Monday, April 29, 2019

D. Harold Byrd

Researched and written
by Linda Minor

D. Harold Byrd's Convergence with Mac Wallace?

As promised in Part II of "Tale about a Tail," this post will give you more information than you ever wanted to know about the background of D. Harold Byrd. We may return to tracing Tail #N-17888 in a later post. What initially piqued an interest that motivated me to research D. Harold Byrd in greater depth were two facts I discovered about Byrd while researching the history of TUSCO:
  1. Byrd was born in a tiny town called Detroit in Red River County, Texas in 1900, and he graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1921, yet the college-degreed geologist had been made to look like a rube with the nickname "Dry Hole."
  2. His first big oil discovery in the Talco Field of northeast Texas led to partnership in a refinery in Mt. Pleasant, Titus County, Texas in 1937 with three other independent oilmen--Captain J.F. Lucey, Ralph Emerson Fair (who bought 5,000 acres near Camp Bullis at Boerne, Texas--developed by his heirs into Fair Oaks Ranch), and Jack Frost.
Towns in northeast Texas where Byrd, Wallace, Rainey and Witt families lived and worked
In addition to being the site for the Talco Refinery, Mt. Pleasant, for those who aren't up on Texas trivia, was once the hometown of LBJ's favorite assassin, Mac Wallace. Just north of Mt. Pleasant is Red River County, where a significant number of lives in Mac's history converged. His father Alvin Wallace had been born in Mt. Pleasant and began his career as a concrete contractor there. He built roads and bridges in partnership with Mac's uncle, Leonard Roy Bowden, a brother of Alvin's sister Nellie.

Nellie Arlene Wallace had married in 1914, and both her husband and brother were farmers in Titus County, before they left for WWI. Upon their return, they formed a road-paving company called Wallace & Bowden to bid on government road and bridge contracts. The asphalt produced by the Talco Refinery would have been a cheap source of road material for their business, although they also were concrete contractors.

In order to expand their business, Wallace and Bowden moved to the city, to an office address at East Grand Avenue near the Mt. Auburn Elementary School. Both the Wallace and Bowden families lived nearby. Mac Wallace was a 1938 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in the Mt. Auburn area of Dallas.

He joined the Marine Corps after graduation and on November 3, 1939 was aboard the U.S.S. Holland, a submarine based in San Diego. From there it appears he was shipped to Hawaii. According to Joan Mellen, in 1938 Mac had injured his lumbar spine playing quarterback for Woodrow Wilson High School and required spinal surgery. After joining the Marines, he reinjured his back in a fall on the USS Lexington on June 27, 1940 and was discharged two months later.

He enrolled in the spring semester of 1941 at the University of Texas, where in 1943 he was shown as a member of the student assembly and was elected president of the Students Association in 1944. He was also one of eight men selected to the UT secret society known as the Friars Society, as well as a member of the elite Tejas Club. The Friars had been created in 1911, and until 1949 they never selected more than  four new members per semester. Notables in the Friars, according to their website, included
  • Arno Nowotny, fall 1925
  • Cecil Bernard Smith, spring 1927
  • Allan Shivers, spring 1931*
  • Joe R. Greenhill, spring 1936
  • Jake Pickle, spring 1937
  • John B. Connally, spring 1938 *
  • Dolph Briscoe, Jr., spring 1942*
  • Jack B. Brooks, spring 1943
  • Malcolm (Mac) Wallace, spring 1944
  • Horace Busby, spring 1945 
  • Theodore Strauss, spring 1945
  • Ronnie Dugger, fall 1950
  • Lloyd Hand, spring 1951
  • Barr McClellan, fall 1960
  • Fred Hofheinz, spring 1960
The three men marked with asterisks * would become Texas governors. Greenhill would serve many years on the Texas Supreme Court, while Jake Pickle and Jack B. Brook would serve for many years in the U.S. Congress and be closely associated with LBJ. Notowtny and Smith will be discussed in a later post for their role in organizing the UT Cowboys.
Walt Brown referred to Notwotny in 1998 as "future Dean of Men at the University of Texas and alleged CIA recruiter at UofT."

Ronnie Dugger was in his day a well-known "liberal" journalist who also authored a biography of Johnson. Strauss, brother of Robert S. Strauss, would become a wealthy businessman in Dallas. The name of Horace Busby also appeared in the list. Busby was hired to work for Lyndon Johnson in Washington, D. C.

