Editor’s Note: As disgraced former-Governor David Hall is appearing tomorrow to promote a book on his life and times; Mike McCarville reviews a bit of observed history. McCarville was a reporter for the Tulsa Tribune in 1965-66 responsible for covering Tulsa County Attorney David Hall. In 1968, McCarville became press secretary to Governor Dewey F. Bartlett. In mid-1970, he moved to Bartlett’s reelection campaign, In 1972, McCarville was press secretary in Bartlett’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. In 1977, he was named manager of Bartlett’s reelection campaign, which ended with Bartlett’s increasingly debiliating lung cancer.
I’ve always liked David Hall, although I never trusted him.
I saw him daily for about 18 months when he was Tulsa County Attorney,
wrote extensively about him and admired his prodigious memory for names
and the recall of events while noting his ambition often interfered with
his judgment. Hall and I shared one connection; his wife, Jo, is a
native of Morrilton, Arkansas, 20 miles from Conway, where I spent 10 of
my youngest years. I found Hall to be ambitious and devious.
I served Governor Dewey Bartlett off and on for almost 10 years. When I was his press secretary in the Governor’s Office, I also was his constant traveling companion and chief letter writer and his most trusted confidant (I have been told). From January 1971 through December 1972, I spoke with Bartlett hundreds of times, in person or on the phone. He often called to ask my opinion on topics, or to discuss politics in general and his political future in particular.
Our defeat in Bartlett’s bid to be reelected governor in 1970 was a bitter pill to swallow. David Hall beat us by just 2,200 votes statewide. That’s less than one vote per precinct. During that campaign, Bartlett refused to campaign very much; he insisted that by being governor, voters would recognize his dedication and reelect him. I also suspect he felt that campaigning too much was beneath the dignity of the office he held.
Following our defeat, Bartlett was disappointed and angry, but not at voters or Hall; he was most upset with himself, he indicated to me. He blamed himself for not playing a larger role in the reelection campaign, managed by his former administrative assistant, Wayne Rowley. I blamed myself, because during the campaign, I was visited by old friend Mike Hammer, reporter for The Daily Oklahoman-Oklahoma City Times. We had a pleasant, personal (I thought) conversation about politics and the campaign. It didn’t occur to me we were on the record and Hammer never displayed a notebook. The next day, Hammer wrote about the governor’s race in a Page One story and quoted me as discussing how we’d handle voters “out in the sticks.” While I meant no disrespect to rural citizens, Democrats and Hall’s campaign wasted no time using my quote against Bartlett. Did the quote cost us 2,200 votes? I don’t know, but it is entirely possible.
Following our defeat in 1970, Bartlett began to consider seeking a seat in the U. S. Senate. He called frequently to discuss it with me, sometimes asking for insight into those he was planning to contact and to discuss who he should contact. He made one such call in the early spring of 1971. He told me he already had spoken with Oklahoma Republicans he believed essential to a run for the Senate, including oilman Lew Ward of Enid and rancher and good friend Skip Healey of Davis, a longtime party stalwart. Among those I recommended he contact were Buehl Berentson, executive director of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and those involved in President Nixon’s reelection campaign. The point person there was Attorney General John Mitchell, although I recommended Bartlett speak with Herb Klein, Nixon’s communications director who had become our friend and had made a trip to Oklahoma to attend a meeting I arranged. I suspect, but don’t know for certain, that Klein referred Bartlett to Mitchell.
Bartlett subsequently did talk to Berentson and Mitchell in person and Bartlett told me both were “really supportive” of his possible candidacy. Bartlett especially liked the affable Berentson, but personally didn’t care much for Mitchell.
So, imagine my surprise when Hall, seeking to clear his name almost 40 years after his fall from grace and a federal prison term, and claiming his innocence, alleges he was the victim of a vendetta by Bartlett and Mitchell and as proof, he cites the meeting between Bartlett and Mitchell. (I suspect Hall has deluded himself into believing his conviction was the nefarious work of those out to get him for political reasons. He’s wrong.)
Fiction. His political slander of dead men who can’t speak for themselves speaks volumes of his motives.
In all my conversations with Bartlett, he never mentioned David Hall; he had put the unplesant chapter in his life behind him. And it would have been unlike Bartlett to carry a grudge or engage in any kind of vendetta. As his former administrative assistant, Don Cogman of Scottsdale, Arizona, told me in an email, “this would have been very much out of character for him to do such a thing.”
Hall, now 81 and living in California, where he located after his release from federal prison, writes in his book, Twisted Justice (Tate Publishing), that Bartlett and Mitchell conspired to persecute him. In a newspaper interview published last Sunday, it is reported that Hall “says now that Bartlett and former U. S. Attorney John Mitchell met not long after Hall took office and talked about investigating him. That is why, Hall says, federal prosecutors in the Nixon administration hounded him throughout his tenure.”
Hall offers no proof of his claim about what Bartlett and Mitchell discussed and I challenge him to produce any.
Hall says he worked on the book for years. It is published now, when those against whom he makes claims are dead and can’t speak for themselves.
Hall is right about one thing; Bartlett and Mitchell did meet. Beyond that, his conspiracy-to-get-me claim is fiction, the delusional allegation of a disgraced politician.
Publisher’s Point: Invited to attend David Hall’s event at the OU Center for Democracy and Culture this Tuesday, I declined for several reasons. First, the invitation says the event is to hear "about his life after he left the governor’s office," but I don’t really care what a criminal may want to say years later to defend his crime(s). Last time I heard, David Hall was selling automobiles in California after his release from prison. Second, my parents owned and operated a flower shop when I was growing up and I remember them ranting for years about David Hall’s campaign ordering extensive decorations and not paying the bill. That is why I never extend credit to a campaign – any campaign. As a photographer, writer, communications consultant, campaign manager or for the purchase of advertising; the policy is CIA (Cash In Advance) especially if the politician is an attorney.
Yes Mr. Hall, we remember you.