McCarthyism in Houston: The George Ebey
DON E. CARLETON*
N MAY, 1953, JOHN P. ROGGE, A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN LAWYER,
appeared before the Houston Independent School District Board of
Education to make a startling announcement. Rogge claimed that he had
information, provided by anonymous clients, proving that the deputy
superintendent of the Houston Schools, Dr. George W. Ebey, had belonged
to Communist front organizations, had associated with Communists and
fellow-travelers, and had expressed subversive ideas and opinions before
his employment in Houston in i952. He then submitted a collection of
evidence to support his charges. The board responded by initiating an
investigation of its allegedly subversive administrator.
The board's action commenced a two-month controversy in Houston
climaxing in July, I953, with the issuance of a report about George Ebey's
past. The two-volume report failed to substantiate the charge that he had
engaged in subversive activities or had himself been a Communist. It did,
however, indicate to the satisfaction of the school board majority that the
deputy superintendent's personal beliefs and background were too liberal
to be accepted by the conservatives in control of the school district. After
an emotional and tense meeting, the school board voted four to three not
to renew Ebey's contract. The entire episode, known as the "Ebey Affair,"
received national attention as an example of the then current national
phenomenon of McCarthyism.2
*Don E. Carleton is archivist of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston
Public Library, Houston, Texas.
'Houston Post, May 12, 1953; Board of Education, Houston Independent School
District, Minutes (Office of the Board of Education, Houston), XL, 15-16.
2For brief summaries of the Ebey Affair and national reaction, see Richard Barss,
"The Ebey Affair," The Education Digest, XIX (November, 1953), 1-3; Nation,
CLXXVII (September 26, 1953), 242; Time, LXII (July 27, 1953), 51, and, most
useful, an account written by Dean Reed, Houston Post, July 19, I953. In the present
study, the term "McCarthyism" will be used both as a description of a general time
period in United States history and as the name for a set of techniques and tactics.
McCarthyism generally identifies the Red Scare of 1945-1955. As a tactic, it is defined
as the use of indiscriminate, often unfounded accusations, inquisitorial investigative
methods, and sensationalism, ostensibly in the suppression of Communism. "McCarthyite"
refers to individuals who used the tactics of McCarthyism but does not necessarily mean
that they were also followers of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/. Accessed May 7, 2015.