ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH THE HONORABLE OSCAR H. MAUZY
Oscar H. Mauzy entered The University of Texas under the GI Bill after serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Texas in 1950 and an LL.B. from the School of Law in 1952. A native of Houston's Fifth Ward, Mauzy served 20 years in the Texas Senate, representing the 23rd Senatorial District in Dallas, and in 1986 was elected to the first of two terms on the Texas Supreme Court. He also practiced law and has been active in the Democratic Party.
Presented here are selections from an interview with Mr. Mauzy in which he discusses the attitudes of students and faculty toward integration, and the reception given to Heman Sweatt as a student in the Law School. He also relates his efforts as a state senator to promote minority recruitment at the Law School in the 1960s through the Continuing Legal Educational Opportunity program. A transcript of the interview is held by Rare Books & Special Collections, Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas at Austin.
The following is an interview with former Texas State Senator and Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, Oscar H. Mauzy. Today is April 26, 1996. We are meeting at the Tarlton Law Library on The University of Texas at Austin campus. This is Sheree Scarborough for The University of Texas School of Law.
OM: I was elected president of the mid-law class, after having gone through a very strenuous campaign. There were three candidates. The third candidate got just enough votes to force a run-off, so there was a run-off between a fellow named George Shaffer, from Corpus Christi, and I. I won the run-off by one vote.
The issue was that we had been admitted the year before, in the fall of 1949, under a new catalog. It reduced the number of hours for a degree and graduation purposes from ninety-two hours in law school to eighty-nine [hours]. That may not sound significant to you, but it was very significant to us at the time because--bear in mind that the entering law class of 1949 was almost exclusively made up of people like me--that is, people who joined the service during World War II straight out of high school, went to the service, and came home. The GI Bill of Rights had been passed, we enrolled in college, and were now eligible to enter law school. But our GI Bill was going to be running out pretty quickly.
The way the GI Bill was passed, it provided that if you served for at least a year in the armed forces, you got twelve months--for having been in the armed forces during wartime. Then you got, in addition to that twelve months, a month of GI Bill credit for each month you served. Now I had served a little over twenty-four months, so I had roughly thirty-six-and-a-half-months of GI benefits. The ninety-two hour catalog would have required me to go three entire years to law school. Now that would have meant two long semesters each year--nine months. Under the eighty-nine hour catalog I could graduate, by going to summer school each summer, in two-and-a-half years, which is what I did.
SS: I see. Is that why you were called "mid-law?"
OM: No, that's just the term.
SS: The junior designation?
OM: Yes. You've got three years of law school; your freshman class, which we called the "J.A.'s," and the history of Peregrinus will tell you what that means (laughter)--"jackass."
OM: Then the mid-law class and then the senior class. There is no sophomore class. What that meant to my entire class--and as I say, ninety-five percent of us were just like I was. Our GI Bill was running out. So we could go, starting in the fall [semester] of 1949, go through the fall of 1949, the spring of 1950, summer school in 1950, the fall of 1950 and the spring of 1951, summer of 1951, and the fall of 1951, and graduate in January of 1952, rather than having to come back for that extra semester.
That meant you got in, let's see, twenty-nine months, twelve months a year for your first two years, because you're going to summer school, and then five months, from September to January. It made all the difference in the world, to a whole lot of us.
SS: Why were they changing it?
OM: Well, all the talk was, "We'll never be a first-class law school if we have fewer hours to graduate," and this and that and the other.
SS: Is that when Dean [Page] Keeton was just coming in?
OM: Dean Keeton just became dean the same year I entered law school, in September of 1949. We eventually called a strike. As president of the junior law class that was the platform I ran on, "I'm going to force them to stay with this catalog we entered under. We've got a contract with them. See, it's right here in writing--everybody knows what's in it--and they propose to change it, but to make it retroactive!" (laughter) Well, we just weren't going to have it. And we did we had a strike over it. Peregrinus will tell you all about it. We struck the law school. Now all this was happening at the same time (laughter) that Sweatt v. Painter came down [Heman Sweatt's integration lawsuit against UT]. So it was in that context.
SS: So what were the months of the strike, or when did the strike begin? Maybe we should pull that out?
OM: As I remember, it was either in the summer, or it may have been in the spring [semester] of 1950. It was right about that time, because it became an issue in the race for president of the mid-law class.
SS: But apparently it was a tight race--
OM: Oh, yes.
SS: --so a lot of the students were fine with ninety-one hours?
OM: No, I don't think that was the case at all. As I remember, George agreed with me. It was just that I got out in front and pushed the issue first. Eventually we got our way.
SS: You won. Good for you. Did you actually just not go to class?
OM: We put up a picket line. We did all the traditional things. I'm from a labor family background. My father was a switchman on the railroad, and was a union organizer. Every job I've ever held in my life, when I was working with my hands, was a union job. All my legal career as a lawyer I represented labor unions. I'm very pro-labor.
I just thought that was wrong--it shouldn't be allowed--and it created some controversy. I'll tell you. But let's get back to Sweatt v.Painter. I understand that's one of the things that the dean really wants to get everybody on record.
SS: Yes, that's one of the main issues that we want to cover.
OM: I think it's a good thing, before we all die. It was an interesting phenomenon. First of all, in those days, the total enrollment of the Law School, in all three classes, ran about 500 all together. That's the freshman class, your mid-law class, and your senior class. Of course, the senior class was graduating, so it wasn't going to effect them personally. My class was getting ready to go to their junior [year], because we were the freshmen of 1949.
SS: So in September of 1950 you would be a junior? And that's when [Heman] Sweatt entered?
OM: Yes. You could only enter law school once a year in those days, in September. You couldn't enter in summer school. They didn't offer those courses then. So my class would be the junior class, and the people that had been the mid-law students, from 1940 to 1950 would be the seniors, and then there was the group coming in. Well, there would be about 500 all together.
So I called a meeting--everyone in the senior class, and everyone in the mid-law class--at Hillsberg's, over across the street.
SS: I want to hear more about Hillsberg's later.
