Interview by Michael Vannoy Adams

AUGUST 7, 1970 —
During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Maury Maverick, Jr., was in charge of the arrangements for Sen. John Kennedy's visit. Kennedy gave a speech before 10,000 people in front of the Alamo; when he had finished, Maverick and the other local Democratic leaders took him and his party on a tour inside. One of Kennedy's men said, "Maury, let's get Jack out the back door to avoid the crowd." Maury replied, "Hell, there's not a back door to the Alamo. That's why we had so many dead heroes." Unfortunately a reporter from a San Antonio newspaper overheard this remark, and the next day the headline read: "Maverick Says No Back Door." This kind of wit can be expensive, especially with a reporter around, and Maury wrote an abashed apology to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
—Willie Morris, North Toward Home
A decade has passed since Maury Maverick, Jr. appeased the little-old lady guardians of Lone Star history. So far, the ghosts of Travis, Crocket, and Bonham have spared the San Antonio lawyer. Unlike those frontier Texans, Maverick survived. He knew the wisdom of retreat.

The irony to Maverick's off-hand humor is not that his joke was taken too seriously but that it was not taken seriously enough. He really meant it when he suggested that live heroes are better than dead heroes, that live humans are better than dead ones. The past four years he has been trying to open backdoors, frontdoors, sidedoors—any kind of exit—for young men who rebel against America's present-day version of the Last Stand: the Vietnam war. He says he is motivated by pure hatred for the Southeast Asian conflict. And on those few occasions when this negative enthusiasm flags, a quick visit to San Antonio's Brook Army Medical Center renews his determination: "Just walk through those orthopedic wards once. And look at these kids who got their arms and legs blown off in Vietnam. All that some can do now is rock back and forth to keep their circulation going."

As one of the few Texas attorneys who cares or dares to take draft cases, Maverick has helped dozens of resisters at the administrative level. This stage of the work entails preparing conscientious objector briefs for presentation to local draft boards. He is prohibited, as are all other lawyers, from representing his clients in person before the boards. He has choice words for the restriction: "As Senator [Ralph] Yarborough pointed out on the floor of Congress, this is the only United States court in which a man is denied legal representation and in which he can receive the death penalty. Suppose a man really is a conscientious objector, and yet he gets killed in Vietnam just because he couldn't have a lawyer stand up for his rights? I go down to the draft board with every client and beg to be let into the hearing, but they say no every time."

Even so, his clients have had better luck at the administrative level and at the federal appeals court in New Orleans than they have had in district court, where cases go once a board turns down a C.O. applicant. "I had a client who was Methodist preacher's son. He went to court and proceeded to invoke the name of Jesus Christ 18 times, the names of God 20 times and the names of various saints about six or seven times. The district judge turned him down anyway. But he won the appeal in New Orleans," Maverick says.

"I can't understand the difference, unless the district judges just don't understand the subtlety of the federal law as well as those on the higher bench. Of course, some Democratic judges are still afraid they'll be called communists if they rule in favor of somebody opposed to war. You'd think the damned Nixon Republicans would be tougher. But usually they're OK. We Democrats just go crazy on communism and crazy on war, I guess."

Maverick says the really big obstacles to obtaining conscientious objector classification are two: The substantial evidence rule and proving a client's sincerity. According to him, the former "stipulates that if the government has any worthwhile evidence at all, the court must rule in its favor. In other words, a kid can have 90% of the evidence on his side, and the government can have only 10% on its side. And yet the government wins every time. That's sure as hell not 'proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,' if you ask me," he says.

The latter obstacle—convincing a board or judge of a client's sincerity—has been eased only negligibly by recent Supreme Court decisions (Seeger and Welch), according to Maverick. The average man probably believes the official removal of religious qualifications has made conscientious objection easier to prove; Maverick says not so. "Religion never was that big a problem. We could get by with mostly philosophical objections if we had any religion at all mixed in. I'd usually just ask my client if he believed in anything greater than man himself. Judges haven't ordinarily insisted on a three-decker God like military courts do. The army still thinks God's a seven-star general sitting in an easy chair, with colonels flying loop-de-loops around his head and saluting him."

Like many men who try to maintain some semblance of day-to-day sanity in the face of depressing circumstances, Maverick occasionally indulges in fantastic, yet half-serious, nonsense to explain the inexplicable. One hypothesis of his might be called the "Theory of Dissidence." By it he explains the origins of San Antonio's and Texas's anti-war sentiment. "This class of liberals and radicals emerging from the Vietnam war is unique," he says. "They don't come from the traditional sources. Over half of them are Roman Catholic, and most of the rest are Methodists or Baptists. The Episcopalians are all in the National Guard, the Jews all have spastic colons, and the Unitarians are all in Canada." As if by stimulus-response, Maverick's mustache always twitches into a smile when he hits "spastic."

