While you read chapter 16 it is advisable to get the feel of Florida, feel the ocean spray in your face as it were. Therefore, I perused through city directories to locate some of the important characters in our story, especially for Richard Danner and members of the Rebozo family. It would be interesting to know for sure, exactly, when did they meet and where did they get together. What did they talk about? Without that knowledge, we can only surmise.
Selected Excerpts from
THE GREAT HEROIN COUP - DRUGS, INTELLIGENCE AND INTERNATIONAL FASCISM
By Henrik Kruger; Jerry Meldon, Translator
South End Press©1980: Box 68 Astor Station, Boston, MA 02123
240pps - one edition - out-of-print; Orginally published in Danish
Smukke Serge og Heroien; Bogan 1976
THE FRIENDS OF RICHARD NIXON
Richard Nixon's connections to the Syndicate and its stooges are a matter of record. The only question is when they began. Some say it was 1946, when Nixon ran for Congress in California and Murray Chotiner, a top Syndicate defense attorney, ran his campaign with support from the gangster Mickey Cohen.
Others place the Nixon‑underworld wedding as early as 1943, when Nixon was working in the Office of Price Administration, at a desk responsible for controlling the market in rubber goods. There he allegedly met his future pals George "The Senator from Cuba" Smathers and the Cuban‑American Bebe Rebozo, who later struck it rich in real estate. The two were then small time: Smathers a lawyer for a Syndicate front smuggling auto tires from Cuba, Rebozo the owner of a gas station that sold the tires.
Rebozo family in Miami's 1942 directory[Note from editor: Rebozo's Havana-born parents Francisco Matias and Carmen (Sarmiento) Rebozo had come to Florida with their family in 1904, to work in the cigar plants in Tampa. Charlie was the youngest child, thus the nickname "Bebe," Spanish for "baby." By 1923, the family had relocated to Miami, and all his siblings worked in different industries. The eldest, Edward, was a metal worker while Albert became assistant manager for Western Auto stores. By 1940 Bebe, his parents and sister, Carolyn, a buyer for Miami department store, Burdine's Inc., had bought a nice house in Coral Gables. Their father died before 1942. Bebe operated a gas station near Woodlawn Cemetery, less than a mile from Albert Rebozo's apartment and 2.5 miles from Edward's modest residence near the Western Auto store on SW 8th. There were no apparent criminal connections in the Rebozo family. Around 1923 Bebe's sister Margaret had married a man named Harold Latham Barker, who worked for Florida Power and Light. They named their son Junior, and, like his father, he went to the University of Florida. Barker, Sr. was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in 1921, located then where today's Smathers Library is found. In 1951, Margaret Rebozo Barker's son, Harold Jr., made an application to the Sons of the American Revolution, based on his father's maternal ancestor, Jacob Whitmarch, and he gave his address at that time as 1460 W. 21st Street, Miami Beach. In 1934 the directory shows the Barkers living in Coral Gables, two miles from the mansion of Mrs. Solomon G. Merrick and that of her son George Merrick, who had begun developing his family's "Coral Gables Plantation" into a resort community. This blog explored certain connections of Merrick's company previously. Thinking this family of Barkers may have been related to Bernard Barker, the friend Howard Hunt first met in Coconut Grove during the Bay of Pigs, I researched both families' genealogy and determined there was, in actuality, no existing connection--just an amazing coincidence.
Smathers in Miami directory, 1944George Smathers was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon House at the university in Gainesville, Florida, where his roommate in 1933-34 was Philip Graham (future publisher of the Washington Post). Phil Graham withdrew from the college, but returned in the fall of 1934 and graduated in the 1936 class with Smathers. Coincidentally, this is the same fraternity Harold Barker, Jr. (Bebe Rebozo's nephew) had joined a decade earlier. While Graham left Florida, Smathers continued law school in Gainesville until 1938, where Paul Helliwell, also a law student there, completed his law studies a year behind the future U.S. Senator from the state of Florida, who opened a law firm in Miami. Phil Graham and George Smathers both married in 1939, and Paul Helliwell graduated from law school that year and married Majorie Mae Muller, whose father sold insurance while her mother managed the Astoria Apartments in Miami at 1367 S.W. 5th Street (about 2 miles from where the Rebozos all either lived or worked). By 1945 Paul and Marjorie Helliwell also lived in Miami with his parents. Paul had joined the military during the war and was already a Lieutenant Colonel, while his father still worked as a Customs inspector. Miami was a small town in those days. Perhaps their paths crossed.]
