Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sugar Daddy of John Birch Society

A popular "conspiracy" author, G. Edward Griffin, member of the John Birch Society, narrated a documentary about John Birch in the 1960s, which readers may find interesting. It depicts the heroic life of Birch as a missionary who was on the scene to rescue the Doolittle Raiders, who had a secret mission to bomb the Japanese mainland in April 1942. Corporal Leland D. Faktor was killed during the raid and was buried in a service presided over by Rev. Birch.

Who exactly was this man, Robert Welch, who in 1958 founded a group in honor of John Birch? Besides being the man who gave us Sugar Daddies, Sugar Babies, Milk Duds and Junior Mints, he also gave us the father of the Koch Brothers, chief funders of the Tea Party movement today. Jane Mayer wrote in her 2010 article in The New Yorker, "Covert Operations: The Billionaire Koch Brothers' War Against Obama":
A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!”

Did the Tea Party Spring from John Birch's Ashes?

Robert Henry Winborne Welch, Jr., was born near Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in 1899, growing up on the farm Frances Hallowell Welch, his grandmother, owned. Her son, Robert, Sr., wife Lina Verona (James) Welch, and their children farmed the land with help from six black workers who lived there. Even after the candy-making brothers left home, the youngest son William Dorsey Welch would remain on this northeastern North Carolina farm surrounded by his grandmother's Hallowell relatives.

Something of a prodigy, young Bobby entered college at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at the age of 12 and graduated from that institution in 1916. The cities of Chapel Hill and Durham were the agricultural, industrial and financial domain controlled by Julian Shakespeare Carr and his wife Nannie--who in 1924 made application to the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the same year he died. After Carr's tobacco company had become successful, he sold it in 1898 to James Buchanan Duke of nearby Durham, who had begun mass producing cigarettes in the 1880s. Duke died only months after Carr's death, but not before James B. Duke, his father and brother had helped to change this section of North Carolina forever.
  • J.B.'s older brother, Benjamin Newton, had launched the family into the textile business as early as 1892. As their textile interests developed, the need for economical water power led the 
  • Dukes into the hydroelectric generating business. In 1905, they founded the Southern Power Company, now known as Duke Power, one of the companies making up Duke Energy, Inc. Within two decades, this company was supplying electricity to more than 300 cotton mills and various other factories, electric lines, and cities and towns primarily in the Piedmont region of North and South Carolina.
  • Lifelong Methodists, the two brothers practiced the kind of financial stewardship encouraged by their church and instilled in them by their father. Ardent Republicans and sympathetic to the downtrodden, the Dukes, individually and collectively, gave to a number of causes. 
  • In December, 1924, James B., who was by far the wealthiest member of the family, established The Duke Endowment as a permanent trust fund with designated beneficiaries. In so doing, he was following the family's long-standing patterns of philanthropy. 
  • In 1892, Washington Duke had helped a Methodist-related institution, Trinity College, relocate to Durham, and since 1887 Ben had been a member of the school's Board of Trustees. A new university built around Trinity was to be the prime beneficiary of the Duke Endowment, and at the insistence of Trinity President William Preston Few, the college was re-chartered as Duke University in honor of Washington Duke and his family.

Back in 1880 Trinity College enrolled a "special" student, its first international student-- a young Chinese boy who would later be known as Charlie Soong, who spent the summer of 1881 in Durham with his sponsor, Julian S. Carr. It was a decade later that Trinity was relocated to Durham, the name being change to Duke. The Duke University Board of Trustees was established the year Carr died and the year James B. Duke created his endowment. James B. Duke and his wife had only one child, Doris Duke, born in 1912. When he died in 1925, he left another $67 million to the endowment.

Too young to join the military, he enrolled at Annapolis Naval Academy, according to the Documentary History of John Birch Society:
Bobby Welch
Robert H.W. Welch enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis MD during World War I, and during World War II he served on the Advisory Commission of the Office of Price Administration [one of 50 advisers] for the candy industry. In 1922, Welch founded the Oxford Candy Company and was its Sales Manager in 1935. Beginning in 1940, he was Vice President and Director of Sales and Advertising of his brother's candy company, The James O. Welch Company of Cambridge MA. In 1947, Welch was the recipient of the Kettle Award by the candy industry. From 1940-1944, Welch was a Board member of the Massachusetts Chess Federation.
From 1951 to 1954, he was a member of the Belmont MA School Committee and served as Director of several small businesses and one bank. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Washington Commission of the National Association of Candy Manufacturers and also was a member of the Board of Directors of the United Prison Association. From 1951-1957 he was a Director of the National Association of Manufacturers, being its Vice President from 1955-1957. In 1941, he authored the book, The Road To Salesmanship. In 1952 his book, May God Forgive Us was published and in 1954, The Life of John Birch.
In conducting research on certain persons in Fort Worth, Texas, this blog writer came across the fact that John Birch, for whom Welch named his group, had attended a Baptist seminary in that city in 1940 and arrived in China only months before the U.S. entered the war against Japan. Rick Perlstein wrote in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, that Welch's book, The Life of John Birch:
told the tale of a young American Baptist missionary-cum-spy who learned at the close of World War II of the Communists' secret plan to take over China. He was assassinated, and his murder was supposedly covered up by State Department quislings who knew if the story got out their own complicity in Mao's victory would be revealed.
Armed with that information, I began to wonder why Robert Welch was drawn to use John Birch as the name of a supposedly libertarian society, given the fact that foreign missionaries were engaged in such an internationalist role abroad, and that Norris' seminary was so closely tied to, and financed by, an international network of airline companies. Notwithstanding that curious anomaly, it should also be pointed out that descendants of some of Welch's original members are today involved with equally incongruous activities.

