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'The Fall Guy' led colorful political life

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.elpasotimes.com/opinion/ci_3823487 05/15/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT The Fall Guy led colorful political life El Paso Times Staff Leon Metz Lately, the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 15, 2006
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      http://www.elpasotimes.com/opinion/ci_3823487

      05/15/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT

      'The Fall Guy' led colorful political life
      El Paso Times Staff
      Leon Metz

      Lately, the name Albert Bacon Fall locally seems to be
      surfacing now and then, primarily because of his
      Arizona Avenue mansion, now long empty, disintegrating
      and little more than a tax write-off.

      Otherwise, the media, when mentioning his name,
      usually (and correctly) refer to Fall as "the Fall
      Guy," primarily because Fall went to prison when
      perhaps someone else should have.

      But who was Fall?

      Well, his great-grandfather was an officer in the
      British army. His grandfather, Philip Slater Fall,
      also an Englishman, moved to America, purchasing
      several hundred acres in Kentucky, living on land near
      Ashland known as "Popular Hill."

      Philip Fall subsequently went to Nashville, Tenn.,
      prior to the Civil War, becoming a minister in the
      Campbellite (Christian) Church.

      Albert's father, Williamson Ward Robinson Fall, taught
      school, supported the Confederacy and lost everything
      after the Civil War.

      As for the son, Albert Bacon Fall, he became a man
      with a soft draw but frequently of quick temper. He
      taught school, read law at night, then moved to Texas
      where he became a cook, sold real estate and practiced
      law. He finally settled in New Mexico, worked in the
      mines, served in the territorial legislature as well
      as the Supreme Court, and was twice appointed attorney
      general.

      One of Judge Fall's least- known legal cases involved
      defending a man and a woman, both in their 70s, who
      had lived together for 45 years, yet each having
      former spouses of numerous years whom they had never
      divorced. Now with a multitude of children and a
      respectable background, they were both charged with
      adultery.

      Although the district attorney vigorously prosecuted
      the case, and got a guilty verdict, Judge Fall passed
      sentence by "directing them to go back home and help
      one another as they had been doing for the last 45
      years."

      Somewhere around this same time, Fall and the
      politically arising Warren G. Harding became close
      friends, as well as poker players. Thus shortly after
      Harding became president in 1921, Fall switched to the
      Republican Party and became a senator. From there he
      rose to Secretary of Interior during the Harding
      administration.

      In 1887, Fall acquired the Three Rivers Ranch in New
      Mexico, brutally losing that after a series of
      lawsuits.

      In another case, better known as the Teapot Dome
      Scandal, the court convicted Fall of taking a bribe of
      $400,000 from Edward Lawrence Doheny, Doheny later
      being found innocent of giving the bribe that Fall had
      already been convicted of receiving. Hence the
      perfect, but ironically fitting term: "Fall Guy."

      Montana Sen. Thomas Walsh subsequently commenced an
      investigation which by 1924 had implicated Fall, the
      odd part being that Fall's real passion was mining.

      Another odd, little-known part of the trial is that
      Robert Geronimo, son of the famed Indian chief, became
      one of Fall's chief character witnesses.

      Fall allegedly received $100,000 in bribes, the
      evidence being thin, but nevertheless in 1931 sending
      Fall at the age of 69 to the Santa Fe prison, a trip
      he made from his palatial El Paso home (designed and
      supervised by Mrs. Fall), at 1725 Arizona Avenue, an
      area still known as Golden Hill Terrace.

      Fall left his home and made the entire trip to prison
      in an ambulance since he was suffering from hardening
      of the arteries, a heart ailment, disabling arthritis
      and chronic but inactive tuberculosis and pleurisy.Ê

      Albert Bacon Fall died at El Paso's Hotel Dieu
      Hospital on Nov. 30, 1934, and is buried in Evergreen
      Cemetery on Alameda Avenue.

      Leon Metz, an El Paso historian, writes often for the
      El Paso Times. E-mail: cmetz48888@...
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