Oral History Interview

Chandler Davidson: This is October 27, 1975. I'm Chandler Davidson, Department of Sociology, Rice University. I'm interviewing Mr. Maury Maverick Jr. in his law office in San Antonio, Texas. Maury, I'd like to start by simply asking you to tell me a little bit about your family and about when you were born and growing up and how you eventually got into politics.
Maury Maverick: I was born on January 3, 1921, and my father was in the Congress of the United States for two terms and was described as one of the leaders of Franklin Roosevelt's Young Turks, along with Jerry Voorhis, who was the man that Nixon defeated. I was in Voorhis's campaign in California when Nixon beat him. I knew people all over the United States, including Dr. Frank Graham, who was then president of the University of North Carolina and whom my father held in great affection and respect. After I came back from the Marine Corps, I ran for the Texas House of Representatives, was in it for six years during the McCarthy period, got out, had been state Democratic committeeman a time or two and I ran for the United States Senate when Lyndon Johnson became vice president. I came in fifth in a field of seventy-one candidates. Since then, I became a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and American Friends Service Committee and independently represented war resisters of the Vietnam war for about five or six years. Now, I've gone back to representing people in divorces and being bored to death. [Laughter]
CD: I guess that in a way, it doesn't make good sense to ask the son of Maury Maverick when he first got interested in politics. I imagine that came pretty early, didn't it?
MM: Well, I never knew anything else in my life but politics, because my first recollection of politics is when my father, then a very young man, was Al Smith's campaign manager. The Ku Klux Klan still had some impact, not much in San Antonio, because this is a Catholic town, but it took a little spine to run Al Smith's campaign. That's the first campaign that I remember in my life.
CD: That convention was in Houston, wasn't it?
MM: Yes. That's right.
CD: The one that Jesse Jones brought to Houston.
MM: Yes.
CD: Some people said that Jesse Jones hoped to get the nomination for having brought it there.
MM: Yes, he did.
CD: So, your father managed Al Smith's campaign in Texas?
MM: In San Antonio.
CD: In San Antonio. How old were you at that time?
MM: It seems to me that I must have been about seven years old.
CD: But you were aware of what was happening?
MM: I was aware of that campaign and I was aware of politics in terms of war . . . my first recollection of my father when I was a very small child would be hearing him cry out from wounds suffered in the Argonne Forest and I used to go sit with him, he would get into a hot tub of water to ease the pain and I would sit with him and he would tell me that all war was wrong. He kept it up until Hitler began and after he had marched through about seven countries, he called me up and asked me, "Why in the hell aren't you in the Marine Corps or something?" All that twenty-five years of pacificism went down the drain, but that was another strong influence in my life.
CD: Your father suffered from his war wounds most of his life, didn't he?
MM: Oh, yes. He was a semi-cripple all his life and he would almost stagger. He would throw his body left to right and people would sometimes say that he was drinking, and sometimes he was, but a lot of times, he just couldn't walk even when he was cold sober.
CD: So then, when he went to Congress, were you involved in his campaigns at that time?
MM: Well, I knew about it. When I was a kid in Washington, you know, my heroes were people like Jerry Voorhis and Hugo Black. Hugo Black was a great favorite of the children of congressmen because Senator Black would always stop and pat us on the head and treat us with great dignity. He was a fine fellow and I remember when he got appointed to the Court and all the liberals were raising hell in New York City, my father went all over New York City talking to ACLU groups saying, "Give this guy a chance. I don't care if he belonged to the Klan or not, he is going to be all right. Give him a chance." I remember hearing about that and was quite excited about it when I was a child.
CD: Where did you go to college?
MM: I went to the University of Texas and then after I got out of the Marine Corps, I went to school for awhile at Loyola Law School on the West Coast and finished here at St. Mary's Law School in San Antonio.
CD: You were in the Marines how long?
MM: Four and a half years.
CD: From when to when?
MM: Well, from about 1942 to 1946.
CD: When your dad called you up and said, "Why aren't you in the Marines?" did you go out and get in there? [Laughter]
MM: Well, also it was after Pearl Harbor and I was flunking all my courses and Dean Parlin, the Dean of Men at the University called me in and he said, "We've figured out a way for you to get a degree." I said, "How?" and he said, "Volunteer for the Marines." I said, "What are the Marines?" "Just go on and volunteer, and you'll find out, Maury." [Laughter] That's how I got my degree.
CD: My father was in the Marines, too. So, you got out and your father was living in California at that time?
MM: Yeah, he had moved to California to practice law out there and that didn't turn out too well. I think that he got lonely and he wanted to come home. He said, "I live out here in Los Angeles and if I get drunk and fall down, my friends won't take me home. If I go back to San Antonio and get drunk, even my enemies will take me home. I'm going back home." So, we came back home.
CD: But you say that you were involved in Jerry Voorhis's campaign out there.
MM: Yes, I was in Voorhis's campaign. I organized the Loyola Law Students for Jerry Voorhis and I remember Voorhis at the time. I still correspond with him. He's in a sort of a semi-rest home. His mind is very alert, but his body is frail. Anyway, Nixon began to make attacks on Jerry's patriotism. I remember sitting in his room with his wife and children and Jerry was just wringing his hands and he was just shocked that anyone would reflect on his loyalty to his country. So, he made the mistake of debating Nixon, who pulled every kind of lowdown, dirty, Red Scare kind of tactics on him. I think that Jerry was a tough guy, but he was tough in a sensitive sort of shy, civilized kind of way. He didn't know how to get into a hurly-burly debate and demagogue, like I think he should have done. We told him to, but he said, "No, people are going to think that I'm all right. I'm a good American and I don't have to prove my patriotism." But by God, he should have, I guess.
CD: That was in what, '46 or '48?
MM: '46, I think.
CD: I guess that shortly after that campaign, you came back to Texas?
MM: I came back to Texas and finished here at St. Mary's Law School and then ran for the House of Representatives.
CD: That was when?
MM: It seems to me that it was 1950 to 1956, during the McCarthy period.
CD: You said that you spent six years in the House?
MM: I spent six years in the Texas House of Representatives, got out and ran for the Senate when Lyndon Johnson became vice president. There were seventy-one candidates in the race. I was fifth in the field of seventy-one. I was endorsed by organized labor. That's the election in which John Tower became a senator.
CD: When you ran for the legislature here, you were representing what, Bexar County?
MM: I was running at-large, Bexar County.
CD: How many representatives were there from Bexar County at that time?
MM: I think there were four.
CD: Were you the only liberal?
MM: I was the only liberal at the time. That was the worst period I ever went through. That was the days of the Red Scare and while during the Vietnam War, it was plenty tough—if you want to talk about that later on, we will—while it was plenty tough, it was nothing like the days of Joe McCarthy. Because in addition to all the terror of McCarthy on a national level, we had the bush league, new rich, ignoramus Texas style attitudes to contend with in addition to everything else. They had bills before the legislature such as to remove all books from libraries that were critical of American history, Texas history, religion, or were in any way agnostic, atheistic, or made fun of God or whatever, which, of course, would remove all good books from the library. It got so bad, for example, that the high school teachers' lobby of Texas, the Texas State Teachers Association, endorsed the bill and not one college professor in the whole state of Texas, I remember, spoke in opposition to that or any other Red legislation. There were only four of us who voted against outlawing the Communist party.
