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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Pecos Enterprise

July, 1979

Just Musin' - By Alton Hughes

Billie Sol Estes born on Texas farm

(First in a series of 12)

Any history of Pecos and Reeves County must
necessarily include the story of Billie Sol Estes and the
fertilizer tanks. It is a hard story to write at the present
time because so many of the principals are still living. In
this story we shall stick strictly to factual happenings,
leaving out implication, surmise, gossip, rumor,
politics, personalities and conjecture, all of which are
part of the full story. But it did happen and here is how
it happened. {Fifty years from now someone like me will
dig into the magazine and newspaper files around 1962
and write the whole story, naming names and quoting

Billie Sol's background is interesting, but not of
particular concern with this article. He was born in 1925
on a farm about 3 miles north of Clyde, Texas, a little
community near Abilene. He was the second child in a
family of six, worked hard and developed a flair for

He went to school in Clyde and was elected "King"
of the junior class. Patsy Howe, who later became his
wife, was the "Queen." They had two children before
coming to Pecos and three more were born- in Pecos,
making a total of five.

Billie Sol arrived in Pecos in 1951, unheralded and
wearing his plain, country clothes. He talked to gas
station attendants, waitresses, truck drivers and anyone
else who would listen. From these contacts he got in
touch with a realtor and a member of Estes' church, and
bought 640 acres of farm land. He said he was going to
put it in cotton, which he did.

Bill Scott, a furniture store operator, had built a
small house over an abandoned swimming pool in the
old Pecos Army Airfield area, using wood from packing
crates as the base for a stucco finish. Billie Sol bought
this house and moved his family into it. He gradually
improved it and, some ten years later, magazine writers
referred to it as "a mansion" the "most imposing"
house or the "largest" house in Pecos, none of which
was basically true but made good reading. It is located
at the end of Eddy Street at its intersection with
Stafford. Even today, some individuals now and then
asks to see the "Billie Sol Estes mansion."

He immediately started "wheeling and dealing" and,
in addition to his farming operations he sold pre-fab
buildings for garages, airplane hangars and housing for
Mexican labor. No one knows how much he made off of
this operation, but by 1952 he had attracted enough
attention for the Texas Jaycees to select him as one of
the five outstanding young men in Texas.

In 1953 he was selected by the National Junior
Chamber as one of ten outstanding young men in the
United States. Others in the group included Dr. Albert
Schatz of Fairlawn, New Jersey; Douglas R. Stringfellow, a U.S.
representative from Ogden, Utah; Frank
Clement, Governor of Tennessee, Dr. Bernard J. Miller
of Laverock, Pennsylvania; Walter Horace Carter,
publisher of Taber City, New Jersey; and Carl T. Rowan,
reporter for the Minneapolis Star.

Also there were Dr. Lloyd Thomas Karitz of
Rochelle, Illinois; Sgt. Hiroshi Mayamura of Gallup,
New Mexico; and Maynard Malcom Miller, a geologist
and explorer from Seattle, Washington.

Estes met Governor Clements of Tennessee at the
awards banquet and later his father, Judge Clement.
Estes and the Clements became partners in a
surplus-housing company, known as the Delta Homes
Investment Co. The Clements pulled out of the
partnership in 1956 but Billie Sol continued buying and
selling government surplus housing.

He sold much of the housing mortgage paper to the
Nashville Christian Institiute, a small Negro school
supported by the Church of Christ. As an act of
gratitude for this help, Billie Sol built a small church for
the Pecos black people of that faith.

The Estes enterprises continued to grow and, by
the end of 1954, his holdings included 2,340 acres of
farm land, a tourist court, eleven farm tractors, 15
apartments in Port Neches, a half interest in 60
apartments in Frederick, Oklahoma and $100,000 worth
of farm equipment. Many other investments followed,
such as Pecos Growers Gas, Equipment Service Co., the
Farmers Company, Water Well Service Co., the
Colonial Funeral Home and the Pecos Daily News.

