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"On this Day In American History"

On this day in 1974 Representative Wilbur D. Mills, a Democrat from Arkansas, resigns as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the aftermath of the first truly public sex scandal in American politics. On October 7, 1974, at 2 a.m., Mills was stopped by Washington park police while driving at night with his lights off. The 65-year-old representative, an influential congressman and married man, was visibly intoxicated, his face was scratched, and his companion, 38-year-old Annabell Battistella, had bruised eyes. Battistella then proceeded to jump into the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial and had to be pulled out by the police. She was later identified as a popular stripper who went by the names “Fanne Foxe” and the “Argentine Firecracker.” Congressmen had been involved in these types of improprieties before but the details were generally kept quiet, saving the politicians from public disgrace. However, on this occasion, the story of Representative Mills’ sordid affair with the stripper was heavily publicized. At first, Mills denied all the allegations but later admitted he had joined a party Battistella was present at after “a few refreshments.” Mills was subsequently reelected to Congress, but because of the escalating scandal, he was forced to retire his chairmanship and later announced that he would not run for reelection.

Comment .... I met Wilber Mills in early November of 1977 when he spoke at the Serenity Hills Alcohol Rehab in Canaan Connecticut..I was Sober for about 3 months at the time... I won the Big Book in the raffle and he Autographed it for me.. I have since given it away to a friend of mine. He told of his experience and at the time was sober. He was the celebrity speaker at the event. He was an inspiration to me... My whole family was with me.. It was a great day.. Actually, I have had a great life so far. I have been clean and sober now for 39 years. You cannot imagine how grateful I am for that...

Note ..... Mills did not run for re-election in 1976 and was succeeded by Democrat Jim Guy Tucker. Thereafter, Mills practiced law at the prestigious Shea and Gould Law Firm of New York's Washington Office, until he retired in 1991 and moved back to Arkansas to work on the establishment of the Wilbur D. Mills Treatment Center for Alcoholism, the University of Arkansas Medical School's Wilbur D. Mills Endowed Chairs on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and the Masonic Grand Lodge's fundraising campaign. Mr. Mills died in Searcy, Arkansas in 1992.
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L.J. Ferrari

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