The last time we talked (which could be 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, or 5 weeks ago—it’s totally your call), we were discussing the life of Reuben B. Robertson, Jr., the president of Champion Paper and Fibre Company from 1950 to 1955 and from 1957 to 1960. During the interim two years, Robertson was deputy secretary of defense under Secretary Charles Wilson.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the part about his being the deputy defense secretary is impressive and all, but that was two years after Ron Tammen disappeared. Come to think of it, all of those hires he’d made of top-tier military and intelligence personnel happened during or after his Department of Defense (DoD) gig. What was he doing on a national level in the spring of 1953?
You make a good point. In the spring of 1953, Reuben Jr. had just returned from a trip. In February, he’d been named by President Eisenhower and Harold Stassen, director of the Mutual Security Agency, to lead a team of businessmen on a tour of Germany to assess the effects of U.S. spending there. The Mutual Security Agency was created in 1951 to facilitate the military and economic recovery of America’s allies after WWII. As director of the MSA, Stassen was a member of the National Security Council. He was also a member of Eisenhower’s cabinet. For this trip, 55 businessmen traveled to 14 Western European countries, and Reuben Jr. had led the German contingent, which included six other men. After two days of training, they arrived in Germany on February 16, 1953. Although news articles that I’ve read don’t state how long the trip lasted, I’m guessing that they were back by the end of February or early March.
One month earlier, in January 1953, Reuben Jr. had been elected to serve as one of four vice chairmen on the executive committee of the Business Advisory Council. The Business Advisory Council, now called the Business Council, was, at that time, an esteemed advisory group to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which was headed by the newly-appointed Secretary Sinclair Weeks. President Eisenhower had selected a number of his other cabinet posts from individuals who sat on the BAC, including Defense Secretary Charles Wilson, who was formerly president of General Motors.
So, in a nutshell, in the spring of 1953, Reuben Jr. was in Hamilton, while he was also helping out two of President Eisenhower’s cabinet members when he was asked, which seemed to be on a regular basis. He was traveling in powerful circles and making headlines while doing so.
Because I’m writing this on a deadline, and because much of this post involves speculation, I think we’ll go back to a Q&A format. Hope you’re cool with that?
Yeah, that’s fine. So you say he was making headlines. Is that how Miami University officials came to know him?
Headlines and word of mouth certainly contributed to his visibility in southwest Ohio. If you have a strong business school—and Miami University certainly does—you’re going to notice the most successful businesses in your area, especially if the company president’s network of friends and associates extends as broadly as Reuben Jr.’s did. People in the business school did take notice. In May of 1951, the School of Business Administration sponsored an industrial management conference and Reuben was the luncheon speaker. He spoke on wage stabilization, a topic he knew well, since his appointment on the federal Wage Stabilization Board was coming to an end in June.
Max Rosselot, an assistant professor of secretarial studies and office management in Miami’s School of Business Administration, spent the summer of 1952 working with Champion’s pool of stenographers, immersing himself in the company’s business practices to enhance his courses for future stenographers and secretaries. Rosselot would later go on to become Miami’s Registrar in the early- to mid-1960s.
Champion had noticed Miami too. In 1947, a staff member in Miami’s Psychology Department, R.C. Crosby, director of student counseling, taught a course in business psychology to 24 Champion employees. According to the December 1947 issue of The Log, “This course deals with some general principles of the psychology of human relationships and their application to business and industrial groups.” If you’re wondering why St. Clair Switzer wouldn’t be teaching the course—after all, business psychology was his baby—this was at a time when Switzer was still counseling veterans after the war and he hadn’t yet gone back to teaching courses at Miami. I’m sure he would have been interested though.
Another way that Miami officials would have known about Reuben Jr. was through his aunt.
His aunt? Who was Reuben Jr.’s aunt?
Rueben Robertson, Jr.’s aunt was Mary Moore Dabney Thomson, wife of Alexander Thomson, who, in turn, was Reuben Robertson, Sr.’s brother-in-law. (If you need to work that through your heads a minute, I can wait.) Alexander Thomson was a longtime executive with Champion Paper and Fibre, and was chairman of the board from 1935 until his death in 1939.
