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Entry from December 29, 2006
“Alamo has no back door” (Maury Maverick, Jr.)

John F. Kennedy was speaking at the Alamo in 1960. There were crowds at the plaza in front of the Alamo, so he asked if the Alamo had a back door.

“There is no back door to the Alamo,” Kennedy was told. “That’s why they were all heroes.”

The phrase is generally credited to Maury Maverick, Jr., a politician and newspaper columnist who died in 2003. The Chicago Tribune in the 1960s attributed the line to Chicago comedian Joe E. Lewis, a website credits a Daughter of the Republic of Texas, and 1961 newspaper articles credit New Mexico Senator Dennis Chavez and even a professional wrestler.

Maverick might have used this line in 1960, but there’s one big problem—the phrase was in use in the late 1950s (by Oklahomans, of all people).

From the film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), we learn that the Alamo doesn’t have basement, either.


National Review
Endless Siege. - book review
National Review, Feb 19, 2001 by Jay Winik
Is there a final verdict on the Alamo? Perhaps one need look no further than John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960. After speaking at the Alamo, JFK had hoped to avoid the gridlocked courtyard. Turning to his host, a Daughter of the Republic of Texas, he asked for the Alamo’s back door. “Senator,” she returned, “there are no back doors at the Alamo. Only heroes.”

Real Estate Revolution
“John F. Kennedy visited the Alamo when he was president. At one point he turned to one of his Texas hosts and said, ‘Let’s get the back door out of here.’ “And his host replied, ‘Mr. President, if there had been a back door, there wouldn’t be an Alamo.’ ”
-- Former Texas governor Ann Richards, speaking in San Antonio

“Is Texas Necessary?” (Daily Kos)
...if the Alamo had a back door, there wouldn’t be a Texas.
by Little on Fri S ep 01, 2006 at 05:17:04 PM PST

Internet Movie Database
Memorable Quotes from
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

[after Pee Wee passes out]
Texan: What’s your name?
Pee-wee: I don’t remember.
Texan: Where are you from?
Pee-wee: I don’t remember.
Texan: Do you remember anything?
Pee-wee: I remember… the Alamo.
[Texans cheer]
(...)
Tina: There’s no basement in the Alamo!

Wikipedia: Maury Maverick, Jr.
Maury Maverick, Jr. (January 3, 1921 – January 28, 2003) was an American lawyer, politician, activist, and columnist from the U.S. state of Texas. A member of the prominent Maverick family, he was the great-grandson of Samuel Maverick, the rancher who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and famously refused to brand his cattle, and the son of Maury Maverick, Sr., a two-term member of the United States House of Representatives and one-term mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

27 February 1958, Ada (OK) Weekly News,, “Strayed from the Herd..by the Old Sourdough,” pg. 4, col. 4:
If there had been a back door to the Alamo, would there be a Texas?

3 July 1958, Pasadena (CA) Independent, pg. 9, col. 5:
George Murphy passed this one on to me—about the cowboy extra from Oklahoma who took all he could from the Texas cowpoke bragging about his home state on the set of a western movie and finally cracked: “G’wan, if they’d had a back door to the Alamo there never woulda been a place called Texas!”

3 March 1959, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 2, col. 5:
State to Find Out
About “Back Door”
To Texas’ Alamo

AUSTIN, Tex. (AP)—Oklahoma legislators wanting to know exactly what happened at the Alamo will find out—from the Texas House of Representatives.

Rep. C. W. Pearcy Jr. of Temple introduced a resolution on the Texas floor Monday calling for the information to be passed on to Oklahoma legislators.

The Texas resolution said that a member of the Oklahoma Legislature had stated “if there had been a back door to the Alamo there wouldn’t be a Texas today.”

Pearcy pointed out in his resolution that there was, indeed, a back door to the historic fortress, scene of a major engagement between Texans and Mexicans in 1836.

And in barbed reference to the door—which historians aren’t too certain about—the resolution states the one man to use it during the bitter fight was a one-time “resident of the Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma.”

20 July 1961, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. E49, col. 1:
The TV wrestlers are becoming familiar with Oakland and profess to be finding contempt in the familiarity.

It has developed this way elsewhere, even in Texas, where Don Manoukian, the Stanford product, once made history when asked what he thought of the state.

“Now that I’ve met you Texans,” said Don over the network, “ I know that if the Alamo had had a back door it wouldn’t be a national monument today.”

As fantastic and unreal as it might sound, the insulted Texans crowded the arena the next night.

2 November 1961, North Arkansas Times (Fayetteville, AK), “Merry Go-Round” by Drew Pearson, pg. 4:
Speaking at San Antonio to Texas worshippers of the Alamo, (Senator Dennis—ed.) Chavez paid his respects to those who retreat. “If there’d been a back door to the building,” he said, “there wouldn’t have been any Alamo.”

The senior senator from New Mexico was almost lynched.

19 September 1966, Chicago Tribune, pg. E1:
You lend some credence to the theory of that noble historian, Joe E. Lewis, who said: “No one would have ever heard of Texas if there’d been a back door to the Alamo.”

16 February 1975 ,Washington Post, “What Makes Mo Udall Laugh?”, pg. 236:
What’s so funny about the Alamo? Udall has filed a story he heard about John F. Kennedy and former Congressman Maury Maverick of Texas. It seems a crowd of 10,000 heard Kennedy at the Alamo in 1960 and while the candidate was speaking, one of his aides said to Maverick: “Maury, let’s get Jack out the back door to avoid this crowd.” Maverick answered: “There is no back door to the Alamo. That’s why we had so many heroes.”

3 February 2003, New York Times, “Maury Maverick Jr., 82, Champion of the Unpopular” by Michael T. Kaufman, pg. B7:
Mr. Maverick was known for his wit. In the 1960 presidential campaign, he was leading John F. Kennedy through a tour of the Alamo, where the men most revered in the state made their last stand against Mexican troops. Mr. Kennedy noted that he was behind schedule and asked Mr. Maverick to lead him out a back door.

“There is no back door,” Mr. Maverick replied. “That’s why they were all heroes.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Friday, December 29, 2006 • Permalink