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Martha Mitchell

Dixie Dea

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Martha Mitchell well known for her "gift of gab," wrote in her high school yearbook,

"I love its gentle warble.

I love its gentle flow.

I love to wind my tongue up.

And I love to let it go."

Did she ever!

Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, during the Watergate years was outspoken and outrageous. She was a truth teller, much to Mitchell and Nixon's regret, who refused to be shut up. Martha's words of prophecy and wisdom startled and fascinated a nation over 30 years ago.

During Watergate, Martha felt that Nixon was using her husband as a scapegoat so she began calling Woodward, Bernstein, and other reporters. Sometimes she called them in the middle of the night. Sometimes she took the telephone in the bathroom to make the calls so her husband would not hear her. Martha never had any qualms about shouting the administration's misdeeds, though instead of in testimony to Congress she did her shouting in 3 AM phone calls.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 28, 1973, that in a late night phone call to Helen Thomas, Mitchell said, "Nixon bleeds people. He draws every drop of blood and then drops them from a cliff. He'll blame any person he can put his foot on."

Mitchell spoke out against Nixon early in the Watergate Affair but she paid an enormous price. She was cruelly discredited, abandoned by her family and later died of cancer.


A few excerpts of the book "Front Row At The White House - My Life And Times"

  by Helen Thomas

Scribner, 1999

from pages 203-204

    In December 1971 a wire story ran about Vice President Spiro Agnew's gag Christmas gift list. Included on the list were: "For Martha Mitchell, a brand-new Princess phone. For John Mitchell, a padlock for a brand-new Princess phone."

    "Why did Martha Mitchell call you?" someone asked me after I filed my first story based on one of her many telephone calls in which she expressed her outraged a few days after the Watergate break-in.

    I wasn't the only reporter she called, but I did take her seriously and I wrote about what she told me. Sometimes the stories made it to the wire and sometimes they go spiked. But Martha perhaps put the answer best herself when she told an interviewer, "Helen knows me well enough to know I'm not going to give her a line of bull. We just kind of fell into each other's arms. Several other reporters had been recommended to me, but when I talked to them they were cold fish. They were calculating, and, I thought, unwilling to stick their necks out. Helen Thomas, I knew would print the truth no matter what it cost her personally, and I wanted the truth to be known."(1)

    I don't think the dust will ever entirely settle on the Watergate scandal, but I do think Martha deserves more than a footnote in its history. She should be remembered as the woman who tried to blow the whistle on what was going on, but sometimes her stories seemed so out there, it was close to impossible to get anyone to listen. However, I listened and I wrote and I'll let history decide.

    I do remember her telling me early on in her time in Washington, "Politics is a dirty business," and I remember equally well a memorable remark her husband made shortly after they arrived: "Watch what we do, not what we say."

from pages 210 - 211

    On Thursday at about 9:00 P.M., Doug and I were at home, just finishing dinner, when the phone rang. It was Martha. She sounded calm, sad and uncharacteristically subdued. We chatted for a little while and I asked her about Watergate.

    "That's it," she said. "I've given John an ultimatum. I'm going to leave him unless he gets out of the campaign. I'm sick and tired of politics. Politics is a dirty business."

    Then suddenly, her voice became more agitated and she yelled, "You get away. Just get away," and the line went dead.

    I tried to call back several times without success and then called the switchboard operator. I was told that "Mrs. Mitchell is indisposed and cannot talk."

    I then called Mitchell, who had returned to Washington, at their Watergate apartment and told him what had happened during my conversation with Martha and that I was a little concerned. He sounded rather blasé but tried to ease my fears. "That little sweetheart," he said. "I love her so much. She gets a little upset about politics but she loves me and I love her and that's what counts. I'll tell you a secret: I've promised Martha I'll give up politics after this campaign."

    The more we talked, the more bizarre his attitude struck me, but he kept assuring me that Martha wasn't in any danger. I telephoned UPI's desk and dictated a story to Bob Taylor, who decided it was credible and ran it. Later I heard that along with Mitchell, White House counsel John Dean and a few others were in the apartment at the time of my "distress call" to him at home and they had quite a laugh over it.