The Estes debacle was covered by many magazines
and newspapers, including Life, Look, Time, Newsweek,
Fortune and many others. In our opinion, the story in
Fortune was the best written, the most factual and the
kindest of all the stories written. (Writer's note: This
story is not intended to cover the inner workings of Billie
Sol's system, only what happened from day to day
in Pecos. We suggest that, if you are interested in a
comprehensive, detailed account of his manipulations,
you read the July 1962 edition of Fortune magazine
which you will find in most libraries.

Fortune seemed to think that Estes' turning
point occured in mid-1961. Estes ran for trustee on the
Pecos school board and was defeated by a write-in
candidate sponsored by the Pecos Independent and
Enterprise, a semi-weekly newspaper owned by a group
of conservatives; some of whom openly admitted to
being members of the John Birch Society.

Estes started a concentrated campaign against the
Independent. According to Fortune, he asked his
employees not to buy from stores that advertised in the
Independent. He also founded the Pecos Daily News as
rival to the Independent. He hired a good staff,
installed the very latest composing and printing
equipment and started operations on a big scale. Some
of this same type of equipment is now used by the Pecos
Daily Enterprise, the successor to the Pecos Daily

In reference to Estes' campaign against the
Independent, Fortune said "this proved to be a crucial
mistake, for the Independent knew something about
Estes." From here we move to a recount of the actual
happenings as recorded in the Pecos newspapers.

(Continued next article)

Newspaper editor broke Estes story

(Second in a series of 12)

The first indication of something being wrong with
the Estes setup occured on February 12, 1962 when
Oscar Griffin, Editor of the Pecos Independent, started
a series of articles on anhydrous ammonia tanks in
Reeves county. He referred to Reeves county as the
"anhydrous ammonia tank capitol of the world."

In this first article, which appeared on the front page
of the Independent, Griffin claimed that he had made a
checks of the Reeves county records and found that
15,000 of these tanks were, on paper, in Reeves county.
He went on to point out that this would be one tank for
each four acres of cotton and, if placed end to end,
would reach from Pecos to Balmorhea.

Griffin got his information from chattel mortgage
records and cited one instance of a farmer who farmed
850 acres of land and had almost 450 ammonia tanks,
with an indebtedness of over $400,000 with monthly
payments of nearly $7,000.

Griffin claimed that many farmers names were
signed to mortgages without their consent and others
had bought many more tanks than they had bargained
for. He said that the total number of farmers involved in
the tank transactions was less than 50.

In his second article, appearing February 19, 1962,
Griffin's claims were on the rather fantastic side
although they were never disputed as far as we can find
in the record. He claimed that almost $13 million was
involved in the Reeves County transactions.

Griffin said that one farmer told him that he
was approached by a business man with a proposition.
The proposition was that he was to buy a certain
number of anhydrous ammonia tanks from a certain
company, sign the chattel mortgage and, in turn, lease
the tanks to the business man.

He said further that "it was understood that the
amount of the lease to the business man would be the
same as the total monthly payments on the tanks due
the finance company. For doing this, he was to receive,
in cash, ten per cent of the total purchase price of the
tanks. All he had to do was sign the chattel mortage
after agreeing to buy the tanks." The individual said
that it was understood that his tanks were not for use
in Reeves county.

Griffin went on to say that one man in Hale county,
with nearly $2 million worth of tanks registered m
Reeves County, had over $1 million in Hale County
mortgages. Almost $3 million in tank mortgages was in
Deaf Smith county, and more in Dawson, Lamb and
Lubbock Counties.

Griffin's third article came out March 1, 1962
and was pretty much more of the same. He claimed that
by March 1 some $14.5 million in tank mortgages had
been filed in Reeves county, with one Pecos individual
having a total of $5.7 million in mortgages, $2 million
of it being in Reeves county.

His fourth article came out March l9, 1962 which was
concerned largely with the magnitude of the operations
and the amount of taxes being lost by Reeves county.
He cited the fact that none of these had been rendered
for taxation and Reeves county was losing $81,000
annually on taxes that should have been paid.

He listed many individuals holding large amounts of
tank mortgages, without naming any of them. In fact, he
never used any person's name in all of the four articles.

