Sometimes, politics is so nasty, so partisan, that you better laugh—or else you might cry. Molly Ivins was a legendary reporter and columnist — hilariously acerbic, staunchly feminist and uniquely Texan — who pilloried the powerful and defended democracy. She is the subject of “Raise Hell” a documentary biographic by filmmaker Janice Engel.
This episode of American Rhapsody was mixed and mastered by Harper Carlton and Morgan Honaker.
- Janice EngelDocumentary Filmmaker and Professor at the Academy of Art University
- Don CarletonFounding Director of The University of Texas at Austin's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
[0:00:04 Don Carleton] This is American Rhapsody, Ah, podcast of the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Each episode we interviewed those who witnessed American history firsthand, who have since donated their archives to the Briscoe Center Way also talked to historians, journalists and others who research in those collections. We’re all asking the same question.What actually happened?
[0:00:31 Speaker Unknown] It’s a good time to dig in. It’s a good time to talk, play out. It’s a good time to remember a few things about how to fight these sorry bastards. Patriotic bullies back in World War One used to run around kicking toxins on the grounds that they were German dogs. Now I’ll tell you something about people like that. They don’t go around kicking German shepherds.
[0:01:06 Don Carleton] The political world could be so nasty, so partisan, so utterly disconnected from ordinary life that you’d better laugh or else you might cry. That’s why many of us appreciate political satire like the kind you can view on The Daily Show. Jon Oliver on The Colbert Report, among others. Historically important predecessor to those commentators was journalists Molly Ivins, whose contemporaries in the art of political satire where people like anti war activists Abbie Hoffman, gone Zo, journalist Hunter S. Thompson and Molly’s mentor and fellow Texan, the wonderful John Henry Faulk. Political satire has a very long history in America, and it’s a lineage Molly contributed to in her own unique way. Her style was charmingly cynical, robustly feminist, distinctly Texan.
[0:02:00 Speaker Unknown You got to have fun while you’re fighting for freedom. For one thing, you don’t always win, and that might get to be
[0:02:05 Don Carleton] all the fun you ever have. Born in 1940 for Molly grew up in Houston and went to college in the Northeast and did postgraduate work at the Institute of Political Sciences in France. 1967. She started working at the Houston Chronicle, covering the nuts and bolts of the city government. She was sewer editor, as she put it in the 19 seventies, after a stent at the Minneapolis Tribune, where she was the papers. First female police reporter Molly returned to Texas to co edit The Progressive Texas Observer, the state’s premier muckraking news magazine. After that, she reported for that old gray lady, The New York Times. But her style was a poor fit for that button down newspaper So she returned to Texas, writing a column first for The Dallas Times Herald and later the Fort Worth Star Telegram. During the 19 eighties and nineties, Mali eight breeze loved, hated and, yes, ridiculed the political culture of Texas. But her journalism always came first. The satire came second, and boy, was she funny unless the joke was on you. But many of her targets eventually accepted the joke, even if they hadn’t enjoyed the experience. Up until her death in 2000 and seven, she wrote passionately about the absurdities and injustices of American life, and she gleefully made fun of the good old boy network of the Texas political establishment. Molly died in 2000 and seven after a long battle with cancer, her extensive collection of papers Air now housed at the Briscoe Center. When she donated them, she stressed to me they shouldn’t become a monument to her life, but instead serve as a working resource for those in the future, seeking to understand the issues she had covered. Her papers certainly do that, but they do so much more today. They exist for a new generation of journalists as a guide for understanding how the hue hard to the truth, how to speak truth to power, how to make sense of injustice and how to small through your teeth while doing it. You might at this point, be tempted to come to the center and pour through all 180 linear feet of Mali’s papers. Before you do, you need to listen to today’s guest, Janice Single. She’s the director of Raise Hell. The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, which is an award winning documentary that was released just last year and is now available for viewing on Who Lou, a no imminent filmmaker and showrunner. Janice is also a professor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she teaches documentary film to students from all over the world. Chan has spent six months camped at the Briscoe Center, pouring through Molly’s papers, which includes Molly’s correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, audiovisual recordings and her research materials, and the manuscript drafts for all of her bestselling books, including Mali, Avins Can’t Say that, can she and Bushwhacked Life and George W. Bush’s America Janice Single had more than 3000 autumns from those papers digitized during the project, which she used to great effect in her documentary Raise Hell brings Molly back into focus for a new age. The age of Trump, social media and black lives matter. A new age that could do with biting commentary and blistering political wisdom. Raise hell takes Molly out of the archives and into the spotlight. It’s a hell of a ride on a testament to Janice’s ability as a filmmaker. Janice Single. Welcome to American Rhapsody.
