Monday, November 7, 2011

LBJ's Friend Posh, a Cousin of Wynne

Master of the Senate
"Master of the Senate" is the third book in Robert A. Caro's series, "The Years of Lyndon Johnson."

But then the man who lived on caffeine, cigarettes and pure anger was betrayed by his own body. The man who lived in fear of dying young, who feared danger and became "frantic" when put under physical discomfort was suddenly struck down.

Posh Oltorf
Caro writes of Johnson, driven in an ambulance that was actually a hearse, facing the most grave health problem of his life, a severe heart attack — and taking it with enormous courage. Suffering what could only have been incredible pain, Johnson told his old friend, Frank "Posh" Oltorf,"I want Lady Bird to have everything I have ... She's been a wonderful, wonderful wife, and she's done so much for me. She just deserves everything I have. That's what was in my will."
In earlier chapters of "Master of the Senate," Caro lays out how Johnson treated Lady Bird as a servant, kept her at his beck and call, derisively asked her to leave the room when he was talking with other politicians about issues of substance — and essentially treated her with cold, sometimes savage disregard. To see him complimenting her with what might have been his dying breath is deeply moving.

And then Johnson asked Oltorf how Alice Glass — one of his most serious mistresses — was doing. He then asked Oltorf if he'd be able to keep smoking after attack.
"Well, Senator, Frankly, no," and Johnson, with what Oltorf recalls as "a great sigh," said, "I'd rather have my pecker cut off."

So, just who was this Posh Oltorf who was so close to LBJ?  

In a word, he was a cousin of Jesse Bedford Shelmire, Jr. and Nemo Shelmire Wynne (the uncle and mother, respectively, of Bedford S. Wynne) .

SEPTEMBER 11, 1932
Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Brian Aynesworth, who were married on Thursday in Marlin, will come to Galveston to reside after their wedding trip to Monterrey, Mexico. Mrs. Aynesworth was the former Miss Rosalis Oltorf of Marlin. The ceremony was performed before an improvised altar decorated with ferns and palms and baskets of yellow gladioli in the home of the bride's grandfather, T. E. Battle. Dr. C.C. Carroll, cousin of the bridegroom, of Natchitoches, La., read the service. 

Preceding the wedding party, Frank Oltorf, Jr. of Marlin and Bedford Shelmire, Jr. of Dallas, cousins of the bride, laid ribbon streamers forming an aisle for the bridal party. Nancylu Crosthwait of Waco, niece of the bridegroom, was flower girl. The bride, who was given in marriage by her brother, James B. Oltorf, wore a suit of gray luca cloth with silver fox collar and hat of black felt with a small veil. Her accessories were in black. She carried an arm bouquet of talisman roses. Mrs. Oltorf was attended by her cousin, Miss Tallulah Holloway of Marlin as maid of honor.... Kenneth Aynesworth of Houston, brother of the bridegroom, attended him as best man. Mrs. Barry Braselton, aunt of the bride, played Lohengrin's wedding march for the bridal party. Before the ceremony, Mrs. N. W. Goodrich, of Marlin, sang Grieg's "I Love Thee" and "O Promise Me" with Mrs. Braselton at the piano.

"Families of Falls County," Compiled and Edited by the
 Falls County Historical Commission, page 14
Rosalis (Oltorf) Aynesworth's paternal grandparents, Judge James Daniel and Mary Irene (Hutchings) Oltorf settled in Marlin, Falls County, Texas after their marriage in 1855. Her maternal grandparents were Thomas Elbridge and Susan (Green) Battle; and Susan's maternal grandfather was Churchill Jones, who bought 28,000 acres of land-- moving to Falls County, Texas in 1853, where his son James Sandford Jones preceded the family with a large number of slaves to build the slave homes, a family home and begin working the land before his parents arrival from Conecuh County, Alabama.

Thomas Elbridge Battle and his wife Susan had five daughters, one of whom was named 
  • Maude Annie Battle Bunch, whose daughter Mable married Dr. Jesse Bedford Shelmire II in 1925. 
  • A younger daughter was was Susan Kendrick Battle, born in Marlin in 1881, who married Charles Archer Oltorf in 1902.
[Source: The Battle book : a genealogy of the Battle family in America, with chapters illustrating certain phases of its history (Montgomery, Ala.: Paragon Press, 1930, 780 pgs).

