Friday, February 21, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4f: Lyndon R. Foster -- Veteran, Publisher and Politician


Lyndon R. Foster, known as “Red,” was the fifth of the eleven children of I. J. and Laura Elizabeth Foster. My uncle Lyn was born September 26, 1897 in Bathgate, North Dakota. He died on December 11th, 1974 in Los Angeles, California, which means I missed the opportunity to meet him on my inaugural trip to California in September, 1975, by about ten months. On that trip, I did meet my uncle Bryant for the first time and my father, who drove me out to the west coast, had a joyful reunion, seeing his brother Bryant for the first time since the Great Depression.

Lyndon is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA, Section 270 RowZ Site 10. Now that we know where, we will be sure to visit the grave site the next time we get down to Los Angeles.

Though I never met uncle Lyn, I wish that I had. He was a colorful and combative character. His career was explosive -- literally as you soon shall see. A cousin keyed me in on how to search for material on Lyn when he shared a conversation involving Lyn’s sister (my aunt Florence) that went something like this. Florence opened the morning paper, saw a story mentioning her brother and blurted out, “Oh, no, Lyn is running for governor again.” 

Few have run for political office so many times; few have repetitively lost by such consistently huge margins. The man did not know how to give up. Lyndon R. Foster ran for local, state and federal offices, some multiple times. He was an advocate for freedom -- freedom from tyranny, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of religion and freedom from the fraud, abuse, overreaching and waste of big government. He earned the distinction of being the most prolific and yet the least successful of the Foster family politicians. But, as will be seen, he bumped up against more than a little important history along the way. 

Following is what I have knit together of Lyndon R. Foster’s life -- a life long and well lived.

A. Red Foster's Youth and Early Life

Lyndon came by his nickname naturally early in life.  My Aunt Charlotte recounted, 

Lyn was a clever and resourceful child, not one to be held back or easily fooled. You couldn't hide the cookies.

As a youth Lyn worked with his brothers on the farm.

My grandfather, I. J., had a vision that his boys would take over the farming operation one day, but that was not to be, due to his sons having ideas of their own and Isaac’s and Lizzie's inability, as they aged and the Depression came on, to hold on to the land. Lyn was the first boy to defect, leaving Bathgate as a teenager.

Fourth Infantry Division
Distinctive Unit Insignia
World War I was violently fought. Lyn was in the U.S. Army, Fourth Infantry Division, deployed to the western front, serving side-by-side with French and British troops. His division participated in the St. Mihiel offensive and the Muese Argonee offensives, phases 1 and 2. Elements of the division were gassed by German troops. The Fourth Division's authorized strength was 32,000. During World War I it suffered 2,611 killed in action, and 9,895 wounded. Records suggest that actual division strength was as little as 23,000 (13,000 regulars and 10,000 draftees) translating into a casualty rate of 54 percent, more than half of those who served.

Williston (N.D.) Graphic, February 15, 1917
Lyn enlisted on January 29, 1917 in Williston, North Dakota (currently the epicenter of the Bakken oil boom). He was sent to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and served in Battery A, 16th field artillery to discharge. He was overseas from May 10, 1918 to March 24, 1919. Engagements were Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse Argonne and defensive sectors were Vesle (Champagne), Sommedieu (Lorraine). He was discharged at Camp Dodge, Iowa on April 16, 1919, as a private with a surgeon's certificate of disability, 15 percent. He was single at the time.

We know that Lyn returned to Bathgate for a time after World War I, because he is listed in the Isaac J. Foster household in the 1920 census. He was gone from Bathgate by the time of the 1925 state census as well as the the federal 1930 census, and on to the Golden State. 

B. Lyndon R. Foster's Early Political Career

In my search, uncle Lyn's name first showed up in connection with California when he ran for office in the 1931 Los Angeles City Council primary election for District 12. 
Los Angeles City Council, 12th District, 1931 Primary Election Results:  Thomas Francis Ford 4,236 (nominated) / Douglas Eads Foster 3,136 (nominated) / Miles S. Gregory 2,424 / Lyndon R. Foster 379 / Daniel Ballmer 293. 
Lyn came in a distant fourth out of five candidates. 

The winner, Thomas Francis Ford, a Democrat who was a publicity flak for the city’s water and power department (shades of Chinatown), went on to an easy victory in the general election. He served out that single term on the Los Angeles City Council before moving up to represent California's 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House in an undistinguished career that ran from 1933 to 1945.

Congressman from California. Attended law school in Toledo, Ohio. Worked in the newspaper business in Washington, Idaho, California, and Washington, D.C., 1913-1929. He moved to California in 1919 and was a magazine and literary editor for 10 years. Publicity director of the Los Angeles water and power department 1920-1931; member of the Los Angeles City Council 1931-1933; elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-third Congresses and served from March 4, 1933 to January 3, 1945. Retired to South Pasadena, where he died 14 years later.

Lyn’s next run for office was in the 1932 mayoral recall election, a recall effort fueled the by controversy over hosting and funding expenditures on the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, in the throes of the Great Depression.

The the incumbent, John C. Porter, survived the recall with 180,546 votes.


And  William G. Bonelli received 74,917 votes, which means Lyn finished, at best, in 4th place, with his specific vote total lost in time.

Los Angeles Mayor John Porter (white suit) is shown inspecting LAPD police in 1932 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, site of the 1932 Olympics track and field events, and opening and closing ceremonies. Mayor Porter survived a 1932 recall election.

Uncle Lyn ran for Congress in 1934 on the Progressive ticket. He lost to Thomas F. Ford, his nemesis from the 1931 City Council election, and was blitzed by the Republican candidate, William D. Campbell, as well. 
William D. Campbell
Thomas F. Ford
Lyndon R. Foster
Harry Sherr Perry
Lawrence Ross
At least Lyn's 2.7 percent of the vote was more than double the count of his Socialist and Communist competitors. Then came a series of events that would result in a decade passing before Lyndon R. Foster would run for political office again.
C. Lyndon R. Foster's Opponents Saw Red 

Throughout Lyn's political career he published a monthly newspaper, or a pamphlet (a dismissive reference by the mainstream media) as The Los Angeles Equalizer was variously known. We know from his brother Bryant's posting in Who's Who in California that The Equalizer was published form 1929 to 1975.
The editorial style was assertive. The man was a crime fighter and an advocate for freedom. He fought government corruption, overreach, fraud, waste, and abuse. Lyndon R. Foster pulled no punches, particularly when it came to taking on local politicians and the police. That is how Red Foster came to the brink of his undoing.

One of Lyn's political rivals came out swinging during the 1934 political season,  
The Santa Cruz Evening News
21 September 1934
SACRAMENTO, Sept. 21. – (AP) – The conventions of the seven minor political parties that met here yesterday afternoon to adopt platforms passed off with the usual decorum with the exception of the progressive convention where blows were exchanged between a follower of Raymond L. Haight, commonwealth and progressive nominee for governor, and a member of the convention.Thomas T. Califro, San Francisco, the convention chairman, was forced, he said, to put Sumner Dodge, San Francisco, and Lyndon R. Foster, Los Angeles, out of the room as the two prepared to exchange blows. They did swing on each other after they reached the corridor but no damage was done to either as persons separated them. The cause of the exchange, witnesses said was that Foster had made what Dodge thought were disparaging remarks about Haight.
The next year was full of turmoil as well and it went out with a bang – literally. Red Foster’s apartment was bombed.  

The New York Times reported:


Lyndon Foster in Los Angeles

Blames Political Foes 
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 19 (AP) – Lyndon (Red) Foster, lobbyist and pamphlet publisher, was wounded in the arms and face early today when a bomb wrecked his apartment in the fashionable Wilshire district.
Foster, publisher of The Equalizer, a monthly pamphlet, which has contained sharp attacks on various political figures of the city, was thrown from his bed by the blast. Leaden slugs were found embedded in the walls, furniture and floors. An area of several square miles was shaken.
Officers said the bomb was tied to a long pole and set against the window of the apartment. Only small remnants were found, but these were turned over to fingerprint experts for possible clues. 
The publisher blamed his political enemies for the explosion.  
Lyn's bombing case received national attention. But for months afterwards the trail went cold. Months turned into one year and then two. It was as if the police had a press blackout, unusual in an era when the accused were often tried and convicted in the papers before they had a chance to put on a courtroom defense. 

There was a spate of other attacks. It was rumored that Lyn's bombing was linked to his criticism the Los Angeles mayor.

Then there was another bombing that gravely wounded its victim, Harry Raymond. In 1933 Raymond had been hired as chief of the LAPD and he sought to rid the department of political influence.
Less than 90 days after his appointment, the new chief received a rude awakening when City Manager Fred Lockwood fired him. Lockwood’s official position was Raymond wasn’t the right man for the job and he couldn’t reorganize the department. In actuality Raymond had angered downtown business owners when he began enforcing vice laws and then refused to cave in to pressure from City Hall to stop.
To replace Raymond, Lockwood called in John Peterson to take command as acting chief. In response to some council members concerns over Raymond’s firing Lockwood responded, “I don’t care.” Raymond was equally tight lipped. When asked about his future he commented to reporters, “I don’t need this job and as far as my future goes, it’s none of your business.”

By 1936 Raymond was back in Los Angeles and working as a private investigator for a group called Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee, or CIVIC. The group was a coalition of private citizens whose purpose was to show a connection between organized vice, the LAPD and LA City Hall. The group, which was one of a number that existed at the time with the same purpose, might have remained obscure had it not been for Raymond’s detective skills in developing information to prove it all. In less than a year, Raymond had amassed enough evidence to show the corruption permeated within the LAPD and even went so far as to get LA Mayor Frank Shaw elected in 1933.
Harry Raymond's bombed out car.
As Raymond neared completion of his case, he was making plans to take the evidence to the Los Angeles County Grand Jury when his car exploded with him in it. Amazingly, he wasn’t killed and evidence from the blast pointed directly at the LAPD
It was just before 10 a.m. when Private Detective (and former LAPD officer) Harry Raymond went out to his locked garage in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. His wife needed to go to the market. Normally, she went out to the car with him, but on this particular day, she went over to a neighbor's house first for her husband to pick her up there. It was a good thing, too, because when Raymond stepped on the gas, a bomb went off under the hood that rocked the entire neighborhood.
Amazingly, Raymond survived the blast. He was rushed to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital where he received over 100 stitches and was treated for multiple fractures and two chest punctures. At first it was believed that the Mob was involved, but the true culprit was even more startling -- the Los Angeles Police Department. Raymond, due to a dispute over money owed to him, was investigating links between the office of Mayor Frank Shaw, the Mob, and the police Department (under Chief James Davis). 
There were big investigative breakthroughs in the bombing's aftermath, arising from a team led not by the police, but by District Attorney Buron Fitts. The dogged and determined reform minded lawyer relentlessly pursued the suspects and their associates.
Arrest Made in
         Bombing Inquiry
(By Associated Press)
San Bernardino County Sun
February 9, 1938
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 8. -- T. Ray Costerian of Burbank was arrested tonight by investigators of District Attorney Buron Fitts, who said he wanted to question him in connection with the bombings of Harry Raymond, private detective, and Lyndon Foster, former publisher of a political pamphlet. 
The complaint against Costerian charged him with a series of petty of thefts and one of grand theft. 
"We have learned that Costerisan had business cards printed bearing the politce telephone number and the extension number of Earl Kynette," said Fitts. 
Kynette is still at liberty under $15,000 bond in connection with the Raymond bombing. 
Fitts said he would ask bond of $10,000 for Costerian.
Prosecutor Fitts spread a wide net.
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 16. (A.P.) -- Seventeen police intelligence officers, whose captain has been charged with attempted murder in the bombing of Vice Investigator Harry Raymond, were supoenaed by the county grand jury today for a sweeping inquiry.
The Bakersfield Californian, February 16, 1938
A subpoena also was issued for the accused captain, Earle E. Kyneette, requiring his appearance before the jury Friday.
In addition to the bombing of Raymond, District Attorney Buron Fitts announce he would request an investigation of a powder blast at the home of Lyndon R. Foster, political pamphleteer, a Japanese lottery ring and a plot to permit illegal bookmaking at the Santa Anita racetrack. 
Sworn in as a special prosecutor of Kynette at $750 a month salary, Attorney Joseph L. Fainer planned to question police officers before the jury today. 
A early indictment of Kynette, with possible several other defendants, will be sought by the district attorney's office, it was said.
Indictments were handed down on February 18.


Los Angeles Policemen Indicted On Charges of 

Conspiracy to Murder Harry Raymond




Supervisor Ford, Clinton, Fitts, Atherton and
Palmer Under Intelligence Unit's Watch


San Bernardino County
Feb. 19, 1938 
(By Associated Press)
LOS ANGELES,  Feb. 18. -- Three former police officers, Earle E. Kynette, Roy J. Allen and F. A. Browne, were indicted late today on charges of conspiracy to murder Harry Raymond, private detective.
They were also charged with three other felonies.
The indictments were returned by the county grand jury after study files of the "spy squad," which was headed by Kynette. Kynette and other policie officials refused to testify before the jury.
Raymond was seriously injured several weeks ago by a bomb which exploded when he stepped on the starter of his automobile.
The accused did not play nice (by the way, see the Hitler article on the right side of the newspaper page below right).
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 18. -- (AP) -- Police Sergeant McConnel Neely of San Diego, here to testify in connection with a police scandal, was found wandering on Market Street today, dazed by a mysterious blow on the head.
Modesto Bee News Herald
February 18, 1938
He had been robbed of his wallet, containing $20, his gun, coat and badge. At Emergency Hospital he was unable to explain the attack in which he suffered a gash over his left temple.  
His coat and badge were found in a gasoline station near the spot where he was found by the police.
Called to Testify 
Neely told the police he came here yesterday as a witness at the preliminary hearing of T. Ray Costerisan, publisher of a police magazine and close friend of Earl E. Kynette, suspended head of the police intelligence squad, who is charged with the bombing of Harry Raymond, private investigator.

Costerisan's arrest last week brought him into the Raymond investigation when it was disclosed he was a long time friend of Kynette and held a detective lieutenant's badge obtained for him by Kynette, although he had a previous police record.
Costerisan denied all knowledge of the Raymond bombing, which occurred last January 14th.
Charges Frameup 
He said his arrest of the theft charges was a "frameup."
Immediately after the Raymond bombing a neighbor of the special investigator, who told of having seen the police in the "spy house" near Raymond's home, reported that two policemen stopped him in Glendale and beat him, warning him to keep his mouth shut concerning the Raymond bombing.
Intimidation and threats were directed at the special prosecutor's family as well.
Flee U.S. To
Escape Death
Threaten Life Of
Coast Prosecutor
Hutchinson Kansas News
January 30, 1938
Los Angeles Calif. (AP) -- With his wife and son, Jerry, 4, on their way to Honolulu to escape kidnap and murder threats, Special Prosecutor Joseph L. Fainer last night prepared his case against a suspended police captain in the Harry Raymond bombing. 
Mrs. Fainer said, as her ship paused at San Francisco, that not only their son's life but her own had been threatened. The lawyer said a gruff voice had warned him by telephone, "If you don't get out of this case we'll pull a Lindbergh on your baby."
Fainer, named special prosecutor by District Attorney Buron Fitts at Raymond's request, conferred with the private detective at the hospital where fragments of metal are still being removed from his body. Attending the conference was Clifford E. Clinton, head of the Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee, which had employed Raymond at times.
The prosecution proceeded despite the threats. Kynette was found guilty of attempted murder, assault with intent to murder, and malicious use of explosives. Allen was found guilty on the charge of malicious use of explosives. Browne was acquitted on all charges. Costerisan was not charged in the bombing case.

In its review of the trial, The California Court of Appeals found, 
"On January 14, 1938, one Harry Raymond, who was then being subjected to surveillance by [an LAPD] special intelligence unit, was almost fatally injured as a result of an explosion which occurred when he pressed the starter button on his automobile, in the garage of his home. Fragments of iron pipe and wire were found in the vicinity of the car and garage after the bombing. Experts who had studied these fragments concluded that the bomb used was "a three inch malleable wrought iron pipe with a cast iron cap at each end, the pipe of unknown length". 
The Court continued,
The remains of Harry Raymond's garage after the bombing.
On the morning following ... unusual activity at the "spy house" [where the surveillance was conducted], the explosion of a bomb occurred when Raymond pressed the starter button of his automobile. Fragments of iron pipe and wire were found in the vicinity of the car and garage after the bombing. Experts who had studied these fragments concluded that the bomb used was "a three inch malleable wrought iron pipe with a cast iron cap at each end, the pipe of unknown length". Here, it should be recalled that a foundryman testified that Kynette and another man had previously inquired about piping that would "break easy in small pieces".
Harry Raymond (on crutches) outside courthouse.
Under the routine theretofore followed at the "spy house" when Allen and his partner left the house on the night preceding the bombing, they would normally reopen the house and resume their surveillance of Raymond the following morning. Instead they did not return the following or any other day, and such espionage as was thereafter carried on from the house was done by other members of the unit who apparently did not know what had happened.
During the trial, Raymond said he had been threatened by Kynette six months before the bombing, told if he did not back off he would suffer the same fate as one Lyndon R. Foster.
When on the sidewalk Kynette, according to Raymond's testimony, came over to him and after an exchange of preliminary remarks stated: "this thing has got to stop. You can't turn any heat on the administration. ... There is nothing going to happen to Munson [former police commissioner and an associate of Kynette]. ... Now, if there is any further trouble or any further bothering of Munson, you know I am the head of the intelligence squad. ... I hope you don't try to get too tough, because you remember what happened to that little boy Red Foster." The evidence showed that "Red" Foster had been "bombed out in his room".
San Bernardino County
February 19, 1938
 Kynette received a sentence of two years to life and Allen was sentenced from one year to life. Convicted defendant Allen died of heart ailment while still incarcerated in San Quentin state prison on May 18, 1942. He maintained his innocence up to his last breath, with his co-defendant Earl Kynette, also jailed at San Quentin, by his side. There was no prosecution for the Foster bombing, but in light of the successful prosecution of the Raymond bombing and subsequent political events, none was really necessary.

The bombing campaign, scandal and corruption ended Mayor Shaw's political career and ejected him from office.
The media initially suggested that the bombing was the work of the mob. Shaw critics, however, immediately aired their suspicions that the Shaw administration was involved. The Los Angeles Times then suggested that Raymond and Clinton themselves had staged the bombing as a publicity stunt. The answer began coming, however, when it was discovered that Raymond had been under surveillance by a secret police unit for months. Even more damaging was the eyewitness account of an immigrant fruit vendor, who, despite threats, identified those who planted the bomb. LAPD Captain Earl Kynette was indicted and convicted for the bombing attack. Yet indications were that Kynette took his direction from somewhere in City Hall. 
This was the final straw for Angelenos. In 1938, after the implication of police in the bombing and years of corruption allegations surrounding City Hall, Los Angeles voters turned on Shaw and gave him the distinction of being the first U.S. mayor to be thrown out of office by recall. Judge Bowron, who, as mentioned earlier, had appointed Clinton to the Grand Jury, was elected as the reform candidate to replace Shaw and clean up city government. Historians generally believe that the downfall of Shaw’s administration led to the abandonment of Los Angeles for Las Vegas by the mob.
And so an era in Los Angeles politics was ended, but uncle Lyn's rabble rousing and political office seeking were not.

D. Lyndon R. Foster's Late Political Career and Political Advocacy

Lyndon R. Foster's name popped up again as a candidate for political office in 1944 when he filed, this time as Republican, in the primary for Congress. Importantly for us because it's the only adult photo of the man I've got, he ran a big ad with a big picture.  "A REAL AMERICAN" it said and "NOT A NEW DEALER -- DID NOT CROSS FILE," in all caps to make sure no one missed.

The main body of the ad related,
FOSTER, who is 47 years of age and energetic, is known throughout Southern California as an exponent of fearless journalism.
He is the editor-publisher of THE LOS ANGELES EQUALIZER and has exposed numerous rackets. IN 1936 HE PUBLISHED AN EXPOSE OF THE JAP-SPY FISHING FLEET and helped drive the menace from the Pacific Coast. 
A veteran of World War I, FOSTER was a combat soldier with the Fourth Division and took part in five major engagements. 
From 1930 to 1932 he was a member of the Republican County Central Committee. 
He is an outspoken opponent of government waste, needless bureaucracy, and federal encroachment on stats' rights.
Add caption
This time Lyndon ran in California's 17th Congressional District, reflecting the redistricting that occured after the Golden State picked up 3 additional congressional seats based on the 1940 census. It was a large field, where the incumbent, Cecil R. King, unlike Lyn, did cross file.

