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HAIDUSEK, AUGUSTIN

HAIDUŠEK, AUGUSTIN (1845–1929). Augustin Haidušek, public official and editor, was born on September 19, 1845, in Mišši, a Moravian village located between the towns of Frenstat and Přibor. He was the third and last child of Valentin and Veronika (Kladiva) Haidušek. His father, a prosperous farmer, immigrated with his family to Texas. In 1856, after arriving in the East Navidad area of Fayette County that he later renamed Dubina (Oak Grove), Augustin studied in both Czech and English. After leaving school to join a cattle drive, he enlisted in the Confederate Army. Even during his military service, he continued his education by reading and rereading an English-language Bible. After the war he returned to Fayette County. After brief stints as a public school teacher and store clerk, he was accepted by the La Grange firm of Jarmon and Cross to study law in 1869. By the end of 1870 he had passed his state bar examination and become one of the first Czech Americans to practice law in the United States.

Haidušek's law practice and his prestige in the community grew quickly. He was elected chairman of the Fayette County Democratic Executive Committee in 1874. The next year he was elected mayor of La Grange, thus apparently becoming the first American mayor of Czech descent. He became a member of the state legislature in 1880, representing Lee and Fayette counties, and served two terms. He became county judge of Fayette County in 1884 and was reelected in 1886 and 1888. Haidušek's duties as county judge included serving as ex officio superintendent of public schools. In this role he vigorously enforced the state law that required English as the principal medium of instruction in the classroom. For this decision he was criticized by both local Czech Americans and national Czech newspaper editors, who charged that he was attempting to deny Czech students the right to their own language. At least partially to argue his assimilationist views before the public, Haidušek founded the Czech-language newspaper Svoboda in La Grange in 1885 and edited it until the 1920s.

As a newspaper editor he wielded his greatest influence. Although Svoboda steered clear of religious issues, unlike many other Czech-American publications of the time, its political position was decidedly Democratic, and Haidušek constantly urged his readers toward increased political consciousness and involvement in local and state government.

In 1896 he became president of the First National Bank of La Grange, and in 1905 Governor Samuel W. T. Lanham appointed him to the Texas A&M College Board of Regents. In 1916 the Czech leader supported the gubernatorial candidacy of William P. Hobby against that of James E. Ferguson. This stand was so unpopular that Svoboda lost about 2,000 subscribers, more than half of its total number. Nevertheless, even after his political influence had waned, Haidušek was remembered as a venerable, even heroic, figure.

Haidušek was Catholic, though he rarely attended Mass. He married Anna Becka (Bieka) in May 1872, and the couple had five children. He died on September 28, 1929, at his family home in La Grange. See also CZECHS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Estelle Hudson and Henry R. Maresh, Czech Pioneers of the Southwest (Dallas: South-West, 1934). Jesse Jochec, The Life and Career of Augustin Haidušek (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940). Clinton Machann, ed., The Czechs in Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Department of English, 1979). Clinton Machann and James W. Mendl, Krásná Amerika: A Study of the Texas Czechs, 1851–1939 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983).

Clinton Machann

Citation

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

Clinton Machann, "HAIDUSEK, AUGUSTIN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fha09), accessed April 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.