Significant Figures

Significant Figures (6)

Taylor Caldwell

Written by Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00


Taylor Caldwell

Many people in the English-speaking world from the Baby Boomer or earlier generations remember Taylor Caldwell as the author of numerous outstanding novels, among them A Pillar of Iron, Dear and Glorious Physician, and The Captains and the Kings. Even many who never read her fascinating published works may also recall the latter historical novel, since it was made into an eight-part television miniseries back in 1976. The story of a dynasty founded by an Irish immigrant, it was generally believed that the story’s principal character, Joseph Armagh, was loosely based on the real-life Joseph Kennedy.

Many of Caldwell’s novels were historical, with Dear and Glorious Physician (1959) portraying the life of the apostle Luke, Great Lion of God (1970) depicting the wondrous accomplishments of Saint Paul, and A Pillar of Iron chronicling the life of the Roman philosopher-statesman Cicero. She was so prolific a writer that she published 40 novels between 1938 and 1981.

One of Caldwell’s most fascinating works, however, was not a novel but an autobiographical collection of condensed articles originally appearing in American Opinion (the journal established by JBS Founder Robert Welch) entitled On Growing Up Tough.

On Growing Up Tough is the story of the girl born in 1900 in Manchester, England, as Janet Taylor, the daughter of an austere English family of Scottish background. Reading through the pages of her collection of memoirs, the reader begins to understand how her quite unusual upbringing produced a woman of such extraordinary convictions. At the age of four her parents sent her to “an exclusive school for young ladies and gentlemen” with the warning that, should they hear of any misbehavior on her part, she would be “thoroughly thrashed.”

She walked the mile to school each way in Manchester’s harsh weather, for an eight-hour day of strict academics. She recalls: “By the time I was seven I had had two years of Latin and one of French, and was reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets, not to mention minor poets, and had had a good grounding in history and geography.” Recognizing her entry into “adulthood,” her parents gave her the task of tending the fireplaces in three rooms. Caldwell provides a long litany of the tasks she regularly performed on weekends at the age of seven: “ironing, mending, darning, snow-shoveling, grass-cutting, glass polishing … and homework and Sunday-school, and church twice a day. I was lucky to get eight hours of sleep.”

While it is not surprising that such a challenging childhood made Caldwell a rugged individualist, she also described why she disdained liberalism: “As a peaceful person, I am willing to live and let live. But the Liberal will not, if he can help it, let you live in peace, or, coming down to the matter, let you live at all.” Caldwell was a trendsetter of sorts in adopting a philosophy that combined social and economic conservatism with a decidedly anti-war stance, in an era when most conservatives tended to support the military establishment’s status quo. Her first published novel, Dynasty of Death (1938), written in collaboration with her husband, Marcus Reback, about two families in Pennsylvania who controlled a vast armaments empire, condemned what later became known as the “military industrial complex.” The story was continued in The Eagles Gather (1940) and The Final Hour (1944).

In 1957, Caldwell penned an essay entitled “Honoria,” published in the December 23, 1957 issue of The Dan Smoot Report (written by a former FBI agent and friend of The John Birch Society). In chronicling the rise and fall of “Honoria” (an allegorical representation of the United States) Caldwell traced the forces impelling the demise of all great republics, from Rome to America. In the essay, she lamented:

The middle class, the hardworking, the self-reliant, slowly smothered from despair. Who cared? The mob had a full belly today and government promised to fill it again tomorrow. The monstrous state, the top-heavy bureaucracy, was happy. The cynical laughed among themselves. Freedom? Why, the people didn’t want freedom. They wanted free entertainment, free bread, free housing. A degenerate nation deserved no freedom, no consideration…. An evil old man, crippled and malformed, led the nation into more wars and foreign entanglements — he was the ruler of Honoria. Patriots were considered scoundrels. The rulers of Honoria were tools not only of the mobs, but of foreigners.

Caldwell ended her essay with a warning and a call to action: “It is a stern fact of history that no nation that rushed to the abyss ever turned back. Not ever, in the long history of the world. We are now on the edge of the abyss. Can we, for the first time in history, turn back? It is up to you.”

Her combination of staunch self-reliance, disdain for the socialist welfare state, and recognition that a cabal of rich, powerful elitists secretly controlled the world (a theme apparent in Captains and Kings and Ceremony of the Innocent) made Caldwell a natural fit for membership in The John Birch Society. For many years she contributed outstanding essays to American Opinion magazine, and The Review Of The News, the forerunners of The New American.