Lyndon received 2,388 votes, which was third among Republican filers. Cecil R. King won both the Republican and Democratic primaries, and so ran in the general election unopposed. Cecil King went on to serve the 17th District until 1969. King was primarily known as co-sponsor of the King-Anderson bill, which was debated and amended in various forms as the predecessor bill to what came to be known as Medicare, the woefully underfunded (from day 1) senior healthcare entitlement program which is headed for fiscal collapse. 

Lyndon continued to publish.

Edition of The Los Angeles Equalizer sold on eBay.

The September 1958 edition of The Los Angeles Equalizer asked "How Liberal Can We Be?" 

The monthly paper's editorial philosophy was emblazoned in the banner. "Government begins at Home," it said and "Civilization begins at Church." The masthead challenged, "Hypocrites Are Those Who Do Not Fear God, But Do Fear The Printer's Ink." Amen to that. You can bet Lyndon gave them plenty to fear.

Other headlines proclaimed "Noble - Not So 'Noble'" and "Hahn Boys Take Over." 

Editions of The Los Angeles Equalizer sold on eBay.

Kenneth Hahn of the "Hahn Boys" was District 2, Los Angeles County Supervisor from 1952 to 1992.
Hahn belonged to an influential Los Angeles political dynasty: One brother, Gordon Hahn, replaced him on the Los Angeles City Council, while another, John, was assistant county clerk.
His son,James Hahn, was Los Angeles city attorney from 1985 to 2001 and mayor from 2001 to 2005.  James Hahn is now a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court
Hahn daughter, Janice Hahn, sat on the Los Angeles City Council, representing San Pedro and Wilmington, and is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives
A nephew, Dale Hahn, was a Superior Court judge (in San Mateo County) until retiring in 2004.
Independent Star News
17 May 1959
Red Foster thought the Hahns soft on crime and corruption -- he was livid at leftist Kenneth Hahn for proposing major reductions to the District Attorney's investigatory staff.

George Noble, who was "not so noble" was arrested by District Attorney William McKesson in May, 1959 for his illicit activities as "kingpin" of a major bookmaking operation. Red Foster pushed the DA to prosecute aggressively and pushed hard to protect and add to the DA's budget, which in light of Red's history as assassination target, should not be surprising. The Pasadena paper headline blared "Giant Bookie Racket Bared."

If you grew up during the 1950s or 1960s you may recall that one of the most popular TV shows of the time was "Dragnet," starring Jack Webb (also producer and director) and, in its later days, Harry Morgan, before there was MASH. Dragnet is credited as the TV cops and robbers drama that paved the way for the dozens of series that have followed since.
“Just the facts, ma’am.” On [January 3,] 1952, Sergeant Joe Friday’s famous catchphrase enters American homes via a new entertainment device: the television. A popular radio series since 1949, the police drama Dragnet became one of the first TV series filmed in Hollywood, instead of New York. It also began a long, nearly unbroken line of popular crime and police TV dramas, continuing into the present day with the ubiquitous Law & Order and CSI (and their seemingly endless spin-offs).
The driving creative force behind Dragnet was its producer, director and star, Jack Webb, who portrayed a laconic Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) sergeant, Joe Friday. After playing a small role in the 1948 film noir He Walked By Night, Webb created a radio series for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network that, like the film, was based on actual LAPD cases. As the narrator of the show, Webb provided a matter-of-fact commentary on how the police department worked and how detectives went about solving the specific cases. 
Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, Dragnet Promo
When the hit radio series moved to NBC Television’s Thursday night schedule, Webb and the actor who played Friday’s partner, Barton Yarborough, moved with it, though Yarborough died of a heart attack shortly after the pilot aired. He was replaced by a series of actors over the years, including Barney Phillips, Herb Ellis, Ben Alexander and Harry Morgan. The TV show was an instant success, locking down a spot in the Top 10 through 1956 and spawning numerous imitators, not to mention a hit record based on the distinctive four-note opening of its theme song. Its formula was simple and consistent: After a prologue (“The story you are about to hear is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent”) and a fade-in on a shot of Los Angeles, each show unfolded almost like a documentary, following the sometimes mundane workings of the police detectives as the case moved towards its inevitable conclusion--the capture of the guilty perpetrator and a voice-over description of his or her fate.
Based on the show’s success--by the mid-1950s, Dragnet was watched by more than half of American households--Warner Brothers released a film version in 1954.