CD: In the entire House of Representatives?
MM: Yes. I was one of them. I voted for it my first term. I also . . . there is a great story that Willie Morris tells in his book, North Toward Home, when Clarence Ayers, the great libertarian professor was censured, it came up fast . . . what they would do, the speaker would lay out these bills without having any committee consideration and they would say terrible things about someone and you wouldn't know whether they were true or not and you wouldn't know how to vote. I'm trying to rationalize my cowardice now. Well, anyway, I ran and hid in the men's room and they were looking for me and I pulled my feet up so they wouldn't see me underneath the bottom of the toilet and my father called me. He died not much long after that. He called me and said, "Why in the hell didn't you vote against that resolution censuring Clarence Ayers?" I said, "Well, Papa, I was hiding in the men's room." He said, "Well, you are just a goddamn shithouse liberal." And he hung up on me. [Laughter] That haunts me to this moment.
CD: That was when, in '54?
MM: Something like that, '54.
CD: Your father died in '54?
MM: Yeah, around there. It was the McCarthy period and it was really the worst thing. I killed for example, or rather I had the lead in killing the Un-American Activities Committee in the last closing minutes of the session, which by the way . . . like some southern left-wingers, I'm for an unlimited filibuster because it is the reverse down South. We use the filibuster. It is our weapon down here.
CD: The liberals?
MM: The liberals, yes. We use it. And while you don't
have a true filibuster, civilized conservatives that day let me filibuster. The only time in six years. They didn't want to get out front, but the speaker for the first time in six years gave me an unlimited gavel. I never had it before and I never had it afterwards.
CD: Who was the speaker at that time?
MM: Reuben Senterfitt and a fellow by the name of Joe Kilgore who later went to Congress. So, they let me stand up on the front microphone and on the back microphone was a fellow named Edgar Berlin. They called it the "snortin' pole," the one in the back. We stayed on the microphones for over an hour. It was very dramatic. It was mainly aimed at professors at the University of Texas and they kept turning the hands of the clock back to get me off the microphone. I had a couple of people on both sides of me physically holding on to the podium to keep from being knocked down. Finally, with great fanfare, the Speaker said, "I declare this session adjourned sine die." It was a hell of a thing, because if that thing had passed, it would have gone out and kicked college teachers around all over the state of Texas. I again went back to the men's room and vomited and almost started crying. It was the worst goddamn thing that I ever went through in my life.
CD: Looking back on this period in the legislature, do you see the civil libertarian issues as the key issues of that period? Those are certainly the ones that you seem to be identified with.
MM: Yes. It really is tied into economics, because when they talk about the tidelands or they talk about not having adequate appropriations for old people or not having first-rate hospitals, if they really wanted to get the thirty-five of those like myself going down another road, they would pull up a Red issue and we would talk about Red issues while they were passing legislation that would gut the old people or gut the hospitals or gut the educational system. So, we were constantly on the defensive. This is an interesting thing that concerns me. My father, when he was alive during the days of FDR, was doing positive things. They were passing Social Security, of which he was the coauthor. They were doing great things to insure bank deposits, TVA, and so on. But I spent all my elective life fighting bad things. I never really had a chance to be anything good, I just had to fight crappy things all my life. I don't know what would happen now if I had a chance to be for something good. I would probably think it was bad.
CD: Do you see the race issue as playing pretty much the same function as the Red issue did, kind of refocusing people's attention on noneconomic issues?
MM: Probably. Well, this busing business. It is the same that wiped Frank Graham out at the University of North Carolina, because the Supreme Court decision came down between the time of the primary and the runoff and it wiped him out. We are going to have to have another walking through the fire, I guess, over the busing issue and such as that.
CD: Who were the names that you associate as leaders of the radical right back in that period, the people who were really coming down hard on the Communist issue and making it rough for liberals?
MM: There were the America First and some outfit out of Houston called The Minute Women. They were middle-class and upper-middle-class women who would come up and jeer at us and taunt us and stomp their feet. They were the kind of people who spat on Adlai Stevenson in Dallas and tried to hit him in the head with a picket sign and did hit him with a picket sign. Then, there were elected officials, members of the House.
CD: Who were some of them?
MM: Jack Cox, who later ran for governor. There are some others, I'll try to think of their names later. Marshall Bell was the one from San Antonio who was a man who introduced all the so-called anti-Red legislation. There were bills such as "anyone who invokes the Fifth Amendment and works for the State of Texas will be automatically fired." There was a bill for awhile to give anyone the death penalty who belonged to the Communist party. I remember that I had a hand in reducing that to life imprisonment. That was a great liberal move at the time. [Laughter] Well hell, it sounds silly today, but you know, God almighty, I was at least trying to keep the Reds from being put in the electric chair and now, I feel like a damn fool even talking about it. But at the time, it was damn important to win that little victory. It's a cute story, I think. They tried to be fair about outlawing the Communist party and all totalitarian organizations and I went to see Archbishop Robert Luce of the Catholic Church, who was the great left-wing labor bishop in his earlier days, and I told him, "Your Excellency, I'm going to vote against that bill. I don't want you to fall out with me." He said, "Well Maury, I don't want you to outlaw all totalitarian organizations either." [Laughter] So, he was a good guy and he didn't fall out with me.
CD: How about the newspapers at this point? Were there any of them on the side of the libertarians?
MM: No, but it is a very strange thing. The first newspaper, and all my liberal pals get mad at me when I say this, but the first big important, liberal newspaper in Texas to come out against the Communist legislation was the Dallas Morning News.
CD: You say, "liberal" paper, you don't mean . . . .
MM: No, the first daily paper. I don't mean "liberal" paper. The first was the most reactionary of all newspapers. That was the one to take all books from the libraries. My father had told me that there was a man who had been in the first officers' training camp of World War I with him who was the closet liberal on the Dallas Morning News. I forget his name, but he said, "He's a civilized, good guy and if he can do anything for you, he will." I sent him the bill to read and said, "I hope that you will help us." About two weeks later, the Dallas Morning News editorialized against it and that gave the other dailies a lot of courage. And then the San Antonio News did, but the strange thing about it is that the so-called "worst" newspaper in Texas was the first to really stand up. Of course, the Texas Observer and Willie Morris and before him and Ronnie Dugger were always good, but that wasn't a daily newspaper.
CD: How about the Corpus Christi Caller-Times?
MM: Well, the Caller-Times has come along since then, in terms of its liberalism, because of Ed Hare, who is down there now and who is a good friend of mine and a first-rate good man. He backed Nixon, much to the chagrin of his children, who are raising hell with him this last time. But day in and day out, it is probably the best newspaper in Texas.
CD: But at that time, they really didn't support you?
MM: Well, they were on day in and day out, with Governor Shivers and with the power structure, but the Hares were always civilized people and it sort of helped their conscience every now and then to have a cup of coffee with a liberal and I think they tried to like us as much as they could. They didn't like us as much as they should have, but they did better than anybody else.
CD: At the time that you were fighting these battles, what percentage of the Texas House would you consider to be liberal?
MM: They called us The Gashouse Gang in those days because we tried to put a natural gas tax across and we did, which was declared unconstitutional. There were about thirty-five of us.