But Mary Moore Dabney Thomson did stuff too. From 1933 to 1941, she was a member of the Western College for Women’s Board of Trustees, and during the years 1941 though 1945, she was president of the college. As many of you know, Western College for Women was across the street from Miami University and, in 1974, it became part of the university. In fact, Thomson Hall was named for Mary Moore Dabney Thomson.
But here’s the rub: you know how I discussed in part 2 that women in those days tended to relinquish their first names when they got married? One case in point is Mary Moore Dabney Thomson, who was often referred to in the press as Mrs. Alexander Thomson. Seriously. She was president of a prestigious women’s college, and people still referred to her by her husband’s name, even when he was no longer alive. I say this with all due respect, but what the bloody hell is up with that, members of the 1930s…’40s…and ‘50s press?
Mary Moore Dabney Thomson was well-known in the Oxford community before the Champion Coated Paper Company merged with Champion Fibre Company in 1935, and well before her nephew Reuben Jr. arrived in Hamilton in 1937. I’d even bet that it was through her that some Miami officials became familiar with the Thomson and Robertson names.
In what can only be described as pure coincidence, Mary Moore Dabney Thomson’s portrait was revealed on April 18, 1953, in Western’s Clawson Hall, the day before Ron Tammen disappeared.
You mentioned previously that Reuben Robertson, Jr., sat on Miami’s Board of Trustees from 1957 until his death in 1960. Did Miami officials seek his input on anything earlier than that, such as when Ron was still a student?
Yes, they sure did. Shortly after President Ernest Hahne died in November 1952, Reuben Robertson, Jr., was asked by the vice president of Miami’s Board of Trustees to sit on the committee that would select the next president. Rueben Jr. represented the public on the six-member committee, which included the president of the Board of Trustees as an ex-officio member. Several months later, that committee decided upon John D. Millett, who was affirmed by the 27-member board in March 1953.
President Millett must have been equally impressed with Reuben Robertson, Jr. In 1956, he would invite him to be a commencement speaker, and, at that time, Reuben was bestowed an honorary law degree.
So…what’s your theory?
I’m thinking that someone contacted Lt. Col. Reuben Robertson, Jr., for help in funding research that was being conducted by Lt. Col. Switzer in Miami’s Department of Psychology. (Using military rank might go a long way when making the ask.) The asker might have come from Miami University, from the military, or from somewhere else. Reuben Robertson, Jr., knew a lot of people.
The reason that someone may have asked for his help is that universities are usually strapped for cash and the restrictions placed on the government’s spending of taxpayer dollars are tight. Perhaps they asked Reuben Jr. if he’d be willing to support students taking part in a university study that would benefit national security. That doesn’t sound too different than asking him if he’d be willing to buy a box of cookies to support the Girl Scouts. Reuben Robertson, Jr., believed strongly in education and national security. He was also a busy man. Maybe that’s all he felt he needed to know.
How might Dorothy Craig have fit into the picture?
Dorothy Craig was a loyal employee of Champion Paper and Fibre Company. In 1953 she’d been working there for 16 years as an order clerk, a job that carried a lot of weight. She was well-liked, and, like Reuben Jr., she treasured her family. Her main activity outside of work was church.
Even though Dorothy Craig dropped out of high school after her sophomore year, she still attended her alumni reunions—that’s how much of a people person she was. In a Hamilton Journal-News photo of their 45th class reunion, which took place in the summer of 1965, Dorothy is standing on the far righthand side of the third row. When I first saw the picture, I was hoping that Dorothy was the woman who was standing two people to her left. The other woman was tall with short, jet black hair, white-rimmed glasses with dark lenses, and dark lipstick. She looked like a spy who wouldn’t take sass from anybody. Dorothy, on the other hand, looked a little more doughy, a little more motherly—a gentle woman with a genuine, sweet smile. If someone needed a go-between to provide payments to Ron Tammen—someone who could handle an errand without asking too many questions—Dorothy Craig would have been perfect. Besides, she probably would have wanted to help support college students and protect national security too.