Although he can joke about Unitarians emigrating to Canada and although he is working to keep draft resisters out of the military, he opposes the northward trek. It isn't that he has lost the wisdom of retreat in this instance, he says. It's just that he does not regard a stretch in the penitentiary as too awful a burden to bear for the good it might do in dramatizing the draft and war. He even says he believes yielding to induction is better than fleeing across the border.

"First of all, these young men should realize that in all probability they'll never be able to come back. But more important, they ought to realize that if they really want to end war, the way to do it is to stay here and resist. The only good I can see in going to Canada would be if the 75,000 American boys already up there would cross en masse back into the U.S. about two weeks before the next Republican and Democratic national conventions. They could just smile and ask, 'What are you going to do with us?' You see, the problem is not just Vietnam but a hundred more Vietnams on the way. If we don't stop the military now, we'll end up murdering the whole world.

"Daddy Warbucks capitalism is over with. And we've got to realize that. The best thing we can hope for in these developing nations is democratic socialism—and we've got to help that come about. If we keep killing instead, we're going to push them into a Stalinist-type communism—and it'll be the Democratic Party that does it."

By the same logic, Maverick also opposes a volunteer military. According to him, it would "mean that instead of becoming the incipient new Nazis of the world, we would become just plain out and out Nazis. A conservative friend who is a professor recently told me 'we want a volunteer army just like you liberals do.' He said that in the future we'll have to go into more places like Cambodia and the Dominican Republic, and that a draft army just wouldn't be gung-ho enough to win. He said it'll be a matter of survival. Well, hell, if he's right, I don't know how important it is to survive.

"I take considerable solace in the knowledge that in a draft army you have loud-mouth, bellyaching Private Ronnie Duggers raising hell, writing their congressmen, going to court, and telling the army to go screw itself. There may not be a lot of hope with them, but there would be none without them."

Maverick says the way "to get the Duggers into the army" is to do away with the II-S student deferment. As he sees it, abolishing the four-year educational reprieve is the key to stopping the war. He reasons that putting an end to the university haven would bring Vietnam's horror home to America's middle and upper classes, which so far have been able to buy their sons' safety with college tuition. According to Maverick, extending the draft equitably across all social strata would jolt the silent majority into exercising its collective vocal cords. Spiro's [Vice President Spiro Agnew's] fan club would start yelling for peace too, he says.

"If at midnight, when the dead soldiers' bodies roll into San Antonio from the West Coast—if those coffins started rolling into the well-to-do sections of the city, that's when you'd see the war end. You see, all the protest up to now has come from the middle class. Although the average white isn't affected nearly as drastically the poor, the black or the chicano, he has the education to know when he's getting screwed and how to fight back," Maverick theorizes. Consequently, he says the way to hike the protest volume is to spread a fair share of the war burden over more of those white who have a suburban home with two cars in the garage.

Trying to involve poor Mexican-Americans and blacks in war resistance by convincing them of draft discrimination is largely ineffective, he says. To both minority groups, the problem of Vietnam is remote and unreal...: "Blacks and Chicanos are having too much trouble just surviving to worry about peace. Besides, they say the army gives them a better standard of living and more democracy than they get in civilian society. That's a damned sad commentary, isn't it?"

Old-fashioned ideas about proving one's manhood also confuse the issue, Maverick says. He calls the Chicanos "the biggest dopes in Texas because they don't understand the patriotism hoax the establishment in playing on them." According to him, the Mexican-Americans on San Antonio's West Side are taken advantage of by military propagandists who play on the Chicanos' traditional concept of family honor.

Lest the false impression be created that Maverick feels draft-age Chicanos should be neglected while war dissent is fomented among middle class whites, it is necessary to mention his close cooperation with San Antonio's draft counselors. Three young resisters, all about half Maverick's 50 years, run a store-front operation two blocks from the attorney's office. Maverick has defended two of them in court—one on a C.O. application and the other against a charge of trespassing on a military base. The playful verbal jibing that goes on among them is evidence of the affection and respect they hold for each other. The liberal Maverick speaks of former VISTA volunteer John Dauer as a "truly non-violent, peaceful person." The radical Dauer praises the help "Mr. Maverick" has been to him and others. On Maverick's office wall hangs a framed thank-you letter from Dauer—testimony to the successful two-year struggle to keep Dauer out of the American eagle's claws.

