Once Linda fled the state, that ended all hope of salvaging their three-week marriage. On Oct. A month after his wife was brought back from Arizona, Lamar Jones testified against her in front of a Cook County grand jury. Jones says that around the time of that proceeding, he was shuffled into a car with another witness and told they had something in common: They were both married to Linda or maybe it was Connie at the same time.
That was a surprise to Jones. His wife had told him that husband No. On Nov. The bigamy charges were later dropped. She was either 35, 39, 40, or 47 years old, depending on whose story you believed. The bits about the new cars and the fur coat were accurate, though. And the part about her posing as a heart surgeon—that was probably true, too.
The officers also found two small children living in squalid conditions.
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The boys, a white 7-year-old and a black 5-year-old, were taken into protective custody. A partial rundown of the items seized, as listed in the police report :. These are not aliases. They are possible victims. For much of the s, Taylor had consistent legal representation from celebrated black Chicago attorney R. Eugene Pincham.
The trial of the welfare queen finally began in March , two-and-a-half years after Det. Jack Sherwin cited Taylor for making a false burglary report. It took the jury seven hours to find Taylor guilty. Judge Mark Jones sentenced her to two to six years for theft and one for perjury, with the terms to be served consecutively. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Taylor, always poker-faced in court, had tears in her eyes when she learned her fate.
Shedding a tear is a rational response to a felony conviction. Louis Globe-Democrat that she was suspected of falsifying information on the application. Was Taylor a cold and calculating grifter? Was she mentally ill? The petition for a medical examination was ultimately denied.
After that, Linda Taylor disappeared from newsprint. By the end of the s, Taylor had become a historical footnote. The welfare queen was forgotten before anyone figured out who she really was. I t took a crew of cops nearly 20 hours to count all the cash. There were coins and bills stuffed in the furniture, sheathed in piles of clothes, and stuffed inside laundry bags, pillowcases, cardboard boxes, and an old foot locker. When cops and firemen arrived on the scene, they spotted coin wrappers and betting slips—the calling cards of a gambling operation.
Just hours after the authorities raided his living room, Wakefield died in the hospital of an intracranial hemorrhage. Why bother? The guy was clearly small time. But the money was still real, even if he preferred hoarding it to spending it. When photos of all that cash hit the Chicago papers, more than a dozen alleged heirs emerged to grab for the money. Wakefield and Edith L. It got stranger from there. Whether she was going by Constance Wakefield, Linda Taylor, or any other name, the future welfare queen never went for subtlety. She was a woman of great ambition, and she conjured a universe in which the forces arrayed against her were equally extraordinary.
Someone was always trying to kill her, or steal from her, or kidnap her, or take her children. These stories rarely checked out. When Taylor went to probate court to press her claim to the Wakefield fortune, even more of her story fell apart. Though her birth to Lawrence and Edith did not appear in contemporaneous records, she procured a delayed birth certificate from the doctor who she claimed had delivered her.
A long way from Chicago, he found someone who could help him prove it. Martha, Mooney said, was the daughter of his sister Lydie and a man named Marvin White. Weighing all the evidence, Judge Anthony Kogut cited Taylor for contempt of court and sentenced her to six months in jail. For Hubert Mooney, who died in , this was a jarring experience. His daughter Joan Shefferd says Mooney was from a different era, and that he was a very prejudiced man.
Why was Martha Louise White passing herself off as a black woman? F orty-five years before she became the welfare queen, Linda Taylor was a little girl on a farm in Mississippi County, Ark. The census identifies her as Martha Miller, one of three children of Joe Miller, a cotton farmer. As of , the year-old girl had attended school, but had gone only so far as the second grade. Shelby Tuitavuki, who grew up near the Miller family in Arkansas, says Taylor had long black hair and dark skin. Or perhaps a family secret was buried a few more generations back. No matter her bloodlines, the more persistent truth was that Martha Miller—who would later shed her childhood name for a nearly endless set of aliases—was a racial Rorschach test.
