In 1917 he joined the United States Army and during the First World War he became a first lieutenant. After leaving the army he joined his friend, Sid Richardson, as a lease trader in the Burkburnett oilfield. According to Ernestine Orrick Van Buren, the author of Clint: Clint Williams Murchison (1986): "He quickly moved into exploration and development, and despite the fluctuations in the price of oil, he sold his holdings in 1925 for $5 million and moved his base of operations to San Antonio."
Texas oil millionaires such as Murchison, fought hard to maintain its tax concessions. The most important of these was the oil depletion allowance. It allowed producers to use the depletion allowed to deduct just 5 per cent of their income and the deduction was limited to the original cost of their property. However, in 1926 the depletion allowance was increased to 27.5 per cent. As Robert Bryce pointed out in his book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate: "Numerous studies showed that the oilmen were getting a tax break that was unprecedented in American business. While other businessmen had to pay taxes on their income regardless of what they sold, the oilmen got special treatment."
In 1929 Murchison formed the Southern Union Gas Company. Over the next few years the company supplied natural gas throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, and New Mexico. On 3rd October 1930 Columbus Joiner discovered oil eight miles west of Henderson, Texas. Murchison invested heavily in this oilfield and built the Tyler Pipe Line to deliver crude oil to a new refinery in Tyler. Murchison then sent the oil by rail to Houston for distribution throughout the world. An opponent of government regulation of private industry, he named his new corporation American Liberty Oil Company.
Jane Wolfe, the author of The Murchisons: The Rise and Fall of a Texas Dynasty (1989) has argued: "Clint Murchison by now had made $20 to $30 million, some from drilling but chiefly from oil leases and pipelines. His next step was much riskier and potentially much more profitable - drilling oil wells on a massive scale... Murchison had been thinking about, and calculating again and again, the profit posibilities that derived from the combination of two extraordinary tax advantages available to oil producers." One of these was the oil depletion allowance. The second issue was what became known as oil payment: "The other extraordinary tax advantage enjoyed by oil producers was the so-called oil payment, a method of borrowing enormous sums for exploration and drilling, while simultaneously avoiding any income tax at all on oil income."
Ernestine Orrick Van Buren pointed out: "In the late 1930s Murchison began diversifying his investments. He acquired numerous life-insurance companies, banks, bus lines, publishing firms, heavy industrial building materials companies, and an assortment of companies serving such leisure activities as hunting, fishing, travel, and gardening. He was a cattleman throughout his life and acquired extensive ranches in Mexico and East Texas. He experimented in improving cattle strains and in developing superior grazing grasses."
In 1945 Murchison established Delhi Oil Corporation. His greatest asset was the gas reserves developed by its subsidiary, Canadian Delhi, in western Canada. Murchison developed the 2,100-mile Trans-Canada Pipe Line that after delivered natural gas from the fields of Alberta to the eastern seaboard. Murchison also developed gas reserves in Australia and another one of his business ventures was the Florida Gas Company, which transported gas from points along the Texas coast to cities in Florida.
Murchison, along with Sid Richardson and Haroldson L. Hunt, became major supporters of Lyndon B. Johnson in order to maintain the oil depletion allowance. According to Robert Bryce: "Johnson's 1948 race was reportedly the most expensive political campaign ever wages in Texas. The money flowed to Johnson like an inexhaustible river. By befriending Richardson, Murchison, Hunt, and other oilmen like Amon Carter of Fort Worth, Wesley West of Austin, and R. J. Parten of Houston, Johnson assured himself of nearly unlimited funding."
Philip F. Nelson, the author of LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination (2011) has pointed out that the oil depletion allowance, "allowed them to retain 27.5 percent of their oil revenue tax-tree; its loss, according to World Petroleum magazine, stood to cost the industry as much as $280 million in annual profits. The original rationale for such an allowance was that the product that their investments yielded yeas a finite resource that would require continual investments in exploration and recovery in order to extend the flow of raw material; the more the companies produced, the less was available. Recognition of this depletion of the asset was intended as an incentive for finding and recovering more oil fields. (How this particular commodity was materially different from other forms of mining, or commercial ocean fishing, or even farming, was never fully explained, other than perhaps the oilmen having better lobbyists than the others.)"
Murchison and Sid Richardson, became friends of J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was the start of a long friendship. According to Anthony Summers, the author of The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993): "Recognizing Edgar's influence as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties-inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar's relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI."
Hoover and his friend, Clyde Tolson, were regular visitors to Murchison's Del Charro Hotel in La Jolla, California. The three men would visit the local racetrack, Del Mar. Allan Witwer, the manager of the hotel at the time, later recalled: "It came to the end of the summer and Hoover had made no attempt to pay his bill. So I went to Murchison and asked him what he wanted me to do." Murchison told him to put it on his bill. Witwer estimates that over the next 18 summers Murchison's hospitality was worth nearly $300,000. Other visitors to the hotel included Richard Nixon, John Connally, Lyndon B. Johnson, Meyer Lansky, Santos Trafficante, Johnny Rosselli, Sam Giancana and Carlos Marcello.
In 1952 Hoover and Murchison worked together to mount a smear campaign against Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Party candidate for the presidency. Hoover and his friend, Clyde Tolson, also invested heavily in Murchison's oil business. In 1954 Murchison joined forces with Richardson and Robert Ralph Young to gain control of the New York Central Railroad. This involved buying 800,000 shares worth $20 million.
Clint Murchison was also closely liked to the Mafia. In 1955 a Senate committee discovered that 20 per cent of the Murchison Oil Lease Company was owned by Vito Genovese and his family. The committee also discovered Murchison had close financial ties with Carlos Marcello. Later, Bobby Baker claimed that. "Murchison owned a piece of Hoover. Rich people always try to put their money with the sheriff, because they're looking for protection. Hoover was the personification of law and order and officially against gangsters and everything, so it was a plus for a rich man to be identified with him. That's why men like Murchison made it their business to let everyone know Hoover was their friend. You can do a lot of illegal things if the head lawman is your buddy."
In 1958 Murchison purchased the publishers, Henry Holt and Company. He told the New York Post: "Before I got them, they published some books that were badly pro-Communist. They had some bad people there.... We just cleared them all out and put some good men in. Sure there were casualties but now we've got a good operation." One of the first book's he published was by his old friend, J. Edgar Hoover. The book, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America (1958), was an account of the Communist menace and sold over 250,000 copies in hardcover and over 2,000,000 in paperback. It was on the best-seller lists for thirty-one weeks, three of them as the number one non-fiction choice.
William Sullivan was ordered to oversee the project, claimed that as many as eight agents worked full-time on the book for nearly six months. Curt Gentry, the author of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (1991) points out Hoover claimed that he intended to give all royalties to the FBI Recreational Association (FBIRA). However, he claims that the "FBIRA was a slush fund, maintained for the use of Hoover, Tolson, and their key aides. It was also a money-laundering operation, so the director would not have to9 pay taxes on his book royalties." Gentry quotes Sullivan as saying that Hoover "put many thousands of dollars of that book.... into his own pocket, and so did Tolson."
Murchison developed extreme right-wing political opinions and along with his friend, Haroldson L. Hunt, was a supporter of the John Birch Society. Murchison funded the anti-communist campaign of Joseph McCarthy. It was claimed that McCarthy got so much money from the Lone Star State he became known as "the third senator from Texas". According to Anthony Summers, Murchison was also "a primary source of money for the American Nazi Party, and its leader, Lincoln Rockwell".
In 1955 Lyndon B. Johnson became majority leader of the Senate. Johnson and Richard Russell now had complete control over all the important Senate committees. This was proving to be an expensive business. The money used to bribe these politicians came from Russells network of businessmen. These were men usually involved in the oil and armaments industries. According to John Connally, large sums of money was given to Johnson throughout the 1950s for distribution to his political friends. I handled inordinate amounts of cash. A great deal of this came from oilmen like Murchison.
