THE FIRST dead person I ever saw was on West Live Oak Street about two blocks from Green Pas tures where we lived. I was nine or maybe eight years old. Annie Mae had died. I knew that. Grandmother had told me and everybody in the house was talking about it. So I went down to Mother Finney’s house to see for myself. There certainly were more people on the front porch and in the front yard than I’d ever seen there before. And everyone was dressed up and seemed to be having a fine time. Did they know Annie Mae had died? I went into the small house, crowded with people and they they were singing and laughing and talking. Did they know Annie Mae had died and was in a coffin in the other room? “Mother Finney,” I asked, “aren’t you afraid to have a dead person in your house?” She laughed and looked at me and said, “Why, no, child. You don’t have to be afraid of the dead. It’s just the living you have to be afraid of.” And, I went into the other room and by the light of the kerosene lamp I could see that, sure enough, there was Annie Mae lying there. And Annie Mae had died. So those of us here gathered today, we are the people in the other room. We are here to laugh, and sing, and talk. And I may just add, talk about one of the big talkers of all time … John Henry was born not far from here, from this church, on 20th and Rolcombe now 20th and Red River. And he moved to South Austin before he was three. His father was a sharecropper-turned-lawyer. His mother was a country schoolteacher … The Methodist Church was a central part of his upbringing. And both his mother and his father were Sunday-school teachers. Sunday morning church, Sunday and Wednesday evening prayer meetings were a ritual. “Momma aimed me for the Methodist ministry, but by the time I was six, she realized she’d shot a blank,” he said. He volunteered for World War II but he was outspoken in his opposition to the war in Vietnam as his father had been outspoken in World War I. What made John Henry different from other people who changed the world was this. John Henry was never cynical. He always had a capacity to become righteously indignant at injustice. It was never a matter of how small or how grand the cause, be it a neighborhood concern or an international affair. He was a voice to be heard and was heard. And a voice to be sorely missed. KAREN KUYKENDALL FOR JUST a moment, let me tell you a few of my own experiences as a young state legislator during the Joe Mc Carthy days in Texas so that you will better understand my immense regard and affection for the way that John Henry stood up to McCarthyism in New York City. I will be 70 years old in January and in all my life I’ve never known before or since the agony and outrage I experienced as a member of the Texas House of Representatives in the early 1950s, when only a few of us protested the so-called anti-communist legislation of that era legislation actually designed to bust unions, to put down the poor and minorities, and to intimidate librarians and teachers, especially teachers at the University of Texas. How well I remember that day when Chancellor Jim Hart of the University of Texas asked a few of us to come to his office where he told us that the University of Texas was being destroyed from the standpoint of academic freedom. Would we stand up for the Bill of Rights? We few did. We few did but were defeated time and time again. It was a nightmare. After I left the House, Dr. Walter P. Webb, my future stepfather, invited me to meet John Henry Faulk at Dr. Webb’s country place, Friday Mountain. And I was told that Johnny had lost his job at CBS, in the name of anti-communism, and had suffered economic hardship time and time again. Well that night we met at Friday Mountain. About 15 of us sat around the campfire and talked the cause of liberty. And I remember that Dr. Webb, J. Frank Dobie, and Roy Bedichek were seated next to Johnny, lending him aid and comfort … So that night was a night when I started my friendship with John Henry Faulk. It was culminated the other day when I held his hand, told him goodbye, thanked him for his courage, made even greater by his wife Liz, a special person in her own right. William Jennings Bryan, while speaking to Iowa farmers, compared a person of the political left to an old mule that is pulling ahead the person on the political right as a plowshare holding back. Between the two they break the soil and the nation is better for it, Bryan insisted. John Henry was that mule, pulling ahead for racial and economic justice, world peace, and in the last few years of his life, for the First Amendment free speech, free press, separation of church and state, and the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. He did it with style, good grace, humor, intelligence, and wasn’t above throwing in a little Texas corn now and then. When Hugo Black wrote in one of his opinions that mankind has had to fight his way past the cross, the stake, and the hangman’s noose, he was in effect describing Johnny, who was handed a hangman’s noose by CBS. That capitulation by CBS in the face of McCarthyist hysteria destroyed a potentially superstar career in show business. In the Jeffersonian sense Johnny understood this world in revolution. The Third World countries seeking independence cry out the words of Jefferson as our own American government or its surrogates pound them into near oblivion, John Henry, the old-fashioned, indigenous American radical, more Tom Paine than Adlai Stevenson but some of both made his protest known. The point must be made again. It is not enough! It is not enough to call Johnny a liberal. Part of him was on the left like Sam Houston, standing in San Pedro park in San Antonio, calling for the people of Texas not to secede from the union. The morning after John Henry died, CBS had the good grace to run a tape of Johnny’s voice, saying that perfectly decent people had run out on him, thus illustrating something that Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote and which Johnny and Paine understood better than Schlesinger: “The threat to liberty comes not so much from the hard-faced person as it does from the faceless person. Not so much from the person who would deny freedom to others as it does from the person who does not want freedom for himself or herself.” Historians claim that John Locke talked to Jefferson and Madison, who talked to Lincoln, who talked to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Well, they all talked to John Henry Faulk and now Johnny talks to us from the grave. MAURY MAVERICK, JR. IWAS over in Arkansas last night doing some missionary work for the First Amendment. It was a promise I made John Henry a little bit before he died. I said, “Johnny, don’t worry, I’m going to take care of the First Amendment for you.” And then I went out on the porch and I got to thinking that in a long life of doing stupid things, that was probably the dumbest yet. As though anyone could step into Johnny’s boots. And Cactus and I got to laughing about it on the porch. I said, “You know, the beauty of making a damn fool promise like that to Mr. John Henry Faulk is that no one will understand better when you screw up and slack off and just don’t make it because you stayed up much too late the night before having fun.” Mr. Faulk, it seems to me, not only understood and forgave human frailty, he rather relished it. Especially his own. Remember how he used to speak in the third person when he caught himself being dumb and say things like: “Says Mr. Faulk, with his vanity showing.” One of the stories I told over in Arkansas, where they have a hard time keeping up with the Bill of Rights in fact, a young lady over there got thrown into jail because she was not wearing a brassiere in the courtroom and it upset the judge in an effort to console the Arkansans about the hard row they had to hoe over there, I told them what it was like to go freedom fightin’ down here with Mr. Faulk. I know some of you remember that about three years ago, in the summertime I don’t know how many of you got this call, but I sure did, from Dorothy Brown of the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is not a mighty organization. She said, “You’ve got to come to a meeting this very night, because the Austin City Planning Commission is about to de THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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