CD: Thirty-five out of 150.
MM: Out of 150.
CD: How many in the Senate?
MM: Four, maybe. Four or five out of thirty. The guy that was the most important person in the House of Representatives in those days was D. B. Hardeman, who was Homer Rainey's campaign manager and later went on to be Adlai Stevenson's advance man and then later was a professor at a little college in Washington, D.C., and then was Sam Rayburn's research assistant. Sam Rayburn, I think, virtually died in his arms. Now, Hardeman is the leading authority on the history of the Congress of the United States and lectures for the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., and is worth a tape of his own.
CD: Hardeman is from where? What was he representing when he was in the House?
MM: Well, he's from Goliad, but he was representing Denison, Texas.
CD: And how long was he in the House, what period was this?
MM: I think that he was in the House two terms when I was there. He got beaten on a totally irrelevant issue. He got beaten on the farmers . . . they beat him largely because he voted for a bill that would require people to have liability insurance on their automobiles. That was a terribly unpopular thing at the time. Then, the lobby understood something about Hardeman and that is that liberals not only don't speak to conservatives, they don't speak to one another. But at night time, Hardeman would get us together in his apartment and he would read poetry and he would read inaugural addresses of presidents and we'd all drink whiskey and plot floor maneuvers the next day, and he was a very gentle and sweet and kind person and made everybody love one another and be tolerant of one another. I think the lobby recognized this about him and so they went after him. I think that he was the most important person in the House of Representatives in my period.
CD: Was Bob Eckhardt in the House at the time?
MM: Bob Eckhardt was a labor CIO lobbyist when I was there. He used to sit up in the gallery. He's as smart as hell, he's the smartest guy you ever saw. He could write an intricate amendment to an intricate bill and he would send it down to us on the floor. He was our research assistant. The great tragedy of the liberals is that they are all so poor. They needed teachers and research people doing work for them. We were so . . . our time was so taken up with the logistics of just fighting on the floor all the time, we never had any good research and the teachers were getting scared then to talk to us. They were plenty scared. The law school wouldn't talk to us. No one would hardly talk to us in those days. We had no research assistants. The natural gas tax we passed was Huey Long's gas tax. We thought it was a good one and we were so proud of that victory and then later on, the Supreme Court knocked it out immediately as a tax on interstate commerce.
CD: The U.S. Supreme Court?
MM: Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court. And afterwards, we found out that the reason it hadn't been taken up in Louisiana was that Huey called the oil and gas people and he really ran the state and he said, "You sons of bitches take this case up to the Supreme Court and have this law declared unconstitutional and I'll give you a constitutional law that you'll wish to God you'd never had." I don't know whether that's true or not, but anyway we took Huey's bill and it didn't work. We didn't have any power in the governor's office.
CD: Who were some of the other members of the Gashouse Gang?
MM: Well, the four that voted against outlawing the Communist party were myself, Doug Crouch, who is now in Fort Worth, A. D. Downer—"Buffalo" Downer, he's a labor leader in Houston now—and Edgar Berlin, who's a lawyer with the federal government nowdays. The first guy to make a stand when I was there was a little guy named John Barnhart out of Houston. He is a lawyer in Houston and he . . .
CD: He was in the House?
MM: He was in the House and when the thing came up to outlaw the Communist party . . . he voted against the Professor Ayers resolution that I went and hid in the toilet on, but then when the Communist thing came up, he cast a "present, but not voting" button. He was the only one in the House. He was from Beeville. He was all but run out of Beeville. He was a Catholic and he had trouble with his church and he got in trouble in a little country town and he later moved Houston and now, you know, they always say, "Well, why be the only one?" Well, if nothing else, at the time he made me ashamed of myself and to this day, everytime I see him I wince and want to hide from him, although we're close friends, because he reminds me of my own lack of courage. I think that is the reason that people loathe and despise people of conscience— because they remind you of your own lack of courage and your own lack of vision. Johnny was just virtually hounded out of Beeville. He is in Houston today, doing good. He is a swell guy.
CD: Yes, I know him.
MM: The only thing that I've got against him is that he was a cheerleader when he was at the University of Texas. If I can get over that, then he's a great guy. [Laughter]
CD: Who were some of the other liberals in that period who were in the legislature?
MM: A semi-liberal of the period, that people don't seem to understand or believe anymore, was Dolph Briscoe, the present governor of Texas. He didn't have a super left-wing voting record, but he had a very civilized voting record and was a very decent man. It is almost impossible to explain that to younger people your age, maybe. I don't know you personally, but it is hard to get the younger generation to understand that. He was a good legislator and well liked. He did some fine things. He never, during the McCarthy era, would go out of his way to sponsor bad stuff or hurt anybody or be cruel. I never saw him be cruel to anybody in my life. Now, when you get down to the final vote, he would go for it, but the little ancillary votes, to send it back to committee, to table it, he would go with the side of constitutional liberty. He was a pretty good guy.
CD: How about his vote on economic issues?
MM: Pretty good. He was better than the average. I would put him in the upper fifty percent. He was a multimillionaire, but he voted for some things that would have hurt his own pocketbook. He was the father, largely, of farm-to-market roads. Of course, he had the biggest ranches in Texas and it helped him some, but for country people, that's a great thing. Sam Rayburn used to . . . Sam Rayburn told me that when the national highway lobby came through Congress and said, "We're going to build these superhighways across America," Mr. Rayburn said, "You're not going to build these highways across America unless you have farm-to-market roads for country people. I lived up in north Texas and couldn't get into town on Saturday. The roads were muddy, the Model T Fords wouldn't run and before that, the wagons couldn't get through the mud and you are not going to build these highways unless you give these country people farm-to-market roads." So, old man Rayburn may be the father of farm-to-market roads and even among the liberal movement, that was a good issue in those days.
CD: Well, let's talk a minute about Sam Rayburn. There has been a biography of him published in the last few months, a very flattering and favorable biography. I noticed that some of the criticisms of it have been that it was too flattering and that it makes Rayburn out to be more of a man of the people than he really was. What about Rayburn? How would you fit him into the liberal-conservative spectrum?
MM: Well, there is another book coming out on Rayburn by D. B. Hardeman and Don Bacon. Hardeman, as I said, was his research assistant for years.
CD: And Hardeman was a well-known liberal?
MM: Yes. And Hardeman would be an interesting . . . it will be interesting to see what D. B. says about him. I think of him (Rayburn) more as a superb mechanic than I do as an idea man, although he had good ideas. He was the guy that Franklin Roosevelt would get to get things through the House. Roosevelt with that Yankee, upstate New York accent couldn't talk to the boys in the back room as much and as well as old Sam Rayburn did and Rayburn was a faithful lieutenant. He was a first-rate mechanic. He got my father to introduce the bill to enlarge the Supreme Court of the United States, and which helped get him beaten for reelection to the Congress. So, he stuck with Roosevelt all the way through. He got a little tired of Ivy League intellectuals who hung around Roosevelt and they gave him a pain in the neck sometimes, but I would say that he was a superb mechanic and a decent old man.
CD: What about his relation to the oil and gas industry?
