SAN ANTONIO, Texas — In his 62 years, Maury Maverick Jr. has packed a lot into his life and done most of it well. But the one thing he does best is make people mad. You might say it's a family tradition.
His father, Maury Maverick, sparked a small riot in 1935 when, as mayor, he allowed Communists to speak at San Antonio's city auditorium. Great-grandfather Samuel A. Maverick claimed all unbranded cattle as his, simultaneously flouting the Code of the West and adding a new word to the English language.
And Maury Jr. — a liberal in a state where liberalism is as welcome as Jane Fonda at a John Birch Society picnic — manages to nettle conservatives and liberals with equal élan. We're talking world-class irritating.
"Before we start, let's get one thing straight," he said, eyes a-twinkle and grinning like some deranged choir boy. "I'm a liberal but I'm no big time socialist like those fatcat Dallas oilmen who get government subsidies like depletion allowances." He pauses two beats. "I'm just an itty-bitty South Texas democratic socialist. I haven't hit the bigtime yet."
The Maverick family has been a tradition in San Antonio since Sam Maverick arrived just in time for the Texas Revolution and stayed on to acquire a homestead that included the Alamo and what is now downtown San Antonio.
Maverick's father and namesake added to the family legend and changed San Antonio's face in the process. During the Depression, Maury Sr. leaned on his good friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt to provide WPA funds to dredge out the San Antonio River and create a scenic area along its banks. Some civic boosters would still rather spit than say thanks to Maury Sr. for providing the tourist lure of the San Antonio River.
"Daddy couldn't open the refrigerator door without fighting with the milk bottle," Maverick said. "He fought all his life, usually against the mean and ignorant people and those fights can get pretty scary.
"I went through some hell with my daddy's political life," he added. "It's difficult to be a famous politician's son and let your own light shine. I saw it destroy FDR's children. The only thing worse is being a preacher's kid."
Maury Jr. found his own path along the unlikely avenue of the Marine Corps and World WarII. "I was flunking my courses at the University of Texas when Dean H.T. Parlan said he'd give me a degree if I'd join the Marines," Maverick said. "I said, 'What's the Marines?" and he said, 'You'll find out.' I did, too."
After island-hopping with the Marines through the Pacific, Maverick returned to Texas and got his law degree. In 1950, he was elected as state representative from Bexar County, a position he held for six years. "It was the McCarthy period and there were only three or four of us who fought against it," he said. "That good man Barefoot Sanders was there with me and it was tougher on him being a brave liberal from Dallas County than it was for me in Bexar County."
The battles against McCarthyism opened Maverick's eyes to some frightening political realties. "Nothing, before or since, has been as terrifying for me," he said. "It was the nearest I can figure to being a Jew in Nazi Germany.
"It wasn't the evil people," he added. "It was the good people who ran for cover. I remember a fight against a censorship bill. They wanted to censor school books. And the Texas State Teacher's Association endorsed it to get some pay raises. That was the low point of my life and I've never forgiven TSTA for that."
Soured on politics, Maverick found other battles to fight, taking on a host of unpopular causes. Four times he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of such political heresies as allowing Mexican-Americans to serve on jurys and free speech on military bases.
"I got a lot of that from my daddy," Maverick said. "When I was a kid, he'd catch me sleeping in the morning. He'd pop my behind and say, 'What the hell's the matter with you. Get, up and do something for your country.'"
Maury Sr. gave his son a taste for heroes. "Daddy loved FDR and taught me to love him, too." Maverick said. "He's my hero, because he was a positive man who tried to do something good for the poor and for the nation. My only regret is that, all my life, I've had to be fighting against something — laws that hurt blacks, Mexican, unions, teachers. I never could be for something."
In the turmoil of the Vietnam era, Maverick found another battlefront — the right of young men to oppose war. "It wasn't ideological at first," he said.
"Other lawyers wouldn't touch the conscientious objectors. They'd defend dope dealers and murderers but they wouldn't help some little, trembling kid who was against the war. So I did and I defended more CO's than any other lawyer in Texas. But I tell you something. Those kids turned me around and made me an enemy of war."
But no the military draft. "It makes the liberals mad but I feel everyone needs a chance to serve their country," he said. "And in case of war, you draft the kids in Highland Park and send them out to die and their folks will turn radical and shut that war down. For the kids in the ghetto, they're just going from one war to another."
Maverick's war against complacency isn't finished. He still practices law and now writes a weekly column in the San Antonio Express-News that manages to anger liberal friends and conservative enemies equally. "The story goes that I said I always wanted to be a newspaper man so I could join a union," Maverick said. "I never said that, but maybe I should have. I sometimes think I would have done more good as a newsman than a lawyer."
At this stage in his life, Maverick finds time for a little introspection. "I can't complain," he said. "I've had an exciting life and haven't been bored like most lawyers. That's the worst thing, to be bored all your life."
David McLemore, The Dallas Morning News, June 1982