Thursday, March 28, 2013


March 28, 1963


Pecos, Texas (JFK+50) Billy Sol Estes, Texas multi-millionaire & associate of JFK's Vice-President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was convicted on charges of mail fraud & conspiracy 50 years today, March 28, 1963.

Estes, a Democrat who made a fortune in the fertilizer & grain storage business, made contributions to political campaigns in the 1950s & 1960s including to those of LBJ.

Estes' company produced irrigation pumps  powered by cheap natural gas & also sold anhydrous ammonia as fertilizer.

In 1958, however, Billy Sol Estes started a scam which allowed his company to receive federal agricultural subsidies in return for "growing & storing" fertilizer tanks which did not exist.

The total amount of the scam profited the company $21 million a year.

In 1960, Henry Marshall* began an investigation which ended with his sudden death on June 3, 1961.  Marshall was found dead on his farm having been shot 5 times with his own rifle.  The death was ruled a suicide.

*Henry Marshall, born in Robertson County, Texas in 1909 went to work in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in 1934.

Estes & 3 of his associates were indicted by a federal grand jury on April 15, 1962 on 57 counts of fraud.

An article which appeared in TIME magazine on May 11, 1962, says...

"Even by Texas standards, Billy Sol Estes stood out as who got very rich very quick.  Estimates of his fortune ran as high as $150 million.

A United States Senate subcommittee also launched an investigation of its own into the 'Billy Sol' affair.  

The trial of Billy Sol Estes began in October 1962 & ended with his conviction in March 1963.**

During the 1964 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater said....

"The Billy Sol Estes case is more than just a scandal.  It is more than a sordid picture of favoritism & fraud."

In a 1979 article in PEOPLE magazine, Ken Demaret writes...

"Billy Sol Estes whiles away his days drinking coffee with neighbors, cooking stew, driving his 1972 Buick into rolling cactus lands 'just looking at the cattle & the mesquite & nature.'"

The article also states that Estes' daughter, Dawn, 26 years old at the time, said...

"Lots of people are uncomfortable around Mom & Dad.  They never get invited anywhere."

As time passed, Billy Sol Estes' knack for getting in trouble did not.  In 1989, at the age of 64, he was reportedly facing felony charges of conspiracy to steal blueprints from Loadcraft, Inc., a company which made trailers to transport cargo containers.

Songwriter/singer BILL DEES wrote a song titled "Billie Sol'.

There's a man
Down in Texas who
Never ever had a care
His name is Billy Sol Estes
The multimillionaire.

But he got in trouble when
He crossed the state line
With mortgages
On fertilizer tanks they couldn't find.

                 July 30, 2008

**Estes served 6 years of a 15 year sentence but while on parole was sent back to prison for income tax evasion for another 4 years.  His 2nd conviction was overturned, however, by the Supreme Court which ruled his constitutional rights had been violated by media coverage of his trial.

                       Billie Sol Estes