Four Centuries of Iconoclasm

If Maury Maverick, Jr., knew it, he never mentioned to me that he was an eleventh generation descendant of John Howland, a signer of the Mayflower Compact. The history of the Howlands is so dramatic that if Maury had known about it, he most certainly would have told it to others either in conversation or in his newspaper columns. Maury never missed an opportunity to write about all his famous relatives.

John Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England, about 1592. His father was Bishop Humphrey Howland. But the younger Howland later became a Separatist because he was dissatisfied with efforts of the Puritans to reform the church. So unhappy was he that he boarded the Mayflower and sailed to Massachusetts in 1620. It was at Plymouth that twenty-three of those dissenters, Howland included, signed the famous Mayflower Compact.

His main claim to fame may be the fact that he was the only person who fell off the Mayflower and lived to tell about it, being swept overboard by a wave. William Bradford in his Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 recalled:
In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail, but were forced to hull [lay to] for divers days together. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull a mighty storm, a lusty young man called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above the gratings was, with a seele [roll] of the ship, thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyard which hung overboard and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again and his life was saved. And though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.
The cold and forbidding North Atlantic Ocean being what it is, if Howland had not managed to catch hold of that rope, there would have never been a Maury Maverick, Jr.

About 1623, Howland married Elizabeth Tilley, a fellow passenger on the Mayflower and the granddaughter of Governor John Carver. The couple had ten children, Lydia Howland being one of their daughters and Maury's ancestor. Along with his civic and religious duties, John Howland served as one of eight Plymouth "Undertakers" who assumed the colony's debt, was an assistant to the colony's governor, and acted as head of Plymouth's fur trading post in Kennebec, Maine. Aside from becoming a large property owner, he served on various committees of the General Court, was a Deputy for the town of Plymouth, became a juryman on numerous trials, and was a prominent member of the First Church of Plymouth.

But dissent seemed to run deep in John Howland. Plymouth authorities found him too liberal for the times because he thought that Quakers should be tolerated and not persecuted for their religious beliefs. As a result, the General Court expelled him from his office in that body. Other Howlands must have agreed with him, for in later generations many of them became Quakers.

Still, when Howland died on February 24, 1673, the Plymouth Church Records noted that he "was a godly man and an ancient professor in the wayes of Christ; hee liued vntill hee attained aboue eighty years in the world. Hee was one of the first comers into this land, and proued a vsefull instrument of good in his place, & was the last man that was left of those that came ouer in the ship called the May Flower, that liued in Plymouth; hee was with honor intered att the towne of Plymouth on the 25 of February, 1672/3." Another notation stated "On February, 24: dyed Mr John Howland in his eightieth yeare, he was a good old disciple, & had bin sometime a magistrate here, a plaine-hearted christian."

The genealogical trail from Howland to Maury's great-grandfather, Samuel Maverick of Texas fame, seems a straight line:
  • Lydia Howland married James Brown
  • James Brown, Jr. married (June 5, 1676) Margaret Denison
  • Isaac Brown married (March 15, 1728) Ester Bowen in Rehoboth, MA
  • Mary Brown married (August 17, 1749) Joseph Turpin in Rehoboth, MA
  • Lydia Turpin married (March 9, 1772) Samuel Maverick in Charleston, SC
  • Samuel Maverick married (October 2, 1802) Elizabeth Anderson in Pendleton, SC
  • Samuel Augustus Maverick married (August 4, 1836) Mary Ann Adams in Tuscaloosa, AL
There are other probable links between the Massachusetts and Texas branches of the family. One of these is via the Reverend Peter Maverick, vicar of Awlescomb, England and Dorothie Tucke Maverick. Their son, the Reverend John Maverick (also spelled Mavericke or Mavracke), studied at Oxford, became a deacon and priest at Exeter, and on October 28, 1600, married Mary Gye. The couple followed their son, Samuel, to Massachusetts Bay in 1630, where John became one of the first Puritan pastors in Dorchester, Massachusetts.1

Trying to trace the John and Mary Gye Maverick descendants to South Carolina, before one of them migrated to Texas, is complex. There are a number of possible lines. One is from John and Mary's oldest son, Samuel, who emigrated to Massachusetts about 1624 and moved to Noddle's Island (East Boston):
On Noodle's Island lives Mr. Samuel Maverick, a man of very loving and courteous behavior, very ready to entertain strangers; on this island with the help of Mr. David Thompson, he had built a small fort with four great guns to protect him from the Indians," notes Tomas Prince in the Chronology (1630). Shortly thereafter, Samuel married Amias Cole Thompson, the widow of his friend David Thompson. After acquiring land in Maine, Samuel traveled to Virginia to obtain corn and goats and returned in 1635, as John Winthrop noted in his Journal, "with two pinnances [small vessels] and brought some fourteen heifers and about eighty goats (having lost about twenty goats by the way)."
By then, Samuel also owned at least ten slaves.2

