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Found sound: Mayor Maury Maverick on 1939 radio

From 1938 to 1951 "Information Please" was a popular radio quiz show where listeners sent in questions to try to stump the panel of experts. Guest panelists often included celebrities, and on July 25, 1939, here’s how the host, literary critic Clifton Fadiman, introduced the show's guest expert:

“Our guest is an expert on a great many things, including the final old tradition of American Liberty. Formerly a member of Congress in Texas, he is now the hard-hitting mayor of San Antonio. I introduced to you the author of In Blood and Ink and the bearer of the name famous in the history of the southwest, Maury Maverick.”

“I think these people are trying to frame me. The country boy coming to New York City,” Maverick said in a country drawl.

Information Please Guest -Maury Maverick.mp3
The full July 25 1939 radio show Information Please with guest Maury Maverick

“I thought it was very interesting as sort of as an artifact from the era of 30-minute radio shows,” said Lewis Fisher, a historian and author of Maverick: The American Name That Became a Legend. He added that this old radio recording shows a different side of Maverick.

“He's thought of a lot of times as a lot more bombastic than that. Now, I suppose he could be when he was giving political speeches, and he would've been at the old school where he would've raised his fist and made points. But in this show, he was more laid back, almost a genteel banter, which is not the sort of image usually associated with him,” Fisher said.

On the air, Maverick was asked about his famous family name and how it became part of the American lexicon.

“My grandfather was named Samuel A. Maverick. He took in 453 head of cattle, and they were in the hands of a colored slave, and he wasn't branding them, so they called them 'Maverick's cattle,' and that's all there is to it. He never was a cattleman like people say. And also, there's another thing — he only branded his own cattle,” Maverick explained.

Maverick was also quizzed on his knowledge of politics. Fadiman asked him, “Now since the Civil War, have there been any Democratic presidents who received a majority of the popular vote, a majority, and if so, who, Mr. Maverick?”

Maverick answered correctly: Franklin Roosevelt. This would have been an easy question for Maverick since during his two terms in Congress he was an ardent champion of Roosevelt's New Deal.

Fisher said that Maverick was “sometimes even to the left of Roosevelt.”

Maverick was a novelty for the New York-based radio show. Fisher said the San Antonio mayor was known for more than just his name.

“He was a fairly sought after speaker, which took him all around, all across the country, speaking on various subjects. He spoke on a lot of liberal subjects, and he would speak on those on civil liberties. He was the only southern congressman who voted for the anti-lynching law,” he said.

But Fisher said Maverick showed on the air he was also entertaining.

Fadiman asked, “Mr. Maverick, what is the activated sludge process?”

Maverick responded “Well, I'm going to answer that question because I'm sure that nobody's going to know that I'm wrong. I've got, I think there's something about the sewer system.”

“Do you have any sewage problem in San Antonio?” Fadiman asked.

“Well, now we have a politically …. never mind.” Maverick quipped to laughter from the audience.

There’s a lot of truth to Maverick's joke, according to Fisher. As mayor he worked to clean up a city that was known for being thoroughly politically corrupt, including taking on the then-police chief, Owen Kilday. Kilday was known for his brutality, especially during the famous pecan shellers strike.

“As Maverick was being sworn in as mayor, he had his right hand raised. As he lowered his hand, he pointed to Kilday and said, 'you're fired,' " Fisher said.

Fadiman then asked Maverick “Under a prudently and soundly administered municipal government, such as the ones we have in New York and in San Antonio are long-term borrowings justified?"

“Long-term borrowings are only justified for permanent improvements, which must be paid over a long period of time. You know that you must not have long-term borrowings for current obligations,” Maverick replied.

“Very good, very good. Now you can rerun for mayor anytime you wish. Maverick,” Fadiman said.

Maverick did run for re-election and he lost. Lewis said Maverick was branded a communist by his political enemies. After his tenure as mayor, Maverick continued to be involved in various civic and political activities until his death on June 7, 1954.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi