R. L. Roberts

MCGARY, AUSTIN (1846–1928). Austin (Aus) McGary, minister, journalist, and lawman, was born at Huntsville, Texas, on February 6, 1846, the son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Visier) McGary. He spent his boyhood at Huntsville. Part of his early education was under three preachers of the Church of Christ-the brothers Benton, Thomas, and Basil Sweeney. McGary was also associated with the family of Joseph A. Clark, especially Addison and Randolph Clark,qqv with whom he joined the Confederate Army. He served in the Huntsville Grays with Sam Houston, Jr. He was elected sheriff of Madison County in 1872 and served almost two terms before resigning to become conveying agent for the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. In two years of conveying condemned prisoners and desperadoes he never lost a man. As sheriff, McGary neither owned nor carried a gun. He had become a Christian years earlier and used instead what he claimed was the best two-barreled weapon: the Old Testament and the New Testament. By the time he became a member of the Church of Christ in 1881, he was thirty-five years old and had already lived a colorful life. He soon began preaching and became a journalist. The character Praxiteles Swan in John W. Thomason's The Lone Star Preacher (1941) is based on tales Thomason heard about Austin McGary.

McGary moved to Austin in 1883 and, prompted by what he saw and heard at a state meeting of representatives of the Church of Christ at Bryan in June 1884, established the Firm Foundationqv in September of that year. In the first number he declared the paper's intent: "to oppose everything in the work and worship of the church, for which there was not a command or an apostolic example or a necessary scriptural inference." McGary wrote mostly on controversial issues in a style seldom equalled, and his influence became widespread among many preachers in the Churches of Christ. After he relinquished control of the Firm Foundation, he moved to California and then to Oregon before returning to Texas. He published other periodicals -The Lookout and The Open Arena. McGary married Narcissus Jenkins in 1866, and the couple had two children. Narcissus died in 1872, and in 1875 McGary married Lucie Kitrell, who bore him nine children. After Lucie's death in 1897, McGary married Lillian Otey. He died on June 15, 1928, in Houston and was buried beside his mother in Huntsville.

Lane Cubstead, The Firm Foundation, 1884–1957: The History of a Pioneer Religious Journal and Its Editors (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1957).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, R. L. Roberts, "MCGARY, AUSTIN," accessed April 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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