The First Congressman Martin Dies of Texas
DENNIS K. MCDANIEL*
T WO MEN NAMED MARTIN DIES SERVED AS EAST TEXAS'S SECOND DIS-
trict Democratic congressman in this century. The first (1870-
1922) went to Washington in 19o09 and served five terms. His son
(1900-1972) went to the Capitol in 1931 and held the seat through
1944. The younger is the better known, for in 1938 he founded, and
through 1944 chaired, the House Special Committee on Un-American
Activities, at first called the Dies Committee and later, HUAC. He also
twice ran for the Senate from Texas, was perennially talked about in
state politics, and when he finally left Washington had served a total of
ten terms in the House, having filled Texas's at-large seat from 1953 un-
The younger Dies's father was not so famous but holds interest in his
own right, partly because his political views were an interesting and curi-
ous amalgam in their time, partly because of his struggles-finally aban-
doned-with Pres. Woodrow Wilson over U.S. entry into World War I,
partly because he was an attractive character personally, but mostly be-
cause he was his son's father, and bears some responsibility for his son's
McCarthy-like ideas, and for the disservice those ideas did to the United
* Dennis K. McDaniel has worked in history museums for twenty-eight years as a curator and
director. He holds degrees in history from Indiana University-Bloomington, the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Houston, from which he received his Ph.D in 1988
His dissertation was a biography of Cong. Martin Dies (1900-197 ). Recently he published a bi-
ography of a nineteenth-century educator, John Ogden, Abolitionist and Leader in Southern Education
(Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1997).
SThree men named Martin Dies appear here: the first (1870-1922), the principal subject,
will be called Martin Dies or Martin Dies Sr unless the subject is clear in context; his son
(1900oo-1972) will be referred to as Martin Dies Jr.; Martin Junior's son (1921- ) is Judge Dies.
Three full-length works cover Martin Dies Jr. and his creation, the House Special Committee on
Un-American Activities. William Gellermann, Martin Dies (1944; reprint, New York: Da Capo
Press, 1972); Dennis K. McDaniel, "Martin Dies of Un-American Activities: His Life and Times"
(Ph.D. diss., University of Houston, 1988); August R. Ogden, The Dies Committee- A Study of the
Special House Committee for the Investigaltion of Un-Amerncan Activities, I938-I944 (1945; reprint,
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984).
SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY OCTOBER, 1998
VOL. CII, NO. 2
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed May 25, 2015.