The allegations set forth in these four articles
precipitated a flurry of activity among the finance
companies holding the tank mortgages. On March 27,
1962 a group of officials and attorneys for the finance
companies met to discuss the unusual tank transactions.
The Independent said that "details of the talks have not
been revealed, but it is generally conceded that 32
officers and 10 attorneys for finance companies met in
secret session in Dallas to discuss the transactions."

The Independentsaid that Billie Sol Estes spent
two hours with the representatives. Finance companies
made few statements to the many reporters covering the
meeting. A spokesman for the Pacific Finance Company
said none of the mortgages were in default, but the
thing they were worried about was "the validity of the
collateral." The meeting was suspended the following
day without further comment.

Then on Friday, March 30, 1962, the Independent
came out with a banner headline saying "Federal
Charge Jails Estes." The article, written by Oscar
Griffin, said that Estes was arrested by FBI agents at
6:00 P.M., March 29, 1962, and booked into the Reeves
county jail about 10:00 P.M. because of failure to raise
a $500,000 bond. He was escorted by U.S. Deputy
Marshal Ralph Gilliland and Reeves county Deputy
Sheriff Gary Ingram.

U.S. Commissioner Richard L. Toll read the
charges to Estes, which was, in short, that Estes had
caused fraudulent securities to be transported from
Hudspeth county, Texas to Los Angeles, California, a
Federal violation.

Arrested on the same charges were Coleman
McSpadden, Harold Orr, and Ruel Alexander, all
officers or former officers of Superior Manufacturing
Company of Amarillo. Attorney John Dennison
represented Estes.

This was the beginning of a long, hectic period for
Pecos, involving many Pecos people, largely indirectly.
Pecos was plagued with representatives of all the news
media, many national magazines carried lurid stories
on Pecos, most of it being incorrect, which placed Pecos in a rather unsavory light with readers all over the nation. We will touch on some of these stories in later articles in this series.

Estes arrest split Pecos residents

(Third in a series of 12)

Following the arrest of Estes, Pecos went into a sort
of "tail spin." There were rumors and counter rumors
and the town divided into two camps, one pro-Estes and
the other anti-Estes. Through it all was a feeling of
apprehension, indecision and frustration. Those who
were not involved felt the news media was not treating
the town fairly, there being too much inference, per-
sonal opinion and editorializing in the news stories,
although everyone agreed that the news, good or bad,
had to be published as long as it was news and not con-

On March 31, 1962, the Pecos Independent reported
that Estes was to leave to report to federal Judge R.E.
Thomason at 11:00 a.m. in El Paso to seek a reduction
in his record breaking $500,000 bond. The other three men arrested with Estes had managed to get their bonds
reduced from S250,000 to $25,000.

The Federal grand jury in El Paso was to meet the
same day to consider charges against the four men.

In the Daily News issue of April 3, it was announced
that Judge Thomason had reduced Estes' bond to
S100,000. The bond was signed by Estes' father, John
Estes' an uncle, Dr. Sol Estes and a brother, Dr. John
Estes. Estes' lawyer, John Dennison, was assisted by
William L. Kerr and Irby Dyer in getting the bond re-

Estes, according to the news story, said that he owed
$32 million with assets of S20 million and felt he could
pay off all debts.

The Daily News reported April 4, 1962 that the
pro-Estes group, running for city offices, had been
elected by a large majority at a record breaking turnout
of voters. A few days later, some of those elected made
a statement that they had no connection with either
faction and were running on their own merits.

The News also reported that Estes was turning over
his farns, immediately, to Anderson-Clayton Co. for
supervision and control. It was not known just how
many acres were involved, but it was generally under-
stood that Estes owned about 10,000 acres in his own
name, with Agriculture, Inc., owning another 16,000
acres. We found no record of these figures ever having
been verified.

The same news release stated that Texas Agriculture
Commissioner, John White, said that a check of two
Estes' grain elevators showed that they held the correct
amount of grain. C.H. Mosely, director of the Dallas
office of the Federal Commodity Stabilization Service,
said that 20 of his investigators had found no irre-

On April 6, 1961, the Independent reported that
Pecos was waiting for the Fedeal grand jury in El Paso
to report on indictments, and also waiting to see if a
mammoth suit would be filed by Reeves county farmers
in an attempt to recover their losses.