Dauer and his cohorts concentrate their counseling effort among San Antonio's poor, Chicanos and blacks. When a white comes to them for answers to his draft problems, they respond. But they do not spend their time hunting middle class draft-eligibles to advise. They believe that most whites have more than adequate access to lawyers and counselors.

Their reasoning is a simple sort of economics—allocating one's resources where the need is greatest. Immediate profit is not their motivation. If it were, they might be too discouraged to continue. Despite repeated efforts to awaken an anti-draft consciousness among San Antonio's Mexican-Americans, Dauer and friends have met little success. Last spring they mailed out 800 letters to graduating Chicano high school students: included was an interview with a Mexican-American ex-Marine who said he would not volunteer again unless he was "starving to death." According to Dauer, only about 25 Chicanos responded to the offer of free draft advice. Still, the number was no surprise, he says. He explains it in terms straight from Maverick's vocabulary: "The poor just don't have the free time to sit around and intellectualize abstract peace-war ideas. Chicanos have to deal with the gutty issues of life in their daily struggle to survive. What political effort they put forth is channeled through the Mexican-American Youth Organization [MAYO], and MAYO doesn't regard Vietnam as one of their most pressing concerns.

"What we have to do at this stage is not draft counseling, but draft education," he says. "For example, we have to show MAYO how ROTC in the West Side high schools not only makes army recruitment easier, but also how it ruins the educational atmosphere. We have to convince the individual Chicano that he's being discriminated against in the draft. We have to fight the fatalism that accompanies the idea of 'serving one's country.' We have to show these people that you don't have to go kill and be killed—that there are other alternatives."

Dauer unfurls rolled-up maps of San Antonio to illustrate his contention that Chicanos are discriminated against in the draft. The ink representation of the city is divided into draft board selections, and Dauer immediately points to an incriminating statistic—only one Mexican-American serves as a board member. That man was appointed as a result of his and the other resisters' political agitation. Then Dauer's index finger traces a line around the West Side and hesitates momentarily on a few of the red crosses that make the map look like a Florence Nightingale memorial.

"These are the Chicano dead," he says solemnly. "One of the San Antonio newspapers printed statistics that showed the percentages of Mexican-American war casualties were in line with the percentage of the city's Chicano population. The comparison was supposed to prove that Mexican-American's aren't discriminated against in the war. What it neglected to mention was the old idea of 'defending one's country.' Chicano America is different from defending a three-bedroom home in Alamo Heights or Terrell Hills. Why should a Chicano be obligated to risk his life for a country that really isn't his at all?"

Last spring, Dauer and company ran a counseling station on the West Side. They rented an office next door to the area army recruiter, taped a peace sign on the window and tried to counteract the military's presence. They left after a month, at the landlord's insistence. But they say they will be back somewhere on the West Side this fall, if not in a permanent location then perhaps with an arrangement with high school officials.

"We would just like an equal opportunity to explain the draft. The army recruiter has his day, so why can't we? A lot of Chicanos run into trouble because they don't understand selective service technicalities. How to appeal a I-A classification, for example. One 20-year-old who was having trouble graduating lost his deferment this spring. If he had known the appeal process, he could have delayed final action until the fall, when he could already have been enrolled for another year. That way he could have finished his education before going into the army. Now he'll be a permanent drop-out—just because he didn't know the loop-holes."

One reason Dauer feels such an intense commitment to keeping Chicanos out of Vietnam is his pessimism. Unlike Maverick, he emphasizes the immediate situation. That is, he believes Chicanos and other minorities will continue to be the main victims of the war. He has no real hope that the government will ever reform the draft so that whites will be threatened. He does not see a time when middle class Americans will rise up and force an end to the war.

"I know Nixon has said he'll end college deferments this fall," he says. "But I doubt it. It's an election year, and it would be suicide for Congress to alienate all those voters whose sons are safe in school. So our main job still is going to be helping those who can't take refuge in college, buy a psychiatric deferment or otherwise get out of the draft."

Dauer points to the protest button on Maverick's coat lapel. Despite the orange surface, its message come across appropriately in Spanish slang: "Chale con el draft." Or, as Maverick translates, "Screw the draft."

No "Remember the Alamo" psychology there. One wonders what the Daughters of the Republic of Texas would think.

Fifty Years of the Texas Observer

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