A Crashing Success

One of the Hollywood actresses that I profiled for my Sewing Circle article was a woman named Marguerite Clark.  Her story involved so many unlikely coincidences that I decided a closer examination was required.

Marguerite Clark was second only to Mary Pickford in popularity during the silent film era.  That level of fame only comes from being promoted by the studio and being cast in desirable roles.  As we now know, Hollywood is comprised of descendants of European peerage, and they only promote and advance their own privileged and pampered prodigy.  No hayseed from Ohio ever stumbled off a Greyhound bus and into stardom, but that’s what we are expected to believe happened in the case of Marguerite Clark.  I don’t buy it.  The fact that Clark’s entire family history is denied to us is a significant indicator that she was very well connected.  Her NY Times obituary provides some confirmation in this regard since it lists a cousin named Hugh R. Wilson, former United States Ambassador to Germany.

Marguerite married a man named Harry Palmerston Williams.

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Harry’s father, Francis Bennett Williams, was the founder of the F.B. Williams Cypress Company which still exists today as Williams, Inc.  It was one of the largest lumber companies in the United States by the early 20th century.  Oil and gas were discovered on the former cypress lands in the early 1930s.  Williams, Inc. currently owns over 85,000 acres of undeveloped land in 13 parishes throughout Louisiana.

Harry Palmerston Williams’ paternal grandmother’s name was Emily Caroline Moore.  Emily Moore’s great-grandfather was Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of the Manor.

Through the influence of Governor Thomas Dongan and confirmed by royal charter of George I of Great Britain in 1715, Robert Livingston obtained a patent to 160,000 acres (250 sq mi) along the Hudson River south of Albany; this would become known as Livingston Manor in Columbia and Dutchess counties.

Just like Hollywood doesn’t promote ordinary folk, these people don’t marry them.  Harry’s first wife was a woman named Marion Graham.  The 1910 Federal Census shows her father as a lawyer.  Marion is the only child listed along with four servants, including a “ladies maid” and “waitress.”  The household contained more servants than actual family members.  Harry’s brother Lewis Kemper Williams (1887-1971) served in the U.S. Army in World Wars I and II, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

In the late 1920s, Harry Williams formed a partnership with a man named Jimmy Wedell, a noted race pilot, and his brother, Walter Wedell.  Together they formed the Wedell-Williams Air Service Corporation.

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The company provided passenger service from New Orleans to Houston as Louisiana’s first commercial airline.  The Louisiana State Museum website informs us of a small detail left off of Jimmy Wedell’s Wikipedia page.  He was a criminal.  Before we get to that, let’s find out how Jimmy learned to become such a great pilot.

Jimmie Wedell was born in Texas City, Texas, in 1900 and his brother Walter in 1901.  With the sudden and premature death of both parents, the brothers were on their own from their teen years on.  Jimmie quit school after the ninth grade.  A motorcycle accident that blinded his right eye barely slowed him down. Before World War I, he rebuilt two crashed airplanes, an OX Standard and a Thomas Morse Scout, into one flyable craft, although he had never flown in one. Soon after that, he met a barnstormer who gave him a one-hour lesson. The rest, including how to take off and land, he learned by trial and error. He then engaged in barnstorming for his livelihood.

How does an orphaned boy from a low-income family afford to buy two crashed airplanes?  How does he provide the tools and equipment that would be required to make the repairs?  Where did he perform these repairs?  In the backyard?

aaaaaaaaJimmy injured his “right eye” in a motorcycle crash, but it appears normal in this photo.  Perhaps the picture is flipped/mirrored; I have no way to know.  The left eye is shaded and heavily pixelated, indicating possible tampering.

With this self-taught knowledge of flight, Wedell tried to join the army as an aviator during World War I. Much to his disappointment; he was rejected because of his eye. While Walter began a four-year hitch in the navy, Jimmie, with his Colt .44 for protection, headed for the Texas-Mexico border.  When Walter finished his hitch in the Navy, he joined Jimmy in Mexico and using two airplanes they flew many mysterious midnight missions. Although many of these were questionable, involving guns, liquor, contraband, Mexican Generals and revolutions, Jim and Walter were never in real serious trouble. At least none that they couldn’t escape.

One of the tactics that Jimmy would use to avoid the authorities was to use the same registration number on more than one plane at a time.  When authorities received word of an aircraft involved in illegal activities Wedell could usually supply many witnesses who swore that a plane with that same registration number never left the hangar.

Wedell’s best year in racing was in 1933 when he won races at every competition he entered.  It was during one of those races that he broke the world record for land-plane speed clocking in at 305.33 mph.

Death Spiral

On June 24 (66), 1934 Jimmy Wedell died in a plane crash. He was 33 years old.

