Page 15


suiting attack” on him “in my home town:’ He had “decided to do me in.” He was “arrogant, haughty, and devious” and “an evil element that is loosed on this government,” a man who believed he was “some sort of absolute dictator or commissar.” When Halaby allowed there was “some merit” to the view that he’d spoken too hastily, as when he’d called Gonzalez a freshman acting like one, Gonzalez said, “I am not sure this is an apology, a retraction, or an expression of regret over a hasty remark.” Halaby probably did not understand that Gonzalez wanted a clear apology and nothing less would suffice. Tirelessly stalking his quarry, Gonzalez testified at a hearing on FAA appropriations, protested to Kennedy, asked the Comptroller General to investigate, demanded that the Budget Bureau provide data, and asked the General Services Administration to investigate the FAA’s plans for facilities in New Orleans. He was, in the first major case, developing the two principal tools of his congressional advocacy, his use of the floor of the House as a forum for his crusades and his dispatch of a hail of letters to other officials, like an Indian trapped in a thicket firing off arrows in every direction. His campaign against Halaby began to attract local support and some national press, and citizens with other grievances against the FAA began to coordinate with him. Vice President Johnson arranged for Gonzalez to meet with Secretary of the Air Force Eugene Zuckert, but didn’t tell Gonzalez the subject was Halaby. Once Gonzalez realized it was, he says, he rose and told Zuckert, “Mr. Secretary, if you had told me that was the subject of conversation Mr. Halaby is not negotiable with me. That son of a bitch oughta be fired.” President Kennedy, who thought the contretemps a big joke and wanted Johnson to handle it, nevertheless now involved himself. During a supper in the restaurant in the Longworth House Office Building \(“the Gym Supper,” it’s at the middle table with his party, sent word to Gonzalez he would like to see him. As Gonzalez approached the presidential table he realized that the President had Halaby on his left and Johnson on his right. Gonzalez was taking the nate against Halaby,” and he braced himself as he reached the table. “Congressman,” Kennedy said, “I just wanted you to come here, and I have a member of my Administration I’d like you to shake hands with.” Johnson was looking at Gonzalez very seriously, but the President was laughing. The look I gave Halaby he knew what I was telling him,” Gonzalez says. Not extending his hand to the Administrator, Gonzalez said to Kennedy, “Mr. President, you enjoy your supper. It’s an honor to have you here, Mr. President. See you later.” And he returned to his place in the throng. If the Halaby vendetta gave people the idea that Gonzalez was combative, an exchange he had with a Republican congressman from West Texas left no doubt of it. On Oct. 29.1963, Rep. Ed Foreman of Odessa was quoted concerning Gonzalez and the 19 other House members who had voted against increasing the appropriation for the House Un-American Activities Committee, “I am not going to call Gonzalez a communist, but he is as extreme to the left as the other 19, and they are pinkos.” Gonzalez, according to his account to the Washington Post the next morning, approached Foreman in the House and said. “I understand you’ve called me a communist” and that if he had, Gonzalez was going to knock the shit out of him \(an activity which occurs to Gonzalez from time to time as the best course of have said, “I’ll give you a good, oldfashioned San Antonio thrashing or pistol-whipping.” “Well, let’s get on with it,” Foreman said, but as they walked into the hall just off the House chamber Foreman put on his glasses. “Take your glasses off,” Gonzalez said, but Foreman would not, and repeated he hadn’t called him a communist. Gonzalez led with his right. “It was a punch, with the fist,” Foreman said. Gonzalez said it was an open-handed shove to the shoulder, “but my hand went into him three inches, he’s so soft.” Gonzalez said Foreman then returned to the House chamber, and “I didn’t think I ought to follow him.” * * * Apart from such disputes, what was Gonzalez like a little way into his career as a congressman? None could now better than Fred Schmidt, his “AA.” In a letter from Washington to the author during the Kennedy Administration, a letter which he now approved for publication, Schmidt said: “The essence of the man is something quite apart from what he says and writes. It is different from what he says of himself. . . . “These are a few vignettes which I offer . . . not to sum up the man. “When Karl Wiesenburg was reported to be the only Mississippi state legislator who spoke out against the stampede to nett, HBG wrote Wiesenburg and told him: ” ‘I know something of the loneliness in a man’s heart at a time like this. When the Texas legislature was confronted by a rash of foolish and devilish proposals in the name of segregation legislation, it came to my lot to be a lonely dissenter. . . . It would be incorrect to say that time has brought my critics of that moment to sharing my views, but it has rewarded me with their respect and often their support. The lineliness of that moment brought its own record. . . . I recall how heartened I was to receive expressions of good will. I send you mine.’ “HBG,” Schmidt continued, “automatically visited the Cabinet members to get acquainted, after he came to Washington. This struck several of them as novel. They said they were not used to being visited by congressmen who had no favor to seek or complaint to register. Lt. Gen Andrew T. McNamara, head of the Defense Supply Agency, told HBG that he was ‘only the second member of Congress to climb those stairs to my ofheard of a congressman doing such a thing, either while he himself had been a congressman or since becoming Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “When Henry enters an official’s office, regardless of rank, he greets and introduces himself to every person in sight, even if he is running late for a prescheduled appointment. If a janitor is standing in the hall entrance to a Cabinet officer’s office, Henry will shake hands with him before entering. This is one of the man’s most abiding and sincere traits. He does not exhibit it on some occasions; he does on all occasions. “From the first week it has been an intriguing sight to see the ceremonial entrance that is duplicated every time Henry goes into the congressional restaurant, which is reserved for congressmen and their guests only. Henry has treated all Capitol employees with such friendliness and dignity that they show genuine affection for him. Ernesto, the head waiter, and Henry exchange courtly bows, exchange greetings in Spanish, and make elaborate inquiries of each other on personal health, and so on. Heads of committees do not get this royal treatment. “His propensity for visiting with those in his line of sight is both virtue and fault. He is incapable of breaking off a conversation, and a traffic cop, elevator boy, or whatever can be the cause of missing a THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15