Sunday, January 3, 2016

Jack C. Walton: general incompetence versus Invisible Empire


On the surface, Governor John Calloway Walton's term as governor of Oklahoma bears a strong resemblance to that of former North Carolina Governor William Woods Holden. Both men tried to stop the violent depredations of the Ku Klux Klan in their state. Both men used martial law as a potent weapon against the masked vigilantes. And both Walton and Holden were accused of abusing their power and thrown out of office.

But while Holden was pardoned by the North Carolina legislature 140 years after his impeachment, it is unlikely that Walton will ever enjoy a similar posthumous vindication. His fight against the Klan was seen both at the time and through the lens of history as a politically rather than morally motivated action. Walton even had some personal ties to the organization. Moreover, the effort to expel him from office ultimately focused on malfeasance that was unconnected to his campaign against the Klan.

Walton was born in Indianapolis on March 6, 1881. As a child, he moved with his family to Lincoln, Nebraska, and later to Arkansas. Details on his early life are somewhat scarce; even the Oklahoma Historical Society describes them as "sketchy and convoluted." He traveled extensively as a young man, reportedly working as a railroad employee, electrical engineer, and traveling salesman. Walton also served in the Army's field artillery during the Spanish-American War, graduated from the Fort Smith Commercial College in Arkansas, and spent some time living in Mexico and studying engineering.

In 1903, Walton moved to Oklahoma City and began working as a civil engineer and contractor. He formed the McIntosh and Walton Engineering Company with a partner in 1913, and served as a colonel in the Engineering Corps during World War I.

Walton's political career began when he was elected to serve as a public works commissioner of Oklahoma City. He held this post from 1917 to 1919. He won the 1919 mayoral election in Oklahoma City by 50,000 votes, the largest majority in the state's history at the time. He was a supporter of progressive ideals such as women's suffrage, a 40-hour work week, and public ownership of utilities. Walton was even rumored to be so liberal on the issue of race relations that he was a regular at black jazz clubs.

The city's police proved to be a significant obstacle to Walton, so he became actively involved in their work. When the police chief said he wouldn't enforce the Prohibition laws, Walton personally led raids against speakeasies and other illegal establishments. He forbade police officers from joining the Ku Klux Klan and, in one remarkable case, ordered a 10-year-old boy to be whipped for disrespecting a 13-year-old black girl.

Walton's actions as mayor caught the attention of the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League, which was formed in September 1921. This political party generally worked as a progressive force within the Democratic Party, although many members were former Republicans and Socialists. The party was particularly impressed when Walton actively supported a strike by a meat packers' union, providing them with food and refusing to extend police protection to the owners of the packing plants.

This stance put him on the wrong side of the local chamber of commerce, especially after the lynching of a black man named Jake Brooks in January 1922. After crossing a picket line during the meat packers' strike, Brooks was dragged from his home, shot, and hanged. The chamber of commerce demanded a declaration of martial law to prevent further unrest; Walton opposed such an action, declaring that the organization was "killing the city by their promotion of labor strife, and wanting to finish the job by declaring martial law." Though the murder had been made to look like the work of the KKK, responsibility was soon fixed on several members of the meat packers' union; the Klan even offered to help break the strike and remove Walton from office.

As the 1922 election approached, the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League chose Walton as their nominee for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial candidate. He faced two more conservative men for the nomination: Thomas H. Owen, a former chief justice of the state supreme court, and Robert H. Wilson, the state superintendent of public instruction. The Klan favored either Owen or Wilson to Walton, and ultimately endorsed Wilson. But in the Democratic primary, Walton earned 119,504 votes to Wilson's 84,569 and Owen's 64,229.

The results caused a rift among Democratic voters, as the more conservative members could not stomach the idea of supporting Walton's more progressive ideas. These voters threw their support behind John Fields, the Republican candidate for governor and editor of the Oklahoma Farmer, in a coalition dubbed the Constitutional Democratic Club. Many Klansmen undoubtedly backed Fields over Walton, but a large number likely opted to support the Democratic candidate after Wilson endorsed Walton.

Walton gained popularity with a lively campaign across the state in which he promised to advocate for the working man. He was a gifted orator, and turned heads by taking a black jazz band along to play at his events. "Jazz Band Jack" was one of several nicknames Walton earned in his life, along with "Iron Jack" and "Our Jack." In the general election, Walton triumphed with 280,206 votes to Fields' 230,469. The margin of victory was the largest one in a governor's race in Oklahoma up to that point.

During his campaign, Walton had vowed that the entire state's population would be invited to an enormous barbecue celebration if he won the election. His critics would say this was the only campaign promise Walton managed to keep. On his inauguration day on January 9, 1923, so many people took part in the parade to the ceremony that the procession stretched on for 16 miles. The Oklahoma State Fairgrounds became the seat of a massive feast. A vast selection of food—beef, chicken, turkey, deer, even three bears and 134 opossums—were cooked on roasting pits that covered more than a mile. The Oklahoma City Fire Department brought out its fire engines to supply the water needed to brew 8,000 gallons of coffee. An estimated 300,000 people attended the event.

An overhead view of the barbecue celebrating Walton's inauguration (Source)

Walton favored a Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League program, but had little chance of getting these initiatives approved. The majority of the state legislature was conservative, and Walton's major goals—including a state bank, state insurance system, and a soldiers' bonus—never came to pass. Walton was credited with overseeing a more modest set of reforms such as the expansion of a farm cooperative program, the establishment of licenses for farmers' community market associations, improvements to welfare and Workman's Compensation benefits, strengthened laws for the inspection of warehouses, stronger laws for banking violation, a free textbook law, and $1 million in school aid.

In order to curry more favor with the conservative legislators, many of whom were members of the KKK, Walton met with several prominent members of the organization. Shortly after his inauguration, the governor was designated as a "Klansman at Large." This title was given to public officials who wanted their membership in the organization to be kept secret. Walton's attempts to satisfy both the progressive and conservative members of the legislature was one of the contributing factors to his downfall, as neither side was won over by his actions. There was speculation that Walton was already looking ahead to a Senate run or even a presidential campaign in 1924, and that he was moving away from his more radical stances to try to appeal to a broader pool of voters.

Several other actions also led to criticism of Walton's handling of the state's affairs. He was strongly opposed to the death penalty, and vowed that no prisoner would be executed while he was in office. The governor's critics were especially alarmed by his liberal use of pardons and paroles. Between his inauguration and October 1923, Walton racked up 253 acts of executive clemency. Twenty-nine of the prisoners benefiting from these actions were convicted murderers, and one was pardoned after Walton asked a state fair crowd if he thought the man had been punished enough for his crime. There were suspicions that bribes were aiding Walton's actions, though he was never officially charged with this malfeasance.

Walton was heavily criticized for pursuing the appointment of friends and allies to state posts. He pressured Dr. Stratton Brooks to resign as president of the University of Oklahoma, removing five regents at the school and replacing them with his supporters after Brooks left for the University of Missouri. In one of his more notorious acts of patronage, Walton ousted Dr. James B. Eskridge from his presidency at the Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater and replaced him with George Wilson. The action was so unpopular that Wilson had to be escorted onto the campus under National Guard protection amidst protests by angry students and faculty. Wilson was the head of the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League and had served as one of Walton's advisers, but he didn't even hold a bachelor's degree. Walton would ultimately remove Wilson from his new position before his term was up.

The purchase of a mansion in Oklahoma City also caused many to question whether Walton was trading his official influence for favors. The governor had purchased the property with the assistance of Ernest W. Marland, a wealthy oil man. Walton paid $18,000 in cash to the home's owner, Walter D. Caldwell, along with six $5,000 notes. Caldwell sold these notes to Marland, an action which critics said left the mayor obligated to Marland's oil interests.

Walton charged that the Ku Klux Klan was behind the hostility towards him, and he would go to war with the organization just six months into his term. Given his earlier meetings with KKK officials, this decision was likely influenced at least in part by political expediency; by taking on the masked vigilantes, Walton could regain his popularity and perhaps ride the ensuing wave of support to higher office.
Ku Klux Klan members gather in Drumright, Oklahoma, in 1922 (Source)

The KKK had become more prominent in several areas of the nation after World War I, and it had a particularly strong presence in Oklahoma. In the early 1920s, membership in the state was estimated to be between 90,000 and 200,000, or as many as one in every 20 residents. Klansmen were influential members in many communities around the state, including the police departments and local governments. David Mark Chalmers, author of the book Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan, says the Klan in Oklahoma was "less concerned with crime than personal behavior and, many said, personal vengeance." Chalmers says most victims were white Protestants, including young men and women caught riding in cars together, bootleggers, a man opposed to a school bond issue they apparently favored, and both a man who had deserted his wife and the woman he ran off with.

Klansmen typically kidnapped a person, took them to a remote location, and whipped them. The Klan would also tar and feather, mutilate, assault, and sometimes murder their victims. Those subjected to these abuses rarely reported them; they were either afraid of reprisals or certain that the local officials were themselves part of the KKK. When a case did get to court, the juries usually acquitted anyone charged with the vigilante behavior.

A horrific race riot in 1921 provided another boost to Klan membership. The inciting incident occurred on a Tulsa elevator on May 30 between a teenage black shoe shiner named Dick Rowland and a white female elevator operator named Sarah Page; Rowland accidentally stepping on Page's foot or grabbing her arm after tripping, causing her to scream. Police arrested Rowland after he fled the elevator, and rumors held that he had tried to rape Page. The Tulsa Tribune ran an inflammatory editorial entitled "To Lynch a Negro Tonight" on May 31; an armed mob of white citizens assembled to try to kidnap Rowland from the courthouse, where he was under police protection. Black citizens, also armed, also went to the courthouse to defend Rowland against the lynch mob. Shots were fired, and the riot began.