Following a speech she was asked to give at a dinner in Phoenix held in honor of JBS Founder Robert Welch, Caldwell noted:

There are too few members of The John Birch Society, too few American patriots, and what there are of us are too frightened.… I've begged them to get together, to forget minor differences, to move as one to save America.

Caldwell, by nature, was somewhat pessimistic about the prospects for good Americans to save our nation. Yet, she seemed favorably impressed with the JBS Founder’s positive outlook. She noted:

The illogic comes in when some men persist in believing that the majority of men will fight for their country and their God, their honor and their freedom. They have done so only very few times in history, and those few times are little inspiration to us in these days. It happened so seldom. Will it happen again? Mr. Welch believes it is quite possible, for America.

Caldwell said that “only time— now running out— will prove who was right and who was wrong (concerning her pessimism versus Robert Welch’s optimism). I hope to God that Bob is right!” Taylor Caldwell and Robert Welch are no longer with us, but those who are carrying on the work of Robert Welch still believe that —with God’s help, — they can achieve a better world.

Garman Kimmell

Written by Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00


Garman Kimmell

Garman Kimmell grew up in Wichita, Kansas, in the early 20th century, where his father had moved to pursue his business dealings. Kimmell attended Wichita State University for two years before transferring to the University of Oklahoma because of its strong engineering program. Kimmell graduated in 1937 with a Master of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering. While still pursuing his master's degree, Kimmell was hired by Black, Sivalls & Bryson, one of the world's foremost designers and builders of oil and gas process equipment systems and plants. He worked there for over a decade, rising to the rank of chief research engineer before declining the company's offer in 1948 of a further promotion and move to Kansas City, because he wanted to remain in Oklahoma City. He resigned from Black, Sivalls & Bryson and founded Kimray, an oil and gas equipment and controls manufacturer.

Garman revolutionized the field production of oil and gas with his 3" SGT-BP valve. A marvel of American ingenuity, it marked the first time an affordable product of this sort could succeed in the field. It cost only $105, and only $280 today. And as befits a true story of Americana, Kimmell first peddled it out of the back of a pickup truck. Over the next 15 years, his creative genius spawned a dozen more watershed products, all of which - along with their variations and derivatives - have had lasting impact on the oil and gas industry.

Kimmell's experiments weren't limited to mechanical valves. In 1957, he invented an energy exchange glycol pump that eliminated the polluting of land around oil fields caused by the leaking of glycol. Hill estimates that Kimray now builds 99 percent of all the oil field exchange pumps in the world. The company's glycol pumps, treater valves, oil dump valves, high pressure control valves, and pilots - totaling in the millions - now operate in almost every oil field lease on the planet, from the United States to Africa to Australia.

His body of work stretches far beyond his epochal contributions to oil and gas production to the medical field, electronics, audio products, the arts, and music. Nearly all his contributions possessed a common denominator: solving people's problems.

In the 1960s, he developed a heart-lung machine and served as the technical physicist on the first open-heart surgery team in Oklahoma City. The device allowed heart doctors to perform lengthy open-heart surgeries. He created de-bubblers and oxygenators (from stainless steel canisters conscripted from his wife's kitchen) for the blood as it was recirculating outside the body. Kimmell devoted thousands of hours of his own time toward these humanitarian pursuits - without remuneration. When asked why, he responded, "I guess the best answer is simply the philosophy expressed in the parable of the Good Samaritan: Here's a chance to help people with congenital heart problems. My reward has been actually seeing the sick made whole, but I wouldn't be in it at all if it weren't for the dedication of those doctors. I may have gone the mile, but they've gone the extra mile."

After all that, Kimmell helped daughter Kay make an accurate, detailed, one-quarter scale model of the open-heart surgery room for a science fair project. "It was fun to spend time with my dad making all the parts on his lathe, bandsaw, and drill press," she says.

Kimmell considered the vena cava filter as one of his most significant inventions.

Kimmell grandson, current Kimray President Thomas Hill, noted the interesting way in which Kimmell designed products: "He put nothing on paper until he worked it all out in his mind," the younger Hill says, "and when he did put it on paper, he would do so on the reverse side of scrap paper or, if at a restaurant for lunch, a napkin. He drew the new invention by hand, in the proper proportion, notating the size, shape, and dimensions for each piece."

"Some of the napkins we would get back from Garman had prints on them he had drawn at lunch and they were as good as the ones we got from the Drafting Department," says retired Kimray machine shop manager Don Huffstutlar.

