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Carl Brannin A Semi-Periodic Salute To Our Friend By Claire Hamilton WHEN I first saw Carl Brannin, he was a gaunt silhouette sitting bolt upright on a daybed beckoning to me to come in the side door. We talked for the better part of the afternoon. I was searching for his secret of keeping the liberal faith for most of a century, and he was trying to determine what topic of current interest I might be persuaded to discuss with him. Through it all, he never moved and his straight posture never varied. His primary animation was when his face would suddenly knit into a pink grin. It was as if he felt apologetic when the world conspired to amuse him. Carl would explain his lack of activity saying, “My eyes don’t see so good, my ears don’t hear good any more, and my walking is terrible!” And then he would turn red, wrinkle up and laugh. Carl Brannin is 93. The next time I saw him, and each time thereafter, he was balanced at the door waiting for me, holding out a book or a clipping as if to tempt me away from the past into his wonderfully disturbing world of what’s happening today. It was at one of these subsequent meetings that I noticed that Carl’s now frail frame is but 5’4″ tall. I would put his weight at about 96 pounds, which I understand is only slightly under his average weight for the past 70 years. Illustration by Nancy Collins Dallas At first our conversations fell to Carl’s civil rights fight with the Department of Public Safety. Last April U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton awarded $4,000 to Carl and a friend, airline pilot Bob out-of-court settlement. The judgment was against former DPS investigator David Dimmick. The seeds of the issue were planted in 1974 when Bob Pomeroy made a short presentation to the Dallas city council expressing his reasons for not wanting the DP&L or Texas to have anything to do with the nuclear reactor planned for Glen Rose. It was a very civil message, and friends say it took about five minutes for him to read it. For his preference of human life over Comanche Peak’s construction hazards and nuclear waste, Pomeroy became the subject of an investigation by Agent Dimick and the DPS. Pomeroy led the trail to Brannin and the First Unitarian Church in Dallas, where Carl is a member. All got labeled subversive. “Dimick wasn’t even at the meeting where Bob and I ran into each other and visited,” Carl says. “He had a stoolpigeon snooping around, I think it was a woman. And it was what she told him that he put in his file. You see, all he ever got was second-hand information.” The round-about intelligence referred to was that Pomeroy was seen “talking to Carl Brannin . . . who has been a longtime Socialist Party organizer in Dallas.” The occasion was the Social Action Fair at the Unitarian Church, where, Dimick’s report alleged, “all major subversive groups in the North Texas area set up information booths.” It was later discovered that those groups included the likes of the Dallas Independent School District, the State Department of Human Resources, and even the Dallas Police Department. With the possible exception of the Police Department, that’s enough to cause quite a yawn among most people, especially Unitarians. “I wasn’t even a party socialist any more,” Carl said. “I was always very pragmatic, rather moderate in that I never was for revolution. Eventually I found my political home with the liberal Democrats.” And, of course, he stayed an activist. A couple of years ago he attended one of his last efforts at public demonstration by participating in the anti-nuclear rally sponsored by the Armadillo Coalition in Glen Rose. “I really admire those who climbed over the fence,” Carl said. “At the rally, the speakers wore me out. They all got diarrhea of the mouth. I turned my hearing aid off. But the nuclear waste prob lem is about the biggest problem we got.” As Carl’s direct action days began to taper off, a greater emphasis was put on another long-time involvement, writing letters to editors. Today the Texas Observer and the Unitarian Church bulletin are the primary recipients of Carl’s letters, but in the past, the Dallas Morning News seemed to earn the most of them. A book of his letters has been published by the ACLU and is called “Dissenting Opinion.” In the introduction to that book, SMU Journalism head Darwin Payne writes about Carl’s life as an activist in this way: “In the year of 1977 Carl P. Brannin, still undiminished by his 88 years of age on this earth, can look back on a life filled with an astonishing variety of activities and roles. He has been, among other things, a Texas A&M student activist, a textile mill apprentice, a life insurance salesman, a real estate salesman, a YMCA desk clerk, the founder of a free job-placement bureau, an assistant to a liberal minister, an advocate of the social gospel, a newspaper editor, a World War I conscientious objector, a charter member of the American Civil Liberties Union, a Henry George ‘single taxer,’ a publicist, and inheritor of modest oil properties, a 1920s expatriate, a corre THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21