Just Musin' - By Alton Hughes
Independent reported indictment
(Fifth in a series of 12)
On Monday, April 23, 1962, the Pecos Independent said
the Reeves County Grand Jury, which apparently began
investigating the affairs of Billie Sol Estes last week,
is scheduled to convene again Wednesday. Several Estes
employees were seen outside the grand jury room Friday,
apparently waiting to testify before them. Because grand
jury proceedings are secret, it is not known what phase,
if any, of the Estes affairs the panel is investigating.
No indictments have been released."
Then on Thursday, April 26, the Independent headline
read "Reeves County Grand Jury Indicts Estes on Eight
Felony Theft Charges." This was the first local action
against Estes. A Federal Grand Jury in El Paso had
previously returned indictments on eight counts of
"allegedly transporting fraudulent chattel mortgages in
interstate commerce." At the time of the Reeves county
action, according to the Independent, a Federal grand
jury in Dallas was reportedly investigating charges that
Estes gave expensive gifts to Federal farm officials.
The Daily News, on the same day, made the same
announcement concerning the Reeves County
indictments. The News also announced that a contempt of
court charge had been filed Wednesday against Walter
Heller Co. and Judge J.H. Starley had set the date of
hearing for May 1 at 11 A.M. Cause for filing the
contempt case was that it was alleged that Heller
employees had removed notes from their files after they
had been temporarily impounded by the court.
The News also announced that C.I.T. had filed 28 civil
suits of $22 million for collection of chattel
mortgages against Pecos and other West Texas farmers.
This suit was expected to be the forerunner of other
civil suits filed by about a dozen financially prominent
mortgage firms. The News said "if companies can't get
their money from Estes, they hope to get it from the
farmers, or possibly get payments from both." Coleman
McSpadden, of Lubbock, announced a plan to repay his
creditors within a period of about ten years.
A story was carried in the Daily News of April 29 to
the effect that C.H. Mosley declared that he alone, and
not Agriculture Department officials in Washington, made
decisions concerning grain storage by Billie Sol Estes.
He also said that no favoritism had been shown Estes and
the government had suffered no loss, and is threatened
with none, on the entire grain operation.
The Independent's issue of May 3 carried a story on
many new angles resurrected in the Estes case. Among
new developments was a suit filed by a Van Horn man
against Estes, Billie Sol Estes Enterprises, The Farmers
Co., Superior Manufacturing Company, Lubbock Machine and
Supply, Associated Investment Co., Caprock Investment
Co., General Leasing of Ft. Wayne, Walter E. Heller and
Co., Ruel Alexander, Thomas A. Rogers, Pioneer Finance
Company and C.I.T. Corporation.
The suit, in the amount of $308,350.40, charged that the
defendants had procured this anount of chattel mortgages
by misrepresentation and fraud. The plaintiff asked that
the mortages and notes be cancelled.
Another new angle involved a press conference
called by Bill Mattox to clear the air as to his part in
transferring cotton allotments to Estes, which he
showed to be legal and according to the A.S.C.
procedure. Mattox had received some criticism from the
press, accusing him of aiding Estes.
Mattox said he had been exposed to the Estes tank
buying proposition but turned it down.
The Independent announced on May 7, 1962 that
Judge R.E. Thomason had set a creditors meeting at El
Paso for May 23, at which times all Estes creditors were
to file their claims and nominate a trustee. Notices
were sent out to 564 persons.
On May 9, 1962 the Amarillo Globe-Times came out
with a front page story concerning the filing of a $5.5
million suit by certain finance companies against the
Superior Manufacturing Co. of Amarillo. In addition to
this suit, the Walter E. Heller Co. filed individual
suits against a large number of Pecos, Hereford, Clifton,
Dell City, Sierra Blanca, Bangs and Fabens people.
The Globe-Times also carried a story indicating
the possible connection of two former Republican
officials in the Department of Agriculture with the
Estes fertilizer operations. These two had left the
Agriculture Department, and had served on the Board
of Directors of the Commercial Solvents Corporation of
New York. Their activities involved the allegation that
Commercial Solvents sold Estes fertilizer that was
in turn sold at a b99 to- farmers agreeing to store
their grain in Estes' elevators.