[Editor's Note: The Wofford Hotel was located at 2400 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach, and the Tatem Hotel was farther north in 4300 block of Collins. Dick Danner's full name was Richard Garden Danner. He had been born in Indiana in 1911 and was a graduate of Georgetown University's class of 1933, where he had played football and later joined the FBI. In 1940 he had been Special Agent in Charge in the Atlanta office. His name was listed in Miami's 1942 directory as residing on 82nd Terrace, while FBI offices were at 1300 Biscayne Tower at 19 W. Flagler.
FBI Musical Chairs
A year later he was special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office, housed on the 13th floor of the brand-new Mercantile National Bank Building at 1700 Main Street. The bank's founder, Robert L. Thornton, who helped found the Dallas "Citizens Council" and also served as Dallas mayor for many years, lived in a stately old neighborhood of elegant homes near White Rock Lake--the type of person with enough clout to convince the FBI to lease office space in his new building.
Although Danner had grown up in Ohio, as early as 1930 his mother's father (Daniel Alexander Garden) had moved to Groveland in Lake County, Florida to run a saw mill, and by 1935 had been followed by Dick Danner's parents, who became farmers at nearby Mascotte, a rural area 30 miles west of Orlando. After Danner transferred back to Miami in 1944, he left the FBI to head the Senatorial election campaign of George Smathers and was rewarded with the job as city manager for Miami. (See Brian Lewis Crispell, Testing the Limits: George Armistead Smathers and Cold War America (1999, out of print), p. 17.) Danner had met Smathers in 1940 while both worked on the "white slavery" case, involving the La Paloma Club in Miami. Smathers was an assistant district attorney investigating and prosecuting the case while Danner's FBI office worked on federal connections. Smathers was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1946 with Danners' help. Smather was a prosecutor of the La Paloma Club's owners during the summer of 1941. Public records for 1947 show Danner in charge of Miami's department of Public Safety in the city hall, 74 W. Flagler, the heart of downtown Miami--across the street and a few paces from his 1942 office at the Miami FBI. He and his wife, the former Martha Dickey, now lived in Coconut Grove on Trapp Avenue (5 miles to the south of town). A newspaper column by Bill Baggs, which appeared in the Miami News in 1951 said he had been suddenly fired from his job as Miami's City Manager, and that led to his becoming a Ford automobile dealer in Vero Beach, Florida, as well as helping George Smathers with his election campaign. It would have been during this time that Danner met Richard Nixon, according to the book by Stephen E. Ambrose, Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962.
Georgetown University '33
By1955, however, Danner had moved back to Texas to be president and general manager of a Ford dealership, Dick Danner Motors at 2424 W. Seventh Street in Fort Worth. He and wife Martha lived at 413 Ridgewood Road, two miles north of the River Crest Country Club built by the father of CIA agent, David Atlee Phillips.]
He also got to know people even closer to the Syndicate, who had extensive interests in Cuba. In 1952, one short month after the dictator Batista's comeback, Nixon and Danner joined throngs of tourists who unloaded their savings at one of the Syndicate's Cuban casinos. Nixon would return frequently. He, Rebozo, and Smathers allegedly invested in the island during the fifties, and in 1955, as vice president of the United States, Nixon would pin an award on Batista, with whom he was photographed in the dictator's palace.
Nixon also helped plan the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1959. Chairing the 54/12 Group, a National Security Council subcommittee in charge of covert actions, the vice president pushed for the plan's approval before his 1960 presidential race against John F. Kennedy. According to Howard Hunt, Nixon was the invasion's "secret action officer" in the White House. President Eisenhower, who would later plead ignorance of the plan's extent, assumed it was limited to support for anti‑Castro guerillas in the mountains. When JFK took over the oval office, he was presented with a fait accompli.
If Eisenhower was really left out in the cold on the plan's magnitude, then William Pawley must have been among Nixon's co‑conspirators. As mentioned earlier, Pawley talked Eisenhower into arming the anti‑Communist Cubans. Pawley was and would remain one of Nixon's most ardent supporters.
When the invasion proved a bust, Nixon's voice was among the loudest accusing Kennedy of undermining it by refusing reinforcements. In the years that followed he continued to cultivate support among the Cuban exiles and other right wing constituencies. Cubans for Nixon and Asians for Nixon touted him as a man who would not forsake the cause of anticommunism. The Nixon of near‑hysterical anticommunism would win additional allies in the Syndicate and in powerful business circles tied in with the military and espionage.