The violence lasted only 24 hours, but it had a profound effect. White rioters targeted the Greenwood District, a successful black residential neighborhood and business district in Tulsa nicknamed "Black Wall Street." Buildings were looted and burned, reducing the thriving neighborhood to ruins and leaving most of Tulsa's black residents homeless. There were reports that the attackers used a machine gun and dynamite thrown from airplanes to add to the bloodshed. Initial estimates held that as few as 36 people died in the riot, but historians now estimate that the death toll was closer to 300.

Even if his fight against the Klan had a political edge to it, Walton was likely sincere in his desire to stop the violent acts by the organization. He had already clashed with the Klan during his time as Oklahoma City's mayor, and as governor he learned the full extent of the KKK's brutality. His executive secretary, Aldrich Blake, estimated that there were 2,500 "whipping parties" operating in the state in 1922.

Walton first turned his sights on Okmulgee County, which he claimed had been the site of repeated mob incidents. On June 26, 1923, he placed the county under martial law and warned that he might take the same action in other counties. The county's sheriff, John Russell, considered Walton's action to be retaliation, since he had recently arrested two intoxicated men with state commissions from the governor. After only three days and a handful of arrests, the state of martial law ended.

After a quiet July, Walton surprised Tulsa County by placing this region under martial law on August 14. The governor took this action after learning that a Jewish man suspected of selling drugs had been severely beaten by Klansmen. The residents of the city of Tulsa were particularly incensed by Walton's order; martial law might be appropriate for a backwater region like Okmulgee County, they argued, but not for a sophisticated city like Tulsa. This reasoning conveniently ignored the recent Tulsa race riot, as well as the prominence of the KKK in the city. Shortly after the riot, the Klan completed its "Klavern," an enormous assembly hall capable of holding up to 3,000 people; it was nicknamed "Beno Hall" by locals who joked that members wishing to join had to "Be no nigger, be no Jew, be no Catholic, be no immigrant." Of the 131 officially recorded incidents of Klan violence in Oklahoma between 1921 and 1924, 74 were in Tulsa County while only 20 were in Okmulgee County.

When the Tulsa World printed an advertisement calling on Klansmen to resist Walton's order, the governor stationed a censor at the newspaper. After hearing that a suspected black car thief had been brazenly kidnapped less than a block away from the military's headquarters in Tulsa, Walton declared absolute martial law in the county on August 20. Under absolute martial law, the National Guard's authority completely superseded that of the local officials. This action included a suspension of the right of habeas corpus, in violation of the state constitution.

Seeking to publicize the KKK's crimes, Walton convened a military court of inquiry to look into mob violence in Oklahoma. Hundreds of people offered testimony about the abuses they had suffered at the hands of Klansmen, mostly in incidents in 1922. A married couple, Joe and Annie Pike, said masked men had taken them from their Broken Bow home and flogged them for brewing a strong alcoholic beverage known as Choctaw beer. They reported the incident to the police, but no one was ever punished.

An Oklahoma City laundry driver named Ellis R. Merriman testified that he had been kidnapped on March 7, 1922, by two men posing as police officers. He had been driven to a large gathering of Klansmen, accused of immorality with a young women, beaten with a rope, and told to leave town. Merriman returned to the city a month later and gave the names of 18 suspected attackers to the county attorney, who did nothing with the information. His employer also threatened to fire him if he did not leave the matter alone.

Merriman's testimony led to the arrest of KKK grand dragon N. Clay Jewett on September 21, 1923. One cohort testified that Jewett had been present at the gathering and personally assaulted Merriman. The arrest followed Jewett's boast that Walton and his allies would "never be able to break the power of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma." Walton would not be able to bag Jewett, at any rate; the grand dragon's case was dismissed after he provided an alibi.

In one particularly gruesome case, a black deputy sheriff named John Smitherman told how he had been kidnapped from Tulsa on March 10, 1922. Smitherman said the mob accused him of registering black voters to cast their ballots against the city administration, as well as "ungentlemanly" conduct toward a white woman. After tying him to a tree, the Klansmen beat him severely and ordered him to leave the state. One of the men cut Smitherman's ear off and tried to force him to eat it.

"This is only one of the hundreds of such crimes committed, which the civil authorities of this state refused to cooperate," Walton said. "I ask the people of the civilized world, in the presence of this testimony, if I was not justified in proclaiming martial law in the city of Tulsa?"

Walton was clearly feeling confident in his offensive against the KKK. He claimed to have the ability to suspend habeas corpus under an 1871 law specifically designed to combat the Klan. He welcomed a federal probe into his actions, saying it would put a national spotlight on the KKK's outrages. Walton even encouraged Oklahoma's residents to use lethal force to defend themselves against the Klan if necessary. Referring to the Klavern, Walton declared, "I don't care if you burst right into them with a double-barreled shotgun. I'll promise you a pardon in advance."

Such statements did little to win supporters to Walton's cause, especially since most residents regarded the governor's actions as heavy-handed and dictatorial. The Oklahoma News issued an editorial saying that the state wanted "neither Klan nor king." There were rumors that Walton's war on the KKK was motivated mostly by his ambition to seek national office in 1924. The Daily Oklahoman suggested that Walton might even run for President, and dubbed his actions "a libel against the whole state." Walton said he believed vigilante violence would be an issue in the next national election, but declined to say whether he would run for the U.S. Senate on an anti-Klan platform.

The KKK remained nonplussed by the governor's actions. G.S. Long, a state representative from Tulsa and admitted member of the Klan, mocked the effectiveness of the martial law declaration by saying that 90 percent of the National Guardsmen were members of the organization. Long alleged that Jewett could order the soldiers to stand down, but that the grand dragon would take no such action. "The Klan oath is a re-dedication of man's loyalty to the constitution of Oklahoma, the constitution of the United States, the government of Oklahoma, the government of the United States," said Long. "And so long as Governor Walton exercises his authority as governor of Oklahoma, Klan members of the order will remain loyal to the orders of their commander-in-chief."

On September 15, 1923, Walton placed the entire state of Oklahoma under martial law and declared that he had full control of the state capitol buildings in Oklahoma City. Ostensibly, this action came after local officials failed to comply with an ultimatum. Walton had demanded the resignation of W.R. Sampson, the cyclops of the Muskogee KKK, as well as the resignation of Sampson's secretary. He also wanted the sheriff, police commissioner, and three members of the county jury commission in Tulsa County to step down. However, a grand jury was investigating Walton by this point and the declaration of statewide martial law also had the effect of preventing them from issuing an indictment.

Calls for the governor's impeachment intensified. His plummeting popularity was no doubt harmed even more when he announced that he was canceling the Oklahoma State Fair, since he felt it would interfere with the work of the National Guard. But the state legislature had little room to maneuver; there was no regular session scheduled, and the state constitution held that the legislators could only assemble for a special session while martial law was in effect if the governor asked them to do so.

On September 26, the state house of representatives tried to assemble anyway. Walton responded with a show of force. A machine gun was set up on the rooftop of a nearby building, its barrel pointed at the entrance to the state capitol; armed guards were posted at the doors. The governor, accusing the house of representatives of having 68 members who were part of the Klan, threatened to arrest any legislator who tried to assemble under martial law; it was even reported that he ordered the National Guard to "shoot to kill" any representative who defied his authority.

In a tense episode at the capitol, 66 members of the house of representatives squared off against the National Guard. Representative Wesley E. Disney, the chairman of the house's legal committee, called the body to order. The National Guard commander ordered them to disperse, and the representatives eventually departed. They continued to meet unofficially, trying to come up with a way to challenge Walton. Ten members of the state senate also held meetings at an Oklahoma City hotel, declaring that they would not make a decision on whether they would try to assemble until the courts made a ruling on whether the house of representatives could meet.

The legislators came up with an ingenious solution to get around the rules of assembly. A special election had already been scheduled for October 2 to allow Oklahoma's voters to weigh in on the veterans' bonus championed by Walton. A petition added a rider to the ballot, seeking a public decision on whether the legislature should be allowed to hold a special session. Walton tried to stop the balloting, and some election officials complied with his order to do so. Many voters likely stayed home to avoid potential violence at the polls. Nevertheless, nearly 300,000 people cast a ballot. They overwhelmingly authorized the special legislative session in a 209,452 to 70,638 vote. As an added rebuke to Walton, voters turned down the veterans' bonus. Martial law ended on October 5.

With impeachment looking almost certain, Walton made a last-ditch effort to achieve victory in his fight against the KKK. He called for a special session of the legislature on October 11, saying the purpose of the meeting should be to draft strong laws against the organization. If such legislation was passed, Walton offered, he would approve it and resign. The legislature refused to consider this proposal, though they promised that would take action against the Klan after they had completed their work of investigating the governor.

On October 17, the house of representatives drafted 22 articles of impeachment against Walton. Six of them related to the governor's actions against the KKK, and Walton said he was prepared to introduce witnesses to testify about the Klan's terrorism. The house opted to simply drop those charges so the proceedings would focus more on other misconduct.

A rumor spread that Walton would take some drastic action before he was likely thrown out of office. Some worried that he would pardon the entire prison population at the state penitentiary at McAlester. On October 23, the house of representatives quickly voted to impeach Walton on two of the charges. The state senate concurred in a 36-1 vote, and Walton was suspended from office. The Oklahoma State Supreme Court upheld his removal in a 5-4 vote two days later.