Fred C. Koch
For example, during the early days of the JBS, it has been revealed in a recent memoir by Claire Conner, Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America's Radical Right, how much influence Welch exerted on her father, Stillwell J.Conner. The author talks about  Fred C. Koch, who was on the original board of the JBS with Welch, and about his two sons, Charles and David Koch, the subject of another recent book, Koch Brothers Exposed. The Koch brothers, as we all know, set up the infrastructure for today's "libertarian" Tea Party, based upon their pouring of:
hundreds of millions of dollars into right-wing organizations like Institute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Bill of Rights Institute, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Federalist Society.
These foundations are not unlike the propaganda mill which used the millions of dollars made available after World War II through the Marshall Plan in Europe, which these so-called libertarians have long ranted against. It is also similar to funds like INCA which spread propaganda throughout South and Central America.

The Candy Man Can

What was it that inspired Welch to start funding this libertarian movement? After completing his studies in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Welch spent two years at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He then moved to Cambridge in 1919 to attend law school at Harvard until 1921. While he was was preparing to be a lawyer, however, he met a Wellesley girl in the Class of 1922 named Marian Lucile Probert, whose father (George Ernest Probert) had immigrated to the U.S. from England and worked in the area of Pittsburgh before settling down in Akron, Ohio. As a freshman at Wellesley, therefore, Marian may have encountered May-ling Soong (eventually Madame Chiang Kai-shek),who graduated from Wellesley College in 1917. Or perhaps Robert walked in the steps trod by her brother T.V. Soong, who finished college at Harvard in 1915 and was Finance Minister of the Nationalist party in China by 1927.

When Robert and Marian married  in the Wellesley College Chapel, his bride had recently returned from a trip to Europe with college friends. The newlyweds remained in the Cambridge area while Robert worked in his brother's candy factory, giving up a career in law. By 1928 he was treasurer of the Oxford Candy Company at 185 Albany Street and had moved to the Watertown suburb of Cambridge, Massachusetts. In August 1929 Marian again returned from a trip to England with their two sons, Robert III and Hillard, but if Robert accompanied them, he returned on his own through an unreported means of transport. The year 1930 found the Welch family living on Long Island at Hempstead, New York, while he commuted to his own candy factory in Brooklyn. A younger brother, Miles Edward Welch, lived with the family and helped in the manufacture of the candy.

Several years later, as early as 1939, both Robert and his brother, James Overton Welch, lived almost next door, both owning homes on Fletcher Road in Belmont, MA. We are told that Robert took a trip to England in 1946 to study socialism's negative impact on the country:
In 1946, Welch journeyed to England to study the destructive impact on that country of its socialist Labor Government. He was alarmed and distressed by the pursuit of similarly destructive policies by our own federal government. He was even more alarmed by the foreign policies of the Truman State Department, which were betraying our allies and assisting with the establishment of Communist regimes in Europe and Asia.
However, according to an item appearing in a June 1947 newspaper in Portland, Maine, Welch had spent "several years" in England. Although it is not clear from any source found that Welch ever served in any military capacity, or exactly how he studied the socialist economy, it is noteworthy that he and his wife, Marian, spent some time in the British island of Bermuda, returning on a PanAm flight from Kindley Field in September 1949. That would have made them one of the first tourists to visit Bermuda by air, if they were indeed tourists and not visiting the island for business purposes.

Welch then became a candidate in the 1950 Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, coming in second to Laurence Curtis, who lost in the general election to his Democrat opponent. 

The James O. Welch Co. began expanding in 1955, purchasing Mansfield chocolate factory, which made packaged candies like Peppermint Patties, Junior Mints and Milk Duds. In 1961, Welch bought the 40-year-old Merckens Chocolate Co. of Buffalo, N.Y., and transported half a million pounds of Merckens’ machinery to the Mansfield plant. In 1963 the National Biscuit Company bought James Welch's company. James Welch, Sr. served as a director of Nabisco from 1963 until his retirement in 1978, and his son was president of the company, which in 1988 was the subject of much interest for takeover. But by then, Robert had left the company, ostensibly to pursue his intellectual interests and writing.

Was there more to his story?

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