MM: Well, I think that he kind of took care of them. I remember in the Adlai Stevenson race in Dallas the first time around, the two co-campaign managers, and I had a hand in doing this, were D. B. Hardeman and Blind Jim Sewell, the district judge from Corsicana and a swell guy. Old man Rayburn was the titular head and I remember Rayburn sitting around with a drink of bourbon in his hand saying, "Those sons of bitches, we took care of them on the depletion allowance and now they are running out on us." And they did run out on the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party did take care of them on it—and that worries me—and there are a lot of things about the Democratic Party that worry me, the loyalty investigations of Harry Truman and the fact that we seem to have the capacity to get into wars a little bit too easy.
CD: You feel that Rayburn in his heart of hearts was more a man of the people than not and that he accommodated himself to oil and gas simply as a practical necessity?
MM: Yes. I think that he was an old-fashioned populist. My father's campaign slogan was "Liberty and Groceries." It's a great slogan. An economist at UCLA used that on a thesis one time. I think he called it that, "Liberty and Groceries," and old man Rayburn understood what liberty and groceries were.
CD: How about Lyndon Johnson? How would you classify him? Can you classify him?
MM: Lyndon worked in my father's office at night time when he was working for Dick Kleberg and my father was responsible more than anyone for getting Lyndon as head of the NYA in Texas. As Lyndon got more popular and my father got less popular, Lyndon would more and more say, "Sam Rayburn is just like my daddy and got me that job," but that isn't so. Aubrey Williams, who was head of the NYA, wrote my father and said, "Maury, you did it." And there's a very interesting call, I got a call from Lyndon Johnson's brother, who all the rest of the family has fallen out with . . . I forget his name right now . . . .
CD: Sam?
MM: Sam Johnson. He called me about six months ago and said that he hadn't had a drink, "I'm not drunk now and haven't had a drink in two years and before I die, I want you to know that your father had more to do with getting Lyndon that NYA job than anybody in Texas. Some of the family is denying it now but I want to tell you that before I die." He did tell me that and it was true. I don't know, Lyndon was a superb guy. You can't forget the Vietnam War, but if you could for a minute and think about what he did on Medicare and all the other things . . . if it hadn't been for the Vietnam War, I think that he would have ranked among the top two or three or four or five presidents. I do think that history is going to be harder on Jack Kennedy than it is on Lyndon Johnson. That may be a Texas prejudice. I got down awfully hard on Ivy League, Georgetown intellectuals that were egging that war on and talking about the domino theory and I think that Lyndon inherited that war and he was insecure about what to do with all the people that he thought were smarter than he was. I wrote him a letter one time and I said, "Mr. President, the Vietnam War is like the west side of San Antonio where the Mexicans live. When you campaigned with my father sitting on one side of you and Paul Kilday, who beat him for Congress, sitting on the other side of you, you went from precinct to precinct and you understood how to cope with that and handle that incipient revolution among those Mexicans over there, and there isn't a damn bit of difference between the west side of San Antonio and Vietnam. You'd better look out, these intellectuals and so on that are talking about dominoes, they don't know what in the hell they are talking about. You fall back on your own Texas instincts." I don't know if he ever read the letter or not. I think that it's partly because I'm not smart enough to go to Princeton or Harvard or Yale myself, but I've gotten awfully down on the eggheads during the Vietnam War. That may be unfair, because there are a lot of good eggheads that lived to fight against it, but . . .
CD: A lot of them on the other side.
MM: A lot of them on the other side, keeping their own kids out of the war. I haven't gotten over that yet.
CD: Well, you were very much involved in defending draft resisters at that period, weren't you?
MM: I spent five years representing draft resisters and being excited about it. I have young kids that are all over the United States now, who are "my kids" that I saved from going to the penitentiary or being killed. I want to tell you an interesting thing about the draft. Unlike most of the people in ACLU, of which I am a member of the national advisory committee and I am also a contributing attorney for the American Friends Service Committee, I'm for a draft army over a volunteer army. The reason for it is that I learned something. The reason is that all of the radicalism and the dissent against the Vietnam War, virtually all of it, came from the middle and upper classes that were caught up in the draft. Blacks and browns were escaping from the ghettos and escaping from a second-rate war to a first-rate war. They got better guns in the Vietnam War, they got a pension, they got a medal, they didn't go to the penitentiary, they were escaping from something that really was almost worse than what they had back where they lived. Whereas the kids in the middle class, the swanky parts of Texas and North Carolina or wherever, they knew what they were going to lose and that's where the radicalism came from. It's an interesting thing, I don't want to talk too long, but it is an interesting thing that over fifty percent of my enlisted men clients were kids from small Catholic colleges who had been educated enough in these little rinky-dink Catholic colleges by the brothers and priests and lay teachers to know that they were getting rooked, but because they were Irish or Italian or German and not socially powerful enough to put a fix on the draft board like we Episcopalians and Presbyterians could do. Well, those were the ones who raised hell. Now, among the doctors, over half of them are Jewish, but there is a different set of historical reasons that we could talk about forever. The reason that San Antonio was so important as a conscientious objector center was that this was where the 1-A-O conscientious objectors were sent. That means the guy who can be the medic. They got down here and they began to see that the mission of the medic was ultimately to kill people just like the infantryman because they were to "sustain the fighting force," or words to that effect. That was the motto. Kids would constantly be lectured in terms of getting a man back on the battlefield to kill someone. So, they would have a change. They would change from 1-A-0 to 1-0 and that's when they would come to see me. I was the only lawyer in town representing them until a young lawyer named Jerry Goldstein came along, who I trained and who became better at it than I was, and then another one named Leonard Schwartz, two young Jewish lawyers and myself. Only three lawyers out of over two thousand that would walk into a court for those kids voluntarily. The thing that I always resented and resent today, is that during the time when the Vietnam War was still popular, I would walk into a federal court with a poor little kid that didn't want to murder anybody and he would be shaking in his boots and I would be shaking in mine and we would be treated more rudely than . . . I would make maybe five hundred dollars and we would be treated more rudely than a lawyer who would walk in with a heroin pusher and making a $15,000 fee and caught with fifty pounds of heroin in the back of a trunk somewhere. It was rough.
CD: Treated rudely by whom?
MM: I mean treated rudely by people like the marshaƂs, who would sort of hover near you like someone was going to blow up the court or the judges would be sharp to you, "Sit down, Counselor," and talk to you in a rough kind of way as if you really had some dangerous person with you. I must say, though, that the federal judiciary, particularly the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, gave us the great relief that we needed. I think the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit maybe saved the Old South from actually going into open rebellion. The finest judge among all of them was a Republican appointee by Eisenhower named Minor Wisdom, out of New Orleans. He had organized Louisiana for Eisenhower over Taft and he had a very conservative background and he got on the bench and became the most humane man on the bench, I think, today.
CD: He's still on there, isn't he?
MM: He's still on there and he's a great old man.
CD: Why were so few of your fellow lawyers willing to take these cases? How do you explain that?