[0:06:18 Janice Engel] Thank you for having me Don.
[0:06:20 Don Carleton] You know, here you’ve done this huge project, this outstanding documentary about Molly Alvin’s and you never met her. You never met Molly. How did this happen?
[0:06:31 Janice Engel] Yeah, I never met Molly Ivins and Dang, I think Had we met, I think I would have been, you know, kind of sitting at her feet. We would have been peas in a pod. But I’m not in Texas. I’m not a Texan. And I I was on one of those snooty East Coast liberals who ended up living in California, actually more in California than New York. But the New York is always with me, and, you know, Carlisle usedto harass me about you know, my snooty attitude about Texans and, uh, anyway, I I just I didn’t even really know who Molly Ivins was. I knew of her.
[0:07:08 Don Carleton] What led you to her papers at the Briscoe Center?
[0:07:11 Janice Engel] I believe my first visit let me see in my 2012 email introduction to Molly’s chief of stuff that was their Briscoe archived online was May 20th 2013. I’m
[0:07:27 Don Carleton] impressed with your record keeping
[0:07:28 Janice Engel] Well, because I said, you know, this is why I make documentaries and why Also a director who edits I’m so anal. I mean, I’m really like, you know, Molly was just I mean, obviously she’s a pack rat. I’m a little more much
[0:07:42 Don Carleton] more organized. I think that’s I think there’s best definitely accurate, I
[0:07:46 Janice Engel] would say Don. Overall, over five or six year period, I probably spent six months total, but at different times. So I think I spent the first time I came was in 2013, and I spent a month
[0:08:02 Don Carleton] Well, that shows in the documentary, frankly, because of the incredible depth and use of archival material that you put to use. Really, it was amazing, you know, Let me ask you. So when you were working on the papers and you were going through everything you know? What’s his black? Um, meeting a person you’ve never met through her papers. Was that a really key thing to trying to get a better understanding of who this person waas? Absolutely.
[0:08:31 Janice Engel] First of all, you have to go through the you know, you have to look at the how you guys because it’s it’s librarian. Speak. So how did how is it broken down? And I would go by years. And I wasn’t interested in her financials and her contracts. I was interested in the personal and the hardest part of First on was to not get engrossed in wanting to read everything right then and there.
[0:08:54 Don Carleton] That’s a common problem, Janice.
[0:08:57 Janice Engel] I just I mean, as soon as I started to find, like, letters home from camp and her postcards from France and at different points in the trajectory, and I really made it my goal to get through as much stuff as I could. So what I needed to do was to come up with System and 2013. I started it by 2015. I had it down and what I did 2015. I spent. I think a good two months in the archive. We had had a Kickstarter campaign and it allowed us allowed me to stay in in Austin for a month. And I lived in your archives. I lived. Thank you. Erin Glaser, Margaret. And whoever else was always there would see me every day. Well, let me Let me ask you
[0:09:39 Don Carleton] this. I mean, Somalis, obviously, Molly’s papers or a gold mine. We knew that, you know, we convinced her and persuaded her toe put her papers at the center. And, uh, but did you use any other papers at the center other than Molly’s?
[0:09:55 Janice Engel] Yeah, I did. I wanted to ask to answer your question, though. What would blow me away was when I would find her correspondence between her and her father. What? That blew me away. I found, basically, I think I found a note that she left on the kitchen counter at the time. I was also interviewing her friends and this whole world. One friend would say, Oh, my God, of course, it’s about time, and everybody would want to share what I would do interviews and I had a transcriptionist. So, as you know, we have incredible transcriptions of all the interviews. And I did good. I would say, You know, from Liz Faulk to Betsy Moon Thio, her sister. I got Andy Ivans basically a month before he passed or three months before he passed. And I have been looking, trying to get ahold of him for a good year. Plus and I got a phone call one day saying, I hear you’ve been looking for me. So it was unbelievable, and somebody dropped that. Molly knew she was gonna be famous, and that’s why she saved everything. But perhaps, I mean, I think that she had a sense of her own destiny and the fame quotient. But I also think she saved everything because she loved history and her life was part of history. She was an archivist in herself. I must say she had. It’s been Cyclops pedic memory and knowledge, just her level of reading. So it’s the personal stuff that would blow my mind. Oh my God. Her mother wrote her a letter. You know, her relationship with Hank Colin, which didn’t make it into the film, but apparently the love of her life and why she people say she never married and she never let on that they were necessarily having it was starting to be a romantic relationship. But in her mind, she had created this. What girls do, what women do when you’re brought up a certain way. And it’s particularly back in those times uh, the kind of the picket fence photo for a nanosecond when she was at Smith and he was at Yale and she wrote a letter back to her mother that she and Hank in the football games is very, very WASPy, very white, very privileged, kind of their back and forth, not revealing too much. And her mother actually and never made it in. But her mother would write her Magwood right, her this letter back. And so she made some comment like, Well, you know, I really don’t want to date, you know, going for somebody. She kind of poo pooed Hank. And then something about, you know, boys of the Jewish persuasion. Oh, my God. That it was just so of the error and of the time and so revealing. And of course, you know, Margo changed after she, you know, was left by Jim. And that was the other thing that was revealed how Jim Ivan’s really left mag. And it’s just that stories that I learned and I feel that I was given a gift to kind of but not having Molly there. I really want Wish I could have had a conversation with her about some of the stuff. It was incredible. And then finding some journal entries about her admitting her alcoholism was gold because that’s what gave us that took us out of his geography.
