Creekmore Fath

Creekmore Fath

Creekmore Fath was born in Oklahoma in 1916. His family moved to Austin and while at school became friends with John Henry Faulk. Both men studied at the University of Texas with John Connally and Robert C. Eckhardt. As a student, he got to know the Governor James Allred.

Fath was a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal and after leaving law school managed to get a job with his administration in Washington. It was later claimed that President Roosevelt said that Fath "has the best political judgment of anyone his age in Washington."

Fath became friends with Charles Edward Marsh, the multimillionaire newspaper publisher. According to Jennet Conant, the author of The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington (2008): "Having already made his fortune, Marsh, like many men of means, wanted to contribute to the war effort and had decided to put himself at the disposal of thee government. A dedicated New Dealer, he had come to town with the idea that he could put his big money and big personality to work for the Roosevelt administration, camping out alternately at the Mayflower Hotel and at the house of the construction magnate George Brown, before purchasing a stately four-story town house at 2136 R Street in Dupont Circle. He quickly turned the elegant nineteenth-century mansion into a well-financed Democratic political salon, where various cabinet members, senators, financiers, and important journalists could count on a good meal and stimulating conversation in the news-starved town. Over time prominent New Dealers came to regard Marsh's white sandstone mansion, with its Palladian windows and Parisian-style wrought-iron grillwork, as their private clubhouse and used it as a cross between a think tank and a favorite watering hole".

Fath met a lot of important political figures at Marsh's home including Henry A. Wallace, Claude Pepper, Jesse H. Jones, Henry Morgenthau, Drew Pearson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Walter Lippmann, Walter Winchell and Ralph Ingersoll. Fath later recalled: "Charles Marsh was able to entertain on a grand level, and kept a very good staff and cook, so that during the war it was one of the best restaurants in town... He entertained all sorts of Washington characters. You'd get a telephone call inviting you to dinner Wednesday, or a luncheon Friday at noon. Everybody came and traded information and gossip."

Fath later started a law practice with his long-term friend, Robert C. Eckhardt in Austin. In 1947, he married Adele Hay. The following year he ran for Congress but only finished third in the primary. Fath helped Lyndon Baines Johnson in his U.S. Senate race against former governor Coke Stevenson. Fath considered Johnson an opportunist but helped him as he considered Stevenson a racist.

Fath became associated with group of political figures on the left of the Democratic Party. This included Ralph Yarborough, John Henry Faulk, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Ronnie Dugger and Frankie Carter Randolph, the first publisher of The Texas Observer. They were in opposition to Governor Allan Shivers who supported the Republican Party candidate, Dwight Eisenhower against Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 Presidential Election. During this period Shivers and his supporters accused Fath of being a communist.

Fath remained active in politics and helped Frances Farenthold in her attempt to become Governor of Texas in 1972. "He could pick up the phone and call I don't care what county it was, he'd know somebody there. There would have been no campaign without Creekmore." Farenthold was eventually defeated by Dolph Briscoe.

Creekmore Fath died in June, 2009.

Primary Sources

(1) Joe Holly, The Washington Post (28th June, 2007)

Creekmore Fath, 93, an Austin lawyer and one of the last of the FDR New Dealers, died June 25 of renal failure at his home in Austin.

Mr. Fath held several positions in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration and played a key role in several important Texas elections, including the controversial 87-vote "landslide" that sent Lyndon B. Johnson to the Senate in 1948.

In 1940, Mr. Fath left a fledgling law practice in Austin to become a staff attorney with a House committee chaired by Rep. John H. Tolan (D-Calif.) that was investigating the plight of destitute migrant workers.

Twenty-three years old and unfamiliar with the ways of Washington, Mr. Fath didn't know that he had signed on to work for a select committee slated to disband when a new Congress convened in 1941. When he found out, he suggested asking first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to testify before the committee as a way to generate publicity and keep the committee in business. He reminded committee members that she had expressed concern in her newspaper columns for the Okies and other Dust Bowl migrant workers.

"Okay, Creekmore, you take care of that," Tolan said. The veteran lawmaker laughed, and his fellow committee members laughed with him. They knew, as Mr. Fath did not, that no first lady had ever testified on Capitol Hill.

The next morning, Mr. Fath called the White House and talked to Malvina Thompson, Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary. "I told her I desperately needed to use Mrs. Roosevelt at a hearing in December, that I wanted to use her as the gimmick," he recalled.

Mrs. Roosevelt invited him to tea at the White House the next afternoon, and, after clearing it with her husband, she agreed to testify. The panel stayed in business, in large part because of her endorsement of its work.

Later, Thompson told Mr. Fath that Mrs. Roosevelt agreed to meet with him because he was the only one who had ever admitted that he wanted to "use" her. Thompson also told Mr. Fath that the first lady had said, "I wanted to meet him because he sounds like he's 14 years old."