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Part 2:
Reynolda was so named by Smith Reynolds' mother when the mansion on a thousand-acre estate was completed in 1917. (It was Mrs. R. J. Reynolds who purchased the land on which Reynolda was built.)

Libby Holman and her husband had the place to themselves, except for a household staff, which included a superintendent, Stewart Warnken, who later that summer would have interesting things to tell a coroner's jury. Reynolds' Uncle William lived nearby, but his two sisters, both married, lived out of state. Brother Dick (R. J. Reynolds Jr.) was off on one his jaunts, probably in Europe in May, though two months later he'd be aboard a vessel off the east coast of Africa, and later surface in Rio de Janeiro.

Some of Holman's New York friends visited Reynolda, each apparently making a bad impression on the locals, who bristled at tales of loose morals and derogatory remarks the Yankees were making about the Carolinas.

Actress Blanche Yurka arrived, but hers wasn't entirely a social visit. Reportedly she was giving acting lesson to Libby, prepping her for a dramatic role that fall. Also arriving in June was R. Raymond Kramer, a young man who tutored Reynolds in mathematics because Libby's husband, at the urging of his wife, planned to enter Guggenheim Aeronautical School at New York University in September.

As far as friends and relatives knew, Libby Holman and Smith Reynolds had agreed she would resume her career in the theater in September, while he went to school to prepare for a possible career in aviation.

His inheritance was eight years away, but that would be frosting. In the meantime they had more money than they could spend. (Indeed, after the tragedy that killed her husband, Libby Holman claimed that having too much money was the cause of his problems. On that one point she was in agreement with her brother-in-law, R. J. Reynolds Jr., who otherwise was no fan of the blues singer.)

WHEN LIBBY awoke on July 5, she was still suffering the effects of a July 4 party. Facing her that evening was another party, this one to celebrate the birthday of one of her husband's friends, C. G. Hill, who was related to Reynolds' first wife. (Holman would later claim she had little recollection of either the July 4 party or the one the next night. She also would claim she had nothing to drink at either party.)

However, she did remember giving some important news to her husband on July 5, news that would thrill most husbands.

The stage was set for one of the biggest stories of 1932:

Brooklyn Daily Eatle, July 5,1932
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (AP) — Smith Reynolds, youthful heir to a tobacco fortune, snot himself early today on a sleeping porch adjoining the bedroom of his wife, the former Libby Holman, Broadway "torch singer," in his home here.

Whether the 20-year-old youth,, who took Miss Holman as his second wife a few months ago, intended to kill himself or accidentally fired the fatal shot was in doubt.

Dr. W. N. Dalton, the county coroner, after an exhaustive investigation, said he was convinced the shooting was suicide or was accidental, but that it might be several days before he would be ready to render a verdict deciding between the two possibilities.

He said he learned no motive for suicide in his investigation.

Reynolds, youngest child and second son of the late R. J. Reynolds, who buuilt a fortune from tobacco, died in a hospital at dawn, four hours after he was brought there unconscious from the bullet wound. He never recovered consciousness.

He and Mrs. Reynolds entertained at an informal dinner party last night. All the guests left about midnight, with the exception of Ab Walker of Winston-Salem, a close friend of Reynolds, and Miss Blanche Yearger (Yurka) of New York, friend of Mrs. Reynolds and her house guest.

Walker had been invited to spend the night and said he was on the lower floor closing windows when he heard the muffled report of a shot and then heard Mrs. Reynolds scream.

He rushed to the second floor and found Reynolds on the sleeping porch unconscious from a bullet wound in the head. On the floor by the body was an automatic pistol.

A subsequent autopsy disclosed the bullet entered the right temple and emerged just bac of the left ear. Dr. Dalton said there were power burns on the right side of the face.

Mrs. Reynolds was prostrated and placed under the care of a physician. No one was permitted to see her, and her physician said she was in no condition to give any statement. A guard was placed about the Reynolds estate to protect the household from the curious.

Friends of Reynolds asserted they knew of no motive whatsoever for suicide. They said that just a few hours before he was shot he was discussing his plans for today and had said he was going to make a night flight over Winston-Salem in his airplane tonight.

Frank Vogler, Winston-Salem undertaker, said there was every indication of suicide.