MM: Well, it's related to patriotism, you know. It's a lack of patriotism to not back your country in time of war and it was the second most terrifying thing that I went through in my life. The McCarthy era was worse, but I was older and smarter and my skin was thicker and didn't give a damn as much. But, there was this question of whether you loved your country or not and people were checking on me. I knew that I was under surveillance. I would go out to the military bases and sometimes the military police would follow me. Since then, I've talked to people who said that they would say, "Maury Maverick is now driving into the base," and they would have a condition read as if someone from Mars was landing at Galveston. Sometimes when I would talk to kids in a parking lot . . . they wouldn't let them come to my office, I had to talk to them in a parking lot, well, the MPs would circle me and one time, I got my associate, Herschel Bernard, who is Jewish, to come and help me and a big MP came up, looked like he was about six feet, seven inches tall and damn near weighed three hundred pounds. He had his fists doubled up and looked like he was going to beat us up and I said, "Sergeant, if you are going to beat anybody up, beat my law partner up. He's Jewish." [Laughter] And the sergeant had a sense of humor and he started laughing and Herky Bernard said, "You son of a bitch, speak for yourself." [Laughter]
CD: Well, this isn't the first time that you've been "surveilled," as they say. The FBI or somebody has been on your tail for many years, haven't they?
MM: I guess so.
CD: You mentioned the other day to me over the phone, for example, that when you went out to El Paso to speak . . . what was the story there with Malcolm McGregor?
MM: Well, I ran for the senate and the only ones that would let me talk to them was the Unitarian Church and he said, "There'll be more FBI agents outside taking down license plate numbers than there will be people inside listening to you." That was true and not only that, I got in there and these goddamn Unitarians weren't satisfied that I was for letting Red China into the United Nations twenty years ago, they kept on bringing up worse and worse left-wing issues, and if I had any chance of getting elected to the senate before I talked to those five Unitarians, I didn't have any after it was over with. [Laughter]
CD: Did the knowledge that the FBI was on your tail exert any dampening effect on your ardor?
MM: No, it didn't bother me. The thing that worried me, the thing that was discouraging to me and that was only about eighteen, fifteen or twenty years ago, I remember going into east Texas, campaigning in deep east Texas and I had a local campaign manager, I remember, and I was working through the courthouse and I shook hands with a black person and my liberal manager took me off to the side and said, "You will not shake hands with a black person." I had no idea that I was being liberal or brave or anything else, I wanted his goddamn vote. It never entered my mind . . .
CD: This was in '61?
MM: Yes. And my press secretary was Ronnie Dugger, who was the editor of the Texas Observer and a great guy. We went into one town with him one day and the manager in that town, whose name shall remain anonymous, saw Ronnie Dugger walk up with me and he said, "Why have you got Ronnie Dugger with you? Everybody in east Texas knows that Ronnie Dugger would sleep with a nigger woman." And instead of Dugger being a good press agent and going out to the car, he said, "Yes, I'd sleep with a nigger woman, you son of a bitch, what's it to you?" So, I lost a manager right there and had to get out of town. I told Dugger, "Will you please wait until the campaign is over before voicing your sexual preferences and I will appreciate it." [Laughter]
CD: A lot of liberals back in 1961 were kind of appalled to see both you and Henry B. Gonzalez, both well-known liberals, running against each other on the ticket there in that special senatorial election. What is and what was your relation with Henry Gonzalez and what effect did that have?
MM: We have sort of an Alphonse and Gaston relationship. We're polite to each other. He and I should have talked to one another. That taught me something about vanity. He wouldn't talk to me and I wouldn't talk to him. What I should have done and what he should have done, is pick up the telephone and say, "Look Henry, you get out of the race or I'll get out of the race—we'll flip." In retrospect, I know I should have done that, but it was two liberals who were too proud and too vain and too foolish to talk to one another. That was a jackass stunt on my part and it was on Henry's, too. I don't know how to explain that. It is just one of those things, sort of like two college professors in the same department that are good guys and won't talk to one another and are damn fools. That happens to you teachers all the time and it happened to me. It was a mistake.
CD: But both of you were very similar in your political beliefs?
MM: Yes, but I think . . . yes, I think so. You see, Henry wiped me out in San Antonio among the Mexicans where I had been strong and my father was strong. That polished me off from going to Congress.
CD: That particular race did?
MM: Yes. That ended my chances of going to the U.S. House of Representatives.
CD: Well, if you had gone, you would probably have gone from the seat that Henry now has.
MM: I would have gone from the seat that Henry has gone from, but it would have been interesting to see what I would have done with this Pentagon-oriented society. I often wonder whether I would have been a hawk on Vietnam if I had been in Congress because Henry was a very studied hawk on Vietnam. He would come down in Air Force One and he was a hawk against Castro and he was a hawk on the Dominican Republic and I don't know what the hell I would have been. Because, it is one thing not to be in Congress and talk about it and another thing to be there.
CD: You are suggesting that his hawkishness here might have had something to do with what you call San Antonio's "Pentagon economy"?
MM: Yes. You know, this whole town makes its living off the Pentagon. I made my living off the Pentagon by fighting it. I made maybe $500 or $750 a case when other lawyers were making $3000 to $15,000 a case, but whatever living I was making, I was making off the Pentagon as an enemy of the Pentagon. We all live off the Pentagon in San Antonio.
CD: You know Bob Hall, I guess, in Houston.
MM: Not well. I used to know him. He is a good fellow. He's a labor lawyer there, isn't he?
CD: Yes, he was performing pretty much the same function there that you were performing here, insofar as being one of the few people who were identified as being willing to handle the draft cases.
MM: Yes. Johnny Barnhart handled some, too.
CD: Yes.
MM: Bob Hall is a good fellow and I think that he is with that lawyer . . . the one who has the Greek name?
CD: Chris Dixie.
MM: Dixie, yeah. He is a good guy. A very fine lawyer in Austin is David Richards, who has just filed a lawsuit for the members of the University of Texas faculty who were denied merit increases although their chairman of their departments recommended them for it. There is a big fight going on against the new president of the University of Texas and Richards is the lawyer for them.
CD: How about Dave Shapiro, do you know him?
MM: I know Dave Shapiro pretty well. He is a bright guy and a very cynical guy and he would always manage to write extremely withering invectives against me in behalf of Henry Gonzalez. So, you know, I don't go around singing his praises all the time, but he was a good guy and a good liberal. He was just for Henry and against me.
CD: That's rather ironic. I was talking to him awhile ago and he seems to be rather disenchanted with Henry these days.
MM: Well, I would rank Henry among the top three to five congressmen from Texas, Bob Eckhardt of Houston is the best and I think worthy of being the president of the United States of America. A great and fine man.
CD: How about Barbara Jordan?
MM: Oh, I don't know. If she had had a white skin, she might have been a southern lady. I don't know, I'm not as comfortable around her and I don't know why. I think that she is probably one of the better representatives from Texas, but I'm not as enthusiastic about her as a lot of people are.
CD: Would you say that Eckhardt is pretty much in the Maverick mold? Do you see a sort of continuity here between your father's career and that of Eckhardt?
MM: Bob is a lot smoother fellow than my father. My father was an abrasive guy who was the youngest of eleven children and he had ten brothers and sisters that picked on him . . . youngest of ten or eleven, I forget. There were plenty of them. Anyway, he would get into a fistfight with his older brothers and sisters and Alistair Cooke called him the "bad boy of the New Deal who always had his fists up." Bob is a more slow-talking and gracious and polite person than my father was. My father would call somebody a son of a bitch and have a fistfight and then go on to something else. He didn't carry grudges, though. Henry Gonzalez, for example, if you fall out with Henry and he knocks you down, the battle isn't over with. He will grind you and grind you with his heel, figuratively speaking, with your face into the ground until you are a bloody pulp. When my father had a fight and knocked you out or got knocked out and when he was mayor of San Antonio . . .