[0:12:55 Don Carleton] Well, you know, I’ve been doing this, uh, business, really, in this business of history and our guys for really 45 years, And Molly’s papers are extremely unusual and how personal they are. You know, we get convince people to give us their papers and, you know, just like they’ve gone through them with a vacuum cleaner pulling everything out that, uh, they afraid toe might be sensitive or whatever. And so you lose a lot of the personality of the person many times because they just don’t. I want those kind of papers in their in their collection, and Molly is totally different that way. That’s why it’s yeah. I mean, it’s a gold mine. I have tow, think also John Henry Fox, widow whiz Faulk. Because Liz did a great job, I think. And persuading Molly just include everything and and she saw to it that on, I guess, Betty to a Betsy. I mean, you know that everything came to us, you know, it really wasn’t combed through for anything.
[0:13:58 Janice Engel] Well, Liz was I mean, Liz was an incredible executive assistant. She also, I think I mean, Liz is an interesting lady, and I interviewed her, and she really kept Molly, I think organized her organizational skills are extraordinary.
[0:14:15 Don Carleton] We’ll let you know, man, let me just put this in for our listeners. Uh, list talk was I said earlier with the widow of John Henry Faulk the
[0:14:23 Janice Engel] top a little
[0:14:24 Don Carleton] bit about John Henry because there’s a direct connection. Was Molly on John Henry?
[0:14:29 Janice Engel] Well, yeah. So John Henry Faulk was Molly’s mentor, One of them. And, uh, you know, she when she was at the t o and writing, she fell in with all the you know, the progressives, which were few that would gather at at 4 p.m. On the second floor balcony of the Texas Observer. And what is its seventh in us is What is the the old T O headquarters. And, um, through this crowd of people, Mali met John Henry Faulk. And I guess Cactus Prior and a lot of other people who were, you know, Ronnie Dugger was that whole. It was the whole crowd of people that would come together. And Molly basically sat at the feet of John Henry. She loved Hiss style, you know, the style that he did when he went on it became public speaker, I guess following, you know, breaking the blacklist, suing the black for the blacklist, anyone but on. But he was on he ha. But he could never gain the footing he had had the celebrity had had before. He was blacklisted, and he did speaking engagements. And it was this folksy style that used, I guess, music and joking around. But it was very political, very progressive. And, ah, lot of stuff that’s Molly used in some of her speeches came right from John Henry Faulk.
[0:15:53 Don Carleton] What John Henry’s you know is somewhat. I knew very well. And we have, you know, the Briscoe Center also has John Henry Fox papers. Did you have a chance to look at those at all.
[0:16:05 Janice Engel] I dug into a little bit of anyway, that was your other question that I didn’t answer. You’d asked me Who else? Yes, I did dig a little bit into John Henry Faulk and I also mostly looking for visuals of him. You know, I was always looking for film. I was looking for a video or audio because I’m not writing a book. I was looking for that kind of documentation because I had photos. I was I had photos of Mali from Mali’s beautiful photos in hers that I was able to use. I also and Richards and Richards papers. Yes. Look, I the best part was finding I gotta tell you the photographs alone, but finding invites from Anne Richards toe everybody for one of their picnics, barbecues out of their ranch, with hand drawn maps and back and forth of who could come who couldn’t come. And then, of course, I’ll tell you my biggest heartache in all of this. Nobody did help movies, and I asked to seal about that Cecile Richards and she said, You know, the adults, they were off all partying, drinking and probably, you know, in smoking grass and And she goes, we kids were off having she says, one of the best adventures of our life with those picnics because it would just be a gathering of adults and Children and Children. Go do what they wanted in adults. All party, because nobody, yeah, nobody ever took home movies.
