MUIR, John Hugh |
May 18, 1946 - June 23, 2014
John Hugh Muir, a long-time Austin resident and a well-known and well-loved man about town, died June 23, 2014, in his home of natural causes. He was 68 years old.
He grew up in Dallas, Texas, the son of Hugh Brown Muir and Patricia Gray Muir, both deceased. His half-sister Leah Muir Hermes of Portland, Oregon, her husband, Lukas, and their daughters, Grace and Anna, survive him.
He graduated from St. Mark's School in Dallas, Texas, in May 1964, where he was an outstanding student. He attended Columbia University in New York City from 1964-1966 and the University of Texas at Austin from 1968-1969. He never stopped reading and learning. Many folks upon first meeting John thought he was a lawyer.
John's life was distinguished by his work for civil rights and social justice. He wrote the following in a 1993 job application:
"I got involved with civil rights issues as a high school student in Dallas in 1963. I was elected vice president of the NAACP Youth Council...(and) participated in CORE and SNCC activities. Beginning in 1966 I assisted Ernie Cortes with support activities for the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee's efforts in the Rio Grande Valley. I was one of 16 people arrested by the Texas Rangers in May 1967 for picketing a train hauling non-union produce outside Mission. The next month I went to Dallas to run a boycott and became acquainted with our current governor (Gov. Ann Richards), who is an enthusiastic supporter of farm workers efforts."
In 1974 and 1975 John was Public Information Officer of KLRN-TX and served as Chairman of the Board of Austin Community Television. He worked with the Texas Association of Community Action Agencies in 1977-78. Between 1976 and 1981 he served as Legislative Aide to Rep. El Franco Lee, Rep. Al Price, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson. He managed the Legendary Raw Deal Restaurant in Austin in 1980-1981.
John worked for many years for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA), a non-profit that provides free legal assistance to many low-income Texans. Between April 1984 and May 1991, he worked as TRLA's Private Attorney Involvement Coordinator. He left that position briefly to study with the Race Track Industry Program in Tucson, Arizona, qualifying for a steward's accreditation at Louisiana School for Racing Officials in 1992. He returned to his TRLA position in October 1993 until his retirement in June 2011.
John might best be described as a Renaissance man. He loved "wine, women, and song." A brilliant conversationalist, he enjoyed discussing literature and politics as well as such lower-brow topics as the latest gossip about mutual friends and "the ponies." He was a master of irony and of high sardonic wit. He could be blunt and merciless when confronted with what he considered to be an ill-advised comment.
John was a regular at several local restaurants where proprietors and wait staff alike welcomed him as a good friend. He did not limit his fondness for food to the gourmet. His palate was just as pleased with biscuits and gravy from Truck City as with the fine French cuisine of New Orleans and Austin's Chez Nous, as well as a good bowl of Pho or other Vietnamese fare from Tam's Deli & Cafe`. As a connoisseur of wine he shopped regularly at The Austin Wine Merchant. He had a knack for finding good wines at reasonable prices.
His library was legendary, and he regularly gave books as gifts to friends and family. Many will remember John as having introduced them to authors such as Wendell Berry, George Orwell and A. J. Liebling and to musicians such as Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson and Rosalie Sorrells. "Back in the day" he cut a fine, tall figure dancing nimbly and enthusiastically at local venues such as The Armadillo World Headquarters and The Soap Creek Saloon.
A memorial party will be held to celebrate the life and times of John Hugh Muir within the next few months. Friends and family will get the word out.
Anyone may share his or her thoughts at the Cook Walden Funeral Home website: http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/DignityMemorial/guestbook.aspx?n=john-muir&pid=171501511
Published in Austin American-Statesman from July 8 to July 9, 2014