But for all his economic success, he was also a Royalist and Anglican, and as a result the Massachusetts Puritans kept him from public office and once fined him for allowing an unmarried couple to stay at his house. In return, he traveled to England to complain to King Charles II about his oppression. As a result, the king tapped Samuel as one of three commissioners sent to Massachusetts to investigate individual persecutions and the harassment of the Quakers, whom Samuel defended by arguing they should be granted religious toleration. One source noted:
The stiff-necked Massachusetts authorities treated the royal commissioners with scant respect, having them up on one occasion for profanation of the extended Sabbath favored by the Saints. Making merry one Saturday evening at the Ship Tavern in Boston, Maverick and two of his colleagues were ordered to be quiet and disperse by a town constable. They took their canes to him, drove him out, where a second constable came in and ordered them to stop their roistering. During the heated argument that followed, the constable swore that he would arrest the King himself if he found him noisy on a Saturday evening in Boston. Maverick had the [constable] up on charges of "maliciously uttering treasonable words," for which he was "admonished in a solemn manner by the Governor."
The authorities immediately retaliated by summoning the royal commissioners to appear before them on a charge of "riotous and abusive carriage to one of his Majesty's officers, one of the constables of the town."3

Samuel's son Nathaniel, born in Massachusetts in 1629, is the probable link between the family in Boston and South Carolina. In 1649, Nathaniel "sold Noodles Island (with the permission of his family) to Capt. Briggs for 40,000 pounds of white sugar. He moved to Barbados, one of the Windward Islands, an English possession near South America. Nathaniel became owner of a substantial plantation in Barbados. He helped finance the new settlement of Charleston, South Carolina, but he did not go there. He died in Barbados in 1674."4 However, two of Nathaniel's sons would move to Charleston, and James Slayton Maverick hypothesized that either one of them could be the ancestor of the Texas Mavericks.5

That there is not reliable available evidence about the ancestry of the Texas Mavericks is a consequence of "Charleston [being] devastated by fire in 1740; by hurricanes in 1752 and in 1854; by epidemic in 1854; by an earthquake on 31 August 1886, which damaged 90% of the buildings." In all probability, the Charleston Mavericks descended either from Samuel and Amias Cole Thompson Maverick or John and Jane Andrews Maverick. From them, came Samuel Maverick, born about 1715 in Charleston, South Carolina. He married London-born Catherine Coyer, whose Huguenot family had fled religious persecution in France and found shelter in England before moving to Charleston. This couple had a son, Samuel, born in Charleston and baptized on January 3, 1742, at the Episcopal St. Andrews parish church. Samuel went into the shipbuilding trade like his father and in 1772 married Lydia Turpin, daughter of Joseph and Mary Brown Turpin. While serving as an officer during the American Revolution, Samuel was captured by the British and held prisoner for eleven months. Upon his release, he walked from New York to Charleston and then escaped with his family to Providence, Rhode Island, when the British took Charleston. He died in 1784 on his 42nd birthday of "dropsy caused by broken ribs received while a British prisoner of war."6

The eldest child of Captain Samuel and Mary Maverick—another Samuel!—was born on December 30, 1772, in Charleston. Struggling to make a living after the American Revolution, Samuel finally became a prosperous businessman-plantation and slave owner in South Carolina, and in 1802 he married Elizabeth Anderson. Their son, Samuel Augustus Maverick, was born in Pendleton, South Carolina, on July 23, 1803, attended Yale College, and became an attorney in his hometown. He and his father, however, became embroiled in the political crises that rocked South Carolina in the 1820s. The senior Samuel Maverick opposed John C. Calhoun's secessionist and nullification views regarding the federal tariff laws of 1824 and 1828. During a speech that Calhoun's followers heckled, his son rose to his defense, challenged a heckler to a duel, shot him, and then brought the wounded man to recover at the Maverick home. Having already lost a bid for election to the South Carolina legislature, young Samuel realized he had no political future in his native state. He left first for Georgia and Alabama (where near Tuscaloosa he married Mary Ann Adams), before migrating to Texas in March of 1835.7

