Saturday, April 11, 2015

All The News That's Fit To Print?

A 95 year old man who was a local legend died this week. Here is what the New York Times reported -- dismissive, cold, selective and gratuitous, no mention of his military honors or hint of the deceased's entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and individual successes  -- zero class. It's all about the blemish.
Tim Babcock, a former governor of Montana who took office when his predecessor was killed in an airplane crash and who was later involved in an illegal financial scheme to help President Richard M. Nixon’s re-election, died on Tuesday in Helena, the state’s capital. He was 95.

Chris Shipp, executive director of the state’s Republican Party, confirmed the death.

Mr. Babcock was lieutenant governor when Gov. Donald G. Nutter, 46, and five others died in the crash of a twin-engine C-47 in mountainous timberland north of Helena on Jan. 25, 1962. The state’s agriculture commissioner and the governor’s executive secretary were among the dead.

Mr. Babcock, a Republican, narrowly won election in 1964 before losing four years later to Forrest Anderson, a Democrat.

After leaving the governor’s office in 1969, Mr. Babcock worked for the wealthy businessman Armand Hammer as a vice president at a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum. He later got caught up in a campaign finance scheme linked to Mr. Hammer and Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972.

Mr. Babcock pleaded guilty in 1974 to concealing the source of a $54,000 contribution to Nixon. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to four months in jail. The jail term was later set aside. President George Bush pardoned Mr. Hammer in 1989.

Mr. Babcock had served three terms in the state’s House of Representatives before being elected lieutenant governor in 1960. His wife, the former Betty Lee, also a state legislator, helped write the Montana Constitution. She died in 2013. Republican stalwarts, they attended every Republican National Convention for 60 years.

Mr. Babcock was born in Littlefork, Minn., on Oct. 27, 1919. A high school graduate, he served in the Army infantry in World War II. His survivors include a daughter, Lorna. Another daughter, Maria, died before him.

Mr. Babcock later started a mining industry consulting firm, owned a hotel in Washington State and operated a cattle ranch in Wolf Creek, Mont.

He often said he was the only Montana governor to take the oath of office with tears in his eyes, The Billings Gazette, a Montana newspaper, said in its obituary. Mr. Nutter had been a close friend.
Here is what the Billings Montana Gazette reported on Mr. Babcock's passing.
HELENA — Former Gov. Tim Babcock, who served as Montana’s chief executive from 1962-1969, died in Helena on Tuesday morning. He was 95.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home in Helena.

Although Babcock’s term as an elected official ended in early 1969, he and his late wife, Betty, remained the first couple of the Montana Republican Party for many decades after. They were regulars at state GOP conventions.

He attended every Republican presidential nomination convention from 1952 to 2012 and was honored as the oldest delegate at the 2012 convention in Tampa, Fla.

Babcock also was a prominent businessman. He and his wife built and operated what is now known as the Red Lion Colonial Hotel in Helena, and at one time owned a Helena television and radio station based in the hotel. The Babcocks later sold the hotel, but he kept an office there for decades afterward. They also owned a hotel in Spokane and the Ox Bow Ranch near Wolf Creek.

Babcock also was involved as mining industry consultant and for years was the Montana representative of a company that planned to build an ethanol plant in Great Falls, which has not materialized.

When a Republican was considering running for statewide office, the first step was to visit the former governor at the office to seek his advice and perhaps support.

Tim Babcock was born Oct. 27, 1919, in Littlefork, Minn. His parents had moved there after losing their homestead at Crackerbox Creek in far Eastern Montana because they weren’t able to make the land payments. Six months later, his family moved back to Crackerbox Creek to farm the homestead for a friend who had bought it.

He met Betty Lee when he was a senior in high school and she a sophomore at Dawson County High School in Glendive. He graduated in 1939. Betty Babcock graduated two years later, and they married in September 1941 when he was working at Douglas Aircraft in California.

He worked at the aircraft plant until enlisting in the U.S. Army infantry in 1944. Babcock fought at the Battle of the Bulge and later received a Bronze Star for heroism at Remagen Bridge.

