Fall, Albert B. (Albert Bacon), 1861-1944

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1861-11-26
Death 1944-11-30
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Albert B. Fall arrived in N.M. in 1883, and began prospecting at Kingston. He moved to Las Cruces to practice law and became active in Democratic politics. In 1902, he switched his affiliation to the Republican party and continued his climb through various elective and appointive offices. In 1921, Fall was appointed Secretary of the Interior. While in this position Fall was instrumental in transferring the Navy oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo. and Elk Hills, Calif. from the Navy Dept. to the Interior Dept. In secrecy and without competitive bidding, Fall then leased Teapot Dome to Sinclair's Mammoth Oil Company and the Elk Hills oil reserve to his friend Doheny's Pan American Company. After Fall resigned in 1923 there was a congressional investigation. Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe.

From the description of Papers, 1851-1927, (bulk 1922-1927) [microform]. (New Mexico State University). WorldCat record id: 52718616

From the description of Papers, 1851-1927, (bulk 1922-1927). (University of New Mexico-Main Campus). WorldCat record id: 43723731

Politician in New Mexico in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Jailed 1931-1932 for conviction of accepting $100,000 and a position in an oil company in return for the use of government-owned oil reserves.

From the description of Papers, 1918-1943. (Washington State University). WorldCat record id: 29852664

Albert B. Fall, senator from New Mexico (1912-21) and secretary of the Interior (1921-23), came to the West from his native Kentucky, entered the field of law, purchased a large cattle ranch, and entered New Mexico politics. He was one of the state's first senators and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee Investigating Mexican Affairs. As secretary of the Interior he concentrated his efforts on the development of the nation's resources, such as the controversy over Alaskan resources, the transfer from the Forestry Bureau to the Interior Department, the building of Boulder Dam, and the leasing of the Elk Hills (CA) and Teapot Dome (WY) Naval Oil Reserves. These oil leases ended his career and Fall, deemed guilty of having accepted a bribe, was sentenced to prison and died in 1944.

From the description of Papers of Albert B. Fall, 1887-1941. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122552046

Albert B. Fall arrived in New Mexico in 1883, and began prospecting in Kingston. He moved to Las Cruces to practice law and became active in Democratic Party politics. In 1902, he switched his affiliation to the Republican party and continued his climb through various elective and appointed offices. In 1921, Fall was appointed Secretary of the Interior. While in this position Fall was instrumental in transferring the Navy oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo. and Elk Hills, Calif. from the Navy Department to the Interior Department. In secrecy and without competitive bidding, Fall then leased Teapot Dome to Sinclair's Mammoth Oil Company, and the Elk Hills oil reserve to his friend Doheny's Pan American Company. After Fall resigned in 1923 there was a congressional investigation. Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe.

From the guide to the Albert Bacon Fall Photograph Collection, 1890-1929, (Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.)

Albert B. Fall was a lawyer in New Mexico. He served as a United States senator in 1913 and in 1919 and as the Secretary of Interior under President Warren G. Harding. Fall was convicted as one of the principal characters in the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921-1924.

From the description of Albert B. Fall signature, 1887 June 16. (Museum of New Mexico Library). WorldCat record id: 37236617

From the guide to the Albert B. Fall Signature, 1887, (Museum of New Mexico. Fray Angélico Chávez History Library.)

Albert Bacon Fall was born November 26, 1861, in Frankfort, Kentucky, to William R. and Edmonia Taylor Fall. Fall attended schools as a child in Nashville, Tennessee, but was primarily self-educated. At age eleven Fall was employed in a cotton factory. As a young man Fall headed west looking for better climate for his lifelong health problems. He lived in Oklahoma and in Texas, and eventually settled in the New Mexico Territory.

