Sunday, June 5, 2011

Morris D. Jaffe and his role in Fed-Mart

Madeleine Brown told John Delane Williams, in his 2001 interview with her that in none of her previous interviews had she been asked about Morris Jaffe.Williams found Jaffe interesting, he says in an article appearing in the Dealey Plaza Echo, for the following reasons:
Morris Douglas Jaffe, to begin with, backed Johnson for the Democratic nomination for President in 1960. Jaffe was in Los Angeles "... to lay his money on the line. An old time San Antonio newspaperman came home admitting that Jaffe not only seemed to be the "money" man but the brains and trouble-shooter and smart beyond imagination, the most effective man behind Lyndon B. Johnson." (2). Jaffe was the person who bought all of the holdings of Billie Sol Estes when Estes declared bankruptcy, although Jaffe did not get Estes' holdings immediately. J.C. Williamson moved at once after Estes' bankruptcy to regain Estes' property, which was blocked by the bankruptcy judge, Ewing Thomason, who incidentally, was a good friend of Lyndon Johnson. (3) In June, 1963, Jaffe paid Williamson only the outstanding amount on Williamson's loan, $418,000, to acquire Williamson's holdings, who by that time had been converted to the political conservative cause. (4). Jaffe was said to have offered $7 million for Estes's vast holdings. Actually, Jaffe, who preferred not to risk a single red cent, agreed to pay perhaps as little as $100,000. (5). "The conclusion is inescapable that the Johnson-controlled political machine in Texas designedly set the stage for Jaffe's takeover, as the cleanup was without financial risk and potentially very good." (6).
2.  J. Evetts Haley, A Texan Looks at Lyndon.: A Study in Illegitimate Power (Canyon, TX: Palo Duro Press, 1964), p. 156.
3. Ibid, p. 148.
4. Madeleine Duncan Brown, Texas in the Morning: The Love Story of Madeleine Brown and Lyndon Baines Johnson. (Baltimore, MD: The Conservatory Press, 1997), pp. 149-150.
5. Haley, p. 148.
6. Ibid, p. 150.
Williams speculates a great deal in his article, using the words "seems," "may," "likely," "presumably," and similar such phrases that indicate mere guesswork on his part. In addition, citing Madeleine Brown as a source, without corroboration, is a dangerous habit because much of what Brown said is inaccurate. For example, Williams quotes Brown's statement that Morris Jaffe was the son-in-law of Sam Bloom of Dallas, when in fact, Jaffe was married to Jeanette Herrmann, daughter of a German family in San Antonio. Perhaps Madeleine was speaking of a different Morris Jaffe, an attorney in Dallas. It's an easy mistake to make, but one which needs to be corrected.

With that caveat in hand, we can pick our way through Williams' work (posted at his blog) to see what more we can learn about Jaffe. The following was derived mostly from J. Evetts Haley:
Jaffe was born in San Antonio of Jewish-Hispanic heritage and became an aircraft engineering officer during World War II. Jaffe and a friend, David P. Martin, began a construction company (Jaffe and Martin Builders). They built barracks at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. It was determined that Jaffe had wined and dined the civil engineer named McLain, who was hired by the government to insure the job was done to specifications. An inquiry was begun to investigate shoddy workmanship, but the investigation ended when McLain was transferred.
A friend of Jaffe's, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Zeller, was allowed to jump over several hundred full colonels to the rank of Brigadier General, and get a plum transfer to the Pentagon. With influence in the Pentagon and with Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, "...Jaffe really hit his stride." (13) Continuing on at Lackland, Jaffe built a skating rink, which he could not own, because it was on government ground, costing $260,000, but he was given a ten year period to "recoup" his costs. Jaffe used his influence to require that each airman in basic training skate at least one hour a week. The director of basic training, Colonel James A. Smyrl, was brought under fire because he refused to go along. It took some time for Smyrl to save his military career; other Lackland officials would eventually suffer either resignation or reassignment. And Jaffe? He would sell his interest to a Sam Katz in January, 1959 and walk away unscathed, at a good profit.
Brig Gen. Roger Zeller
That Army colonel was Roger L. Zeller, who died in San Antonio in 1997 at the age of 80. According to his obituary, Zeller in 1952 "founded Columbia 300 Industries in San Antonio....Columbia began sponsoring PBA events in 1972. PBA Commissioner Mark Gerberich called Zeller a bowling industry giant....Zeller, who was a college basketball player, was a member of the first investors group that brought the Spurs to San Antonio." (Galveston Daily News, August 11, 1997)

In March 1963 Brunswick Corp. sued Columbia Industries in federal court at Spokane, Washington, for patent violation on its manufacture of its "300" plastic bowling balls, then produced at Ephrata, Washington, near the Columbia River. After acquiring that company, Zeller moved it to San Antonio, and on December 3, 1963 announced an expansion, indicating that "the San Antonio firm is the originator of the high-impact plastic bowling ball which has revolutionized bowling ball sales throughout the nation." It added to its existing 2011 Sable Lane plant, southeast of the current airport, by purchasing 40,000 square feet at 5005  West Avenue in San Antonio, southwest of the airport. In the fall of 1965 Zeller announced the promotion of Mitchell Webb to be a vice-president--a man who was "company commander in Europe during World War II and earned the Bronze Star in action at the Remagen Bridge on the Rhine."  Zeller thus maintained the military connection.

