Protect Your Computer

Buy McAfee AntiVirus Software

March 26, 2011

What Can We Learn from Madeleine Duncan Brown?

Madeleine Frances Duncan was born in 1925 in Dallas--living during the Depression years in a home of just over a thousand square feet with three other siblings plus three other working adults in addition to her parents. Her father was a home builder and carpenter, while her uncle, Guy Duncan, sold insurance and his young wife and her sister clerked in a department store. Their crowded home was two blocks east of South Beckley Street in Oak Cliff. Such as it was, it was a step up for the family, which had begun in tiny Josephine, Texas in Collin County, where George farmed a piece of land before and after World War I.

After Madeleine met Lyndon Johnson in 1948, following the death of her husband James Glynn Brown, she almost immediately began an affair with him and, shortly thereafter, became pregnant, all of which has been summarized in online accounts. She already had one son named Jimmy Glynn Brown, and a second son would be named Steven Mark Brown, with the birth certificate indicating his father was deceased.

According to Madeleine, a lawyer named Jerome Thorn Ragsdale would handle any payments made to her on behalf of Steven. Jerome Ragsdale as a child had been shown on census roll as "J. Thorn." His father was Charles E. Ragsdale, who, according to his obituary, was "born in 1880 in Brownwood and was the son of the late Dr. and Mrs. Paul C. Ragsdale, pioneer Brown County residents. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Smithville and was a jeweler and optometrist. He was a Mason, a member of the Lions Club, and a graduate of Brownwood High School and Daniel Baker College."

Jerome's brother, Paul C. Ragsdale, named for their grandfather, was born in Smithville in 1915 but died in New Braunfels. The grandfather of that name was a traveling optometrist and died in a car accident in 1938 in Brownwood, where he had also been a teacher at Daniel Baker College. He had come to Texas in 1868 from South Carolina. Another son, Silas B. Ragsdale, Jerome's uncle, was managing editor of the Galveston newspaper after it was sold by A.H. Belo, and later worked for Gulf Publishing.

Jerome also had a sister named Silky Ragsdale, who in 1951 married Harry Crockett of Smithville, where they resided. Silky had been a debater in high school, and it's entirely possible that her elder brother, Jerome, would have debated against teams coached by Lyndon Johnson when he taught high school in 1930-31. An article from the San Antonio newspaper in 1936, coincidentally shows Silky in the Region 6 competition at the same time Jesse Kellam was filling in for Lyndon Johnson, recently appointed by FDR to National Youth Administration head, at an award ceremony at Southwest Texas State Teachers College.

In Dallas, Ragsdale had a law office in 1943  at #1108 in the Magnolia Building in Dallas, the building with the red Pegasus atop it. By 1945, however, the Dallas city directory lists Jerome T. Ragsdale as a partner in a firm called Gormley, Bohannon, Ragsdale & Prescott, located in Suite 1424 of the Republic Bank Building; in 1947 the firm's address was 1517 Commerce Street, no more than a block or two from one of Jack Ruby's nightclubs.  Partner Ross Bohannon's name would appear in the news early in 1951:

Two Texas Radio
Stations Seeking
Ownership Changes
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4. (AP) -The Communications Commission had on file today applications for changes in interests in two Texas radio stations.
  • James G. Olmar [sic; it should be Ulmer] sought control of the East-West Broadcasting Co. which operates KOUL in Fort Worth. He  proposed to buy 566 shares of stock from Johnnie Andrews, M. Ward Dailey, T. C. Christopher, A. B. Culbertson, John C. Griffith, B. A. Ley and Nestor Cuesta.
  • KHBR of Hillsboro asked for assignment of a license from the partnership of Ross Bohannon, R. W. Calvert and W. N. Fuey to Ross Bohannon, doing business as the Hill County Broadcasting Co.
R. W. Calvert had previously been Speaker of the Texas Legislature from Hillsboro, a leader of pro-FDR forces during the New Deal and in 1948 had been chairman of the state Democratic executive committee during the election contest over the notorious Box 13 ballot fraud.

A month later Bohannon was subpoenaed by Senator Fulbright to testify before a U.S. Senate committee about improper loans made by President Truman's Reconstruction Finance Corp. (the banking agency previously headed by Jesse Jones under FDR). Fulbright's committee was investigating influence peddling by RFC director E. Merl Young, a long-time crony of President Truman, and a subcommittee report "quoted Bohannon as testifying that Young demanded an $85,000 fee for influence he said he could exert in helping obtain a $10,100,000 loan for one of Bohannon's clients. The report said Bohannon refused to pay the fee and got the loan anyway for Texmass Corp., a Texas and Massachusetts oil development firm headquartered in Dallas. Texmass* later went into receivership after being reorganized into Texas Consolidated Oils Co. Its affairs have be come a hot congressional issue." 
*Texmass principals were Arthur W. Kincade of Wichita and Howard A. Cowden of Kansas City. There was a merger which included all producing oil and gas properties of Texmass and the Petroleum Reserve corporation of Dallas and certain pieces owned by Midway Oil, Inc., of Topeka, Kans.; Swiss Oil Co. of Dallas; National Cooperative refinery association of Wichita, Kan., and a number of outside investor interests associated with Texmass--involving leases in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, California and Louisiana.
After Bohannon's testimony was contradicted by Young, the Senate decided there was a further need to question the head of the Democratic National Committee, William M. Boyle, Jr. and former FBI man, Edward P. Morgan, the price enforcement chief about how the Democrats seemed to be peddling favors to the highest bidder.

