Carl Brannin

Carl Brannin
Jon Minyard
Bronze, 1979

Carl Philip Brannin (1888–1985), Dallas journalist, social activist, charter member of the ACLU, and an organizer of the Dallas chapter, was born in Cisco, Texas. He participated in his first protest as a student and editor of the student newspaper at Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A&M) where he graduated in 1909 with a degree in textile engineering. After abandoning an apprenticeship at a Dallas textile mill and giving up on other professions he tried, he discovered in 1911 social economist Henry George’s book, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy (1879). George observed the relation of the rise and fall of economic success to resulting poverty. Brannin felt George’s ideas a life calling, and from that point sought to improve social conditions through economic and political means. Brannin began organizing classes at the Dallas YMCA to discuss the single-tax theory promoted by George, socialist ideals of Upton Sinclair, and the social gospel preached by American Baptist pastor and theologian Walter Rauschenbusch. Other activities Brannin managed through the YMCA included a program to assist young people looking for work in Dallas.

Herbert Seely Bigelow (1870–1951), progressive pastor of the Vine Street Congregational Church (People’s Church) in Cincinnati since 1895, hired Brannin as his assistant in 1914. Among Brannin’s responsibilities was to serve as editor of the People’s Press in which he stood as advocate for civil liberty, economic reform, pacifism, and financial safeguards for workers. Retributions for the stands taken by Bigelow and Brannin included a vicious horsewhipping suffered by Bigelow in Kentucky by a gang dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen.

Carl Brannin and Laura Haeckle ( –1965) married in 1918. The two had met at the People’s Church. As Laura was a dedicated reformist the Brannins moved across the country always fighting for causes that promoted peace and elevated workers, Carl working occasionally as writer, editor, and publicist associated with the Plumb Plan, the Federated Press, and Labor Unity. Even so, the couple’s livelihood depended on odd jobs until modest oil income from property Carl had inherited allowed them some degree of freedom. When they settled in Dallas in 1933 they joined the Socialist Party, and Carl ran as the Socialist candidate for Governor of Texas in 1936. He lost the election, but was named secretary of the Socialist Party in Texas and worked toward organizing labor in the state. In 1938 he resigned and the Brannins affiliated with the liberal Democrats.

They joined the First Unitarian Church of Dallas in 1947 and continued their activism for civil liberties. Carl was named to the executive board of the NAACP in Dallas. Even into their seventies Carl and Laura walked picket lines demonstrating for desegregation.

Noted author Miriam Allen DeFord (1888–1975) wrote On Being Concerned: the Vanguard Years of Carl and Laura Brannin published by Bridwell Library in 1969. DeFord, known primarily for writing mysteries and science fiction, was active in the women’s suffrage movement and worked for the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. She was a member of the Socialist Party of America, an early proponent of the use of birth control, and was responsible for a dozen volumes for the Little Blue Book Series (Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company, Girard, Kansas) which was published as an affordable vehicle for bringing great literature and ideas to workers. Popularity of the Little Blue Book Series declined under scrutiny of the FBI for its range of freethinking subjects including socialism, atheism, and sexuality.

The Laura and Carl Brannin Collection of Religion in Social Action was established at Bridwell by Carl and Laura Brannin shortly before the death of Mrs. Brannin in 1965. The collection covers contemporary social movements, with an emphasis on the biographies of participants. The collection now includes more than one thousand volumes.  

Sculptor and bronze conservator Jon D. Minyard earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from SMU in 1978. He has participated in group exhibitions, including Laguna Gloria’s Texas Sculpture Exhibition in Austin, and has been responsible for the restoration of public sculptures in Dallas. Minyard’s familial roots in Dallas run deep. He is grandson of A. W. Minyard who founded Minyard’s Food Stores in 1932.