 

MUCH OF the investigation fell on the shoulders of the Forsyth County sheriff, 34-year-oldTransou Scott, a one-man detective bureau (though he had a staff of deputies who handled routine police matters). Scott faced an impossible situation — explaining the violent death of a son of the richest, most important man in Winston-Salem history, a shooting that occurred at perhaps the most famous home in the state, and what may have been murder committed by an outsider who happened to be a famous entertainer.

Additionally, Scott didn't begin his investigation at Reynolda until six hours after the shooting. By that time, Ab Walker, best friend of the victim, cleaned and rearranged the scene of the shooting — an upstairs sleeping porch. What evidence remained plus conflicting statements of witnesses would raise more questions than they answered and turn the investigation into a multiple choice exam in which every answer was correct, depending on whose testimony you chose to believe.

1. Circle the letter in front of any statement that is true about Libby Holman Reynolds:
A. She had nothing to drink at the July 5 party.
B. She engaged in a drinking contest with another guest, the recently widowed Mrs. Babe Vaught and obviously won because Mrs. Vaught eventually passed out and had to be carried upstairs.
C. She was tipsy at the barbecue early in the event and threw her arms around Ab Walker, telling him, “Smith doesn’t love me.”
2. Some time after the barbecue, when the party adjourned to the main house, Libby Holman Reynolds disappeared and did not return until:
A. 11 p.m.
B. 11:30 p.m.
C. 12:30 a.m.
3. Where did Ab Walker find Libby when he came upstairs after the shooting?
A. On a bed in the sleeping porch with a badly bleeding Smith Reynolds.
B. In the main bedroom where she was attempting to carry Smith Reynolds into the upstairs hallway.
C. By herself sitting on a couch in the upstairs hallway.
4. What was Libby Holman Reynolds wearing when she went to the hospital with her dying husband?
A. Pajamas.
B. Her bathing suit.
C. Her negligee.
5. Smith Reynolds was:
A. Left-handed.
B. Right-handed.
C. Had equal dexterity with both hands.
6. At time time of the shooting Smith Reynolds was:
A. Holding his gun while standing by the bed on the sleeping porch.
B. Holding his gun while lying on the bed with his wife.
C. Unarmed while lying on the bed.

REYNOLDS WAS unconscious, but still alive after the bullet went through his head. After several minutes of confusion, Ab Walker responded to shouts from Blanche Yurka and ran upstairs from the ground floor and helped Libby Holman carry her husband downstairs and out to an automobile. Walker then drove Holman and Reynolds to the hospital, where physicians tried in vain to save the gunshot victim and Holman, in shock and perhaps an alcohol-induced daze, was given a private room for rest and recovery. For the next few days she was often melodramatic, as though she might be performing the role of a grieving widow.

Walker, who went through the evening in his bathing suit, returned to Reynolda, changed his clothes, then remained upstairs a long time, tidying the sleeping porch, even mopping up blood. Whether he, too, was in shock or had an ulterior motive would never be determined. At some point before police arrived — probably even before he drove to the hospital — Walker removed the pistol from the porch.

Stewart Warnken, superintendent of Reynolda, later testified that he searched the porch and the adjacent bedroom three times and did not find the pistol which magically appeared on the floor in the middle of the porch after Walker returned to the estate. Warnken also claimed that Walker said upon his return he was going to clean up the downstairs area where some of the party had taken place, but instead Walker went upstairs and stayed there, suggesting he spent all his time tidying up the area where the shooting had taken place.

WALKER DID NOT, however, remove three possibly incriminating items from the bedroom he was to use for that evening's sleepover. These items — two slippers and a bathrobe belonging to Libby Holman — would be found by police and strengthen the rumor Walker and his friend's wife were having an affair.

Those familiar with detective films and TV shows may wonder why a paraffin test for gunshot residue was not be administered to Libby Holman Reynolds to establish or eliminate her as a suspect in the shooting. That's because there was no such test in 1932.

Given the widow's condition and her doctor's concern, she probably would have avoided the test, in any event. Such is the power of the rich and famous. Whether her stunned, overwrought reaction was genuine wasn't challenged by Forsyth County officials during the hours such a challenge might have led to important discoveries.

WITNESS TESTIMONY at the coroner's inquest, held a few days later at Reynolda, tended to contradict much of what Ab Walker told police a few hours after the shooting.