Fortunately for Nixon, forces behind the above lobbies were also influential in organized labor, especially the Teamsters Union. Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa became a pawn of the Lansky syndicate, which borrowed millions from the union's pension fund. However, Hoffa's obsequiousness towards the Mob was dampened by Attorney General Robert Kennedy's aggressive investigation of Teamster policies. In 1967, prior to Nixon's decisive electoral campaign, Hoffa landed in jail with a thirteen‑year sentence for misuse of union funds. The new Teamster strongmen, Frank Fitzsimmons and Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, were friends of Nixon and in the hands of the Syndicate. When Nixon pardoned Hoffa just prior to Christmas 1971, Hoffa had to promise to stay out of organized labor.
In the sixties Nixon grew even closer to his friends in Miami, who by then had made millions in land speculation. Dade County north of Miami became known as "Lanskyville," as a string of seemingly legitimate real estate firms handled the Lansky Mob's enormous holdings. Among the more prominent firms were:
1) The Cape Florida Development Co., run by Donald Berg and Nixon's pal Rebozo. The two worked closely with Al Polizzi, the former head of the Syndicate's Mayfield Road Gang in Cleveland, then in charge of the Syndicate's Florida contractors. An investigation into the placement of stolen securities at Rebozo's bank was nipped in the bud.
2) The Mary Carter Paint Co., which in 1967 became Resorts International, that now runs the world's most profitable casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and was purportedly the brainchild of Mr. Lansky. Resorts' Paradise Island casino in the Bahamas was managed by Ed Cellini, a longtime Lansky casino operator.
3) The General Development Corp., run by two Lansky strawmen, Wallace Groves and Lou Chesler. Its board of directors included Lansky broker Max Orovitz and the gangster Trigger Mike Coppola. Groves bought up half of Grand Bahama Island for the Syndicate and contracted with Nixon's law client, National Bulk Carriers, to construct a harbor there.
4) The Major Realty Co., whose controlling shareholders were Senator Smathers and Lansky's men Orovitz and Ben Siegelbaum.
Through his friends, Nixon acquired land on Key Biscayne and Fisher's Island, off the Florida coast. In return he readily made himself available for personal appearances. When Mary Carter in 1967 opened the Nassau Bay Club casino on Grand Bahama Island, Nixon was the guest of honor. One year later he was there when Resorts International opened its casino on Paradise Island.
Nixon also expressed his friendship in other ways. Hoffa was not the only one who did not have to pay his full debt to society. Neither did Leonard Bursten, Carl Kovens, or Morris Shenker, all Syndicate associates, the last two solid Nixon campaign supporters. Robert Morgenthau, the federal attorney for the southern district of New York, became interested in some of Nixon's friends in 1968. He proved Max Orovitz guilty of willful violation of stock registration laws, and was investigating Syndicate money transfers to Switzerland. The latter threatened to lead to an indictment of Nixon's friend John M. King of Investor's Overseas Service (IOS). Morgenthau, however, was removed from office.
Glancing at major contributors to Nixon's 1968 and 1972 campaign chests, one finds the names of Miami straw men Lou Chesler and Richard Pistell, Resorts' president James Crosby and John M. King, the Texas billionaire Howard Hughes, master swindler Robert Vesco, and the California millionaire C. Arnholdt Smith, a close associate of the gangster John Alessio and later convicted of misuse of bank funds.
The list of Nixon's major personal and political supporters starts with Rebozo, Smathers, Dewey, Hoffa, and Frank Fitzsimmons, all with their Syndicate associations; and goes on to include William Pawley and the China Lobby's Madame Anna Chan Chennault.
Nearly all of Nixon's major supporters in Florida were involved in one way or another in the Bay of Pigs operation. The same can be said of the top Syndicate figures, four of whom escorted the invasion force in a yacht for part of the voyage, while Trafficante's lieutenants in Miami and the Dominican Republic stood ready to seize the casinos.
Moreover, one cannot overlook Nixon's particular connection to IOS‑multimillionaire Vesco, who until recently was in exile in Costa Rica, where he allegedly financed the smuggling of narcotics. Vesco provided covert financial aid to Nixon's reelection campaign, and was closely associated with Nixon's brother Edward and nephew Donald, Jr. Richard Nixon himself is alleged to have met secretly with Vesco in Salzburg, Austria. The White House, finally, came to Vesco's aid in a case brought against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission, just as an investigation of his narcotics activities was similarly choked off.
1. H. Kohn: "Strange Bedfellows," Rolling Stone, 20 May 1976.
2. C. Oglesby: "Presidential Assassinations and the Closing of the Frontier," in Government by Gunplay, S. Blumenthal and H. Yazijian, eds. (New American Library, 1976).
