Not Without a Fight
Authors Spivey and Sublett spin a complex tale of a Lubbock visionary's downfall, revenge Joe O'Connell
Reviewed by Joe O'Connell, Fri., Sept. 26, 2014
Broke, Not Broken: Homer Maxey's Texas Bank Warby Broadus Spivey and Jesse Sublett
Texas Tech University Press, 338pp., $29.95
Imagine the classic film It's a Wonderful Life if Mr. Potter were the good guy and the dapper George Bailey may have been up to no good. Welcome to Broke, Not Broken: Homer Maxey's Texas Bank War, a true story about good old boy West Texas commerce gone wrong.
Here's the basic plot: Curmudgeonly Lubbock builder/entrepreneur Homer Maxey gets talked into transferring his assets to a new bank by a smiling youngster with jet-black hair and plastic-framed glasses to match. The bank, whose attorneys also work for Maxey, forecloses on Maxey's loans and immediately sells his assets for next to nothing. Maxey's reputation and wealth are destroyed. He sues, and the case stretches across decades.
But it goes deeper than that. This is the story of post-World War II commerce and shadow kingmakers who met not-so-secretly in back rooms to dream and do. Maxey was the kid who worked hard labor during high school to amass $950 that he'd invest in a small grocery to fund his Texas Tech University education. From there, it was on to wartime military service and the creation of wealth through a series of businesses for which he'd provide the money and vision while his pals did the day-to-day work.
Soon he was building postwar Lubbock: shiny midcentury modern subdivisions, newfangled shopping malls, and the sleek downtown Plainsman Hotel. He was a soft-spoken visionary, whom his daughter, the sculptor Glenna Goodacre, described as interested in family, church, making money, and Texas Tech – but not necessarily in that order. But, the book admits, Maxey was also a bald-headed, red-faced demon who could "chew your ear off in language that would peel the paint from a battleship's hull."
The book itself has an interesting pedigree: Austin attorney Broadus Spivey, former State Bar of Texas president, was assistant county attorney in Lubbock during the first trial in the early Sixties and knew the players. To complete his long-term obsession, Spivey turned to Jesse Sublett, an Austin mystery writer and musician. The result plays to both their strengths. Spivey clearly revels in the minutiae of the two main trials – both of which Maxey won. Sublett brings in the mystery of an imperfect man obsessed with those who did him wrong. Maxey settled out of court in 1980, but then concentrated on writing his story. After his death, his wife burned those pages. Spivey and Sublett's book rises from the ashes as a complex tale of a complex man.