OM: Well, there are a lot of colorful stories about it. It was an interesting phenomenon. There was probably 250 people involved, and of the 250, close to 100 came. Now this was after the decision and everyone was still [saying], "What's going to happen, and how's this going to come about, and how's this going to affect me," and this and that. It was really an interesting study in human dynamics.
The people that came there were split--almost one-third, one-third, and one-third. One-third were what I call the "state's right-ers," the secessionists, you know, "I ain't going to school with no goddamned nigger!" Excuse my French, but I'm talking in terms that prevailed in those days.
SS: Oh, yes. Right.
OM: And I'm not casting any aspersions upon people who do use that language--it was just accepted as part of the vocabulary, whether I approve of it or not. It just was. "I'm going to go to Ol' Miss, I'm going to go--" here there or yonder. You know, "This law school wasn't put here for niggers. The next thing you know they're going to let Mexicans in--" You know, it was really very unenlightened people.
OM: But that was my generation. Then about a third of the students--and I originally fell into this category myself--welcomed the opinion. We were delighted with it. We thought we should not only welcome every black who applied--qualified or unqualified--ready to really be serious about being a law student, and eventually being a lawyer or not--but we should also try to implore the professors to give these guys good grades, give them passing grades, regardless of how well they did, even if they had to take some points off or our grades--because we felt guilty about all the years of discrimination that had led up to it. We thought--and I was in this group originally--I changed my mind as the discussions went on that day. The discussions lasted for three-and-a-half or four hours.
SS: My goodness. And this was at Hillsberg's?
OM: Yes, at Hillsberg's. (laughter) Right, at the beer-joint--best place to be. Then the third group, that I eventually came down with, was, "It's a good decision, it's long overdue, this situation should never have been allowed to develop this way but it has. Now we're in the process of correcting it. But we're not doing these new black, 'Negro'," in terms of what we said in those days, " we're not doing them any favors if we come up here and try to spoon-feed them and carry them on our backs and give up part of our grade because--" and this is the argument that eventually carried the day with me, "--what we're all attempting to do is get an education, get a law degree, pass the bar exam, go back to our hometowns and practice law, and to give something back to society for what society has given us through the GI Bill of Rights." Again, remember, ninety-eight-percent of my class were veterans. "We're going to be competing with these guys out here as lawyers. It's like we're all going to be competing with each other out in the field of practicing law. Their clients are going to be ill-served if their lawyer is unprepared to litigate with those of us who by reason of our educational background are better prepared to proceed through this law school, acquire enough knowledge to pass the bar, and hopefully go out and become good lawyers."
SS: Right. And their clients inevitably would be the black community?
OM: Yes, exactly. And again, that's a social phenomenon. In a perfect world you wouldn't want that to happen. I wouldn't want that to happen. But that's the reality of the situation, particularly in 1950. That was forty-six years ago. (laughter) Things were very much more basic.
OM: Yes. We'd all been raised in a segregated society. I'd never gone to school with a black kid.
SS: What made you fall into that middle group, if you had never had much contact? What made you have the liberal stand?
OM: Oh, I had a lot of contact with black kids growing up. I grew up in the Fifth Ward of Houston.
SS: You did? I knew you grew up in Houston, but I didn't know you grew up in the Fifth Ward.
OM: Yes, Fifth Ward. Jeff Davis High School. There was a big black community about two blocks from my house. I never did understand--we used to, on Saturday mornings--there were two vacant lots, the black housing began about two blocks from my house. Almost exactly half-way in between, one block from my house and one block from the first black housing, there were two vacant lots out there on the street. That's where we used to go every Saturday morning and play whatever the sport was. In the spring it would be softball, in the summer it would be basketball, and in the fall it would be football. We'd get up tag and touch and tackle football games--and all the kids in the neighborhood would come, black and white. So we played football together, and basketball together, and softball together all summer long.
But when fall came, it was time to go back to school, and we couldn't go to school with each other. It never did make any sense to me, but I wasn't--you know--it was the way things were. But what changed my mind on the question of integration, which is really the more pertinent question here--[was my experience] in the navy in World War II. I thought, "What a complete waste of talent this is." In the United States Navy in World War II, I was on a battleship, the USS Washington BB56. I went aboard in March 1944 and we then immediately went out to the Pacific and were involved in the invasion of the Mariana Islands, Saipan, Tinian and Guam. From that day forward, from June of 1944 until we came back to the United States in June or July of 1945, we were in every action that took place in the Pacific theater. Our ship earned thirteen battle stars and ribbons while we were out there.
SS: And you were very young weren't you? Seventeen or eighteen?
OM: I was seventeen when I enlisted. I tried to enlist when I was sixteen, but my mother wouldn't let me--when I graduated from high school.
SS: I can understand.
OM: I can, too, although at the time I really hated her for it. I was the same size as I am now, a lot thinner obviously, but I was as tall. I remember my senior year in high school we'd go downtown to a movie or something and everybody would call me a "draft-dodger," and you know, it was tough on the kid that had some pride, and patriotism. No more than anybody else, but I mean it was tough.
But anyway, in those days in the United States Navy, the only position a black could hold was as an orderly for the officers. Now in a modern American naval warship, the larger they are the more pronounced it becomes--and battleships were about as big as you could get--the forward part of the ship was where the officers' living quarters are. It's called "officers' country." We "swabbies," enlisted men, "deck apes," all lived in the rest of the ship, and we lived in bunks four or five high. That's all we had. You slept on a bunk and there was about that much space [gesture indicating smallness], and you had one locker for all your clothes.
SS: My goodness.
OM: The officers--the junior officers, two of them shared a cabin and the senior officers had an individual cabin. But all of them were served by black orderlies--and that was the only job blacks were allowed to have in the United States Navy.
SS: That's amazing.
OM: I got to meet some of those guys, and I met people who had Bachelor's degrees, and Masters' degrees, and a couple of Ph.D.'s, from major American universities.
Now here I am a seventeen-year-old punk kid, out of Jeff Davis High School in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, and I'm a Third-Class Petty Officer. I'm a radar man, and I'm having to live back here in this country. And here these guys are, who are much better educated than I am, who have had much more formal, and informal learning than I have had--and the only job they can do is to wait tables for officers, and serve as a servant. Here I am, operating a very sophisticated radar set, just out of high school. I went to radar school, and that lasted three weeks. Big deal, you're going to really learn a lot in three weeks. It just didn't make any sense to me. You've got all this talent that is totally denied to you--for what reason? Because of the color of their skin? Give me a break!