In 1956 there was another attempt to end all federal price control over natural gas. Sam Rayburn played an important role in getting it through the House of Representatives. This is not surprising as according to Connally, he alone had been responsible for a million and a half dollars of lobbying. Paul Douglas and William Langer led the fight against the bill. Their campaigned was helped by an amazing speech by Francis Case of South Dakota. Up until this time Case had been a supporter of the bill. However, he announced that he had been offered a $25,000 bribe by the Superior Oil Company to guarantee his vote. As a man of principal, he thought he should announce this fact to the Senate.
Johnson responded by claiming that Case had himself come under pressure to make this statement by people who wanted to retain federal price controls. Johnson argued: In all my twenty-five years in Washington I have never seen a campaign of intimidation equal to the campaign put on by the opponents of this bill. Johnson pushed on with the bill and it was eventually passed by 53 votes to 38. However, three days later, Dwight D. Eisenhower, vetoed the bill on grounds of immoral lobbying. Eisenhower confided in his diary that this had been the most flagrant kind of lobbying that has been brought to my attention. He added that there was a great stench around the passing of this bill and the people involved were so arrogant and so much in defiance of acceptable standards of propriety as to risk creating doubt among the American people concerning the integrity of governmental processes.
Murchison and Sid Richardson began negotiations with President Eisenhower. In June, 1957, Eisenhower agreed to appoint their man, Robert Anderson, as his Secretary of the Treasury. According to Robert Sherrill in his book, The Accidental President: "A few weeks later Anderson was appointed to a cabinet committee to "study" the oil import situation; out of this study came the present-day program which benefits the major oil companies, the international oil giants primarily, by about one billion dollars a year."
According to Jane Wolfe, the author of The Murchisons: The Rise and Fall of a Texas Dynasty (1989), Murchison's relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson came to an end when he accepted the offer to be the running-mate of John F. Kennedy: "Many of Texas's richest oilmen had supported Johnson for years with large contributions, but when he accepted the vice presidency under Kennedy, they felt betrayed. Johnson had enormous clout in the Senate, and much of this power was due to these Texas oilmen. During the fifties LBJ breakfasts at Clint's Preston Road home were commonplace. The Texas senator and ten or twelve of the state's richest oilmen would gather for coffee on the front porch, while Johnson gave an overview of what might happen in Congress affecting the oil industry and of the coming election. Johnson would announce which senators needed money and just how much they needed to defeat their opponents. Then Clint Murchison would assign the fund-raising job to one of the men gathered at the breakfast... In return, Johnson was expected to deliver the vote on the depletion allowance, and all other legislation of interest of the oilman."
On 16th October, 1962, President Kennedy was able to persuade Congress to pass an act that removed the distinction between repatriated profits and profits reinvested abroad. While this law applied to industry as a whole, it especially affected the oil companies. It was estimated that as a result of this legislation, wealthy oilmen saw a fall in their earnings on foreign investment from 30 per cent to 15 per cent. The following year, on 17th January, 1963, President Kennedy presented his proposals for tax reform. This included relieving the tax burdens of low-income and elderly citizens. Kennedy also claimed he wanted to remove special privileges and loopholes. He even said he wanted to do away with the oil depletion allowance. It is estimated that the proposed removal of the oil depletion allowance would result in a loss of around $300 million a year to Texas oilmen.
Rumours began to circulate that Murchison might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A friend of Murchison, Madeleine Brown, claimed in an interview on the television show, A Current Affair that on the 21st November, 1963, she was at his home in Dallas. Others at the meeting included Haroldson L. Hunt, J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson, John J. McCloy and Richard Nixon. At the end of the evening Lyndon B. Johnson arrived. Brown said in this interview: "Tension filled the room upon his arrival. The group immediately went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, reappeared. I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing... not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I'll always remember: "After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's no threat - that's a promise."