Big Spring Daily Herald - May 12, 1939

MARLIN, May 12 (AP)—Thomas Elbridge Battle, 91, president of the First State bank of Marlin, who rode with Sul Ross against the Indians of far West Texas, died here last night.
Battle was a member of the Washington and Lee university student guard of honor which sat
with the body of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was a Confederate cavalryman at 15. He accompanied Sul Ross when the Indian fighter freed Cynthia Parker from the Indians .

JUNE 11, 1931 Galveston News
Philadelphia. Pa., June 10.—The American Medical Association today awarded its gold medal for the best scientific exhibit to Jacob Furth, M. D., Henry Phipps Institute, University of Pennsylvania, for original investigation of experimental lukemia and excellence of presentation. The silver medal went to Bedford Shelmire, Baylor University of Medicine, Dallas, Tex., and W. E. Dove. United States bureau of entomology, Charleston, S. C., for original work on the spread of typhus fever by the tropical rat mite.

Brazos Irrigation Director Is Dead
MARLIN, March 10.—(AP)—Frank Oltorf, 50, veteran attorney, civic leader and a director of the Brazos river conservation and reclamation district, died at his home here last night of pneumonia which developed after a lengthy illness of heart disease.

Oltorf was a native of Marlin and had been a member of the bar here since 1906, when he completed his law work at the University of Texas. He served as assistant district attorney under Tom Connally, now United States senator, from 1906 to 1910, and as district attorney from 1910 to 1914, when he retired to private practice. The veteran attorney was named a director of the Brazos district last year. He had large agricultural holdings and was a member of the board of directors of the Home Benefit association and the Marlin and Falls County Bar associations. Survivors include the mother, Mrs. Bailie Calvert Oltorf, the widow, a son, Frank Oltorf Jr.; two brothers, Dan and Prentice Oltorf and two sisters, Mrs. B. G. Ware and Mrs. J. C. Holloway.

Oltorf was very close to LBJ. He was a long-time employer of Brown and Root, working hand-in-hand with George R. Brown, LBJ's number-one financial patron. He hailed from the same small town as Alice Glass, wife of LBJ's other patron, Charles Marsh, the newspaper tycoon. Both Brown and Marsh owned large estates in the hunt country of Virginia where they entertained Lyndon. Could it be a mere coincidence that Oltorf and Bedford Wynne could trace their ancestry back to the same wealthy plantation owner, Thomas E. Battle?

In his oral history, Oltorf discloses how close he was to his friend, President Lyndon B. Johnson:

...three-man race between Johnson, Stevenson, and George Peddy. The Houston Post was supporting Peddy because he was a Houstonian, and I was a cousin of Governor Hobby's and just extremely devoted to him . And Johnson felt that one of the reporters on the paper, at least one of the editors, not the Hobbys, but one of the editors, was very much opposed to him and was just not giving him any play in the papers at all .

And [Johnson] asked me did I think I could say something about getting him a little better exposure . I said, "Better than that, I'll see if I can't get a job covering the campaign for the Post ." So I went down and asked if I could cover his campaign . And the Governor thought about it and talked it over,with the paper and said yes, I could . I had represented the Post while I was at Rice Institute as the Rice reporter for the Houston Post . So he knew I had some talent in reporting, and I was given that position . So I traveled then with Lyndon Johnson throughout the state, with the retinue of newspaper people who were covering him....

The other time that I think I was helpful : we were coming into Houston, and this was still in the first primary and I was still writing. So the Post, though, it was, you know, not only for Peddy, but the managing editor was the one that was so [involved]. He was really putting Peddy on the front page all the time. The Stevenson articles and Johnson articles were not as prominently displayed. At least, that was, I'm sure, Johnson's feeling and Stevenson's feeling. Now, whether it was true - or not--but it was a Peddy paper. But he called me in and he said, "Now, I want you to talk to Governor Hobby." And he said, "My father loved him so much. He was in the legislature when Hobby was governor. He supported his program and was very fond of that." And [he] said, "Now, I'm running for this thing, and everything is Peddy on the front page, George Peddy. I think I should get better coverage. Say something for me."

So I went out that evening, and I took it upon myself, knowing the tension the man was under and what I thought he really felt, to change his message a little bit . And I said, "Governor, Lyndon sent his love to you and Oveta . He said that he'd always remember the deep affection that his father had for you when he was in the legislature and you were governor . He understands that Peddy's a Houstonian and he's an old friend, and that the Post would have to be for him during this first primary, but he hopes if he and Stevenson are in the second race that it will help him ."

