I’m going to warn you: if you are prone to crying during movies like Forrest Gump or Old Yeller, you may want to skip this blog post. If you don’t believe me, read on. Read all the links too and you’ll probably agree that this story is up around 8 or 9 on the “feel-good” scale.
We lost a good man this week, and he used to work for the IRS. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron these days. Johnnie M. Walters, former IRS commissioner during Watergate, died on Tuesday at the age of 94. In 1971 Nixon needed a “yes man” to fill the top post at the IRS, and after he fired the previous commissioner, Nixon made this statement about his replacement (recorded on White House tapes):
I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he’s told, that every income-tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends.
How easy it would be to find this kind of guy in 2014! But in the early 1970s I guess there were people in positions of power who didn’t let it get to their heads. There was still a little integrity and courage in the White House. Needless to say, Walters did not measure up to Nixon’s prerequisites; not even close. He refused to take action on Nixon’s “enemies list,” instead locking it up in a safe.
The story gets even a little sappier if you go back to Walters’ early years. He grew up in humble circumstances on a farm in South Carolina. He put himself through law school, served in the military and earned a Purple Heart. He was married for 66 years to his wife and they had 4 children. He seems like the kind of guy that everyone admired. Walters wrote a memoir in 2011 called “Our Journey.” Maybe this should be required reading for IRS employees…