Lieutenant Governor Martin E. Trapp assumed the duties of governor of Oklahoma. Ironically, he had faced impeachment proceedings of his own in 1921 due to allegations of corrupt bond contracts with Seminole County. Trapp had remained in office after the senate voted 27-16 to quash the charges.

Walton considered the impeachment proceedings to be little more than a kangaroo court, and made no effort to defend himself against the charges. On November 16, he appeared before the state senate and declared, "I don't wish to criticize any of these honorable members; some of them no doubt want to have a fair trial. But I have reached the conclusion that I cannot have a fair trial in this court. Knowing that, I am withdrawing from this room. I don't care to withstand this humiliation any longer for myself, my family, or my honorable attorneys. You may proceed as you see best."

The state senate needed to impeach Walton on only one of the 16 charges sent to them by the house of representatives to remove him from office, so the action was all but guaranteed. The senate voted to convict Walton on the remaining 11 issues. In some of them, all 41 senators present for the proceedings voted unanimously to convict. Walton was charged with illegally collecting excess campaign funds, padding the public payroll, putting his personal chauffeur on the state health department's payroll, using the National Guard to prevent the meeting of a grand jury, excessive use of pardons and paroles, illegal suspension of habeas corpus, issuing a deficiency certificate for the state health department when no deficiency existed, obstructing the legislature, and general incompetence. The five charges that were dismissed included accusations that Walton corruptly purchased his home, abrogated the death penalty, and appointed irresponsible people to the state police.

Walton was formally removed from office on November 19. He remains the shortest serving governor in Oklahoma, with only 10 months separating his inauguration and impeachment. Walton was also the first governor to be impeached after Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907, though four of the five previous state governors had gone through impeachment proceedings and escaped conviction.

The impeachment sealed Walton's defeat in his fight to end Klan violence. He continued to blame the organization for his troubles and announced that he was forming an anti-Klan organization known as the National Society of American Freemen. The military courts assembled to investigate the floggings and other vigilante acts ended up arresting about 40 people, and four entered pleas and received prison sentences before Walton was impeached. Only one person, a Broken Bow constable named William Finley, ever did any time behind bars; he was later pardoned by Trapp. The other three had their sentences vacated in 1924 and were fined $25 apiece for assault and battery.

However, the tense standoff between Walton, the state legislature, and the KKK did result in some modest efforts to stem the Klan's activities. Disney, concerned that Walton could plausibly accuse the legislature of being dominated by the Klan and leverage these allegations in future political campaigns, asked the legislators to pass a "Klan bill with teeth." Despite this plea, the resulting legislation was fairly weak. It barred the wearing of Klan regalia in public and slightly increased the penalties for crimes committed while masked. The heavily publicized incidents of KKK violence helped spur the formation of a number of anti-Klan organizations, and internal disputes also helped weaken the KKK's power in Oklahoma; by the 1920s, their influence had all but disappeared.

The graft accusations against Walton soon resulted in criminal charges against the ex-governor. The legislature had accused Walton of working with his state health commissioner, A.E. Davenport, to divert funds to pay the salary of Walton's personal chauffeur, T.P. Edwards. On April 10, 1924, the Oklahoma County state attorney filed five felony counts against the three men. Davenport managed a $15,000 fund to prevent and cure venereal diseases, and the state attorney said the trio had been skimming money to pay Edwards' salary when he was not involved with the health department in any way.

The case against Walton collapsed eight days later on a technicality. His attorneys moved to dismiss the charges, saying the state had accused him of directly participating in the scheme but had shown no evidence to back up the claim. It could have charged the former governor with aiding and abetting the diversion of funds, but it had failed to do so; moreover, the court had not authorized the state attorney to file new charges in the state. The charges were dismissed, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the decision in 1925 after the state appealed it.

Surprisingly, Walton was able to stage another political campaign just one year after his impeachment. Following the retirement of Robert L. Owen, who had been a U.S. senator since Oklahoma became a state, Walton ran for the Democratic nomination for the office. He was the only candidate to publicly denounce the KKK, which may have helped him win the nomination.

However, historians have also suggested that the Klan itself sought to manipulate the election so that Walton would win the nomination. The organization endorsed the front-runner, a strategy which hurt his support and elevated the relatively unpopular Walton to the top of the ticket. In the general election, the KKK threw its support behind Republican candidate William B. Pine. Walton repeatedly accused Pine of being a Klansman himself, a charge which Pine denied.

Walton remained unpopular enough that several members of his own party refused to endorse him. In a speech in Maine on August 23, 1924, Republican vice presidential candidate Charles Dawes directly referenced Walton's bungling anti-Klan offensive. Dawes declared that secret organizations had no place in a political campaign and denounced the prejudices advanced by such groups, but also suggested that most of their members were seeking to support law and order. Dawes suggested that Walton's actions, including the pardoning of "hardened criminals," helped enhance the KKK's appeal. "If there could be an excuse for law-abiding citizens to band themselves together in secret organizations for law enforcement, it existed in Oklahoma and the Klan became a powerful organization," he said. Dawes accused Walton of nearly causing a civil war in the state by declaring martial law, since it created a situation where citizens who thought they were supporting law and order as part of the Klan had to face off against the authority of the state; he said bloodshed had been avoided "only by a few clear-headed men."

Some of Walton's fiery statements did him no favors at the polls. He suggested that 95 percent of Protestant ministers in Oklahoma were KKK members and "lower than skunks," a statement which brought him plenty of Protestant opposition. He was quoted as accusing one resident of being "one of this dirty Klux crowd who would steal the pennies off St. Peter's eyes and ravish the Virgin Mary." Walton denied that he had said this phrase and offered to donate $500 to charity if someone could prove that he had uttered it; the Daily Oklahoman subsequently collected 100 sworn affidavits from witnesses who said Walton had made the statement.

With Walton's antics fresh in their memory, Oklahoma voters had no desire to see him represent them again. Though the Democrats performed well in several state races,Pine triumphed in the Senate race with 339,646 votes to Walton's 196,417.

After his defeat, Walton moved to Houston, Texas, to work in the oil industry. His enemies celebrated the departure, thinking they may have run him out of Oklahoma for good. But Walton returned to Oklahoma a few years later and would make a number of bids for political office. He ran for the Senate in 1930, but withdrew before the election. A year later, he made an unsuccessful bid to again become mayor of Oklahoma City.

Walton was one of 19 people indicted by a federal grand jury in January 1931 for mail fraud related to the promotion of the defunct business Universal Oil and Gas in Oklahoma City. In December, he and 11 others were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

In 1932, Walton was returned to political office when he was elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. This body was charged with regulating the state's oil production, and Walton defeated 14 other candidates—including Huey Long's brother, George L. Long—for the post. He served on the commission until 1939.

Walton's repeated bids for office were regarded as an overarching attempt at political redemption, but he was evidently not satisfied that voters trusted him enough to elect him to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. He continued to seek higher office during the 1930s. He ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 1934, finishing third behind Ernest W. Marland and Tom Anglin. He made another unsuccessful bid for the nomination in 1938, losing to Leon Phillips. Walton would also make a bid for county sheriff, again without success. He began practicing law in 1944.

On November 4, 1949, Walton was partially paralyzed after suffering a stroke on an Oklahoma City bus. He started to recover, but died on November 25.

Sources: The National Governors Association, The Oklahoma Department of Libraries, The Oklahoma Historical Society, "2500 Whippings Roil Governor" in the Spokesman-Review on Jul. 2 1923, "Further Moves by Governor Walton" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Sep. 14 1923, "Governor Walton Calls Off Oklahoma State Fair to Avoid Interference with Plans to Disband Kluxers" in the Victoria Advocate on Sep. 18 1923, "Oklahoma Governor May Be Ousted by Impeachment as a Result of His Fight on Klan" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Sep. 19 1923, "Grand Dragon of the KKK Under Arrest" in the Schenectady Gazette on Sep. 22 1923, "Walton Welcomes Federal Probe" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Sep. 24 1923, "Floggers Tried to Make Man Eat His Own Ear, Walton Says" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Sep. 24 1923, "Declares Klan Could Stop Martial Law in Oklahoma" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Sep. 25 1923, "Walton's Soldiers Disperse Legislators Who Assembled in Defiance of His Decree" in the Meriden Morning Record on Sep. 27 1923, "Klan Fight is Considered as Walton Boost" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Oct. 2 1923, "Walton Aims to Strengthen His Situation" in the Schenectady Gazette on Oct. 5 1923, "World History in the Making" in the Toledo Blade on Oct. 11 1923, "Oklahoma Legislator Wants Lots of Action" in the Nevada Daily Mail on Oct. 20 1923, "Walton Suspended is Decision of Supreme Court" in the Schenectady Gazette on Oct. 25 1923, "Klan Mention Stricken From Walton Record" in the Schenectady Gazette on Nov. 12 1923, "Governor Walton Quits His Trial" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Nov. 17 1923, "Impeachment Court Unanimously Ousts Walton as Governor of Oklahoma; Will Continue Fight" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Nov. 20 1923, "Walton Out as Governor of Oklahoma" in the Southeast Missourian on Nov. 20 1920, "Walton Faces Felony Charge in Oklahoma" in the Preston Evening Courier on Nov. 23 1923, "Walton Says Klan Plotted His Removal" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Dec. 11 1923, "Dawes Discusses Klan Against Advice Party Men at Island Park Meeting" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Aug. 25 1924, "Walton in Oklahoma Beaten by Unfitness" in the Sunday Morning Star on Nov. 9 1924, "'Jack' Walton Stages Lively Comeback" in the Sunday Morning Star on Aug. 1 1926, "Indict Ousted Governor of Oklahoma for Fraud" in the Herald-Journal on Jan. 29 1931, "'Iron Jack' Walton Freed in Mail Fraud" in the Pittsburgh Press on Dec. 19 1931, "Walton Pushes Oklahoma Race for State Head" in the Berkeley Daily Gazette on Dec. 25 1933, "Fiery Ex-Governor Dies; Was Klan Enemy" in the Evening Independent on Nov. 25 1949, Oklahoma v. Walton, "Oklahoma's 'Iron Jack' Walton Dies" in the Pittsburgh Press on Nov. 25 1949, "Governor Declares Martial Law in Okmulgee County" in the Tulsa World on June 27 2005, "Beno Hall: Tulsa's Den of Terror" in This Land on Sep. 3 2011, "Butchers: 'What Can Be Done' vs. 'What Is Done'" on OKC.net on Oct. 31 2013, Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan by David Mark Chalmers, Oklahoma Justice: The Oklahoma City Police by Ron Owens, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest by Charles C. Alexander, Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries by Arrell Morgan Gibson, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ted Stevens: you wouldn't like him when he's angry