[Editor Note: Related to Oglesby's theory about how the closing of the frontier led to a struggle between Eastern Capital and Cowboys, see this excerpt from a blog by Lee Barckmann:
[Editor Note: Related to Oglesby's theory about how the closing of the frontier led to a struggle between Eastern Capital and Cowboys, see this excerpt from a blog by Lee Barckmann:
The Yankee Cowboy War starts on the eve of World War II, as Meyer Lansky and Fulgencio Batista made a pact allowing the syndicate to control the molasses trade and the Havana Casinos. (See "The Godfather Part II"). It would later expand to black market rubber, which brings in Nixon, as a recent law school graduate working in Roosevelt's Price Control Bureau Board in the rubber section. One of the mechanics of the Syndicate's tire smuggling operations was Beebe [sic] Robozo, who it is postulated, met Nixon in these days and cemented Nixon's position into a possible 'group' that combines the darker sides of American clandestinity with Cowboy aggressiveness and Nixon's special talents. A case before Nixon's section is decided in favor of the 'importers', but all the notes are missing ... It proves nothing of course, as Oglesby is quick to point out. We aren't even sure that Nixon was involved ...but you have to wonder what Rebozo and Nixon had in common that would make Beebe his friend of last resort. (Later in the book, Oglesby returns to that period where Jack Ruby gets his start as a messenger boy for Al Capone in Chicago.)
3. The 1950 Kefauver investigation discovered that one of Lansky's largest back room casinos in Miami was set up in the Wofford Hotel run by Tatum "Chubby" Wofford.
4. Howard Hughes helped Nixon out as early as 1956 with a secret $100,000 donation, as well as a $205,000 loan to his brother Donald.
5. J. Gerth: "Richard Nixon and Organized Crime," in Government by Gunplay, op. cit.
6. Kohn, op. cit.
7. H.G. Klein in the San Diego Union, 25 March 1962.
8. Kohn, op. cit.
9. Oglesby, op. cit.
10. M. Acoca and R.K. Brown: "The Bayo‑Pawley Affair," Soldier of Fortune, Vol. 1, No. 2,1976.
11. J. Hougan: Spooks (William Morrow, 1978).
12. Time, 18 August 1975. Six months after an 88‑count indictment, Frank Fitzsimmons' son Richard, a Teamsters organizer, was recently sentenced to thirty months and a $10,000 fine for accepting bribes from trucking company officials (Boston Globe, 16 February 1980).
13. Information on the four firms is from the October 1972 NACLA Report.
14. Bursten, a friend of Hoffa's who was at one time a director of the Miami National Bank, saw his fifteen‑year sentence, in connection with the bankruptcy of a Beverly Hills housing development that had received a $12 million Teamster pension fund loan, reduced to probation after the intervention of Murray Chotiner. Kovens, another leading Florida Teamster official, was convicted in the same pension fraud case as Hoffa, but released from federal prison with the help of Senator Smathers. and then went on to collect $50,000 for Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign. Shenker, whom Life magazine in 1971 called the "foremost mob attorney," saw the Justice Department's multi‑year investigation of his tax violations turned down by Nixon's Attorney General Richard Kleindienst on the basis of "insufficient evidence," after which the files on Shenker at the offices of the U.S. Attorney at St. Louis disappeared; see Gerth, op. cit.
15. NACLA Report, op. cit.
16. Hougan, op. cit.
18. Time, 6 May 1974.
19. L.H. Whittemore: Peroff (Ballantine, 1975). As of November 1979, a federal grand jury in New York City was investigating Vesco's masterminding an alleged scheme whereby Libyan government officials were to pay off members of the Carter administration to facilitate Libya's purchase of American C‑130 transport planes; see the New York Times, 4 November 1979. Five months later, in the midst of Jimmy Carter's reelection campaign, an assistant U.S. attorney announced that a second federal grand jury in Washington had returned no indictments following its investigation of allegations that Vesco had attempted to bribe Carter administration officials to fix his long‑standing legal problems. The grand jury's foreman, Ralph Ulmer, immediately criticized the incompleteness of the announcement, charging that "the statement is incomplete and thus misleading, which is about par for the course for the Justice Department." (New York Times, 2 April 1980).
Ulmer had earlier charged that "cover‑up activities are being orchestrated within the Justice Department under the concept that the Administration must be protected at a costs... Among other things information was withheld from the grand jury... a witness was encouraged to be less than candid with the FBI." (Boston Globe, 30 August 1979.)
The man referred to below as Rebozo's partner, C. V. W. Trice, Jr. was more specifically, Cuthbert Van Wyck Trice, Jr. ,born in Norfolk, Va. in 1906, who made his application to the Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution two years after Rebozo's nephew, Harold L. Barker, Jr. At that time Trice was a flight navigation officer for the Air Transport Command in Miami. His father, who died in 1965, was head of a real estate firm, W.H.H. Trice and Co., in Norfolk, Va.