[0:17:29 Don Carleton] Well, you know, I was fortunate enough toe be in some of those not home movies. But I’m talking about some of these gatherings and, uh, fact, that’s how I met Molly. But no, I don’t recall. I think I have been shocked if someone had walked, you’ve been walking around making home movies at the time.
[0:17:48 Janice Engel] I mean, I would have thought there would have been one filmmaker, somebody who had a Super Eight camera that would have just, you know, but not it just blew my mind.
[0:17:57 Don Carleton] It wasn’t on anybody’s mind, you know, It just, uh well,
[0:18:00 Janice Engel] let me ask
[0:18:00 Don Carleton] you, Janice, you know, now you’ve had this tremendous experience. Is a filmmaker, uh, and and really digging through archives and you have a vory. I mean, clearly, from your experience, you have a very clear understanding of the value off saving these papers and having you know, these collections preserved in archives. Uh, do you think that documentary filmmakers should make better use of archives? I mean, what would you you know? Would you How would you Would you advise a beginning filmmakers how important it is to get to the papers, if there are any?
[0:18:37 Janice Engel] Yeah, I I do, don, because I teach. I teach. I teach. I teach documentary filmmaking too young young people from actually from all over the globe who come to, um, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco on site. And now these days virtually, um, are virtual classrooms as well as some online. And I actually just rewrote the documentary one course. Big part of what I do is to teach them about researching and how important it is. And archival, depending, you know, depending on the type of Doc they’re making, are they making is the person. If the person is alive, then chances are they’re gonna be doing it. A cinema, verity, observational style or participatory, you know, style documentary, little mixture of both. But if the person is not alive or they’re doing something that has social, political, cultural, whatever it iss I said, you’re always gonna have to do research. And so depending on where it is, what it is you have thio understand how archives work. And even if it’s I said, if it’s going to the town hall and finding the information about maybe you’re making about a place, you know what you are about a time period like in Sausalito. Somebody wanted to make a one of my students spent Doctor one and doctor making a documentary about the the houseboats in Sausalito. And I said, Go to the local historical society Start up a conversation. But if you’re I tell them if you are making it about a person, you have to find out if they passed, if they have papers and where they’re kept and then I tell them my experience with the Briscoe and how I lived in the archives, I did. I lived there and how you have to be organized as well as befriend the lovely people who can help you find what you’re looking for. And you have to do your you know, your deep dive dig. It is an absolute prerequisite requirement, even if you are doing somebody who is currently alive and you’re following them. You really need to know inside and out who this person is.
[0:20:53 Don Carleton] Well, you’re what you’re saying is music to my ears is a historian on also used to teach graduate students about how to use archives and, uh, as the story. And we have a saying where there’s no records, there’s no history, and that’s not 100% true, but it’s largely true. Well,
[0:21:13 Janice Engel] if you don’t need the history Don, then there’s no history either, as we are sadly watching in our current Well, you
[0:21:20 Don Carleton] know, I’m glad you brought that up because I wanted to ask you What do you hope, people, given the drastic change in circumstances politically in this country just during the time you were working on this project? And what do you hope? People take away from that from the documentary when they after they watch it,
[0:21:37 Janice Engel] I want them to take away with Molly wanted them to No, it was It was life. Her life’s breath mission and total hats off to John Henry Faulk. But about our First Amendment and about what we stand to lose. And with this democracy that we, uh or Republic as it’s called, which isn’t, you know, always, uh, isn’t perfect. It’s in perfect, and it’s perfect nous, but it and it had it got a lot of things wrong. But that’s what’s great about a democracy. You can change it, but you can Onley change it if you vote. And if you don’t vote as Molly would say, you can’t bitch.