SS: You could really see the inequality there.
OM: Yes, I really did. So, the other over-riding experience for me--and I think I'm pretty typical of my generation--we believed all that stuff that we were told when we enlisted or when we got drafted, as the case might be. That was that we were really on a crusade to save democracy throughout the world. We were going to do away with all this business--about what Hitler had done to the Jews--nobody can approve that kind of thing. It's nothing but a form of bigotry--an extreme form.
OM: We were going to make this country into a model country--that's what we were fighting this war about--where everybody is going to be treated equally. We're not going to have any of this class distinction like they've had in Europe, for all these generations, centuries, about the nobility and the peasants and the field hands, and all this kind of stuff. And while we're at it, while we're cleaning up Europe and restoring democracy over there, we ought to do it in this country, too. As soon as the war was over we were going to take care of all these things.
SS: Did you guys talk about this together? Or was it just something you felt?
OM: Oh, no, we talked about it. It was not unanimous. Don't misunderstand me. It was not unanimous.
SS: But your other white compatriots where you were in that part of the ship--you did have discussions about it?
OM: So we come home, the war is over. The GI Bill of Rights had been passed for us. Man alive! Truthfully, you know, if it hadn't been for the GI Bill of Rights, I never would have set foot on a college campus. I wouldn't have. I wanted the war to be over. I wanted to get out. I wanted to go to work and start making some money--and to live the good life.
SS: Did you know what career you might have gone into?
OM: I had always thought I wanted to be a lawyer, from the time I was about eight. Anyway, it was against that background that Sweatt v. Painter was decided. Eventually, of course, there were very few of them that actually left and went to Ol' Miss Law School. But some of them did!
SS: Did you know anyone who did?
OM: Oh, yes, sure. That's the reason I wanted these books here. (laughter) I'll point them out to you!
OM: I hope they're all still alive so they can rebut it if they choose to. There's nothing wrong with people having an honest difference of opinion and talking about it. I don't expect everybody to agree with me. But I don't expect to be taken for granted and be forced to agree with somebody else either, if I don't want to.
So, I thought one of the focuses of this would be dealing with the Sweatt v. Painter, and the Hopwood v. Texas case today, and drawing the historical contrasts between the two. I think I can provide some historical insight also, for another reason.
In 1969, when I was in the Legislature, Frank Erwin had become the chairman of The [University of Texas] Board of Regents. As Governor Connally was leaving office in January of 1969, he re-nominated Erwin for another term. There was a big controversy about it. I had learned during my first session in the Senate in 1967 that I had come down here all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and was the young progressive new reformer. I was one-hundred-percent on everything. By god, you either agreed with me one-hundred-percent of the time or there was something wrong with you. Kind of an in-your-face kind of a guy.
I had learned that was all fine. You know, people ought to have beliefs and they ought to be willing to stand up for them, and they ought to be willing to fight for them. You understand you're going to win some and you're going to lose some, but you still stay pure and you fight for what you believe in. That was the only way to do it--head-to-head, elbow-to-elbow. You know, let's get it on.
I learned that first session that there was another way you could also get things done. That is to position yourself where your one vote became critical. In other words, don't let anybody take you for granted. Well, Erwin's nomination was--he was very controversial. All the liberals were lining up against him. I was considered one of the big liberals at that time, and I think, truthfully, rightfully so. I ran on that basis, and believed it and practiced it.
The line-up shortly got to be twenty for confirming Erwin and ten to bust him. Under the rules of the Texas Senate, and under the [Texas] Constitution, it takes twenty-one affirmative votes of the thirty-one senators to confirm a gubernatorial appointee, regardless of whatever it is. Unlike the United States Senate, where they confirm by simple majority. All it takes is fifty-one United States senators and then the guy is confirmed. Likewise, it only takes fifty-one to bust them.
So very early [in the year], the nomination was sent over the first or second week in January. Then Connally left office and there was a big rush to confirm all his appointees.
OM: Sure. Good strategy, good theory. Anyway, by the middle of February, first of March, the votes were pretty definite. Everybody knew where the votes were. There were twenty to confirm him and ten to bust him, and me--which was exactly where I wanted to be. That gave me the seat in the cat-bird seat. So Frank Erwin came to see me and he said, "Senator, I understand you're having some problems with my nomination, that you're not for it or against it, either one." I said, "That's right." He said, "Well, I want to talk to you about that." I said, "I'm sure you do." (laughter) I said, "Frank, you know, you and I have known each other for quite a while," and we had.
SS: You had?
OM: Yes, I knew him over the years as a lawyer. I'd been on the opposite side of political fights with him all during the 1960s. He was always a Connally-man and I was always a Yarborough-man.
SS: Yes, interesting.
OM: Very little cross-pollination happened with those groups. Anyway, he said, "Well, I can get confirmed without you. I'd just rather have you with me." I said, "Now Frank, let's don't kid each other. You know, we're both grown men and we both know how to count. You've got twenty, and the opposition has got ten, and there's me. And that's deliberate. That's the way I want it to be." He said, "Well, what do you want? What do you want me to do for you?" I said, "I don't want you to do anything for me, I want you to do something for the state of Texas, and specifically for The University of Texas Law School, of which you and I are both proud graduates." "What's that?" I said, "Frank, it was worse the years you were there." Frank graduated I think a year before I entered. I think he graduated in 1948. But I said, "The years I was there, 1949 to 1952, out of a total enrollment of the Law School there were only seven women. And there were only ten people with Mexican-American surnames. And until Sweatt v. Painter came down, there were no blacks." I said, "Frank, that does not represent a fair cross-section of the population of Texas, and you know it and I know it." "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" I said, "I want The University of Texas to immediately start a program of recruiting men and women in the high schools of this state, in the junior and senior years--black, brown, and white, male and female--to encourage them to come to The University of Texas and to seek a baccalaureate degree, and then to continue into law school. I want to see the legal profession look like a composite of Texas. In order to do that, because we all know that some people have a better high school education than others do, and some are better qualified than others--" By the way, since I was in college and law school--that's when they first adopted the SAT and LSAT tests and all that--see when I walked on this campus, all I had to do was show them that diploma from Jeff Davis High School and I'm in like Flynn.
