This morning I woke up to the sounds of monkey giggles and someone knocking at my front door.
It was Exupery and his bookish friend Françoise. They asked for help getting to the library. I took them to the downtown branch which is named in honor of John Henry Faulk. We had a nice time but Exupery and Françoise just couldn’t help monkeying around a bit.
Below you can see them climbing the stacks. Better than rock climbing apparently. When we were leaving they caused a bit of a sensation by climbing the metal statue in front. So much for their ‘underground’ movement. There was a virtual paparazzi of cell phone snaps from the people waiting for the bus.
As I was checking out their books I noticed a plaque on the wall that explained who John Henry Faulk was.
John Henry Faulk was one of the people instrumental in stopping the insanity of McCarthyism. Joseph McCarthy was a senator with a paranoid fear about Communists. He wanted to identify and remove Communists and their sympathizers from having any public influence. His primary targets were government employees, entertainers, union activists and educators. His fear was contagious and spread to all levels of society. Discourse became dominated by fear and as a result thousands of people lost their livelihoods and reputations based on nothing more than whispered accusations.
McCarthy was connected to a for-profit organization called AWARE. For a fee, AWARE could tell you if an employee or potential employee was a Communist or even a Communist sympathizer. Faulk was a radio show host at the time and one of the leaders of his union. When his union was offered the services of AWARE he declined. Faulk was immediately labelled a Communist and blacklisted.
McCarthy picked the wrong guy to mess with. Faulk came from a wealthy family here in Austin so unlike many of the other people suffering persecution he had better resources for fighting back. He rode out a lengthy court case: five years of Roy Cohn’s stalling tactics. In the end Faulk won the largest libel judgment in history to that date. That money mostly evaporated away on appeal but a clear message had been sent.
Persecution was going to be more costly than profitable from now on. Voila: the end of an era.
Faulk wrote a book about his experience: Fear on Trial.
A movie by the same name was also made.
John Henry Faulk is the one in the cowboy hat pictured left.