    The story got a fair amount of play—mostly on the women's pages. Maybe editors thought it was just another case of Martha being Martha and newsworthy only because it revealed a rift in a very public marriage. Back in Washington, administration aids began hinting that Martha was hallucinating, that she was deranged or that she was just drunk.

    In an interview later, Martha told me, "I want to be sure my side is revealed and that people know I'm not sitting her a mental case or an alcoholic."

    What happened in that villa? She later told me a hair-raising story: "They threw me down on the bed—five persons did it—a doctor, a nurse, Lea Jablonsky . . . pulled my pants down and stuck a needle in my behind, the longest needle you ever saw. I've never been treated like this before." She had a gash in her hand that she said required eleven stitches.

from pages 218 - 219

    After Nixon resigned in August 1974, Martha found herself in demand for talk shows and interviews and "the voice that launched a thousand quips" was back in action. She traveled, visited friends, and began writing a book and making plans to host a television show.

    She came back to Washington in the summer of 1975 for a visit and over Labor Day weekend, at a friend's house, she fell when opening the refrigerator door. Unable to cope with the severe pain in her neck and back, she was taken to Northern Virginia Doctors' Hospital. X-rays showed she had two broken ribs and a broken neck vertebra. But other tests revealed something worse. Martha had multiple myeloma, a painful bone marrow cancer that leaves the victim's bones brittle and full of holes.

    She called me from the hospital an I sat by her bedside that day while doctors explained the illness to her, drawing diagrams and using words like malignancy instead of cancer. She listened quietly, her eyes round and wide, but it was as if she were listening to them describe someone else's condition. I went back to my office and, sadly, began to write the first news story of her illness. The next morning, Martha watched the news on the "Today" show. Shocked and tearful, she spoke to her friend Diane Auger. "They say I have cancer." As far as I know, she never used that word again. Friends and strangers alike flooded the hospital with get-well cards. Her son, Jay, who was working as a congressional aide, and his Mississippi-born wife, Janice, visited her often.

    By early October, she was anxious to leave the hospital. "Get me out of here," she'd tell everyone who came to see her. Jay brought her to an apartment leased by Diane and her husband, Tom Beury, near the Shoreham Hotel. Martha saw other doctors who confirmed the diagnosis.

    She tried to keep her spirits high and her outlook positive. However, of the hundreds of letters she received, she could not bear to read those from people who also suffered from the same disease, even though many of those letters went on to offer encouragement, telling her she could live a long life.

    In mid-November, Martha went home to New York. She spent one night in the apartment and then entered Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital and was put under the care of Dr. Klaus Mayer, the stocky, graying chief of hematology.

    "When I first saw her, she was so ill, I thought she wasn't going to last a week," Mayer said later. "But she responded beautifully."

    He confirmed she had a "very progressive myeloma" and her bones were eroding rapidly. Her skull, he said, looked like Swiss cheese in places. He began an aggressive chemotherapy series during which Martha's personality seemed to undergo a transformation.

    I spoke to Dr. Mayer periodically to check on her progress and he told me something astounding: "At first she was difficult to handle," he said.

"She was paranoid. She accused me of working for Nixon. Once she suspected her disease was brought on by the injection she had forcibly received in California—a highly inaccurate supposition.

    "But then her attitude changed rapidly and we became good friends. I think it was mainly that she learned to trust me. But she never gave up the lingering idea that 'those guys' had induced her illness."(14)

(1) Helen Thomas, Dateline: White House (New York: Macmillan, 1975), p.


(14) Helen Thomas, interview with Dr. Meyer, taken from story notes, date unknown.


On the Washington Post Forum, in an interview with Bob Woodward, he had this to say about Martha MItchell.......

Question: Martha Mitchell was often seen and heard making cryptic

remarks about Watergate, but she was dismissed by the media as having mental problems. Were any of her remarks accurate as the events were unfolding?

Bob Woodward: Martha Mitchell spoke a lot of the truth. Though she did not understand the details of Watergate and the various corruptions of what her husband, former attorney general John Mitchell called "the White House horrors," she understood Nixon's impulses to abuse power. One undisclosed Watergate incident involves a time she allowed Carl Bernstein and myself to go through some of her husband's papers in his apartment office after she had thrown him out one time. She was a joyful woman who loved fun and truth-telling, two matters not normally associated with the Nixon presidency.

