John Henry Faulk

John Henry Faulk (1913-1990) was a Texas writer, humorist, television personality, lecturer, and civil rights activist. Faulk grew up in Austin, Texas and studied at the University of Texas where he became the protégé of progressive Texas thinkers J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, and Roy Bedicheck. Faulk’s father was a socialist and staunchly anti-racist, and Faulk’s upbringing, coupled with the influence of his three mentors, led his scholarly research into the civil liberties of African-Americans; his master’s thesis focused on the analysis of ten African-American sermons from churches along the Brazos River. Faulk taught English at the University of Texas from 1940-42, where he honed his talents of using storytelling as a commentary on societal norms in front of his students. After serving in the Merchant Marines and the U.S. Army during WWII, he became acquainted with members of the entertainment industry through his close friend, Alan Lomax. In 1946, CBS gave Faulk his first weekly radio program. He went on to have shows on several other regional stations before beginning the John Henry Faulk Show for WCBS in 1951. The show ran for six years until Faulk famously fell victim to Cold War era McCarthyism, and his entertainment career effectively ended due to his blacklisting. In 1957, the right-wing, for-profit organization AWARE, Inc., likely in retaliation for Faulk’s previous efforts to thwart AWARE’s control of the  American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union, blacklisted Faulk for alleged communist associations and sympathies. Faulk filed and won a libel suit against the organization, winning a historic settlement that the jury determined was fair compensation, a sum much larger than Faulk sought in his original petition. Despite his courtroom victory, Faulk was unable to find work as a media entertainer again until 1975 when he joined the cast of Hee-Haw. Faulk wrote two books, one a tell-all about his battle against blacklisting that became an Emmy-winning television movie in 1974. He returned to Austin in 1968, and, along with his work on Hee-Haw, he wrote two one-man plays, unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress, and again became a university lecturer, urging students to protect their First Amendment rights. Faulk married Hally Wood in 1940, Lynne Smith in 1948, and Elizabeth Peake in 1965; he had five children. John Henry Faulk died in 1990 after a battle with cancer. Austin’s central branch of their public library system is named in his honor.

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“J. Frank Dobie” by Cactus Pryor (1988)
Full performance of Cactus Pryor’s two-man show, “J. Frank Dobie”
“Austin At Issue” With Cactus, John Henry, and Liz - Part 1 (1989)
Episode of “Austin at Issue” from KLRU-TV featuring Cactus Pryor, Liz Carpenter, and John Henry Faulk
“Austin At Issue” With Cactus, John Henry, and Liz - Part 3 (1989)
Episode of “Austin at Issue” from KLRU-TV featuring Cactus Pryor, Liz Carpenter, and John Henry Faulk
“Austin At Issue” With Cactus, John Henry, and Liz - Part 2 (1989)
Episode of “Austin at Issue” from KLRU-TV featuring Cactus Pryor, Liz Carpenter, and John Henry Faulk
The Richard S. “Cactus” Pryor Collection, no. 5 - Pryors and Faulks in Mexico
Home movie scenes of the Pryor family vacationing with John Henry Faulk and his family in Mexico
John Henry Faulk Memorial Service (1990)
Memorial service and reception held for John Henry Faulk on April 21, 1990
Cactus Pryor on John Henry Faulk and the Blacklist (1997)
Cactus discusses John Henry Faulk and his experience with the Hollywood blacklist in the 1950s