A total of six suits had already been filed in the
amount of approximately $9 million, two of them
seeking to have their mortgages canceled.

On the same day, the Daily News reported the death
of George Krutilek of El Paso. Krutilek had been
missing from his home since Monday, April 2, and was
found Friday about five miles north of Clint, Texas. The
badly decomposed body was found in his car with a hose
attached to the exhaust pipe.

It was first ruled a suicide, but an El Paso
pathologist later said that Krutilek did not die from
carbon monoxide poisoning. An El Paso TV station
called it murder and this caused a new flurry of excite-
ment in Pecos. It was rumored that Krutilek was an
employee of Billie Sol Estes but a later report said he
was employed by Gene Wells of Sierra Blanca.

The Daily News reported on April 7 that the pathologlst
had determined that Krutilek had died of a heart
attack, possibly from preparing for suicide. A number of
empty sleeping pill bottles were found in the car but
there was no sign of violence.

The Daily News announced Sunday, April 8, that
Federal Judge R.E. Thomason had put the Estes
Enterprise in receivership and granted Estes 30 days in
which to produce a list of assets and liabilities. The
Judge also froze present and future civil suits against

Monday's Independent reported that Judge Thomason had
picked Harry Moore, Jr., Vice President of the
El Paso National Bank, as the receiver for the Estes
enterprises. It also reported that civil suits in the
Mount of about $10 million had been filed before Judge
Thomason's freeze of these suite, and that Texas
Attorney General Will Wilson had called courts of
inquiry at Amarillo and Plainview.

One suit, reported by the Daily News on April 10,
was by a grain dealer in Wichita Falls by the name of
I.E. Wilson. Wilson'filed a S6 million libel suit
against Pacific Finance of Los Angeles, alleging that, at various times, representatives of Pacific Finance had made derogatory remarks to individuals and newspapers reflecting on Wilson and his business enterprise.

Estes case raised charge of politics

(Fourth in a series of 12)

The Pecos Independent announced April 12, 1962 that
District Judge J.H. Starley had issued a temporary
injunction enjoining several finance companies from
disposing of records and agreements connected with the
anhydrous ammonia tank transactions. Exempt from
the injunction were Billie Sol Estes and Coleman
McSpadden, Federal judges having previously issued
stay orders prohibiting civil action against the two

It was also announced that Attorney General Will
Wilson was to hold a court of inquiry in Pecos on
Saturday, April 14, for the purpose of investigating
possible anti-trust violation. County Judge F.H. Ryan
was to preside at the session. At Wilson's Dallas
hearing, an official of Neiman-Marcus testified that
Estes had clothing fitted for two Department of
Agriculture officials. The officials were not named.
The Independent stated this came as "the attorney general attempted to establish that Estes curried favor with USDA officials."

On the same date, April 12, the Daily News
carried a story accusing politicians of using the Estes
case to gain newspaper publicity since this was an
election year. Roy Whittenburg, Republican candidate
for Governor, visited in Pecos "hoping to pick up a
little publicity from the hottest news town in America."

Attorney General Wilson, Democratic candidate for
Governor, whose Eses hearings had been getting front
page coverage, was expecting the same at the Pecos
hearing. Wilson had two assistants in Pecos on
Thursday to make arrangements to set up his court of
inquiry on Saturday.

Wilson came to Pecos and held a rather short inquiry.
Pecosites testifying Included Estes' receptionist, six
farmers, Estes' business manager and manager of the
Farmers Company. After the inquiry, Wilson said "we
already have enough evidence to go to the grand jury.
We hope do so as soon as we get our testinony
transcribed and have a chance to study it." He did not
say what charges he would make or against whom...

Harry Moore, Jr., returnedto Pecos on Monday,
April 16, continuaing his efforts to untangle the
financial affairs of Estes. According to the Independent, Moore said "we are going to hold the status quo until we can get the figures on all the operations. Right now we are attempting to get the business operating." The Commercial Credit Corporation had demanded a $10 million bond before allowing the grain elevators to resume operations. Moore was hopeful of getting this bond.