Another Washingtom Post Forum Interview with Ben Bradlee.....

Question: My question concerns Martha Mitchell. Did the Nixon

administration attempt to discredit her?

Ben Bradlee: They certainly did. They tried to make her look like a "nut case" and they succeeded to some extent.

Question: In our discussion with Bob Woodward a few minutes ago, he

revealed that Martha Mitchell let him and Bernstein rummage through John Mitchell's papers one night. Can you tell us some more about that incident and why it hasn't been known before?

Ben Bradlee: That's the first I ever heard them rummaging through Mitchell's papers. I suspect you haven't heard about it before because they didn't get anything out of those papers.



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From.." Martha..The Life of Martha Mitchell".. by Winzola McLendon..79..

They called her "The Mouth That Roared" and she certainly did....

Martha Mitchell 1918/74..she was 56 years old.

Born Martha Elizabeth Beall born Pine Bluff, Arkansas Sep.2nd..Her Father was a cotton broker her Mother a teacher..of "elocution"..

Martha Mitchell "captivated Middle America cheered the Right, infuriated the Left' flipped the pompous ,and thoroly (sic) disproved the theory that the meek shall inherit the earth"..London Times.

She was buried on June 3rd,74.. in her naitve Arkansas in the shade of massive oaks at the foot of her Mother's grave..It wasn't what she wanted, her desire to be buried beside her Mother, but then again, none of her final wishes were carried out as she had hoped..Some ignored completely, including those of her last will and testament ..

One thing that Martha did not want was that John have anything to do with her funeral, but seeing that he was still her husband Dr.Meyer notified him first , John didn't go to the hospital,the Doctor went to his apartment. She had two children.

Son Jay Nov 2/47.. ( first marriage to Clyde Jennings Oct.5/46)..

Daughter Martha Elizabeth Jr.Mitchell ( called Marty) Jan 10/61 ..to John Mitchell.

Martha's husband John Mitchell and daughter Marty did not accompany her body to Arkansas..John had told Jay he was glad he had called him as he did not know what Martha wanted..When Jay arrived at the funeral home, he found that John had taken over the funeral arrangements from Ray..Mitchell also let it be known he and his daughter Marty would not be attending the furneral home, neither was there to be reserved seating, except for the 8 immediate family members, not even for the Governor who attended..John also requested that there be no visitations at the Ralph Robinson & Son Mortuary..where she would be until it was taken to the First Presbyterian Church..

The Associated press later reported that" Hundreds of residents of this Arkansas River community were kept outside locked doors at Mitchell's orders."

Also firm rules for the press, none were to be allowed anywhere near him and photographers were to be placed so far away from the secluded side door of the church, ( where he and Marty would enter) that there would be no chance of getting a picture.Later when Dr.Desiderio Demeco, a professor at the University of Arkansas, took a picture of the casket, the film was confiscated. All media were kept 30 feet from the gravesite including network television.

Tempers ran high and one reporter asked the mortuary spokesman why they would lay down such strict rules for Mitchell, saying " This man is a convicted felon".."His fifteen year old daughter isn't" was the reply..

When told that reporters could only sit in one of the last rows of the santuary,Myra McPherson of the Washington Post complained "We, won't be able to see a thing", she was told "You are a very perspective young lady"..

John Mitchell while in Pine Bluff, spent his time avoiding the press and Martha's friends.as much as possib,but her son Jay Jennings appreciated that so many were there..at a dinner given the night before the funeral by Ray West Sr.at such they told antedotes about Martha with great affectionate humour... as she would have loved, it was her kind of party..

The next morning when the casket arrived at the church the press and television camera crews standing on the curb across the street, along with the townspeople ..John Mitchell and his daugher arrived through the side door, they did not appear to look at the coffin or at the two ministers who conducted the service,they stared straight ahead or looked at the church windows...One woman noted "..He's trying to ignore her in death as he ignored her in life " Jay with tears in his eyes ,seemed to struggle to keep his composure..as the coffin was taken out the centre aisle at the end of the service Marty started to follow it ..but Mitchell grabbed her arm and they left by the same side door..

