DEADLY  1991
Two Senators' deaths predict the demise of a Presidency.
(Part 2 of a series)
by Virginia McCullough and Kathryn Dixon © 2004 
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The deaths of Senator John Heinz and ex-Senator John Tower determine the fate of the 41st President.

Legend states that the spirits predict the future.  For those who believe in the accuracy of ghostly readings it was easy to understand how the strange deaths of two United States Senators one day apart sealed the fate of the sitting President and assured his term in office would end when the people went to the polls in November of 1992.   

On April 4, 1991, the energetic Senator from Pennsylvania,  H. John Heinz III,  talked to reporters at a news conference in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  It was important that the public be made aware of his next event, a town hall meeting in nearby Merion.  There he would conduct the first in a series of hearings to investigate the telemarketing of medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries. The topic: "Bleeding Medicare Dry: The Great Sales Scam."  

At the conclusion of the press conference the self confident man boarded a plane to Philadelphia on his way to meet with the editorial board of the local newspaper, before heading on to Merion. 

A tall, handsome athletic man, Senator Heinz was one of the most popular Senators in Pennsylvania history.  He promoted those social welfare causes fellow Republicans, such as then-President George H. W. Bush, found too burdensome to business profits.  True to himself and to the needs of his constituents he chose political independence with a patrician certitude.  His autonomy was insured by his personal fortune of approximately $500 million dollars.

In his first Senate race, he had spent $2.9 million of his own funds to back his campaign.  No language speaks as loudly in Washington D.C. as cold, hard cash.   Senator Heinz came to the gaming table with a well backed hand of cards.  His voice would clearly be heard.     

John or “Johnny” as he called himself, was the only child of industrialist turned philanthropist H.J. Heinz II and Joan Diehl (Heinz) McCauley and the only grandson of  H.J. Heinz, founder of the H.J. Heinz Company.  H. J. Heinz made his jars clear, not green, so people could see that the pickles and tomatoes were pure. Honesty made him rich and revered by Pennsylvania citizens.  The Heinz Company, famous worldwide for “Ketchup” and “57 Varieties” was one of the biggest employers in the state.  Since the mid-19th century the company had  provided thousands of jobs in agriculture and industry, a fact not unnoticed by voters.

John Heinz was pro-peace, a bold and dangerous way to do politics any time. In his first campaign for Congress in 1971, Heinz, then age 33, had just completed his service as an enlisted man in the Air Force.  Upon his return he urged President Nixon to withdraw American troops from Vietnam.

Heinz also favored spending taxpayers dollars to help Americans live better.  He said families who earned less than $12,000 annually should get a five percent cut in federal income taxes.  He said the federal government should pay welfare costs and increase aid for education.  Again his voice was heard when he won his seat in Congress.

Once there, he continued to demand an early end to the Vietnam War.  He even urged President Nixon to normalize relations with Cuba.  In 1976 Pennsylvanians elected him to the United States Senate.  Heinz promoted his own type of Republicanism even more intensely.  As a Senator, he delved deeply into foreign policy.  He criticized President Reagan for using the threat of deploying new weapons as a tactic to push the Soviet Union to engage in arms limitations talks.

Heinz took on domestic issues to protect children and help the poor.  When the Reagan administration tried to cut federal funding for school lunches for the poor by having ketchup reclassified as a vegetable to save money, Heinz stood up on the floor of the Senate and testified, “Ketchup is a condiment, not a food.  And I should know.”

The Senator's actions spoke eloquently about his support for the middle class and the hard working public.  He pushed laws to protect Pittsburgh steel and the Philadelphia shipyards from foreign competition. He wanted everyone in the world to buy American products so Americans would have jobs and prosperity.  His popularity continued to grow and respect for his positions spread beyond the state boundaries of Pennsylvania.   

As Heinz flew on his chartered plan to Philadelphia, he looked forward to his new town hall hearing.  What would people tell him he should do to protect their Medicare benefits?  How would he respond?  Another Heinz investigative report was a probability.  His reports had been effective as the basis for corrective legislation regarding the safety of pacemakers, the Social Security disability review process, the Supplemental Security Income program, nursing homes, hospital discharges and dialysis reuse.  Heinz had become known as the “champion of the elderly”. 

When George H. W. Bush became President, Heinz made his biggest pitch ever to protect Social Security.  Bush, on the other hand, started to invade Social Security.  In 1990, on the Today Show, Heinz was asked what he thought about Bush's administration using social security funds for the general budget.  He was asked whether or not he agreed with the term the Rochester Democrat Chronicle had used to describe the practice.  Was it  “thievery”?  Heinz said, “Certainly not.  It's not thievery, it's embezzlement. Embezzlement, sir, is what is going on.”

