Warren G. Harding and Norman T. Whitaker

I was recently contacted by a chess player I know from the fourth grade (I was a scholastic player before they had scholastic players) and he wrote me a letter about Warren G. Harding, whom he believes may be a close relative.

Warren G. Harding died on August 2, 1923 at age 58 inside the Palace Hotel on Market Street in San Francisco, which is now known as the Sheraton Palace Hotel. At the moment that Harding died, the Western Chess Championship, now known as the US Open Chess Championship, was being played across the street at the Mechanics Institute.
Nan Britton and Carrie Philips
Two of the mistresses of Warren G. Harding
You were a good man, Warren Harding!

I discovered this fact when I was in the San Francisco Public Library looking through 1923 editions of the San Francisco Call, the leading newspaper in San Francisco at the time, looking for games and results in the Western Chess Championship being played, when the newspapers blared out that Harding had died.

The co-winner of the chess tournament was Norman T. Whitaker, an international chess master and notorious criminal who, along with Gaston B. Means, a former FBI agent who had gone bad, was implicated in the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Interestingly, Gaston B. Means was a biographer of Warren G. Harding. Means wrote "The Strange Death of President Harding", published in 1930. Means died in prison after being convicted in the Lindbergh case.

The way Means was involved was a wealthy woman in North Carolina who was a distant relative of the Lindbergh family contacted Means because she knew that he was a former FBI agent who operated on both sides of the law and she believed that he was in contact with the Lindbergh kidnappers.

Means told her that indeed through his sources he was in contact with the Lindbergh kidnappers. After a series of phone calls, she agreed to pay ransom money (which was much more than the real kidnapper was demanding).

Means then sent Whitaker disguised as "The Fox" to North Carolina to pick the money from the woman's house.

There were two pick-ups. When the woman started to pawn her jewels to pay a third amount, a relative found out. Means and Whitaker were arrested. Means was sentenced to about 15 years in prison, Whitaker to 18 months. Means died in prison. Whitaker got out but was soon convicted of another crime and later served 15 years in Alcatraz.

The money was never recovered. Most believed that Whitaker got the money, but Whitaker denied it.

Whitaker, an International Chess Master who may for a brief time have been the best player in America, died in about 1969 at the age of 79.

Harding's alleged mistress, Nan Britton, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter in 1919. Nan Britton wrote a book about this which was published after Harding's death entitled The President's Daughter ( http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0836971329/slavesofthomasje ). The book became a best seller and is one of the main reasons that Harding has been given such a bad reputation by history. Nan Britton died in Oregon in 1991, so forgotten by history that no obituary was published of her. There is no record of what happened to the child, who would be 80 years old now and could easily still be alive, living in anonymity. Her name was Elizabeth Ann (Harding). A good research project would be to find her.

Harding had at least one other mistress, Carrie Phillips, whose relationship went on for 15 years before Harding became president. It is not known if Phillips gave birth to Harding's child. Phillips threatened to derail his presidential bid by releasing letters from their 15-year liaison. She accepted more than $20,000 to keep quiet. Carrie Phillips apparently got back in touch with Harding after he was elected.

Harding remains the only ex-president of the 20th century not to be portrayed in a movie. Here is another good project.

My chess playing friend believes that his grandmother, whose last name was Harding, may have been Harding's daughter. However, Nan Britton's daughter, who was born in 1919, was too recent to be his grandmother. Harding may have had a daughter by one of his other mistresses such as Carrie Phillips. Also, Harding's legal wife had a child by a previous marriage, although she never had a child by Harding.

Sam Sloan

PS Did you know that Larry Parr is an expert on Norman T. Whitaker and Gaston B. Means. This does not prove that Parr killed Harding, however.

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