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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 492

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This is the grave of Maury Maverick, Jr.

Born in Texas in 1921, Maverick grew up in a unique family. His father, Maury Sr., was a genuine Texas left-liberal running on anti-racist platforms in the New Deal, making him the top enemy of the Texas Democratic Party. His great-grandfather Samuel Maverick had the term “maverick” coined to describe him as he refused to brand his cattle. Maury Jr. would follow in their footsteps.

He graduated from Texas Military Academy in 1938, served in the Marines in World War II, graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in economics, and earned a law degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio in 1949. He immediately ran for the Texas legislature and was elected, where he became one of the top liberals there. He was an open opponent of Jim Crow and McCarthyism and a friend to Texas unions. He actually managed to kill a Texas bill that would have sentenced convicted communists to death by inserting an amendment that would have doomed suspected communists to life imprisonment, an intended poison pill to make the bill so ridiculous and so unconstitutional that even Texas lawmakers wouldn’t pass it. Big risk given the place, but it worked.

In 1956, he decided to run for reelection and returned to his law practice. He did run in the 1961 primary to replace Lyndon Johnson in the Senate but only finished fourth. Instead, he became one of the top lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union. He desegregated boxing in Texas by representing a black boxer named Sporty Morgan and claiming that Texas law was denying his client a way to make a living. As his gravestone tells you, he was the lead lawyer for John Stanford, who owned a Communist Party bookstore who was convicted by Texas of sedition for selling communist books, not only Marx but really scary people such as Hugo Black. In that case, the Court ruled, with Potter Stewart writing for a unanimous body, that Fourth Amendment rules around search and seizure applied to the states. To say the least, Hugo Black did not recuse himself from this case. The other justices found all this pretty funny and Bill Douglas even started elbowing him in the ribs a bit during the arguments, but Black was really, really angry.

After his big victory in Stanford and in other free speech cases, Maverick began moving toward writing newspaper columns than practicing the law, retiring from that entirely in 1980. He was initially supportive of the Vietnam War but the conscientious objectors he represented convinced him of its injustice and he became a leading voice against it. He had a long running column in the San Antonio Express-News that took positions anathema to right-wing Texans, such as supporting rights for Palestinians, for civil rights and labor rights, and against unjust U.S. foreign policy. In January 2003, he filed his last column, railing against the likely U.S. war with Iraq. He then checked himself into the hospital and died a few days later of kidney disease.

Maury Maverick, Jr. is buried in San Jose Burial Park, San Antonio, Texas.

This grave visit was supported by LGM reader contributions. If you would like to keep this series alive and for it to profile more famous lawyers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Johnnie Cochran is buried in Inglewood, California and Joe Jamail is in Houston. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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