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MEYER, HEINRICH KARL ERNST MARTIN

MEYER, HEINRICH KARL ERNST MARTIN (1904–1977). Heinrich Meyer (also known by the pseudonyms Robert O. Barlow, H. K. Houston Meyer, and Hugo Cartesius), German linguist and professor, son of Wilhelm and Anna (Ulmer) Meyer, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on May 17, 1904. Meyer received his doctorate from the University in Freiburg in 1928 and was recruited by Dr. Max Freund from Rice Institute (now Rice University). He entered the United States as a quota immigrant in 1930. During his time at Rice, Meyer published numerous articles on Goethe and von Ranke and wrote a book titled Konrad Bäumlers weiter Weg; ein Texas deutscher Roman (1938) (Konrad Bäumler's long journey—A Novel about Germans in Texas). This was one of the few uncensored publications in Nazi Germany since the author was American. With the royalties from the book, Meyer planned to buy a ranch in Texas. Meyer petitioned in July 1935 for United States citizenship, which was granted on November 6, 1935. After he received his citizenship Meyer made two trips back to Nazi Germany.

In 1938 Meyer wrote a letter to Chancellor Adolf Hitler and requested an audience in which he wanted to explain how the Nazis' anti-Jewish campaign was affecting American feelings. The audience however was refused. After entry of the U.S. into World War II, he came under the suspicion by the American government, because he met with Baron Edgar von Spiegel, the German Consul in New Orleans on a few occasions. FBI agents attended his classes at Rice and posed as students. They built a case against him. In September 1942, the same day he received his draft notice, a petition under Section 338 of the Nationality Act of 1940 was filed with the United States district clerk in Houston to revoke Heinrich Meyer's citizenship. The government claimed that he obtained his naturalization fraudulently and illegally for the purpose of obtaining the rights and privileges and protection of American citizenship without intending to assume the duties thereof.

Lack of loyalty to the United States was the main base of this case, and the Federal Reserve Bank impounded his funds. Because of lack of funds, Meyer was forced to handle his own defense, but eventually Garvey W. Brown and William Hatten were obtained as defense council. Meyer denied all charges against him, and the civil case went to trial on February 23, 1943. He was found guilty by Federal Judge Allen B. Hannay who believed that Meyer had mental reservations that held him in secret allegiance to the Third Reich and that he intended not to stay permanently in this country. Following the verdict, Rice terminated their affiliation with Meyer, who was taken into custody by the FBI on March 8, 1943, and turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Department. He spent the next three months in a concentration camp in Kenedy, Texas. Meyer's case was the first de-naturalization case in the Southern District of Texas and the first civil action filed by the U.S. attorney's office to revoke the citizenship rights of Houstonians born in Germany. Upon appeal Meyer's citizenship was reversed in April 1944 by the Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans since the court believed that a naturalized citizen had the same freedom of thinking and speaking as a native citizen.

Meyer stayed in Houston until 1945 when he moved to Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania where his plans included a cooperative farming community. In the 1940s he published a book on gardening, titled The Complete Modern Garden Herbal, under the pseudonym of Robert O. Barlow. In 1953 he accepted a position as professor of German at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was editor of German Studies in America. That same year Meyer became a John Simon Guggenheim fellow in German and Scandinavian literature, and in 1972 he received the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany.

Meyer married former Rice student Mary Louise Dinsmoor on May 10, 1936; they had no children. They divorced on December 19, 1942, in the middle of his trial. Meyer married former Rice student Doris Hoag Clark on February 19, 1945, and divorced her in 1955. He married a third time in 1957 to Sybille Hommel (daughter of Hildebrecht Hommel). Dr. Heinrich Meyer retired in 1972 from Vanderbilt. After a short illness, he died of a brain tumor in Bellingham, Washington, on October 10, 1977. Vanderbilt University houses Meyer's rare book collection.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Houston Chronicle, February 17, 18, 1943. New York Times, February 24, 1943.

Simone C. De Santiago Ramos

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Simone C. De Santiago Ramos, "MEYER, HEINRICH KARL ERNST MARTIN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fme82), accessed October 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.