There were no sacred cows in Red Foster's barn. He went after the massively popular TV show and its producer. According to the Valley News (Van Nuys, California), "the 'Los Angeles Equalizer' publication asked for an investigation into 'rumors' the [police] department had received some $1,000,000 from the television series producers."

It turns out Lyn was on the high side, but perhaps not by much when all payments -- disclosed and not -- are considered.
Los Angeles Police Dept. today had reported it received $52,000 in funds from the producers of the television program "Dragnet."
Valley News (Van Nuys, Calif.)
June 24, 1956
The department said $12,000 went to the Police Relief Assn. and $40,000 to the privately owned police academy for construction of classrooms.
A department spokesman said Jack Webb, actor-producer of the television series, gave the department $25,000 for the deaprtment's assistance in producing a feature film entitled "Dragnet," and said he would present the department with another $25,000 if the film grossed more than $5,000,000. The $25,000 was included in the $40,000 turned over to the academy.
Additionally, many individual officers have received many thousands more as "technical advisors."
The department cooperated in the production of 185 television programs with Mark VII Productions to "make sure the films are technically correct." Each program uses the Los Angeles Police Dept. name and badge.
"We've gone along with the program as long as he's (Webb) done a good job for the Los Angeles Police Dept.," Capt. Stanley H. Sheldon, the department's director of public information reported.
Van Nuys News
March 24, 1964
After sitting out for a spell Red Foster aspired again for political office. He ran twice for 5th District supervisor in Los Angeles County, in 1964 and 1968.

His 1964 candidate filing was noted in the March 24, 1964 Van Nuys News as "Fifth District, Lyndon R. Foster, 24854 Meadview Ave., Newhall." The race ended predictably.

Los Angeles County Supervisor
5th District 1964 Primary Results
Name Warren Dorn Emani Bernadi Clarence A. Oakley Lyndon R. Foster Other
Votes 257,992 (65.15%) 66,367 (16.76%) 47,837 (12.08%) 23,697 (5.98%) 97 (0.02%)

Uncle Lyn finished a distant fourth. 
The Independent (Long Beach)
June 4, 1968

On June 4, 1968 The Independent (Long Beach, California) noted that “Lyndon R. Foster, publisher of political pamphlets” was running for 5th District Supervisor of Los Angeles County. To give historical context, note that story appeared on the same page as a report on the contest between Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Two days later, on June 6, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

The 1968 run was Red Foster's most successful Los Angeles campaign. He cracked double digits, garnering 12 percent of the popular.

Los Angeles County Supervisor
5th District Primary Results
Name Warren N. Dorn Fred Gage Lyndon R. Foster
Vote 302,826 (67.82%) 89,464 (20.04%) 54,248 (12.15%)

Meanwhile Uncle Lyn's ambition had grown to statewide in 1966 -- he threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

An early poll gave Lyndon some hope, because while it showed uncle Lyn polling at only 2 percent statewide, 73 percent of the electorate remained undecided.

Lyn's main primary opponent, and ultimate winner in the primary and general election was Robert F. Finch, who later served as Secretary of HEW in the Nixon administration. Finch moved from Nixon's cabinet to the White House, where he was counselor to the president when the Watergate scandal broke out.

You may have heard of the fellow who became the Republican nominee for governor at the top of the ticket in the 1966 primary. He was an actor who performed using his given name of Ronald Wilson Reagan. He became the 40th President of the United States. 

Here is the primary election report as published in The New York Times.

Lyn is mentioned in the second column below.

Lyndon R. Foster received 161,466 votes and finished a familiar fourth. Way to go Lyn! We look forward to making it down to LA and honoring your grave with a visit with respect for a life long and nobly lived.
The Redlands Daily Facts, August 3, 1966


Miscellaneous additional items on Lyndon's life follow.

Quotes from The Los Angeles Equalizer concerning "young Mexican hoodlums."

