Monday, September 10, 2012

Thomas Walsh’s Mysterious Death

U.S. Senator Thomas Walsh of Montana became prominent as head of the senate committee exposing fraudulent oil leases in the 1920s. Walsh exposed the Teapot Dome scandals of President Warren G. Harding’s administration and sent Secretary of Interior Albert B. Fall to the penitentiary. In 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt appointed Senator Walsh Attorney General. Just before the inauguration, on February 25, 1933, in Cuba, Senator Walsh married Mina Perez Chaumont de Truffin, widow of a wealthy Cuban sugar grower.

Photo by Harris & Ewing from
Cuba at this time was in political turmoil and Mina’s family was embroiled in dangerous diplomatics. Members of her family had even been assassinated. The marriage raised eyebrows. As the newlyweds traveled to Washington for Roosevelt’s inauguration and Walsh’s swearing in, Senator Walsh suddenly died of a heart attack. The press pronounced Walsh’s death a national misfortune, but his son-in-law, U.S. Navy Captain Emmit C. Gudger, believed that his father-in-law had been poisoned. Julio Morales, a successful Helena lawyer who fled Cuba with the advent of Castro, wrote that “...rumors were started by both parties, alleging that Senator Walsh had been poisoned.” It was no secret that Roosevelt opposed Cuba’s government. Walsh’s widow was very upset to learn that her half of the inheritance consisted of the senator’s Washington D.C. town house. She traded the property for other items, including a prized painting by C. M. Russell. The painting’s whereabouts today is unknown. Walsh’s longtime trusted employees had packed his files for delivery to his new office.  Among them were files in progress investigating the Harding administration and the American aluminum industry, against whom Walsh intended to proceed. These files disappeared and were never seen again.

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