"I would imagine that most of our really great products started out on a napkin!" adds David Hill.

From there, Kimmell proceeded to his home shop and created wooden parts for his new design, making sure they all fit together and worked properly. "Next," says Tom Hill, "he would take his drawings to Kimray, asking the men in the various shops which parts they wished to make. He would return home and make the remaining parts with his own hands and shop tools. Then, he and the others would assemble the product and begin testing it."

Hill adds that his grandfather believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. "He reminded us on a regular basis that it was our responsibility, that government rested on our shoulders, that if we were not involved in the process, if we did not stand up to be counted, if we did not put our money and effort into insuring that the right things got done, we would be the ones to blame if things weren't done." Apparently, Kimmell applied the general precepts for personal responsibility to his own life. None of his family or friends remembers him ever blaming anyone else for something he did or that happened to him.

He shared all these beliefs with The John Birch Society, and long supported them, to the extent of his ability to do so. He passed his passion for the JBS and its often-courageous stands on to his son-in-law Tom Hill, a faithful proponent of the organization, and his other kinfolk.

William Grede

Written by Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00


William Grede

Born in 1897 and raised in Milwaukee, Bill Grede went to work at his father's carriage shop during summers when he was 14. He later worked at Uncle Art's tire store. The experiences he gained at both taught him two very important lessons: 1) always provide quality products and service; and 2) there is profit to be made in integrity.

During Bill's early years, the Milwaukee area was a hotbed of socialism. But the Grede family never got caught up in it. He spent only two years at the University of Wisconsin, where he profited greatly from reading an assigned work entitled The Responsibility of Freedom. Asked frequently where he developed his philosophy of freedom and his belief that he was required to maintain and promote it, he would always point to that book. During the summer break after his first year, Bill also learned a lot about marketing by selling pots and pans door to door and at church suppers, where he demonstrated the value of his products by cooking the meal using them.

In 1917, family friend Albert Wagner purchased a small foundry in Decatur, Illinois, and lured Bill to be his assistant at the then-generous salary of $150 a month. Bill learned a lot about the foundry business, but his patriotic instincts overcame his business pursuits. In September 1918, after several unsuccessful attempts to enlist in the military, Bill won acceptance for army officer training and went off to Georgia. He won his commission just as World War I ended and was promptly discharged. Soon, with a little money he'd accumulated plus some help from willing investors, he purchased Liberty Foundry in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. On August 13, 1920, at the ripe old age of 23, Bill Grede was the sole proprietor of a company with 40 employees. Liberty Foundry's fortunes improved markedly from that day forward.

Careful study and experimentation with workmen's output convinced Bill that the nine-and-a-half-hour workday and six-day work week weren't needed to maintain productivity. In phases, he shortened the day schedule to eight hours and then eliminated Saturdays. In 1924, Liberty bought group life insurance for employees. In 1926, Grede inaugurated paid vacations for workers. And in 1927, he added accident and health insurance for all. He later developed a pension plan for his employees. These were years when the term "fringe benefits" hadn't even been coined. Each of these innovations was unique in the manufacturing industry, but Grede accepted no accolades for what others termed his "humanitarian gestures." He said he was merely acting in self-interest knowing that he would retain his best employees, all would produce at high levels, and the company would earn a profit.

The Great Depression forced them to retrench slightly, but they not only survived, they added Milwaukee Steel Foundry to their holdings in 1932. In 1940, the three Grede-owned foundries were united as Grede Foundries Incorporated. Before long, three other foundries, one each in Michigan, Kansas, and Wisconsin, were added. From 40 employees in 1920, Grede Foundries was now employing 2,000.

Bill Grede's belief that each person is an individual who should be treated like an individual formed the basis of his opposition to labor unions. He battled with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and won. He battled with the United Auto Workers (UAW) and won. Whenever the National Labor Relations Board intervened on behalf of the unions to force an election where his employees would vote on whether they wanted union representation, the employees voted it down. Bill Grede's reputation as a better-than-fair employer, and his strong belief that every employee had the right to represent himself, triumphed again and again.

In 1926, Bill received a request to send a donation to the local Young Men's Christian Organization (YMCA). He responded with $10. His token contribution prompted the organization's state secretary to tell Bill rather bluntly that he should not only give more, but he should also serve on the Y's fundraising committee. Bill accepted both challenges, and there began a lifelong commitment to the YMCA that saw him raise millions for its efforts, not only in Wisconsin and other parts of the United States, but in South America, Africa, and Europe.