Joan Mellen writes of Busby's knowledge about Mac Wallace. Holland McCombs, researching LBJ for LIFE magazine, interviewed Wallace and concluded, according to Mellen:
Wallace was assigned to strong-arm businessmen into rewarding Johnson for the small business loans that Johnson had bestowed upon them. Mac Wallace’s role was to facilitate the Faustian bargains low-level Texas contractors and businessmen had made with Lyndon Johnson, to collect payment. For these forays to Texas, Mac Wallace later earned the melodramatic sobriquet of Johnson’s “hatchet man.” The term was first attached to Wallace at the time he was an employee at the Department of Agriculture and seems not to have involved violence. Johnson sent Mac Wallace back to Texas to “arrange to buy or get a piece of” the businesses of those to whom Johnson had awarded the favor of those loans.  [Mellen, Joan. Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas (p. 80). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.]
Mac Wallace stands out because of his 1952 conviction for murder with malice. The jury, however, sentenced him to only five years in prison, but suspended that sentence, so that he never served a single day inside. The only defense presented by his attorneys (Polk Shelton and John Cofer, long-time associates of Lyndon Johnson) was in the argument that the prosecution found no motive for the cold-blooded killing. Nevertheless, the lack of any apparent motive could not overcome the fact that a witness had identified Wallace and written down the license plat number of his car, in which a blood-stained shirt was found two hours after the shooting.

Mac Wallace named to Friars June 1944, Daily Texan, UT newspaper
Mac Wallace had led a student protest in 1944 against the dismissal of Dr. Homer P. Rainey, the well-educated Clarksville-born (see map above right) man who had served as the head of FDR's American Youth Commission (1935-39), immediately prior to being selected as president of the University of Texas.  Whether or not Rainey had met Lyndon B. Johnson, when the latter headed the Texas branch of the National Youth Administration, the focus of which was finding jobs for young people, is unknown. The NYA, though not affiliated with Rainey's American Youth Commission within the Education Department, both groups did focus on finding jobs for young people during the post-depression years. Only a few months after the student protests Wallace was chosen as a member of the Friar Society.

Mac Wallace at the University of Texas in 1944
Courtesy of Life
Life magazine captured a memorable photograph of D. Harold Byrd, well-known as a band booster, in 1941 at a University of Texas Longhorn game. Seated directly behind him at the game was the daughter of President Homer Price Rainey (born in Clarksville,TX in 1896), the man against whose firing by the Board of Regents in 1944 because he supported economic professors who "espoused New Deal views." The regents themselves had fired such professors in 1942, and Rainey's protest of the firing resulted in his being dismissed by the Regents in 1944.

By 1944 Mac Wallace's father was a road and bridge builder in a company with his brother-in-law (Wallace & Bowden), bidding on jobs as far away as Johnson City, often in conjunction with Maurice Edward Ruby, a contractor who helped Mac's father pay the bond to get Mac released from jail during his murder trial. Another contractor from the same small town in Hays County who helped pay the bond was John E. Greenhaw, who died in January 1965 of cirrhosis of the liver.

Dr. Homer P. Rainey, 1939
 Rainey's biggest booster on the U.T. Board of Regents was J. R. Parten, a progressive Democrat, who was also very close to Congressman Sam Rayburn. Both men favored the hiring of  Berkeley physicist Dr. E. O. Lawrence as a professor at UT. The loggerhead between Rainey and the Regents began late in 1939 when Houston attorney James A. Elkins warned the Regents that the Legislature would "kick the Regents across the state line if they [University of Texas] dared to squander tax dollars" to build a nuclear cyclotron, an "atom-smashing machine." [quoted by Susan R. Richardson, in "Reds, Race, and Research: Homer P. Rainey and the Grand Texas Tradition of Political Interference, 1939-1944," an essay which appears in a book edited by Roger L. Geiger, Perspectives on the History of Higher Education: 2005 (History of Higher Education Annual) (2005), page 141.]

The Rainey Controversy

From Susan R. Richardson, "Reds, Race and Research," page 144.
What brought on Rainey's downfall as president of the University of Texas was that when W. Lee O'Daniel was re-elected governor, he believed he had been given authority to appoint new regents who opposed the University president. Then, once O'Daniel left the state office to fill a U.S. Senate seat, his lieutenant governor, Coke Stevenson, became governor and continued the process of packing the Board with anti-Rainey men.

New regents voted in a bloc with Lutcher Stark, lumberman from Orange, Texas, to fire pro-New Deal economics professors, as well as to cut the salary of J. Frank Dobie, a Texas history folklore writer with only an M.A. from Columbia University in New York. A "liberal" oilman, Parten opposed these efforts and began spreading rumors about their intent of "fomenting a coup." [See inset, left, from pages 144-5.]

It was the ex-Marine and elected student body president, Mac Wallace, who led the protest against Rainey's firing, which occurred during the fall of 1944, a few months before his selection to the Friar Society.

