Maury Maverick (1895-1954)

Maury Maverick was a U.S. Congressman (D-Texas) from 1935 to 1939.  He was a consistent supporter of the New Deal and is credited with creating the word “gobbledygook,” which he used to describe policy jargon and long-winded government memos that were “long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words… all of which could have been said in a few words” [1].  Additionally, the word “maverick” comes from his grandfather, rancher Samuel Augustus Maverick, whose cattle were known to escape from the herd [2].

Maury Fontaine Maverick was born in San Antonio, Texas on October 23, 1895, to Albert Maverick and Jane Lewis Maury. His education came quickly, and by 1916 he had gone through “the public schools of San Antonio, Virginia Military Institute, the University of Texas in Austin, and the University of Texas School of Law” [3].  During World War I, Maverick served in the U.S. Army’s American Expeditionary Force as a first lieutenant.  For his fighting and injuries he won the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.  After the war, he practiced law in the states of Texas, California, and Washington [4].

Around 1928, Maverick helped created the San Antonio Citizens League, a political reform organization.  In 1930, he was elected San Antonio’s tax collector, an office he held until 1934 [5].  Maverick was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, his term beginning on January 3, 1935 [6].  During his four years in Congress, Maverick “became allied with the small group of liberal Democrats and progressive Republicans… who supported the New Deal even while demanding more social welfare, higher labor standards, increased work relief, and national economic planning” [7].  These liberals became known as the “House Mavericks” [8].  Their stance on public works jobs offers an example of their goals and philosophy:

In 1937, as two congressional factions argued about whether to expand or contract the WPA, the Mavericks offered a plan to replace the WPA with something similar, larger, and more permanent: “Under the program they suggested, a Social Welfare Department would be created to suggest a list of projects and report on unemployment to Congress, which would make annual appropriations for the projects chosen.  Persons would be hired on the basis of their needs and ability to perform the work efficiently, government employment being expanded as private industry laid off men or contractors failed to take them on” [9].  The Mavericks’ plan would be funded with “new taxes… on the basis of ability to pay, and benefits received” [10].  This idea, bearing similarities to Social Security’s old-age benefits and the concept of “employment assurance” put forth by some members of President Roosevelt’s Committee on Economic Security, was ultimately rejected [11].

In 1938, Maverick lost his seat in Congress, but the end of his congressional career was not the end of his public service.  He became mayor of San Antonio from 1939 to 1941 and then served on the War Production Board and the Smaller War Plants Corporation.  After World War II, he practiced law until his death on June 7, 1954, at the age of 58.  He was survived by his wife, Terrell Dobbs Maverick, his son Maury Jr., and his daughter, Terrelita Fontaine Orrender.  After Maverick’s death, the New York Times noted that he was “known for his bulldog courage and disarming sincerity.  A friend once called him ‘as subtle as a brass band’” [12].

Sources: (1) Maury Maverick, “The case against ‘gobbledygook’,” New York Times, May 21, 1944.  (2) See, e.g., “The Strange Saga of ‘Gobbledygook’,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 5, 2016, accessed May 28, 2017.  (3) “Maverick, Fontaine Maury,” Texas State Historical Association, accessed May 28, 2017.  (4) “Maury Maverick dies at the age of 58,” New York Times, June 8, 1954.  (5) Ibid., and also see “San Antonio Citizens League,” Texas State Historical Association, accessed May 28, 2017.  (6) “Maverick, Fontaine Maury,” Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress, accessed May 28, 2017.  (7) James S. Olson (ed.), Historical Dictionary of the New Deal: From Inauguration to Preparation for War, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985, p. 319.  (8) See, e.g., “House ‘Mavericks’ Threaten a Fight,” New York Times, April 1, 1935.  (9) “Group in Congress seeks relief cut to halt new taxes,” New York Times, April 7, 1937.  (10) Ibid.  (11) “Committee on Economic Security,” Social Security Administration, accessed May 28, 2017.  For a discussion on “employment assurance,” see June Hopkins, Harry Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999, pp. 180-186.  (12) See note 4.