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.
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.
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?
Jimmy 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.
On June 24 (66), 1934 Jimmy Wedell died in a plane crash. He was 33 years old.
- 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
- 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.
- Harry Williams’ decision to fund the Wedell brothers makes sense when we consider that his brother was a General in the Army.
- The 33 numerology and one-eye symbolism surrounding Jimmy Wedell suggest that he was the ring-leader.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
She knows I’m right.