Once settled in Texas, Maverick became involved in its political life, and was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. By doing so, he risked all he owned as well as his life if Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had prevailed in quelling the uprising. But he did not, and in subsequent years Samuel prospered. In 1839, he was elected mayor of San Antonio; served as a member of the Seventh and Eighth Congresses of the Republic of Texas; supported the annexation of Texas to the United States; was a Democrat to the Fourth-Ninth state legislatures, and as an ardent Unionist fought desperately to keep Texas in the Union. Once he felt the Civil War was a foregone conclusion, an "irresistible conflict" as he called it, he supported the Confederacy and was one of three secessionist commissioners to seize control of federal supplies in Texas to force federal troops to leave the state. During the Civil War, he was Chief Justice of Bexar County and later again mayor of San Antonio. When the war ended, the entire Maverick family thought the result was right, even though the South lost. Samuel would live only five more years, dying on September 2, 1870, survived by his wife and five of his children.8

Among Samuel's legacies was his idiomatic gift to the English language—the term maverick. The story goes that between 1844 and 1847, the Mavericks lived on Decros Point on Matagorda Bay, but when they returned to San Antonio they left a herd of some 400 Longhorns. It multiplied, with its young calves going unbranded until 1854, when Maverick sent two of his sons and some helpers to round up the cattle and bring them to his ranch near Floresville, south of San Antonio. There the herd continued to multiply unbranded until Maverick sold it to Toutant Beauregard. He was obligated to round up the herd which had strayed over several counties and the cowboys who had to gather those obstinate and unbranded Longhorns simply labeled them "one of Maverick's." Gradually, the word came to mean "independent" and "nonconformist."9

Albert, the youngest son of Samuel and Mary, continued the Howland-Maverick tradition of going his own way. Called "Allie," he enrolled at the University of Virginia where he neglected his studies and participated in general mischief. Thus, at the end of his first year his professors told him they would give him credit for his coursework only if he promised never to return to the campus. He took them up on their offer. After a stay in Paris, he returned to Virginia and soon after married Jane "Jenny" Lewis Maury, a descendant of the Reverend James Maury, who had been Thomas Jefferson's first teacher and a third cousin to Meriwether Lewis. Albert went into the real estate business in South Texas but was never very successful because he would not collect rent from tenants too poor to pay him. His attitude was that if he had them removed from his property, they would have no suitable place to live.10

That same compassion for the poor and downtrodden was evident in Albert and Jane's son, Fontaine Maury Maverick, born October 23, 1895, named after a cousin, Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, a famous oceanographer. However, while in high school Maury, Sr., stopped using Fontaine, a name he never liked. Biographer Richard B. Henderson noted, "'Maury's mind had original habits. He was by nature a trail-blazer. He could not so well follow other men in speech and thought—he thought and spoke for himself.' Elsewhere he is described as 'stout,' 'largely self-educated,' and an opponent of 'humbuggery.'"11

This outspoken, liberal, New Deal Democrat received his formal education in the San Antonio public schools, the Virginia Military Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas School of Law. During World War I he rose to the rank of captain in the United States Army and received the Silver Star for bravery in battle, being severely wounded during the Argonne offensive in France. After the war, on May 22, 1920, he married Terrell Louise Dobbs, and the couple would have two children, Terrellita and Maury, Jr.

Maverick, Sr.'s political experience included organizing the Citizens' League of San Antonio in 1929, which sought more honest and efficient city government; serving as Bexar County tax collector until 1935; and being a member of the U.S. House of Representatives during 1937-1939, where he was one of the sponsors of a strengthened Tennessee Valley Authority and was most instrumental in creation of the National Cancer Institute. Lynch-mob violence was something that Maverick, characteristically, also fought against. While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was the only southern member of Congress to vote for a federal anti-lynch law, maintaining his long-standing reputation as an "unreconstructed rebel."

He left Congress to run for mayor of San Antonio in 1939, won his election, and fought to keep censors out of libraries, vehemently opposed the Ku Klux Klan—calling it the "Koo Klucks Kondeemed"—and led the fight to restore La Villita, the old Spanish town of San Antonio. A firm believer in the sanctity of free speech, he lost his bid to be re-elected mayor of San Antonio after he allowed Emma Tenayuca, a local communist and labor-union activist, to hold a forum at the city auditorium. The event never occurred because upwards of 5000 rioters stormed the building, drove off Tenayuca and her followers, and (unsuccessfully) searched for Mayor Maverick so they could lynch him.12

During World War II, Maverick served as a member of the War Production Board and headed the Smaller War Plants Corporation. It was then he originated the term gobbledygook to describe what he regarded as the "double-talkers and long-winded" federal bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. He said they reminded him of an "old turkey gobbler back in Texas who was always gobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity. At the end of his gobble there was a sort of gook." Maverick suspected those bureaucratic writers, "feeling defeat in advance," became "lengthy and vague in self-defense. Then, if defeat comes, he can ascribe it to the ignorance of the people addressed." He concluded: "A man's language is an important part of his conduct. He should be held morally responsible for his words just as he is accountable for his other acts. Let us be orderly and brief. Slovenly disorder in speech and writing is not only a reflection upon a person's thinking but an insult to the person addressed."13

Maverick's liberal political philosophy was evident in two of the books he wrote, A Maverick American (1937) and In Blood and Ink (1939), and on the day of his death in San Antonio on June 7, 1954, according to family accounts, he was still expressing his belief in the need for Americans to fight all threats to their civil liberties.