And the Governor said, "Well, that's mighty nice of Lyndon. Why don't you bring him by for breakfast in the morning?" Well, the next morning at seven o'clock, I took Lyndon out, and we had breakfast with Governor and Mrs. Hobby. And after he left, the Governor told me "I certainly enjoyed that visit." And said, "He talks like he knows what he's up to and wants to do. We can sure give a lot of thought to supporting him in the second race, if Peddy's not in it."
At this time, I was still thinking of finishing law school. I never finished law school. And Herman Brown , who was a contractor and president of Brown and Root, was a great friend of mine. I'd known him in the legislature. I was always on opposite sides. I was totally against everything he was for, but we were the closest of friends. He was a man who, if he thought you were honest and had integrity and imagination, the fact that you saw things differently from him didn't make a bit of difference. Anyway, I decided really that I didn't want to be a lawyer. My father had been, and my great-grandfather, and I was sort of expected to, but
I decided I didn't [want to].

The Browns had a lot of property that they'd taken in through the years on payment notes, and I was going to take over the development of this property. It was scattered all throughout Texas. So I started. They gave me this job, developing real estate. The Korean War was getting pretty hot then, and they had a hard time getting their control materials, I mean the steel, the copper. And they had the control materials plan there in Washington. Herman called me in one day and asked me if I would go up to Washington; he said they had to send up the vice president about every three weeks to take an application over to the control materials; said would I just go up there and stay awhile, so that they could save this constant thing in taking the things over.

I said yes. I never will forget, I said, "How long do you think I'M going to be there, because I've got to know whether to store my car, or sell my car, or what." He said, "Oh, you'll probably be there not over six months." I think I was there four or five years.
But I went there. And of course, one thing led to another, and I finally not only did that, but we were building some tanks for the government, and tried to get the tools allocated through the Pentagon, and I'd do that. Then I'd call on the foreign embassies about overseas work and keep up with the Export-Import Bank. So I lived there in Washington at the Hay-Adams House for about four years. And I saw then-Senator Lyndon Johnson socially a great deal.

I will say this, which is an interesting thing, [because] everyone's always talked about the great closeness to the Browns. And it was certainly there. They were just devoted friends; in fact, Lyndon Johnson and George Brown and Herman Brown were like brothers.* But I was told by George Brown, when I went to Washington, "Never go on the Hill for any help. When you're dealing with government agencies or anything else, we find that these people resent that."

*Lyndon said this. I never heard the Browns say so. I think LBJ was closer to George than Herman.

M: Yes. There's also the story that Brown and Root, the Browns in particular, contributed heavily to Johnson's campaigns.
O : I've heard that, but I have no knowledge of their doing it or their not doing it .
M: Yes .
O: They certainly never did through me. In fact, I never contributed a penny to his campaigns. I would have, because I admired him and thought he was great. I just didn't have that sort of money. Now, what the Browns did, I have no idea.
M: Well, the Browns had a ranch or a farm.
O: At Middleburg, Virginia .
M: Now, did the Senator go down there?
O: Occasionally . I bought the place down there for the Browns.
M: Oh, you did?
O : At Middleburg. George Brown, at the time had been on several commissions; one, under President Truman, the [William S.] Paley Committee, I believe it was called, on the needs of this nation for raw materials for the next twenty or thirty years. And then later, Eisenhower put him on a committee, too. I remember on that committee, Walter Reuther and Ernie [Earnest Robert] Breech, the head of Ford, [were] people on it. I just forget exactly what it was right now; a similar thing as the one that Truman had had him on; might have really been an extension of the two, of the same committee, I don't know. But George Brown had to be in Washington a great deal. And he told me, he said, "You know, I'd like to have a place that's not over an hour from here. I'm here so much." He always stayed at the Carlton Hotel. He said, "A place where I can have some pleasure and go when I'm here. And also, you could do some entertaining there with your business contacts." I, by the way, was not only calling on foreign governments, sometimes I'd go to New York to call on an industrial customer, just trying to get us business wherever we could get it.