The crash of a Learjet as it attempted to land in Anchorage, Alaska, would link to many important parts of Senator Ted Stevens' life. Stevens was one of two people to survive the accident, which occurred on December 4, 1978. The jet lost control in crosswind conditions as it arrived from Juneau, breaking apart as it came down between two runways.

Stevens' wife of 26 years, Ann Cherrington, and four others were killed in the crash. As he recovered, Stevens said the incident would not discourage him from flying. He had served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, continued to hold a commercial pilot's license, and occasionally flew "just for the hell of it" (though he wasn't piloting the plane in the Anchorage crash). Stevens even parlayed the incident into a pitch for more funding at the airport, saying it was the second such crash in the past year and that a crosswinds runway was necessary at Anchorage.

Despite his nonchalant statements after the near-death experience, including the remark that frequent flying was necessary to get between Alaska and Washington, D.C., some of Stevens' colleagues in the United States Senate said he had been worried about this mode of travel. He had mentioned a premonition that he might die in a plane crash, and made frequent references to the 1972 disappearance of a plane traveling from Anchorage to Juneau, the opposite flight path of the ill-fated Learjet. Representative Nick Begich of Alaska, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana, and two others had presumably been killed when the plane went down in the remote wilderness, although the plane and its occupants were never found.

Two years after the crash, Stevens would marry Catherine Chandler, a lawyer from a well-known Democratic family. The airport where he lost his first wife would be renamed in his honor in 2000, the same year the state legislature named him the "Alaskan of the Century." He would face Nick Begich's son in a tight race in 2008, defined largely by questionable home renovations which he said his second wife had overseen. And while his premonition would not hold true in 1978, it would be fulfilled more than three decades later.

Stevens was born Theodore Fulton Stevens in Indianapolis on November 18, 1923. Early in his childhood, he moved with his family to Chicago. In the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, Stevens' father lost his job as an accountant. Stevens subsequently took a job as a newsboy to help support his parents and three siblings. Following the divorce of his parents and the death of his father, he moved to Manhattan Beach, California, to live with an aunt.

After graduating from high school, Stevens began attending Oregon State College. He was there for only one semester, in 1942, before deciding to join the war effort. He enrolled at Montana State College for cadet training in the Army Air Corps in 1943, and began flying supply missions the next year. Stevens was part of the "Flying Tigers," piloting C-46 and C-47 planes over the Himalayas from India to China. When he concluded his service in 1946, he had been awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, and the Yuan Hai Medal from the Republic of China.

Ted Stevens during his service in World War II (Source)

After the war, Stevens returned to college. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1947 with a degree in political science. After a stint as a research assistant with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, he attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 1950. He was admitted to the bar in California in the same year, but got the his first job at a law firm in Washington, D.C.

Stevens' long association with Alaska began in 1953, when he drove across the country to take a job at a law firm in Fairbanks. He became the U.S. Attorney in the city a year later. Stevens would later recall that two newspaper publishers were responsible for his first foray into politics, encouraging him to return to the nation's capital to work in the Eisenhower Administration and push for Alaska statehood. He became the legislative counsel for the Department of the Interior in 1956, working his way up to Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in 1958 and Solicitor of the department in 1960. Alaska became a state in January 1959.

Stevens again returned to Alaska, opening a law firm in Anchorage in 1961. He would soon make another stab at national politics, earning the Republican nomination for Senate in 1962. He lost the race to the incumbent, Ernest Gruening. However, he was successful in a 1964 bid for the state house of representatives and was reelected two years later, serving as the speaker pro tempore and majority leader. Another attempt at the U.S. Senate in 1968 also fell short as Stevens lost the GOP primary to Anchorage mayor Elmer Rasmuson; Rasmuson subsequently lost the general election to Democratic candidate Mike Gravel.

But just months after this election, Stevens learned he would be going to the Senate after all. One of Alaska's seats in the Senate became vacant on December 11, 1968, when Democratic Senator E.L. Bartlett died during heart surgery. Governor Walter Hickel, a Republican, appointed Stevens to the post on Christmas Eve. In a special election in November of 1970, Stevens was elected in his own right to serve the remaining two years of Bartlett's term.

Stevens would remain in the Senate for almost four more decades, winning seven general elections. He chaired his first committee during the Ninety-fourth Congress, leading the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee between 1975 and 1977. He would serve as the chairman of five additional committees during his career, including those related to appropriations, ethics, governmental affairs, and commerce, science, and transportation.

Between 1977 and 1985, Stevens held the position of Republican whip, or leader of the party within the Senate. He sought to become the majority leader in 1984, but lost to Bob Dole of Kansas by three votes. Stevens was president pro tempore of the Senate from 2003 to 2007, the third person in the line of presidential succession behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Throughout his career, Stevens became well-known in Alaska for his efforts to improve the state's standing in the nation. He fought for Hickel's appointment as Secretary of the Interior in 1969; the former governor's new role made him the first Alaskan to serve in a presidential cabinet. He backed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971 to resolve land claims by indigenous residents in Alaska, many of which had not been addressed since Alaska became a state. This legislation also helped clear some barriers to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile project completed in 1977 to carry oil from the Prudhoe Bay fields to the port of Valdez.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline met with plenty of objection from environmentalists, and Stevens had a mixed record when it came to the issue of conservation. He expressed opposition to "extreme environmentalists" and supported proposals to drill for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, but he was particularly committed to marine environmental efforts. He co-authored the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976 to set a 200-mile economic exclusion zone from U.S. shores to regulate foreign fishing vessels and protect fisheries in this area. Stevens kept a close eye on this legislation in the ensuing years, contributing to the amendments and follow-ups made to it over the years. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Stevens led efforts to improve oil tanker designs to prevent a similar incident. In 2006, he voted against a proposed open pit mine to extract gold, molybdenum, and copper on the grounds that it would potentially threaten the salmon population in Bristol Bay.

Although formerly critical of the idea that human activities were a significant contributor to climate change, Stevens surprised environmentalists in February of 2007 by introducing a bill to improve fuel efficiency in new vehicles. Stevens said he still considered that other factors had more of an impact on the climate than humans, but he was now convinced that human activity was part of the problem. He said the altered climate was particularly noticeable in Alaska in the erosion of shorelines from rising sea levels, the disruption of salmon spawning grounds due to warmer waters, melting permafrost, and shrinking hunting grounds for polar bears and walruses.

Stevens was generally conservative in his positions, but he also had a record of more centrist or bipartisan positions as well. In June of 1971, he sponsored a bill to withdraw American troops from Vietnam within nine months; the Senate approved it on the condition that North Vietnam first free all remaining U.S. prisoners of war. He helped develop the Amateur Sports Act in 1978, which established the United States Olympic Committee as the national representative agency for the competition and set up national governing bodies and protections for individual athletes in each sport. Stevens was pro-choice in the sense that he did not believe government should intervene in the subject of abortion, saying in 1979 that it was a decision to be made by the couple and their doctor rather than "something 99 men fight over 30 times a year." Stevens also supported a ban on smoking in federal buildings, supported federal spending for public radio and Title IX legislation giving women equal opportunities in places receiving federal aid, and questioned the level of President Ronald Reagan's military spending.

The last objection was somewhat ironic, as Stevens' ability to funnel vast amounts of federal funding to Alaska became legendary. These allocations went to a variety of projects, from infrastructure to military bases to small businesses. His supporters in the state nicknamed him "Uncle Ted" for his ability to bring this money to Alaska, while critics charged him with wasting huge sums on pork-barrel projects. One out of every three jobs in Alaska was said to rely on federal funding in 2008. Taxpayers for Common Sense charged that Stevens directly sponsored or had a role in earmarks to legislation that directed $3.2 billion in federal funding to his home state between 2004 and 2008, resulting in a per capita total of $4,872 per resident of Alaska - more than 18 times the national average.

Stevens offered several defenses for his efforts to bring federal monies to Alaska. He said much of the state was federally owned anyway, and that it needed to catch up with the rest of the nation since it was one of the newer states and had spent many years as an impoverished territory. He also argued that Alaska deserved more funding due to its harsh weather, the presence of natural resources such as oil and gas, and the state's strategic importance due to its proximity to Russia.

