Martin Dies Jr. (1900-1972) was a second-generation Congressman who served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1931 and 1959. His time in Congress proved controversial due to his role as chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
Born in Colorado City, Texas, on November 5, 1900, Dies split time as a child between East Texas and Washington D.C. As a young man, he attended Cluster Springs Academy in Virginia and graduated from Beaumont High School on the Texas gulf coast in 1918. He then enrolled for one year at the University of Texas and earned a law degree from National University in Washington, D.C., in 1920.
Upon completion of his formal education, Dies followed closely in his father's footsteps, moving to Orange, Texas, and taking a position in the family law office. Later, in 1930, he ran a successful campaign for his father's former congressional post as a representative of Texas' Second District. Although this victory made Dies the youngest member of Congress, he was soon able to parlay relationships with powerful Texans, including Vice President John Garner, to secure important posts for himself.
In 1938, Dies created and secured appointment as the first chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was tasked with investigating subversive groups within the United States. Initially, the committee focused on domestic extremism and the Ku Klux Klan. Over time, however, the committee re-oriented its attention to suspected communists and civil rights supporters. Many critics of the committee complained that its members violated the rights of suspects and publicly ruined the careers of many good people for political reasons.
In 1944, after enduring public criticism and a personal health scare, Dies decided not to seek reelection. He and his family moved to Lufkin, Texas, and Dies continued his law practice. He soon tired of private life, however, and won re-election to an at-large seat in Congress in 1952. He served in Washington D.C. until 1959, and then returned to Texas.
The congressman died from a heart attack in 1972. Dies authored two books, The Trojan Horse (1940) and Martin Dies' Story (1963), although the latter was ghostwritten by J.B. Matthews. Dies was laid to rest in the Garden of Memories Mausoleum in Lufkin.