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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 >>

The Gashouse Gang and the Texas press

Maverick describes the spectrum of state politics in Texas during the 1950s, ranging from radical conservatives to leftists, such as himself. As in a previous passage, Maverick further elaborates on his desire to combat anti-Red measures and says that he was part of the "Gashouse Gang," a group of thirty-five state legislators known for taking stances of opposition to conservative politics. Additionally, Maverick addresses the role of the press in Texas state politics, placing various newspapers along the conservative-liberal spectrum, and especially lauding the role of the <cite>Dallas Morning Herald</cite> in challenging the status quo.

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

CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
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?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Who were some of them?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
How about the newspapers at this point? Were there any of them on the side of the libertarians?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
You say, "liberal" paper, you don't mean….
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
How about the Corpus Christi Caller-Times?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
But at that time, they really didn't support you?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
At the time that you were fighting these battles, what percentage of the Texas House would you consider to be liberal?
MAURY MAVERICK:
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.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Thirty-five out of 150.
MAURY MAVERICK:
Out of 150.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
How many in the Senate?
MAURY MAVERICK:
Four, maybe. Four or five out of thirty.