News

THE MAGNATE MEETS HIS MAKER

I could hear the organ playing from the other side of Seventh Avenue. Kemper Marley's funeral would start in less than half an hour.

Already, the cavernous Church of the Beatitudes on the corner of West Glendale Avenue was nearly packed.

It was too hot for jackets and ties but all the businessmen were wearing them. The ranchers came in their cowboy hats and bola ties.

Parking places were reserved near the church door for old friends like ex-Senator Barry Goldwater. He arrived alone and limped painfully into the church on a cane.

Eddie Basha, owner of the grocery-store chain, was among many of the most powerful men and women in Arizona who came to pay tribute.

I took a seat in a rear row. The crowd kept pouring in. The latecomers lined up along the rear wall.

It was a standing-room-only funeral that marked both the end of an era and a long criminal investigation.

Just two days before, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that John Harvey Adamson could not be put to death in the gas chamber. And now, Marley, the man often rumored to have been the money man behind the slaying of Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles, was about to be buried.

The service began.
Many in the packed church were startled when they recognized that a famous saloon song was to be the first musical number.

"My Way," made famous by Frank Sinatra in the Sixties, was being played on the church organ and sung in tribute to Marley by the Reverend Winthrop Stone.

Marley always said it was his favorite song because it captured the way he had lived his own life.

It was silent in the church as everyone strained to hear the words:
"I lived a life that's full/
I traveled each and every highway/
And more, much more than that/
I did it my way."
A man sitting nearby chuckled. He nudged his companion.
"That says it all," he said. "Old Kemper was one tough son of a bitch."
"Right," said his companion.

Who was Kemper Marley?
Why would there be such a turnout?
I thought of something Norman Mailer said:

"Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists."

Certainly, that's the way it was for Marley. Once he was connected by newspaper stories to the Bolles murder, his reputation became something he could no longer control.

After being fingered as the man who put up the money to have Bolles killed, that charge--whether true or false--became a permanent part of his dossier.

Each time Marley's name was mentioned in the newspapers a qualifying sentence was always added, pointing out that Marley had never been charged in the Bolles murder.

He had never been charged. But his name was always mentioned.
In effect, the constant mentioning of his purported role in the murder became his punishment. And there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The black-robed minister was speaking now, telling us that we should celebrate the life of Kemper Marley with him.

"When God acquits," the minister said, "can anyone condemn?"
Was he actually making an oblique reference to the Bolles murder? Was it merely a Freudian slip? I wonder. So must others.

The minister introduced a man named Emmett Doherty as one of Marley's close friends. Doherty appeared to be about thirty years younger than Marley, however.

Doherty described Marley as a tireless worker who always said:
"Forget about yesterday. Make the most of today."
If money was rolling into your bank accounts the way it did for Marley, that is an excellent philosophy.

Marley's friends have always scoffed at the suggestion that he would hire such a motley crew as Adamson, Jimmy "the Plumber" Robison, Neal Roberts, and Max Dunlap.

"Marley would either do it himself," the friends still insist, "or else he'd hire the best in the business to get it done cleanly."

None of them ever stop to think of the implications of this alibi. What they actually are saying is that they agreed that Marley was most certainly capable of hiring out a murder.

Here are the bare facts of Marley's life.
He died at 83 with a fortune estimated at better than $47 million. To many, he was larger than life, a rough-and-tumble John Wayne character. He was loyal to his friends and intractable toward his enemies.

And yet, Marley possessed many admirable traits. As one reporter who covered Marley for years said: "Nobody can be a son of a bitch all the time."

In a computer age, Marley still did business on a handshake basis. He loaned money without collateral. Reportedly, he loaned more than a million dollars to Max Dunlap, one of the figures in the Bolles killing, and then told him to forget about repaying it.

Dunlap, who was once found guilty of the Bolles murder, did not attend the church service.

Marley, the liquor distributor, race wire entrepreneur, rancher and political wheeler and dealer, was as close as you get to being royalty in this state.

His life was one of epic proportions. During the course of a single lifetime, Marley moved from the edges of organized crime to become a multimillionaire.

Marley was like a lot of rich men who become powerful in this state. They make their money behind the scenes. In Marley's case, it was liquor and then real estate.

When prohibition ended in 1933, Marley organized the wholesale liquor business that became United Liquor Company with branches all over the state.

Marley was into many ventures. In the Forties, he financed a racing wire and hired known mob people to run it.

He made so much money here that it was only a natural step to acquire vast tracts of real estate and grow rich on the boom.

A few years back, it was revealed that Marley owned twelve square miles of land near the McDowell Mountains. The land was valued at $112 million and Marley paid only $660 a year in taxes on it. At the time of his death, Maricopa County was still fighting to collect millions from Marley in back taxes.

Marley fought to get the Bolles killing behind him. He sued the Investigative Reporters and Editors Incorporated for $150 million for defaming him.

He endured a long libel trial in Maricopa County Court and underwent a grueling cross-examination.

I watched him closely at the trial. He was tough, all right. And pretty damned mean, too. He never gave the slightest hint that he had a sense of humor.

Marley sued for $150 million and was awarded $15,000. But he never collected a penny. The IRE had filed a countersuit and both parties agreed to forget the money and drop the suit.

The libel trial cost Marley an estimated $300,000 in legal fees.
When Bolles' wife sued him for $12 million, Marley got his lawyers into gear and countersued her for $51 million. He knew about the use of force. He knew about power.

At the end of the service, everyone filed slowly out of the church. Marley's body was placed in a great hearse. The crowd stood watching silently as two long, white limousines pulled up behind the hearse and his family and friends climbed inside.

The funeral cortege moved away. Goldwater, all alone, stopped to talk with some people on the sidewalk. Then he limped to his car.

It was over.
I remembered something Marley's friend Doherty said in his eulogy.
"Kemper loved his country. He supported candidates with his time and money. He wanted to preserve the free-enterprise system."

Don't they all?

Many in the packed church were startled when they recognized that a famous saloon song was to be the first musical number.

He had never been charged in the Bolles murder. But his name was always mentioned.