CD: Are you speaking figuratively here?
MM: Figuratively, yes. He would hire the widows of all his enemies and give them jobs, things like that. Henry is a tough guy and I imagine that Barbara Jordan is the same way, but Bob is I think equally courageous and equally intellectual, but he is a smoother guy. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, he's just a gentle, soft-spoken guy.
CD: You just suggested a minute ago that Bob would make a fine president of the United States. He doesn't seem to have that ambition, though, does he?
MM: Well, a lot of people who would make a good president of the United States know that they can't be president. I think that I would make a good appellate justice, a federal appellate justice, but I'm not ever going to get to be one. Bob is realistic. He said that he would rather "hang from the tit of his congressional district in Harris County than cling to the cold bosom of Texas." That probably is a realistic thing and it's probably the truth. He couldn't go anywhere in Texas, I don't think. They would do a job on him and they may do a job on him in Houston before it's all over. His great threat is that some member of the minority is going to run against him and polish him off like they polished me off in Bexar County. The white Anglo liberal in the South is going to more and more become a gadfly and he is going to have to understand that about himself. That's important. That's all right. I'm a gadfly and I understand that role, but now that the Supreme Court has said that you run in smaller legislative districts instead of countywide, the blacks are going to elect blacks for another hundred years and the browns are going to elect browns. Where in the hell is a white liberal going to get elected in the smaller races in Texas? There is nowhere in Bexar County that I can run. I don't have a constituency anymore. That wiped out, I think, the white liberals in the smaller races in Texas.
CD: So far as electoral politics goes?
MM: Yes. It may be all right, because it is right for blacks and browns to have their own liberals and it's OK, but I think that the white liberal has to understand that about himself and not worry about it, sort of be like Wayne Morse was when he got in and not worry every five minutes about being reelected and understand that you are not and go on and play your role.
CD: Do you think that for the middle-aged white liberal that is a role that he can accept gracefully, to give his electoral base to the minorities?
MM: Well, he will act like he is graceful about it. I am not so damn gracious about it now in the deep recesses of my heart because I think that I would be a better legislator than some of the blacks and browns. I'm getting a little reverse Jim Crow and I don't like it and hell, I don't have to like it just because I'm white and Protestant, I don't have to like it. I would at least like to get beaten for the right reasons if I am going to get beaten. I think that is a phase that we are going to go through.
CD: Well, I know that you have to go out of town today, so . . .
MM: If you want to talk to me some more, go ahead.
CD: If you've got a little more time, I'll . . .
MM: Go ahead.
CD: I'll sure do it. You say when, because I could go on and on. I would like to get back a little bit to some of the history of the famous convention fights back in the '50s. Did you go to the national convention or were you involved in national convention politics back in 1952 when the Maverick delegation was contesting its seats with the Shivers delegation?
MM: I was not at that convention. My father was up there and like all the sons of fairly famous fathers, when he was doing his stuff, I would go off somewhere else. I have a complex about that and I wanted to be my own man and make my own light shine under the basket. My father was such a powerful personality that I felt dwarfed by him and so, when he was operating, I would get out of the way. There's another story that Willie Morris tells and this really happened. After my father had had about his fifth heart attack, I went in to see him and he was dead an hour later or two hours later and he said, "I want to give you a compliment, Maury Jr." I said, "What is it, Papa?" He said, "Well, you didn't turn out to be as big . . . "
MM: Those were the last words that my dad spoke to me. So, when he was alive, he was such a powerful guy that I would get in the background. I've noticed that the children of famous people, it is awful hard for them not to be alcoholics or washouts because they are constantly compared to their father or mother. If my father had stayed alive another ten or fifteen years, I don't know what the hell I would have done myself, so it is tough.
CD: To get back to that convention, maybe you will remember what was involved there. It was a case of Shivers leading one set of delegates and your father . . . I believe that the state convention was in San Antonio and your father led a rump convention to La Villita and so they both went up there trying to get seated and according to at least one account that I've read, Rayburn initially wanted to see your dad's delegation seated and Lyndon Johnson had a long talk with Shivers and Shivers convinced him that he ought to have his delegates seated.
MM: I think that my father told me that they had promised him, indicated to him that he would be seated. Then, you will remember that on the floor, Shivers took the microphone and said he would support the nominee, as I recall. Right on national TV and then came back home two weeks later and double-crossed the people that he made this national commitment to. Now, a very interesting thing happened, I don't know what that had to do with it, but I remember one night that the telephone rang and Adlai Stevenson called my father and he said, "Maury, what should I do about the tidelands? I am worried to death about it, everybody from Texas is hitting me about the tidelands." He said, "Well, if you want to get elected, you had better lie about it, but if you want to tell the truth, you had better say that Texas is like the rest of the United States and not any more entitled to offshore oil than any other state in the union. It is just a goddamn lie that Texas should be any different from any other state in the union. So, that's the choice, Adlai, that you are going to have to make." Stevenson came out and said that the tidelands should belong to all the people of the United States of America. When I was in the legislature later on, that was almost on par with the Red issue, you just talked about tidelands. They wouldn't talk about hospitals, you couldn't talk about anything, it just had to be tidelands, tidelands, tidelands. That was a scary thing in the old days.
CD: Did the tidelands issue come up in the way of any votes in the Texas legislature?
MM: You've made me think about something. I was looking through some old letters the other day, where I wrote Justice William O. Douglas. The first week that I was in the Texas House of Representatives, there was a bill to impeach William O. Douglas because he had written the tidelands decision. As I remember it, only seven of us voted against it. Well, we were so green that we didn't know how to ask for a record vote and we had an electric voting system, they have green lights and red lights up on the panel for about fifteen or twenty seconds and there were seven votes against impeachment of Douglas and I was one of them. I remember seeing the names up there, I didn't know who in the hell they were, but it was a rough vote, really a rough vote. I think that I remet D. B. Hardeman and "Blind Jim" Sewell from Corsicana. There were seven of us and from that nucleus of seven people, sort of like the Christians in the catacombs, we expanded into the Gashouse Gang.
CD: That was kind of the first vote that brought you . . .
MM: I think that in my mind, that was the first vote that ushered in the so-called Gashouse Gang and then we expanded from about seven to thirty-five.
CD: What was the effect of that vote? Was it merely a resolution?
MM: A resolution. I wrote Douglas about it and he wrote me back as mad as hell about it and he wanted me to explain it and so I wrote back and forth to him for about six weeks, explaining it to him. He didn't like it at all.
CD: Not the last time they attempted to impeach him.
MM: No.
CD: You also were involved in presidential politics in 1960, weren't you? Didn't you work pretty hard in the Kennedy-Johnson campaign?
MM: I worked pretty hard in the Kennedy-Johnson thing, I was state committeeman for awhile and then I was . . . .
CD: How long were you state committeeman?