Gary Mack has argued that this party never took place: "Could LBJ have been at a Murchison party? No. LBJ was seen and photographed in the Houston Coliseum with JFK at a dinner and speech. They flew out around 10pm and arrived at Carswell (Air Force Base in northwest Fort Worth) at 11:07 Thursday night. Their motorcade to the Hotel Texas arrived about 11:50 and LBJ was again photographed. He stayed in the Will Rogers suite on the 13th floor and Manchester (William Manchester - author of The Death of a President) says he was up late. Could Nixon have been at Murchisons party? No. Tony Zoppi (Entertainment Editor of The Dallas Morning News) and Don Safran (Entertainment Editor of the Dallas Times Herald) saw Nixon at the Empire Room at the Statler-Hilton. He walked in with Joan Crawford (Movie actress). Robert Clary (of Hogans Heroes fame) stopped his show to point them out, saying . . . either you like him or you dont. Zoppi thought that was in poor taste, but Safran said Nixon laughed. Zoppis deadline was 11pm, so he stayed until 10:30 or 10:45 and Nixon was still there."
Texan oil moguls Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson... had assets in excess of $700 million, not counting as much again in untapped oil reserves.
Recognizing Edgar's influence as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties - inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar's relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI. And although the Murchison milieu was infested with organized crime figures, Edgar considered him "one of my closest friends."
"Money," the millionaire used to say, "is like manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good." Murchison and his Texas friends spread a great deal of dollar manure on the political terrain.
They had traditionally been conservative supporters of the Democratic Party - until the presidency of Harry Truman. He enraged oil men by publicly denouncing their tax privileges, and by vetoing bills that would have brought them even greater wealth. Murchison habitually spelled Truman's name with a small t, to show how little he thought of him.
Murchison's political instincts were of the far, far Right. He was a fervent supporter of states' rights, reportedly funded the anti- Semitic press and was a primary source of money for the American Nazi Party and its leader, Lincoln Rockwell, who considered Edgar "our kind of people.'
During the Truman years, musing in private about the perfect political lineup, Edgar had named Murchison and Richardson as ideal candidates for high office - or at least as financial backers for politicians to his liking. Murchison had been obliging ever since. He threw money at Edgar's friend Joe McCarthy, placed airplanes at the Senator's disposal and promised him support "to the bitter end."
The "oil depletion allowance," which allowed them to retain 27.5 percent of their oil revenue tax-tree; its loss, according to World Petroleum magazine, stood to cost the industry as much as $280 million in annual profits. The original rationale for such an allowance was that the product that their investments yielded yeas a finite resource that would require continual investments in exploration and recovery in order to extend the flow of raw material; the more the companies produced, the less was available. Recognition of this depletion of the asset was intended as an incentive for finding and recovering more oil fields. (How this particular commodity was materially different from other forms of mining, or commercial ocean fishing, or even farming, was never fully explained, other than perhaps the oilmen having better lobbyists than the others.) Some of the oilmen had partly supported the Kennedy-Johnson ticket during the 1960 election (others had supported Nixon) because of Johnson's promise that they would not push for elimination of the oil depletion allowance; nevertheless, John F. Kennedy had doubts about its fairness and efficacy, and in early 1963 attacked this tax loophole.
The oilmen were mostly former "wildcat" operators who had gained their fortune almost overnight, and they realized all too well that they could lose it just as quickly. One of the richest of the oilmen, Clint Murchison of Dallas, owned the Del Charm, the resort hotel located in southern California where he treated his friend J. Edgar Hoover and his partner Clyde Tolson to a month's vacation every year, near the racetrack he also owned, the Del-Mar. Another of Murchison's friends, Sid Richardson, went there at the same time, and other guests who would pop in during thee month or so of Hoover's stay included Richard Nixon, John Connally, Lyndon Johnson, and such mafiosi as Meyer Lansky, Santos Trafficante, Johnny Rosselli of Los Angeles, Sam Giancana of Chicago, and Carlos Marcello of New Orleans." Murchison, like Billie Sol Estes and Lyndon Johnson, was also involved with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters and Mafia don Frank Costello, a good friend of Sam Giancana and former business associate of Joseph P. Kennedy.
