Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas Eve

Texas has had many colorful characters, among them a number of independent-thinking writers. One of those writers is a name you may not recognize: John Henry Faulk.

Faulk was born in 1913 in Austin, Texas. His parents were Methodists who hated racism. He studied under J. Frank Dobie at the University of Texas where he earned a Master's degree. For his thesis, Faulk recorded ten African-American sermons from churches along the Brazos River, inspiring his life-long interest in civil rights.

Faulk taught English at UT. When turned down by the U.S. Army during WWII, he joined the Merchant Marines and then the Red Cross. After the war, he moved to New Jersey where he hosted a variety of radio programs from 1946 to 1957.

The following is from Wikipedia's entry on the Hollywood Blacklist:

[T]he entertainment industry blacklist...the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected.

A key figure in bringing an end to blacklisting was John Henry Faulk. Host of an afternoon comedy radio show, Faulk was a leftist active in his union...He was scrutinized by AWARE, one of the private firms that examined individuals for signs of Com-
munist sympathies and 'disloyalty.' Marked by the group as unfit, he was fired by CBS Radio.

Almost uniquely among the many victims of blacklisting, Faulk decided to sue AWARE in 1957. Though the case would drag through the courts for years, the suit itself was an important symbol of the building resistance to the blacklist...

On June 28, 1962, the jury awarded him the largest libel judgment in history to that date — $3.5 million. An appeals court later lowered the amount to $500,000.

Legal fees and accumulated debts erased the balance of the award. With this court decision, the private blacklisters and those who used them were put on notice that they were legally liable for the professional and financial damage they caused.

After the court decision, Faulk went on to speak about the First Amendment and civil rights at universities around the country.

In his later years, he appeared on the television show Hee-Haw as a humorist/storyteller.

Protest singer Phil Ochs recorded a tribute to Faulk titled "The Ballad of John Henry Faulk."

Faulk was awarded the Paul Robeson Award in 1983. He died in 1990.

Every Christmas, I listen to Faulk's "Christmas Story" on NPR. He recorded it in 1974. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do. The link is here.

No matter how you celebrate this time of year, I wish you the happiest of holidays.

Warm regards,



Stephen Parrish said...

He's a natural storyteller.

Merry Christmas, Maya! Hope you're getting well.

SmartlikeStreetcar said...

Have a wonderful Christmas, Maya... I'm so glad that I met you here!

Maya Reynolds said...

Stephen: Merry Christmas to you and yours, too.

Thanks for the good wishes. It's been a lot slower than I'd hoped. I go back to the surgeon on Thursday so we'll see what he says.

Maya Reynolds said...

Richard: And a wonderful Christmas to you, too.

I'm so grateful for the gift of your friendship.