J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind

J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind

J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind

J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind


The first Texas-based writer to gain national attention, J. Frank Dobie proved that authentic writing springs easily from the native soil of Texas and the Southwest. In best-selling books such as Tales of Old-Time Texas,Coronado's Children, and The Longhorns, Dobie captured the Southwest's folk history, which was quickly disappearing as the United States became ever more urbanized and industrial. Renowned as "Mr. Texas," Dobie paradoxically has almost disappeared from view--a casualty of changing tastes in literature and shifts in social and political attitudes since the 1960s.

In this lively biography, Steven L. Davis takes a fresh look at a J. Frank Dobie whose "liberated mind" set him on an intellectual journey that culminated in Dobie becoming a political liberal who fought for labor, free speech, and civil rights well before these causes became acceptable to most Anglo Texans. Tracing the full arc of Dobie's life (1888-1964), Davis shows how Dobie's insistence on "free-range thinking" led him to such radical actions as calling for the complete integration of the University of Texas during the 1940s, as well as taking on governors, senators, and the FBI (which secretly investigated him) as Texas's leading dissenter during the McCarthy era.


In November 1528 a group of Spanish conquistadors washed ashore at what is now Galveston Island. These were the last remnants of a once-proud expedition, originally six hundred strong, that had set sail from Cuba half a year earlier, intent on conquering Florida and finding vast riches of gold. They had run into misfortune from the very beginning, suffering disease and starvation while coming under attack from hostile Indians. Finally, in desperation, they built makeshift wooden rafts and floated down the Gulf Coast, hoping to eventually find their countrymen in Mexico.

The few dozen castaways named their landing place the Island of Misfortune. Most died, and some resorted to cannibalism. Only four survived, and they would live among various Indian groups for eight years before they saw their countrymen again.

Their leader, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, later wrote an account of the experience. He provided much valuable information about preconquest Native Americans, and he chronicled his personal transformation from an arrogant conquistador into a passionate defender of Indian human rights. Cabeza de Vaca argued eloquently against the Spanish policy of enslaving Indians, and of one Indian group along the Texas coast he observed, “These people love their children more and treat them better than any . . .

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