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David O. McKay Diaries – “Douglas Stringfellow”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Douglas Stringfellow.” You can view other subjects here.

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Mon., 23 Nov., 1953:

“At 8:30 this morning I had a conference with Professor Milton L. Weilenmann, Chairman of the State Democratic Committee, also a teacher in the East High Seminary.  We discussed the proposal by the State Legislature to amend the State Constitution giving to each county a representative in the Senate.  Brother Weilenmann is of the opinion that this gives to one section of the Senate too great an advantage.  For example, Daggett County with very few inhabitants would have the same voice as Salt Lake County with the largest population in the State.  I told him I would take the matter under consideration and have another discussion with him next Wednesday morning.”

Sun., 10 Oct., 1954:

“Had an appointment at the office with Mr. Milton L. Weilenmann State Democratic Chairman, regarding Congressman Douglas R. Stringfellow, regarding a serious accusation.”

Wed., 13 Oct., 1954:

“First Presidency

Met at 8:00 a.m. with Representative Douglas R. Stringfellow and Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson regarding a serious accusation.

3:15 p.m.  Appointment with Mr. Milton L. Weilenmann, State Democratic Chairman, regarding the Representative Douglas R. Stringfellow case.

4:45 p.m.  Appointment with Representative Douglas R. Stringfellow, Spencer Kimball, Jr., and Mr. Milton L. Weilenmann regarding the accusation against Rep. Stringfellow.

Telephone Conversations

I called by telephone Representative Douglas R. Stringfellow.  I stated that we thought it was a good thing when we had had a conference this morning that he and Brother Weilenmann, State Democratic Chairman, meet and talk this matter over.  Representative Stringfellow stated that he was leaving at 8 a.m. the next morning on a plane to go to Missouri to give a speech.  He said he would have to meet with Mr. Weilenmann this afternoon.  The Representative stated that he would be at the Salt Lake City Airport until Senator Watkins arrived on a plane, but he felt that he would be free by 4:30 p.m. and that he could meet anywhere it was convenient.  It was arranged for him to meet Mr. Weilenmann at my office at 4:45 p.m.”

Thurs., 14 Oct., 1954:

Telephone Conversations

“I called Elder Ezra Taft Benson in Washington, D.C.  I told Brother Benson that I thought he would like to know the outcome of the conference I had had last evening with Representative Douglas R. Stringfellow, Mr. Milton L. Weilenmann, and Spencer Kimball, Jr.   Mr. Weilenmann had called Spencer Kimball, Jr. to accompany him and to listen in on the interview.  Both Apostle Benson and I agreed with Representative Stringfellow that it was unfair to have Brother Kimball present during the interview.

I told Brother Benson that the conference the evening before had not brought forth any more facts than the conference we had had with him yesterday morning.  Representative Stringfellow stated that if the news was made public, he would answer it.  I told Brother Benson that the news had already been released in an Army paper in Washington.  Brother Benson said that he would probably see this paper.

Dr. O. Preston Robinson of the Deseret News called and asked me about the Douglas R. Stringfellow matter.  Dr. Robinson stated that they had had information on this matter since April and that they were running a story in the paper to-night.  Dr. Robinson also stated that they had a letter from Representative Stringfellow which he had written to them last May.  They had permission from the Representative to run this letter in the paper tomorrow evening.  I said that I would withhold comment for the present.  Dr. Robinson asked if he had approval to go ahead and dig out what information they could.  I indicated that it would be all right for them to go ahead and obtain information in their capacity as a newspaper.”

Fri., 15 Oct., 1954:

“3 p.m.  I returned to the office to see Senator Arthur V. Watkins regarding the Douglas R. Stringfellow case.

Sat., 16 Oct., 1954:

2 p.m.  At their request by telephone I met in my private office Senators Arthur V. Watkins and Wallace F. Bennett who disclosed that during the conference with Representative Douglas R. Stringfellow in Ogden, the latter had finally confessed to them that his claim to an oversea flight on a secret mission had no basis in fact.

The three of us considered how best Congressman Stringfellow could make his confession to the public.  We concluded that he should do this before the CIA in Washington made public the fact that there is nothing in the record of the CIA to substantiate his claim that he ever flew across the sea on a secret mission.

We further considered that arrangements be made to have Congressman Stringfellow appear on the Radio and Television to-night if possible.

