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Political Sage Creekmore Fath Dies

Longtime Austin resident served under FDR

By Amy Smith, Fri., July 3, 2009

Creekmore Fath
Creekmore Fath
Photo courtesy of Shudde Fath

Creekmore Fath, a longtime Democratic warrior who served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, died June 25 at his home in West Austin. A memorial service takes place at 11am, Thursday, July 9, at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar.

Fath, 93, was of the liberal wing of Austin's old guard – the wing that in the Fifties and Sixties supported the likes of candidates Ralph Yarborough and Sissy Far­ent­hold over opponents who hailed from the "establishment" wing of the Democratic Party. "He was just a superb brother-in-law," said Austin activist Shudde Fath, who was married to Creekmore's older brother, the late Conrad Fath. The two brothers, Shudde said, "were very compatible and very supportive of each other."

A lawyer, Creekmore Fath seemed to lead a storybook political life. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Texas in 1939, he opened a law practice with Bob Eckhardt, who went on to serve in the U.S. Congress, and Mace Thur­man, who ultimately became one of Austin's most notable district court judges. Just one year after hanging out his shingle, Fath was summoned to Washington to serve as counsel to a House Select Committee investigating the "Interstate Migration of Destitute Citi­zens," meaning the millions of migrant farm families who had left Oklahoma and other Plains states to try to find work in California. Fath is credited with keeping the spotlight on the committee by convincing Chair John Tolan to invite Eleanor Roosevelt to testify before the committee, given her interests in socioeconomic issues of the day. Tolan thought he was joking, Shudde Fath said of her brother-in-law's novel idea; no first lady had ever testified before a congressional committee. Fath served in a number of other capacities in Washington, and while there he, as Shudde put it, "met and courted and fell in love" with Adele Hay Byrne, a granddaughter of John Hay, who served as President Lincoln's personal secretary and later as U.S. secretary of state from 1898 to 1905.

The couple married in April 1947, and four months later Creekmore returned to Austin with his new bride. He restarted his law practice in the Littlefield Building and immediately dove into the heady splendor of Texas politics. Creekmore and Adele, who died in 2007, kept an active social calendar. Collectors both, they built an impressive inventory of art and books. The philanthropic pair owned the most extensive private collection of lithographs by American artist Thomas Hart Benton, which was exhibited at several museums and galleries. "They had a house full of treasures," said Shudde Fath of her in-laws, who were regular donors to philanthropic endeavors and political campaigns.

In addition to Shudde, Creekmore is survived by his stepdaughter, Moyra Byrne, of Washington, D.C. Memorial contributions may be made to the Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation, 502 W. 13th, Austin 78701.

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