Friday, February 8, 2013

Reflections on Maury Maverick | Casey's Last Word

It’s been 10 years since we buried Maury Maverick Jr., one of San Antonio’s great characters.

As a lawyer he represented the most unpopular of people.

He won a U.S. Supreme Court case on behalf of John Stanford, a San Antonio bookseller who was an official of the Communist Party.

He represented, with help from his young protégé Gerry Goldstein, famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hare.

Goldstein says that when they went to meet Ms. O’Hare, she greeted them with: “Thank God for the ACLU!”

As a state legislator, Maury opposed racist Jim Crow laws and other attacks on civil liberties.

He once killed a bill that authorized the death penalty for anyone convicted of being a Communist.

His method: He inserted an amendment providing life imprisonment for merely being suspected of being a Commie.

As a Sunday Columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, Maury delighted in generating angry mail with his political observations.

His funeral at Trinity University’s beautiful chapel included a wonderful eulogy by San Antonio’s most renowned poet, Naomi Shihab Nye.

He recruited her to the task as only he could, with a phone call years before his death.

“Miss Nye,” he began. “This is Maury Maverick. I’d like you to do the eulogy at my funeral.”

Naomi’s response: “Well, Mr. Maverick, don’t you think I should meet you first?”

Maury was a great storyteller.

I’d like to pass on two of his that he didn’t tell as often as some others.

Forgive my attempts at his voice.

Maury was one of 72 candidates on the ballot in 1961 to replace Lyndon Johnson in the U.S. Senate.

LBJ had moved up to the vice-presidency.

Gearing up for his race, Maverick said he turned to Texas’s other senator, Ralph Yarborough, for advice.

“I said, Ralph, what do I say when them crackers in East Texas ask my position on race?

He put his arm around me and said, ‘Lie, Maury, lie!’”

Maury was the great grandson of Sam Maverick, a land speculator and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence whose refusal to brand his cattle led to today’s use of the term maverick.

He was also the son of Maury Maverick Sr., a New Deal congressman and one of San Antonio’s greatest mayors.

Maury Senior also gave us a word.

When he was in Congress he coined “gobbledygook” to describe bureaucratic English.

Maury Junior told a lot of stories about his father.

Here’s my favorite.

“My dad wasn’t much for religion. I think he was a pantheist. But he loved to go to different church services.

One time in the early ‘50s he took me to a Quaker meeting. Everybody is silent, then a leader gets up and asks people to share their meditations.

“One old boy gets up and says he’s been thinking about how we need to love everybody.

Another says he’s been contemplating about how we need to pray for world peace.

My daddy shifts in his seat. I think he had to go to the bathroom.

The leader says, “Mr. Mayor, we’d be pleased to hear your meditations.”

My father says, “No, no.”

The leader says, “Mr. Mayor, we’d be honored if you would share your reflections.”

My father says no again. But the leader keeps on, and my father finally stands up.

He says: “To tell the truth,” I’ve been sitting here thinking about how somebody ought to kill that son of a bitch Joe McCarthy!”

Maury, it seems, came by his politics honestly.

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