John Henry Faulk

John Henry Faulk

John Henry Faulk (August 21, 1913–April 9, 1990) from Austin, Texas was a storyteller and radio show host. His successful lawsuit against blacklisters of the entertainment industry helped to bring an end to the Hollywood blacklist.

Early life

He attended the University of Texas and was a graduate student of J. Frank Dobie, earning a Masters degree with his thesis "Ten Negro Sermons". He served in the Merchant Marine, the American Red Cross and the US Army during World War II.

Blacklist controversy

Faulk's radio career ended in 1957, a victim of the Cold War and the blacklisting of the 1950s. AWARE, Inc., a for-profit corporation inspired by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, offered a "clearance" service to major media advertisers and radio and television networks; for a fee, AWARE would investigate the backgrounds of entertainers for signs of Communist sympathy or affiliation. In 1955 Faulk earned the ill will of the blacklisting organization when he and other members wrested control of their union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists from officers under the backing of AWARE. In reprisal, AWARE labeled Faulk a Communist. When he discovered that AWARE was actively keeping radio stations from offering him employment, Faulk sought remuneration. Several prominent radio personalities along with CBS News vice president Edward R. Murrow supported Faulk's earnest attempt to put an end to blacklisting. With financial backing from Murrow, Faulk engaged New York attorney Louis Nizer. Attorneys for AWARE, including McCarthy-committee counsel Roy Cohn, managed to stall the suit, which was originally filed in 1957, for five years. When the trial finally concluded in a New York courtroom, the jury had determined that Faulk should receive more compensation than he sought in his original petition. On June 28, 1962, the jury awarded him the largest libel judgment in history to that date — $3.5 million. An appeals court later lowered the amount to $500,000. Legal fees and accumulated debts erased the balance of the award. Faulk's book, "Fear on Trial", published in 1963, tells the story of the experience. The book was remade into an Emmy award-winning TV movie in 1975 by CBS Television with William Devane portraying Faulk and George C. Scott playing Faulk's lawyer, Louis Nizer.

Later life

Faulk recorded his "Christmas Story" in 1974 for the program "Voices in the Wind". In 1976, he portrayed Texas Governor Pat M. Neff in Gordon Parks' "Leadbelly".

Faulk made speeches on the First Amendment and civil rights for many colleges and universities. He also appeared on American television near the end of his life as a humorist/storyteller on the comedy revue "Hee Haw".

The only biography published of Faulk was written by Michael C. Burton and is entitled "John Henry Faulk: The Making of a Liberated Mind" (Eakin Press, 1993). Author Studs Terkel said "Michael Burton's biography of John Henry Faulk adds a glowing light to the life and work of an American original." Walter Cronkite, a longtime friend of Faulk's, also praised the work.

Protest singer Phil Ochs recorded a tribute to Faulk called "The Ballad of John Henry Faulk", which appears on the album "The Broadside Tapes 1".

Faulk received the Paul Robeson Award in 1983.

The main branch of the Austin Public Library was renamed the Faulk Central Library in 1995 as a tribute to Austin's native son and his fight against the blacklist and for the rights of all people to have free speech and expression.


*"Fear on Trial"
*"The Uncensored John Henry Faulk" (Autobiography)
*"To Secure the Blessings of Liberty"


*"Deep in the Heart" (one-man play)
*"Pear Orchard, Texas" (one-man play)

Further reading

*"Austin American-Statesman", April 10, 1990
*Burton, Michael C. "John Henry Faulk: The Making of a Liberated Mind: A Biography". Austin: Eakin Press, 1993. ISBN 0-89015-923-8
*"John Henry Faulk Papers". Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
*Moyers, Bill. "A World of Ideas II: Public Opinions from Private Citizens." Andie Tucher, ed. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

External links

* [ NPR John Henry Faulk's 'Christmas Story']
* [ John Henry Faulk] entry in IMDB
* [ The Ballad of John Henry Faulk] - lyrics by Phil Ochs

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