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The 1970s-era offices of the Texas Civil Liberties Union and The Texas Observer. Photo courtesy of Dave Richards The ACLU in TexasThe Early Years ERWO RD I BY DAVE RICHARDS On March 8, the Texas ACLU will celebrate its 70th anniversary. It’s a storied history full of setbacks and improbable victories. Today, the organization is as strong as it has ever been. After falling into disarray in the 1990s, the Texas ACLU has come back with a vengeance. It’s the eighth-largest ACLU affiliate in the United States and boasts more than 17,000 members. It operates with a multimillion-dollar annual budget and a staff of more than a dozen. The Observer and the ACLU have always had a special relationship. It was perhaps never closer than when Dave Richards rented both organizations space in his office building in the 1970s. What follows are some of Richards’ reminiscences from that period of the ACLU’s history. It falls the lot, I suppose, of those left standing to write the history of their times. Here then is my take on the ACLU in Texas. For all practical purposes, active history begins in the early 1960s with the appointment of federal judges by Kennedy and Johnson, judges who for the first time in Texas were ready to acknowledge constitutional rights and open their courts to such claims. The Dallas ACLU was formed in 1961, started by George Schatzki of the Mullinax & Wells law firm. George later showed up on the University of Texas Law School faculty. The Houston chapter was already in existence, emerging from Chris Dixie’s law firm. Maury Maverick Jr. was a sort of a one-man ACLU chapter in San Antonio. In the early 1960s, the Texas Civil Liberties Union was formed, consisting of these various local chapters. Sam Houston Clinton was the general counsel. A few historical notes: When Lee Harvey Oswald was first arrested, Otto Mullinax, on behalf of the ACLU, went to the Dallas jail to see if Oswald wanted assistance, and word came back that Oswald did not want to talk to any ACLU lawyer. Oswald was dead a few hours later. Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the infamous atheist, had fled from Baltimore to Mexico just ahead of the law. She returned to San Antonio, where she was jailed on an arrest warrant. She called out for ACLU help, and Maury and Sam Clinton sprung her. Upon release she MARCH 7, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29