SS: Right, yes.
OM: Same way in Law School. All I had to do was show them that I was getting a degree from The University of Texas.
SS: Right. I think you had to have a "C" average?
OM: Yes, probably so. "Well," he said, "that's a very noble purpose and as you know, I agree with you, and I'd like to see that, too, but Oscar," he said, "that damned Keeton and the faculty out there, they're a bunch of racists and they don't want no niggers going to school with them out there. Half the faculty would walk off." I said, "Frank, I don't believe that." I said, "You know, Page Keeton became dean of the Law School the same day I entered as a freshman. I took Torts from him my freshman year. I'm a fairly good judge of character, not the best in the world, maybe, but I'm fair. I think I can spot a racist. And Page Keeton ain't no racist." He said, "Oh, yes, you just don't know--the Board of Regents." I said, "Well, you're just going to have to do something else. That's reason I want the Board of Regents involved in all of this. I know that's where the power is. That's where the decisions get made."
OM: I said, "I recognize that you'll have some problems as you go out and try and recruit these kids, because kids from disadvantaged backgrounds--you know, they're scared to death to come to The University of Texas. If I was a black kid, I would be, too." Truthfully, the antagonism that exists--the hatred. Remember, this is still 1969.
SS: Yes, 1969 was the last all-white football team that UT had.
OM: Was it?
OM: And also remember, 1968, was the year that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
SS: Yes, it was a very tumultuous time.
OM: Yes. I said, "These kids, you know, we're going to have to go out and recruit them, just like we do football players. You understand? You know, recruit them! Offer them something. And part of that is going to be that you're going to have to offer them tutorial help. You're going to have to understand that these kids are capable of being graduates of The University of Texas and The University of Texas Law School, but they're going to have to have some help along the way that you and I didn't have to have because we didn't come from that disadvantaged a background."
OM: "So it's going to cost some money. I'm talking about a six-or-seven-year tutorial help program to recruit these kids when they're juniors and seniors. Get them up here and get them admitted. Have tutorial help the first day they set foot on this campus as a freshman in undergraduate school. At the same time we're encouraging them to get through undergraduate school, we're encouraging them to point toward the Law School. We can't guarantee that they're all going to want to be lawyers, but we can try. Then when they get to law school, we're going to have to again provide them some tutorial help. It's going to cost a lot of money." [Frank said], "Oh, money is no object, but I'm telling you the faculty wouldn't put up with it." So I said, "That's your problem. The faculty works for you, don't they?" "Well, yes, but, you know, Oscar, I--" I said, "Well, have you ever tried?" "Oh, yes, I've talked to them." I said, "Well, that's what it's going to take." "Well," he said, "I'd love to help you and everything, but I just don't know--" blah-blah-blah. So I said, "Well, I'll tell you what, Frank, just meet me at the Villa Capri in the morning at seven o'clock for breakfast, and let's talk some more about this. I know you've got things to do and I've got things to do." This was about middle of the afternoon one day.
So I got rid of him and I went back to my office and called Page Keeton. I said, "Dean, can you meet me at the Villa Capri for breakfast in the morning?"
SS: This is a great story.
OM: "Seven-o'clock?" He said, "Yes, sure. What's up?" I had earlier in that session talked to Dean Keeton about coming down to testify for a bill I was going to introduce, the Texas Torts Claims Act to remove the doctrine of governmental immunity from cities and counties. He did. He came down and testified and got the bill through. He said, "About that Torts Claims Bill?" I said, "No, this is about something else." I told him what it was about and he said, "Well, that goddamned Frank Erwin--he's a liar, Oscar. You know I wouldn't do that." I said, "Dean, you don't have to convince me. I know what's happening, the guy is flim-flamming me. He's saying he's for it, but because of you and the faculty he can't guarantee me it can get done."
OM: I said, "I don't know anyway to back the guy down except for you and I to sit there and eyeball him and ask him." So that's what we did.
SS: Tell me about that. (laughter)
OM: We had a very nice breakfast. Frank paid for it. (laughter) And we got right into it. Erwin kind of danced around a little bit, but I said, "Frank, you told me yesterday that Dean Keeton here is against it, and the majority of the faculty is against it and all." [dramatic voice] "Oh," he said, "you misunderstood me." I said, "No, I didn't misunderstand you, but I want you to tell that to Dean Keeton, and Dean, I want you to tell me--is that true?" Of course Keeton just came in elbows and knees.
SS: Yes, they weren't quite the best of friends.
OM: As a result of that, we started that fall. And by the way, Keeton agreed to cooperate with the program. He said, "You know, Frank, it's going to be mainly up to you guys. I'll make the faculty available to go out and help recruit these kids and all. But you guys are going to have to provide the money for all this stuff. And it's also going to mean that we're going to need more faculty at the Law School."
Of course! Well, of course it's going to take all those things. You don't make that kind of a change by a snap of your fingers. All progress costs money.
SS: Yes. Everything costs money.
OM: Exactly. Progress or retrograde.
SS: That's right.
OM: So this was late in February or early in March. I kept stalling the nomination until I could get some written assurances that things were going to happen. Erwin called a special meeting of the Board of Regents, and they had a big talk about it. Keeton went down and talked to them, and Keeton was out here meeting with the faculty, getting their ideas and trying to calm down some of his crazy bomb-throwers, too. He still had a bunch of racists on his faculty, too--not to mention the student body.
OM: A result of all that, the code name we gave this program when we got it instituted, was CLEO. I cannot remember what CLEO stands for, C-L-E-O. It might have been Continuing Legal Educational Opportunity, or something like that.
