Wednesday, October 08, 2008

He's No Maverick

As I mentioned in my last post, I left work early to have dinner with friends in Old City last night. On the way home, I was listening to POTUS '08 on XM. They were interviewing Terrillita Maverick, descendant of the man whose name is the genesis of the term maverick. A feisty woman herself (she says it comes naturally), she railed that she was none too happy to have her name co-opted by the McCain campaign.

I had planned to look her up when I got home and when I logged on-line, there was an email about her from a politically minded friend. She sent along a NYTimes article by John Schwartz about Terrilita and the story of the Maverick family, Who You Callin’ a Maverick?:

There’s that word again: maverick. In Thursday’s vice-presidential debate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican candidate, used it to describe herself and her running mate, Senator John McCain, no fewer than six times, at one point calling him “the consummate maverick.”

But to those who know the history of the word, applying it to Mr. McCain is a bit of a stretch — and to one Texas family in particular it is even a bit offensive.

“I’m just enraged that McCain calls himself a maverick,” said Terrellita Maverick, 82, a San Antonio native who proudly carries the name of a family that has been known for its progressive politics since the 1600s, when an early ancestor in Boston got into trouble with the law over his agitation for the rights of indentured servants.

In the 1800s, Samuel Augustus Maverick went to Texas and became known for not branding his cattle. He was more interested in keeping track of the land he owned than the livestock on it, Ms. Maverick said; unbranded cattle, then, were called “Maverick’s.” The name came to mean anyone who didn’t bear another’s brand.

Sam Maverick’s grandson, Fontaine Maury Maverick, was a two-term congressman and a mayor of San Antonio who lost his mayoral re-election bid when conservatives labeled him a Communist. He served in the Roosevelt administration on the Smaller War Plants Corporation and is best known for another coinage. He came up with the term “gobbledygook” in frustration at the convoluted language of bureaucrats.

* * * *
Considering the family’s long history of association with liberalism and progressive ideals, it should come as no surprise that Ms. Maverick insists that John McCain, who has voted so often with his party, “is in no way a maverick, in uppercase or lowercase.”

“It’s just incredible — the nerve! — to suggest that he’s not part of that Republican herd. Every time we hear it, all my children and I and all my family shrink a little and say, ‘Oh, my God, he said it again.’ ”

“He’s a Republican,” she said. “He’s branded.”
Gobbledygook is one of my favorite words. I didn't realize it came from a Maverick -- although it makes perfect sense.

The only thing that she added that wasn’t mentioned in the article was that Fontaine Maverick (Sam’s grandson), who served in Congress in the ‘30s, was the only Southern Congressman who voted in favor of an anti-lynching law. Now, that’s a maverick I could support.

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