[0:22:28 Don Carleton] Well, you know, Janice, maybe this is a good time for us to hear from Mali. Do we have a clip that we can hear? Mr. Producer? Yep. I can. I think we have the two clips that you just mentioned. Janice. I can play one. Then there’ll be a quick pause and I’ll play the other
[0:22:46 Janice Engel] people. I listen to people who don’t vote. They say cute or things like I want to just sound interested in politics. Always just encourages the politicians, others they’re boring or they’re all crooks. Um, I think what you have there is a realtor election of duty. I think you have a terrible failure of responsibility. His politics in this country is not something that is done by them. It’s not those people in Washington. It’s not those people in your state capital. This country is run by us. It is our deal. To me, it’s the most appallingly irresponsible here. Just not interested in politics. Well, I guess you’re just not interested in your life either. I mean, what do they think? Politics is not something that we’re show. You looked at it. So a picture on a wall. It is the very stuff of our lives. It is how we live, how people make us live. Um, I do get indignant. One of the mistakes we make when we try to talk about politics in this country is we keep pretending that the political spectrum runs from right to left. It doesn’t. It runs from top to bottom when we live in a country where the richest 1% of the people in this nation control 40% of the total Web and those numbers get worse every year. There’s a lot of cheap cynicism around. And I mean, you know, it’s fun, and I laugh at it whenever I hear it. But I will tell you, I think among the politicians and among journalists, the most serious mistake we consistently make is assuming that people are dumb people aren’t dumb, they aren’t stupid. And there is a constant, condescending assumption among people in our profession and among politicians that somehow people are easily snookered and manipulated. I don’t think so. It all. And I think the fact that 50% of the people in this country don’t even bother to vote is one indication of exactly how bright they are. Cynicism, apathy and discussed is a pretty intelligent response to a lot of American politics today. I run around getting excited because Congress is about to repeal the Glass Steagall Act, and I think it’s a terrible thing. Well, you know, there’s some guy out there fixing cars who don’t know anything about Glass Steagall. On the other hand, I couldn’t tell you anything about fixing cars, either. On DSO I think that assuming because people are ignorant, they’re stupid is one of the most fundamental mistakes we make. Man, You know, when I when I had to go back in yesterday, been and go back into because I hadn’t been in in a long time into my my avid project and I went in and I tell you, I just hearing her voice, it just I feel like James Egan always calls me my producing partner, Mini Molly I s O resonate. I listened to her and I just going Yes, yes, I wish you were alive because I would just be, you know, kicking it up with you and I love. But the way you cut it off because what she’s comparing, she says, Glass Steagall act. I’m like, all up in your arms about that. And meanwhile, there’s a guy like what she does. That’s why she’s so great. Molly is some blue collar guy, a mechanic who knows how to fix the car. I don’t know anything about what he does, so what she’s making the point is about the elitist nature of journalists, media thing, entitlement that comes with that and the view of the world, which is why we’re in the state we’re in right now. Her prescience, the comment. You know, the corporate inequity. The richest 1% control 40% of the world’s wealth, and I have in with the film. If you look, there’s, um, break up. I used a lot of these pieces, not all of them. I put the ends on that I loved, but I couldn’t include in, uh, where it’s the big heist on. And that was in 1991 that she said that it is top to bottom. It is not left to right. It has nothing to do with left to right. It is top to bottom. It is about It is about cast. Thank you, Isabel Wilkerson. It is about cast. I was just gonna run on with a quick question here. I was wondering who you think sort of takes on Molly’s mantle today. There’s always
[0:26:48 Don Carleton] been comedy in journalism, whether it’s Hunter S. Thompson, there’s always been sort of political theater, cynical political theater and thinking. Abbie Hoffman and then Molly Ivins fits into this strain is sort of an early pioneer of this kind of mix of comedy, cynicism and news. But today we seem to, you know, we’ve got John Oliver. We’ve got Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart before that.
[0:27:13 Janice Engel] Do you see this kind of
[0:27:15 Don Carleton] cultural product? Er’s as part of Mali’s legacy? There
[0:27:20 Janice Engel] is no buddy who does what Molly Ivins did at all. Right now, first of all, print journalism is Aziz, you know is suffering. I you know Connie Schultz. You know she won one of the I think the Mali Awards. When I the first maybe the 2013, she was, you know, the inheritor, so to speak. Um and, uh, out of Ohio and she’s married to Sherrod Brown, the senator there. And then there’s always been, you know, Maureen Down and Gail Collins. But Maureen Dad is pithy, not Molly and and and Gail Collins. You know, she I spoke with her and she was very touched that, you know, people brought up her name, but she said, No, no, no, no, no. You know, and I don’t think she’s Molly. Um, there’s nobody who does what Molly did. Because if you look at what Molly did, uh, she was one person basically, uh, doing with the comedians. Copy what she does. But the comedians and I had a had a discussion with Rachel Maddow about this. He didn’t make it into the film. The comedians like the Trevor Noah and John Oliver and Colbert and Samantha Bee and whoever else does, you know, political humor with an edge. Bill Maher. Um, his net could be nasty, but they all have a writer’s room. They have a team of writers coming up with the human. Now, of course, they lead the charge, and they’re all various, stupid and politically motivated and and smart people. But they have a writer’s room. Uh, they also need to have the investigative journalistic pieces to be able to come up with the jokes, so they have to rely on journalism. So what’s going on? So what you have with Molly Ivins is you have the journalists and the Deep Dive investigative journalist and the columnist who was a political humorist all in one person. You know Molly Red, six newspapers a day every morning. She was voracious. That’s how she could do what she did and had that breath of knowledge. So I don’t think there is anybody who is or does. There’s a gal who had it was pithy like her and funny named Lauren Duca, and she was mentioned to me by several people, and I started following her on her Instagram feed, and she kind of took a break because of the pandemic. But Lauren Duca pancake brain. She’s very Molly esque, I think, and she was very honored that I sent her a tweet tweet about that, and she she was very honored to even be thought of that way because she holds Molly up. There is one of her. Her idols, I think her one of her Bacon’s. But yeah, I Who is the next Mollie Ivans? All those kids on the front line that you see yelling Botham out both, um, out. November is coming. November is coming. Those were the next Molly Islands. They’re they’re they’re fighting the fight. Black lives matter there in the streets.
