"I'm Fontaine Maverick, And John McCain, You Are No Maverick..."
John McCain I know a Maverick, and you, sir, are no Maverick. Truly. I now know Fontaine Maverick, great-great-grand daughter of Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870), and it was he and his sons for which the word was coined. And as she told me in my interview with her Monday night, October 6, 2008 on KGO AM 810, "I'm Fontaine Maverick, and John McCain, you sir are no Maverick."
Samuel Maverick was a Texas cattleman, land baron and politician, so influential that he was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Fiercely independent and equally liberal. Sam became well known for what he didn't do, however. It seems, according to Fontaine, that he had taken some cattle in lieu of a debt he was owed. He let them roam on an island off of Texas, and for whatever reason, didn't brand them. So, any unbranded cattle became known as Maverick's. Now, this more than likely wasn't an act of revolt. No one knows for sure, but Maverick really wasn't much of a cattleman. He was also shrewd, later on in life if cattle weren't branded, he would often claim them.
Sam was also very spirited and free minded. It was because of this that in 1867 the term Maverick was first cited as being used to describe someone with an independent streak, someone not branded.
Sam was very prolific, and his grandson Fontaine Maury Maverick (1895-1954), Fontaine Maverick's grand father, followed in the spirit of his grandfather. Not satisfied with the family putting one word in the American lexicon, Maury is credited with creating the word "gobblygook." He served in the 74th and 75th Congress from Texas and was a huge champion of the Roosevelt's New Deal.
In fact, according to Fontaine, Maury wanted it even more to the "left." He served in congress with a group of other free wheelers and they became known in the Texas media as "The Mavericks." Maury had a colorful and passionate time in public life. According to Wikepedia's entry on him, "He was elected to the Seventy-fourth Congress in 1934 with support from the Hispanic population of his district, and re-elected to the Seventy-fifth. In the House, he was an ardent champion of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. He angered the conservative Democrats running the party back in Texas, including John Nance Garner. He was defeated in the primary for a third term in 1938. He returned to Texas where he was elected Mayor of San Antonio, again with support from minority voters, serving from 1939 to 1941, when the conservatives labelled him a Communist and defeated him. During World War II, he worked for the Office of Price Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, and served on the War Production Board and the Smaller War Plants Corporation. After the war, he practiced law in San Antonio."
But Fontaine tells much better stories..
"Mavericks believe everybody has a right to be in America so long as they obey the law," Fontaine told me. "Grandfather Maury was no coward. He chased the Klan right out of San Antonio once, stood up to the mob... Maury was burned in effigy in San Antonio, for his defense of members of the Communist Party's right to assemble, for his defense of the Hispanic community, support for those who didn't have a voice. "
That spirit carries through the family.
Maury Maverick Jr. (1921-2003), Fontaine's uncle, was a lawyer, politician and columnist.
"Uncle Maury didn't like politics too well after a few terms in office, so after a bitter campaign he went on to practice law," Fontaine related. "He became a lawyer for the ACLU and represented civil rights protesters, conscientious objectors and draft dodgers in the Vietnam War amongst many other people that needed it."
Maverick Jr. got involved in every kind of civil rights case. In 1964, in Stanford v. Texas, he represented John W. Stanford, Jr., a bookstore owner and Communist Party USA member convicted of sedition for selling books authored by Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pope John XXIII, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black. The case was eventually heard before the Supreme Court (including Black) and became a landmark free speech case. Another notable Maverick client was world-famous atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
"Maury Jr. would tell the story that when he broke Madalyn (Murray) out of jail as he called it, the first thing she said when she left the courthouse was, 'Maury, thank GOD you're here!'," she laughed.
Maury Jr. even at 80 still remained active as a columnist, opposing the Iraq war.
"Maury Jr. filed his column and then went in the hospital," Fontaine told me. "In fact, bedside, as he was dying, he asked someone 'Has the war started yet...' since he knew it was coming and that it would be very bad. He was right, as always, he called it unjust, and, well..." Fontaine recalled.
Maury Jr. represented over 300 clients pro bono over his life, his book of columns was published under "Texas Iconoclast" and upon his death it was written by former Texas state senator A.R. Schwartz that he was "one of the last of the red-hot liberals."
Yes, Fontaine recalled her very liberal, very independent family history with pride. It's not a perfect history and none of the people in it perfect people. Yes, Sam Maverick owned slaves, so did most of everyone in Texas at that time. And yes, there were other dichotomies along the way. But one thing was, and is, certain, the Maverick family has never gone with the flow, they have created their own current in a state known as conservative, fighting fiercely for so many and providing not only a Texas legacy, but an American one.
And many of them are upset with John McCain and Sarah Palin.
"I'm Fontaine Maverick, and John McCain, you're no Maverick," Fontaine announced on my show. "My brother called me from California last week during the VP debate and told me if they said the world Maverick one more time, he was going to shoot the TV. Of course, he doesn't have a gun, but, you get the point. My mother was just quoted in the New York Times about how we feel McCain is branded, Palin is branded, they are Republicans, and true Mavericks carry no brand. It's driving our family crazy, upsetting us and the legacy of my family, and we really with the campaign would stop misusing the word and the phrase.
"John McCain on a few occasions has shown that he can go against his party, but how hard is that when his party has been wrong on so many things as we now see," she continued. "But he has a brand. And Palin, I'm not sure she even knows the history of the word of or my family, but one thing is clear to all of my family, she truly is not a Maverick."
Karen Dittman, an activist in Texas and someone who worked on ACLU campaigns that Maury Maverick Jr. had championed recalled during the show, "Maverick in San Antonio means screaming liberal. In Texas, we are very upset with McCain and all of his posters all over the state professing he is something we all know here he is clearly not. Unless he's hiding something and he and Palin are really screaming liberals? Doubtful," she added.
The fact is John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Neocons believe in this campaign if they repeat someithng enough, it will be true, even if it isn't. They have no problem lying, and coopting words and phrases, like "change" that others have adopted. They took the word Maverick without knowing it's history and are using to describe themselves when they are, in fact, total opposites.
What's worse is the family to whom the word's history belongs wants him to stop. They want to point out Mavericks are independent rabble rousers, but they are FIERCELY LIBERAL rabble rousers. They don't conform when told to or when politically advantageous, a trait McCain and Palin seem to be very adept.
McCain and Palin continue to insult Americans. This time they are insulting a family with a huge and fantastic legacy that shaped their state and the nation and changed our lexicon forever. What the neocons and their candidates represent goes against everything Mavericks and the Maverick family, according to Fontaine, stands for.
"This is ridiculous, they have to stop, find a new word, but stop using my family's legacy and the very word, our name, used to describe something you so clearly are not," Fontaine concluded.
I'll say it again, as it's worth repeating. John McCain and Sarah Palin: I have met Mavericks, real ones, descendants of the very man for whom the word is coined, and you, sir and Miss, are no Mavericks.
What's worse, you're too ill informed and self-absorbed ot know it, and too opportunistic to stop using the word because a: your usage, as everything, is incorrect, and b: you're upsetting a tax paying, red-white-and-blue-blooded American family.
But you're used to that, aren't you?
To hear the interview with Fontaine Maverick go here.
Follow Charles Karel Bouley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/therealkarel