The young Taylor moved between two very different worlds in the Jim Crow—era South, a type of flexibility that could get a young woman into trouble. The first, Clifford, was born in , when she was a teenager. He was white. The second, Paul—who, for reasons that have been lost to history, was nicknamed Tojo after the Japanese prime minister —was born in Oakland, Calif. Even at this early stage, Taylor was trying on new names. Paul Jr. Her third son, Johnnie, was born in A short while later, she had a daughter, Sandra.
Johnnie, like his brother Cliff, was unmistakably white. Sandra, like her mother, was more racially ambiguous. Taylor and her children lived an itinerant existence. Johnnie remembers taking his food outside and joining his older brother under a tree. They spent more time in cars than houses, and Johnnie associates each place with a different make and model: a little green Nash in El Paso, Texas, a white Oldsmobile 88 station wagon in Peoria, Ill. They lived like fugitives. Cliff left home in his early teenage years, Johnnie says, and then it was just him, Paul, and Sandra.
It was them against the world—and often them against their mother. Johnnie says Taylor was not a loving person. In the mids, she left Paul with a black family in Missouri. After a brief reunion, she left him again, this time with a family in Chicago. Johnnie loved his brother, and he missed him. When is Paul coming back? L ife was good in Chicago.
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Johnnie, his mother, and his sister had a furnished apartment, and the kids all got new bicycles, something they never had when they were younger. Now that they were under the protective wing of Lawrence Wakefield, what could possibly go wrong? They always had money, Johnnie says, and even bodyguards.
In the early s, they settled in at N. Damen Ave. Wakefield was down the block in a building dotted with frosted-glass windows. As a kid, Johnnie says, he carried a few bags for the old man, dropping them off at a jewelry store a half-mile from his house. Even if he was running numbers for an illegal gambling racket, Johnnie remembers this as an idyllic time—a period of comfort and stability after years on the run.
And then, suddenly, Lawrence Wakefield died. At 14, he says, he became a full-time criminal. For the next decade, he was in and out of juvenile detention and prison. Her son Cliff had left home as a teenager. Paul had been given away as a child. Now, Johnnie was roaming the streets. Two years prior, Taylor had falsely reported that Johnnie had been abducted. I had not.
Raymond, who is 46 and lives in Chicago, was very young when he was abducted—his mother says he was 3 when he was returned to her—but he says he remembers other children, and that they were all jammed into the same bed. Still, he had nightmares about Taylor for years. There were four or five children there in all, she remembers. But then when I went back for my son, he was gone. But she never did. Termini remembers taking the bus to the far South Side to search for her son, but Taylor kept changing her address.
Termini claims it took her two years to get Raymond back. And after that, she never saw Sandra or Linda Taylor again. There is one third-party account that references the Termini kidnappings. He explains that Taylor, who at various times went by Constance Womack, simply gave the child a new name. Johnnie, Termini, and the Tribune all agree, though, that Linda Taylor took children.
The only question is how many. The reporters also laid out a possible motive. This theory is a little hard to believe. Her son Johnnie believes his mother saw children as commodities, something to be acquired and sold. I ask him if he knew where these kids came from or who they belonged to. After her benefactor passed away in February , it got even worse. In the early s, Taylor had a few babies who came from who-knows-where. Dora Fronczak told police that the mystery woman whisked away her son Paul Joseph, telling the new mother that her baby boy needed to be examined by a doctor.
Witnesses said the ersatz nurse carried the infant through a rear exit and disappeared. The Fronczak case transfixed Chicago and the nation. Within a day, policemen were working the case, including 50 FBI agents. They were looking for a woman between her mids and mids, around 5-foot-4 and pounds, with close-set brown eyes.
Nine months after the kidnapping, the Tribune reported that a staggering 38, people had been interviewed in connection with the case, and that 7, women had been eliminated as suspects. Still, the baby-snatching nurse remained at large. Did Linda Taylor pull off one of the most notorious kidnappings of the s? That child, she said, was living with foster parents in Chicago Heights. He explained that he was living with her at the time, that several other white infants were in her home, and that she left the house in a white uniform on the day of the kidnapping.