More than any other project, Stevens was ridiculed for his commitment to a pair of transportation initiatives in 2005. A highway bill in this year requested $452 million to go toward two bridges in Alaska. One proposal, the Knik Arm Bridge, sought to link Anchorage with rural Port MacKenzie, which had a single tenant and almost no population; the final price tag of the bridge was estimated to be nearly $2 billion. The more infamous proposal would connect the small community of Ketchikan with Gravina Island, which included the local airport but was home to only 50 residents. The proposed span would have to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge to allow cruise ships to pass under it, measure only 20 feet shorter than the Golden Gate Bridge, require a convoluted detour to access, and replace a short and reliable ferry ride. Supporters argued that the projects would help spur economic development and improve domestic security, but the request for costly crossings to benefit a handful of citizens was quickly denounced as a "Bridge to Nowhere." Taxpayers for Common Sense gave the proposal the dubious honor of the Golden Fleece Award, presented to proposals considered to be a major waste of taxpayers' money.

Stevens vehemently opposed efforts to block funding for the projects. The bill came up for consideration not long after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast, and Senator Tom Coburn of Louisiana (a Republican) sought to divert funding for the Alaska bridges to be repair roads damaged by the storm. Stevens threatened to end his Senate career in protest if the amendment passed.

"I will put the Senate on notice, and I don't kid people: if the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money only from our state, I'll resign from this body," he warned. "This is not the Senate I came to. This is not the Senate I've devoted 37 years to, if one senator can decide he'll take all the money from one state to solve the problem of another."

Coburn's proposal was voted down, with 82 senators opposed and 15 in favor. The compromise, struck a month later, removed the earmark which dedicated the money specifically to the bridges, but still allocated the money to Alaska for use on transportation projects. This stipulation meant the funding could still potentially be used for the bridges. The envisioned spans remained controversial, however, as the "Bridge to Nowhere" coming to symbolize uncontrolled federal spending and spurred efforts to rein in earmarks. While the Knik Arm Bridge remains under consideration, the Gravina Island proposal was recently scrapped. Lew Williams III, the mayor of Ketchikan, said it was more economically feasible to improve the ferry services and terminals than to build and maintain a bridge.

The debate over the bridges gave national exposure to Stevens' rancorous temper, but he had been regarded as a curmudgeon for many years by his colleagues in the Senate. "I am a mean, miserable S.O.B.," he once declared. However, Stevens still showed a sense of humor and camaraderie. He considered Daniel Inouye, the long-serving Democratic senator from the other young state of Hawaii, to be a close friend and the two worked together on a number of bipartisan efforts. Whenever he expected a tough fight on a bill, Stevens donned an Incredible Hulk tie.
Stevens, wearing an Incredible Hulk tie, poses with a figure of the superhero in 2003 (Source)

Stevens' cantankerous nature helped make him in inadvertent Internet meme after remarks he made before the Commerce Committee, which he chaired. Arguing against an amendment to prohibit Internet service providers from charging higher fees to companies that generated more traffic, Stevens said, "The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck; it's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled, and if they're filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line, it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material." Stevens also referred to an e-mail sent by his staff as "an Internet" and complained that it had been delayed by getting "tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially."

The description of the Internet as a "series of tubes" soon became the subject of a number of parodies and commentaries. Some commentators suggested that the remarks exposed the 82-year-old Stevens as being hopelessly out of touch with the subject of net neutrality, despite being the head of the committee charged with overseeing the issue. Stevens' defenders argued that he had been speaking metaphorically in trying to illustrate his concerns.

Not long after these remarks, Stevens became the longest serving Republican in the Senate. He reached this milestone in April of 2007 and was lauded by his fellow senators for his service and bipartisanship. Inouye nicknamed him "The Strom Thurmond of the Arctic Circle," a reference to the fact that Thurmond would have held the honor if he hadn't spent two terms as a Democrat before switching parties. Stevens thanked his family and staff for their support, noting how he once flew back and forth between Alaska and the nation's capital 35 times in a single year. "I am surrounded by friends on both sides of the aisle, and I am still very honored to be here," he said.

By this time, Stevens had been accused of a number of conflicts of interest during his many years in office. He was criticized for advocating a lease deal with Boeing after they hired his wife's law firm in 2003, and for helping groups that hired his son Ben as a consultant. Investigators would later look into federal funding that had been directed to Ben's company to promote efforts to trim Alaska's crab and salmon fishing fleets as well as monies that supported the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, of which Ben was the first chairman. There had even been calls for Stevens to resign after the Los Angeles Times detailed how he had become a millionaire by investing in companies after he had secured government contracts for them. Stevens responded, "If they think I'm going to resign because of a story in the newspaper, they're crazy."

The FBI opened "Operation Polar Pen," the investigation which would eventually lead to criminal charges against Stevens, in 2004. Two years later, Governor Frank Murkowski announced that negotiations with Alaska's three main oil producers had resulted in an agreement for these companies to build a gas pipeline if the state would modify the way the producers were taxed. The VECO Corporation, an oil services engineering and construction company which was also a major financial supporter of Republican candidates in Alaska, stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars from this pipeline. Stevens was an associate of VECO's founder and chief executive officer, Bill Allen. The two men sometimes dined together, and they were part of a group of investors who owned a racehorse named So Long Birdie.

The investigation targeted VECO for its scheme to influence state legislators and other Alaska officials on matters related to the pipeline. The company sought to bribe legislators with incentives such as cash, services, and promises of future employment in exchange for votes on legislation favorable to VECO, including the construction of the pipeline, the adoption of its favored oil tax formula, and the rejection of efforts to increase this tax. Several VECO executives and Alaska legislators were charged with involvement in this corruption, and the FBI began making arrests in the spring of 2007.

In May, Allen and VECO vice president Rick Smith pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators. Allen agreed to testify against other defendants in the probe. He admitted that he had paid $243,250 to Ben Stevens, then the president of the Alaska state senate, between 2002 and 2006. Allen said the payments were ostensibly for consulting work, but were actually meant for "giving advice, lobbying colleagues, and taking official acts in matters before the Legislature." Several other witnesses said Ben had received illegal payments from Allen, but the senator's son was never charged with a crime.

At the September trial of Pete Kott, the former speaker of the Alaska house of representatives, Allen directly implicated Stevens. He testified that he had used more than $400,000 to bribe state legislators and do favors for Stevens over the years. By this point, the FBI had already started to scrutinize Stevens' finances. Several people were called before a federal grand jury in the spring and summer of 2007, including Stevens' neighbor, a financial clerk of the Commerce Committee, and a businessman who was an associate of the senator. In July, Stevens filed a financial disclosure form after getting an extension to fix what he said were technical errors. At the end of the month, FBI agents raided his home in Girdwood.

On July 29, 2008, the federal grand jury indicted Stevens on seven felony counts of violating the Ethics in Government Act by making false statements on financial disclosure forms between 1999 and 2006. Prosecutors charged that he failed to report about $250,000 in favors provided by VECO and others. It was the first time a sitting senator had been indicted in 15 years, and the charges were handed down before the Republican primary. Stevens won the party's nomination despite the indictment. He had the option of stepping down to let the Republican State Central Committee choose a candidate, but opted not to do so.
Stevens' mugshot following his indictment (Source)

The bulk of the charges against Stevens stemmed from his relationship to Allen. In the year 2000, Stevens' home went through extensive renovations which more than doubled the size of the original two-bedroom structure. The house was put up on stilts to add a new first floor, and contractors also put in a sauna, wine cellar, and wraparound porch. The workers said they billed Allen for the work and received checks from Stevens. The senator had expressed concerns about the renovations in a phone call to Allen which was recorded by the FBI, but reassured himself, "[T]he worst that can happen to us is we round up a bunch of legal fees and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve a little jail time."

Allen had given Stevens several gifts including a Land Rover driven by one of his children, furniture, tools, a generator, and a gas grill. None of the gifts had been reported on his financial disclosure forms. He had also received a $2,695 massage chair, $3,200 stained glass window, and husky puppy from his friend Bob Penney without reporting them. The Kenai River Sport Fishing Association had given him a bronze fish statue valued at $29,000.

The indictment came down a little more than three months away from Election Day, which was shaping up to be a pivotal contest. The Democrats had regained majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate in 2006. In the 2008 election, they had the potential to pursue a robust legislative agenda if they managed to recapture the White House and get enough seats in the Senate for a filibuster-proof majority. Hoping to be tried and acquitted before Election Day, Stevens asked for a speedy trial. This request was granted, but he was unable to get the proceedings transferred from Washington, D.C., to Alaska.

During the lengthy trial, Stevens spent three days on the stand. He said his wife was in charge of the renovations at the Girdwood home and that he was unaware that Allen had aided the project in any way. Stevens said they had paid every bill they received with their own money, and that he assumed the $160,000 in expenditures had covered all costs. He did express some irritation with the billing process, saying he had sometimes never received an invoice even after requesting it. "Catherine paid for the work that was done at our house," he concluded. "She paid the bills, and that's all there is to it."

The prosecution and defense had different interpretations of an October 2002 letter Stevens wrote to Allen, asking for a bill. "When I think of the many ways in which you make my life easier and more enjoyable, I lose count!" the letter read. "Thanks for all the work on the Chalet. You owe me a bill - remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing - compliance with the ethics rules entirely different. I asked Bob P to talk to you about this, so don't get PO'd at him - it's [sic] just has to be done right." In referencing Torricelli, Stevens was recalling a former colleague, Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, whom the Senate had admonished for receiving illicit gifts from a campaign donor three months before the letter was written. Torricelli had been re-nominated by the party after the scandal, but dropped out of the race in September.

