Martha Beall Mitchell
|Martha Beall Mitchell|
Martha Mitchell (right) with Julie Nixon Eisenhower
September 2, 1918
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
|Died||May 31, 1976
New York City
|Cause of death||Multiple myeloma|
|Resting place||Bellwood Cemetery,
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
|Monuments||Martha Beall Mitchell Home and Museum|
|Education||Pine Bluff High School
Stephens College, Missouri
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
University of Miami
|Alma mater||University of Miami
|Known for||Watergate scandal
The Martha Mitchell effect
|Spouse(s)||Clyde Jennings, Jr. (m. 1946–57)
John N. Mitchell (m. 1957–73)
Martha Beall Mitchell (September 2, 1918 – May 31, 1976) was the wife of John N. Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. She gained notoriety in the press during the Nixon administration for her frequent phone calls to reporters and colorful comments on the state of the nation, becoming a household name, appearing on several high-profile magazine covers, and becoming a controversial figure in her own right. Her alcoholism and eccentric behavior led to a divorce from John Mitchell in 1973. She died of complications of multiple myeloma three years later.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to cotton broker George V. Beall and teacher Arie Beall (née Ferguson), Mitchell graduated from Pine Bluff High School in 1937, She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Miami, from which she received a BA in history. She worked for about a year as a teacher in Mobile, Alabama, then returned to Pine Bluff in 1945. After World War II, she began work as a secretary at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, but was soon transferred (with her boss, Brigadier General Augustin Mitchell Prentiss) to Washington, D.C., where she met Clyde Jennings, Jr. whom she married on 5 October 1946, and with whom she moved to New York. By Jennings, she had a son, Clyde Jay Jennings (b. 2 November 1947). The couple separated on 18 May 1956 and divorced on 1 August 1957.
She married John N. Mitchell on 30 December 1957. They had a daughter, Martha Elizabeth (nicknamed “Marty”) on 10 January 1961. John Mitchell met Nixon professionally, became a friend and political associate, and was appointed Attorney General after Nixon's 1968 election to the presidency. As a result of his association with the 1972 campaign, he became associated with the growing Watergate scandal.
The Mitchells separated in 1973. After the Watergate break-in, Martha Mitchell began contacting reporters when her husband's role in the scandal became known, which earned her the title, "the Mouth of the South." Nixon was later to tell interviewer David Frost in 1977 that Martha was a distraction to John Mitchell, such that no one was minding the store, and "If it hadn't been for Martha Mitchell, there'd have been no Watergate."
At one point, she insisted she had been held against her will in a California hotel room and sedated to prevent her from making controversial phone calls to the news media. Because of her allegations, she was discredited and even abandoned by most of her family, except her son Jay. Nixon aides even leaked to the press that she had a “drinking problem”. The "Martha Mitchell effect", in which a psychiatrist mistakenly or purposely identifies a patient's extraordinary claims as delusions, despite their veracity, was later named after her.
In 1976, in advanced stages of multiple myeloma, Mitchell slipped into a coma and died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City at age 57. She is buried in the Bellwood Cemetery in Pine Bluff.
The birthplace and childhood home of Martha Beall Mitchell, now the Martha Beall Mitchell Home and Museum, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in January 1978.
In 2004, a three-act play, This is Martha Speaking…, by Thomas Doran premiered in Pine Bluff, Arkansas starring Lee Anne Moore as Martha Mitchell and Michael Childers as John Mitchell. That same year, a one-woman play about Mitchell, Dirty Tricks by John Jeter, appeared off-Broadway.
- "Martha Mitchell dies of rare bone cancer". Eugene Register-Guard (Oregon). UPI. May 31, 1976. p. 1A.
- Reeves, Richard (2002). President Nixon : alone in the White House (1st Touchstone ed. 2002. ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 511. ISBN 0-7432-2719-0.
- Martha Mitchell on findagrave.com
- Brantley, Ben (21 October 2004). "Mrs. Mitchell on Line 3, Something About Watergate". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
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