Johnnie Harbaugh confirms that Harper, who was 69 years old in and likely died many years ago, lived with his mother for a period in the s. If anyone was in a position to know what Linda was up to, Johnnie believes, it was Sam Harper.
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Jack Sherwin, who retired from the Chicago Police Department in the mids, says he saw a composite drawing of the Fronczak kidnapper in an FBI office. Sherwin says she also had a station wagon at that time that matched the description of the potential getaway car. The same goes for the baby abducted from Michael Reese Hospital in Fifty years later, Paul Joseph Fronczak has yet to be found. F or Jack Sherwin, the fight to take down Linda Taylor was a multifront war.
Some battles were contested face to face. She was his prize catch, but Sherwin ended up getting snared in her net. As the detective neared a breakthrough, he paused the investigation to go on his honeymoon. Upon his return, he saw his case splashed across Page 3 of the Chicago Tribune. Rather than heed that order, Sherwin and his partner gathered evidence off the clock. He believes the leak torpedoed his career.
The welfare fraud, it seemed, was all that mattered.
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For the Chicago burglary detective, Linda Taylor was never really the welfare queen. He believed she was a kidnapper and a baby seller. Maybe something worse. P atricia Parks-Lee and her two little brothers went to Montessori school, and their mother took them shopping at the big department stores in downtown Chicago.
Parks, who was also named Patricia, earned her living as a schoolteacher. She believes her mother must have hired Taylor to keep house and watch the kids, nothing more.
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She says that Linda Taylor was the worst nanny they ever had. Taylor took up residence with the Parks family in At that point, Patricia Parks was a healthy woman with three young children.
Less than a year later, she was dead. At the time, Taylor was out on bail, awaiting her welfare fraud trial. Parks-Lee was 10 years old when Taylor moved in, and her brothers were 8 and 6. Before Linda Taylor moved in, Parks-Lee had her fill of home-cooked Trinidadian cuisine: fish, rice, and homemade bread. Now, with her mother getting sicker and increasingly confined to her bed, she and her brothers barely had anything to eat—it was the only time in her life, Parks-Lee says, that she went to bed hungry.
It got so bad that she found her brothers in the pantry with the door closed, trying to hide that they were eating dog biscuits. Parks-Lee had been raised to never question her mother, and now she felt completely lost. Taylor was pulling off a slow-motion home invasion, and the only witnesses to the crime were a few small children. And what did she want from them? Parks-Lee remembers that it was hard for her mom to talk. She would still smile, though, giving her children as much affection as she could muster. Taylor kept saying that Parks was going to get better, but her health never improved.
And then, she was gone. Patricia Marvel Parks passed away on June 15, She was The death certificate identified the informant as Linda C. Taylor told the funeral director that Patricia Parks had cervical cancer. When her blood was drawn at the funeral home, however, the sample contained a high level of barbiturates. She killed my mother. I just, I mean—she killed my mother. Parks that she would die in six months.
Linda Taylor used to tell people that she got her spiritual training in her supposed home country of Haiti. Johnnie says he remembers his mother practicing voodoo—or, her version of voodoo—as far back as the s. Taylor used her charms to seduce Lamar Jones and her many other husbands. But her powers of persuasion worked on more than just marriageable men. Patricia Parks-Lee says her mother was trusting and naive. It seems likely that Taylor convinced Parks that she had spiritual skills—and convinced her, somehow, to hand over her children, her property, and access to her bank accounts.
As in the Fronczak kidnapping, Taylor was never charged with killing Patricia Parks. James Piper, the prosecutor in the welfare fraud case, also looked into the alleged Parks homicide. For Jack Sherwin, this seemed backward. For Ronald Reagan, Taylor was a tool to convince voters that the government was in crisis. For Illinois politicians and prosecutors, the war against Linda Taylor and her ilk was a chance to vent some populist outrage and maybe launch a career. A murder in Chicago is mundane. A sumptuously attired woman stealing from John Q.