In 1943 Zeller, said to be a San Antonio First Lieutenant, was listed as missing in action in North Africa. A World War II pilot, he had married the former Miss Laura Dietzel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Frank Dietzel, of 1606 W. Woodlawn ave. in San Antonio while stationed in that city. Laura was called "Cherry" and had a brother who was killed in the war. He was announced missing in action a year or two after Zeller was missing:

 Cherry's paternal grandfather was Alfred Dietzel, proprietor of a bakery and retail grocery at San Pedro and Woodlawn, and her mother was the former Stella Favella:
Mrs. Dietzel was a descendant of one of the original 14 families from the Canary Islands who founded San Antonio. She was a native of San Antonio and had lived here all her life. Her son, Lt. Edwin F. Dietzel, was killed in action over Japan in World War II. Survivors are her  husband, Edwin F. Dietzel; daughter, Mrs. Roger L. Zeller, San Antonio; and six sisters, Mrs.Mary Favella and Mrs. J. W. Cook Coker, both of San Antonio; Mrs. Adele Peschke, Mrs. Hortense McLean, Mrs. Annie Montel and Mrs. Josephine Whitt, all of San Diego, Calif. (San Antonio Express, March 5, 1951)
The old Dietzel home at 714 West Laurel was located within the historic community of Five Points, just north of downtown San Antonio, one of the oldest communities in the city, and it was Fermin Favella's address as early as 1895 when his name was listed in the news as having become an American citizen. Fermin died in 1919, and his widow conveyed the residence to Edwin Dietzel in 1926, whose family operated the market at 1902 San Pedro not far away. Fort Sam Houston was situated a short distance to the east. Stella Favella Dietzel's mother, Zulema (Emma) Rodriguez de Favella died in San Antonio in 1930, survived by one son, Joe Favella, who was affiliated with the San Antonio Express publishing company, and seven daughters.

On January 23, 1944, the following notice appeared in the San Antonio Express:
This has been a regular home week for several members of the armed force just back from overseas duty. CAPT. AND MRS. ROGER ZELLER have returned from Miami and are awaiting orders for a new station. She is the former LAURA "CHERRY" DIETZEL. Roger has many decorations, and should have been awarded one to show that he escaped from a GERMAN PRISON CAMP. Cherry's brother, ED, is back after serving with the Army Air Corps in Trinidad. Making it a "flying threesome" is CAPT. JULIUS "RED" TAYLOR, formerly of NORTH AFRICA, now of BROOKS FIELD.
Zeller's heroics during the war were told in an article that appeared in Del Rio, Texas in April 1944:
Captain Zeller was on a mission over enemy territory when his ship was badly shot up. When fire broke cut in the cockpit at 10,000 feet he ordered the men to bail out and stayed with the ship until it reached an altitude of only 1,000 feet. He bailed out and was taken captive by a sheep herder and was taken to a concentration camp in Rome. After three months in Italy,
he escaped and in 24 days found his way back to the British lines.
In May 1950 Cherry's husband, Lt. Col. Roger Zeller, was named commanding officer of the 9817th Volunteer Air Reserve Training Unit at Brooks Air Force Base, replacing the retiring Lt.Col. Ernest F. Kusener, and in 1953 he was involved in Reserve Officers Association--accompanying 1948 Dixiecrat presidential candidate, Col. Strom Thurmond, on speeches to military bases. He was installed as president of the group on June 23, 1956 at New Orleans.

Roger and his wife Cherry had built a bowling alley in San Antonio called Woodlawn Alleys and were avid bowlers with their scores listed often in the local news. They also played tennis in mixed doubles tournaments during the 1950's.

Their names also appeared in a local column called "Bexar Facts," written by Morris Willson, who reported local society news gleaned from such groups as the St. Anthony Club, which the Zellers and Jaffes frequented. He announced the following news in December 1960:
Names of note: Atty. Park Street revealed as ardent dancer (he danced almost every set during a recent outing in the St. Anthony club) * * * Things to come: Look for insuranceman Roger Zeller to be promoted to brigadier general next month in the air force reserve.
An excerpt of the column from July 1961 stated:
Verdant vernacular: Cherry Zeller's description of a dog fish * *  ...  * *  Didja hear about
Morris Jaffe's size-7 feet in Roger Zeller's size-13 shoes?
A month later the following tidbit appeared in that column:
The city at night: Cherry Zeller, the general's wife, has a little joke with her husband about his forgetting dance step countdowns. * * * ... Pattern for parents: The Morris Jaffes refuse to ride on the same airplane.
In November was this one:
Some of the great facial contortionists of movie and television fame could take lessons from Cherry Zeller, wife of the brigadier general; Cherry's cleverest new routine is a realistic, if somewhat exaggerated, demonstration of tuning a color TV set . . . 
The columnist gave another clue to how he kept up with the Zellers in a February 1962 item:
At the St. Anthony Club Saturday night prime topics of conversation included ... an original tune called "Coconut Island," its words and music written by Cherry Zeller . . .
In January 1958 Roger Zeller was spokesman for the Loma Corp. in El Paso, Texas at a town hall meeting of protesters to a zoning change in the community who wanted information about the company which would be operating a commercial business there. Zeller told the group:

