Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Sen. Thomas Walsh: Montana's last Cabinet appointee never made it to D.C.

Rep. Ryan Zinke is flirting with a piece of Montana history after receiving approval Tuesday from a U.S. Senate committee to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Interior. If Zinke, a Republican from Whitefish, receives full Senate approval as expected, he’ll become the first Montanan to serve in a presidential Cabinet since George Washington started the practice in 1789...Thomas Walsh came even closer in 1933. That he didn’t make it remains a matter of intrigue among some historians and family members. Walsh, a Helena attorney and a U.S. senator since 1912, is best remembered as the investigator and prosecutor in the Teapot Dome Scandal, a Wyoming oilfield bribery case in the 1920s. He was 73 years old on March 2, 1933, when he died on a train traveling through North Carolina. Walsh was en route from Florida to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for whom he’d campaigned and who had nominated him for Attorney General. Walsh accepted with reservations, resigning his seat in the U.S. Senate after FDR sweetened the pot by promising him a Supreme Court seat when one came open. Walsh was traveling with his wife of five days, Mina Perez Chaumont de Truffin, the Cuban widow of a wealthy French sugar grower and banker with plenty of political pop of her own. Also along was Mina’s Spanish-speaking maid, Rosalie. The certificate signed by a doctor in Wilson, North Carolina, listed the cause of death as “unknown, possibly coronary thrombosis” – i.e., a heart attack. Lapses in his health in previous days on his honeymoon in Florida seemed to back it up, though a doctor in Daytona Beach attributed them to indigestion and a “mild angina pectoris.” The new Mrs. Walsh gave permission for an autopsy, but officials deemed it unnecessary. Walsh’s body was taken from the train and embalmed at Rocky Mount, 20 miles north of Wilson. And so the whodunit began. It’s a narrative that ranges from the de Truffin’s villa in Havana, where the two were married on Feb. 25, to a senatorial office on Capitol Hill, to the head of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park...more

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