Cactus Pryor: J. Frank Dobie is an internationally known writer, folklorist, lecturer, teacher. He is also one of the greatest thinkers the southwest has ever produced. We have asked him to be with us this Thanksgiving evening to his us his reactions and thoughts on the events of this past week. Mr. Dobie, we've had a while now to recover from the shock of last week's assassination of our President, to reflect upon in. In your opinion was this a crime of an individual or a crime of the people?
J. Frank Dobie: Both. It was the crime of an individual who was certainly not sane. I use sane in the original sense. Well, he was a poor thinker and incidentally I haven't seen any proof yet he was a member of the Communist party. I would call him a Marxist from what he said about himself rather than a Communist. He read. His teachers taught him. Reading made him kind of off. I should be way off, yes sir, if reading makes you off.
He operated in an atmosphere and never, I don't care how far off a man is, he -eccentric he is- he is influenced by the atmosphere that he lives in. I read a United Press International article by a reporter, United States citizen, direct from Paris. She had interviewed Oswald in Moscow in 1959 a short while after he arrived there to renounce his American citizenship and become, if he could, a Soviet citizen. It turned out the Soviets didn't want him, and the American ambassador sent him back, paid expenses back to the United States.
Within this interview four years ago Oswald said it's a fashion to hate in the United States. I don't think the word fashion was a precise word. What- this atmosphere of hate that has been developing a long time. As I noticed it, it began to emerge about 1936 in the second election for Franklin D. Roosevelt, and I have known individually a few men who through hate have become monomaniacs. It was an atmosphere of hate that provoked or at least permitted spitting on Mr. Adlai Stevenson and the striking of him with a play card in Dallas in the last month, in October.
Well that's one view, but let me go back a long way. My father was born in Harris County Texas in 1858 and died in Dean County Texas in 1920. He was a southerner, his ancestors from Virginia and South Carolina. He was always a Democrat. He lived under two Democratic Presidents only in his later in life time, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. He held family prayers and organized Sunday school, and every fourth Sunday we went to church for the preacher. I heard him pray many times family prayers after supper and a few times in church, aloud.
and always he said "Thou art bless those in authority over us," and certainly in nowhere in that country was there any hating of the President. The President was respected even though opposed, and it's possible to oppose a president or anybody else without hating him. Hate is modern towards presidents.
Pryor: Do you think this tragic event will have a positive effect towards removing this atmosphere of hate now?
Dobie: It may but hate seems to be associated with a lack of respect for this great of high office of the President. I'm going to tell you two anecdotes illustrating it. They were told to me by a geologist, a man who is as careful of facts as a public accountant is of digits. He was in New Orleans last Thursday night, the night before President Kennedy was assassinated. He was at a meeting of executives of the Salvation Army, but not many Salvation Army people were there in the main ballroom of the hotel.
But various executives, six or seven, got up and made speeches. Of course the speech maker usually thinks he must start out with a humorous anecdote, and one of them told this story. Said, recently late one evening President Kennedy went alone to the Abraham Lincoln Monument in Washington and addressed that great figure of Mr. Lincoln saying to it "Mr. Lincoln, I'm in need of guidance. Would you suggest something?" And the figure of Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have murmured back "You might try going to the theatre."
The next speaking following this humorist said "You know, President Kennedy is a guest of our neighboring state, Texas, tonight, but he need have no fear of his life for the people in Texas know who would become president if President Kennedy were killed.
Pryor: I think those are the two best examples of sick humor Dobie: -sick, sick. Pryor: that I've ever heard. Well let's move on to a more pleasant subject. What do you think of Johnson's potential as President?
Well I think very highly of President Johnson's potential. He's been associated with the government a long long time. He went to Congress under President Roosevelt, and was an active New Dealer. He's always been a Democrat without any reservations, but he's been a student of government and an accomplisher of government. I doubt if any Vice President has ever succeeded a president who is so familiar with the office and with both domestic and foreign affairs as President Lyndon Johnson is.
He has just ideas. Of course he's not a great historian as Woodrow Wilson was. He's not a great reader as Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt or Theodore Roosevelt both were, but he is a kind of genius in absorbing. He knows who knows and he gets information from those who know. He knows how to get it. As a majority leader of the Democratic Party, under Eisenhower, he had perhaps as much power as any of majority leader has ever had in the United States Senate.
Pryor: You've been to the ranch many times as a guest on informal occasions and on more formal occasions. You've seen Johnson in many roles. What do you think of Johnson the man?
Dobie: He's very human as a man. He knows how to get along with people. I'll never forgot one visit to the LBJ ranch. The chief guest was a camel driver from Pakistan. Lady Bird Johnson and Vice President Johnson were in Pakistan, and he saw this camel driver, just went out and spoke to him, and invited him to come to the United States. He came to the ranch and was a guest, and several other people were there among them, and I never saw Lyndon Johnson more congenial with live people than he was around that camel driver.