The service at the graveside was five minutes long, and MItchell left immediately without speaking to anyone.

Prominent among the floral arrangelents,which included a piece from President and Mrs Ford........was a Large green spray with white chrysanthemums spelling out in block letters the message " MARTHA WAS RIGHT "..the funeral director refused to say who had sent them....some people were offended but others thought it so right........In fact many of Martha's obituarys mentioned the fact that Matrha was right..she had told the truth but had been ignored..

Mark Goodman writing for the New Times magazine, said.."With a telephone in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, she first sounded the alarm ....

We did not listen to Martha Mitchell, and we paid for it..."..

Eugene Patterson of the St Petersburg ( Florida) Times said, she wasn't believed "Because she told the truth indiscreetly ...she was written off as a kook in Washington." He also wrote," She married the wrong man, connected with the wrong political crowd, and tried to find her place in the wrong town, at the wrong time.".

Following the funeral John Mitchell and Marty went to San Clemente, to visit the Richard Nixons for almost two weeks.It was said by a friend they "interviewed each other for their books"..

After John went to 1030 Fifth Ave.Martha's appartment for the first time in two years, he did not ask Jay to go with him..he took Marty and Jill Reed his eldest daughter who later became temporary executrix of Martha's estate .Her clothes were given away no one knew where, and could not be traced they were taken out in bags... friends were told they were given to the Cancer Society but when checked they had not......someone did have the presence of mind to check pockets and her pearls given her by the Japanese government were found in a pocket of a negligee, her diamond rings and other jewellry were not said to be found.

Her furnishings many pieces belonging to her family were disposed of .Some showed up on New Yorks Third Ave...Many things were left behind for the new owners of the apartment..Martha had many treasured belongings from her family handed down through the years, they were left and Moses (Moey) Segal, Florida Lawyer//Investor used them till their own arrived, such things as a blue satin, down filled sofa was later spotted on the trash heap in an alley alongside 1030 Fifth Ave.Martha had always said that, people didn't understand what possessions meant to people of the South..they cherished what few possessions they had left after the Civil War..and they lived as decently with them as they could ...so her Mothers belongings as well as her own disappeared......She had wanted Jay and Marty to have them, as of the writing of this book, Jay Jennungs had not received anything from his Mothers estate...5 years later....

Martha has become something of a folk heroine..Every day people..strangers and friends visit her grave..some brining flowers....and sometimes leaving an American flag.....some visit her childhood home, which is now a museum..

"Two things happened in Setember 1977, which intensified interest in Martha. (1) Her hometown paper, the Pine Bluff Commercial..announced it was starting a Martha Mitchell fund drive in the hope of raising enough money to erect a suitable memorial to the town's famous daughter...probably a fountain in the civic centre..

And (2) Richard Nixon went on television and told David Frost ."If it hadn't been for Martha Mitchell, there'd have been no Watergate"...

People were outraged at Nixon's accusation. The Commercial Newspaper was flooded with letters and contributions from men and women defending Martha and condemning Richard Nixon...They wrote ""Thank God she told the truth ,which is more than we can say about those involved in the scandal""...""She was a kind of a dippy Saint, a dizzy yet right-on-the-target woman to whom freedom and honesty meant more than protocol and "appropriate behaviour".....

""I could not believe that even Richard Nixon would have the effrontery to make the statement ( about Martha and Watergate)""..and " if it weren't for her , this (corruption in government) would still be going on and only get worse.""

""Some people, though, saw Richard Nixon's attack on Martha as a "fitting tribute" ,since by doing so he had honored her beyond all expectations.""

Bravo Martha...

Here are a few sites..

"Why Was Martha Mitchell Kidnapped ?"

Mae Brusell


"Martha Mitchell, the Watergate Scandel"


Martha recalled in ":Dirty Tricks"..


"And Now the Spiro and Martha Show"


"Magruder A "Congenital" xxxx"...( More Martha )


B.. :dis

Edited by Bernice Moore
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