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  • One year later, tragedy struck again when Walter Wedell and a passenger were killed in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off the Mississippi-Louisiana border under mysterious circumstances. The plane was 20 miles off course and flying in a direction opposite from that called for in the flight plan.  Rescue crews found the passenger in the pilot’s seat indicating that Walter Wedell was not at the controls at the time of the crash.
  • Less than a year later, on May 19, 1936, Harry Williams and the company’s chief pilot, John Worthen crashed immediately after takeoff from a cause never determined. The men were killed instantly.  Harry Williams’ remains were cremated.
  • Less than a year later, Marguerite Clark-Williams sold the company’s assets, including a stable of transport planes worth about one-half million dollars, to Eastern Air Lines for a paltry $175,000.
  • In 1940, four years after the “death” of her husband, Marguerite Clark “died” of pneumonia at the age of 57. After a private funeral, she was cremated and buried with her husband.

We are told that the owner of Eastern Air Lines, Eddie Rickenbacker, held more than a dozen face-to-face meetings with Marguerite Clark-Williams to negotiate the sale.  In addition to the planes, what Rickenbacker coveted most was the mail route from New Orleans to Houston, giving Eastern its first presence in Texas.  Rickenbacker was America’s most successful fighter ace in World War I.  He was also a race car driver, a government “consultant” in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation.

A Speculative Summation

  1. Jimmy and Walter were flying missions to Mexico involving guns, alcohol, and contraband during the same time that the “Bureau of Prohibition” was being formed.  This bureau would ultimately evolve into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, or ATF.  The reason that Jimmy and Walter “were never in real serious trouble” is that they were government agents.  Widipedia even states that after flying in Mexico and the Gulf Coast, the Army hired Jimmy as a civilian instructor of cadet fliers.
  2. Harry Williams’ decision to fund the Wedell brothers makes sense when we consider that his brother was a General in the Army.
  3. The 33 numerology and one-eye symbolism surrounding Jimmy Wedell suggest that he was the ring-leader.
  4. Walter Wedell’s passenger on his fatal flight was a young man from South Carolina.  Walter was the only casualty to leave behind a wife and child.  Perhaps he was bi-sexual and desired to leave his wife for his male lover.  By faking his death, his wife and child would receive insurance benefits.
  5. Similarly, Harry Williams perished along with a male companion.  Since Marguerite Clark is included in my Sewing Circle article, I think you know what I’m implying.  Marguerite would have also benefited from an insurance payout.
  6. It makes no sense that Marguerite Clark, a former Hollywood actress with no aviation experience, would be elected President of a company that was running on fumes after the loss of all of its major players.
  7. It makes even less sense that Marguerite would fly solo into negotiations with a mogul like Rickenbacker.  Was the company devoid of the assistance of lawyers and accountants?  Not likely.
  8. The $175,000 sale price was just for show.  The majority of the proceeds were somehow diverted, tax-free, to the “deceased” to help fund their new lives.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz     She knows I’m right.

18 thoughts on “A Crashing Success

  1. very interesting…so these “bootstrap” self-taught pilots and builders of airplanes from a scrap heap of damaged planes all died in plane crashes? sure thing and they flew contraband without getting into “much trouble”?…great article K Starr! Your BS meter is at 100%

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  2. Great work, Kevin! Easy reading too – your genealogy was concise and limited.

    A couple of thoughts: Regarding the Williams name, I remember now that when Bill Clinton was (supposedly) having a tryst with Monica in the Oval Office, the phone rang. Who had the private number? None other than a member of the Williams family, calling from Cincinnati. That family is heavily invested in Chiquita Banana (formerly United Fruit) and currently has majority ownership in the Cincinnati Reds baseball franchise too. The new GM of the Reds is Dick Williams, who comes to baseball from investment banking, a logical career move. Could this be the same family?

    And, a word about fake deaths – they are not illegal. I learned this with John Denver, that the faking of one’s death is not a law-breaking activity unless life insurance fraud is involved. Denver, of course, had none, or at least if he did, filed no claim. Insurance companies are not to be toyed with.

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    1. That’s probably another reason why some of these fake deathers leave no will. There must be a risk of fraud in settling the estate of a non dead person.

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      1. You’re right … there is no way to legally probate the will of a living person. If the death is fake, the will stands until a real death occurs. In Denver’s case I decided that much if his property (the Aspen house, for instance) had been gifted to his two adopted childrem, and that his daughter by his second wife had been cut out. [If he died without a will, it would have been impossible to cut his third child out.]

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        1. What if the coroner is corrupt/compromised and provides the documentation? Is that enough evidence to appease an insurance company?

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          1. Reds have been fun lately!

            I think that most fake deaths happen in jurisdictions where the coroner is compromised, and that may well be most jurisdictions. But I do not imagine that insurance companies are easy to fool. They are big and powerful and don’t write checks without solid evidence.

