Henry Faulk by
Archie P. McDonald
an annual meeting of ETHA late in the 1970s, our members were entertained by John
Henry Faulk, who came over from Madisonville to Nacogdoches to present a memorable
program. Faulk was simply the best storyteller I ever heard.|
Some of our
audience was unaware that Johnny Faulk had once been atop the show business ladder
in New York City, only to tumble when falsely accused during the era of McCarthyism
of being a communist. Perhaps it was fighting back that hurt him most, even though
he eventually won a court decision against his accusers.
is the storyteller's story.
John Henry Faulk was born in Austin in 1913,
and attended the University of Texas where he was greatly influence by J. Frank
Dobie and Walter P. Webb. A Methodist, Faulk studied African-American ministers
and became an expert in mimicking their style of preaching. He also developed
an enormous empathy with African Americans, who suffered significantly from segregation.
Faulk taught English at the University of Texas for a time, then served in the
merchant marine and finally in the U.S. Army during WWII. While still in the service
Faulk visited New York, and through a friend, Alan Lomax, met and impressed media
executives with his humor and story telling ability.
CBS gave Faulk his
own show, "Johnny's Front Porch," a combination variety/talk show. Until 1957
Faulk appeared on various radio shows and networks along a career path seemingly
destined for national stardom-until he encountered AWARE, a watchdog group that
investigated alleged communists in media.
Faulk could be called liberal,
especially on issues such as race and freedom of speech, but he was not a communist.
He did oppose AWARE, and in retaliation, the group branded him communist. CBS
didn't investigate for itself-it fired Faulk simply over the accusation.
the financial and moral support of Edward R. Murrow, Faulk filed suit and after
five years-during which Joseph McCarthy's destructive career ended-won a huge
judgment in court. All the money went to the lawyers, and CBS still refused to
rehire Faulk because of the controversy. So he moved back to Texas, where he became
a hero to those who had fought McCarthyism. Eventually John Henry Faulk appeared
on "Hee Haw," a syndicated television program featuring country music and corny
humor-and occasionally in such venues as the East Texas Historical Association's
annual meeting. Faulk's skills could have carried him to stardom and wealth. Instead,
he died poor but vindicated, in 1990.
© Archie P. McDonald
July 30, 2007 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical
Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more
than 20 books on Texas.
by Archie P. McDonald
Accounts of the Civil War ||