John Henry Faulk, Humorist and First Amendment Champion, Dead at 76
Apr. 10, 1990
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Humorist-folklorist John Henry Faulk, who faced blacklisting head-on with a lawsuit in the 1950s and became a champion of civil rights, has died after a long bout with cancer. He was 76.
The Austin-born author and lecturer, whose objections effectively ended blacklisting in the entertainment industry, died Monday at his Austin home, said his niece, Anne McAffee.
Faulk was a popular CBS radio and television personality when, in 1957, he mounted a six-year legal battle in a New York court against an organization that tried to brand him a subversive.
He recounted the struggle in a best-selling book, ''Fear on Trial.'' The book was made into a made-for-TV movie that was broadcast on CBS in 1975.
Faulk often said he never expected the First Amendment to become pivotal in his life.
''I never had the slightest inkling that I would ever be embattled in invoking its protections,'' he said. ''It's the main nerve center of our entire self-governing democratic society.''
Faulk studied and taught at the University of Texas before joining the merchant marine during World War II. He also worked for the American Red Cross in the Middle East. Despite eye trouble, he was able to join the Army in 1944.
While on Christmas leave in 1945, Faulk was approached by executives from CBS, who had heard him perform and were impressed with his character sketches and interpretations of folk humor.
The network signed him in 1946 to do a weekly, one-hour radio show. He worked for CBS until 1957, when he was fired after AWARE Inc., a group that blacklisted entertainment personalities, accused him the year before of having subversive associations.
Faulk sued AWARE in 1956, charging the group had libeled him and destroyed his career. He won the lawsuit and was awarded $3.5 million, but the judgment was later reduced to $725,000 on appeal.
The 1962 trial brought an end to blacklisting. Faulk returned to Austin, where as a lecturer and writer he earned a reputation as a champion of individual rights.
''He got very strong support from his whole family,'' Ms. McAffee said of the trial days. ''We all understood how important it was to put an end to the blacklisting. The family has always been very political.''
Journalist Eric Sevareid has said, ''John Henry Faulk will occupy a niche in the permanent history of American journalism and in the life and times of the First Amendment. His story illustrates the First Amendment.''
Faulk wrote a second book, ''The Uncensored John Henry Faulk,'' which was published in 1985.
In 1988, Faulk received the James Madison First Amendment Award from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and was appointed the first holder of the John Seigenthaler Chair for First Amendment Studies at Middle Tennessee State University.
Faulk is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; two sons, John Henry Faulk III and Frank Dobie Faulk; three daughters, Evelyn Faulk, Johanna Faulk and Cynthia Faulk Ryland; a brother, two sisters and three grandchildren.
Elizabeth Faulk said a private funeral service will be held Wednesday. She said a public memorial service was planned for the weekend beginning April 20 at University Methodist Church in Austin.