The year 1952 saw Bill Grede deliver 250 speeches in the United States, plus dozens of press conferences, media appearances, and testimony before Congress. In that year alone, he logged more than 85,000 miles. Other years found him doing almost as much speaking and traveling. Asked if he ever gave the same speech to differing audiences, he smiled and admitted, "It's easier to get a new audience than to write a new speech." The year 1952 also happened to be when he met and got to know Robert Welch, the founder of The John Birch Society. Bill quickly became involved, and his activity with JBS rankled some. At a special National Association of Manufacturers meeting held in early 1962 (Bill was on the board), approximately 150 of its leading members questioned Bill Grede's Society membership. With him in attendance, the discussion proceeded in such a way as to suggest that it might be a good idea, in view of his many connections to NAM, if Bill would leave the Society. Grede's response was not what some of those men hoped to hear. They should have known better. He calmly and forthrightly told them: "If my membership in the Society is a problem, then I'll be glad to resign from all connections to the NAM. The one thing I will not do is resign from The John Birch Society." That ended the discussion and the NAM leaders took no action. Bill Grede continued to defend Robert Welch and the Society, and he steered many others into the organization.

Augereau G. Heinsohn

Written by Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00


Augereau G. Heinsohn

Augereau G. Heinsohn was born in 1896 and lived near Houston. After his service in World War I, Heinsohn returned home and got a job at a cotton goods commission house in New York City, a brokerage firm that acted as an intermediary between the textile mills of the South and the garment industry in Manhattan.

In 1935, the Cherokee Mill in Knoxville, Tennessee, asked A.G. Heinsohn to take over management as it was in desperate financial straits. The situation at Cherokee was almost unsalvageable. Yet Cherokee somehow made the best of a bad situation, paying off a 10-year mortgage lifeline in full in a mere seven years, and bringing Cherokee's relatively inexperienced new leader to the attention of the rest of the struggling textile sector. In 1939, Heinsohn repeated this success with a second mill, in Spindale, North Carolina, that was in even worse financial condition than Cherokee had been.

Years later, A.G. Heinsohn attributed his success in bringing those two moribund firms back from the dead to his policy of openness and square dealing with his employees.

Heinsohn's first major brush with the specter of Big Government was a labor dispute. Part of FDR's New Deal, the Wagner Act and Fair Labor Standards Act, empowered the federal government for the first time to micromanage labor-management relations, dictate work hours and working conditions, and even compel workers to unionize even if they were unwilling to do so. In 1942, the Textile Workers Union of America began trying to organize a union among the workers at Cherokee. Because the Wagner Act prohibited employers from speaking to workers about union-related issues during an organizing campaign, Heinsohn cautioned all of his supervisors to obey this law since, in the anti-management climate of the day, the Labor Board would not hesitate to pounce on any violators, perceived or real.

Before long, the workers at Cherokee were bitterly divided. When a group of pro-union workers tried to forcibly pin union buttons on workers opposed to the union, Heinsohn decided to act to prevent violence, while trying to maintain the neutrality that the new labor laws required. He drew up a letter and sent it to every employee. Even after so many years, the letter is a gem of tact. Explaining that the law required management to remain neutral on whether or not the workers should unionize, Heinsohn spelled out the issue plainly and fairly. As a result of the letter, things settled down, and a few days later, when the vote over unionization was held, the union lost by 37 votes. A second vote held weeks later wasn't even close: The anti-union votes carried the day by a two-to-one margin.

A couple of years after his dealings with the textile workers' union, Heinsohn came under bureaucratic scrutiny by what he later characterized as "the craziest of all the more than two thousand New Deal bureaus," the Office of Price Administration. At some point, Heinsohn came to realize that the efforts of one man, however energetic, would not be sufficient to turn the tide of creeping totalitarianism; only organization and planning could make a lasting difference.

In 1949, Heinsohn and a small group of like-minded friends organized themselves into the Fighters for Freedom. They were united and driven solely by a desire to defend the U.S. Constitution and to prevent socialism/communism from taking over America.

In 1957, Heinsohn was involved in the founding of the Tennessee chapter of a non-partisan national organization called the National Committee for Independent Political Action. This organization, founded by the eminent Dean Clarence Manion, former head of the law school at Notre Dame, aimed to establish chapters in every congressional district to support all candidates in favor of the Constitution, states' rights, and limited government. Launched in a flush of national enthusiasm, the network lasted until the early 1960s.

