|Audie Murphy commemorative stamp issued May 3, 2000.
On October 14, 1999 the United States Postal Service (USPS) formally announced the approval of an Audie Murphy Commemorative Stamp and a series of stamps honoring Distinguished Military Service Members to the delight of many people world wide. The announcement culminated an exhausting 4 year effort by volunteers and countless petition gatherers.
The organized effort to secure a stamp for Audie Murphy began in 1996. It started after a newspaper editorial comment written by Ms. Carol Ferguson was published in the Greenville Herald Banner. Inspired by the article, Ms. Diane Bates Thomason with the help of her husband James and the American Legion Post #17 in Greenville, Texas began gathering signatures locally at brick and mortar businesses in Hunt County, Texas locations hoping to persuade the USPS and the Postmaster General to approve the stamp.
After collecting several thousand signatures, the petition was boxed up and sent to the USPS headquarters where it was received without interest. A letter was mailed back to Ms. Thomason stating that the official position of the USPS was that all Medal of Honor recipients had already been recognized with a previously issued stamp. No other Medal of Honor winners would be recognized with commemorative stamps in the future. The reply infuriated Ms. Thomason and made her more determined than ever.
At about the same time, the Postmaster General, Marvin Runyon, and Warner Brothers entered into a commercial agreement to issue a series of cartoon stamps with Looney Tunes characters. The idea was to market stamps and merchandise in post offices and stores to collectors. Both the USPS and Warner Brothers were hoping to make a large profit. As a result, a number of Looney Tune characters, including Buggs Bunny and Daffy Duck, were given their own stamps which were regularly printed by the USPS. The program angered the supporters of the Audie Murphy commemorative stamp petition.
|Left to right are Congressman Sam Johnson, Senator Phil Grahmm, Nadine Murphy, Congressman Ralph Hall, Billie Murphy Tindol, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnston, Diane Thomason, and USPS representative Carl January as the Audie Murphy is unveiled in Dallas, Texas on October 24, 1999. This photo was later published by the National Enquirer without credit, who did not attend. Photo by Richard Rodgers.
In November 1996, the Dallas Morning News, printed an article about the stamp drive. The webmaster of this website read the article and became interested. As a high school student, the webmaster had written several letters in 1971 to the USPS shortly after Murphy's death proposing a commemorative stamp in Murphy's honor. The USPS replied with letters similar to the one received by Ms. Thomason.
Twenty five years later, the webmaster decided it was time to try again. After making a few phone calls and setting up an appointment, the webmaster drove several hundred miles to meet and coordinate with Ms. Thomason. As a result, the Audie Murphy Memorial Web Site adopted the commemorative stamp drive and the effort expanded to include the Internet. The Audie Murphy Commemorative Stamp Drive suddenly had global visibility.
Not long afterwards, an email campaign was launched by the website which targeted the President of the United States and every senator, congressional representative, and state governor. Elected officials began enthusiastically endorsing the effort. Some, like Ralph Hall from Texas, became vocal and started to actively apply pressure on the Postmaster General to approve the propsed stamp.
National media began publicizing the effort. Press coverage was provided by the New York Daily News, Philadelphia Enquirer, Boston Globe, and many other newspapers. Local television and radio stations began broadcasting their support too. A tabloid publication, The National Enquirer, in a double-story edition effort, gathered 7,000 signatures in the fall of 1998 when it requested subscribers send to Enquirer headquarters endorsements.
In 2000, After three and a half years of work gathering petition signatures from over 25 different countries including Germany, Italy, and Japan, and with one U.S. Congressional leader threatening an investigation into the relationship between Warner Brothers and the USPS, the Postmaster General Marvin Runyon had a change of heart and decided that the stamp was a good idea after all.
|Audie Murphy commemorative stamp issued May 3, 2000.|
Photo by Richard Rodgers.
Embarrassed from the Looney Tunes debacle, the USPS finally relented to pressure and quietly approved sometime during 1999 the Distinguished Military Service Members stamp series. The approval was designed to quiet the growing bad publicity and political pressure the USPS was receiving over its relationship with Warner Brothers.
On October 24, 1999 an unveiling took place in Dallas, Texas at the city's main post office. The USPS hosted the ceremony and flew representatives from Washington and to conduct the unveiling. Distinguished guests, friends of the Audie Murphy family, the local community were also invited.
An estimated crowd of about 100 friends and supporters of Audie Murphy attended. Among those present were two of Audie Murphy's sisters, Nadine Murphy and Billie Murphy, and a brother, Eugene Murphy. Texas senator Phil Grahmm, Congressman Ralph Hall, Congressman Sam Johnson, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnston, and Diane and James Thomason, original founders of the stamp petition drive, also attended and were honored. The crowd of onlookers included representatives of nearby American Legion and VFW posts, children, and adults alike. The National Enquirer was not invited and did not attend.
In a follow up story published December 7, 1999 the Enquirer tried to take most of the credit for getting the stamp approved. It printed a photograph provided by this website without citing the source or the photographer. In fact, the National Enquirer's support was only minor and late at best. Most of the information they used in their articles was provided by this web site and the petition founder, Ms Diane Thomason.
At the time of the USPS unveiling over 105,000 signatures had been collected. During 1996, 7,000 signatures were collected. In 1997, the total increased to 20,000. By the end of 1998, 40,000 total signatures were collected. The Internet petition remained active until December 31, 1999.
Seven months later, distinguished Army service members were honored on May 3, 2000 when the first issue of the series was finally released. Other military services were scheduled to be honored with their own stamps approximately every 5 years.
There is little doubt that the approval of the entire series of stamps, and not just Audie Murphy's, was heavilly influenced by the petition effort. The fans who endorsed the petition have much to be proud of and the residual effect of their effort continues to benefit others that the USPS may have otherwise never recognized.