The Hunts and the Murchisons present the images of different versions of right-wing politics, with the Hunts allied to opponents of Washington, particularly when they were supporting southern resisters to integration, and the Murchisons playing their connections to Washington, Johnson, and Hoover, for all they were worth. Nelson Bunker Hunt was behind the hostile ad that confronted Kennedy in the November 22 edition of the Dallas Morning News.
Murchison owned a piece of Hoover. Rich people always try to put their money with the sheriff, because they're looking for protection. Hoover was the personification of law and order and officially against gangsters and everything, so it was a plus for a rich man to be identified with him. That's why men like Murchison made it their business to let everyone know Hoover was their friend. You can do a lot of illegal things if the head lawman is your buddy.
While ignoring the Mob in his official capacity. Hoover was less exclusive in his personal relationships. He often stayed for free at the Las Vegas hotels of construction tycoon Del E. Webb, whose holdings were permeated with organized crime entanglements. Hoover and Webb also met frequently on vacations in Del Mar, California. During Hoover's annual trips to that city's luxurious Del Charro Motel, his bill was paid by its owner, Clint Murchison, Jr., Hoover's "bosom pal. Murchison, a Texas oil tycoon who backed Lyndon Johnson, was questionably involved with both the Teamsters and Bobby Baker, infamous LBJ aide whose misdeeds will be discussed. But Hoover continued to accept Murchison's hospitality, even while Murchison's dealings with Baker were being investigated by both the Senate and Hoover's own FBI.
On Thursday night, Nov. 21, 1963, the last evening prior to Camelot's demise, I attended a social at Clint Murchison's home. It was my understanding that the event was scheduled as a tribute honoring his long time friend, J. Edgar Hoover (whom Murchison had first met decades earlier through President William Howard Taft), and his companion, Clyde Tolson. Val Imm, the society editor for the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald, unwittingly documented one of the most significant gatherings in American history. The impressive guest list included John McCloy, Richard Nixon, George Brown, R. L. Thornton, H. L. Hunt and a host of others from the 8F group. The jovial party was just breaking up when Lyndon made an unscheduled visit. I was the most surprised by his appearance since Jesse had not mentioned anything about Lyndon's coming to Clint's. With Lyndon's hectic schedule, I never dreamed he could attend the big party. After all, he had arrived in Dallas on Tuesday to attend the Pepsi-Cola convention. Tension filled the room upon his arrival. The group immediately went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, reappeared I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing... not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I'll always remember: "After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's no threat - that's a promise."
Just a few weeks later (after the assassination) I mentioned to him that people in Dallas were saying he himself had something to do with it. He became really violent, really ugly, and said it was American Intelligence and oil that were behind it. Then he left the room and slammed the door It scared me.
Murchison, Snr., like almost all oilmen, had backed Johnson for the White House in 1960, and his fears about Kennedy turned out to be justified. The young President made no secret of his opposition to the oil moguls' extraordinary tax privileges, and moved quickly to change them. Murchison and his associates, it turns out, were linked to the assassination saga by a series of disconcerting coincidences.
George de Mohrenschildt, an oil geologist who knew Murchison and had worked for one of his companies, was on intimate terms with alleged assassin Oswald. He would be found shot dead in 1977, an apparent suicide, on the day an Assassinations Committee investigator called to arrange an interview.
Within four days of the assassination, the FBI received a tip-off that Clint Murchison and Tom Webb - the FBI veteran the millionaire had hired at Edgar's suggestion - were both acquainted with Jack Ruby. While they denied it. Ruby had met one of Murchison's best friends, Humble Oil millionaire Billy Byars.
Byars was close to Edgar. They used adjacent bungalows at Murchison's California hotel each summer. The phone log for the Director's office shows that, aside from calls to Robert Kennedy and the head of the Secret Service, Edgar called only one man on the afternoon the President was shot - Billy Byars.