Allen alleged that the letter was simply a way for Stevens to cover his tracks, and that a friend of the senator had even urged him to ignore the request for a bill. During one exchange, Stevens testily asked prosecutor Brenda Morris, "If it was a gift, why did I ask for a bill?" Morris replied, "To cover your butt." Stevens' lawyers argued that the letter was nothing more than a friendly communication and effort to account for all costs related to the renovations.

Catherine also took the stand and testified that she had paid $160,000 to contractors other than VECO employees for the work. When it came to the unreported gifts, Stevens said he had never asked for them. The fish statue was supposedly destined for a library that would one day honor the senator. Stevens' daughter said that Allen sometimes used the Girdwood home when Stevens was in Washington, and that some of the gifts were for his own personal use as well. She also avowed that VECO had not unfairly rewarded the family; her son had been hired by the company, but subsequently fired for using drugs. Several witnesses called by the defense spoke to Stevens' character, including Inouye, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

On October 27, 2008, the jury found Stevens guilty of all seven charges against him. The verdict came down just eight days before the election, too late for the GOP to take him off the ballot and replace him with another candidate. However, Stevens was under no obligation to resign or withdraw from the race. Since there was no rule against convicted felons serving in Congress, he would be able to take his seat if he won another term and could only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Calls for Stevens' resignation came down from both major parties. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, declared, "It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the American people and that he should now step down." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama also asked for Stevens to resign. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and McCain's running mate, did not specifically ask Stevens to step down but said she was confident he would "do the right thing for the state of Alaska." She suggested that if he decided to stay in the race and won, he should resign so a new candidate could be selected in a special election.

Had Stevens decided to resign after his conviction, Alaska rules would have required a special election to take place 60 to 90 days after he vacated his seat. But Stevens remained defiant, vowing to "fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have." He also said he was determined to remain in the race against Democratic candidate Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. "I am not stepping down," Stevens said. "I'm going to run through and I'm going to win this election."

While Stevens had won easy victories against Democratic opponents in his previous races, his conviction appeared to have a significant impact on the election. Stevens was popular enough to win a large share of the nearly 300,000 votes cast in the Senate race. Nevertheless, he would be ousted in the contest; Begich won the seat by less than 1 percent, or about 2,300 votes. In a farewell speech on November 30, Stevens declared, "Working to help Alaska achieve its potential has been and will continue to be my life's work." He left the Senate on January 3, 2009, with his conviction still under appeal.

The Democratic victory in Alaska would contribute to a major shift of power in the nation's capital. In addition to winning the White House, the party took five Senate seats away from Republican incumbents. After Democratic candidate Al Franken was sworn in as the winner in a close race in Minnesota and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties in April of 2009, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof share of 60 seats in the Senate. This supermajority would only last until January of 2010, when Republican candidate Scott Brown won an upset victory in a special election to succeed Ted Kennedy after the longstanding senator's death in August 2009. Yet the Senate was easily able to approve the Affordable Care Act in December 2009 without the support of a single Republican senator.

Soon after the election, cracks began to appear in the prosecution's case against Stevens. The judge had rebuked prosecutors several times during the trial, and Stevens' defense team planned to question their methods as part of their appeal. In November 2008, former VECO employee David Anderson wrote to the judge to admit that he had been lying when he made the sworn statement that he did not have an immunity deal with prosecutors. In fact, he said, prosecutors had helped coach him by leaving him alone in a room with confidential documents. The Justice Department denied the claims.

On December 2, 2008, FBI agent Chad Joy filed a whistleblower report questioning the conduct of the prosecutors. He said they had tried to hide one witness and intentionally withheld evidence that would have been beneficial to the defense. In particular, they had not disclosed that Allen had formerly told FBI agents that Stevens would have paid an invoice for the work on his home; Allen had made the exact opposite statement during the trial. The information had been made known to the defense during the trial, but the disclosure had taken place right before Allen's cross-examination. Joy also accused prosecutors of knowingly using false VECO records to help establish the argument that Stevens received an improper benefit from Allen and failed to turn over information that would have undermined Allen's credibility. The former head of VECO had been investigated by police for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute, and he had tried to get two witnesses to perjure themselves so they would not be able to testify against him. Joy's report also suggested that another FBI agent had had an inappropriate relationship with Allen.

On April 7, 2009, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the verdict at the request of newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder. The alleged misconduct by the prosecutors was the reason cited for the dismissal, and the government announced that it would not seek a retrial. Stevens' attorney was enraged by the revelations, deeming the prosecutors' behavior "stomach-churning corruption." Stevens said the decision had restored his faith in the justice system, but commented, "It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair."

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility began an internal inquiry into the prosecutors in Stevens' case. Sullivan also appointed a special prosecutor to look into the allegations of misconduct. The latter report was completed in March 2012, concluding that there was "systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens' defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness." The special prosecutor specifically targeted prosecutors Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, saying they "intentionally withheld and concealed" evidence. The report noted that prosecutors had been under pressure to quickly assemble a complex case to meet Stevens' request for a speedy trial, but did not conduct an effective search for potentially exculpatory evidence. Lower level prosecutors who worked on the case were essentially exonerated, though no conclusions were made with regard to a prosecutor who had worked closely on the case and committed suicide in September 2010.

The Justice Department issued its own report in May 2012. It differed from the special prosecutor's report mainly in its conclusion that the prosecutors had not intentionally withheld evidence, suggesting that this action was a result of the confusion of several attorneys working on the case and the efforts to quickly assemble evidence against Stevens to meet the request for a speedy trial. However, it did declare that Bottini and Goeke had engaged in "reckless professional conduct." The report did not recommend that either man be fired, but instead suspended Bottini without pay for 40 days and Goeke for 15 days. Stevens' lawyers were not satisfied, saying the Justice Department's punishment "demonstrated conclusively that it is not capable of disciplining its prosecutors."

By the time these conclusions had been issued, Stevens had died in Alaska. On August 9, 2010, he was one of eight people traveling on a float plane owned by the GCI Communication Corporation. The plane was scheduled to fly from a GCI-owned lodge on Lake Nerka to a sport fishing camp on the Nushagak River. The plane crashed northeast of Aleknagik, killing Stevens and three others on board. The National Transportation Safety Board said the cause of the crash was unclear, determining only that pilot Terry Smith (one of those killed) became temporarily incapacitated. The NTSB theorized that Smith had fallen asleep, had a seizure, or otherwise become briefly unaware of the situation and was unable to reach a safe altitude before the plane hit a hillside. The report on the accident criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for re-certifying Smith's pilot's license two years before the crash, saying their medical review had not been thorough enough.

Stevens is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Source)

Although the verdict against Stevens was dismissed, some were not convinced that the senator's relationship with Allen was not improper. The federal investigation in Alaska had found plenty of corruption in the state government; it ended in October 2011 after seven years with the convictions of 10 people, including six state legislators. One alternate juror in Stevens' case said the determination of prosecutorial misconduct was not quite enough for him to consider the former senator to be innocent. The report had only gone into the allegations of work at Stevens' home in Girdwood, not the gifts he had received but not declared on his financial disclosure forms. The former juror also felt that Stevens' lawyers had done more to defend the senator's character than explain Stevens' cozy relationship with Allen and his questionable e-mail record regarding the renovations.

Many continue to see Stevens in a positive light, however. The Ted Stevens Foundation, established in 2001, continues to "recognize [his] career and honor his legacy of public service by working to ensure a stable and vibrant Alaska for future generations." In 2011, the Alaska Legislature deemed the fourth Saturday of every July to be Ted Stevens Day and encouraged Alaskans to "get out any play" by enjoying the outdoors. In recognition of his legislation to protect Olympic athletes, Stevens was inducted into the Olympics Hall of Fame in 2012; two years later, the U.S. Olympic Committee named a training facility in Colorado Springs in his honor.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Ted Stevens Foundation, "Sponsor Withdrawal Proposal" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Jun. 23 1971, "Alaskan Jet Crash Kills Senator's Wife" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Dec. 5 1978, "Crash Survivors Recovering" in the Bangor Daily News on Dec. 6 1978, "Despite Wife's Death in Crash, Senator Won't Give Up Flying" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Dec. 15 1978, "Clash Expected on Abortion Issue" in the Victoria Advocate on Nov. 14 1979, "Built With Steel, Perhaps, but Greased With Pork" in the New York Times on Apr. 10 2004, "Stevens Says He'll Quit if Bridge Fund Diverted" in the Anchorage Daily News on Oct. 21 2005, "Two 'Bridges to Nowhere' Tumble Down in Congress" in the New York Times on Nov. 17 2005, "Senator's New Views on Climate Surprise Foes" in the St. Petersburg Times on Feb. 24 2007, "Alaska Senator Part of Corruption Inquiry" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Jun. 8 2007, "Lawyer Says Senate Aide Testified on Stevens" in the Reading Eagle on Aug. 1 2007, "Firm Funded Work on Senator's House, Former CEO Says" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Sep. 15 2007, "FBI Investigating Ted Stevens' Fishing Bills" in the Juneau Empire on Oct. 31 2007, "Long-Serving Republican Senator Indicted" in the Herald-Journal on Jul. 30 2008, "Stevens' Indictment Deepens GOP's Woes" in The Day on Jul. 30 2008, "Alaskans Fret Loss of Stevens' Largesse" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Jul. 31 2008, "Stevens' Trial To Be In D.C." in the Press Democrat on Aug. 21 2008, "Testimony Paints Stevens as 'Lion' of Senate" in the Bangor Daily News on Oct. 15 2008, "Ted Stevens Angrily Jousts With Prosecutor" in the Tuscaloosa News on Oct. 18 2008, "Defense Closes With Stevens' Testimony" in the Seattle Times on Oct. 21 2008, "Stevens Convicted, Says He'll Stay in Senate Race" on NBC News on Oct. 27 2008, "Sen. Stevens Guilty on All Counts" in the Victoria Advocate on Oct. 28 2008, "McCain Joins Those Urging Ted Stevens to Resign From Senate" in the Tuscaloosa News on Oct. 29 2008, "Republican Ted Stevens Loses Alaska Senate Race After Corruption Conviction" in the Lodi News-Sentinel on Nov. 19 2008, "A Cautionary Tale: The Ted Stevens Prosecution" in the Washington Lawyer in October 2009, "Ted Stevens, Longtime Alaska Senator, Dies at 86" in the New York Times on Aug. 10 2010, "As a Senator, 'Uncle Ted' Stevens Helped Move Sparsely Populated Alaska Into The Future" in the Times-Picayune on Aug. 10 2010, "Investigators Find No Clear Cause For Crash That Killed Ted Stevens" in the Alaska Dispatch News on May 24 2011, "Ben Stevens Told He Won't Face Federal Corruption Charges" in the Alaska Dispatch News on Aug. 10 2011, "Guilty Pleas End Alaska Corruption Probe" in the Alaska Dispatch News on Oct. 21 2011, "Report Details Inner Workings of Senator's Troubled Trial" in the New York Times on Mar. 15 2012, "Was Stevens Guilty? Question Likely Won't Be Answered" in the Alaska Dispatch News on Apr. 21 2012, "2 Prosecutors Face Penalty in '08 Trial of a Senator" in the New York Times on May 24 2012, "A Remembrance and Defense of Ted Stevens' 'Series of Tubes'" in PC Magazine on Jun. 5 2014, "Alaska's 'Bridge to Nowhere' Shelved" in the Columbus Dispatch, Congressional Record (Senate) Vol. 145, Congressional Record (Senate) Vol. 153