One thing was clear: Despite Holman's later statements that she was sober during the party, a whole lot of drinking was done at Reynolds that evening and the night before that. It was corn liquor with beer as a chaser, all of it illegal, of course.

Guest Mrs. Babe Vaught imbibed the most, or, at least, had the lowest tolerance. She was described as "a comely young widow whose husband recently burned to death." William Vaught, for reasons I haven't uncovered, died in the bathtub while his Greensboro, North Carolina, home was destroyed by fire. Anyway, after his widow passed out during the party at Reynolda and had to be carried upstairs, she slept through everything that followed and had very little to contribute to the investigation.

It was C. G. Hill, the guest of honor at the party, who later told Sheriff Transou Scott about the drinking contest between Libby Holman and Mrs. Vaught.

R. Raymond Kramer, the mathematics tutor, also slept through the night because his bedroom was at the opposite end of the large house, too far from the now-infamous sleeping porch to hear a single shot or the screaming that followed.

The party had started with a barbecue dinner on the patio of the Oriental boathouse on the shore of man-made Lake Katharine. Servants carried the food from the main house through the woods to the patio. (According to "Misadventure on the Sleepin' Porch," a five-part 2007 series in the Winston-Salem Journal, by Mary Giunca, the lake was created by damming Silas Creek, and once a year it was drained so that the staff could sweep out the bottom with brooms.)

Libby Holman's behavior under the influence — which she claimed she could not recall — was an indication something was not right with her marriage. During the barbecue, with her husband nearby, looking on, Holman hugged Walker and told him Reynolds didn't love her. Minutes later Reynolds pulled Walker aside and said he didn't hold him responsible. That's just the way she is, he said (according to Walker). But several witnesses said Reynolds clearly was upset with his wife's drinking and her behavior.

LATER, WHEN the party adjourned to the mansion, Libby Holman disappeared. When she returned, she was greeted outside by Walker. They were loud enough that Smith Reynolds, on the second floor sleeping porch, yelled down, "What's that noise?" or words to that effect.

Again, when this happened depends on the witness. Most believable were statements from members of the estate staff, who not only were sober,but probably were the most impartial witnesses.

W. E. Fulcher, night watchman, may be been misquoted in early stories of the event when it was reported he saw Mrs. Reynolds, her husband and Ab Walker walking near the house about hour before the shot. Later stories had Fulcher saying Mrs. Reynolds did not return from wherever she had been until 12:30 a.m., and that Walker met her outside and that Smith Reynolds was on the upstairs porch.

This version sets up a sequence that squares with statements of those who heard a shot about a half-hour later. During those 30 minutes Libby went upstairs. Smith Reynolds met her in the hallway, but instead of going to their bedroom, they went to the one Walker was using. Why? No one knows, but one could speculate Reynolds had gone into the room — which had been his when he was younger — and found items of his wife's clothing.

Something triggered an argument because a few minutes later Libby Holman ran out of that room and into the master bedroom, which was connected to the sleeping porch. A moment later Smith Reynolds went downstairs and tossed his wallet to Walker, then turned and went back upstairs, telling his friend, "I'm going to end it all."

(Earlier in the evening Reynolds had told party guests that he was looking forward to flying a new plane the next evening. There also was a report he had packed a suitcase, though no one knew about any trip he might be planning.)

A few minutes after Reynolds went upstairs there was a shot. It's not clear whether Walker heard it. If so, he chose to ignore it until Blanche Yurka heard a commotion upstairs and yelled to Walker.

Fulcher, the night watchman, heard a shot but didn't give it much thought because, he said, Smith Reynolds often shot off a gun about the estate. To make matters interesting, Fulcher said that after the shot he heard a car drive off.

As for Libby Holman's whereabout when Walker finally responded to Blanche Yurka's yelling, that's anyone's guess. Walker changed his story at least three times, as though he were making guesses in a game of Clue.

THE MORE Sheriff Scott mulled witness statements and physical evidence over the next few days, he felt uneasy about the coroner's quick judgment that Smith Reynolds had committed suicide and he began to consider the possibility the tobacco heir was killed by his wife, and that the victim's best friend had assisted her.

When Libby told her husband the big new that evening — that she was pregnant — he wasn't pleased. He may have believed the rumor that had started prior to the July 5 party — that his wife was having an affair with his best friend.