OM: But anyway, that was an acronym we put on it, the CLEO Program. I've always considered that one of my greatest accomplishments as a public office holder. I'm proud of a lot of things I've done in my life. As a senator, I've passed more educational reform bills and more tort reform bills, and all that stuff, than anybody else in the history of the Texas Senate. I'm proud of the Edgewood decision that I wrote when I was on the Supreme Court--that was unanimous, that held the public school system financially to be unconstitutional. But really, the CLEO thing has always been the dearest to my heart that I thought has justified my existence. The proof of it all came in the spring of 1987 when my lawyer-daughter graduated from this law school. Her class--I'm sitting up there like every other proud father of a proud Law School graduate--but I'm looking at the list of the graduates. I got to counting. And that class was, as I remember, about forty-five percent female, and about eighteen-percent Mexican-American surnames. And as I looked and counted the graduates, as they walked across the stage to get their degrees, it appeared about ten or twelve-percent black.
SS: That sounds more diverse than today's class.
OM:I think it probably was. I think that was really kind of--Catherine's group was about the time we hit our heyday--when everything came together and we were able to produce that kind of diversity of the student body. So, you must forgive me if I take what I consider to be understandable pride in all this happening, and understand how upset I am, as a human being, about the Hopwood case [Hopwood v. Texas], and the necessity that this law school and the state of Texas--and if all decent thinking people everywhere would get behind the efforts to get this case up to the Supreme Court and get this turned around. I've read Judge Smith's opinion and it is tragic. It is a modern American tragedy--not just for The University of Texas Law School, not just for law schools across the country, but for all of higher education in all fifty states in this country!
SS: Just for the record, for later use for this interview, can you detail what the Hopwood case is?
OM: Well, basically, the Hopwood case is the case that was filed by four University of Texas white law school applicants who were denied admission, in the class of 1992, I believe, and were passed over even though they had grades and met other criteria that would ordinarily have allowed them to be admitted, and four minority students--and I'm sorry I don't know if they were all four black, or two black and two Mexican-American, or three and one or what. But anyway, four minority law students received their slots to be admitted to the Law School. They sued The University of Texas Law School, and the state of Texas, claiming that this was racism in reverse, and that they were denied admission to the law school based solely on their color.
Judge Smith's opinion says race cannot be considered for any purpose in determining admission--that the same standards have to be applied to everyone. It's tragic. It represents retrogression of a monumental nature, and I hope that the Supreme Court--and even the present Supreme Court, which I am not a big fan of, I don't think is going to permit that to stand. They're not going to decide--they're not going to get five votes up there for doing what I would do, if I were on that court. I'm a realist, I know that. But I just cannot believe, I do not believe that they're going to let that stand without some kind of a modification. It's too important to everybody in this country.
SS: So you have witnessed a progression of the beginnings at the UT Law School the first black admitted to then actually having a hand in bringing in more diversity in the Law School to now you see the other end of that, the backlash against the minority recruitment in the Hopwood case.
OM: Yes. And you must forgive me if I feel personal about it, but I really do.
SS: Well certainly. I don't think it's anything to forgive. Can we go back for a minute to CLEO?
SS: Was this program instituted then? Shortly thereafter?
SS: And Frank Erwin was reappointed because you voted for him?
OM: I voted for him. He got confirmed. (laughter)
SS: I just wanted to clear that up. And the program went into effect shortly thereafter?
OM: As I remember, it actually took a couple of years to gear up and get things run through all the academic bureaucracy and all that jazz. So it was probably--and I don't remember exactly, but I think it was probably the entering class of 1972 or 1973 before we first started seeing the first real results of it.
SS: And how long did it stay in existence, or is it still in existence?
OM: Well, it was an unwritten rule that we were going to do that. Truthfully, I'm also a great believer in politicians enacting programs and turning them over to other people to operate, and then the politician shouldn't get involved in the day to day. I mean that's where all the favoritism starts, and I've never been a party to that in my lifetime. So I cannot truthfully answer that question. But I'm sure we can find out.
SS: Well that's a very interesting story.
OM: Remember, this all came along at the same time. I was also the sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution that the Legislature passed in 1971, and the voters ratified in 1972, that denied protection to people who discriminated against anyone based on race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, or otherwise. Most people think the Texas ERA Amendment is the same as the national amendment they've been trying to pass for years--not true. It is broader than that. The National ERA just applies to gender. Ours was much broader.
Anyway, as a result of that passage in 1972, we were again at kind of our apex, as far as equality between the sexes are concerned. More women were coming along who were interested in becoming lawyers, and interested in entering all the professions. So I think the first real impact we saw from it was the number of female applicants who were applying and being admitted to the Law School. But it took longer for both the browns and the blacks. The browns progressed more quickly than the blacks did also. So the blacks were really the last or the third of the three of what I call disadvantaged groups that were sought to be helped by that, to actually realize some participation. And they still haven't realized as much as they should. Truthfully, I'm never satisfied (laughter) with everything unless it, you know, works like clockwork.
SS: (laughter) Well, that's a good way to be. It gets things done.
OM: Well it's contrary to human experience. You have to know that you're not going to get everything you want.
SS: Right. Do we need to take a break?
OM: No, my thought was that we could talk some and get started today, and I wanted to leave these books with you. We want to review these to prove up all my figures and everything. We'd go for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half today, and then we'd come back and finish it at another time.
OM: I've got some things I need to do this afternoon down at the office.
SS: Well, it looks like we might have enough time to talk more in depth about the Sweatt Case and the atmosphere at the Law School during that time. You were telling me about the meeting that you called at Hillsberg's?
SS: The different groups that were there. That was before [Heman] Sweatt entered?
OM: Yes. This was after the decision had come down, but see, he wasn't going to be admitted, he and his colleagues were not going to be admitted until September. This was like June, as I remember, of 1950.
SS: So what was the atmosphere like once they were admitted?
OM: It was pretty salty; it was pretty salty. But let me try and put this in context, and let me try and be as objective as I can. But bear in mind that I have my biases and my prejudices, which I've already enumerated to you. Most of my class, most of the Law School enrollment at that time, as I indicated earlier, was primarily veterans of World War II. That group that had that one common identity, was roughly divided, I don't know that half and half would be accurate, but it's pretty close to accurate--people from well-to-do backgrounds, people whose fathers had been lawyers and were graduates of this law school, or successful businessmen, or successful people, generally, financially--and about half of us were from working class backgrounds.