Lyndon Foster's participation in free press lawsuit.

The Independent (Long Beach) May 22, 1967.

Lyndon Foster files libel suit against "Deposed Beach Poker Baron."

The Independent Press Telegram (Long Beach)  September 13, 1953

Lyndon Foster slated to appear on TV, but look at the competition.

The Independent (Long Beach) May 30, 1968

Lyndon Foster involved in oil and gas case whose fact situation would make any criminal law or contract law, final exam writing professor proud.


DOCKET NO. 5421.

140 Cal.App.2d 438 (1956)
295 P.2d 505

THE PEOPLE, Appellant,
JOSEPH A. NOVELLI, Respondent.

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Two.
April 2, 1956.
S. Ernest Roll, District Attorney, Edward L. McLarty and Fred N. Whichello, Deputy District Attorneys, for Appellant.
Maxwell E. Greenberg as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellant.
Clifford E. Enger and Le Vone A. Yardum for Respondent.
Respondent was accused by information of grand theft (Pen. Code, §§ 487-495) in that he feloniously took two certain 1,000 barrel steel oil tanks and other oil well equipment of the value of more than $2,000, the property of Lyndon R. Foster.

He was convicted by a jury but the court granted his motion for a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and certain instructions were contrary to the law.

The judge observed that the title to the property remained in respondent at all times; that therefore by his act of repossessing it, grand theft could not have been committed. "These matters could have and should have been developed a little sooner through the civil courts. I do not feel that a crime in the sense of grand theft as alleged was committed according to all the evidence submitted here." 

We are now called upon to determine that the court's order granting a new trial was error. We shall reject such plea on two grounds, namely, (1) the record discloses proof of such quality as reasonably warranted the trial court in concluding that respondent removed the tanks in question from the land of Mr. Foster in the sincere belief that he was entitled to their possession; (2) in the exercise of a sound discretion the court found the conflicts in the evidence and in the inferences fairly deducible
[140 Cal.App.2d 441]
therefrom were such as to induce the conclusion that the jury had not clearly comprehended the evidence favorable to Novelli.


The transcript and appellant's briefs are so voluminous that a fair analysis and an elucidation of the pertinent facts are rendered difficult. It is our purpose to endeavor to inject into the picture only the salient events that transpired and to demonstrate that only by a misinterpretation thereof could respondent have been found guilty.

In June 1948 Lyndon Foster purchased a parcel of land, 1/10 acre in Placerita Canyon in Los Angeles County. In August 1949 Foster leased the land to one Morse for oil development. That lease conveyed to Morse five-sixth interest in the oil and gas that underlay the parcel, leaving Foster a landowner's royalty interest of one-sixth of such oil and gas, or one-sixth of the proceeds derived from the sale of such products.

On September 22, 1949, an "operating agreement" was executed by Foster in favor of "Ethyl-Jean Corporation" for the development of his parcel, but since that corporation did not exist, Foster still held his title unimpaired. On the same day of Foster's abortive attempt at procuring the operating agreement, Mr. Morse undertook the development of Foster's parcel by procuring the necessary equipment for drilling a well. Thereupon, he encountered Novelli who operated Ben Hur Refining Corporation, herein referred to as Ben Hur although it subsequently changed its name to Eureka Oil and Refining Corporation. It entered into a contract with Morse to furnish casing for the "Foster No. 1 Well" for a 15 per cent gross royalty. Also, on the same day Ben Hur executed a "conditional sales contract"* with Morse, in evidence as Exhibit 6A, herein referred to as "6A." It was an agreement to sell Morse a number of items such as tubing, float collar, pump valves, etc., and also two oil tanks, all to cost $10,670.71. The two oil tanks listed on 6A are the identical tanks referred to in the accusation of Novelli. They were valued by Ben Hur at $2,193.35 and $1,912.28. By the terms of 6A, 85 per cent of the proceeds of the production of Foster Number 1 was to be paid Ben Hur until the total of $10,670.71
[140 Cal.App.2d 442]

should be paid, but it was subordinated to the payment of $4,276.51 due Ben Hur on the oil casing from Foster. The total equipment was delivered at Foster Number 1 well and in due season the well was placed on production.

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1 comment:

  1. This is absolutely brilliant work. It is deeply appreciated.