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LBJ's secret financial empire

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The article below offers a brief look at the financial empire amassed by LBJ as described in Barr McClellan's book, LBJ killed JFK. McClellan described an entire floor in an office building in Austin that contained LBJ's financial records, which came to his attention when he worked as an attorney for the law firm that represented LBJ.

August 16, 2006

L. H. Marks, 90, Dies; Helped Lyndon Johnson Get Rich


The New York Times

Leonard H. Marks, a communications lawyer who helped Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife acquire the television stations that built their fortune and who later served as director of the United States Information Agency in the Johnson administration, died Friday in Washington. He was 90.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said Kent Jenkins, a family friend.

Mr. Marks said he became a lawyer because his father, who held minor political posts, told him he could make money and still be a politician. He more than accomplished both goals. By the time President Johnson appointed him director of the U.S.I.A., which officially conveys the American image to the world, Mr. Marks’s Washington law firm represented more than 400 broadcasting licensees.

As director of the information agency, he had the task of communicating the United States’ views on the Vietnam War, which he ultimately told President Johnson was futile. It was the only time Johnson was ever angry at him, Mr. Marks said in an interview with Bar Report, published by the District of Columbia Bar Association.

Among Mr. Marks’s first private clients were Johnson, then a congressman, and his wife, Lady Bird. With an inheritance, Mrs. Johnson had bought a radio station, which was licensed to operate only at night. Mr. Marks got it licensed not only to operate 24 hours a day, but also to use a superior frequency.

It was his idea that the Johnsons apply to the Federal Communications Commission to buy the television station in Austin, the Texas capital. He said that Johnson resisted, but that Mrs. Johnson said yes.

“That was the beginning of the L.B.J. family fortune,” Mr. Marks said in the interview.

As charges that he had pulled political strings to get the lucrative and sought-after station dogged Johnson, Mr. Marks repeatedly explained that Mrs. Johnson was simply a shrewd businesswoman.

“She could read a balance sheet the way a truck driver reads a road map,” he said.

Leonard Harold Marks was born on March 5, 1916, in Pittsburgh, where his father held elected and appointed political jobs in law enforcement. He went to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was student-body president, majored in political science and graduated at 19. He taught for four years at the university’s law school, after graduating from it with honors.

In 1942, he moved to Washington and became assistant to the general counsel of the F.C.C. He oversaw the agency’s Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, which monitored foreign radio broadcasts.

In 1946, he joined Marcus Cohn to form the law firm Cohn & Marks. In 1948, he married the former Dorothy Ames, a reporter for Variety and other newspapers; she died in 2001.

Mr. Marks is survived by two sons, Stephen Ames Marks, of Arnold, Md., and Robert Evans Marks, of Greenwich, Conn., and five grandchildren.

During the 1950’s, Mr. Marks traveled to India, Turkey and elsewhere to lecture on communications under a State Department program. In 1962, at the request of Edward R. Murrow, then director of the information agency, he led a privately financed program to distribute thousands of American books abroad.

He said in an interview with Merle Miller in “Lyndon: An Oral Biography” (1980) that he decided early that Johnson was going to be president and refrained from asking any favors for other clients that might later embarrass him.

But he had no problems promoting Johnson and was treasurer of his 1964 presidential campaign.

During the 1960 campaign, Johnson, then running for vice president, and John F. Kennedy, the presidential candidate, were reported to be at odds and met in New York for a joint television appearance to defuse rumors. Johnson was given two minutes, compared with Kennedy’s 20, but, after protesting, he got five. “I’ve got an eight-minute speech,” Johnson protested.

Mr. Marks was in charge of the cue cards. He displayed the speech as written, all eight minutes’ worth.

When he was appointed as director of the U.S.I.A., succeeding Carl T. Rowan, some questioned his journalistic inexperience, but the president praised his leadership potential. In an unusual token of respect, Mr. Johnson invited Mr. Marks to National Security Council meetings, at which Mr. Marks argued that military factors should overrule public opinion, according to Robert Dallek in “Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times” (1998).

Among his initiatives at the information agency were hiring skilled local storytellers to spread American views at Vietnamese fish markets and bringing six Egyptians, including Anwar el-Sadat, who was not yet president, to chat with Johnson.

Mr. Marks led many international and national efforts in communications, press freedom, space, foreign policy and humanitarian matters, including serving as president of the International Rescue Committee, which aided Vietnamese boat people in the 1970’s.

When President Johnson’s body lay in state in the Capitol in 1973, Mr. Marks recalled Mrs. Johnson as saying “that the thing Lyndon hated was to be by himself.” He and other close friends gathered to keep overnight watch on the coffin.


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It appears that New York Times writer Douglas Martin got some of his information on Marks here:

Conversation with Leonard H. Marks (Appeared in Bar Report, June/July 2000)


A few excerpts:

Marks on his WWII experiences:

When I told him I was disappointed with my legal work at OPA, he introduced me to his next door neighbor, who happened to be the general counsel for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He offered me a job, and I started to work for him the following month. That's how I got into Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, and how I became an FCC lawyer. I went to dinner at the right place at the right time. I stayed in that position until the end of the war in 1945. It was exciting-like spy work. We monitored radio programs from all over the world to provide intelligence to the United States Army and others.

Marks on LBJ:

He was the most brilliant man I've ever met -- and I've met a lot of important people. I have great admiration for some of the presidents that followed him, but in my opinion he was the greatest.

He (LBJ) brought me to the attention of the international community, Congress, and industry. He gave me a lot of power, and he stood behind me in everything I did.

Lyndon Johnson was my primary role model.

Edited by Michael Hogan
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Doug, Mike:

I am still hoping Barr can access LBJ's psych records. What a world of information they would hold.

But til after "the wicked witch of the west" is gone there is no hope of success in that endeavor.


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