Morris De Haven Tracy, a reporter for United Press, teased readers with this in his July 12, 1932, story about what the coroner's jury had heard:

Probably the most amazing bit of testimony to some listeners was that of nurse Ruby Jenkins of Baptist Hospital where Smith Reynolds died, where Libby Holman and Albert Walker had hurried last Wednesday morning.

Mrs. Reynolds, clad in negligee, was assigned to a private room. Walker later went in with her. The nurse entered and found both on the floor, struggling to rise.

“Oh, my baby,” Libby cried, according to Miss Jenkins. And in answer to Walker’s question, continued, “Don’t you know I’m going to have a baby?”

Walker testified that he had fainted while seated on the edge of the bed.

Walker claimed Mrs. Reynolds had gotten out of bed to help him after he fainted. Nurse Jenkins apparently had her doubts and told investigators what she had witnessed.

On August 5, four weeks after the shooting, Libby Holman and Ab Walker were indicted for murder, though the sheriff and prosecutors admitted they were still building their case, hoping for evidence more conclusive than what had swayed the grand jury.

However, in October, a month before the trial was scheduled to begin, the Reynolds family urged authorities to drop the charges. Some think this was done because the family, despite doubts raised by rumors, believed Smith Reynolds was the father of the baby Libby Holman was carrying, and they didn't was a Reynolds heir born in prison.

Why would they be sure of Libby Holman's conviction? Well, there's an interesting claim in "Ghosts of the Triad: Tales from the Haunted Heart of the Piedmont," a 2011 book by Michael Reneger and Amy Spease.

Reynolds' body was exhumed on August 23, 1932, and four doctors were brought in to do another autopsy. According to the book, this autopsy revealed the gun was not pressed against Reynolds' head, and that the shot came from at least three feet away, indicating someone else pulled the trigger. The authors say this evidence would have clinched the case against Holman.

PERHAPS, though it's possible the Reynolds family simply wanted to put a lid on the case and the scandal caused by Libby Holman's statements about her husband's suicidal tendencies and his jealousy and insecurity.

And while none of the Reynolds children was involved with their late father's company, they may have been warned by those in charge that business might suffer as a result of bad publicity a trial was certain to generate.

Even if evidence from the second autopsy were true, it wouldn't necessarily guarantee a murder conviction. Actually it could strengthen an argument the shooting was accidental. (I also suspect that during cross-examination, the doctors who did that second autopsy would be forced to admit that it was possible the gun was closer to the head than three feet.)

SHERIFF SCOTT'S suspicions were largely based on the path of the bullet, which entered Reynolds' right temple and continued at a downward angle, exiting behind Reynolds' left ear. The bullet continued through a porch screen, making hole six feet, six inches off the floor. (The bullet disappeared somewhere on the property and was never found.)

As a result, authorities disregarded Libby Holman's only recollection of the shooting — that her husband was standing over her while she was on the bed. If Reynolds were standing, they said, a shot fired at such a downward angle could not have gone through the porch screen at such a height.

That led police to believe Reynolds had been lying on the bed when the shot was fired, though consideration of the various positions his body may have assumed in bed makes it more likely the bullet would have gone into the mattress rather than through a screen a few feet away.

Playing amateur — and, admittedly unqualified — detective, I offer this possibility: Smith Reynolds was standing next to the bed, gun in hand, then twisted and tilted his head toward the gun. When the shot was fired, his right temple might well have been lower than his left ear, so the path of the bullet was not actually downward, but slightly raised. Reynolds body then tumbled onto the bed. I think it was false to assume a person shooting himself in the head necessarily had to be stand tall, head erect.

My theory goes out the window if Smith Reynolds were left-handed, as some people testified. However, several disagreed, including the most impartial witness, R. Raymond Kramer, the mathematics tutor. He worked closely with Reynolds, and said his pupil wrote with his right hand.

THE REYNOLDS FAMILY heard more than they wanted about the odd marriage between the young heir and the Broadway entertainer. Libby Holman's observations about Smith Reynolds were at odds with those of friends and relatives who were questioned — except for Ab Walker, who supported everything the widow said.

Holman's statements about her relationship with her husband seem believable, despite denials from his relatives, because she alone had an intimate romantic relationship with him. Their relationship differed from his first marriage because, with Holman, Smith Reynolds was more than simply in love — he was hopelessly starstruck. (I found it interesting that his first wife wasn't questioned about Reynolds' mood swings.)