Between the years 1879-1881, Fall taught school and studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1891 and started his practice in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

May 7, 1883, Fall married Emma Garland Morgan in Clarksville, Texas. The couple had four children: a son, John (Jack) Morgan Fall; and three daughters: Alexina Chase, Caroline Everhart, and Jouett Elliott. Both Jack and his sister Caroline died within a week of each other in 1918 from an influenza epidemic that was sweeping the nation. The family home was the Three Rivers Ranch in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, which they owned and operated until the property was foreclosed by E. L. Doheny in 1929. The Falls also maintained a home in El Paso, Texas.

In the 1890s, Fall became involved in New Mexico Territorial politics and was elected to the New Mexico Territorial House of Representatives. He served as an associate justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court and for two terms as attorney-general. Fall also took part in the 1911 convention which framed the constitution for the state of New Mexico.

In 1912, Fall was elected one of the first United States senators for the state of New Mexico. He served as senator until 1921 when President Harding appointed him Secretary of the Interior. While in this capacity, Fall was instrumental in leasing government oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and Elk Hills, California, activities that led to conspiracy and bribery investigations and trials from 1924-1929.

Fall was convicted and served nine months at the State Prison in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for accepting a $100,000 bribe from Edward L. Doheny. Doheny was acquitted of the bribery charges brought against him.

Emma Fall died in 1943, apparently after a period of hospitalization. Fall died November 30, 1944, in El Paso, Texas, after a long illness. His family never ceased to claim his innocence in the political scandal.

From the guide to the Albert B. Fall family papers, 1905-1941., (Archives and Special Collections, New Mexico State University Library)

Albert B. Fall. Part of the Albert B. Fall Pictorial Collection, (PICT 000-131, SC Box 2).

Albert Bacon Fall was born November 21, 1861, in Frankfort, Kentucky, where he first studied law. In 1883 Fall married Emma Garland Morgan in Clarksville, Texas, and came to New Mexico in 1885. He settled in Kingston in 1886 where he prospected for gold and silver, worked as an underground miner and a cowboy, and became friends with Edward L. Doheny, a fellow prospector and miner. In 1887 Fall moved to Las Cruces, where he continued studying law.

In 1888 Fall entered frontier politics as a Democratic candidate for the New Mexico Territorial Legislature, the only election he ever lost. He was admitted to the Territorial Bar in 1889 and opened his first law office, beginning his legal career as a specialist in Mexican law, Southwestern resources, and water rights. In 1889 Fall was elected to the Dona Ana Board of Acequia Commissioners; in 1890 he was elected to the New Mexico Territorial House of Representatives (Lower House), was selected Floor Leader, and appointed Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 1892 he was elected to the Territorial Council (Upper House). In March 1893 President Grover Cleveland appointed him Residing Judge for the Third Judicial District of New Mexico and Associate Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court. He resigned that post in February 1895.

In 1896 Fall was reelected to the Territorial Senate and in 1897 was appointed Solicitor General for the Territory. Fall served as president of the New Mexico Bar Association in 1897. In March 1898 during the Spanish-American War he enlisted in the 1st Voluntary Infantry, was commissioned captain, and served until 1899. Following the New Mexico Statehood Convention in 1901, Fall was appointed a Democratic delegate and went to Washington, D. C. in the cause of statehood. He was reelected to the territorial council in 1902, his last political office as a Democrat.

Severing his connections with the Democrats he became a Republican in 1902. His legal and political reputation grew, his El Paso firm prospered, and in 1906 he purchased Tres Ritos (Three Rivers) Ranch which figured prominently in later Senate investigations. In April 1907 Fall was again appointed Attorney General (formerly Solicitor General) of New Mexico Territory. Fall was a Republican delegate to the 1911 New Mexico Constitutional Convention and participated in framing the state constitution.

Elected by the New Mexico legislature to the U. S. Senate in 1912, Fall was one of the first two senators from the new State of New Mexico. Re-elected, he served in the Senate until March 4, 1921. Appointed to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1918, he served as Chair of the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Mexican Affairs where he was a staunch advocate for the protection of American property and lives in revolutionary Mexico. On March 5, 1921, President Harding appointed him Secretary of the Interior. Fall served two years, resigning March 4, 1923, to return to private legal practice.