And remember, we were all raised in the Depression. We went to grade school and high school during the Depression. About half of us came from economic backgrounds that were not as good as things are today, for example. That resulted in two pretty distinct lines of thinking. We were all white, we were mostly veterans of the war. The sons of the lawyers and the successful businessmen had mostly been officers in the war, regardless of what service they were in, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, whatever.
By and large that was the dividing line. Those of us who were enlisted men were also primarily the poor guys. True or untrue, it nonetheless created a class distinction between the "haves" and the "have-nots," for want of a better term. Now that's one distinct element, one strain that you've got running through all of this panorama--the officers vs. the enlisted men. There were obviously more enlisted men than there were officers. That was true of this situation also. But it almost followed a pattern. I can think off the top of my head of very few people whose families had been financially successful who were not officers, although they were some exceptions to that. Conversely, I can think of very few who had been enlisted men who had not been poor.
One reason for that was, in my instance, for example, I graduated from high school in 1943 and I was only sixteen. So I had to wait until my seventeenth birthday to enlist. But had I chosen to go to college in 1943, in the fall of 1943, I could not have gotten in because I didn't have the money. My family didn't have the money. Two of my brothers had been awarded academic scholarships to Rice. My grades were good grades. I was president of the National Honor Society in high school, and salutatorian of my class, but they were not as good as some others--which was my own fault. Most guys fell in my category. When they got out of high school, if they wanted to go to college, they couldn't afford to.
SS: What about working your way through college? Was that a possibility then?
OM: Well, it was a possibility, but not very likely, because there were no jobs for college students. You know, if you wanted to come up here to Austin there was no industry here in Austin, first of all. There was no place you could get a job. If I had wanted to go to school in Houston, yes I could have found a job there because Houston is a big manufacturing town. In fact, when I got out of high school I went to work in a war industry, with the Reed Roller Bit Company. I was a machine operator. We made tank transmissions for the army. So, yes, there were jobs available. But you couldn't very well work an eight-hour defense job and go to college at the same time. No college I knew anything about was having night classes in those days.
So you've got that strain, the officer vs. the enlisted man, basically rich vs. poor, and "haves" vs. "have-nots" running through. In addition to that, the other dividing line that ran through primarily my group, the poor, the have-nots, enlisted man crowd we'll call it--they also contained the biggest bunch of racists. (laughter) The rednecks. They did.
OM: They really did. And if you stop and analyze it, that sort of figures, too. People from well-to-do families, by and large, in those days, were not as overtly racist as many blue-collar people because blacks didn't threaten them in their job.
OM: It's the present conflict we see today between blacks and browns in Texas, in the economy and politically, and every other way. It's a lot easier for us middle-class, well-to-do white folks to be able to accept illegal aliens, for example, and to look upon them with a great deal of compassion and indeed to try to be helpful to them. Witness how many of them are hired as maids and domestic help for white, middle-class families, all throughout Texas, not just in the [Rio Grande] Valley where it's the prevailing mood, of course.
But if you're a black working man or woman in Dallas, Texas, for example, and you're working in the construction industry, which is only recently been opened up to you, by reason of your color. As I say, I'm very pro-labor and I always have been. But one of the fights I used to get into with my labor clients--they were all a bunch of goddamned racists back in those days, too. The old AFL craft unions you had to be the son or the nephew of a member before you could get into the apprenticeship program. That's how they controlled everything. Blacks have only recently been allowed to compete for those jobs and to enter the apprenticeship programs and become journeymen electricians, carpenters, bricklayers, or what-have-you. Now you have illegal aliens coming into this country, who are primarily Mexicans, and they agree to do that job that you're getting paid six-dollars-an-hour for, for three-dollars-an-hour, and they take your job away from you.
OM: Now step back in history fifty years, and that was exactly the way us "poor white trash," if you want to term it that way, how an awful lot of us felt--not me personally, but an awful lot of my group that I identified with, politically and socially and every way else, but not on this one subject.
And I can understand it, although I don't approve it. I understand where they're coming from. It was all economics. If somebody is going to steal your job, you're not going to feel very kindly toward that person. Again, if you study history, that's what caused the break-up of the Populist party in Texas in the 1890s and early 1900s. The Populist party was becoming the prevalent majority political party in this state, and were electing a lot of local officials, and were running state wide officials and getting awful close. That's the reason they had to drive the wedge between them, separating the white people and the black people.
SS: Now, you say you identify with this group, but what made you different? What is it that made you step out from that?
OM: I don't know. I think we're all products of our own environment, to a large an extent. I am basically an environmentalist, as distinguished from a geneticist. I think we take a certain amount of our attitudes about life from our genes, the way we're raised, the way we're conceived. But I think we take a majority of our attitudes, and we develop from the environment in which we live. The environment in which I lived was that I played football every Saturday afternoon with black kids down the street. I liked them and they liked me.
SS: That's helpful to understand.
OM: I never could understand why we couldn't go to school together. I also particularly couldn't understand why we had a sorry football team and those black guys down the street couldn't go to school with us and play football on our team. They went across town to Wheatley High School and they were the best.
Ollie Matson--you're too young to know who Ollie Matson was. Ollie Matson was a great running back in the National Football League in the early 1950s. He was the younger brother of a kid I used to play sandlot football with there in the Fifth Ward of Houston. He grew up around there, in the Fifth Ward. And Ollie was not allowed to go. His brother was a good football player, but Ollie was really something. They both went to Wheatley High School.
We didn't recognize black football teams in those days. They weren't allowed to participate in the play-offs and all that stuff. But had there been such things, Ollie Matson would have been All-State and All-American, and all everything else. He couldn't go to school in Texas! To play football! He went to the University of San Francisco.
OM: He became a great, All-American, drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in 1948 or 1949, something like that--and had a very illustrious career. He's in the Pro-Hall of Fame, and all that stuff. Ollie Matson grew up about four blocks from me. So I never could understand, "Why can't we get Ollie Matson over here to Jeff Davis High School? Why does he have to go to Wheatley? You know we ought to draft him to come over here."
