W. Marvin Watson, Businessman and Presidential Confidant, Dies at 93

politics
November 30, 2017Nov 30, 2017

The Washington Post reports that W. Marvin Watson Jr. has died at age 93. Watson was a Texas businessman who earned his way into the White House as President Lyndon B. Johnson's most loyal confidant, serving as his unofficial chief of staff and holding the Cabinet position of postmaster general. He passed away near Houston on November 26. 

Watson first met Johnson in 1948, when the future president was campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat. The Post writes that Watson was immediately drawn to the future president's imposing and aggressive personality. It was in Waco, Texas when Watson recalled meeting Johnson for the first time. Watson, a World War II veteran studying business at the Baylor University, was among a crowd of people standing underneath a helicopter, where Johnson threw out his Stetson hat for the crowd to catch. 

In his 2004 memoir, "Chief of Staff," Watson couldn't help but remember what attracted him to President Johnson. “He radiated enormous energy, more so than I have observed in any other person before or since,” he said. 

Since meeting each other in 1948, he was a political ally to Johnson until he eventually arrived at the White House in early 1965. In fact, according to the New York Times, Watson had helped Johnson secure the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

Johnson once remarked that Watson was the "most efficient man I have ever known," claiming that he is "as wise as my father, gentle as my mother and loyal to my side as Lady Bird," who was Johnson's wife. 

Once Johnson became president, Watson agreed to take the job as the unofficial chief of staff, on the condition that he would be able to have full access to the president and would have an adjacent office to the president. He then quickly became Johnson's most trusted confidant. 

The New York Times writes that Watson hired and fired staffers, coordinated White House relations with the DNC and Congress, acted as a liaison to the F.B.I., and acted as the only person in the White House besides Johnson who could read the agency's reports on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. 

His duties as the unofficial chief of staff ended in 1968 when Johnson appointed him postmaster general, which was a cabinet-level position. Watson then helped to pave the way for the Post Office to become an independent agency. Despite no longer being directly at Johnson's side, he remained a close ally and confidant to the president. 

Watson is survived by his wife, Marion. He has one daughter, Kim Rathmann, as well as sons William III and Winston. He is also survived by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

You can watch an interview with M. Marvin Watson in the video below, first included in the death report by the New York Times.

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