Both Bohannon and another firm partner, Ross K. Prescott, had grown up in Brownwood and attended Daniel Baker College, where Ragsdale's grandfather had been a teacher, and both had connections to radio or television broadcasting stations, as did Jerome Ragsdale as well, who was a good friend of Jesse Kellam, station manager for Lady Bird Johnson's Austin station. In 1949, Prescott's name had appeared in newspapers in connection with a murder that took place in Alice, Texas--a small border town in a county adjacent to Duval County, where the infamous Box 13 voter election fraud took place. Both counties were within the empire of the "Duke of Duval" George Parr's domain.

In the summer of 1949 a local radio broadcaster named W.H. "Bill" Mason had been antagonizing the powers-that-be in Alice by doing what such powers hate most--telling the truth:

Mason, in his last broadcast, said Smithwick owned an Alice night spot where prostitutes plied their trade. Smithwick was then a deputy sheriff.
District Attorney Sam Reams of Falfurrias said today representatives of the American Newspaper Guild and Texas Independent Broadcasters Association had approached him about a special prosecutor. He said the guild suggested Charles Lieck and Fred E. Semann of San Antonio and the broadcasters suggested Ross K. Prescott of Dallas and Joe H. Tonahill of Jasper.
Ironically, Tonahill would represent Jack Ruby many years later for his murder of Lee Harvey Oswald a few days after President Kennedy's assassination.

The violence of Mason's murder is best captured in the story that appeared in the Lubbock, Texas Avalanche, Aug.,1, 1949 datelined Alice, Tex.:
"We were coming back to town," Saenz related, "and as we approached the Junction of San Felipe at the San Diego highway, Smithwick was driving toward us across the highway and motioned to Mason with his hand to stop. Mason stopped and Smithwick parked his pickup truck parallel to Mason's car. Smithwick got out of his truck and came over to Mason's car, making a hitching motion at his belt as he came.
"Mason raised his hand in a protective manner and leaned back from the window of the car, and as he did so, Smithwick told me to get out of the way or get out of the car or something like that," Saenz said he was opening the door opposite the driver's seat to get out when the shot was fired. "I don't know whether the bullet passed under my leg or over it or what," Saenz said of the .45 caliber slug which tore through Mason's body near the heart. Saenz ran across the street and stood in front of a bar, he said. "I saw Mason get out of his car and run and crawl under the pickup truck.
He got out from beneath the truck and ran across the road, climbed over a low wire fence and ran to the cement dock of the Alice Pipe and Supply company.
"He called for help a couple of times as he ran." Saenz said Smithwick got in his truck and drove off towards town. According to District Attorney Sam Reams, Smithwick apparently drove straight to the jail and placed himself in jail. Mason died in a hospital 30 minutes after he was shot."

As the funeral was being held the following Monday, it was reported that "no further disturbances occurred in Alice since raiders in two automobiles used shotguns Friday night to blast the Rancho Alegro, a night spot on the edge of this South Texas city. Mason had charged in broadcasts that Smithwick owned the Rancho Alegro find had lambasted it as a vice spot."

Ten years later Ross K. Prescott has his office in the Kilgore Hotel, Kilgore, Texas, and was in the process of applying for a new commercial television station, Channel 19, at Oklahoma City in the name of Consolidated Enterprise, Inc. (1961). At the same time, his erstwhile partner, Ragsdale, continued to forward money every month to Lyndon Johnson's girlfriend, Madeleine Duncan Brown.

Eventually her son Steven would become an adult, still unsure of who is father was, and would file for determination of heirship in Ragsdale's estate following his death:

From the District Court of Bastrop County, 21st Judicial District. June 4, 1980
  • Wynn G. Stanton, Dallas, for appellant.
  • Yerger Hill, III, Strother, Davis, Stanton, Musselman & Hill, Dallas, for appellee.
Author: Smith

Jesse Thorn Ragsdale died on July 17, 1978, at Smithville, Texas. On September 18, 1978, appellee and her brother, Paul C. Ragsdale, after posting bond and taking the required oath, were granted letters of administration for the Estate of Jesse Thorn Ragsdale by the County Court of Bastrop County, Texas.

