On this day in 1962, a jury awarded Texas humorist John Henry Faulk $3.5 million, the largest libel judgment in history to that date. Faulk, born in Austin in 1913, became a popular radio personality in the late 1940s. In 1955 he ran afoul of AWARE, Inc., an influential anti-Communist watchdog firm, in a dispute over control of the entertainers' union. In retaliation, AWARE branded him a Communist. When Faulk discovered that the charge prevented a radio station from making him an employment offer, he sought redress in the courts. Attorneys for AWARE managed to stall the suit for five years, but when the trial finally concluded, the jury had determined that Faulk should receive more compensation than he sought in his original petition. An appeals court subsequently reduced the amount to $500,000, and legal fees and accumulated debts erased the balance of the award. Despite his vindication, years passed before he worked again as a media entertainer. He recounted his ordeal in his 1963 book Fear on Trial. Faulk served on the steering committee for his former mentor J. Frank Dobie's Paisano Ranch, and in 1984, with the backing of J. R. Parten, ran unsuccessfully for Congress. He died in Austin in 1990. The Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin sponsors the John Henry Faulk Conference on the First Amendment.
On this day in 1880, John Burwell Omohundro Jr., better known as Texas Jack, died. Omohundro, born in Virginia in 1846, traveled to Texas while still a teenager and worked trailing cattle. He served as a scout and spy under Gen. J. E. B. Stuart during the Civil War. By 1866 he had resumed his life as a Texas cowboy and rode in several early cattle drives, including a drive across Arkansas to Tennessee, where he received his nickname “Texas Jack.” After he moved to Cottonwood Springs, Nebraska, in 1869 he met William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody, and they engaged in buffalo hunts and Indian skirmishes. In Chicago in 1872 the two made their debut in The Scouts of the Prairie, one of the original Wild West shows, and Texas Jack was credited with introducing roping acts to the American stage. Throughout the 1870s Omohundro divided his time as a stage actor in the East and a hunting guide on the Great Plains. After his death, the Texas Jack legend was popularized in “dime novels” until the early 1900s.
On this day in 1919, the Texas Senate ratified the national amendment granting women the right to vote. Texas thus became the first Southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment and the ninth in the nation. Woman suffrage had been discussed in Texas as early as the Constitutional Convention of 1868. The short-lived Texas Equal Rights Association (1893-96) helped organize a suffrage movement. The Texas Equal Suffrage Association, a state chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, led the fight for suffrage from 1913 on, and achieved one of its key goals when it won the right for women to vote in primary elections in 1918. Feelings ran strong on both sides of the issue; some women joined the Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. In June 1919 a woman suffrage amendment was sent to the states for approval. The Texas House passed the amendment on June 23 and the Texas Senate on June 28.