OM: That's part of it. My mother was born and raised in Massachusetts and was a very tolerant, and a very enlightened woman. My father died when I was four-years-old, so my mother raised all of her eight children through the middle of the Depression, pretty much by herself. She was a very strong woman.
SS: She must have been.
OM: Very strong. When my daddy died, she was a thirty-three-year-old widow with eight children, the youngest of whom was thirteen-months, and the oldest of whom was sixteen-years, and had just graduated from high school and had entered Rice on academic scholarship. These were in the days before railroad retirement benefits. There were none. Before the days of railroad retirement there was none.
SS: Your father worked for the railroad?
OM: Yes, he was a switchman.
SS: Did he die on the job?
OM: Well, no. He died of tuberculosis, and he was in and out of sanitariums for five or six years before he died. But he was unable to work the last couple of years, his health was so bad. But there were no benefits for that. In those days you didn't even have worker's compensation to cover occupational diseases, assuming you could have made his disease of tuberculosis into an occupational disease, which I'm not sure he could have, working on the railroad. But anyway, we grew up, you know, with no money. But my mother is really a remarkable human being. Just imagine, being thirty-three-years-old. She was the first member of her family to ever graduate high school.
My father--there was nobody in his family who had ever graduated high school--he grew up in southern Illinois, in a little town called Assumption, just outside of Centralia. He got run out of Illinois for trying to organize a union on a railroad. He wound up in Palestine, Texas.
My mother's father, my grandfather, was also a railroad man up in Massachusetts and he got transferred down to Palestine and brought his wife and then fourteen-year-old daughter with him to Palestine, Texas. The day my mother graduated from high school, in Palestine, the next day she
and my daddy got married.
Tape 2, Side A
SS: What caused you to become a leader in this effort?
OM: Well, my mother was always very tolerant, and very understanding. For example, now try to picture the 1930s, deep Depression, nobody's got a job, everybody's barely making it, barely hanging on. The one really good thing that my father did in his lifetime was he evidently bought mortgage credit life insurance and when he died, the house was paid off. So we did have a house. We were better off than a lot of people. My mother always had a black maid to work for her, because she started having babies as soon as they got married, and--(laughter)
SS: And didn't stop. (laughter)
OM: That's right. You know, eight kids, just bang-bang-bang. So she always had a black maid. She was one of the few people, I remember as a kid growing up, that never used the word "nigger." She always said, "Negro." She insisted that we do that. Our maid's name, was Fanny Brown, who was there five-days-a-week. She did all the cooking and cleaning and everything else. My god, Mother couldn't do it all. You know. And the girls--I had two sisters--they were not big enough yet to help, and in those days you didn't ask men to do things like that. (laughter)
OM: But she always insisted that we referred to Fanny Brown, which was her name, as Mrs. Brown. Now this is pretty heavy.
SS: Yes, that is very unusual.
OM: For 1933, 1934, 1935--and she also insisted, and it was a duty that evolved down by age--that one or two of us--most times it would be two of us--would walk Mrs. Brown back up--we lived three houses off Quitman Street, which was a major street in the north side of Houston--we had to walk her up to Quitman Street and then down Quitman Street three blocks to Hardy Street, because that's where the streetcar ran to take her back out to where she lived in what was then called Kashmere Gardens. And we would have to go over there and meet her in the morning.
SS: Why was that? Was there fear for her safety?
OM: Well, there was probably some of that--and there was also, because my mother had been raised that women were to be protected at all times on the streets. It's hard to remember, but it's true--in those days, women were not allowed to walk out on the streets like now.
SS: Yes, it's hard to place yourself in those circumstances. So her children were protecting her--that's interesting because today we feel so protective of children.
OM: Well, part of it was race, of course, because we were an all-white neighborhood.
OM: Now the blacks just lived a few blocks away, but nonetheless Mother thought it was important that Fannie Brown--that all the neighbors understood that she had the right of free-passage back and forth, and us white folks of the Mauzy family were there to make sure everybody understood that.
Anyway, she was a remarkable woman.
SS: I know we don't need to sidetrack into this very long, but it's interesting. How did she make money?
OM: Well, my father, even when he died and when he was no longer able to work, was the secretary-treasurer of his local union, of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainman. That job paid fifty-dollars a month, which in 1931 was a lot of money. When he died the union agreed that they would elect another treasurer, but that my mother would continue to act [as secretary]. In those days you didn't have dues check-off and all this kind of thing. The men would have to come by my father's house and he would write out their receipt for their union dues and he was responsible for transmitting the dues to the union treasury. So it was all set up there in the house, and this was their way of helping their deceased brother-member, by allowing this. My mother continued that job for about five years after he died. That was the source of our income, fifty-dollars a month. That sounds like a pitiful amount of money (laughter) and it is a pitiful amount of money, but it was a lot less pitiful--
SS: In the Depression it was pretty good.
OM: Yes, it was a lot less pitiful then than now.
SS: Right. Interesting.
OM: Then all of us kids, we all went to work as we became old enough to be able to work. For example, between my brothers and I, we carried the same paper route. Let's see, Harry, my oldest brother, started it in 1928, when I was two-years-old. It went from Harry down to my next older brother, who was Albert, when Harry went off to Rice to college. Albert carried it until my next older brother, Fred, who is just older than I am, but he was crippled and so Fred and I had to carry the paper route together. But we picked it up from Albert. Then when I left to go in the service, it went down to my next brother, Bart.
SS: So there were five boys? And girls at the end?
OM: Six boys and two girls. No, the two girls were the second and third children. Harry, the boy, was the oldest, then Mildred, then Anna, then Albert, Fred, Oscar, Bart, and George.
SS: So Bart was in law school with you?
OM: Bart was a year behind me in law school.
SS: I saw his name. I thought it was you at first.
OM: Oh, no. No! I'll tell you a funny story about my brother Bart, which is a true story. The same day I got elected president of the mid-law class, my brother Bart got elected secretary-treasurer of the freshman class, unanimously. He didn't have anybody run against him. (laughter) Everybody used to laugh about that around this here law school. And we did, too. Bart and I were polar opposites. I'm short and dumpy and fat, and Bart was always tall and skinny and all. Bart never met a person that wasn't his friend, and I was always controversial and pushy and stuff.
