Don B. Reynolds

Don B. Reynolds

Don B. Reynolds was born on 20th January, 1915. A graduate of West Point. He joined the United States Army Airforce (USAAF) and after the Second World War he served as a U.S. consular official in Berlin.

On his return to the United States he established a company called Don Reynolds Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland. Reynolds was a friend of Bobby Baker, who was at this time working for Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1957 Reynolds was asked to arrange Johnson's life insurance policy. Baker also introduced Reynolds to Harry S. Truman and Jimmy Hoffa.

In 1963 Senator John Williams of Delaware began investigating the activities of Bobby Baker. As a result of his work, Baker resigned as the secretary to Lyndon B. Johnson on 9th October, 1963. During his investigations Williams met Reynolds and persuaded him to appear before a secret session of the Senate Rules Committee.

Reynolds told B. Everett Jordan and his committee on 22nd November, 1963, that Johnson had demanded that he provided kickbacks in return for him agreeing to this life insurance policy. This included a $585 Magnavox stereo. Reynolds was also told by Walter Jenkins that he had to pay for $1,200 worth of advertising on KTBC, Johnson's television station in Austin. Reynolds had paperwork for this transaction including a delivery note that indicated the stereo had been sent to the home of Johnson.

Reynolds also told of seeing a suitcase full of money which Bobby Baker described as a "$100,000 payoff to Johnson for his role in securing the Fort Worth TFX contract". Reynolds also provided evidence against Matthew H. McCloskey. He suggested that he given $25,000 to Baker in order to get the contract to build the District of Columbia Stadium. His testimony came to an end when news arrived that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

As soon as Johnson became president he contacted B. Everett Jordan to see if there was any chance of stopping this information being published. Jordan replied that he would do what he could but warned Johnson that some members of the committee wanted Reynold's testimony to be released to the public. On 6th December, 1963, Jordan spoke to Johnson on the telephone and said he was doing what he could to suppress the story because " it might spread (to) a place where we don't want it spread."

Abe Fortas, a lawyer who represented both Lyndon B. Johnson and Bobby Baker, worked behind the scenes in an effort to keep this information from the public. Johnson also arranged for a smear campaign to be organized against Reynolds. To help him do this J. Edgar Hoover passed to Johnson the FBI file on Reynolds.

On 17th January, 1964, the Committee on Rules and Administration voted to release to the public Reynolds' secret testimony. Johnson responded by leaking information from Reynolds' FBI file to Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. On 5th February, 1964, the Washington Post reported that Reynolds had lied about his academic success at West Point. The article also claimed that Reynolds had been a supporter of Joseph McCarthy and had accused business rivals of being secret members of the American Communist Party. It was also revealed that Reynolds had made anti-Semitic remarks while in Berlin in 1953.

A few weeks later the New York Times reported that Lyndon B. Johnson had used information from secret government documents to smear Reynolds. It also reported that Johnson's officials had been applying pressure on the editors of newspapers not to print information that had been disclosed by Reynolds in front of the Senate Rules Committee.

John McClellan, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee investigating the F-111 contract said that he wanted to interview Don Reynolds. However, for some reason the subcommittee did not resume its investigation until 1969, after Johnson had left office.

Reynolds also appeared before the Committee on Rules and Administration on 1st December, 1964. Before the hearing Reynolds supplied a statement implicating Bobby Baker and Matthew H. McCloskey (Treasurer of the National Democratic Party at the time) in financial corruption. However, the Democrats had a 6-3 majority on the Committee and Reynolds was not allowed to fully express the role that Johnson had played in this deal. As Reynolds told John Williams after the assassination: "My God! There's a difference between testifying against a President of the United States and a Vice President. If I had known he was President, I might not have gone through with it."

In December, 1966, Edward Jay Epstein wrote an article for the Esquire Magazine where he claimed that Reynolds had given the Warren Commission information on the death of John F. Kennedy. Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that Kennedy "would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death." Baker had also said that "the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination".

Don B. Reynolds died in Augusta, Georgia on 18th August, 1993.

Primary Sources

(1) Time Magazine (31st January, 1964)

The Senate committee investigation of the affairs of former Senate Majority Secretary Bobby Gene Baker has hardly set a scorching pace. But last week the committee did release closed-door testimony taken earlier this month from Don B. Reynolds, a Maryland insurance man and longtime Baker business associate. It made Bobby out to be a busy, busy boy - from dabbling in abortion to procuring gifts for Lyndon Baines Johnson.

"If Anyone Should Know . . ." Reynolds testified that he had made Bobby a nominal officer of his insurance brokerage, over ten years had paid Baker some $15,000 for putting him in touch with the right people. When other, non-insurable problems came up, Baker was still a good man to know. Once, said Reynolds, a client called him for help in getting an abortion for a friend. Reynolds got in touch with Bobby, who gave him a Capitol number for his concerned client to call. Whether the abortion was actually performed, Reynolds did not know. But, he said, "Some time later, 'Mrs. X' [the client] called and thanked me." Why, asked Committee Counsel Lennox McLendon, had Reynolds turned to Baker for advice about an abortion? Replied Reynolds: "I felt if anyone should know, he should, sir."

Baker also steered Reynolds to Lyndon Johnson. That was in 1957, only two years after Senate Majority Leader Johnson had suffered a heart attack. The Senator was having trouble finding an insurance company that would give him life insurance. Reynolds went looking on Johnson's behalf, talked to three companies, and finally found that the Manhattan Life Insurance Co. would write the policy. Manhattan issued a first policy of $50,000, and shortly afterward, when it had covered part of its risk through a reinsurance company, issued another policy of $50,000 for Johnson.

