Sen. Albert Bacon Fall, (R-NM)

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Sen. Albert Bacon Fall, (R-NM)

Birthplace: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky, United States
Death: November 30, 1944 (83)
El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, United States (Death followed a long illness.)
Place of Burial: El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Roberson Fall and Edmonia Louisa Fall
Husband of Emma Garland Fall
Father of John Morgan Fall; Jouett Elliott; Alexina Chase and Caroline Everhart Fall
Brother of Katherine Pettey

Occupation: U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior
Managed by: Charles W Lewis, II
Last Updated:

About Sen. Albert Bacon Fall, (R-NM)

Albert Bacon Fall (November 26, 1861 – November 30, 1944) was a United States Senator from New Mexico and the Secretary of the Interior under President Warren G. Harding, infamous for his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal.

Early life and family

Fall was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1861 to William R. and Edmonia Taylor Fall. Fall attended schools as a child in Nashville, Tennessee, but was primarily self-educated. At age eleven Fall was employed in a cotton factory. This early employment is most likely the cause of several respiratory health problems he suffered throughout his life. Due to these illnesses, as a young man Fall headed west looking for better climate. He lived in Oklahoma and in Texas, but eventually settled in Las Cruces in the New Mexico Territory where he practiced law.

Between the years of 1879–1881, he was employed as an educator while he studied law. On May 7, 1883, Fall married Emma Garland Morgan in Clarksville, Texas. The couple had four children: a son, John (Jack) Morgan Fall; and three daughters: Alexina Chase, Caroline Everhart and Jouett Elliott. Both Jack and his sister Caroline died within a week of each other in 1918 from an influenza epidemic that was sweeping the nation. The family home was the Three Rivers Ranch in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. The Falls also maintained a home in El Paso, Texas.


Fall was admitted to the bar in 1891 and started practice immediately. He was appointed judge of the third judicial district in 1893. During the Spanish-American War, Fall served as captain of an infantry company.

Albert Jennings Fountain murder case

On February 1, 1896, attorney Albert Jennings Fountain and his eight-year-old son Henry disappeared near the White Sands on the way to their home in Mesilla, near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Fall successfully defended the three men—Oliver Lee, Jim Gilliland and Billy McNew—charged with murder in the case, at trial in Hillsboro, New Mexico.

Fall was known to have disliked Fountain, whose land holdings made him a powerful rival to land owners Fall and Oliver Lee. Fall's association with Oliver Lee had begun when Fall assisted Lee during a criminal case. In their employ were smalltime gunmen Billy McNew and Jim Gilliland. "In return for the legal services of Fall, Lee and his men terrorized men and voters on the lawyer’s behalf." By the late 1890s, Lee was rustling cattle from other cattlemen in the area, and then altering the brands to resemble his own. When law enforcement officials closed in, Fall dealt with the legal issues.

Fountain, however, showed little fear of the Fall/Lee faction, and challenged them openly in the courts as well as in the political arena. Many factors indicated that Lee was involved in the disappearance and murder of Fountain, but investigators had to battle the local court system, Fall's legal talents and local law enforcement. The bodies of Fountain and his young son were never found, which hampered prosecution. Charges against McNew were dismissed, while Lee and Gilliland were acquitted.

In 1908 Fall successfully defended the accused killer of former Sheriff Pat Garrett. Garrett, who had killed outlaw Billy the Kid in 1881, was the same lawman who pursued those suspected in the Albert Jennings Fountain killings.

Election to the Senate

As a member of the Republican Party, Fall was elected as one of the first U.S. Senators from New Mexico in the year 1912. It was widely known that he made a political alliance with Thomas B. Catron, the man who served alongside him, to ensure his own election. This controversy made Fall a target of the local Republican Party, as they believed Fall had not contributed to their efforts to secure New Mexico's statehood, and was not worthy of their nomination. Fall was also severely disliked by Democrats. This came to a head when, under Senate rules, Fall's term was over in March 1913, so his name was again up before the legislature for re-appointment. After various votes, the legislature sent Fall's name to the governor. Governor McDonald, on the advice of his Democratic legal advisor, Summers Burkhart, said that the legislature's procedure had been illegal, and failed to sign the credentialing papers in an attempt to oust Fall by forcing a special session of the legislature and a new vote. It didn't work; Fall won the special legislative election. When re-election came up in 1918, Fall was ambivalent about running, but nonetheless accepted the Republican nomination. In the general election he overcame a bitter challenge from Democrat William B. Walton, even though Fall never made a campaign speech. Some commentators suggest that it was sympathy for Fall's tragic loss of his two children in the flu epidemic that won him the election.

In the Senate, Fall served as chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of Commerce and Labor, was noted for his support of the suffrage movement and his extreme isolationist tendencies when the US entered World War I. After Catron was beaten in a primary election of 1916, Fall lost his only local political ally. However, while in the Senate he had become close friends with the people who would later make up the infamous Ohio Gang, which secured him a cabinet position in March 1921. While local politicians may have opposed him, his popularity with the residents of New Mexico was reportedly very high.

Teapot Dome scandal

Fall was appointed to the position of Secretary of the Interior by President Warren G. Harding in March 1921. Soon after his appointment, Harding convinced Edwin Denby, the Secretary of the Navy, that Fall's department should take over responsibility for the Naval Reserves at Elk Hills, California, Buena Vista, California, and Teapot Dome, Wyoming. This last setting became the namesake of the scandal to erupt in April 1922 when the Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary Fall had decided that two of his friends, oilmen Harry F. Sinclair (Mammoth Oil Corporation) and Edward L. Doheny (Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company), should be given leases to drill in parts of these Naval Reserves without open bidding.

His acceptance of kickbacks for the leases resulted in the Teapot Dome scandal. The investigation found Fall guilty of conspiracy and bribery, $385,000 having been paid to him by Edward L. Doheny. Fall was jailed for one year as a result—the first former cabinet officer sentenced to prison as a result of misconduct in office.

Doheny was not only acquitted on the charge of bribing Fall, but Doheny's corporation foreclosed on Fall's home in Tularosa Basin, New Mexico, because of "unpaid loans" which turned out to be that same $100,000 bribe. Harry Sinclair was fined and served six months for contempt of court.

Albert Fall died, November 30, 1944, after a long illness, in El Paso, Texas.

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Sen. Albert Bacon Fall, (R-NM)'s Timeline

November 26, 1861
Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky, United States
November 30, 1944
Age 83
El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, United States
El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, United States