In an attempt to remove the Social Security Trust Fund from federal deficit calculations, Heinz introduced the Social Security Truth in Budgeting Act (1989) and the Social Security Preservation Act (1990).  He ended the financial penalty imposed on Social Security recipients who work after age 65.   He succeeded in barring the  mandatory retirement policies practiced by most employers.  His bill ensured payment of the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) (1986).  He was the key Senator who pushed through the laws to extend catastrophic Medicare insurance.  He battled to provide Medicaid benefits to low-income pregnant women and children.

 In spite of all his good works, Heinz had many powerful enemies. Some politicians noted he had actually taken over Pennsylvania’s Republican Party thus challenging President Bush's choice of Richard Thornburgh to lead the state's Republican charge.  Thornburgh, the state’s two-term governor, had been chosen by Bush to be the Attorney General of the United States.  The national Republican Party suddenly found it had a popular, independent leader in Pennsylvania.  John Heinz represented a new middle-of-the-road Republican philosophy.  He promoted new ideas that clearly embraced the middle class and the working poor.  Heinz' popularity grew rapidly.  He had departed from the right wing conservatism of Bush and Thornburgh and he was not looking back.  He was a real danger to the establishment because he had the money to back his own campaigns and was not indebted to vested interests promoting opposing views.  Heinz had his own agenda and he was not easy to control.  Most of his constituents found that combination appealing and as they shouted his praises they found the rest of the nation listening.  

A handsome man with a beautiful, smart wife who could communicate in many languages presented a sharp contrast to the older President Bush and his grandmotherly wife.  The equally sharp contrast in their priorities only accented their differences.  Many thought that the Senator's family was reminiscent of JFK's Camelot.  The Senator's type of Republicanism seemed to be the future of the GOP and the national buzz grew that Heinz was Presidential timber.

So on April 4, 1991, the plane carrying the most powerful man in Pennsylvania, the man with a new prophecy for America, Senator Heinz, approached the landing strip in Merion, Pennsylvania. 

What happened next was detailed in the New York Times of April 5, 1991:

The plane, a two-engine Piper Aerostar, reported difficulty with its landing gear and the helicopter flew nearby to help assess the problem, according to preliminary information provided by aviation officials in Washington. 

During this maneuver both planes were in contact with air traffic controllers and with each other, an official said.  “They were under positive control,” he said, meaning that air traffic controllers were giving them instructions for flying hear the airport. 

The weather was good and the helicopter was flying under visual flight rules, which do not require an approved flight plan.  The Senator’s plane was on an instrument-flying plan taking it from Williamsport, Pa. to Philadelphia the official said.

He said the helicopter flew near the Senator’s plane once, but could not detect any problem with its landing gear.  The plane flew past the airport, circling for another attempt to land

At that point the helicopter made a second pass near the Senator’s plane to take another look, and the two aircraft collided.

The New York Times further reported:

Investigators will want to determine why the two aircraft were allowed to fly so close to each other.  A more common procedure, when a plane reports problems with the landing gear, is to order it to fly low over the airport so that observers on the ground can look at its undercarriage.  Sometimes warning lights in a plane’s cockpit indicate problems with landing gear even when they are properly deployed.  And even with the landing gear up, it is possible to land a small plane on its belly without severe risk to occupants.  Airport fire and rescue equipment would be on hand to handle any fire or injuries.

Burning wreckage.  The plane fell onto the grounds of an elementary school in Lower Merion Township.  The Senator, two people in his plane, two pilots in the helicopter and two children playing outside at noon recess were killed. One schoolboy was burned critically.  Several children and bystanders were injured.

Senator Heinz is survived by his wife, the former Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira, and three children, H. John 4th, 24,  Andre, 21 and Christopher, 18.

Pennsylvania law required Governor Robert P. Casey, a Democrat, to name an interim successor to fill Heinz’ seat.  Following that step the Pennsylvania State Committees of each party would pick their candidates to run in a special election in November 1991. 

A major upheaval in Pennsylvania politics was expected now that Heinz was gone.  Who could step into his shoes and stake a Republican claim to power in Pennsylvania?  Would a Democrat pull an upset?  Who would Bush back to be the next Senator from Pennsylvania?  A thousand questions arose with the strange death of Senator John Heinz.

But before any of these questions could be answered, the Grim Reaper struck once more.

One day after Senator Heinz died, on April 5, 1991, former United States Senator John G. Tower of Texas left his home in Dallas and boarded a plane to Atlanta, Georgia.  There he transferred to a commuter flight enroute to Brunswick Georgia.  Margaret McBride, his literary agent, was waiting at the airport to pick him up.  She had arranged a party on the Sea Island resort to promote Tower’s book, Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir, which had just been published by Little Brown & Company.  

