Chronicles has lost a longtime writer and friend, Egon Richard Tausch, who passed away on July 27. In Egon was found both brilliance and humility, a rare combination reflecting his Christian faith.
He was also a man of fierce loyalty, unmoved by the patricidal demands of the politically correct and faithful to his inheritance as a Southerner and a Texan, supporting both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Sons of the Republic of Texas. Descended from early German settlers of Texas, Egon also loved and participated in the Beethoven Maennerchor, which is among the oldest German singing societies of the Lone Star State. Egon’s loyalty and undying friendship extended to our magazine as well; he likely holds the record for most gift subscriptions given to friends and neighbors at Christmastime—a record he himself broke, it seems, every year.
A retired attorney, Egon served as an officer in Vietnam and taught history at West Point. He is the son of a family of American patriots who “fought in every war America fought in.” Along with his beloved wife, Phyllis, who was ever by his side, he remodeled their historic San Antonio home, and with their collection of artifacts and treasures, he lived in a virtual museum of American history.
Egon’s writing interests reflected his loyalties. In Chronicles, his March 1999 article “Tom and Sally and Joe and Fawn” was an assault rifle fired into the historical fad-turned-“fact” of the moment: the assertion that Thomas Jefferson fathered children by his slave Sally Hemings. Egon showed that this new dogma was based on thin and contradictory evidence, motivated by the political goals and cultural climate of the late 1990s.
Any little old lady living in genteel poverty in Charlottesville, surrounded by her stacks of genealogical charts, can make a dog’s breakfast of an agenda-driven genetic study. The Nature article is not even genetics: It is necromancy.
The science of genetics cannot be used for historical research without a top-notch historian and the most complete genealogies possible. The courtroom equivalent of genealogies is the “chain of custody” of evidence; any weak link in the chain of custody will utterly destroy the finest forensic “proof.”
In 2007, Egon’s magnificent article “Gott Mit Uns,” a history of German settlers in Texas, won generous attention for Chronicles. Among other things, it included the largely untold story of the Texas Germans’ enthusiastic contribution to the Southern cause during the War Between the States. Historians like Tausch, though better researchers and writers than the lot of well-paid and feted scholars of academe, are rarely given a voice, because their research contradicts the dominant narrative that is not to be questioned. In this case, as Egon showed, the Texas Germans were not rabid oppressors of blacks but, from their own historical memory, hated the depredations of an overweening, oppressive federal government and New England-led monoculture. “German social life centered on the Turnvereine (athletic clubs),” he wrote. “When the National Turnvereine denounced the South in 1859, all Texas Turnvereine immediately seceded, anticipating the Confederacy by two years.” And having pored over the historical record with the precision of a lawyer, he could say with confidence, “No Texas German voted for Lincoln.”
Perhaps most poignant was Egon’s 2015 story of his own family, especially his father, “Paterfamilias.” This piece was a labor of love for him, and we spent hours on the phone getting every word right. I am still struck by the first two lines, which show how he was of the persuasion many of us half-jokingly call “paleo,” enamored neither of today’s left nor today’s “right” and their ideological categories:
In America today, we seem to face two alternatives: accepting hordes of invaders with alien cultures and ideologies, who are unwilling to assimilate and whose presence endangers the vestiges of our civilization; or homogenizing America into a rootless, soulless melting pot—a “proposition nation” without a past or local or family customs.
Families and learning matter.
Before the article was published, Egon sent me a package containing several old family photos, anticipating I wouldn’t be able to use them, but wanting me at least to see them. I removed one of them carefully from a frame, scanned it, photoshopped the imperfections of old paper scratches, and put it, along with others, into the May 2015 issue. I was certain he would be pleased when the finished product arrived in the mail. And he was, very gratefully so, except . . . I’d misidentified his mother in a caption, making Egon by implication the son of Mrs. Fulgencio Batista. It was a photo of a diplomatic dinner in Havana, with the Tausches (Egon’s parents) and Batistas together at table. Anyone who’s read the article knows that, like his home, Egon’s life was a living narrative of American history, with story after story of experiences that almost defy belief.
When we went to Washington, my father became chief of the Military District of Washington and cofounder of the CIC, later the CIA. During the Korean War, he was G-2 (Intelligence) and “listener” to the North Korean screamer at the “peace talks” and POW exchange at Panmunjom, though he did get decorated for some combat and was shot in the finger. When he was up for general, he was short-stopped in Congress for still-unknown reasons by Clare Boothe Luce . . .
Whenever he’d submit an article for publication, he’d call to remind me, “Aaron, please, please do not think you have to publish this on account of our friendship or loyalty.” I’d assure him I wouldn’t (though perhaps I would’ve), but then again I didn’t have to weigh such a decision. His writing was always interesting—and principled.
America may have forgotten many of her people, but her loyal son, Egon Richard Tausch, never forgot her. His anger kindled at those who despised and sought to diminish the American, Southern, and Texas patrimony, yet he fought back not with vitriolic ad hominem but with fact and memory. The American heroes of the Alamo—Travis, Bowie, Crockett—were his, forever making that last stand against the invader who would breach the wall and steal liberty and identity. And Egon fought to make sure they remained ours.
Perhaps last week’s announcemnt of the campaign to rename Austin was the last straw.
In our afternoon phone conversations we would talk about old books, old history, old perspectives, old customs, and old truths. I will miss them, and him.