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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Maury Maverick, October 27, 1975. Interview A-0323. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Experiences in state legislature during the height of the McCarthy era

Maverick discusses some of his major activities as a representative of Bexar County, Texas, in the Texas House of Representatives during the 1950s. Maverick was one of the most outspoken and most liberal members of the state legislature during the height of the McCarthy era. Here, he describes how he took various stands against the wave of proposed anti-Red legislature and laments instances in which he did not demonstrate more courage.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Maury Maverick, October 27, 1975. Interview A-0323. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
You were in the Marines how long?
MAURY MAVERICK:
Four and a half years.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
From when to when?
MAURY MAVERICK:
Well, from about 1942 to 1946.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
When your dad called you up and said, "Why aren't you in the Marines?" did you go out and get in there? [Laughter]
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
My father was in the Marines, too. So, you got out and your father was living in California at that time?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
But you say that you were involved in Jerry Voorhis' campaign out there.
MAURY MAVERICK:
Yes, I was in Voorhis' 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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
That was in what, '46 or '48?
MAURY MAVERICK:
'46, I think.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
I guess that shortly after that campaign, you came back to Texas?
MAURY MAVERICK:
I came back to Texas and finished here at St. Mary's Law School and then ran for the House of Representatives.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
That was when?
MAURY MAVERICK:
It seems to me that it was 1950 to 1956, during the McCarthy period.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
You said that you spent six years in the House?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
When you ran for the legislature here, you were representing what, Bexar County?
MAURY MAVERICK:
I was running at large, Bexar County.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
How many representatives were there from Bexar County at that time?
MAURY MAVERICK:
I think there were four.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Were you the only liberal?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
In the entire House of Representatives?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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 Towards 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 haying 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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
That was when, in '54?
MAURY MAVERICK:
Something like that, '54.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Your father died in '54?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
The liberals?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Who was the Speaker at that time?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.