Probe of Estes continued in Pecos
(Sixth in a series of 12)
Probe of Estes continued in Pecos
(Sixth in a series of 12)
Independent intimated that a govermnent secretary,
Receiver reported mortgaged tanks
(Seventh in a series of 12)
On May 28, 1962 the Independent announced that the
Farmers Co., according to the company manager, was
under the control of Commercial Solvents. The Odessa
American had said the day before that Federal Judge
R.E. Thomason has given Harry Moore permission to
negotiate a contract with Commercial Solvents. A
representative of the fertilizer company said that five
railroad tank cars of anhydrous ammonia were enroute
to Pecos to be sold at the going rate. Part of the eight
dollar per ton profit was to be paid to Moore for
Harry Moore, Estes' receiver, announced May 31,
1962 that of the theoretical 33,500 tanks that had been
mortgaged, between 1,600 and 2,000 could be located or
accounted for. Moore also said he was pleased that
Commercial Solvents had executed a contract to
control the Farmers Co.
The Independent carried a story in their June 7th
issue saying that Dr. John Paul Dunn, co-owner of the
Independent, confirmed that he submitted documentary
evidence pertaining to the Estes case to the FBI in
March of 1961. He acknowledged that he "prepared and
submitted cocumentary evidence in the Billie Sol Estes
case to the Executive branch of the Federal government
more than a year ago and subsequently to the
Legislative branch in Washington and to the Texas
A staff attorney leaked the information to the
press and the story came out in the New York Tribune
and this started the ball rolling. Directors and stock- holders of the Independent denied any knowledge of collaboration on the Estes case between Dr. Dunn and
Oscar Griffin who followed Don Kretsinger as editor of
In a letter to the Amarillo Globe-Times, Oscar Griffin,
according to the Independent story, said "It must be
understood many people, and friends of the Independent,
assisted in arriving at the conclusions drawn by us prior to publication of these tank articles. These
people, because of their position or desires, cannot be
named." The Independent said that the decision to
publish the "expose" rested solely with the Directors.
It was announced on June 7 that Estes' stock in the
Pecos Printing Co., publishers of the Pecos Daily News,
would be sold to the highest bidder at the office of the
Daily News at 10:00 a.m., Monday, June 11. Before
calling the auction, Moore had received one bid of
The meeting to auction the sale of Billie Sol
Estes' 921/2 shares of stock in the Pecos Printing
Company was convened at the stated meeting on June
11, but no auction occurred. In a surprise move, Barney
Hubbs and Joe Pounds, former publishers of the
Enterprise, issued a signed statement to those in
attendance that they were in complete control of 315
shares of stock in the company then held in escrow at
the First National Bank.
Because of this surprise move, no prosepective
bidders would submit bids. Moore asked for a show of
hands of those who might submit bids, and they
included J. Robert Scott and Jim Pattee, Alan Propp of
the Independent, Dorrance Roderick of the El Paso
Times, F.O. Maston of Sudan and Buck Miller, a local
rancher. The auction was then re-set for 4: p.m. that
afternoon. The Independent, in that day's publication,
announced that they would not submit a bid in view of
the "interference and complicated maneuver."
The bids were received at 4:00 P.M., June 11,
1962, by Estes' receiver, Harry Moore. The bid by a
group of about 20 Pecos Business men was the high
bid. The other two bidders were Dorance Roderick of
the El Paso Times, and F.O. Matson of Sudan. The
Pecos Independent and Buck Miller did not submit a
On June 12th Judge R.E. Thomason confirmed the
sale of the Pecos Printing Company, publishers of the
Pecos Daily News, to the group of Pecos business men.
Harry Moore had approved the sale prior to its
confirmation by Judge Thomason. A spokesman for the
group said that the paper would be continued as a clean
The June 19th issue of the News carried a news
release from Frankston, Texas, stating that the grand
jury investigating the death of Henry Marshall had
returned a verdict of "death by suicide," but would
re-convene if new evidence came to light that might
alter the decision.