(I tried to obtain permission to post the photo, but I haven’t heard back from my contact. If I ever do, I’ll post it. In the meantime, if you have access to Newspaperarchives.com, you can view it here.)
What do you find most telling about the check from Dorothy Craig?
The quiet…always the quiet. When Carl Knox wrote his note about Dorothy, he didn’t include any additional information about the check—the date, the amount, and where it was cashed—even though I’m sure that information was provided to him. He didn’t include contact information for Dorothy Craig either, even though that information would have been given to him as well. And he kept Dorothy’s identity to himself or among a very small circle of people. Neither he nor the Oxford PD ever mentioned her in the news. If someone had contacted her, and her transaction with Ron was deemed inconsequential, they could have still provided an update to news reporters while protecting her anonymity. Something like: “An area woman had written a check to Ron for X dollars, but it turned out to be for (fill in the blank).”
Likewise, Dorothy Craig had just written a check to Ronald Tammen, a smart, serious-minded college student who disappeared shortly afterward. The news coverage would have been hard to miss, especially for someone who happened to be sitting in a roomful of order clerks at a paper company. Early and often, investigators lamented the lack of clues in the case. If I were Dorothy? I think I would have come forward and told someone about that check, be it the university, the Oxford PD, or even the FBI when they stepped in. Something like: “I just saw him on Saturday when I wrote him a check for (fill in the blank). He seemed OK.”
That is, unless I was instructed not to.
Do you think Dorothy Craig was the ‘woman from Hamilton’?
Let’s put it this way: I think Dorothy Craig was a woman from Hamilton who may have been acting as a liaison to help compensate Tammen for some activity he was involved with, such as a university study, perhaps. Whether she was the woman from Hamilton who I believe drove Ron away from Fisher Hall, I really don’t know.
You know what I’m thinking?
I’m thinking that this new Hamilton connection could make Ron’s blood type test a little more significant.
Interesting. Also, we may have landed on some new words that Carl Knox’s secretary was told not to say in front of a reporter.
Whew! This concludes today’s posts. I’d love to hear any comments or questions you might have about Dorothy Craig, Reuben Robertson, Jr., or any other topic you feel like discussing concerning Ronald Tammen’s disappearance.
I think you’re closer now to the truth than you’ve ever been!! So many resources at hand here for certain people to make Ron disappear from his room 70 years ago. Keep digging…..the only issue that’s damning is how much Miami was into this.
Thank you so much, Becky! My hope is that this new info may spark some recognition in someone—maybe someone whose parent or grandparent worked at Champion and knew Dorothy or Reuben Jr. , or maybe someone who used to be paid by Dorothy Craig when they were a student—but I agree that I think we’re getting closer. Thanks for your ongoing support! 🙏😁
So I’m spitballing here, but banks LOVE to do favors for wealthy/prominent citizens without asking too many questions (for a recent example, see convicted murderer and admitted fraudster Alex Murdaugh and Palmetto State Bank). Not saying Reuben was acting in a criminal capacity, exactly, but it seems to me that it wouldn’t be too difficult to arrange a meeting with at least one board member, perhaps through mutual contacts at the uni, and just say, hey, I’m doing some government work (or even less specific, maybe philanthropic work) through Miami U. I’d like to set up an account under my secretary’s name, as she is authorized to and often does this sort of business for me, and it would be more convenient to bank in Oxford.
I can totally see something like that. I don’t think Dorothy created the account on her own—I thought she was instructed to. And of course I don’t think it was her money. So your idea that he could’ve set up the account in her name…yeah, I like it.
Yep. And again, since he was well-known with $$ and connections, he wouldn’t necessarily have had to go through a normal teller or manager to do it, either, or one could have been instructed by the bank president or whomever to do whatever Reuben asked. Overall, the account seems like a way to wash the money.
I agree. The good news is that, even though CP&F isn’t a public institution, the university is. I’ll be trying to find out as much as I can on this topic thru public records requests.