Apparently he also was incredibly insecure about his ability to hold onto Libby's love, in part because she was sexually experienced and he couldn't satisfy her. The pressure seemed to be mounting because Holman indicated he recently had been unable to have an erection. She claimed her husband felt so bad about his performance in bed that he urged her to have sex with other men.

And that wasn't all. According to Libby Holman:

“Smith was morbid and because of his morbidity and because of his strange delusions, I often sat up with him until 6 o’clock in the morning arguing and pleading . . . He’d often disappear for hours at night and come back weeping with joy because I had not fled.”

She told the coroner's jury that he always carried a pistol and on several occasions in the weeks before his death he had put the gun to his head. (Holman, in an effort to convince people of her love for Reynolds, said that she once urged him to kill her, too, because she couldn't go on without him. I'm not sure if anyone believed her.)

HOLMAN PRODUCED a suicide note he had written in 1927, as a 16-year-old prep school student in Virginia. "My girl has turned me down. Goodbye forever. Give my love to Mary, Nancy, Dick, etc. Goodbye cruel world. Smith."

Holman also that one day during the previous summer, before their marriage, when they were at the cottage at Port Washington, Long Island, Reynolds jumped out the window and ran when “somebody came in the door.”

She also testified that on another occasion Reynolds put a dummy in his bed an slept on the floor.

During the time Holman rented that Long Island cottage a piece of furniture was damaged by an unexplained gunshot. Owners of the cottage asked Holman to pay for that damage, and she agreed. (This came to light during brief consideration of a theory that gangsters plotted to kill the Reynolds brothers, and that the shot on Long Island was intended for Smith. Reynolda night watchman W. E. Fulcher provided some impetus to this theory with his statement about hearing a car pull away from the estate shortly after Smith Reynolds was shot.)

ALL THINGS considered, what happened next was not surprising.

The state of North Carolina did not act upon the Reynolds' family request, but on November 15, as Winston-Salem braced of its trial of the century, State Solicitor Carlisle Higgins called it off. He dismissed charges against Holman and Walker, admitting he had insufficient evidence. Sheriff Transou Scott concurred.

Libby Holman wasn't present in North Carolina for the good news. She was living at Louisa Jenney's estate near Wilmington, Delaware. On January 9, 1933, Mrs. Reynolds was driven to Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia by Mrs. Jenney, who dressed, as she often did, in man's clothing, and was mistaken by many at the hospital as the father-to-be. Libby's baby wasn't expected for two months, but on January 10 he arrived.

Despite his premature birth, the baby responded well to life in an incubator. Mother and child remained in the hospital until April — she didn't see her baby for several days after giving birth — and plans were made for the inevitable legal battle to establish the child's claim to a portion of the tobacco fortune that had been set aside for Smith Reynolds.

After going nameless for several weeks, Holman's baby left the hospital as Christopher Smith Reynolds. He later was nicknamed "Topper." After much wrangling he was awarded several million dollars in a trust, and his mother was given $750,000. The final settlement, in 1935, was made after an interesting assertion by Joseph F. Cannon, the millionaire towel maker and father of Anne Cannon, the first Mrs. Smith Reynolds.

Cannon, in an attempt to secure a greater share of the Reynolds inheritance for his daughter, and to have Christopher Reynolds and Libby Holman excluded, claimed his daughter was doped with morphine and "physically and mentally unable" when she signed her Reno divorce deposition in 1931. Cannon thus insisted the divorce was invalid and that his daughter was the one and only Mrs. Smith Reynolds.

CONFLICTING TESTIMONY was offered about Anne Cannon Reynolds' mental state in Reno in 1932. Interestingly, the doctor who refuted Cannon's claim (saying the young woman was fine and clearly in possession of her faculties), also admitted she was not present at the hearing which finalized the divorce, that she was represented by an attorney. Cannon believed that Smith Reynolds, perhaps with the support of Libby Holman, had engineered a questionable divorce.

But Brandon Smith, who married Anne Cannon shortly after her Reno visit (then subsequently divorced her), insisted the young woman knew exactly what she was doing in Nevada.

