Archive for Thursday, August 30, 2007

Con man led rich life, died in bankruptcy

August 30, 2007

Last week I talked about all the political speeches that were held on the big porch at the Lansing Hotel. I was reminded about John R. Brinkley, a very "colorful" character who gave speeches all over the state of Kansas, so he may have been here in Lansing, too.

Brinkley traveled in a vehicle that had sides that would fold down to make a platform for him to stand on. He had a large public address system and could be heard as far as a quarter of a mile away. If elected, he promised free school books, free auto tags, lower taxes, better times for working people, lakes in every county, increased rainfall, an open door to the governor's office and a house cleaning in the state house.

What a show he put on. He traveled in his 16-cylinder Cadillac or his big blue plane named "The Romancer."

He was able to do all this because he had a powerful radio station in Milford that he started in 1923. He made lots of money by selling products and gimmicks on his radio station.

He was a self-proclaimed doctor and diagnosed illnesses and prescribed medicine over the radio. He had a setup with drug stores around the country that would permit him to collect payment for his prescriptions. He was known as the "Goat Gland Doctor" and made millions by performing his controversial goat gland operation designed to restore male virility and fertility.

His medical practice was in Milford and he would receive 3,000 letters a day and helped establish a new post office in that town.

He ran for Kansas's governor three times, in 1930, 1932 and 1934. He was a "write in" in 1930, and many of his votes were thrown out because of incorrect spelling or lack of initials.

The 1932 election was considered the most astonishing, dramatic and colorful race in Kansas history, between Alf Landon, Harry R. Woodring and John R. Brinkley.

Brinkley lost all three elections, so after that he went to Del Rio, Texas, and put up a radio station there. The antenna was in Mexico and he paid $10,000 a month for a telephone line to connect the antenna to his station in Del Rio. He could be heard all over the United States, Canada and as far away as Russia.

His radio station was so powerful that it would cut into any local stations that you wanted to listen to. This happened to me many times, and most people were forced to listen to him whether they wanted to or not. He was a "con artist" and "medical charlatan." He had a captivating and charismatic personality. He owned a lavish mansion, expensive cars, planes, yachts and diamonds.

Finally, the Mexican government shut down his antenna; he fought numerous medical malpractice suits and battled the Internal Revenue Service over back taxes. In 1941 he was forced to file for bankruptcy and he died in 1942.

Let this be a lesson for you: Crime does not pay.

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