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John Henry Faulk Memorial Service (1990)

Cactus and Peggy Davis Pryor

Sound | 1990

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TAMI Tags
  •  Reverend J. Charles Merrill begins the service 
  •  Wesley United Methodist Choir of Austin performs 
  •  Karen Kuykendall 
  •  Randy Parten 
  •  Jerry Jeff Walker 
  •  Maury Maverick, Jr.  
  •  Second choir performance 
  •  Cactus Pryor 
  •  Bobby Bridger 
  •  Cactus wraps up ceremony 
  •  Final choir performance 
  •  Molly Ivins speaks at the reception, appearing late due to a flight delay  
 
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  • About the video
  • Cactus Pryor Cactus Pryor
  • John Henry Faulk John Henry Faulk
  • Molly Ivins Molly Ivins
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This video documents the memorial service and reception held for John Henry Faulk on April 21, 1990 at University United Methodist Church in Austin. Austin Actress Karen Kuykendall, Faulk’s niece; Randy Parten, son of wealthy UT regent and activist J.R. Parten; San Antonio lawyer and activist Maury Maverick, Jr.; Austin humorist Cactus Pryor; and newspaper columnist and author Molly Ivins all tell stories about the beloved John Henry Faulk. The Wesley United Methodist Choir of Austin and country artists Jerry Jeff Walker and Bobby Bridger perform.
Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor was a comedic television and broadcast personality from Austin, Texas. Cactus, an Austin native, was born in 1923, straight into the entertainment business. His father owned the Cactus Theater on Congress Avenue (hence the nickname), and starting at just 3 years old, Cactus made stage appearances before the shows began. Cactus attended the University of Texas and served in the US Army Air Corp. When he returned to Austin from his service in 1944, Cactus joined the broadcasting team at Lady Bird Johnson's KLBJ radio station, where he worked until 2008. He joined the world of broadcast television at KTBC in 1951 where he was program manager and hosted a variety of television programs, including a football program with Darrell K Royal and many celebrity interviews. Cactus appeared in two films with his friend John Wayne, Hellfighters and The Green Berets. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he became a sought-after speaker and event host, famous for his roasts of entertainers and politicians, most of whom he counted as close friends. Cactus was also known for his disguises. He would appear at functions in character, often pulling a fast one on the crowd as he charmed them first in disguise, then again as he revealed himself and used his earlier conversations to entertain the crowd. As an active member of the Headliners Club of Austin, Pryor starred in many humorous television news satires alongside Texas politicians, some of which can be seen in his film collection, as well as the Gordon Wilkison Collection and the Wallace and Euna Pryor Collection. He was nationally-known, but kept Austin his home, helping put the city on the map in the 60s and 70s. Cactus Pryor announced to his KLBJ listeners in 2007 that he had Alzheimer's disease, and Austin's "original funnyman" died in 2011.
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.
Newspaper columnist, author, political commentator, and humorist, Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins, was born in Monterey, California on August 30, 1944. Raised in Houston, Ivins received a degree in history from Smith College and an M.A. from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in 1967. The same year, she began reporting for the Houston Chronicle and the Minneapolis Tribune until relocating to Austin in 1970 to write for the Texas Observer, during which time she joined the ranks of Austin's liberal elite, befriending, among others, John Henry Faulk, Bob Bullock, and Ann Richards. Ivins became a staff writer for the New York Times in 1976 and stayed through 1980, acting as head of the Times Rocky Mountain Bureau. Her edgy writing style eventually clashed with the Times editors and in 1982, Ivins took a position at the Dallas Times Herald, where her colorful style and liberal perspective were embraced. She became an independent columnist in 2001, and her work appeared in nearly 400 newspapers nationwide. Ivins published several books including her first, 1991’s Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?. The book’s title was taken from the Dallas Times Heralds humorous response to criticism caused by Ivins’s comments about Republican Texas Congressman James M. Collins: “If his IQ slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day." 
 
Throughout her career, Ivins received numerous honors, including her election to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service, and the David Nyham Prize for Political Journalism from Harvard University. True to character, Ivins commented that despite her prestigious awards, she was particularly proud of having the Minneapolis police force’s pig named after her and being banned from the Texas A&M University campus. Molly Ivins was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer in 1999, and after fighting the illness for eight years, she died on January 31, 2007. Several months after her death, Ivins’s last book, co-authored with Lou Dubose, Bill of Wrongs! The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights, was published.