more to the story.
Mayes Middleton was born in September 1981 and the man who he was named after, his uncle, was murdered in January 1982. The cause of death according to the death certificate was a gunshot wound to the upper center back. The death certificate also says under “description of how injury occurred,” shotgun discharge accidentally – hunting accident. Then the place of injury listed, “private road on ranch in Wallisville.” So, the man that Mayes Middleton was named after was shot in the back, a month after Mayes Middleton was born, on a private road of their home, but it was listed as a hunting accident.
If a rich or prominent member of the community is killed, even accidentally, the local news will typically cover it. Yet, in January 1982 there was no coverage of the death of David Mayes Middleton, nor was I able to find an obituary. Perhaps it was a legitimate accident, but why did it happen on the road of their own property?
Even more strange.
I was able to find an article in the 1981 Volume 2 issue of Las Sabinas, the Orange County Historical Association publication, that spoke of a story of Archie Middleton and his uncle, Jim Moss. Apparently, they were close in age and when they were young men got into a fight. Then Archie shot his uncle through the chest with a rifle.
Mayes Middleton, as rich as he is, has a family history of terrible gun violence, which makes it even more perverse that according to his website, he stands for constitutional carry.
Constitutional carry would put guns in the hands of criminals and crazy people without background checks, waiting periods, or permits, and you can just forget about any type of red-flag law. The most disgusting thing about this and Middleton, in general, is that, unlike many of his peers in the State House who push issues for their large donors, Middleton is already independently wealthy, so he is pushing this issue because that’s what he wants. And he wants this, even knowing that his family has been affected by irresponsible gun ownership more than once.
In Middleton’s district, (HD23), before the coronavirus, nearly 11% of the population lives in poverty. Likely that number has grown substantially since the coronavirus. Another number that has likely grown substantially since the coronavirus is the number of people who are uninsured. In HD23, over 16% of people are uninsured. These are the people who need the most help, yet in this next legislative session, we can expect to see Middleton working on an agenda that will further hurt them and help the rich. It’s just who he is.