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Frank Boykin: conspiracy made for love


When Frank William Boykin first ran afoul of the law, he sought help from someone who had foiled a scheme to collect money from a railroad for dead cows. Livestock was one of the many interests Boykin had speculated in to make his fortune, and he was known to run cattle across the Mobile and Ohio Railroad even when trains were approaching. Whenever a locomotive ran down the animals, he would file a damage claim. The railroad always shelled out the money until their new attorney, Harry Hardy Smith, decided it was worth it to contest the claims in court; moreover, Smith had been winning these cases.

So when Boykin became one of 117 people indicted in December of 1923 in what would become known as Alabama's "Whiskey Trials," he called Smith and asked him to be his lawyer.

The defendants in these trials were charged in widespread corruption to violate the Prohibition laws. Businessmen, sheriffs, police chiefs, and legislators were among those caught up in the probe. Since U.S. Attorney Aubrey Boyles had accused many of the defendants of trying to bribe him, a special prosecutor had to be brought in. Hugo Black, a Birmingham lawyer who later became a U.S. senator and Supreme Court justice, was selected for the job.

Boykin was first brought to trial in April of 1924. Black argued that Boykin had portrayed himself as someone with influence in President Warren G. Harding's administration, and that bootleggers paid him $5 a shipment for protection. There had been some correspondence between Boykin and Jesse Smith, a friend of Attorney General Harry Daugherty; Boykin had also written to Mel Daugherty, the Attorney General's brother. To gullible rum runners, the alleged influence was enough to justify the expense. However, Black was soon forced to drop the charges after the correspondence was ruled inadmissible.

Black was able to go after Boykin again in February of 1925 after securing new witnesses who could testify to other misbehavior. This time, two whiskey dealers said Boykin had helped import bootleg liquor into the United States. Another witness said Boykin had helped smuggle liquor from Mobile to Chicago inside pine tar barrels. Despite the testimony, a jury acquitted the defendant of violating the Prohibition and tariff laws.

Just one day later, Black brought Boykin up on charges of bribing a federal agent. Boyles was called to the stand and said that Andrew Mellon, an industrialist who had been appointed Secretary of the Treasury, had loaned $2 million to the Republican Party. The money was to be repaid through the protection fees put up by bootleggers, with Jesse Smith assigned to collect these funds from district attorneys and other law enforcement officials. Boyles said Boykin had offered him $100,000 a year for tips on upcoming federal raids against bootleggers, along with a car to make him appear more dignified. Instead, Boyles had informed the federal authorities about the corruption.

Testifying in his own defense, Boykin denied any wrongdoing other than occasionally purchasing liquor from the rum runners. He also said Boyles had been the one who tried to involve him in a protection racket. The jury was not convinced, finding him guilty after 22 hours of deliberation. Though he was sentenced to two years in prison, the conviction was overturned less than a year later by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This court declared the indictment "fatally defective" because it did not give enough information for Boykin to form a proper defense.

Boykin was born in Bladon Springs, Alabama, on February 21, 1885. Five years later, his family of sharecroppers moved to Fairford to change professions. Boykin began working as a clerk in his father's store, which served the railroad and nearby industrial towns; he later became the manager of this establishment. Boykin also dropped out of school at the age of eight to work as a water boy on the railroad, later claiming that he worked his way up to a train dispatcher and conductor.

In 1905, at the age of 20, Boykin became the co-owner of a company that manufactured railroad cross ties and turpentine. Ten years later, he moved to Mobile. His business interests expanded to farming, livestock, timber, real estate, and naval stores in southern Alabama. The revenue from these concerns made Boykin a millionaire. During the First World War, he served as an official in Alabama shipbuilding companies; he later asserted that his companies had been responsible for 52 percent of all vessels produced on the Gulf Coast during the conflict.

Some of Boykin's business deals were less than honest. In one scheme, he and a partner named John Everett hired Choctaw Indians to work shares of the land they had traditionally settled and owned. When these workers ran up debts at commissaries owned by the duo or were unable to pay their property taxes, Boykin and Everett acquired their ownership of the land in exchange for covering the expenses. When Everett died in 1927, Boykin managed to acquire the interest in his estate for only $8,800. The deal was approved by Boykin's brother, who happened to be a probate judge.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, even as Boykin served in elected government, he continued to build up his personal fortune. In 1930, he purchased most of Dauphin Island and organized the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo; in 1953, he sold the rights to this event to the Mobile Chamber of Commerce for almost $1 million. He established businesses such as the Tensaw Land and Timber Company overseeing some 100,000 acres of forest, a company to mine a salt dome found on his property, and a chemical production concern.

In 1934, Boykin ran for the House of Representatives to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of John McDuffie, who had accepted a position on the U.S. District Court. The election had plenty of political maneuvering. McDuffie had been hostile to the New Deal, so President Franklin D. Roosevelt's appointment left room for a supporter to come in. Boykin was chosen by a group of Mobile businessmen and politicians who knew he would advocate for economic interests in the region. Critics pointed out how the candidate had been so apathetic about the electoral process that he hadn't cast a vote since 1920, forcing him to pay 14 back years of poll taxes just to vote for himself.

During the Democratic primary, Boykin faced two other opponents. No one earned a majority in the election, but the nomination went to Boykin when the candidate with the second highest vote count decided to drop out. There were suspicions that Boykin had paid him, off, but they were never investigated. He easily won the general election, since the Republicans did not field a candidate. When Representative Sam Hobbs died in 1952, Boykin became the longest serving member of the Alabama delegation.

Boykin was re-elected to the House 13 times, only seeking another office in 1946 when he unsuccessfully ran for a vacancy in the Senate caused by the death of John Bankhead II. He focused on promoting his district's attractions, securing federal monies for economic development projects, and inviting industries to set up shop in Alabama. Among the efforts he supported were the Bankhead Tunnel under the Mobile River, an expansion of the port of Mobile, and the establishment of an Air Force base which later became the Mobile airport. He opposed pro-labor legislation and took an isolationist stance in foreign affairs.

Many of Boykin's constituents recalled that he personally stood up for the people in his district. When a colorblind lawyer was rebuffed in his attempt to join the Navy during World War II, he traveled to the nation's capital to visit Boykin about the issue; the congressman took the lawyer to meet a Navy admiral the next day to persuade him to let the man join up.

As the civil rights activists became more vocal across the South, Boykin joined those opposing their efforts. He signed the Southern Manifesto, a declaration supported by 101 Southern congressmen to protest the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, Boykin never formally joined the conservative Dixiecrat movement and advocated for black constituents as well as white ones. A black community in Alabama was even named for him after he secured federal funding for it to supplement his own personal contributions.

Above all, Boykin was known for his folksy optimism. He suggested that a lighted cross could be placed at the rostrum of the Speaker of the House so that congressmen could remember the teachings of Jesus Christ and bicker less often. He occasionally hosted "harmony suppers" to promote cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. Boykin seemed to live by the motto "Everything is made for love," a phrase he frequently spoke or sang.

Despite his amiable nature, Boykin drew some criticism for his lackluster commitment to the duties of the office. He often missed votes, enough that he had the poorest attendance of the entire state delegation in the 1947-1948 congressional session. He sometimes pushed measures from which he stood to personally benefit, such as funding for a bridge to Dauphin Island. While other representatives or senators crafted bills designed to improve rural schools or secure better funding for public schools, Boykin never created legislation that would have a nationwide benefit. In almost 30 years of service in Congress, his only chairmanship was on the Committee on Patents between 1943 and 1947; this committee was deemed inconsequential enough that it was scrapped in a reorganization of the House in 1947.

