Standing Up for Crockett’s Stand
It was appalling to read the description of Davy Crockett, a defender of the Alamo, as a “gaudy self-promoter” in your commemoration of Fess Parker (“The Week,” April 19).
The founder and longtime editor of National Review, William F. Buckley Jr., defended the memory and history of Davy Crockett and the Alamo. Jay Winik quoted Buckley’s comments in his review of A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, by Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, in NR in 2001. Winik wrote: “By the late 1960s, the authors tell us, the Alamo, like so many other hallowed institutions, had fallen on hard times, an early casualty of the culture wars. The men of the Alamo, once revered, suddenly became, in the words of revisionist historian Jeff Long, ‘ignorant trigger-pulling white trash,’ while budding history scholars likened them to Nazis. Even the venerable Crockett, long regarded as a freedom fighter, public servant (a former congressman, he was once talked about as a Whig presidential candidate), backwoods philosopher, and prototypical American frontiersman, abruptly became a ‘phony’ (Arthur Schlesinger’s word); ‘barely literate’ (E. J. Kahn Jr., writing in The New Yorker); and ‘purchasable for no more than a drink’ (Murray Kempton). (William F. Buckley Jr. was one of the few to rise to Crockett’s defense, exclaiming that this was in part a ‘traditional debunking campaign’ by ‘liberal publicists. . . . He’ll survive the carpers.’)”
Winik also wrote: “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.’”
Carol L. Crockett
The Editors reply: Davy Crockett died a hero’s death, alongside all the other defenders of the Alamo. But he was also an ambitious politician and a gaudy self-promoter. History is as simple as humanity.