After the war, Babcock returned to Glendive, he helped his father-in-law, Wood Lee, in his trucking business. One day, Lee asked Babcock if he wanted to become partners. Babcock said in his book that all the extra money he could contribute to the partnership was the $500 he had won gambling on the ship that brought soldiers home from Europe. That was good enough for Lee, and the trucking company took on the name Babcock & Lee Truck Lines.

It expanded greatly over the years as the petroleum business grew in Montana.

Babcock later became active in politics, winning a state House seat from Custer County in 1952. The Babcocks moved to Billings, and he was elected to the state House from there in 1956 and 1958.

At the Legislature, Babcock became good friends with Donald Nutter, a state senator from Sidney.

When Nutter was gearing up to run for governor in 1960, he asked Babcock to run as lieutenant governor. Prior to the 1972 Montana Constitution, candidates ran for the two offices separately, but Nutter and Babcock ran as a team.

Nutter and Babcock both won their races handily.

On the night of Jan. 25, 1962, Nutter was killed in an airplane crash during a blizzard near Wolf Creek, along with two top aides and three members of the Montana Air National Guard.
Former Governor Tim Babcock, lying in state at the Montana state capital rotunda, April 10, 2015.
Babcock said often he was the only Montana governor who had tears in his eyes when he was sworn into office.

Babcock was a traditional Western Republican conservative governor who called for holding the line on government spending, limiting government’s role and developing natural resources. He criticized President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which created new government programs to fight poverty.

Babcock led the promotion of Montana’s Territorial Centennial in 1964, including backing a Centennial Train that traveled to the New York World’s Fair.

In 1964, Babcock retained the governor’s office, narrowly defeating the Democratic nominee Roland Renne.

Two years later, Babcock lost a bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Lee Metcalf, with Metcalf winning, 53 percent to 47 percent.

In 1968, Babcock lost his race for re-election as governor. Attorney General Forrest H. Anderson, a Democrat, defeated him, 54 percent to 42 percent.

Babcock’s support of a 3 percent statewide sales tax was a major issue in 1968. Anderson opposed the sales tax, running on the slogan: “Pay more? What for!”

When Richard Nixon, a longtime friend, was elected president in 1968, Babcock had hoped to be appointed secretary of the Interior. Nixon appointed someone else.

Instead, Babcock was recruited by wealthy oilman Armand Hammer, to be executive vice president of Occidental Petroleum subsidiary in Washington, D.C. It was a move Babcock came to regret, later calling Hammer a “scoundrel” and “schemer” in his book.

During the Watergate investigations, Babcock pleaded guilty to making illegal political donations totaling $54,000 to Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign in the names of himself and others. The money had come from Hammer.

Babcock was sentenced to four months in federal prison and fined $1,000. But the federal judge refused to send Babcock to prison, saying he was Hammer’s “leg man” and noting that another judge let Hammer off with only probation and a fine.

Betty Babcock died at age 91 in August 2013. She had a political career in her own right, winning election as a delegate to the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention and the Montana House in 1974.

The Babcocks had two daughters, Lorna and Marla, who is now deceased, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
My aunts Charlotte (left) and Margaret
(right),Winnepeg, Manitoba, circa 1930.
For comparison purposes you may wish to note that the Times did not mention Teddy Kennedy was a Democrat until the 12th paragraph of his obituary, and buried his taking Mary Jo Kopechne's life in the 20th, not even meriting a complete sentence.

My Aunt Charlotte Foster Von Alman (author of the family history that has turned up in many of my Bathgate posts) taught Tim Babcock -- in the second grade if my memory serves me right. She married her husband Roy in Glendive, Montana (pop. 4,935), and moved by 1930 to Littlefork, Minnesota (pop. 643), reversing the course of Governor Babcock's odyssey. May Tim Babcock, along with his wife, and my aunt Charlotte, rest peacefully and eternally. God bless.

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