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Thomas J. Walsh: A Featured Biography


Photo of Senator Thomas Walsh of Montana

Not many observers in Washington thought that Montana's Democratic senator Thomas J. Walsh (1859-1933) had much of a chance to uncover anything of consequence when he chaired an investigation of the sale of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming. The administration of President Warren G. Harding denied any wrongdoing and turned over a truckload of documents to support its case. But Walsh, a prosecutor before his election to the Senate, was a careful and persistent investigator who diligently followed all leads until he had uncovered evidence that Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall had taken bribes from an oil company. Fall became the first cabinet secretary to go to jail for corruption, and the historical reputation of the Harding administration was irreparably damaged. Senator Tom Walsh died on March 2, 1933, while en route to Washington, D.C., where he planned to accept nomination as U.S. attorney general under President Franklin Roosevelt.

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