MM: Off and on for either four or six years, I forget. I was state committeeman when Jack Kennedy came down here and was killed. Ralph Yarborough claimed that also was an effort to do him in and I think he's right. Everybody denies it, but I think that it's right. I think that he is right because although I was state committeeman, the John Connally people were running the party and I was not given a pass to go into the airport to meet the presidential nominee of my party although I was state committeeman. I was stopped at the airport. So, I went down to south San Antonio to the military base and was standing along the fence when he came along and I introduced myself to Kennedy. That was the day before he was killed. He said, "Didn't somebody in your family write Washington Wife?" A great-aunt of mine, Ellen Maury Slaton, who wrote Washington Wife, it was one of the ten best sellers. It was a gossipy, mean, smart, funny book and he called his wife over and threw back his head, laughed and said, "God, that was a swell book." The next day, he was murdered. That was an anti-Ralph Yarborough maneuver partially, I think. I don't think that Kennedy realized it was, but the Johnson-Connally people were doing Yarborough in.
CD: Well, how, specifically, do you speculate they were trying to do him in?
MM: Well, I was the only Yarborough man and whoever heard of not letting a state Democratic committeeman in to meet the president and head of your party?
CD: In other words, they were just trying to isolate the state liberals from the president?
MM: Yes, the liberals in general and the Yarborough people in particular. I think that Ralph is telling the truth about that. He is paranoid as hell, but he is entitled to be. I don't think that there is any question that there was extreme tension during that whole thing. Ralph was calling me three or four times a night, calling Woodrow Seals, who is a federal district judge now, all day long. Woodrow is the one that earlier lined up that meeting with Kennedy and all the preachers in Houston and that was . . . .
CD: In the campaign?
MM: Yes, that was further back. Anyway, he was calling Woodrow Seals and he was calling all his people. He was desperate, he was a wild man about it. I imagine that some of it was exaggerated, but not a hell of a lot.
CD: What was it, they weren't letting him ride in the same car . . .
MM: In the same car with the president and they were pushing Connally and putting him Yarborough off to the side.
CD: Was Johnson seen as partisan in this, to Connally?
MM: I think so, yes. Yes. I can't prove it, but I believe that it was. I know San Antonio politics and I know that the Connally people were running the airport rally for Jack Kennedy. They were all over the place and the Yarborough people were kept off the premises.
CD: Who were some of the Connally people in San Antonio that were involved in that?
MM: Oh, John Peace, who was later on the Board of Regents and is dead now, and there was George Brown's daughter out of Houston, I forget her married name . . .
CD: Mrs. Negley?
MM: Yes, Nancy Negley. A smart, good-looking gal. And then there was . . .
CD: Is she a force in San Antonio politics, she and her husband?
MM: They are separated right now, but . . . she was when she was with John Connally, but I think that she has become more of an artsy-craftsy type now.
CD: Junior League?
MM: Junior League, artsy-craftsy and has done some pretty good stuff on sustaining the arts here. She's all right.
CD: How old is she, in her forties?
MM: Yes, she's in her forties. A good-looking gal. She was offered a Hollywood contract at one time. Nobody knows that, it is hardly known.
CD: How about the Yarborough campaigns? Have you been involved in the Yarborough effort over the years in his bids for . . .
MM: I was in all of his campaigns except when Jim Hart, the chancellor of the university, ran and I was for Jim Hart in that campaign.
CD: Which campaign was that, what year?
MM: He ran for the senate and I forget. It was the time when Ralph got elected to the senate for the first time. I had gone to Ralph and said, "Are you going to run for the senate?" He said, "No, I'm going to run for governor." I said, "Well, I'm going to be for Jim Hart." He said, "That's fine." The next week, he announced for the senate. So, I just said, "Hell, I can't quit Chancellor Hart." Jim got no votes at all, but I was in nearly all of Yarborough's campaigns. He would stay at my house at night and we would give him a bed, he was so poor. He was campaigning then like Fred Harris is campaigning now. We would give him a free bed and the next morning, I would give him five dollars to get gas money to get his car from San Antonio to Austin. That's how desperately poor he was.
CD: Wasn't that true in just about every campaign he ran in?
MM: Yeah, you know . . . once he got elected, he began to get money, labor money and other stuff. But it was generally true in all of his campaigns and he still owes a lot of money.
CD: Yes, I get a letter from him about every six months asking for a little more.
MM: Right. He's gotten down pretty far but he is still in trouble financially.
CD: What sort of support did Yarborough have in San Antonio through the years? Has this been a stronghold of Yarborough support?
MM: Off and on. It depends on how that Civil Service crowd goes. I think that his strength was San Antonio and east Texas and then Bentsen began to do the job on him on the question of race and I think to a great extent that did him in.
CD: Let me ask you a couple of questions about the the Chicano vote in San Antonio. I did a study of the black vote in Houston awhile back and the conclusion I reached there was that although there are various organizations and I guess one central black organization, that kind of helped with voter education and screening candidates and so forth, there is not any organization that can really get the black electorate in Houston to vote for a conservative candidate. I mean, there is certainly some organizational work that goes into getting the black vote out and getting them to vote for blacks or liberals, but it would be very difficult to get the black vote in Houston to go for say, John Connally, even if all of the leaders came out for him. What about the Chicanos in San Antonio? Can you say the same thing for them or are there machines of one sort or another who can pretty much engineer the Chicano bloc to vote for a liberal one time and a conservative the next?
MM: They are pretty good about voting for the liberals. That's how I got elected to the legislature, because I would carry the West Side eight, nine, ten to one. On the whole, they were all right. The only question that I would have about them of an adverse nature, and it is true about Anglos and blacks and everybody, would be the civil service jobs of the people working for the Pentagon, the impact that the war-making processes have on our economy. They might have to be more conformist because of that, but so is everyone else.
CD: So really, the situation here in San Antonio is kind of like the situation in Senator Henry Jackson's state in Washington, where issues that effect Boeing are really going to be crucial up there and it . . .
MM: Yes. Organized labor here in San Antonio is very conservative on war-making issues. I remember that I had represented a certain local here in San Antonio for fifteen years and I began to represent conscientious objectors and they came in to see me and said, "We are not going to let a lawyer who represents yellow-bellies represent our union." I said, "Well, look, I've been with you guys for fifteen years. I've kept you out of trouble and ya'll have been good to me, I've made a little monthly retainer out of you. What the hell do you care if I represent yellow-bellies or not? It's your social and economic strata that is being murdered, not the people from Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills." They said, "Well, you are supposed to fight for your country and we don't want a lawyer for yellow-bellies." So, I lost that account and by God, that Pentagon just seeps into everything around here.
CD: How strong is the labor movement in San Antonio? Is it a force to be reckoned with in politics?
MM: It's not strong for two reasons. One, it's too conservative and for another reason, and it's a bad reason, they can bring up wetback Mexicans any time and break a strike when they want to. There can't be any labor here like Houston where you've got some discipline in the ranks of labor, because they can go down and get some poor starving Mexican below the Rio Grande and bring him up. I have been gravitating to the Quakers in the last few years of my life and . . . this may be getting off the point, but the Quaker position is opposed to the farmworkers and to organized labor, that those people in Mexico are human beings too, and that the artificial boundary line of the Rio Grande doesn't mean that they get any less hungry than anyone else. While that may hurt people up here, those people down there have to eat, too. It is an interesting, irrelevant point that I just made. It interested me that they would take that position.
