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D’Ann Johnson, Greg Gladden, Sheila Cheaney, Cam Cunningham Alan Pogue ON THE LEFT Lawyering the Left in Wimberly BY DAVIDRICHARDS Texas lagged behind California and the East Coast in embracing the counter-culture and New Left politics of the sixties. But by 1968, the movement was in full swing in the state’s cities and college campuses. Austin and the University of Texas were at the epicenter, but there was political activity in other places in the state. I suppose most people remember the issues that animated this remarkable moment in American political history. Texas had its own home grown issues, along with the political fights the Left took on in other parts of the country. The dominant conflict was assuredly the Vietnam War and the draft, but there was also a full-blown civil rights struggle underway, the beginning of the women’s movement, and the remarkable emergence of the Chicano revolt in South Texas. Much of this played out before a backdrop of student radicalism, long hair, pot smoking all glorified in the developing underground press of the era. The Texas governing establishment was not one to sit idly by and tolerate these goings-on. Law enforcement agencies at all levels were dutifully engaged in putting down this insurrection, and their tactics were simple and crude: bust ’em at every opportunity. In some ways the most dramatic development of the times was the rise of La Raza, and the emergence of political conflict in South Texas all highly threatening to the Anglo power structure, which responded accordingly. In 1963 the first of the Crystal City revolutions occurred: an all-Mexicano slate was elected to run the city government. The movement had been put together by PASO \(Political Association of Spanish-speaking group, and the Teamsters Union. Together they ran a voter-registration and get-out-thevote drive, which toppled the old order and sent shivers down the spines of the gentry everywhere in Texas. Three years later, the Farm Workers Union made its appearance in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and began the La Casita melon strike, the first meaningful union activity in Texas agriculture. The response to both of these developments was to send in the Texas Rangers and crack some skulls. Ranger A.Y. Allee was responsible for manhandling the newly elected Hispanic Mayor of Crystal City and brutalizing strike leaders in the Valley. Raza Unida activists were being busted on trivial charges in various trouble spots in South Texas. The Farm Workers march on Austin in 1967 had dramatized the growing restiveness behind the Cactus Curtain, and even succeeded in getting the attention of official Austin. Governor John Connally himself, in his fancy suit, went down to San Marcos to confront the marching farmworkers and warn them not to come to Austin for fear of violence. The march continued and concluded on the Capitol steps without further incident, other than to convince the establishment that trouble was afoot. Black political activism in the state, particularly in Houston and Dallas, began to attract the attention of the law in Texas. There were a number of arrests at sit-ins and stand ins. But it was the appearance of nascent Black Panther groups that got law enforcement in high gear. The two principal victims of the state’s response to a more radical black movement were Lee Otis Johnson in Houston and Ernie McMillan in Dallas. These young black men had been arrested on what appeared to be trumped-up charges and had become a rallying point for activists across the state. I don’t propose here to delve into the Johnson saga, but I lived in Dallas at the time and have some insight into the McMillan matter. Ernie McMillan had become an outspoken antagonist of Dallas Officialdom and he was therefore ill-tolerated. During a protest against employment discrimination at a South Oak Cliff grocery store, a watermelon was broken, perhaps symbolically. McMillan was indicted and 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 31, 2000