Maury Maverick Jr., civil rights attorney, dies

SAN ANTONIO – On January 28, Maury Maverick Jr., a veteran civil rights attorney, legislator, and progressive journalist, died Jan. 28, of kidney failure at the age of 82. During the McCarthy Era, Maverick, whose great grandfather’s free-ranging cattle made the Maverick name a metaphor and synonym for free thought, was one of few legislators fighting the intense red-baiting of that time.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Stanford vs. Texas, Maverick successfully defended John Stanford of San Antonio, a member of the Communist Party USA, after his home was raided by police who had a warrant to confiscate materials “concerning a communist nature” in 1963. Stanford operated a popular mail-order bookstore, “All Points of View,” from his home office. The court ruled that Stanford’s fourth and fourteenth amendment rights had been violated.

During the Viet Nam war, he defended conscientious objectors in court. Other successful cases Maverick argued, included a Texas Supreme Court case in which he won worker’s compensation for an injured paperboy and one that resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a Texas statute against interracial boxing was unconstitutional.

As a young representative in the Texas House, Maverick and his fellow liberals helped kill a bill that would have imposed the death penalty on convicted Communists. In an interview in 1999, Maverick said bigots and racists in Texas used the “Red Scare” to “bust the unions, bust Blacks, bust Mexican Americans and intimidate schoolteachers and librarians.”

“It was just cruel beyond words the way they were kicking people around,” said Maverick. “I was constantly on edge for six years. To this day, I still haven’t gotten over it.”

In 1960, Maverick ran for the U.S. Senate seat that Lyndon B. Johnson gave up for the vice presidency, along with 70 other Democratic contenders. Known as the “71 in ’60” group, Maverick later said he and the late Henry B. Gonzalez – another San Antonian who later served 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives – split the liberal vote and ultimately canceled each other out. The seat was won by Republican John Tower.

Gonzalez and Maverick didn’t speak to each other for 20 years.

“One of us should have gotten out of the race,” Maverick later recalled. “Probably me.”

Over 800 friends and relatives attended his memorial service held in the Margarite B. Parker Chapel of Trinity University here. Eulogists included the Rev. Claude Black, who had marched with Maverick during the civil rights movement, and Fr. Bill Davis who said, “All of us need a Maury in our life to know true justice.”

The nationally-known poet, Naomi Shihab Nye read from J. Frank Dobie’s poem, “The mustangs,” comparing their free spirits to Maverick’s legacy of independent thinking.

Shortly before entering the hospital Maverick wrote his final weekly column for the San Antonio Express and News. In it he praised the recent U.S. Catholic Bishops statement condemning the possibility of a U.S. war with Iraq.