Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memoriam: Maury Maverick, Jr. (1921-2003

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memoriam: Maury Maverick, Jr. (1921-2003

Article excerpt

Maury was the only person I've ever known who made being cantankerous a virtue. Maury looked at the world from an oblique angle. You could see it in the way he stood, one hand in his pocket, his head cocked to the side as if to say you can't see things right if you're looking at the world straight on. In fact, Maury had one of the most expressive heads I've ever seen. Sometimes it looked like it weighed him down-with the weight of the world inside, as when he'd be sitting at a table and put his head down and wag it back and forth like a cudgel while muttering about the forces of darkness and what they were doing to our democracy.

Maury was a study in contradictions. He was a proud Marine veteran of World War II with a Quaker's soul. He was devoted to Tom Paine, Jefferson, and Madison and believed deeply and passionately in this country as an idea but was so let down by it in practice. He cussed like the ex-Marine, trial lawyer son of Maury Maverick, Sr. would, but was a Zen Buddhist when he communed with nature, birds, dogs, and trees. He constantly and proudly referred to his Maverick heritage but carried the burden of his father's fame and expectations to his grave. (He often told the story of visiting his father on his deathbed, who told Maury, "Well at least you didn't turn out to be as big a horse's ass as Elliot Roosevelt.")

He was someone who cared deeply about people but had a hard time communicating and could never make small talk. So you'd often get bluster or gruffness or criticism. I'd get calls at the Observer-and for some stretches it was after every issue-where I'd pick up the phone and the voice would say, "Maury Maverick. You know you might be right about everything you say, but your stories are too damn long." I took that to mean that he liked the stories. And he thought they were too damn long. He was probably right.

Then there was his sense of humor and that glint in his eye even when it didn't work too well for seeing. He could be playful. He wouldn't let you get away with anything. He'd say something to try to rouse a response, say something on the edge of appropriate as a way of checking your pulse. For instance, Maury helped me apply for conscientious objector status. I'd had a rabbi who wouldn't write a letter of support. Fortunately, the temple's religious director, Milton Bendiner, wrote a good letter about war, peace, and the concept of Shalom on my behalf.

Maury constantly reminded me of how lucky I was to have four years of a college deferment before being called in the draft. …

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