Maverick, Maury

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Fontaine Maury Maverick (October 23, 1895–June 7, 1954) was a U.S. Congressman, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and a federal bureaucrat during World War II. His last name described his political agenda. Maverick was a liberal Texas Democrat who vociferously advocated civil rights for Mexican Americans and African Americans, defended the rights of blue-collar workers, and argued against the centralization of the economy. His political style was often abrasive, winning him few allies and making it difficult to transform his vision of social justice into legislative reality.

After being admitted to the state bar of Texas, serving with distinction in World War I, and undertaking a business career, Maverick became the tax collector for Bexar County, Texas, winning election to that post in 1929 and 1931. He spent much of the early Depression working for local relief. His efforts included the establishment in 1932 of the Diga Colony, a communally organized relief camp for World War I veterans. The camp was built about five miles from San Antonio on land Maverick leased from Humble Oil Company for one dollar a year. Housing for the residents was constructed from abandoned boxcars. Maverick hoped that the residents would be radicalized by their poverty and would work for long-term systemic reform; he was disgruntled when he discovered that they cared more for food, employment, and shelter. The Diga Colony disbanded in 1933.

In 1934, Maverick was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he became known both as an avid New Dealer and as a leader of insurgent liberals and radicals who found the president's relief agenda too tame. His efforts were largely rhetorical; however, he did force the U.S. Census Bureau to count the Mexican-American population of his district as white, rather than "negro." Furthermore, he was a constant supporter of federal anti-lynching legislation and other civil rights measures. Defeated for reelection in 1938 because he angered conservative power brokers within San Antonio and the state, Maverick returned to San Antonio where he was elected mayor in 1939. Promising expanded public housing and public health programs, Maverick accomplished little because conservatives in the city blocked his efforts. His support for a Communist speaker's right to address a local audience ended his political career as mayor. He was defeated in his reelection bid. Maverick spent the war years working with various federal agencies, including a stint as director of the Smaller War Plants Corporation. He returned to Texas after the war and was a vocal leader of the liberal faction of the state's Democratic Party.



Henderson, Richard B. Maury Maverick: A Political Biography. 1970.

Maverick, Maury. Papers. Center for American History. University of Texas at Austin.

Maverick, Maury. A Maverick American. 1937.

Weiss, Stuart L. "Maury Maverick and the Liberal Bloc." Journal of American History 58 (1971): 880–895.

Nancy Beck Young