Joan Mellen wrote of Mac Wallace's activities during the summer of 1945 in New York City, poised to continue his education, but not quite sure what path he would take:
On June 11, 1945, Mac Wallace enrolled at the School of Law at Columbia. Two weeks later, he dropped out “for reasons of ill health.” He had contracted a nasty skin infection that required expensive injections that he could not afford. He never went back. Instead, he registered for the fall semester beginning in September 1945 at the New School for Social Research as a candidate for a master’s degree in economics. He took courses in “money and credit (essentially Keynesian)” and “trade policies and tariff construction.” ... Wallace dropped out of the New School without receiving a degree. At the turn of the new year 1946, he quit his job at the National City Bank to “work on a campaign” and returned to Texas. Homer Rainey was seeking the Democratic Party nomination to be governor of Texas and Wallace would be his Dallas city campaign manager. He would also be the state director of College Students for Rainey. To complete his undergraduate degree, he enrolled in classes at the University of Texas and commuted between Dallas and Austin. [Mellen, Joan. Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas (pp. 70-71). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition. ]
Information available on the Friars website considerably differs from what Mellen writes in her book, which states:
As a senior, Wallace was now eligible to be elected to the Friar’s Society. The 1946– 47 Friar’s group of eight included not only Wallace, but Horace Busby; Dolph Briscoe Jr., a future governor of Texas; and future congressman Jack B. Brooks. [Mellen, Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace... (p. 73).]
If the website is to be believed, Mac was already a Friars member before he went to New York in the summer of 1945, not yet having completed his degree. Not long after returning to Austin, he married:
That summer of 1947 Mac took up with a pretty, sexually adventurous young woman named Mary Andre Dubose Barton. “Andre,” as she preferred to be known, and her sister Ruth had been adopted by Kostromey [sic] Palestrina Barton, a Methodist minister known as “KP,” who taught at the University of Texas, and his wife, Roberta, a former English instructor at UT.

In 1922 R.J. (Ruddell Jones Byrd, sometimes called Leo by his family) and his wife Ada lived at 822 N. Lancaster in Dallas, but before long they had moved farther west to the unincorporated area between Grand Prairie and Irving onto Lone Star Road. His younger brother had been born in Detroit, Texas in

By 1953, D.H. had taken over the company his brother, R.J. had started after apparently selling his interest in Byrd-Frost to his former partner.

Did his growing up in this area have even greater significance, when considering the fact that, after his murder conviction which resulted in a suspended sentence and immediate release, Malcolm Everett (Mac) Wallace was given a security clearance to work for Ling-Temco-Vought's facility in California?

Is it simply a remarkable coincidence that the name of Mac Wallace's younger brother was Harold David Wallace?

Mac's father, Alvin James Wallace, had been born (1896) and reared in Mt. Pleasant, but by 1920 he was married and living in Red River County at Johntown.

By 1944 Texas businessmen, although most were still Democrats since Reconstruction days, were fed up with FDR's New Deal "liberalism." When Rainey ran for governor of Texas in 1946, he was defeated by Beauford Jester and his running mate Allan Shivers. As Richard Bartholomew informed us in his monograph, "Colonel Burris' wife, Barbara J. Burris, is the daughter of Governor Jester." QJ has mentioned the Burris family often and even contains a detailed genealogical study of the family; Burris was also mentioned in my edited remarks from 2014 JFK Assassination Conference. Understanding how he fit into the network of men behind LBJ has never been completely understood. It may be the key to the real perpetrators.

Who Else was Born in Detroit, Texas?

David Harold (D.H.) Byrd's father Edward transplanted his roots to Texas, after growing up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, following his marriage in 1879 in the tiny town of Blossom Prairie, Texas, the hometown of his chosen bride, Mollie Easley. For those interested in what I call "Byrd's Back Back Story," I will post the research into the family simultaneously with this segment. Otherwise, it becomes much more bulky and confusing than it already is.

Politics is about power. When Edward Byrd married Mollie Easley in 1879, he was initiated into a circle of power that would descend to his youngest son, D. Harold, for, as it happens, Mollie and her younger brother Edwin grew up in eastern Lamar County near John Nance Garner, who, the Texas State Historical Association tell us "was born on November 22, 1868, in a log cabin near Detroit, Texas. He went to school at Bogata and Blossom Prairie. At eighteen he went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he stayed only one semester, possibly because of ill health. He returned to Clarksville, Texas, read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1890. After an unsuccessful run for the office of city attorney he moved to Uvalde, where he began law practice." He also ran for county judge and in 1895 married Mariette "Ettie" Rheiner, daughter of a Swiss immigrant who had settled in Texas in 1860.
D.H. Byrd's grandfather was R. J. Easley, Garner's "lifetime friend." Photos from FDRlibrary website.
We first begin seeing the name John Nance Garner in newspapers in 1904, a couple of years after his first election to the U.S. Congress. There he garnered favor from the boss of the region, James Babbage Wells, Jr., better known simply as Jim Wells, whose south Texas political machine shepherded Garner's election to Congress. Possibly because of Wells' protection, Garner's district was one of the safest, enabling him to attain the coveted role of Speaker of the House of Representatives.

John Nance Garner (fourth in a series of men with the same name) was born in 1868 in the same town where D. Harold Byrd would be born in 1900. Garner's father (age 17) was listed near Clarksville in Red River County's 1860 census, and his mother, Sallie Guest, was born in Blossom Prairie in 1851. Six of Garner's seven siblings still lived in either Red River or Lamar County when he was, elected Vice President in 1932.

Within six years the pride Garner felt about being on the ticket with Franklin Roosevelt had turned to disgust, and his siblings and friends joined with others who turned against the President and began campaigning to nominate Cactus Jack Garner as the Democrats' standard bearer. They were angry for FDR's selection of Henry A. Wallace as Garner's replacement.

We jump now to what John Nance Garner did during his retirement after 1940.