[0:30:19 Don Carleton] That’s an excellent point you made about, You know, the other folks that you mentioned, like Colbert having writers and Molly was their own writer, for sure. I mean, she’s like everyone else, like all of us when she borrowed from mentors like John Henry Faulk. But, you know, she basically was her own writer. I think that’s an excellent point. And I’m so glad that her papers were full of her literary materials. You know, the things that she was writing, and next one of the It’s one of the more valuable parts of the collection. Well, I found one more clip in the archives that I’m sure you’re aware of to Janice. I thought it might be a good
[0:31:01 Janice Engel] place for us to Ah, good final clip for us to listen to now. Don’t you know that that’s what we do in this country? Over and over. We get so scared, so scared, some really menace. We don’t make them off. So scared of communism, crime, drugs, illegal aliens, terrorism that we think we could make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free. There is a logical proposition that won’t hold a drop of water. But it’s amazing how consistent that responses in American history and we are in another such time, so frightened that we think we could make ourselves safer by damaging our own freedoms. Now, when you make yourself less free, you’re not safe, for you’re just less free. Yeah, that’s that’s from that’s from raise hell that’s so relevant again. Toe, What’s going on? It’s
[0:32:06 Don Carleton] amazing, isn’t it? Really is amazing. Janice has been great. Where are delighted to have you part of the Briscoe family. We’ll have a reunion one of these days, and but thanks for giving us your time and your heart and your soul and I know is invested in this entire subject. And we’re so happy that you were able to use the papers and resources that we have with the Briscoe Center.
[0:32:35 Janice Engel] It really means a lot more than a lot. I feel like I’m part of not only Mollie Ivans extended family and posse, but that the Briscoe embraced me and allowed me to do my deep dive dig into all that was Mollie Ivans. And so, first of all, with the what you’re doing with these podcasts is fantastic, and I am really grateful to be a part of it. So thank you very much.
[0:33:07 Don Carleton] You’re welcome. Briscoe Center preserves the raw materials of the past photographs, letters, diaries, business and organizational records, artifacts and much more. Today’s episode was made possible by the Molly Ivins papers, a swell as those of Ann Richards, Jim Hightower and John Henry Faulk. These collections air among thousands of others at the center. People across America have been entrusting this evidence to the university since the 18 eighties. Today, this evidence is used by people from across America. In addition to inspiring their work, collections, inspire our own books, documentaries, exhibits, online repositories and digital humanities projects by collecting, preserving and making available these archival materials, the Briscoe Center helps keep the debates and arguments about American history, our values, origins and identities rooted in evidence. And we keep the American rhapsody going.
[0:34:39 Ben Wright] What follows is a brief conversation between me, Ben Wright, the producer of American Rhapsody and Dr Carlton in regards to how the Mali Ivan papers came to the Briscoe Center and how they fit in with other collections here.