            In Denver’s case, the toxicology report referred to him by his show-biz name, which cannot be. I mean, did Jiles (J.P.) Richardson’s autopsy refer to him as The Big Bopper? (He was supposedly killed in the Buddy Holly plane crash, also fake.) They use real names on legal documents, not stage names (we later found out that Denver’s real name was not even Deutschendorf).

            And, in Denver’s case (pardon me on this, but I am talking my summer of 2016) the sheriff and coroner of Monterey County, where the fake death happened, were the same person, a blatant conflict of interest.

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          2. It just hit me that the TV show Quincy, in which Jack Klugman played an indefatigable coroner in some large city, was probably a saturating device used to quietly convince us that coroners are honest and that our system of crime detection works to the nth degree. I mostly lost interest in TV shows long ago but know about them … CSI for one, where intuition and tiny clues invariably lead to truth. It does not work like that, but they want us to think it does.

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    2. This particular Williams clan was involved in everything. The general was a member of every society right down to the Boy Scouts. Marguerite’s husband was also one-time mayor of Patterson, LA, state highway commissioner, president of the Patterson State Bank, sugar plantations, etc. So yeah, probably “connected” to those others Williams’.

      Thanks for the reminder about fake deaths and wills. I was making assumptions regarding insurance payouts. I will stop doing that.

      And how about those Reds?

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      1. Nick Senzel, the Reds number one prospect, goes down for the season as the Reds play their best games this year- I have lately been certain that pennant races have been managed by roster management and phony injuries are the best way to do that- But the long haul will also require roster management at the minor league level- The Reds aren’t ready for the man’s prime time schedule, for whatever reason-

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        1. The Reds are in rebuild mode, have been since 1990 as far as I can tell. But I think they are on the verge of moving from lousy to mediocre, a breakout. That’s all they were a few years back when they made the playoffs, having benefited from being in the same division as Houston and the Cubs, almost 40 games against two teams then in the toilet.

          What is interesting to me about baseball in general is how free agency is a dead letter, teams avoiding long term contracts with players in the second half (usually downside) of their careers. The players’ association, if they have real power, will have to rethink the big picture, come up with a new plan. (Also, players were polled about changes they would like to see, and one was no more mound visits unless there is a pitching change. The other eight, even when having bad days, do not have the coaches running out to talk to them. I like that idea.)

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          1. It’s also time for the National League to adopt the designated hitter. I’ve always been anti-DH due to the strategic aspects of having the pitcher in the lineup but have since changed my tune. One of the reasons is what you just mentioned. It causes too many visits to the mound and pitching changes. Besides the players union is never going to sacrifice a high-paying position like the DH.

            Disclaimer: I haven’t watched a single game this year, but I still follow the Pirates in the box scores. Looks like it will be a neck and neck battle for the title of cellar dweller. Cueto! Cueto! Cueto!

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  3. You Cincy lovers talk about MLB and the Reds as if the sport isn’t rigged. I believe it absolutely is. Just like all sports college and pro. So I’m confused as to why the excitement about Reds prospects? The ones that excel are chosen to excel just like actors moving up in Hollywood. And ever notice how the “greats’ always have cool or catchy names easy on the palet? Why do you think that is? It’s not by accident. In other words any prospect named Johnny Spamcake is guaranteed to do squat if at all very long. Whereas one named Johnny Bench would already have job one out of the way: the Name. This goes for all sports. It’s no coincidence there’s no Spamcakes in any sports HOF let alone in the leagues. You can fairly accurately link a players ‘looks’ to success or failure also. Back to your precious Reds prospects. Nothing against getting excited about an athlete. As long as you understand their success or failure like everything in big business is pre-determined by TPTB.

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    1. Speaking for myself, I’ve abandoned every sport except baseball. I agree with what you are saying Rico. The only reason that I will occasionally watch a baseball game or listen on the radio is because I love the game (despite its Freemasonic underpinnings.) I used to play so I can appreciate the strategy involved.

      But I’m certainly not emotionally invested in any outcomes. I reserve that for little league and high school sports where I know those kids are really trying and really care.

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    2. I am the only Reds fan here Rico, and it is no secret that the organization sucks at drafting pitching prospects. Bats like Nick Senzel tend to regress to the mean once they hit the show, as opposing pitchers study them closely. Jay Bruce was a can’t miss who tore up the league for a full month before they found his hole. He was streaky thereafter, probably still is.

      Is it rigged? Well, of course the playoffs and World Series are rigged, but 2016 was the only time where I saw Masonic overtones. I suspect for the most part they are rigged to go seven games, to be exciting and attract viewers and advertising dollars. But regular season games? Too much work to rig all those meaningless contests!

      Here’s what I wondered about last year’s Superbowl … that it was scripted, of course, but that it was done to keep fans in the game. There are too many advertising $$$’s on the line to allow a blowout as in days gone by. Perhaps in the fourth quarter they let it go, let the best or luckiest team win.

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