CD: I remember having somewhat those same ambivalent feelings when I worked for the Texas Observer and went out to El Paso to look at some of the problems the labor unions were having there and of course, the labor leaders were very irate about the ease with which the wetbacks could come across and act as scabs. But when you saw those very poor people coming over and getting a job, you had mixed feelings.
MM: When did you work for the Observer?
CD: Well, I worked very briefly for it back in 1962, shortly before Willie Morris left and then a very short time after Ronnie Dugger took over, just a few months, actually. Willie had actually gotten me to come back from France, where I was at the time, because he wanted me to take over the Observer and Ronnie didn't want that. Willie hadn't known that Ronnie was going to come back in and be editor at that point.
MM: Do you and Ronnie get along all right? So-so?
CD: We're very good friends right now. We've been on the outs lots of times, but basically, I think that we are good, long-time friends. One more question about the wetbacks. What percentage, if you can make any kind of guess like this, what percentage of the Chicano population here in San Antonio would you estimate to be composed of illegal aliens?
MM: I don't know how to answer that. You talk to Ernie Cortez about that and they would tell you. I don't know how to answer it. There's something strange that's happened to me, in the last twenty years, I've gotten closer to the black movement and further away from the brown movement. I don't know why and I have no understanding of why that has happened to me. It absolutely astonishes me that that has happened, but it has. I used to know all about the brown movement. I ran with Gus Garcia, now Judge Carlos Cardena, perhaps the finest Mexican American intellectual in Texas. He is worthy of sitting on the Supreme Court right now, he'd be another Brandeis. I knew a lot about it in the old days, but I don't know anything about it anymore.
CD: Well, tell me a little bit about the black population in San Antonio. That's a rather small one compared to the Chicanos, isn't it?
MM: Yes. And they are all working for the Pentagon, too, but like blacks everywhere in the South, they are damn well organized and they know what they are doing and they've got a black representative from here, a better fellow than that liberal Texas Monthly magazine gives him credit for being. He is a lot better fellow.
CD: This is Sutton that you are talking about?
MM: Yeah, G. J. Sutton, which may probably be the most interesting black family in Texas and it's worth telling one of your students, if you've got one from San Antonio, to do a story on that family. One of them was a scientist in the Soviet Union and designed a hemp rope of some kind that was of great use to the Russians. He speaks Russian fluently. One of the girls was a medical doctor, one of the first black women to be a doctor in America. One of them is Percy Sutton, the president of the borough of Manhattan and may be the first black mayor of New York City. He was raised on a farm and he was up making a speech in upstate New York to a bunch of farmers and they said, "This Harlem black, what's he going to know about agriculture?" Well, he got up and talked about crows and insects and locusts and boll weevils and they never had heard anything like that in their lives. He was raised on a farm. The reason that he is borough president of New York, Manhattan, today is that after World War II he applied to go to Texas A&M's veterinary medicine school, he loved animals, and they wouldn't let him in. They said that he had to go to the black school. He said, "I'm not going to go to any black school." For that reason, he went to New York and I tell Percy that Texas lost a good horse doctor.
CD: Texas has supplied quite a few important black leaders around the country.
MM: Yes. Bradley in Los Angeles and some others, but that is the reason that Percy is in New York. He would be a doctor on the East Side of San Antonio today if it hadn't been for that. Some of the other Sutton girls . . . one of them is a college professor today and two others are high school teachers in the Berkeley area or San Francisco area. If there are ever any San Antonio kids that want to do a paper that is worthwhile, that would be a swell project.
CD: They are a very interesting family.
MM: Very astonishingly interesting. Sutton tells that . . . his mother, I knew her and she was as white looking as mine. The people on his mother's side are from New Orleans and all those New Orleans relatives are white and those from Virginia are all black and G. J. told me one time that he was . . . . what was the name of the famous boat that brought the original settlers over from England and people are so proud to be descended from them?
CD: The Mayflower?
MM: Yes. G. J. said that he was a lot more proud of his ancestors that came over on the slave ships than he is of the ones who came over on the Mayflower. [Laughter]
CD: There was a black machine in San Antonio back during the . . .
MM: Bellinger. His son is alive today and very conservative. My father was a contemporary of his and got into trouble. All the blacks were backing him and he got tired of the machine. The machine was really delivering the black vote against him and he was fighting like hell as a liberal all the time and he lost his temper one time and called Valmo Bellinger a black baboon and immediately the bottom just fell out of everything. He got in trouble on that and he lost the East Side. It taught him a lesson. It was a very powerful family and old man Bellinger was a gambler and he ran the numbers racket here in town. Another son is a lawyer here in town and a pretty good guy, Harry Bellinger.
CD: When did the machine break down?
MM: When the old man died.
CD: And what was the source of his power? Gambling?
MM: Gambling, the numbers and he would deliver votes, you know. He would deliver ten or fifteen pretty big precincts and so the police let him operate. The Suttons and the Bellingers were always in different camps. Socially, they were friends, but they were politically in different camps.
CD: Well, let me ask you, to wrap this up, Maury, a very general sort of question like they ask people on television talk shows. You've been involved in liberal politics back since your dad's time in the 1930s and 1940s, and so you have a rather long-term perspective from which to judge the progress, or the lack of it, that liberalism has made in Texas. What progress has it made? Is it a more viable organization than it was thirty years ago? Has it accomplished much?
MM: I think that it has accomplished a lot, but I think that one of the great defects in it has been that younger people haven't come along. Everything went into Ralph Yarborough's campaigns, just Ralph, Ralph, Ralph. I was a part of that and would be again. Now Ralph Yarborough is an old man and I don't know any young people or middle-aged people coming along in Texas today, with the possible exception of Bob Eckhardt, and he is getting to be an old man himself. I don't know any young people that would . . . I think that state of liberalism in Texas is very bad. I don't know any young people at all. Also, there is the structured thing of having blacks electing blacks and browns electing browns. I don't know what is going to happen. I don't see any young, snappy, swell young liberals with broad statewide appeal today. In that sense, I think that we are worse off than we were.
CD: The labor movement doesn't seem to have produced any young leaders either, does it?
MM: No. I don't know much about it. The labor movement backed me for the United States Senate. I think they are sorry that they did . . .
CD: Who is that, Hank Brown who was leader of the . . .
MM: No, Jerry Holleman. The last great CIO labor leader in this state was Fred Schmidt. Hank Brown is a friend of mine, but Fred Schmidt was a sort of Adlai Stevenson of the labor movement. He was an old CIO intellectual radical and later became a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. He had a heart attack and has retired now and living, I think, in Tehachapi, California. He worked with me and Jerry Holleman worked with me and then later on, Hank Brown worked with me. As you indicated earlier, Henry and I cut each other up so much that it was impossible. Now, if I had gotten all of Henry's votes, I think that I . . . assuming that I had gotten all of them, I think that I would have been number two against Bill Blakley and there, but for the grace of God, went a senate seat.
CD: Well, it has been a very enjoyable morning and I appreciate it.
MM: I enjoyed talking to you.

Southern Oral History Program Collection

No comments:

Post a Comment