Suspicions that Boykin's behavior may have passed into the realm of criminal malfeasance likely helped derail his chances at re-election in 1962. Three years earlier, a Miami-based savings and loan official named J. Kenneth Edlin had been indicted on mail fraud charges. Edlin pleaded no contest to the crime in December of 1961. He had previously been convicted of mail and securities fraud in 1944 and served four years in prison; this time, he spent five months behind bars. Soon after Edlin's new conviction, Boykin and another Democratic representative, Thomas F. Johnson of Maryland, were facing accusations that they had tried to get the Justice Department to delay Edlin's trial in exchange for special favors from him.

In an interview in January of 1962, Boykin said he had not acted unethically. He said he had suggested to President John F. Kennedy that Alan Shepard Jr., an astronaut who had become the first American to fly into space in May of 1961, should be granted a house in a Maryland development where both he and Edlin had an interest. Boykin said he had asked both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Governor J. Millard Tawes of Maryland to delay Edlin's trial, but claimed he had only done so in hopes of concluding a business deal with Edlin.

The accusations came at a point when Boykin was particularly vulnerable at the ballot box. As a result of the 1960 census, Alabama had lost one of its seats in the House of Representatives. Since the state legislature couldn't agree how to redraw the new boundaries for the districts, a "9-8 plan" emerged. Under this plan, primaries were to be held in all districts for the 1962 election and a second race would be held for the nine winning candidates to compete for the eight available seats.

Though Boykin won his primary, he finished last among the nine other winners. His long career in Congress had come to an end. Though observers noted that the suspicions about his dealings with Edlin may have affected the race, they also pointed out that Boykin was the only incumbent who had faced a serious challenge for his primary.

In October of 1962, Boykin and Johnson were indicted on conspiracy and conflict of interest charges. Edlin and his attorney, William L. Robinson, were also indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government. The charges were handed down just two days before "Frank Boykin Day," a celebration scheduled by Mobile businessmen to honor Boykin's contributions to the local economy. In a sign of how little the accusations affected his popularity, the event took place as scheduled.

The basic allegation was that Edlin had made illegal payments to Boykin and Johnson in exchange for their efforts to get the Justice Department to dismiss Edlin's mail fraud charges. The money had been paid through four concerns controlled by Edlin: the First Colony Savings and Loan, First Continental Savings and Loan, Charles County Land Company, and Leisure City Land Company.

Boykin and Johnson both said the payments had been compensation for above board work. Boykin had received a $250,000 cashier's check, which his lawyers contended was a down payment for a mortgage on land owned by Boykin in Maryland and Virginia. Boykin had purchased 8,000 acres in Maryland and 5,000 acres in Virginia during the 1950s, selling the Maryland land to a development firm in 1958 for $6 million. When this firm began to struggle to make payments on the land, Johnson introduced Edlin to Boykin. Edlin offered to pay $9 million, with the $250,000 deposit made on two land tracts.

Johnson told investigators that Edlin had promised him $25,000 for services related to the land purchase, such as legal services for Edlin's savings and loan companies and title searches for his land companies. He said he had only received $14,000 for this work, though the indictment charged that he had actually been paid $17,550. Prosecutors said that the funds were not only meant to be compensation for Johnson's efforts to intercede with the Justice Department, but also to make a speech on the floor of the House defending savings and loan firms. Edlin had run off 50,000 copies of the speech.

The trial began on April 1, 1963. Boykin, Edlin, Johnson, and Robinson were all tried together and the proceedings would drag on for 11 weeks. The prosecution charged that Boykin and Johnson had personally visited the Justice Department on 11 separate occasions, with another 52 entreaties made by phone or mail. In one letter to Robert F. Kennedy, Boykin included 100 pounds of pecans for the Attorney General's children.

Louis D. Goldman, a Miami lawyer under indictment in a separate case who had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, testified about incriminating statements he heard Boykin make. On one occasion, he said that Boykin told Edlin, "You get through this deal and don't worry about your personal problem. I'll take care of it." Goldman also claimed that Boykin had boasted about his personal connections with the Kennedys, declaring, "If Bobby is not going to do anything, I'll get Joe to talk to him."

RFK himself took the stand in what was thought to be the first courtroom appearance by an Attorney General since Levi Lincoln appeared in the arguments for the famous Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court case. RFK recalled that during a meeting with Boykin and Johnson in March of 1961, Johnson said the failure of the planned development would harm the Maryland economy and asked that the charges against Edlin be dropped.

Johnson himself conducted the cross-examination of the Attorney General. RFK admitted that congressmen often visited him to make requests on various matters. He drew a laugh from the court when he pointed out that few members of Congress had been in to see him since the indictments. Though he admitted that there had been nothing overtly improper about the requests by Boykin and Johnson, RFK maintained that they had been trying to pressure him to drop the case. "Congressman, can you tell my why you were so anxious to come and discuss it if you did not want us to dismiss it?" he asked.

Boykin took the stand in his own defense, claiming he had only gone to see the Attorney General to review the circumstances of Edlin's indictment. He also suggested that he wanted to help prosecutors get information on labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, who would be convicted of charges related to organized crime in 1964 and famously disappear in 1975. On several occasions, the 78-year-old Boykin complained that he was having trouble hearing the questions directed at him. One prosecutor later recalled that the deafness seemed to be selective, as Boykin raced from across the courtroom to congratulate him after he announced that his wife had just given birth.

Prosecutors grilled Boykin on the circumstances of his land deal with Edlin, particularly the differences between his grand jury testimony and trial testimony. In one letter, Edlin said he would be willing to give 15 percent of sales proceeds to Boykin; the congressman stood to make a huge profit on the deal. Boykin's lawyers maintained that it was a simple business transaction, with no special treatment expected in return for a sale. The prosecution countered a defense assertion that the land had been appraised at $11.3 million with testimony from another appraiser, who said the land was only worth $4 million. The insinuation was that Edlin was offering Boykin a generous deal in exchange for his help in making the criminal charges disappear.

After only three-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury found all four men guilty. They were sentenced in October of 1963, with Boykin receiving a suspended six-month sentence, six months of probation, and a $40,000 fine. Edlin was ordered to spend a year in prison and pay a $16,000 fine, while Robinson was given six months of imprisonment.

Johnson had been indicted just three weeks before the 1962 election, and the charges no doubt contributed to his loss to Republican candidate Rogers C.B. Morton. In his correspondence, an angered Boykin accused U.S. Attorney Joseph Tydings of trying to sabotage Johnson's campaign and said his own conviction was a result of vindictive black members of the grand jury and trial jury (though 10 of the jurors in the trial were white). Johnson appealed his sentence of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine and had it reversed on the argument that the speech he gave in the House could not be used as grounds for his indictment. However, he was convicted on retrial in 1968 and ultimately served three-and-a-half months of his sentence.

Following the trial, Boykin returned to his business activities. He remained a popular figure, and 37 members of Congress (mostly from the South) soon petitioned President Lyndon B. Johnson asking him to pardon Boykin. Johnson granted the request on December 17, 1965, issuing a full pardon for the former congressmen.

Curiously, RFK also supported a pardon for Boykin. In fact, this action was one of three favors he requested from the White House following his resignation as Attorney General in 1964. It may have been because Boykin had been a strong supporter of JFK's 1960 presidential bid, or because the former congressman was good friends with RFK's father.

Boykin died on congestive heart failure in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 1969.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Encyclopedia of Alabama, "Sheriff, Chief and Lawmakers Among Arrests" in the Miami News-Metropolis on Dec. 23 1923, "Says Mellon Was Paid By Rum Men" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Apr. 29 1926, "Police Chief Hoover Commands Respect of American People" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 28 1949, "A Salute to Justice Black" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jun. 6 1952, "Publicity Surprises Rep. Frank Boykin" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jan. 16 1962, "Rep. Boykin is Defeated For Re-Election" in the Free Lance-Star on May 31 1962, "Reps. Johnson, Boykin Indicted by U.S. Jury" in the Palm Beach Post on Oct. 17 1962, "Heard Boykin Promise Help, Miamian Says" in the Tuscaloosa News on Apr. 16 1963, "Robert Kennedy Testifies Against Former Congressmen" in the Toledo Blade on Apr. 18 1963, "Edlin Named as Figure in Payments" in the Times Daily on May 24 1963, "Boykin Denies Miami Fraud Case Payoff" in the Sarasota Journal on Jun. 5 1963, "Boykin-Johnson Case Gets Closer to Jury" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jun. 6 1963, "Two Former Congressmen Found Guilty" in the Toledo Blade on Jun. 14 1963, "Arguments Set for Monday in Boykin Trial" in the Tuscaloosa News on Jun. 8 1963, "Ex-Congressmen Sentenced" in the St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 8 1963, "Bills Proposed to Repay Former Rep. Frank Boykin" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 19 1967, "Ex-Lawmaker Found Guilty" in the Toledo Blade on Jan. 27 1968, "Frank Boykin Dead at Age 84" in the Tuscaloosa News on Mar. 12 1969, "Legislator Can't Be Prosecuted For Actions" in The Dispatch on Oct. 10 1970, "Thomas Johnson, 78; Lost Post in Congress" in the New York Times on Feb. 3 1988, "Frank Boykin: The Politician" in the Huntsville Times on Dec. 17 2001, "Teflon Tycoon" in the Huntsville Times on Dec. 19 2001