It was not until the launch of Robert Welch's John Birch Society in December 1958 that A.G. Heinsohn found a patriotic organization with staying power. Although he was unable to attend the founding meeting in Indianapolis, he did attend the third meeting of the Society and joined immediately. Robert Welch appointed him to the executive committee of The John Birch Society, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Fred Koch

Written by Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00


Fred Koch

Born in 1900 the son of a Dutch immigrant from Quanah, Texas, Fred Koch graduated from MIT in 1922 with a chemical engineering degree. He was first employed by the Texas Company in Port Arthur, Texas, and then by the Medway Oil and Storage Company in Kent, England, where he was chief engineer. Only three years after graduation from college, Koch rejoined an MIT classmate at Keith-Winkler Engineering, a petrochemical engineering concern in Wichita, Kansas. His friend P. C. Keith soon moved on, however, and later in 1925, the firm was renamed the Winkler-Koch Engineering Company..

Within two years, Koch had devised a more efficient procedure for cracking crude oil - the process by which crude oil is refined into gasoline and other products. By the 1920s, the petroleum industry was fully fledged, in no small measure in response to the needs of the burgeoning automobile industry. Then as now, the petroleum industry was dominated by a few mega-corporations that did not scruple to enlist the power of the state to enforce their near-monopolistic dominance of the industry at the expense of smaller would-be competitors. Koch's new royalty-free thermal cracking process, by producing higher yields of refined gasoline from crude oil and reducing down time, helped smaller companies to better compete with their larger, more entrenched, and better-capitalized rivals. The latter lost no time in attacking Koch, filing no less than 44 lawsuits against Winkler-Koch and all its customers in a contemptible campaign to force the company out of business. That Winkler-Koch won every lawsuit but one (and that verdict was later overturned when it was discovered that the judge had been bribed) is evidence enough that the full-frontal legal assault on the upstart Koch was inspired by no higher motives than envy and greed. We must suppose that, as a result of the campaign to sue him out of the refining business, Fred Koch must have begun to understand that the modern American business sector was not nearly as free-market as it was cracked up to be.

Vindicated though he must have felt at staving off the lawsuits, they proved to be Pyrrhic victories. The cost and production delays occasioned by litigation left Winkler-Koch unable to conduct business in the United States for several years - as the Big Oil oligarchs intended. Undismayed, Koch and his associates turned their attention to potential foreign markets, including the Soviet Union, where there was a demand for American expertise in petroleum engineering. Ironically, the litigation unleashed by anti-free-market monopolists at home prompted Koch to look eastward, to the rising communist sphere of influence, for new contracts. From 1929 to 1932, Koch built 15 cracking units in the Soviet Union, and many others elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He also brought Soviet technicians to the United States for training - some of whom opted not to return to their Stalinist motherland.

It was Fred Koch's hands-on experience with Soviet Communism that convinced him of the unmitigated evil of such a system, and ultimately turned him into a passionate crusader on behalf of liberty.

Fred Koch was no fly-by-night pamphleteer. He spent a generous portion of his later years using his wealth and influence to fight the communism he abhorred. He was an early member of the The John Birch Society's National Council, an advisory group to JBS founder Robert Welch. Koch supported a variety of freedom-related causes, all the while continuing to build the company today known as Koch Industries. Today Koch Industries produces not only a wide range of petroleum-based products and related goods like process equipment, but also has diversified into chemicals, fibers, plastics and forest and consumer products.

Nelson Bunker Hunt

Written by Wednesday, 19 November 2014 00:00


Nelson Bunker Hunt

Nelson Bunker Hunt of Texas served as a member of the Council of The John Birch Society from 1976 to 1985 and then from 2007 until his passing. Mr. Hunt was born in El Dorado, Arkansas. His family moved to Tyler, Texas, during his youth, and finally to Dallas. After graduating from the Hill School, Mr. Hunt attended the University of Texas prior to his service in the Navy during World War II. Like most veterans, he returned to school after discharge from the Navy, attending S.M.U. before going back into the oil business full time.

Mr. Hunt worked with his father and brothers in the Hunt Energy Corporation and its various affiliates as an active participant in oil explorations and development programs. He also initiated his own personal oil and gas exploration and development projects, concentrating on overseas exploration.

For more than 50 years, Bunker maintained his multifaceted worldwide operations, including cattle, thoroughbred horses, real estate, and a wide variety of other business ventures. He received the T.I. "Pop" Harkins award for outstanding service to the Texas Thoroughbred Association as well as being in the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

He passed away October 21, 2014, at the age of 88.