Taxpayer is a menace, the kind of criminal who victimizes absolutely everyone.
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In the s, it was possible for the Tribune , the Sun-Times , and the Defender to make Linda Taylor a national figure while her specific exploits remained local knowledge. This is how, in the days before the Web abetted the flow of information, Ronald Reagan could tell stories about a real woman and be accused of conjuring a fictional character. In reality, the welfare queen was out of prison much sooner than that, and she had no trouble starting a new life, with a bushel of new names.
It took more than a year for things to get back to normal, Parks-Lee says, at least as normal as they could possibly be. She remembers finding picked-over food, bones, and seeds that one of her brothers had secreted away underneath his bed—a precaution against future deprivation. As she says those words, Patricia Parks-Lee starts to cry. When I first reached out to her, Parks-Lee explains, she was suspicious.
Now she has a mission for me: She wants me to track down Linda Taylor, and she wants me to report back that the welfare queen is dead. T aylor began serving time for welfare fraud on Feb. Though Illinois corrections officials say her prison records have been lost, she was a free woman by at the latest. By the time Taylor won her release, she was closing in on 60 years old, and she was no longer the object of public fascination.
Now, her name was Linda Ray. On Aug. All of a sudden, he said, Ray came up behind him and started grabbing at his gun. He was killed instantly. Taylor had married Sherman Ray, a former Marine, before she landed in prison. Other programs support general trade and investment. It provides cheap credit for foreign buyers of American products. Ironically this gives foreign firms, such as airlines that purchase Boeing airplanes, an advantage over U. Contrary to its claims, Ex-Im is not vital for American exports: it backs fewer than 2 percent of them.
Ex-Im likes to say it makes money. But the real cost is channeling economic resources to the politically favored. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation provides another carefully camouflaged subsidy. OPIC underwrites U. If the project pays off, investors win. If not, the rest of us lose. American businesses hoping to make money in foreign markets should not expect American taxpayers to guarantee those profits. At the other end of the commercial spectrum is the Small Business Administration.
Smaller firms are a vital part of the American economy and play an important cultural, community, and family role. Yet small businesses are not an underserved market. There is no dearth of, say, liquor stores, bakeries, or antique shops. Personally, I would love to see an antique shop on every street corner. SBA is a response to a political opportunity, not an economic need. Much corporate welfare is disguised in broader terms.
So does the Appalachian Regional Commission. The Rural Utilities Service once the Rural Electrification Administration continues, never mind that rural America got electricity decades ago. Today RUS underwrites service in wealthy resort areas and has expanded into broadband internet and even television service. The Federal Communications Commission has several programs to subsidize phone service. The Commerce Department includes the Minority Business Development Agency, which underwrites companies that qualify as minority-owned. The Bureau of Land Management mis manages federal lands, subsidizing use of rangeland by ranchers, for instance.
There are federal subsidies to develop, finance, and promote fisheries. There are incentives for airline companies to serve small markets. Foreign Military Financing is presented as a national defense measure, but in most cases the chief beneficiaries are arms makers. There is money to develop high-speed rail and aid shipyards, while the Jones Act imposes huge costs on consumers to preserve expensive U. Federal Reserve monetary policy also is a massive subsidy for housing industry enterprises and other asset-based businesses. Federal research and development outlays also offer bountiful benefit to business.
Alas, Uncle Sam has a hideous record of choosing winners and losers. Most often he chooses the politically influential, which can mean picking losers. Tesla is a major beneficiary. Some players enjoy multiple benefits. Trade and Development Agency, the U. Maritime Administration, and other agencies. Both tariffs and quotas allow domestic manufacturers to charge more for their products. Unfortunately, the cost of this form of corporate welfare is hidden from the public. Estimating the cost of quotas and other non-financial restrictions is much harder.
Tax preferences are another means of corporate welfare. Buried in the tax code, they often are difficult to identify.
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