About 2:15 p.m.  Milton L. Weilenmann, State Chairman of the Democratic Party, telephoned me saying that he had just received word from their correspondent in Washington that the CIA could find no record of the secret mission claimed by Congressman Stringfellow.”

Wed., 20 Oct., 1954:

First Presidency’s Meeting

At the meeting this morning I mentioned that I had received a telegram from the Chairman of the Republican party, stating that the committee had accepted Congressman Stringfellow’s resignation, and that President H. Aldous Dixon had accepted the nomination.  I immediately dictated a reply commending the Committee’s action, and wishing ‘success to President Dixon.'”

Thurs., 21 Oct., 1954:

“10:00 a.m.  Council Meeting.

At this meeting President McKay made the following report on the Douglas R. Stringfellow case:

‘President McKay reported that since our meeting a week ago he spent a good deal of time with the men who have been closely associated with the Congressman Douglas R. Stringfellow affair.  His attention was first called to the matter by Brother Lynn Richards, who felt that it was of such great importance that we should know about it.  Later, Brother Weilenmann, chairman of the Democratic party, sought an interview and gave President McKay the papers which had been secured regarding the case.  Subsequently, President McKay and Brother Benson interviewed Brother Stringfellow, who maintained that while he had taken poetic license, as he called it, that he had given the facts as they had been reported in the papers and on television.  He maintained that these facts would be supported by the Washington records.  President McKay said he was very much grieved when later Senators Watkins and Bennett called at the office and reported that Brother Stringfellow had admitted that his reported trip overseas on a special mission was a hoax.  They also stated that he and his wife would like to come and see President McKay and make amends.  Pres. McKay said that he would see him after he had made public confession.  The President received a telegram from Brother Stringfellow while the President was in Los Angeles, saying that he and his wife would like to make amends, but President McKay has not yet made an appointment with him.'”

Deseret News – Wednesday, November 3, 1954

The ‘Dixon Story’ – A 15-Day Political Wonder


News Staff Writer

College president to congressman in 15 days!

That’s the ‘Dixon Story’ that almost certainly will be considered one of the astonishing performances in American political history.

Let’s go back to Oct. 15.  Even then events were about to burst that would catapult Dr. Henry Aldous Dixon, affable, popular president of the Utah State Agricultural College into national prominence.

Had Been Campaigning

Rep. Douglas R. Stringfellow, whose masterful oratory had told of a fantastic adventure behind German lines in World War II, had been campaigning for re-election to Congress from Utah’s First District.  Political experts had considered him a sure winner.

But then the Army Times, a civilian weekly newspaper published in Washington, D.C., questioned Rep. Stringfellow’s war record.  Late on Saturday, Oct. 16, the Utah congressman went before the television cameras and microphones to confess, in a tear-stained, dramatic speech that his cloak and dagger exploits were a complete fabrication.

Move Quickly

The Republican State Central Committee moved quickly to try to salvage the wreckage.  They met Monday, Oct. 18, to name a new candidate.  In an unprecedented open meeting Republican leaders by-passed party faithfuls and politicians to draft Dr. Dixon to run for Congress in Rep. Stringfellow’s place.

The college president objected.  ‘I’m no politician,’ he declared.  He told his backers that he was happy at Logan, that he felt he could ‘serve the people of the state better at the USAC than I can in Congress.’

Pleaded With Educator

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, Gov. J. Bracken Lee and other party leaders pleaded with the educator to accept the belated nomination.

Reluctantly he agreed.  Then with characteristic determination he set about to make a fight of the campaign.  He observed that he was handicapped because ‘I don’t know much about politics.’

He had never run for public office before.

Tuesday night as the election returns came in they told the story.  At first he trailed veteran campaigner Walter K. Granger, who previously had served six terms as a Democratic congressman.

Began to Gain

But as the night wore on he began to gain.  Then he forged into the lead.  Mr. Granger conceded.  Dr. Dixon thanked him for conducting a ‘clean’ campaign and said ‘we’re good friends.’

Little more than a year ago Dr. Dixon was president of Weber College, a post he had held for almost 20 years.  Then in August, 1953, he was drafted by the USAC Board of Trustees to go to Logan to bring peace, quiet and confidence to a campus that had been torn by dissension and mistrust.  He was succeeding unusually well.”