Lou Zaeske, American founder of English-only movement, advocate for Czech ethnic causes, died he was 69.
Zaeske was born at Randolph Air Force Base, then Randolph Field, in San Antonio, the son of Louis Zaeske, Sr. (1906–1991) and Agnes V. Zaeske (née Prihoda; 1910–1999). Louis and Agnes Zaeske are interred at New Bremen Cemetery near Coy City in Karnes County, Texas.
The senior Zaeske made his career in the United States Air Force, and the family lived in various parts of the United States. Zaeske graduated in 1964 from Texas A&M University in College Station Station with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.
He was a member of the TAMU Corps of Cadets and a squadron commanding
officer. He subsequently studied at the graduate level at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. For more than thirty-five years, he operated Zaeske Engineering Company in Bryan.
Himself of German and Czech
descent, Zaeske was heavily involved in the promotion of Czech heritage
groups. He frequently made public presentations on the migration of the
Czech peoples from Eastern Europe. For many years, Zaeske was the
president of the Brazos Valley Czech Heritage Society in Bryan. Zaeske was a member of the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas, which has established chairs for Czech studies at TAMU, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas at Denton.
He was also affiliated with the Burleson County’s Czech Heritage Museum, and the Kolache Festival in Caldwell, as well as the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center in La Grange. Zaeske helped found the Texas Polka Music Museum in Schulenburg.
In 1990, Zaeske ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the Texas State Senate because the Democratic incumbent in Senate District 5, Kent Caperton, refused to support Official English. Caperton, however, did not seek reelection in 1990, and the Democrat James W. “Jim” Turner, subsequently elected in 1996 as a U.S. representative, defeated Zaske for the seat.
The American Ethnic Coalition claimed that twenty-three members of the Texas State Legislature and four U.S. representatives
from Texas, all of whom were elected with coalition backing and took
office in 1989, were committed to Officlal English. Zaeske’s
organization called for abolition of the printing of literature in Spanish by the Texas Workforce Commission and allowing public school districts to reject bilingual education programs. Zaeske urged that Texas Comptroller Bob Bullock be required to report to the legislature on taxpayer costs of bilingual programs and that Attorney General Jim Mattox
rule on the constitutionality of such measures. Zaeske’s coalition
proposed that foreign instructors in Texas public colleges. many of whom
teach basic courses at universities, be required to pass an English
proficiency test. Zaeske also spoke against a Texas law that permits
lower tuition for students from Mexico who attend Texas public colleges:
“We really can’t understand why the citizens of this state should be
required to underwrite foreigners going to school here when many of the
children of citizens of this state are unable to go to college here
because of not being able to pay the tuition.”
In 1992, Zaeske supported Patrick J. Buchanan‘s unsuccessful insurgent challenge to the renomination of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush. In 1993, Zaeske ran as an Independent in a special election for the United States Senate seat vacated by incoming United States Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd M. Bentsen. He polled barely 2,000 votes, which was handily won in a runoff by the Republican state treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison.
In 2008, Zaeske and his wife, Jo Ann (née Macha), supported former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas for the Republican presidential nomination, ultimately won by U.S. Senator John S. McCain
of Arizona. Jo Ann Zaeske told an interviewer that their support for
Huckabee was based on the candidate’s embrace of “family values.” Lou
Zaeske said that could not support McCain in part because of McCain’s
divorce. He even indicated that he would vote for Barack H. Obama
in a contest against McCain because he thought that Obama could work
across party lines, an argument also used at the time by the McCain
Zaeske died at the age of sixty-nine at St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan, Texas. In addition to his wife of forty-seven years, Zaeske was survived by two daughters and five grandchildren.
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