For the second day in a row the New York Times found itself reporting on the death of a Senator.  On April 6, 1991 it reported:

Brunswick, Ga.,  April 5 – A commuter plane carrying 23 people, including former Senator John G. Tower of Texas, crashed and burned today a mile and a half short of the airport near this Georgia coast city, killing everyone on board. 

The twin-engine turbo-prop Atlantic Southeast Airlines plane flying from Atlanta went down in a thickly wooded area within view of motorists on Interstate 90 shortly before 3 p.m., the police said.

Officials said 20 passengers, 2 pilots and an attendant were on the flight, Atlantic Southeast 2311.  Sgt. David L. Dowdy of the Glynn County Sheriff Department said there were no survivors.  Rescue workers bulldozed a road 200 yards through the woods to the site but removed no bodies or debris, he said.

A spokesman for Mr. Tower said the 65-year-old Republican was traveling with this 35-year-old daughter, Marian Tower, to Sea Island off the Georgia coast to promote his new book.

Pertaining to the cause of the crash, the New York Times reported:

Aviation officials said initial inquiries into the crash turned up no unusual radio transmissions from the pilots beforehand.

People who saw the debris said it appeared that the aircraft, a Brazilian made Embraer 120 popular with commuter airlines, fell straight down before crashing short of the airport near Brunswick, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla.  It fell into a pine forest about 150 years off a hardtop road and half a mile from an elementary school.

“I don’t see how anybody could have gotten out of that plane,” said Donald C. Kennedy, who works at the airport and flew over the scene shortly after the crash.  “It was just burning all through the middle of the fuselage."

Mr. Kennedy said the weather was good, with a few small black clouds and that other planes were making normal landings and takeoffs around the time of the crash.  There was some rain shortly after the crash, he said.

Bill Kitchim, a reporter with WMOG radio in Brunswick, said, “The scene did not look like the plane had skidded in.  It was about two miles from the end of the runway.  There was a circle around the plane where it had burned away, but there was no sign that it plowed in the way they do when they come up short.  It looked like it came straight down.”

He said the plane was demolished.  “All that was left of the plane was the tail and a clump of metal where the cockpit used to be,” said Mr. Kitchin, who reached the scene 20 minutes after the crash.

The death of John Tower focused immediate public attention on his tell-all book Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir, and on his recent public humiliation in the Senate.  In 1989 Tower’s friend President Bush nominated him to be the Secretary of Defense, a post Tower had craved all of his life. Tower was confident of his nomination.  He had recently chaired the Tower Commission investigating the Iran Contra crimes.  In that position he had handed President Bush a major gift, virtually exonerating Bush of any criminal activity in the Iran Contra fiasco.  Tower expected a quid pro quo resulting in an easy confirmation by the Senate to the position he had always coveted.  Instead, a few Democratic Senators charged Tower was unfit for the post because he was a heavy drinker and a womanizer.  That described a lot of the nation's lawmakers.  However, the deal-breaking issue was the money Tower had pocketed as a consultant involved in sweetheart deals with defense contractors.

After the dirty linen was aired in public it culminated in a decisive 53-47 vote against Tower's appointment.  The former Senator was shocked, angry, and bitter.  He suffered the humiliation of becoming the first political appointee of the President who was not confirmed by the Senate.  According to the New York Times, April 7, 1989, “after his defeat he compared Capitol Hill unfavorably with Beirut, “They’re pretty straightforward what they do in Beirut,” Mr. Tower said. “They hurl a grenade at someone or shoot a machine gun. Up here, it’s a little more subtle, but just as ruthless, just as brutal.  They kill you in a different way.”

Bush, Sr. and Tower had been taken by surprise.  Was not Tower the ultimate political insider?  Tower continued to vent his anger but President Bush quickly recovered and placed another man before the Senate for confirmation.  He nominated another old friend, Rep. Richard Cheney (R. Wy).  Cheney was the ranking House Republican on the Congressional Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal.   Just like Tower, Cheney had covered Bush's back.  Cheney had encouraged the chairman of the committee, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D. Ind.) to refrain from deposing then Vice-President Bush about his knowledge.  No deposition was taken. 

The Congressional investigation avoided Bush's role into sensitive areas such as Contra drug trafficking.  President Bush was grateful to his old friend.

Bush also tried to protect Tower's feeling by appointing him to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a post he held until his death.  But Tower was not so easily pacified.