Out of Gratitude. In the course of those negotiations, Reynolds said, it was suggested to him by Walter Jenkins, then and now a top Johnson aide, that he buy advertising time on Lady Bird Johnson's radio-TV station in Austin. Reynolds said he bought $1,208 worth of advertising on the station.

"Did you buy this advertising time to advertise your insurance business?" asked Nebraska's Republican Senator Carl T. Curtis.

Reynolds: No, sir.

Curtis: Why did you buy it?

Reynolds: Because it was expected of me, sir.

Curtis: Who conveyed that thought to you?

Reynolds: Mr. Walter Jenkins.

Reynolds testified that in 1959 Bobby Baker suggested that Reynolds might further show his gratitude by giving a stereo phonograph to the Johnson family. Again Reynolds went along. "I supplied Bobby with a catalogue," said Reynolds, "and he said he had taken it out for Mrs. Johnson to make a selection." Reynolds told the committee that he purchased a set and had it installed in Johnson's home at a cost of $588. Did Johnson know, asked West Virginia's Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, that the stereo was a gift from Reynolds? Replied Reynolds: "The invoice delivered to Johnson's home showed that the charges were to be sent to Don Reynolds." It was two years later, said Reynolds, that Johnson purchased another $100,000 in life insurance through him (for a total of $200,000).

In answer to all this, White House Aide Jenkins swore in an affidavit that he had no knowledge "of any arrangement by which Reynolds purchased time on the TV station." Press Secretary Pierre Salinger said that the President had assumed the stereo to be a gift from "a longtime employee," not Reynolds. And President Johnson, in the course of an impromptu press conference, brought up the matter himself. Said he: "The Baker family gave us a stereo set. We used it for a period, and we had exchanged gifts before. He was an employee of the public and had no business pending before me and was asking for nothing, and so far as I know expected nothing in return, any more than I did when I had presented him with gifts." With that, Johnson cut off questions and left the press conference.

A Difference. Republicans, understandably, had a field day with the Reynolds testimony. G.O.P. National Chairman William Miller called the stereo gift "an atrocious thing and a travesty of justice." Said Delaware's Republican Senator John J. Williams: "I see no difference in the acceptance of an expensive stereo and in the acceptance of a mink or vicuna coat, a deep freeze or an Oriental rug."

There was, in fact, a difference. On the basis of the record so far, neither Johnson nor Baker was guilty of using his public office for private gain. In the Reynolds deal, Johnson got what he wanted: some personal life insurance. Reynolds also got what he wanted: his insurance commissions.

Still, the Baker probe was just getting started, and Washington was alive with reports that the names of Bobby Baker and Lyndon Johnson would be even more closely connected.

(2) Time Magazine (12th March, 1965)

Last Dec. 1, in closed hearings held by the Senate Rules Committee investigating the Bobby Baker case, Mary land Insurance Agent Don B. Reynolds leveled a barrage of charges against Democrats in high office, testified to parties where "beauties and whisky and money flowed freely." Only last week was the substance of Reynolds' testimony made public — along with the release of a 30-page document rebutting Reynolds' charges, one by one, which the Rules Committee chairman, North Carolina's Democratic Senator B. Everett Jordan, pretentiously called "the FBI report."

Among the charges and rebuttals:

> Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that "the leader" - meaning then Vice President Lyndon Johnson - had "interceded" to make sure that the controversial $10 billion TFX fighter-bomber contract was awarded to General Dynamics Corp. The so-called FBI report quoted Defense Secretary Robert McNamara as saying that any claim of official pressure brought to bear about the TFX contract was "definitely and categorically" wrong.

> Reynolds said that a Grumman Aircraft official, anxious to land a fat TFX subcontract, visited Baker's Capitol office, left behind a bulging blue flight bag containing $100,000 in "hundred dollar bills that were bound in brown paper or some sort of thing." The report quoted the Grumman official as saying that he had never been in Baker's office and had never paid Bobby so much as a penny "for any purpose whatsoever."

> Reynolds said that in 1949 Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, then a Democratic Representative, while on a European junket used counterpart funds - local funds accumulated by the U.S. abroad and often used to meet official Government expenses - to buy "many articles," including a statue called Dawn. The report quoted Mansfield as saying that if he had indeed spent counterpart funds, it was only for such legitimate expenses as hotel bills, and that his wife had bought the controversial statue with $110 of "her own personal funds."

>Reynolds said that in 1961 Vice President Johnson, while in Hong Kong, spent 150,000 Hong Kong dollars in counterpart funds "in a period of 14 hours in buying personal gifts for people." The report says that at the time Johnson was there, the counterpart fund was down to 37,642 Hong Kong dollars.

The Rules Committee's six-man Democratic majority promptly seized upon the report to try to bring an end to the Baker investigation. "I think it's over," said Chairman Jordan, explaining that the report "makes it obvious beyond a doubt that the testimony of Don B. Reynolds is unworthy of belief."

But did it? In fact, the report was not written by the FBI at all, but rather by a team of Justice Department functionaries who boiled down hundreds of pages of raw FBI interviews. Unlike Reynolds, none of the persons interviewed by the FBI were under oath. The only part of Reynolds' testimony that has at any time been tested by a sworn statement from an adversary witness turned out to be true: that was Reynolds' claim that he had purchased advertising time on a Johnson-owned Austin TV station in return for selling insurance on Johnson's life. The claim was recently corroborated in substance by former White House Aide Walter Jenkins.