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Walter W. Liggett in 1929.
|Born||Walter William Liggett
February 14, 1886
|Died||December 9, 1935
Walter William Liggett (February 14, 1886 – December 9, 1935), was an American journalist who worked at several newspapers in New York City, including the New York Times, The Sun, New York Post, and the New York Daily News.
In the Twin Cities during the 1930s, Liggett worked as an investigative journalist and editor of the newspaper Midwest American. He specialized in exposes of Minneapolis and Saint Paul organized crime and their connections to corrupt politicians.
Walter Liggett was born on February 14, 1886, into a Minnesota farm family of Scotch-Irish descent. After leaving college, he worked for a succession of newspapers in Saint Paul, Skagway, Alaska, Washington state, and New York City. Liggett considered himself a Marxist, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Farmer-Labor Party, and was outspoken on a number of controversial issues. Liggett campaigned with U.S. Senator Charles August Lindbergh against United States involvement in the First World War and was also active in efforts to free Sacco and Vanzetti and Thomas Mooney.
In 1929-1930, he vaulted to national prominence with a series of articles for Plain Talk magazine which described the corruption wrought by Prohibition on American cities such as Washington, D.C., Boston and Minneapolis. When Congress held its first ever hearings on the efficacy of Prohibition in February 1930, Liggett was the first witness called to testify.
During the 1932 Presidential election, Liggett published a negative biography of Herbert Hoover, The Rise of Herbert Hoover. He harbored a grudge against Hoover dating to the Russian famine of 1921 when, as head of a relief organization, he was investigated for possible Soviet ties by the Bureau of Investigation on Hoover's behest as Secretary of Commerce.
After the Farmer-Labor Party took power in Minnesota, Liggett was disgusted by what he saw as mounting evidence of corruption within the Party, which he had enthusiastically supported. In a series of articles for the Midwest-America, Liggett accused senior Farmer-Labor politicians of collusion with organized crime. He especially focused on their alleged connections to the North Minneapolis crime family of Isadore Blumenfield. He made accusations of corruption against Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson and said that Olson deserved to be impeached and prosecuted.
In response, Blumenfield arranged a meeting with Liggett and allegedly offered him a bribe to stop his exposes. When Liggett refused to accept the money or stop his articles, he was severely beaten by Blumenfield and his associates. Liggett unsuccessfully attempted to press charges.
Soon after, Liggett was arrested and prosecuted on kidnapping and sodomy charges, but was acquitted after evidence of perjury by the alleged victims came to light. Ligget escalated his attacks and began printing a list of reasons for Olson's impeachment on the front page of the Midwest-American.
In response, Blumenfield associate Meyer Schuldberg telephoned Liggett and threatened him with a lawsuit for slander. Ligget responded, "Go ahead if you think I can't prove what I say!" Schuldberg allegedly responded that there were other ways to shut him up.
Soon after, on December 9, 1935. Walter Liggett was murdered by a Thompson submachine gun in a drive by shooting outside his apartment. His wife and children were in a car only inches away and witnessed his death. Weeping and saying that she would never forget his grinning face, Mrs. Liggett picked Blumenfeld out of a police lineup as her husband's killer. Three other witnesses identified Blumenfeld as the shooter, too.
In a trial which made worldwide headlines, Mrs. Liggett and the three other witnesses testified that Blumenfeld was the shooter. The car from which the shots were fired was tracked down and found to be owned by Meyer Schuldberg. Despite this and considerable other evidence, Blumenfeld was acquitted. No one else was ever charged and Blumenfeld remained a major organized crime figure until dying of heart disease in 1981.
Mrs. Liggett never believed that there was "a Chinaman's chance" of Blumenfeld's trial ending with a conviction. She also believed that Blumenfeld had committed the murder at the request of senior Farmer-Labor politicians and referred to the Blumenfeld brothers in court as "Olson's gang."
Marda Liggett Woodbury, who was only a child when she witnessed her father's murder, grew up to become a professional librarian. She authored a biography of her father, which was published by University of Minnesota Press in 1998.
- "Walter William Liggett". New York University. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
Walter William Liggett (1886-1935), American author, journalist and political activist from Minnesota, worked at several newspapers in New York City, including the New York Times, Sun, New York Post, Daily News, and the Socialist publication, The Call, before becoming a free-lance writer. ...
- Woodbury, Marda Liggett, Stopping the Presses: The Murder of Walter W. Liggett. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (1998)
- Stopping the presses: the murder of Walter W. Liggett by Marda Woodbury
- The Rise of Herbert Hoover by Walter W. Liggett