So, oh, this had been said casually for about--well, a year and a half had passed without it ever being mentioned. I, in the meantime, had been looking around, and I saw this place and it was about one-third of what places not nearly as grand were selling for. I called George, and I said, "George, I have found the most beautiful place. It's the greatest buy; it has to be bought right now." And he said, "Well, I'm not going to be able to get up there." And I said, "Well, if you don't buy it, I'll buy it, because I can borrow the money. And then I'll sell it to somebody at a profit." He says, "Oh, I'll buy it!" (Laughter) So we got it, and it is a beautiful

The Johnsons visited out there; they'd come out for supper or dinner; and a great many, all my Texas friends. The Browns were awfully nice. They would let me invite my personal friends out, because it was just an hour's drive. They had a dairy on it, and I was in charge of seeing to it that the farm tried to pay for itself. I don't think it ever did. So, yes, they would come out. In fact, that's where he had his heart attack.

M: Right . . Were you there at the time?
O: I .was .
M: Well, tell me about that, then.
O: Well, George and Alice Brown had come up. They were going to spend the weekend at Huntland, George, and Alice, and their daughter Isabel .
M : They called it Huntland?
O: Yes. That's the name of the place. And Isabel, who had worked for the Democratic Policy Committee in Washington, very smart girl,and really an extremely able and brilliant girl. The four of us went out. George had asked Lyndon if he wouldn't like to come out for lunch the following day, which I think was a Saturday. I'm not sure, but it was the following day. And he said, yes, he had some matters in the Senate that were very important, but when he got through, he'd drive on out. He'd get there either for lunch or later, but not to wait on lunch. So we had had our lunch. Afterward George Brown decided he would take a nap, and Alice and I were going to go to a neighbor's house who had a swimming pool and swim. And probably Isabel, I don't recall. But anyway, just as we were leaving, the limousine drove up with the Majority Leader Johnson, at the time, of course. And he came to the door, and we said that George was taking a nap and would he like to come swimming with us. And he said, no, that he felt badly, and that he'd had to stop on the way down; he had terrible indigestion . Alice said, "Well, I'm going to wake George up ." And he said, "Oh, no, don't do that . I think I'll go out and lie down on the couch ." Well, Alice did, I think , get George up, but we went on swimming . When we came back, George met us at the door ; he had a rather worried look on his face . He said, "Lyndon is sick . He's downstairs on the couch . I'm trying to make him lie down and rest, but he says he's got these pains, and I'm worried about him ." He said, "Do you know a doctor around here, Posh?"--talking to me . He said, "It might be his heart ."

...I think he definitely felt there was a possibility that he'd die before he got there . Now there are a couple of reasons behind that . Number one, he reached up to me during the trip, and he said, "Posh, if something happens, I want to tell you where I think my will is . I think it's in the bottom drawer of the desk at the radio station. I made it when I went off in World War II
and I haven't seen it in a long time, but I made it when I went off to the war ; I think it's there .'` But said, "If it's not, I just want to tell you what I want. I want Lady Bird to have everything I have."
And he gave a great tribute to her; he said, "She's been a wonderful, wonderful wife, and she's done so much for me. She just deserves everything that I have . . . That's what was in my will. And if it's not found, that's what it says, wherever it is." And I said, "All right ."

Then I had wanted very much to buy a ranch back here in Texas, a small ranch, which I now, by the way, own, got it some ten years later. A man named Dick Hooper owned it; Lyndon knew that I wanted this ranch, because someday I wanted to retire and put up a little place on it. It's at the back of this present-day ranch now. And he asked me during all this, "Did Dick Hooper ever sell you that ranch?" And I said, "ado." And he said, "Well, I wish he'd do it,
because I know how badly you want it and how you love the land."

He said, "I wonder why he won't sell it." I said, "I just don't know, but I'm not going to give up on it." He said, "Well, I certainly hope you will get it." But it was concern about something
he knew I wanted, and that he showed through all of this suffering. The doctor would occasionally look back. And there was one rather--as I say, he's an earthy man, and I always later said, "You know, you hear about the last words of great men like Washington and Jefferson, and others," but I'd say, "If you'd have conked out on the ambulance, I'd have had to do something about those last words."

Because one of the few things, he's a great smoker. I think history ought to know this: he asked the doctor, "Doctor, let me ask you something. Will I ever be able to smoke again if this is a heart attack?" And Dr. Gibson said, "Well, Senator, frankly, no." And he gave a great sigh and said, "I'd rather have my pecker cut off."

Posh Oltorf is on the far right with sunglasses. On far left is Texas politician, Homer Thornberry. Next is U.S. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. Next is George Brown of Houston, Texas (Brown & Root). Posh is with some of the most powerful men of Texas and the United States during the mid-20th century.

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