Tower felt that he had been singled out.  Allegations such as drunkenness and womanizing had never been used before to derail a nomination because many of his fellow Senators were equally guilty of such allegations and did not want their dirty linen aired in public. Tower was determined to get even.  According to the New York Times, April 7, 1989, Tower raged against his former colleagues:  Senator John Glenn, an Ohio Democrat, is “not the brightest guy in Washington,” while Senator Jim Exon, a democrat from Nebraska, “drinks, and drinks heavily.”  Tower continued, Senator Ernest F. Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina,  is “the Senate bully, quick to attack with harsh and personal invective.”  Mr. Tower reserved his most acid comments for Sam Nunn, the Georgia Democrat who succeeded him as chairman of the Armed Services committee, and whose announcement against Mr. Tower’s nomination was credited with sealing his defeat.  Mr. Tower said the Senator suffered from blind ambition, cruelty, inexperience and priggishness.

Who was John Tower and what did he know at the time of his death?  He was a short man with a plum shaped face who wore dapper suits and cultivated a sophisticated European manner.  Tower increased his power by using his mighty intelligence and depth of knowledge of black operations, politics and the military.  He played a winning game ever since he rose to power in Texas by winning the Senate seat Lyndon Baines Johnson vacated when he became Vice-President.  He was the first Republican to win that seat.  Tower’s Republican credentials were already impeccable.  After serving as a boatswains mate in the Navy in WWII, he graduated from Southwest University and pursued graduate work at the London School of Economics before he returned home and joined the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).  In the Senate Tower concentrated on delivering defense contracts to his friends in Texas.

Senator John Tower became an unexpected principal player in the most important event in United States history, the execution of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  Tower's contacts extended into the deep pools of counterintelligence.  Even though he was an avid Republican and a member of YAF, he somehow used his position to help a young “communist” leave Minsk and come back to America.

In her article, The Nazi Connection to the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, (1983) Mae Brussell explained:

Senator John Tower and Marina Oswald

One of the most consistent conservatives among Buckley's YAF Advisory Board was Senator John Tower, Texas.

If there is anything he wouldn't want in his back yard it was a defector and his allegedly Communist wife from Minsk.

Yet, two years after joining the YAF team in 1960, Tower was passing all waivers in order for Marina Oswald to get to the United States as soon as possible. Without his permission, this trip might never have taken place. Many wives from the USSR are not that lucky.

March 22, 1962, Senator Tower cooperated. "The sanctions imposed on immigration and nationality are hereby waived in behalf of Mrs. Oswald. The file check on Marina by the FBI, CIA, Dept. of Security Office, Division of biographical intelligence and passport office," (Volume XXIV, 298. Warren Commission Report).

George de Mohrenschildt testified in Volume IX, pages 228-229 of the Warren Commission Report, "Marina Oswald's father had been a Czarist officer of some kind. I don't remember whether it was army or navy."

Her real father was never identified by name in all of the testimony.

Between 1948 and 1950 over 200 Byelorussian Nazis and their families were brought to New Jersey. Both George de Mohrenschildt and Marina had come from Minsk, part of the Byelorussian area.

The Gehlen Nazi émigrés were useful to every part of the Kennedy assassination cover-up.

John Tower knew Marina was a safe bet. Otherwise, why the hurry? Our CIA and the Defense Department knew all there was to know about both Oswalds. Therefore, Tower signed the immigration papers fast. 

Tower's secrets died with him on April 5, 1991.  When the Senate acknowledged Tower’s empty seat, filled with the traditional wreath of flowers, Senator Gorton said “John Tower was, I confess, a difficult man to know and to love. He was frequently curt, and often unyielding. He did not suffer fools gladly in a world in which he found many who fit that description. But John Tower was a great, patriotic and dedicated American.”

The nation was shocked.  Tower and Heinz were dead!   The tremendous knowledge they had about the workings of the United States government, including the Bush’s role, was lost forever.

The death of Tower stirred up more public interest in the Iran Contra scandal. Bush realized he had no choice but to handle all the scandals that had been plaguing him since he was Vice-President in the Reagan administration.   Bush had hoped that his Attorney General, Richard Thornburgh,  would handle these scandals so that his opponents wouldn’t have ammunition to fire at Bush in the 1992 election.  But Thornburgh wasn’t holding his own.  People like Congressmen Henry B. Gonzalez and Jack Brooks seemed to be overwhelming the Department of Justice with subpoenas to request documents and testimony from Thornburgh.  Documents and depositions were being demanded from Bush himself.  

After the funerals of John Heinz and John Tower, President Bush surveyed the political scene.  He saw an administration in shambles defending its position on the war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq and trying to patch up a Justice Department folding under the attack of the United States Congress.  Perhaps President Bush could even see the Grim Reaper laughing as he forced open the closet door and let the skeletons run free.

Next:  The death of Danny Casolaro by Virginia McCullough

Virginia McCullough, Kathryn Dixon © 2004



Part 4 of a series
by Virginia McCullough and Kathryn Dixon
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