Maury, Jr. took heed of his father's argument and continued the family's iconoclastic tradition which seemed to have been continuously strenthened down through the generations. Indeed, in some respects, he surpassed his ancestors. Born January 3, 1921, he attended the Texas Military Institute, earned the B.A. degree at the University of Texas at Austin, and graduated from St. Mary's School of Law. During World War II he was a major in the United States Marines, returning to practice law in San Antonio. From 1951 to 1957 he was one of a handful of liberal Democrats serving in the Texas House of Representatives taking on the McCarthyites and was usually outvoted 146-4 on most civil liberty bills. In 1961 Maverick unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Lyndon Baines Johnson and afterwards taught political science at Incarnate Word College and St. Mary's University while serving as co-chair of the National Advisory Council of the American Civil Liberties Union and on the ACLU's board of directors.

In the forefront of those defending basic freedoms, he became well known for his successful handling of the "Sporty" Harvey case to end Jim Crow in professional boxing. In Stanford vs. Texas he defended the right of a client to read materials of his own choice. In Flower vs. U.S. he argued that the First Amendment permitted his client to distribute pamphlets on the grounds of a U.S. military base. These cases, along with his defense of many Vietnam-Era conscientious objectors, cost him dearly from a financial standpoint. But in 1991 he received the John Minor Wisdom Public Interest and Professional Award from the American Bar Association for providing legal assistance in over 300 pro bono cases.

Indeed, Maverick never accumulated any sizable income from his law practice; and his wife, Julia Isabella Orynski, whom he married in 1963, supported him financially. When asked about this, he said, "Well, I never have made a lot of money in the law, but I made less [during Vietnam] than I ever did in my life, and at the end of my seven years representing conscientious objectors, one of my labor union clients which I paid my rent with came to me and they were working people—the kind of people who were killed in Vietnam—and he said we don't want a lawyer who represents 'yellow bellies.' I lost that account, and I think the first year after the Vietnam War I made $9,300.00. It didn't help me a great deal financially. I didn't do it for that purpose. The bad thing about it is that those kids had no money and their fathers were all my age. They had been in World War II, and they wouldn't help their sons, quite frequently, because they thought the Vietnam War was another World War II. So the kids were paying me out of their own pockets, and, of course, that didn't amount to very much."14

There were other rewards. "I have young friends now all over the United States of America, and it kept me alive and kept my interest up," Maverick later observed, acknowledging too that he learned a valuable lesson: "After the Vietnam War was over . . . I called Mel Wolf, who was then the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union; I began to complain about being broke and talked about three or four minutes to him. And he said, 'What the hell are you calling me for? Most lawyers can spend their lives representing corporations and writing deeds and writing mortgages, and, when the time comes to die, they then might suspect that they've never lived at all. And you've had an exciting life in the law, and you've had a lot of fun, and you've met many interesting people. So, what the hell are you really calling me for?' He got me to laughing, and so I don't recommend my type of life, but, being a lawyer can be a hell of a bore. It is most of the time. But it never was a bore in doing conscientious objector work. It was tough, it was exciting, and I met a lot of young people."15

It helped being a Maverick, too, and so his outspoken father had advised him: "When you've got a famous name, you ought to use it to speak up for people who can't speak up for themselves. After all, nobody's gonna throw you in jail—they know the Mavericks have been crazy for a hundred years!" Maury, Jr. reiterated that point to me, explaining: "I would be more conservative if others would take my place and be more liberal. Sometimes I am a pain in the ass to myself about being to the left, but I keep remembering what my father said: 'You have a famous name. Speak up, goddammit, and help the [poor] ribbon clerks.'"16