[0:34:58 Ben Wright] Well, Don, I was just interested to know how the Mollie Ivans papers came to the Briscoe Center in the first place
[0:34:59 Don Carleton]Well, to be, you know, to be frank about it, it was because of my relationship with Molly. I first met Molly John Henry Fox House here in Austin back in the early 19 eighties after she returned Thio to the city and she was getting ready to go, I believe up to the Dallas Times Herald at that time. But at any rate, uh, you know, she stayed in Austin even when she was working for the Dallas and Fort Worth newspapers. Uh, and I tended to a lot of these little sort of seminars so than ours over meals and drinks that John Henry’s, uh, and Liz is house on. Duh. They were great they were a lot of fun. So I got to know Molly in a very casual, uh, you know, familiar way. And so that relationship continued over the years, and I asked Molly to do a few programs for the for the center on, including a major conference that we did on the First Amendment back in the 1990s, on which was quite a project and program. Uh, during that period of time, I frankly was frequently mentioned to her that we really wanted her papers. And like so many people, she just you know, that we talked Thio. She just wasn’t ready to discuss that. And I understand it. And so But eventually, I’d say in the late 19 nineties, I believe it was in the late 19 nineties. You know, Molly call me and said, Well, are you ready to us? You know, go back to that conversation that we were having about my papers and I said, absolutely. So that’s really why I began the whole thing. She had a lot of, ah, a lot of institutions asking her for her papers and so I was very flattered and honored that, uh, she came back to us and, you know, wanted to work with us on it. So that’s really how they came. Thio the center. And, uh, I’ve I’ve said before. Liz Faulk eyes among those who really helped get this done. John Henry had died several years before this on DWI already had John Henry’s papers. And then, you know that that’s another point I wanna make that Molly made to make Onda. That is, that we had the papers of a number of of her cohorts on duh colleagues and people who she admired and respected, including the Jr Parton, who had also on Lee had died only a year or so before Molly call me So we and Sissy Farenthold is another one, uh, several people. In fact, the list is pretty long. She was very comfortable being in that company. She also knew that I had worked very closely with Walter Cronkite on his memoir and that we have the Walter Cronkite papers and she was a great admirer of Walter Cronkite. So for all those reasons, that’s why she there was a very personal thing as well. But there was a lot more to it. Andi, that’s no, we’ve got the collection.
[0:38:19 Ben Wright] That’s really interesting, this idea that the collection sort of clump together around themes and interests that you know you Walter Cronkite gave his papers and that create John Henry Faulk did. And that creates a sort of domino effect where other people want to be in the same club.
[0:38:36 Don Carleton] That’s correct. And she was very well aware of it. In fact, every time we would get a collection that somehow related to her as a either of a friend of hers or colleague or whatever, I’d often hear from her. I remember we have the papers of Mari Maverick Jr. Who was a nanny war attorney in San Antonio, the son of a former congressman and mayor of San Antonio. She was big friends with with Mari, and she called me. I recall that phone call very well, how happy she was that Maurice Papers were being preserved and was very complimentary about it. So she kept up with what we were doing and and, of course, kept up with her as well. As I said, she did programs for us on, uh, it all worked out well for are for those listening who don’t know who? John Henry. Focus. Could you tell us a little bit about him and his connection? John Henry Faulk was a graduate of the University of Texas Group here in Austin, and it came from Avery Liberal, really, uh, part of the left family. His father was a socialist, and Johnny Asai said, went to university and he studied folklore and studied under J. Frank Dobie, legendary literary figure here in Texas. And, uh, he, you know, eventually wound up in New York City and became got a job with CBS, a zey with a radio program called Johnny’s Back Porch. And Johnny had this great gift of being a storyteller. Over the years, Johnny had really a gathered, assembled, an amazing number of of stories that usually made a point politically, usually having something to do with the First Amendment and civil liberties, particularly freedom of speech. And he would turn those stories into kind of a satire or folks the sort of country way of telling stories but well, but still making a very serious point about the Constitution, particularly the, you know, the Bill of Rights. So he did that, Yeah, go on CBS radio and was quite successful at it. And then he got involved in the After A, which is the Union for radio television announcers. And, um, they He was part of oven election campaign for the president of AFTRA that sought to overthrow a very conservative guy from television. And it upset Ah, a lot of people, a lot of conservative people, the whole the whole battle. And Johnny wound up getting blacklisted as a result, being accused of being a Communist and fellow traveler, which was all malarkey. He was to the left, but he was a Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders. And But in those days, this is the period of the Red Scare, and McCarthyism on Do Be to the Left was easy. Target was an easy target for the McCarthy odds and people who supported McCarthy and S O. The blacklist that reigned over television in those dark days was very powerful. And he got blacklisted. And if you got blacklisted, you lost your job and you couldn’t get another one. Not in the not in the