On March 29, 1979, appellant, Steven Mark Brown, filed a "Petition for Determination and Declaration of Heirship" in the Probate Court of Dallas County, where administration of the Estate of Jerome Thorn Ragsdale was pending. Appellant alleged that Jerome Thorn Ragsdale, son of Jesse Thorn Ragsdale [sic] and brother of appellee and Paul C. Ragsdale, was his biological father.

After receiving notice of the contest filed in the Dallas County Probate Court, appellee filed an "Amended Application to Declare Heirship" in the Estate of Jesse Thorn Ragsdale. The amended application provided, in part, as follows:

"VI. Applicant was a party to a suit brought by Madeleine F. Brown claiming a "lost will' which suit was dismissed by the Proponent during trial on the merits . . . in the Probate Court in and for Dallas County, Texas. Applicant believes that Madeleine F. Brown had a son, Steven Mark Brown, who is now asserting . . . that he is the biological child of Jerome T. Ragsdale, Deceased, and Madeleine F. Brown. Attached to the original Application To Declare Heirship  . . . was the Application on which Madeleine F. Brown went to trial, reflecting the relationship claimed by Madeleine F. Brown of her son to Jerome T. Ragsdale. Therefore, Applicant moves the Court to determine who are the heirs to JESSE THORN RAGSDALE's Estate."

Appellee accompanied her amended application with a "Motion to Remove" the cause to the 21st District Court of Bastrop County, pursuant to Tex.Prob.Code Ann.  5(b) (Supp.1980).

Based upon the allegations contained in the amended application, the motion to remove was granted and an order was signed by the county judge transferring the cause to the district court.

The district clerk issued citation by publication and, in addition, issued citation to appellant, who was personally served on May 7, 1979. Appellant made his appearance on May 29, 1979, by filing a written answer consisting of a general denial and an assertion that he was the natural son of appellee's brother, Jerome Thorn Ragsdale.

The issue of heirship thus joined, the district court heard the cause on the merits and determined that appellee and Paul C. Ragsdale were the only heirs of Jesse Thorn Ragsdale. The district court then returned the administration of the estate to the Bastrop County Court.

It is from this final judgment that appellant has perfected this appeal.
Before her death in 2002, Madeleine Brown described in an interview with Robert Gaylon Ross, Sr. a party she attended at the home of Clint Murchison on November 21, 1963.

It gets a little bizarre when Madeleine says, "He (George Owens) was there socially, and of course, Jack Ruby had brought one of the call girls to the meeting." When asked about the call girl, Madeline said, "Her name was Shirley. I know her, but she doesn't want to talk about this." Maybe, she's married now, and maybe, one day she will also tell her story. 

Excerpts from 2001 Interview by John Delane Williams and Gary Severson with Madeleine Duncan Brown:
JDW: Now, the Murchison party. One of the things, I don't know that you ever heard this, but, what is his name, Brown, Walt Brown. One of things he's said is that everything we've heard about the Murchison party has come from you. And no one else who was at the party has said anything.

MB: Gary Barker has come forth, I think. Galen Ross [sic], are you familiar with his new book?

JDW: Galen Ross? [Note: This book is: Robert Gaylon Ross, Sr. (2001). The Elite Serial Killers of Lincoln, JFK, RFK & MLK. Spicewood, TX: RIE.]

MB: Some of them I'm not familiar with. But George Owens that worked for Clint Murchison. He passed away not long ago, and I've known George . . . George went to . . . we didn't have the DFW airport back then [1963]. Dallas only had about 450,000 people. He went out to the Bluebird Airport and George was going on camera to tell the story of what happened. And do you know the day we had that all set up he died suddenly. I mean a bunch of this . . . sometimes I feel bad. 
GS: Did you know of any family background of Mac Wallace?

MB: Well, I told him [George Owens?], one of our neighbors is Carl Wallace, and Carl and George Owens, who said he picked up Hoover out here at the [Bluebird] airport, were close friends, and if George would have lived long enough, I might have got more information, you know, but this Carl Wallace's father owned the Wallace Plumbing Company here in Dallas, and the Wallace Plumbing Company was in Dealey Plaza that day, I don't know if John had..

GS: That was my next question.

MB: Well anyway, not too long ago, I talked to Carl. He comes by once in a while with his little dog. And I said 'Carl, what happened to your mother and father?' And he said, 'My dad killed himself.' and I wanted to say, when did he kill himself? and eventually, I want to know, why did he kill himself? Knowing what I know about the story, and the background, Big Time.

GS: Could the plumbing company be Wallace-Beard?

MB: I couldn't tell you.

GS: There is some evidence the truck in Dealey Plaza that day was Wallace & Beard.
GS: It's so mind-boggling.

MB: You know, I told you about this neighbor, Carl Wallace. He told me enough that in my mind, I keep thinking, George Owens died instantly, you know. What is the connection, really. Why would a man, a prosperous businessman in Dallas, Texas kill himself? You can't help but wonder.

No comments:

Post a Comment