Hi all: Two readers have asked for more details about the accident, wondering if its cause could have been more nefarious in nature. The driver of the car that killed Reuben Jr. was Willie Lee Griffin, age 31, of Rockdale Avenue, in Avondale, Ohio, which is part of Cincinnati. Oddly, he was only charged with drunk and reckless driving even though he killed someone. Vehicular manslaughter, a felony, was definitely a charge that could have been brought against him at that time. Later, in 1967, Ohio law divided the category into first and second degree vehicular manslaughter, with drunk and/or reckless driving considered first degree vehicular manslaughter, which was still a felony. I don’t know why they didn’t hold him accountable for Reuben Jr.’s death.
Fascinating as always Jen! Great work.
Thanks, Deb — Good to hear from you!
//There’s also this question: why would Dorothy Craig of Hamilton, Ohio, open a checking account in Oxford at all?//
I was too tired to post that last night, but the question sure jumps out at you.
// Why not open her account in Hamilton, which had perfectly nice banks?//
Agreed. We’re also getting into some of the sociological issues of the case. I’m going to guess in 1950’s Ohio, it was rare for a married woman to have her own checking account. And even with a joint account(maybe Carl Knox wrote her name as the signer of the check although both Mr. and Mrs. Craig were listed on the account line), I’d bet women might write checks to pay the household bills, but not much else.
//I wonder if Ron was just one student of several Miami students who were being paid for their participation in a study of some sort.//
You should ask your CIA contact how subjects were paid-in cash, from checks written on the US Treasury, through a background level third party, etc.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that the check was only in her name, which, I agree, would have been unusual for a married woman back then.
I think what I find so compelling about this is that check could have been a very big clue. But Carl didn’t treat it like one even at the beginning, before he’d had a chance to talk with her. He should have written down her address from the check, and he should have written down the date and the amount. I can only imagine what someone was telling him over the phone about that check…surely a lot more than what Carl had written down. But something made him stop writing.
Question (not related to Dorothy or the check): With all the high-level connections and government/military involvement that Reuben Jr had – is it possible his accidental death wasn’t an accident? Could someone have wanted him out of the way and (knowing he’d be returning from an event by a certain route) staged a broken down car and “supposedly” drunken driver to come from the other direction? Or, is that too far-fetched?
Not too far-fetched at all since at least two of you are on the same wavelength. 👍I’ll be in touch with more details about the accident later today. Thanks, Deb!
Hi Deb–I’ve posted more detail about the accident in the comments on this page as well as at the end of part 3. Interestingly, they let the driver of the car off fairly easily. So strange.
It’s all very interesting. Thank you for your diligent work, Jennifer! Is there a possibility that Reuben Robertson Jr’s death might not have been what it seemed? Were there manslaughter charges and a conviction?
Thanks! Interesting question — another reader was thinking along the same lines. I’ll be providing more details about the accident later today.
Hi Blue, I’ve posted further details of the accident in the comments on this page (see above) and at the bottom of part 3. The short answer to your question is: no, which raises more questions.
Is there any possibility she was paying Ron for a gig?
Great question–I’m glad you asked! It’s definitely a possibility, and I’d wondered about this as well. If she did, it would have probably been for church, since she didn’t seem to have any other outside activities. I’m not sure that would have been a likely venue for a jazz band. All of her kids were married, so it wouldn’t have been for a wedding reception. But here’s the thing: if it was just for a gig, why are Carl Knox’s notes so…sketchy. It doesn’t even look as if he followed up with her. And why wouldn’t she have come forward? Carl Knox drove to Cincinnati to chase down one possible lead (the woman who thought she was renting a room to Tammen) and boy did they talk about that one in the press. Why not talk about a woman from Hamilton who’d written Ron a check, but it was for a gig (or whatever)? There’s also this question: why would Dorothy Craig of Hamilton, Ohio, open a checking account in Oxford at all? Why not open her account in Hamilton, which had perfectly nice banks? I wonder if Ron was just one student of several Miami students who were being paid for their participation in a study of some sort.