industry, not in the entertainment industry or of the news industry. So he was blacklisted and lost his job, and he was among the very first people, if not the first, to sue the people who blacklisted him. And he went and got a very famous draw lawyer by the name of William Nizer in New York City. On the same, uh, commentator and newsman Edward R. Murrow provided funds to John Henry, who was practically broke. Not having a job provided funding to him to help higher Nizer to sue them, and, amazingly, he actually won the case. It was at the time, this is in the 19 fifties. It was the largest, uh, defamation you no amount of money awarded for defamation on the history in the United States. He didn’t see much of it, unfortunately, and it was later overturned by, ah, higher court, but that the it was a jury trial and the jury actually asked the judge after is over if they could give him more money than he was asking for on. And they were so outraged. But Johnny, unfortunately, even though he won the case, he was he did a couple of movie roles and some other things, but he really never made it back to the heights of celebrity that he had that he enjoyed before the blacklist, which was a common result of of the What happened to many people who are blacklisted. Unfortunately, Andi Johnny moved back to Austin and established another kind of secondary careers after dinner speaker and Onda. Again, he he was very active in the anti war movement against the Vietnam War, and and he and I became very close friends because when I moved to Houston or should say when I moved from Houston to Austin and was working on my book Red Scare, I went to interview John Henry and we hit it off immediately and bonded, and we became the closest of friends, and John Henry agreed to write the introduction to my book Red Scare, and it was a beautiful introduction. The book is still in print, and people can read that part. If nothing else, his introduction Hey and I made several excursions around the country on different things, including a trip to Nicaragua in the summer of 1989 and he then died about a year later, in 1990. So you mentioned that there was this first amendments conference where Molly was there. John Henry was there. What sort of other resources are there at the center for studying the First Amendment? Well, interestingly, of course. We’ve got John Henry’s papers, as I said earlier, which is a fabulous collection. But he also, uh after he decided to give us his papers, he and I went to New York City and met with Louis Nizer and his his colleagues and his law firm, and they decided to donate the entire archives that they had assembled in the lawsuit that Johnny had filed against the Black Lister’s. The actual legal case was called Faulk versus Aware Incorporated. Aware Incorporated was the name of the Black West organization. Uh, and that archive is probably the most important archive in existence documenting, uh, the the blacklist and how it operated and who did it. So that’s one collection. Um, and you know, we’ve we’ve assembled a number of others over the years. Yeah, I’m thinking the Abbey Hoffman papers that came last year fit into that ill because, well, exactly. Yeah, I mean, part of the John Henry Faulk legacy is that it really has, uh, open the doors to other people and who are involved in social change and social activism. Uh, some in a good example of sissy. Parental, too, is a human rights advocate on former candidate for governor of Texas, former state legislator. But there are many others. Well, you’ve painted. You and Janice have both sort of painted this picture ever. Rather motley Central Texas crowd. And I’m thinking one person that doesn’t fit in this crowd is, uh, is Dolph Briscoe on Duh, I wondered. I wondered what you thought he would think of Mali’s papers being at the center. Well, Ben is, you know, I got to be good friends with Governor Briscoe also. Obviously, he, uh, set up an endowment Andi for the Briscoe Center. And in fact, the center was named as a result after Governor Briscoe. So he and I got to be very good friends, and I and I wrote an as told to memoir of Governor Briscoe’s, and he was very well aware of the collections that we had at the center. He had no problem agreeing to have the center named for him, knowing that it was full of papers that, frankly, we’re far, far to the left of well, Governor Briscoe’s political views were, but he was of broad minded guy. Vory, vory tolerant man. He was a conservative guy, and I found out. And the last, you know, in his latter days were last year or two of his life that he had donated. I think it was $50,000. I may have that figure, uh, incorrect. But it was a substantial amount of money to the Texas Observer, which is, as you know, is a progressive liberal, uh, magazine. And I’ve And he did it. And, uh, Thio in honor of Mollie Ivans. And the reason that’s amazing is because, Molly, I don’t think the entire time he was governor of Texas Molly, ever let a day go by that she didn’t write something critical of Governor Briscoe. And, ah, a lot of it was, you know, biting satire. So I called Governor Briscoe after I’ve got that news. He didn’t tell me about it, and I called him up, and I said, Governor, I’m really proud of you for for doing that. It’s a good cause, uh, on. But I’ve got my little surprised because I know Molly really tormented you when you were governor and Governor Briscoe said, Well done. I know that I suffered a lot under Molly. But to tell you the truth, I like Molly and Love Molly and honor Molly because Molly loved Texas, and that’s the way the half thought of things. If you love to Texas like he did, then you’re okay. Yeah, mhm. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of American Rhapsody. Be sure to check back next week for new episodes. Upcoming topics include teaching Texas slavery, photographing protest, women’s suffrage and the life and times of Abbie Hoffman