SS: Interesting. Let's take a break here.
[Break in tape. Interview resumes.]
OM: In 1972, when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the voters to amend the Texas Constitution, that was about the time that really the whole question of sexual equality was surfacing nation-wide, and was in general public approval. And the number of women going to law schools, that has something to do with it. That was when women really got serious about entering all of the professions.
SS: That's right.
OM: So the two kind of coincided. That's the reason that women were really the first to benefit from the CLEO program. You had, you know, hell, a lot of white women who were from well-to-do families and whose daddies had been lawyers, and they fit every category, except that still was foreclosed for the blacks and browns. But it's the reason why the women's movement and the minorities have always been such natural partners in any coalition. I was watching a program on C-SPAN this morning, before I came over here--the Women's History Institute that they were putting on in Washington. There was a woman history professor at some school up there--I didn't catch what college it was--was writing a big book about women in politics. They had Lindy Boggs on there, who used to be a congresswoman from Louisiana, and Margaret Heckler, who was a Republican congresswoman from Boston--who went on to become Secretary of Health, Education, and Human Services in, I guess it was the Ford administration. It might have been in the first Reagan.
Anyway, it brought back a lot of interesting things about the women's movement. Lindy Boggs was saying that the first woman ever elected to the United States Congress was a woman named Jeannette Rankin, from Wyoming. She was elected in 1916. In 1917 she was the only member, I think, of Congress, who voted against the Declaration of War in World War I. Then she got beat, of course in 1918. But then she got re-elected back, years later, in 1940, and she was serving and she was the only member of Congress to vote against the Declaration of War in 1941. Of course she got beat for it, too. (laughter)
SS: (laughter) Yes.
OM: But I had forgotten all that. That's a wonderful story.
SS: Yes, that is a wonderful story. Well, I guess this is argued a lot, but it seems like sexism is a somewhat easier thing to beat than racism, because women have been able to enter the legal profession--white women--more readily.
OM: Well, I think that's part of it, and also, I think it's easier for white men to have compassion and be able to see more objectively what discrimination based on sex or gender has done, because they have mothers and they have wives and they have daughters. You can't extend that same compassion to people who are not part of your own family. I mean if you're looking for an excuse, you know, "Hell, them niggers are fine, but goddammit, let them stay over there and go to their own school. Them Mexicans are okay, but you let them stay down therein the Valley and chop cotton and all that."
OM: And truthfully, white people, and that includes white women, have more financial resources, overall, than black and brown people and women do.
SS: Well, when we meet next time, maybe we can focus on that period when you were in school, and focus on some of the events that happened with Sweatt while he was here.
SS: And then other things. It would be fun to talk some about your fraternity, and Hillsberg's, and sort of reconstructing that time period here at the UT Law School--and talk about some faculty, and some students.
OM: Oh, yes, I'd love to do that. By the way, we went to some event over at the Bass [Concert] Hall--it's been a couple of weeks ago now. My wife has had some health problems so I had driven through the driveway and dropped her off at the front, and then gone over to park the car across the street in the parking lot and I was standing outside before I went in--because I'm still a smoker and I know you can't smoke inside. So I was having my last cigarette.
So I noticed this guy and his wife coming up. He was all bent over and barely able to move. He had obviously had a stroke. He was coming up the steps where I was standing there smoking, and I reached over to help him, to grab his arm to help him because he was hanging on the rail as he came up the steps. His wife was helping him on the other side. And as I'm standing there helping this fellow, Dean Sharlot walked up and said, "Keith, can I help you?" Well, it was Keith Morrison, who had been a professor when I was in Law School It was the first time I had seen him since then. He evidently has had a stroke.
SS: Oh, that's a shame.
OM: It's like his wife said that night, "Well, he's still able to get around." And the mind is still working.
SS: Yes, that's good. Yes, it would be good to talk about that. I noticed a lot of familiar names when I was looking through the yearbooks. We could talk about Joe Jamail, Barefoot Sanders? We could talk about the old law campus, and the new campus.
SS: Then that would partly be a good session, to kind of focus on that, and then we can talk about if we need to go further.
OM: Make yourself a note to be sure and ask me about Buck Bailey [Professor Edward Weldon Bailey], who was a professor here--and nailing his windows shut. (laughter)
SS: (laughter) Well this story may be too good to wait for.
OM: Well, I'll shorthand it for you. In the old law building--did you ever see the old law building before it was torn down?
SS: No, I didn't.
OM: It was a wonderful old building. There were two big lecture rooms at each end of the hall. You could probably seat seventy-five, maybe a hundred people in there. It was a theater type of arrangement, with the rows of seats going up, and the professor's desk and everything at the front. They were high ceilinged rooms. They were probably eighteen or twenty-foot ceilinged rooms. The windows ran from sixteen feet up to two feet above the floor. They were beautiful.
SS: Yes, that sounds beautiful.
OM: Yes, yes, and a beautiful building. It was just gorgeous. Well, Bailey was a big boozer in those days, as were, hell, a lot of people, including me. But he had this eight o'clock class, in Corporations, that he always insisted that he was going to keep. And he would always insist that everybody be on time. He would have his quizmaster come in and stand there at five minutes before eight. If you weren't there at eight o'clock on the dot, you were absent.
The first thing he would do every morning when he walked in was walk across the room to the window and raise that window. It took both hands. I mean these were big damn windows. [He was] trying to clear his head. Hell, as I say, I was a big boozer in those days, too. I understood perfectly well what he was up to. (laughter)
OM: He was all red-faced and all. So we decided we were going to play a trick on him. Some of us--see, I heard about him as a freshman, "You don't want to take a class from Buck Bailey," and I didn't. I never did take a class from him. Well--we got even with him.
SS: Oh, that's great.
OM: Well, I've enjoyed the chat.
SS: I have, too.
End of Interview
Transcribed by Martha Berryman
Tape-edited by Sheree Scarborough, May 1996