The Daily News headline of April 17, 1962 read
"Estes Case Becomes Political Case in both National
and Texas campaigns." The article said that the
Department of Agriculture had fired Wm. E. Morris and
Thomas R. Hughes, Executive Secretary to Secretary of
Agriculture Orville Freeman, said Morris
was fired because he failed to make himself available to
department investigators regarding his relations with
Estes." Hughes further said that the department's
investigations had, so far, uncovered no evidence that
Estes had received any favors whatsoever.

The article also said that the Republican
National Committee said it hoped to connect the White
House with the activities of Eates, and that two
Republican house members, in separate action, had
asked congressional investigation of the Agriculture
Department'a Agriculture and Conservation Stabilization Committee.

According to the newspaper, request for investigations
had stemmed from reported relations of Emory Jacobs and Estes. Jacobs had resigned the week before after his name was brought up in the Texas hearings. Testimony tended to link Jacobs and Morris to the Estes case.

The Daily News headline of April 18, 1962 read
"Capitol Continues Political Turmoil Over Este Case."
This was certainly not an overstatement because the
Washington newspapers were carrying front page
stories on the Estes case, some one was constantly
wanting to start a new investigation, and the senators
and Congressmen were in pretty much of a turmoil.

In addition to developments covered in the April
17 paper, Representative Edmundson of Oklahoma said
that Mrs. Alice Morris, wife of Wm. E. Morris and
Edmundson's part time secretary, had resigned. It was
rumored that she had been writing a question and
answer news column from Washington for a newspaper
in Pecos said to be owned by Estes.

The Daily News of April l9 carried an Associated
Press dispatch from Lubbock that said "despite all
political deadlines, uproar, bombast and malicious
mud-slinging, nothing derogatory hag been proven
about Billie Sol Estes' grain storage operations." This
dispatch had nothing to do with the tank operations.

The AP dispatch also said that "Attorney General
Will Wilson is making a transparent effort to show that
Estes influenced Agriculture Department officials to
store grain in his elevators." Then the article said
"C.H. Mosely says elevators known to be owned by
Estes contained about 53 percent of capacity which is
more and probably less, than the other elevators in the area. Mosely had said repeatedly that field investigators showed that Estes elevators hold all the government grain they should.

On the same day, April l9, the Independent
carried a story to the effect that Attorney General Will
Wilson got an inquiry underway at 10:00 a.m. in Lubbock delving into the rapid expansion of grain storage facilities by Estes. About a dozen witnesses testified, pro and con, and not much conclusive evidence was gained. The Independent also said the previously referred to Washington news column, written by Alice Morris, was written in February and March of 1962. {Writer's note: We checked the newspaper files and found that the column by Alice Morris was written in the Pecos Daily, News and titled "Capitol Comment."}

The information on the various investigations of
Estes' grain elevators was about the same in both
papers, with the News articles being slanted a little
toward Estes and the Independent articles in the
opposite direction. The Independent said the federal
General Accounting Office had begun looking into the
Estes operation and the house Government Operations
Committee said it would take a close look at all
Department of Agriculture grain storage activities.


Billie Sol Estes is furloughed from Big Spring federal prison camp in 1983 for publisher's release of a book about him, written by daughter Pam from more than 20 years' notes and collected information. (9.6KB)

Billie Sol Estes, in checkered coat, is interviewed at the Big Spring federal prison camp in late October, 1983, shortly before his parole. He began a 15-year sentence in 1965 after conviction for federal mail fraud and conspiracy. Creditors claimed Estes owed them $38 million. (AP Laserphoto, 26.6 KB)

Leaving federal prison in Big Spring in mid-November, 1983, Billie Sol Estes kisses his wife, Patsy. (AP laserphoto, 22.4KB)

Former con-man and wheeler-dealer, Billie Sol Estes, whose circle of friends once included Lyndon Johnson, sits in a Brady,Tex. restaurant Sept. 3, 1997. After two federal prison stints, Estes has quietly settled into Brady on the fringe of the Texas Hill Country. (AP Photo by Ron Heflin, 18KB).

Detailed news articles from 1962

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