"Loma Corp. is a retail department store. We sell everything, all nationally advertised merchandise." A wave of surprise passed through the audience when Zeller added, "All that our operations will include is the department store and a gas station."
A Fed-Mart was eventually built in El Paso in 1959, located at 6600 Montana Avenue, owned by the North Loop Plaza, Inc., a corporation filed in Texas in August 19, 1957.

In 1961 there were Fed-Mart stores located in Long Beach, Anaheim, San Diego, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio (at 2514 S.W. Military Drive), El Paso and Dallas. At that time shoppers had to be members, paying $2 to join and $1 per year to renew their membership. A 9th Circuit court opinion involving a dispute over income tax stated:
Fed-Mart is a California corporation engaged in the business of discount retailing. On March 3, 1967, Fed-Mart made an exchange offer to the holders of its common stock... The primary purpose for the exchange offer was to effect the withdrawal of Morris Jaffe from corporate ownership and management in a manner agreeable to him. At the time of the offer, Jaffe was the holder of the largest single block of Fed-Mart's common stock. Disagreements between Jaffe and Sol Price, Chairman of the Board and President of Fed-Mart, had created problems in the operation and management of the taxpayer and had contributed to a decline in earnings in the three years preceding March, 1967.
Jaffe's connection to Sol Price leads one to wonder whether there may have been a CIA connection. In Price's obituary in the Washington Post, it was stated:
"Sol Price -- his family said it was never Solomon -- was born Jan. 23, 1916, in New York City, the son of Samuel and Bella Price, who came to the United States from Russia during the wave of Jewish immigration in the first years of the 20th century. Mr. Price said his father had worked with organizer David Dubinsky in the creation of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and later founded his own clothing factory in Lower Manhattan. His father, who became ill with tuberculosis, relocated the family to San Diego in the late 1920s."
Long-time Central Intelligence Agency operative Jay Lovestone, a former Communist,
...worked [his] way into the good graces of ILGWU President David Dubinsky, who had been [his] fiercest enemy before [his] expulsion....In 1944, Dubinsky arranged to place Lovestone in the AFL's Free Trade Union Committee, where he worked out of the ILGWU's headquarters. Along with Irving Brown he led the activities of the American Institute for Free Labor Development, an organization sponsored by the AFL which worked internationally, organizing free labor unions in Europe and Latin America which were not Communist-controlled.
In connection with that work he cooperated closely with the CIA, feeding information about Communist labor-union activities to James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's counterintelligence chief, in order to undermine Communist influence in the international union movement and provide intelligence to the US government. He remained there until 1963 when he became director of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department (IAD), which quietly sent millions of dollars from the CIA to aid anti-communist activities internationally, particularly in Latin America.
In 1973, AFL-CIO president George Meany discovered that Lovestone was still in contact with James Angelton of the CIA, who was conducting illegal domestic spying activities, despite being told seven years earlier to terminate this relationship.
Samuel Price, Sol's father, moved to San Diego in 1929, the same year Dubinsky was undergoing upheavals within the union and the same time Lovestone began to gain influence. San Diego was the location of military intelligence giant General Ralph Van Deman, who retired there in September 1929 and died in mid-1950's.

By 1959, Sol Price had become influential enough in California politics to be appointed to Governor Pat G. Brown's Business Advisory Council with the state's leading businessmen who supported the Democrat. It was during his tenure on that council that the first Fed Mart stores were built in California. The ground-breaking ceremony was announced in Long Beach on April 2, 1961 by the company that developed the site for the stores. It was the same corporation Roger Zeller had represented in the El Paso meeting a few years earlier, Loma Corp. The spokesman in California told the Independent Press-Telegram the building to be built would be:
a one-story building to house a giant market for the Fed-Mart Corp., a membership discount firm for federal and civil service employes. Loma Properties, the development corporation, with offices in San Diego, said William Schmidt of theleases are being negotiated on some other stores to be erected in the center.
 That confirms the link between Zeller, who was working in 1959 to get Fed-Mart into El Paso on behalf of Loma Corp. and Jaffe who by the time he sold his stock in Fed-Mart was its largest shareholder.

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