John Cofer of Austin and John Dennison of
Pecos made a last ditch effort on June l9th to keep the
Estes empire from going into bankruptcy. The two Estes
lawyers met with M.R. Irion, lawyer for Estes'
creditors, in Dallas in a closed session. None of them
indicate what move they had in mind to accomplish this
The Dallas News carried a story saying that the
Reeves County ASC had fired Bill Mattox from the
committee, allegedly for assisting Estes in getting
eminent domain cotton allottments.
The Independent of June 21 said that Rufus Atkinson,
Reeves County ASC manager, and his superior, A.J.
Weimer, had been suspended by ASC officials for
accepting a $50 gift certificate from Estes in 1960.
They were given the right to appeal.
Also on June 21, 1962 both Pecos papers told of
efforts of Estes' lawyers to get Judge Thomason to
dismiss the Federal grand jury probing the Estes case.
They alleged that bias and prejudice had been engendered
by newspapers, magazines and television. John Cofer, one of Estes' lawyers, attacked President John Kennedy
and brother Robert Kennedy for expressing opinions of the guilt of Estes.
Judge Thomason denied the motion and the
grand jury proceeded with their deliberations.
LIFE magazine, dated June 1, 1962, carried two full
stories on the Estes case. The first, titled "A Scandal
Hot as a Pistol," was concerned largely with the
political implication of the case. The second, titled
"The Bumpkin Who Turned into a Warped Lizard," was
largely a personal essay on Billie Sol. It was full of
sarcasm and personal belittlements of Estes, as well as
being highly inaccurate on many points.
Estes was referred to as "the leading citizen of
Pecos," which was not true. He was at that time the
most publicized citizen of Pecos but could not be
classed as "the" leading citizen.
Use of name brought lawsuit threat
(Eighth in a series of 12)
One June 22, 1962, one of the owners of the Pecos
Independent gave written notice to Buck Jackson, Rodeo
announcer, that if Jackson used his name during the
rodeo he would be sued, along with the Rodeo
Association. Mayor Cecil Cothrun countered with a letter
advising Jackson that if he did not use Cothrun's name
he would be sued for violation of public relations.
The News of June 22 said that over 600 farmers, angy
over the suspension of Rufus Atkinson, presented a
petition to President Kennedy asking for Atkinson's
re-instatement. Estes was constantly giving things to
people, one of the gifts being a ham to
Atkinson which brought about his suspension.
Also in the June 22 issue of the News, it was
announced that the El Paso Federal grand jury had
indicted Estes, Ruel Alexander, Harold Orr and
Coleman McSpadden on 29 counts, alleging mail
Attorney General Will Wilson held another hearing in
Pecos on Saturday, June 23, bringing with him dozens
of newsmen, TY and radio reporters, apparently looking
more for publicity than information. The hearmg went
in a sort of carnival atmosphere, with Wilson in the
limelight. A number of Pecos people were called to
testify but none of them offered any worthwhile
evidence. The hearing closed with nothing accomplished.
In a surprise move, Estes' attorneys John
Dennison, John Cofer and Hume Cofer, requested that
Estes' trial be started Monday, June 26, 1962; a request
promptly granted by Judge Starley. The News article of
Tuesday, June 26, said that when the surprise Estes
move came on Saturday, there were only two or three
out-of-town newsmen in Pecos. The Independent story
on Wednesday said that by Tuesday morning newsmen
from all the big Texas dailies, and at least two of the
Eastern papers, the New York Times and the New
York Herald-Tribune, were in Pecos. Also there were
cameramen from a number of national TV stations,
along with reporters and photographers from both
Associated Press and United Press International.
Most of these news people, including representatives
from the Wall Street Journal, the Nashville Tennessean,
the Washington Daily News and the Washington Star,
had been in Pecos the previous weekend for the Wilson
hearing. They had barely got home before they came
right back. In the words of one Pecosite "it was a
The June 27 News reported that Estes' attorney asked
for a continuance of the trial on the grounds that all
jurors had read biased and prejudiced news and Estes
could not get a fair trial. Cofer said that they had no
place to go where this situation did not prevail and the
trial should be continued until the situation changed.
Judge Starley postponed his decision overnight.
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).
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.