On April 7, 1922, Interior Secretary Fall leased the Teapot Dome Oil Reserves to Harry F. Sinclair and on December 11, 1922, leased the Elk Hills Oil Reserves to Edward L. Doheny. The Doheny agreement also provided for the construction of extensive storage tanks at Pearl Harbor for refined naval fuel oil reserves to fortify against an anticipated attack by the Japanese in the Pacific. In 1923 Congressional investigations began which revealed that Sinclair had purchased a 1/3 interest in Fall's Tres Ritos Ranch, and that Doheny had lent Fall $100,000 in 1921 to purchase land, newly offered for sale, which was adjacent to Tres Ritos and controlled its water supply. The Congressional investigations resulted in criminal prosecutions against Fall, Doheny and Sinclair. Fall became the center of the famous Teapot Dome scandal which was a major campaign issue in the 1924 presidential election during which Democrats alleged that widespread corruption was rampant among Republicans in Harding_s Administration.

Fall, Sinclair, and Doheny were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Sinclair was found guilty of contempt and served nine months. In October 1929 Fall was convicted of receiving a $100,000 bribe from Doheny. Doheny was later acquitted of bribery respecting the same bribe for which Fall was convicted. Both cases were tried by the same judge in the same court, with the same two federal prosecutors and the same defense counsel. Fall was sentenced to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, the only defendant convicted in the original cases stemming from the 1923-24 Senate investigations.

During his bribery trial, Fall's failing health worsened and he suffered a hemorrhage of the lungs. A panel of four Court-appointed doctors thereafter declared him too ill to continue the trial, stating his life would be endangered, but Fall insisted the trial proceed. Due to his fragile condition, he had to be carried in and out of court, constantly attended by a nurse. In April 1931 Fall lost his appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals, ending eight years of investigation and litigation. Showing compassion for Fall's condition, the Department of Justice allowed one day to be tacked onto his sentence, making Fall eligible to serve his sentence as a Federal prisoner in the New Mexico State Penitentiary at Santa Fe, near a good hospital and close to his family. Driven by ambulance from El Paso, Fall entered prison July 20, 1931. During his entire incarceration he remained confined to his bed in the prison hospital, where he was diagnosed with multiple illnesses including chronic tuberculosis. After serving nine months, Fall was released May 9, 1932, again departing in an ambulance.

The first presidential cabinet member to be convicted and imprisoned for a felony committed while in public office, the scandal tainted Fall permanently. It ruined his career, eclipsed his prior achievements, and marked him for unsavory renown in every general account of American history. He spent his last years in near poverty, his health broken and his reputation destroyed. In 1929 after other creditors foreclosed on Fall's mortgage, E. L. Doheny acquired control of Tres Ritos Ranch and subsequently foreclosed on Fall for failure to repay the $100,000 loan, allowing Fall to continue living on the ranch for a nominal rent. Fall was evicted in 1936 following Doheny's death. He died November 30, 1944, in the Hotel Dieu, a Catholic hospital in El Paso. For the remainder of his life Fall insisted that his transactions with Sinclair and Doheny were legitimate business loans, totally disassociated from the leasing of the naval oil reserves.

From the guide to the Albert B. Fall Papers, 1851-1927, 1922-1927, (University of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research.)

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Subjects:

  • Teapot Dome Scandal, 1921-1924
  • Natural resources
  • Legislators--Archives
  • Political corruption
  • Teapot Dome Scandal, 1921-1920--History--Sources
  • Conservation of natural resources
  • Public officers
  • Water reuse
  • Political corruption--History--Sources
  • Cabinet officers--Archives
  • Teapot Dome Scandal, 1921-1924--Sources
  • Indians of North America
  • Land use--New Mexico
  • Petroleum industry and trade--History--Sources
  • Politicians--Correspondence
  • Oil industries
  • Political corruption--United States

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  • Mexico (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • Mexico (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • Mexico (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • Mexico (as recorded)
  • New Mexico (as recorded)
  • Mexico (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)