Winston-Salem Judge Clayton Moore (no relation to the actor) decided in favor of a settlement proposed by the Reynolds family. Joseph Cannon, while losing the battle of Reno, should have been pleased — because his daughter was awarded the biggest chunk of an estate valued at almost $28 million. Her share was 37-1/2 percent (about $11 million), with Christopher "Topper" Reynolds receiving 25 percent, or almost $7 million. Several million dollars were awarded to R. J. Reynolds Jr. and his two sisters for the establishment of a charitable foundation named after Zachary Smith Reynolds.

LIBBY HOLMAN spent most of the next six years virtually married to Louisa Carpenter Jenney. She also returned to the Broadway stage in November, 1934, as a star of "Revenge With Music," a musical by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz. The show, set in Spain in 1800, ran 158 performances, but was considered a failure. Highlight was provided by Holman with her rendition of "You and the Night and the Music."

She worked at nightclubs, but for many years was regarded more of a curiosity than an entertainer. In the fall of 1938 she was reunited with Clifton Webb in a Cole Porter musical, "You Never Know," one of Porter's lesser efforts. (It folded after 78 performances.) Also in the show were Toby Wing and Lupe Velez known as "The Mexican Spitfire." There was instant dislike between Holman and Velez, then the wife of Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller. Velez so hated her bisexual co-star that she threatened to kill her.

While Holman and Louisa Carpenter Jenney lived together much of the time, she also had relationships with men, among them actor Phillips Holmes, who was homosexual. (The word "gay" hadn't yet been misappropriated.)

Holman then decided for whatever reason to marry Holmes' actor-brother, called "Rafe" though his name was spelled "Ralph." Her new husband, 11 years her junior, may well have been heterosexual, but his wife's reputation was such that people began to assume he was another of her homosexual admirers.

The Holmes brothers, both Canadian, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. Phillips Holmes, by far the more successful of the two brothers, was killed in a training accident in August, 1942. Ralph Holmes survived the war, but was badly shaken by the experience, as well as his brother's death. It didn't help that while he was gone, his wife continued to bounce back and forth between lesbian affairs and involvement with men who were homosexual or confused about their sexuality.

Among Libby Holman's victims was actor Montgomery Clift, who was 21 years old in 1942 when he worked with Holman in "Mexican Mural," a play by Ramon Naya. (By all accounts this play, while it received two awards of some sort, was a disaster once it was exposed to audiences. Wilella Waldorf, in a New York Post review, said "It must be admitted, the view from the windows during intermission was far more spellbinding (than the play)."

WHEN HOLMES returned to civilian life, his wife told him their marriage was over. A few weeks later he took an overdose of barbiturates. There was no doubt this time that the husband of Libby Holman had committed suicide.

While preparing to dump Holmes, Holman adopted an infant son named Tommy. Two years later, in 1947, she adopted another infant son, named Tony. Each would receive $1 million after her death.

Through the late 1940s and into the '50s Holman's singing career remained alive, though mostly in New York City. She found herself in love with writer Jane Auer Bowles, her last name coming from her marriage to homosexual writer Paul Bowles. When it came to love, Holman obviously was turned on by complications.

What involvement she had in the life of her eldest son, the child she once called "the most perfect and adorable thing I have ever seen," isn't clear, but for sure she would have much to regret.

In August, 1950, while his mother was in Europe, Christopher "Topper" Reynolds was in California with a friend, Steven Wasserman. The two teenagers had gone there to spend the summer working at a gold mine.

However, during the first weekend in August the boys set out to climb 14,496-foot Mount Whitney, then the highest mountain in the United States. They almost made it — but near the top a rope snapped and both climbers tumbled to their deaths.

DURING THE 1950s Holman became involved in the civil rights movement, and in 1960 she married for the third time. Her husband was artist Louis Schanker, her only husband who was older than she — by one year. (Ironically, until then he was known for having girl friends who were much younger than he.)

This marriage also ended by suicide, but it was Libby Holman who took her own life, dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in the front seat of her Rolls Royce on June 18, 1971. She was found by a member of the household staff at Holman's Connecticut estate, called Treetops.

Libby Holman never wanted for creature comforts for almost all of her adult life, but there was nothing comfortable about her personal life which often brought misery to those around her. Her career began full of promise, but much of that promise would remain unfulfilled.

