A Guide to the Mary and Garry De Young Papers, [ca. 1960s-1990s]
Heavily involved in First Amendment rights issues, Garry and Mary De Young worked closely with famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair in supporting freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. They were the litigants in 84 lawsuits, focusing primarily on civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state and fourteen of which appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Born in Preakness, New Jersey, Garry De Young, Jr. (1923-2002) served in the U.S. Air Force in England during World War II as a Master Sergeant with the B-17 Bombers in the 457th Bomb Group. During his service, he received six Bronze Stars and the Good Conduct Medal. In 1947, De Young married elementary school teacher Mary J. Wallitt, and the couple had nine children. Garry graduated from Delaware State University in 1955 and then enrolled at Temple University to pursue a Master of Education degree. Mary taught at a school in Baltimore until 1962, when she was fired after the school board learned the De Youngs were atheists. Afterwards, the De Youngs moved to Minnesota, where Garry served as the chief writer for the Minnesota Highway Department, until he was fired for playing secular music at a Christmas party.
Starting in 1963, Garry published The Crucible, The Naturalist, and other small freethinking and atheist magazines and booklets. In 1971 he founded the Minnesota Institute of Philosophy, and several years later the couple moved to Mercedes, Texas, where Mary wrote a newspaper column, "The Scientific Atheist." Garry also ran several times for state and national offices in Minnesota and Iowa, including the 1980 and 1984 U.S. Senate races in Iowa. In 1991, the family moved to Stark, Kansas, where they owned and operated a farm and nursery and Garry conducted nursery research. In 1994, Garry founded the Atheist Law School. In addition, the couple wrote numerous books and pamphlets, including "Abraham Lincoln, Apostle of Freedom," Garry’s A Blind Man Speaks Out, and Call to Reason, a collection of Mary’s newspaper articles.
The Mary and Garry De Young Papers, [ca. 1960s-1990s], document the De Youngs’ activities as freethinkers and activists for the separation of church and state and contain litigation files, research files, publications, photographs, newspaper articles, correspondence, coursework, and more. The collection contains research and litigation files about lawsuits in Iowa and Kansas regarding violations of election laws, statutes violating the separation of church and state, denials of free speech and religious freedom, civil rights, religious teachings in public schools, and treatments of and services for the blind. Correspondence documents the De Youngs’ work with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, their friendship with cartoonist James Erickson of Haldeman-Julius Publications, and their association with foreign atheist organizations. Additionally, the correspondence contains threats and hate mail to the De Youngs because of their activism. Coursework, correspondence, theses, event material, and student’s manuscripts relate to Garry De Young’s Minnesota Institute of Philosophy.
The collection also includes numerous issues of magazines published by the De Youngs and other freethought and political publishers. These include Factsheet Five, Progressive World, American Atheist, Indian Atheist, blue books from Haldeman-Julius, The Crucible, The Journal, and The Naturalist. Additional pamphlets and booklets were written by the De Youngs, such as “Abraham Lincoln, Apostle of Freedom,” “Founding a Church,” and Call to Reason. Furthermore, the collection includes numerous drafts and copies of Garry’s poems.
Family papers within the collection concern Garry De Young’s political campaigns in Iowa and the De Youngs’ experiences establishing an atheist church. Articles by and about the De Young children pertain to their experiences learning to build and fly aircrafts, opening a restaurant together as teenagers, and publishing the aviation magazine Sky Rover, which describes the children’s perspectives on their parents’ activism. A family scrapbook and other items details the family’s activities and home schooling, after the children were withdrawn from public school due to what the De Youngs characterized as religious indoctrination.
This collection is open for research use.
Mary and Garry De Young Papers, [ca. 1960s-1990s], Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection is unprocessed.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers