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John Simkin

Walter Jenkins

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Ron Ecker recently commented that there is very little information on Cliff Carter on the web. This is true. It is true of another of LBJ's assistants, Walter Jenkins.

The story of Walter Jenkins is an interesting one and could provide a few clues to understanding LBJ.

In 1939 Lyndon B. Johnson approached the dean of the University of Texas and asked him to recommend a student to work for him in Congress. The dean suggested Jenkins. His appointment was very strange for what appeared to be a minor post.

Jenkins was interviewed first by John Connally, Willard Deason, Jesse Kellem and Ray Lee. During this process LBJ's name was not mentioned. As Jenkins later told a friend: "I got a call from John Connally, and he said, "Would you like to drive out to Johnson City tonight and meet Lyndon Johnson?" I said, "Who's Lyndon Johnson?" I was from Wichita Falls and had never heard of him."

After a very long meeting Johnson offered him the job. It meant him leaving his unfinished course at the University of Texas. Jenkins agreed and he began work for Johnson soon afterwards. As he later recalled, at his first his main role was "answering mail and filling constituents' requests for farming pamphlets".

Johnson was impressed with Jenkins and by 1941 he was involved in dealing with leading figures in the government such as Harold Ickes. This included information that was "too sensitive to be broached over the telephone."

Jenkins also played an important role in collecting money from Washington lobbyists for Johnson's election campaigns. On one occasion he was given $15,000 in small bills. He later recalled "I went down to Texas carrying this money in bills stuffed into every pocket." He also dealt with members of the Suite 8F Group such as George Brown and Herman Brown (Brown & Root), Jesse H. Jones (Reconstruction Finance Corporation), Gus Wortham (American General Insurance Company) and James Abercrombie (Cameron Iron Works).

In his book Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Robert A. Caro claims that cash was collected by Jenkins, Bobby Baker, Edward A. Clark or Clifford Carter in Texas and then brought to Johnson in Washington. Caro quotes Clark as saying that Johnson always wanted contributions given outside the office.

Johnson also used Jenkins to obtain political information. He told Jenkins that it was very important to "read" politicians. He constantly told him: "Watch their hands, watch their eyes. Read eyes. No matter what a man is saying to you, it's not important as what you can read in his eyes. The most important thing a man has to tell you is what he's not telling you. The most important thing he has to say is what he's trying not to say." Bobby Baker was another one who got this advice. He later recalled: "He seemed to sense each man's individual price and the commodity he preferred as coin."

Jenkins was also responsible for collecting advertising money for the KTBC. This was a radio and television station in Austin, that was officially owned by Lady Bird Johnson. This became a great source of income for the Johnson family after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had granted KTBC 24 hour a day monopoly broadcasting rights.

It was because of his work with KTBC that Jenkins became involved in the Don B. Reynolds scandal. Reynolds was a friend of Bobby Baker. In 1957 Reynolds was asked to arrange Johnson's life insurance policy.

In 1963 Senator John Williams of Delaware began investigating the activities of Baker. As a result of his work, Baker resigned as the secretary to LBJ on 9th October, 1963. During his investigations Williams met Reynolds and persuaded him to appear before a secret session of the Senate Rules Committee.

Don B. Reynolds told B. Everett Jordan and his committee on 22nd November, 1963, that Johnson had demanded that he provided kickbacks in return for him agreeing to this life insurance policy. This included a $585 Magnavox stereo. Reynolds was also told by Jenkins that he had to pay for $1,200 worth of advertising on KTBC, Johnson's television station in Austin. Reynolds had paperwork for this transaction including a delivery note that indicated the stereo had been sent to the home of Johnson.

Reynolds also told of seeing a suitcase full of money which Bobby Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract". His testimony came to an end when news arrived that JFK had been assassinated.

After LBJ became president and used his position to suppress the Reynolds' story. A taped telephone conversation between Johnson and Jenkins on 27th January, 1964, reveals that an attempt was being made to blackmail Reynolds into silence.

A small group of Republicans that included Carl Curtis, Hugh Scott and John Williams, attempted to expose Jenkins's role in this scandal. As the historian, Rick Perlstein (Before the Storm) pointed out: "In late January (of 1964) when Republicans tried to get Walter Jenkins, Johnson's most intimate aide, to testify before a Senate subcommittee investigation, Johnson put in the fix. Two psychiatrists appeared to testify that an appearance would - literally - kill him. Carl Curtis moved to call Jenkins to the stand anyway. He lost 6-3 in a party line vote.... Curtis lost again when he moved to make the record of the session public."

Jenkins had been saved from exposure. However, on 7th October, 1964, Jenkins went to cocktail party at the Washington offices of Newsweek. On his way home he visited the YMCA toilet. While there he was arrested by the police after being found having sex with a retired soldier. A local newspaper reporter working for the Washington Star, found out about this incident. He also discovered that Jenkins had been arrested on a similar charge in 1959. The offence had taken place in the same YMCA toilet.

LBJ applied considerable pressure on the newspaper not to print the story. Johnson pointed out that Jenkins was happily married with six children and that the incident was a result of Jenkins having too much to drink at the party. Johnson recruited his personal lawyer, Abe Fortas, to deal with the newspaper editor. However, the story eventually appeared in the Washington Star and Jenkins was forced to resign.

When he heard the news about Jenkins, J. Edgar Hoover sent Jenkins a bouquet of flowers and expressed his regret that he had lost his job. As Anthony Summers points out in his book, Official and Confidential: "J. Edgar Hoover's public attitude on homosexuality was normally at least condemnatory, often cruel. On this occasion, however, he visited Jenkins in the hospital and sent him flowers."

Members of Congress called for the FBI to carry out an investigation into the Jenkins case. Several were concerned that the FBI had been unaware of Jenkins previous offence in the same Washington toilet six years earlier. It also emerged that Jenkins, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, had tried to use his influence to reinstate a fellow officer dismissed for sex offences.

When the FBI report was eventually published it stated that Jenkins had only "limited association with some individuals who are alleged to be, or who admittedly are, sex, deviates... but there was no information that Jenkins had ever engaged in improper acts with them". The report concluded that Jenkins "had never compromised national security".

Jenkins remained close to the Johnson family and never published his memoirs. He died on 23rd November, 1985.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKjenkins.htm

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Good stuff, John.

If I remember correctly, the Chinese successfully tested their first atomic bomb at the time of the Jenkins scandel which certainly would have helped to deflect attention.

James

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Photograph of Walter Jenkins (on the right). Who knows who the other man is? James Richards is not allowed to answer this question as he was the one who supplied the photograph.

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I was in the Washington Post newsroom when our senior police reporter spotted the arrest file on Walter Jenkins, for soliciting, recognized the name, and caused panic in the newsroom. Al Friendly and Russ Wiggins managed to get a phone call through to LBJ who was at a banquet in Manhattan, and LBJ told Wiggins and Friendly how he wanted them to play the outing of Walter Jenkins. (I was sitting three feet from Wiggins while he was on the horn with LBJ.) Of course, LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover were neighbors before LBJ moved into the White House. Joe Alsop and J. Edgar and Walter Jenkins were intimate friends for decades.

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I was in the Washington Post newsroom when our senior police reporter spotted the arrest file on Walter Jenkins, for soliciting, recognized the name, and caused panic in the newsroom. Al Friendly and Russ Wiggins managed to get a phone call through to LBJ who was at a banquet in Manhattan, and LBJ told Wiggins and Friendly how he wanted them to play the outing of Walter Jenkins. (I was sitting three feet from Wiggins while he was on the horn with LBJ.) Of course, LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover were neighbors before LBJ moved into the White House. Joe Alsop and J. Edgar and Walter Jenkins were intimate friends for decades.

I believe it was the Washington Star that published the story that was ignored by the Washington Post.

LBJ liked to employ people he could blackmail. One can understand why Walter Jenkins was so loyal to LBJ. I like the story of how J. Edgar Hoover sent Jenkins a bouquet of flowers and expressed his regret that he had lost his job. Are you suggesting that Alsop, Hoover and Jenkins were sexually involved with each other?

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I was in the Washington Post newsroom when our senior police reporter spotted the arrest file on Walter Jenkins, for soliciting, recognized the name, and caused panic in the newsroom. Al Friendly and Russ Wiggins managed to get a phone call through to LBJ who was at a banquet in Manhattan, and LBJ told Wiggins and Friendly how he wanted them to play the outing of Walter Jenkins. (I was sitting three feet from Wiggins while he was on the horn with LBJ.) Of course, LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover were neighbors before LBJ moved into the White House. Joe Alsop and J. Edgar and Walter Jenkins were intimate friends for decades.

I believe it was the Washington Star that published the story that was ignored by the Washington Post.

LBJ liked to employ people he could blackmail. One can understand why Walter Jenkins was so loyal to LBJ. I like the story of how J. Edgar Hoover sent Jenkins a bouquet of flowers and expressed his regret that he had lost his job. Are you suggesting that Alsop, Hoover and Jenkins were sexually involved with each other?

Walter Jenkins had been arrested repeatedly for soliciting, but other Washington Post police reporters new to the beat didn’t recognize his name or associate him with J. Edgar Hoover, LBJ, Bobby Baker, and Joe Alsop. So, it was only when the senior police reporter, who had been covering police headquarters for many years, spotted Jenkins’ name on a soliciting arrest that it hit the fan. The Washington Post did publish the story immediately, but only after Al Friendly and Russ Wiggins cleared the treatment of it with LBJ over the phone, as I described. Note also that Wiggins, Friendly, columnist Chalmers Roberts, and other senior Post management and staff had served in the same WW2 intelligence unit with Phil Graham, so when Graham took over management of the Washington Post from Kay Graham’s father, Eugene Meyer, you had a perfect example of Operation Mockingbird at work. As for sexual orientation, Alsop, Jenkins and Hoover were all gay. I am not informed about LBJ’s preferences, but Bobby Baker (as you’ve indicated elsewhere) essentially had a brothel where there were ongoing parties for members of Congress, often involving women working as secretaries and clerks on Capitol Hill. This sometimes resulted in women getting pregnant, but Baker had that covered by setting up an abortion clinic in Puerto Rico called the San Jorge Clinic, to which Congressional office staff could be sent on “holidays”, all expenses paid, and return unpregnant. Baker’s brothel included getting still and movie footage of Congressmen carousing, which went into LBJ’s filing system controlled by Baker, probably a better blackmail file than J. Edgar had. Larry Stern, Les Whitten and I attempted to hijack the filing cabinets from Baker’s station wagon when he decided to get them out of Washington. But our hopes that Baker would stop somewhere for coffee on his way to Florida were disappointed.

As to how The Washington Star handled the Jenkins story, I can’t remember. They might have broken it in the evening, obliging the Washington Post to cover it the following morning. It was amusing to see all the Washington Post top brass running around in brown trousers, and getting their instructions from LBJ.

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In 1962 John Williams began to investigate the activities of Bobby Baker. Carl Curtis later commented: "Williams was a man beyond reproach, sincere and intelligent and dedicated. During his service in the Senate he was rightly referred to as the conscience of the Senate. He was an expert investigator, tenacious and courageous. Senator Williams became the prime mover in bringing about the investigation of Baker."

On 3rd October, 1963, John Williams went to Senator Mike Mansfield, the majority leader, and to Senator Everett Dirksen, the minority leader, and arranged for them to call Bobby Baker before the leadership at a closed meeting on 8th October. Baker never appeared before the Senate's leadership: the day before his scheduled appearance he resigned his post.

John Williams now introduced a resolution calling upon the Committee on Rules and Administration to conduct an investigation of the financial and business interests and possible improprieties of any Senate employee or former employee. On 10th October 10, the Senate adopted this resolution. The committee was made up of three Republican members, Carl Curtis, John Sherman Cooper and Hugh Scott and six Democrats, B. Everett Jordan, Carl Hayden, Claiborne Pell, Joseph S. Clark, Howard W. Cannon and Robert C. Byrd.

Williams then provided information about Bobby Baker's involvement with the Serv-U Corporation, the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation and the Haitian-American Meat Provision Company. He also raised the issue of Ellen Rometsch and Nancy Carole Tyler being involved in sex parties that were held at Baker's house for members of Congress. Williams also suggested that the committee should look into the transactions between Baker and Don B. Reynolds and the selling of insurance to Lyndon B. Johnson.

Throughout these hearings, the Republican members of the repeatedly tried to have Walter Jenkins called as a witness. As Carl Curtis pointed out: "Jenkins had been employed by Johnson for years. It was well established that he had handled many of Johnson's business concerns. The information given to the Committee by Reynolds clearly conflicted with the memorandum to which Jenkins had subscribed... Why did these six prominent Democratic senators, several of them leaders of their party, vote against hearing and cross-examining Jenkins?"

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Investigations: A Senator's Insurance, Time Magazine (5th March, 1965)

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/...,839285,00.html

Did Walter Jenkins know of any arrangements whereby Don B. Reynolds, a business sidekick of Bobby Baker's, bought $1,208 in advertising on Lady Bird Johnson's Austin TV station in return for selling two $100,000 insurance policies on Lyndon Johnson's life?

The answer, in a sworn affidavit, was a flat no - but that was back on Dec. 16, 1963, when Jenkins was a top White House aide. Last week Jenkins answered again - and this time his no was a lot less than flat. He had meant on that other occasion that he had not known "of the specifics for the purchase of advertising." But "I did know Mr. Reynolds planned to purchase advertising time, and I have never asserted the contrary."

"No Secret." As before, Jenkins did not appear in person before the Senate Rules Committee, which is investigating the Bobby Baker case. He left the White House last October, after being arrested on a morals charge, and his lawyer and two psychiatrists testified that his appearance before the committee would cause such a strain as to endanger his health. Instead, Jenkins replied on paper, but under oath, to 40 written questions from the committee.

In late 1956 or early 1957, Jenkins recalled, he was treasurer of the LBJ Co., which owned the television station, and "I was seeking an insurance company from which insurance on the life of the then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson might be purchased. I made no secret of this search, and I'm confident that Robert G. Baker knew of it, either from me or indirectly. Mr. Baker told me that he knew Don Reynolds, who represented a company which was beginning to specialize in insurance for former heart attack patients. Mr. Baker did not tell me that he had any interest in Mr. Reynolds' business."

Baker arranged a meeting between Jenkins and Reynolds, and Jenkins later talked to Baker several times about the proposed insurance. But then Jenkins "received word from the LBJ Co. that it would not be necessary to pursue the matter further because a local agent in Austin had become interested in selling the policies and that he not only had been an advertiser on the radio and television stations for many years, but also had always related the amount of his advertising to the amount of his business done with the station." This local agent, it turned out, was Huff Baines, a cousin of Lyndon Johnson's.

Meeting the Competition. Jenkins "communicated this information to Mr. Reynolds," and presumably was pleased to hear "that Mr. Reynolds wished very much to sell the policies and would also like to purchase advertising time in the event he sold them." Jenkins studied Reynolds' "offer to meet the competition," and "it was decided to accept the Reynolds offer."

Jenkins insisted that at no time did he "pressure" Reynolds to buy the television time. But in any event, he certainly got the idea across.

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