When I saw President de Gaulle of France at the funeral, I was very glad indeed because there had been a rift between France and the United States. I thought our President now, President Johnson can talk to President de Gaulle of France easily and be at ease with himself as he was with that camel driver.
Pryor: Have you encountered his energy? Dobie: Well, he seems to live it. It was on this same party, the Johnson's took their guests to another ranch partly owned by Johnson on a lake, on the Llano River. We got there late. I didn't go to the boat, but Lyndon Johnson took most of the guests into a boat down the hill, over the water, and got back just about the time the television program was to be released.
This television program would show the camel driver and others at the LBJ ranch that morning. I was standing there, sundown, looking toward the lake-river, and here came Lyndon Johnson running up the bank. It's a steep bank, and I thought "Well that man's heart must not be hurting him much the way he's moving."
Pryor: We'll continue our interview with J. Frank Dobie in just a moment.
Pryor: How do you think history will rate Kennedy as a President, Mr. Dobie?
Dobie: Well I think he belongs in the realm of the great. Of course he died young, not even his first term was anywhere near out, and he was growing. Any man of such potentialities as President Kennedy, he grows as long as he lives, but he had noble ideas. He has a generous nature. He has a superior mind, and his influence in this country does not depend or gather at all on measures that he has seen through Congress. But some of those measures are going to be seen through Congress by his successors. I think he's had a fine influence on people. He is a man, and his wife, both of fine taste, and he's encourage civilized ideas and civilized people.
Pryor: Mr. Dobie, you probably know as much about Texas and Texans as anyone. A lot of Texans are taking this as a very personal thing. They are looking at it as if it were a crime of Texas. Do you think that it is- that it will have a injurious effect on the Texas- I hate to use this word- the Texas image throughout the world?
Dobie: Well it may have. On the other hand this injury will have a salutary effect on Texas. In the last few days people are quoted as saying "We thought Texas had lived past the six-shooter stage." I believe that Texas bragging has been going down, but Texas hatred has been going up. This may- these killings, and those two, there were two you know, not just one, both in the same atmosphere -these killings, these insults to Mr. Adlai Stevenson may cause some of the people who don't like a Democratic President to restrain themselves and after all show more respect for the office that a man they don't like occupies.
Pryor: This is Thanksgiving evening. You as an American, Mr. Dobie, what do you have that you are especially thankful for today? Dobie: and I'm thankful that if President Kennedy had to be killed, of course I don't think fate has anything to do with, but if we had to lose our President, well I'm thankful that his successor is Lyndon B. Johnson. I'd prefer him to any opponent of either party to either Mr. Kennedy or Mr. Johnson.
Pryor: Mr. J. Frank Dobie, one of the great Texans.
Against a backdrop of the Texas State Capitol building, Cactus Pryor interviews J. Frank Dobie on Thanksgiving evening, 1963 - five days after the JFK assassination. Dobie reflects on the week's events, giving his opinion on the crime and discussing the long history that created the climate in which it happened, and its effect on Texas. He also considers Lyndon B. Johnson's potential as president and shares personal anecdotes about LBJ.
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.
James Frank Dobie was a Texas folklorist and writer that wrote on the traditions of rural Texas and was known for his liberal views that went against the grain of mainstream Texas politics. Dobie was born on a ranch in Live Oak County in 1888 and moved to Alice, Texas at sixteen where he lived with his grandparents and finished high school. He attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, near Austin, where he was introduced to poetry and to his wife, Bertha McKee, whom he married in 1916. He worked for newspapers and taught high school before attending Columbia University in New York City to work on a master's degree. In 1914, he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, where he became involved with the Texas Folklore Society. He left UT from 1917-19 to serve in Word War I. Upon his return from the war, Dobie left the University of Texas to work on his uncle's ranch in La Salle County, where he learned to write of the richness of life, land, and rural ranch culture. He returned to the University and the Texas Folklore Society for use of its libraries and resources, and, after a brief stint at Oklahoma A&M Univeristy, published his first book, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, in 1929. Dobie continued to publish books through the 1930s, and in 1941, published The Longhorns, which is considered one of the best descriptions of the 19th century Texas cattle industry. In 1939, Dobie began writing a Sunday newspaper column that humorously critiqued Texas state politics and politicians from his liberal point of view. During World War II and in immediate post-war years, Dobie taught American History at Cambridge University in England, as well as at universities in Germany and Austria. He published a book about his experiences in Europe. Dobie was dismissed from the faculty of UT in 1944 after a public reaction to a colleague's dismissal for liberal beliefs. He spent the remainder of his working years writing another series of books about life on the open range. Dobie was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Septemeber 14, 1964, and he died in Austin four days later. He is remembered as one of the great progressive thinkers of Texas. Dobie is buried at the Texas State Cemetery.