At age 59, Maury, Jr. embarked on a new career. He began to write a Sunday column for the San Antonio Express-News and did so until the week of his death on January 28, 2003. During that twenty-three-year span, he missed only six Sunday columns, and loved the work. "Every person as he begins to get on," he once wrote, "needs a new adventure in life. Journalism has done that for me. Besides, I like journalists. Journalism gives me a kinship with sculptors who start out with a big blob of nothing and try to make it into something. That's what writers do. Because of journalism, I feel that artists, poets, and musicians are my spiritual cousins. I never had that feeling about the law. I get tired of writing about a steady diet of politics. Now and then I like to write about pinto beans, poetry, music, birds, abandoned dogs, and gardening so I can slip the friendly five to retired colonels around town who, much of the time, would like to boil me in oil."17

Maury never got rich from his law practice, serving in the legislature, teaching, or writing a column for the San Antonio Express-News. He had few social skills, was never known as a meticulous dresser, was uncomfortable at large social gatherings, did not suffer fools gladly, and made many enemies, usually inadvertently. But he did his best to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and he never stopped defending unpopular causes. He encouraged many, offended many, and did the best he could to make San Antonio in particular and the United States in general a better place to live, just as John Howland had tried to do.


1 One hundred and forty years later, another Samuel Maverick, while protesting the British presence in Boston, was killed by British troops at the Boston Massacre. But he was not one of Maury's lineal ancestors. An unmarried seventeen-year-old without children, that later Samuel was probably a distant cousin of Maury's descended from some of the early Massachusetts Bay Mavericks but not in the direct line to the Texas Mavericks. Genealogical data on the Mavericks includes the following: Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Vol. II (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995), pp. 1241-1243; Barbara Lewis Williams, Mayflower Descendants in the State of Texas and Their Lineages, Volume III (The Texas Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2002), pp. 2, 123; Edith K. Zuber, Mayflower Descendants in the State of Texas and Their Lineages in Commemoration of the 350th Anniversary 1620-1970 (Privately printed, Graphic Arts, San Antonio, 1971), p. 471; Plymouth Colony Records, see indexes in Vols. 1, 2, 8, 12; Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts—Plymouth Church Records 1620-1859, Part I (Boston, The Society, 1920), pp. 144, 147; James Slayton Maverick, Ancestors of the Maverick Family in Texas (Privately printed, 1965) pp. 1-6; James Kendall Hosmer, editor, Winthrop's Journal "History of New England 1630-1649," Vol. 1, (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908), pp. 47-48, 174; James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, editors, Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography (D. Appleton, 1888), p. 267.

2 James Kendall Hosmer, editor, Winthrop's Journal "History of New England 1630-1649, Vol. I. (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908), p. 185.

3 George F. Willison, Saints and Strangers (Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945), pp. 477-78, 382-84.

4 Maverick, Maverick Ancestors of the Maverick Family of Texas.

5 Ibid; Another possible ancestor of the Texas Mavericks was Samuel's brother, John. Born in England about 1621, on April 15, 1645, he married Jane Andrews in London, England. After moving to Dorchester, Massachusetts, the family relocated to Barbados and then Charleston, South Carolina. By 1672 John was a member of the first legislative body of that colony and had become known as "John Maverick of Charleston." He and his wife had at least one son, named John, and James Slayton Maverick noted that some Maverick family members think that John is the "most probable ancestor of the Maverick family of Texas," p. 4.

6 Ibid, pp. 4-6.

7 Edith K. Zuber, Mayflower Descendants in the State of Texas, Volume II (Privately printed, 1971) p. 580; Paula Mitchell Marks, Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas: Pioneers Sam and Mary Maverick (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1989), p. 19; Maverick, Maverick Ancestors of the Maverick Family of Texas, p. 6.

8 Marks, Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas, pp. 220-227.

9 Maury Maverick, A Maverick American (New York: Covici Friede Publishers, 1937), pp. 73-80.

10 Ibid., pp. 22-27; Richard B. Henderson, Maury Maverick: A Political Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970), pp. 6-9.

11 Henderson, p. 6; John W. Wayland, The Pathfinder of the Seas: The Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury (Garrett, Garrett, and Massie, 1930), p. 33; Dumas Malone, editor, Dictionary of American Biography, Volume XII, p. 427.

12 Henderson, Maverick, pp. 214-15.

13 Maury Maverick, Sr., "The Case Against Gobbledygook," New York Times Magazine, May 21, 1944, p. 11.

14 Robert Davis interview with Maury Maverick, Jr., April 30, 1985, videotape interview in the Trinity University Archives, San Antonio, Texas.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid; Maury Maverick, Jr. to Allan O. Kownslar, July 14, 1984.

17 Maury Maverick, Jr., "Purple Prose for a Dandy Bird," San Antonio Express-News, January 8, 1989, p. 3M.

Allan O. Kownslar, Palo Alto Review, Spring 2008