At this point, during the evening of November 21, on the way from Houston to Fort Worth, Johnson had undoubtedly known that the plan by then was on autopilot. The operatives, tools, and tactical plans were in place; the designated "patsy" had been deluded into believing his entree into the covert spy world was imminent still oblivious to the real agenda; and the planning was subject only to any last-minute decision from him, and him alone, to abort the mission. Johnson knew enough of the details - the micro level points developed by his rogue managers like Harvey, Morales, and Ferrie - of his grand plan to know that every contingency had been accounted for. As he flew into Fort Worth Thursday evening with the presidential party, and then slipped out after arriving at the Texas Hotel to take a midnight trip in a private Limousine the thirty-some miles over to the party in Dallas at Clint Murchison's home, his confidence grew that the plan would work; it would not only work, but it would keep him out of prison and ensure his chance to become the great president that would fulfill his destiny. When lie arrived at the Murchison mansion, his mentality would be simple, along the lines of, "Proceed as planned. It's now or never."
The purpose of the "Murchison Party" was to allow the principals of the enterprise the key sponsors and facilitators or their representatives as being a "congruency of interests" - one last chance to gauge the operational readiness of its disparate facets. It was essential that its success be practically guaranteed; otherwise, they, would all be put in legal jeopardy. Conducting it as a "party" honoring fellow plotter J. Edgar Hoover required the presence of a number of other randomly selected individuals, all of whom had vague personal or political connections to the principals; but it was merely a veil that hid the real intent of the meeting if word had leaked out that such a meeting occurred. But only when the most important of these principals - the one most critical to a successful execution - was present would they separate themselves from the others and meet in executive session "behind closed doors."
Lyndon Johnson arrived very late at Clint Murchison's mansion, but he felt he owed it to some of his best friends to attend since it was a party honoring their mutual friend, J. Edgar Hoover. The only thing liberal at the Murchison home in Dallas that evening was as a measure of how the drinks flowed. Also attending were John J. McCloy, Richard Nixon, H. L. Hunt, John Curington, George Brown, former Texas Congressman Bruce Alger, and Hoover's lover, Clyde Tolson.
Madeleine has claimed over the years that she attended a party at Clint Murchisons house the night before the assassination and LBJ, Hoover and Nixon were there. The party story, without LBJ, first came from Penn Jones in Forgive My Grief. In that version, the un-credited source was a black chauffeur whom Jones didnt identify, and the explanation Jones gave was that it was the last chance to decide whether or not to kill JFK. Of course, Hoover used only top FBI agents for transportation and in the FBI of 1963, none were black. Actually, there is no confirmation for a party at Murchisons. I asked Peter ODonnell because Madeleine claimed he was there, too. Peter said there was no party. Madeleine even said there was a story about it in the Dallas Times Herald some months later (which makes no sense), but she had not been able to find it. Val Imm (Society Editor of the Dallas Times Herald) told Bob Porter (of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza staff) recently she had no memory of such an event and even looked through her notes - in vain.
Could LBJ have been at a Murchison party? No. LBJ was seen and photographed in the Houston Coliseum with JFK at a dinner and speech. They flew out around 10pm and arrived at Carswell (Air Force Base in northwest Fort Worth) at 11:07 Thursday night. Their motorcade to the Hotel Texas arrived about 11:50 and LBJ was again photographed. He stayed in the Will Rogers suite on the 13th floor and Manchester (William Manchester - author of The Death of a President) says he was up late. Could Nixon have been at Murchisons party? No. Tony Zoppi (Entertainment Editor of The Dallas Morning News) and Don Safran (Entertainment Editor of the Dallas Times Herald) saw Nixon at the Empire Room at the Statler-Hilton. He walked in with Joan Crawford (Movie actress). Robert Clary (of Hogans Heroes fame) stopped his show to point them out, saying . . . either you like him or you dont. Zoppi thought that was in poor taste, but Safran said Nixon laughed. Zoppis deadline was 11pm, so he stayed until 10:30 or 10:45 and Nixon was still there.
Clint Murchison picked up Hoover's tab ($100-a-day suites) year after year at the... Del Charro near their favorite race track ... at the same time some of the nation's most notorious gamblers and racketeers have been registered there.