United Press International,, June 22, 1971
STAMFORD, Connecticut (UPI) — Libby Holman, torch singer of the 1920s and ‘30s, famed for her renditions of “Body and Soul” and “Moanin’ Low,” died at her home here last Friday. Her death at the age of 65 was announced Monday.

Tragedy repeatedly crossed Miss Holman’s life. In 1932 her husband, Zachary Smith Reynolds, a North Carolina tobacco heir, was found shot to death after a party at their home in Winston-Salem. Miss Holman was charged with murder, but the charges were later dropped.

Her second husband, actor Ralph Holmes, committed suicide in 1945, and in 1950 her son, Christopher Reynolds, fell to his death while climbing Mount Whitney in California.

Born Elizabeth Holzman in Cincinnati, Miss Holman made her Broadway debut in 1926 in “Garrick Gaieties.” She first impressed the public singing “Moanin’ Low” and “Can’t We Be Friends” in a review called “The Little Show” in 1929.

One of her biggest stage hits was in “Three’s a Crowd” in 1931. Her co-stars were Fred Allen and Clifton Webb. Her songs in this show included “Something to Remember You By” and “Body and Soul.”

In one revue Miss Holman played an interracial scene. This scene, and the blues quality in her voice, led to a rumor that she was a mulatto. She said later that this circumstance and her work with Negro artists gave her an interest in civil rights. In later years she quietly contributed large amounts of money to civil rights causes.

She was survived by her third husband, painter-sculptor Louis Schanker, and two adopted sons.

 

MEANWHILE, back in 1933, Richard J."Dick" Reynolds Jr., made news unrelated to his late brother.

On New Year's Day he married the Elizabeth McCaw "Blitz" Dillard, 25, who three months later announced she was expecting a child. In November federal agents arrested a 35-year-old textile worker for plotting to kidnap Mrs. Reynolds.

John Lanier admitted that he had written two letters to Reynolds demanding $10,000 in cash if Mrs. Reynolds was to remain unharmed. Reynolds and his lawyer went to Sheriff Transou Scott, who, in turn, contacted the Department of Justice. A decoy package of bills was used to lure Lanier into a trap.

On December 7, 1933, Mrs. Reynolds gave birth to a boy, who weighed nine pounds.

Reynolds, already living quite well off his late father's fortune, received his $20 million inheritance on his 28th birthday in April, 1924.

Mrs. and Mrs. Reynolds would have three more children before their marriage ended in divorce. However, it was in 1933, soon after their wedding, that R. J. and "Blitz" Reynolds began acquiring land for what would become "Devotion," an 11,000-acre estate northwest of Winston-Salem near the tiny North Carolina town of Zephyr. This estate was ten times larger than Reynolda.

"Devotion" wasn't completed until 1938, and while the estate was planned as a retreat for the Reynolds family, its construction provided jobs for hundreds of people, and this polished the image of R. J. Reynolds Jr., who had previously been known as the playboy son of a millionaire.

When R. J. and "Blitz" Reynolds were divorced, the estate was awarded to the ex-Mrs. Reynolds, who lived there with the couple's four sons. As for R. J. Reynolds Jr., he later built his own estate on Sapelo Island, Georgia.

WHILE REGARDED as a shrewd, clever business man, "Dick" Reynolds went off the rails in the 1950s, when he divorced his second wife, actress Marianne O'Brien, and married Muriel Greenough, then divorced her as the decade was ending. In 1960 he took a fourth wife, Annemarie Schmitt.

Dick Reynolds, diagnosed with emphysema in 1960, died four years later in Switzerland. He was 58 years old.

He disinherited his six sons, dividing his inheritance between the Sapelo Island Research Foundation at the University of Georgia and his fourth wife, by whom he had a daughter, Anne Irene-Sabina Reynolds, born December 16, 1964, two days after he died.

One of the sons disinherited by R. J. Reynolds Jr. was Patrick Reynolds, once an aspiring actor (his mother Marianne O'Brien had had a brief career in films), who went on to crusade against cigarette smoking and write a book, "The Golden Leaf," about his family.

Another son of R. J. Reynolds Jr. was the ill-fated Zachary Reynolds, namesake of Zachary Smith Reynolds, the 1933 shooting victim, and like the uncle he never met, an aviator. This Zachary lived longer than Libby Holman's first husband, but still his life ended too soon, and in a manner that might have better suited the first Zachary Reynolds — a plane crash.

 
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