In the early days of Hidalgo County, government was in the hands of an exclusive group of individuals. The results of elections were arrived at before the first vote was cast.
In the 1920s, a group of newly-arrived businessmen, including Mr. Ed C. Couch, began to make some changes. A native Texan, born in Coleman in 1879, Mr. Couch was educated at the University of Texas. He served as a banker in Knox City and O’Brien before moving to the Rio Grande Valley, where he organized the Guaranty State Bank in Weslaco in 1920.
Along with other bankers and businessmen, such as R.L. Reeves, Daw R. Couch, and R.C. Couch, he invested in the townsite of Weslaco, which had just been established by the W.E. Stewart Land Company.
Mr. Couch participated in the establishment of three other Rio Grande Valley cities: Edouch, which was named for him; Elsa, just east of Edcouch; Primera; and Los Fresnos, in Cameron County.
His involvement in the development of the Rio Grande Valley was perhaps his greatest contribution to history. Mr. Couch also became a leader in an organization called the Good Government League, a group that considered such issues as where the money was going and why outsiders could never be elected to county office.
The Good Government League held meetings and hearings throughout the county, with the intention of arousing the voters to action. Mr. Gordon Griffin, a McAllen attorney and effective orator, was one of the main speakers for the League, along with Ed Couch, Dave Kirgan, B.D. Kimbrough, and others.
Through monitoring by poll watchers, the leaders of the Good Government League were certain that they had enough votes to carry the next election, but the results didn’t turn out that way. They challenged the election results, taking the matter to court several times, but their suits were dismissed by local judges beholden to those who were in power.
As a last resort, armed guards were directed to take charge of the ballot boxes, and when the votes were counted, the Good Government League candidates had won; including Mr. Couch, who went into office as county judge, a post he was to hold for several terms. Under his direction, an investigation into past abuses resulted in several indictments and prison terms for former county officials.
For the next several years, each election resulted in charges and countercharges of voting irregularities. Judge Couch’s son-in-law, C.E. Kelley, was found unconscious from blows to the head. He lingered for several months before dying from his wounds. It was widely assumed that Ed Couch himself was the intended victim of the attack. Eventually, a man was arrested and confessed to the crime, refusing to divulge the identity of the person who paid him to commit the crime.
After leaving the position of Hidalgo County Judge, Couch moved to Austin, where he served as railroad commissioner until his death on April 3, 1944. He was buried in Weslaco, where he had lived for many years.