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Redneck Tale # 13 - Wilbur's Fanne

Updated on August 20, 2012
Photo - Capitol Building - Wilbur's Empire
Photo - Capitol Building - Wilbur's Empire
Photo - Wilbur's Fanne Fox
Photo - Wilbur's Fanne Fox

Wilbur's Fanne

Who brought Wilbur’s Fanne back into the news?

Among the many responsible for the resurgence of a stripteaser , the "Argentine Firecracker," Fanne Fox, as Mrs. Annabella Battistella, age-38, was widely known, are the cheating husbands - Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Governor Elliot Spitzer of New York, former Senator John Edwards, and Senator John Ensign, to name several in a non-partisan way.

And Wilbur?

He was Wilbur Daigh Mills, a veteran Congressman from Arkansas who, back in 1974, was among the most powerful of those in the House of Representatives. Since 1958 he had been chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Wilbur Mills’ committee was in charge of drafting federal legislation covering government revenue and spending for areas such as taxes, Social Security, and even trade matters. Some declared Mills to be "the most powerful Congressman."

Wilbur had the reputation of being probably the only person in the House of Representatives who actually understood the entire U. S. Tax Code. This helped him guide the committee’s job of producing legislation in complicated tax and budget matters. The House of Representatives relied on him, and that caused him to gain and hold great power.

From the time he took his seat on Ways and Means in 1943, Mills had made the committee's intricate tax-writing and budgetary chores his special interest and guarded territory. By the time he assumed the committee chairmanship in 1958, he was the undisputed master of revenue legislation in the House. In the years thereafter, his formidable grasp of the U.S. tax code had made committee members and Congress reliant on the chairman. This strongly consolidated Mills' power.

One late night in October, 1974, Mills and several others were passengers in his car near the Jefferson Memorial by the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The police stopped the car for speeding. Out leaped Fanne Fox. She ran toward the Tidal Basin and either jumped in or fell in. A policeman pulled her out of the water.

Mills’ face was scratched. He said it got that way when he attempted to restrain Fanne from leaping from the car. Further, he was very drunk, quite over-filled with alcohol at the moment.

Later, Wilbur described his drinking habit during his acquaintance with Fanne over the past year. He said it was typical that he imbibed a half-gallon of vodka every night! At that time, Wilbur Mills was 76 years of age. One might say that Wilbur Mills was "old enough to know better, yet young enough to learn."

He knew, but he did not learn much more until his age finally caught up with him.

Sure enough, that business with the stopped car and Fanne’s leap (or fall) into the Tidal Basin embarrassed Mills and caused him to receive a goodly amount of flak from his fellow Congress people and from the public, but Wilbur failed to properly read the tea leaves – or maybe all of that vodka each night caused him to lose much of his ability to read or understand much of anything.

A few days later he turned up on stage at a crummy burlesque joint, the Pilgrim Theater in Boston’s "Combat Zone" where Fanne Fox was doing her bumping and grinding. Without going into detail about Mills’ own performance, it suffices to note that he made a pluperfect spectacle of himself.

That was it for Wilbur. His Fanne had done him in, but not without strenuous effort of his own. He lost his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. He lost his long-held membership in the House of Representatives. He checked himself into the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland for a "checkup" and rehabilitation.

A distinguished 36-year legislative career had come to an abrupt finish.

There is nothing that has been written about Wilbur and his Fanne carrying on as lovers, but when a guy gets into his dotage years, and when he has been married to a faithful wife for 40 of those years, it really makes a person wonder.

From what has been reported, even Wilbur’s Fanne wondered. "Why does so powerful and intelligent a man make such a fuss over me?"

One might consider that other powerful politicians would take note. However, it seems that far too many do not.


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