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" Final Resting Place of Howard Hughes"
December 24th 1905 - April 5th.1976
Billionaire industrialist, film producer, film director, and aviator. Inherited Hughes Tool Company when his father died and turned into one of the largest company's in the world. Used his fortune to buy RKO studios and make countless classic films.
Broke many aviation records then founded TWA, which he sold in the 50's for over $300 million. Moved to and started buying up Las Vegas Hotels by which time he had become a recluse, surrounded by Mormons. Spent the rest of his life moving from country to country, avoiding the outside world by living alone in blacked out hotel suites, surrounded by his Mormon aids. One of the most mysterious and fascinating men of the 20th.Century given the stories & myths that have sprung up about him.
Buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston, Texas.
Footnote. Whilst Howard Hughes was filming, flying & buying up Las Vegas, his long suffering right hand man Noah Dietrich ran the Hughes Tool Company for him. Noel worked for Howard for over 40 years running the Hughes empire. Noah Dietrich is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. Los Angeles.
Howard Robard Hughes Jr. was a pioneering aviator, engineer, industrialist and film producer. He was widely known as a playboy and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is famous for setting multiple world air-speed records; building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 Hercules airplanes; producing Hell's Angels and The Outlaw; and, for his debilitating and eccentric behavior later in life.
Birth and upbringing
Hughes was born in Houston, Texas, on December 24, 1905, although it should be noted that his exact birthdate is debated by some biographers. His parents were Allene Gano Hughes and Howard R. Hughes Sr., who patented the tri-cone roller bit, which allowed rotary drilling for oil in previously inaccessible places. Howard R. Hughes Sr. founded Hughes Tool Company in 1909 to commercialize this invention.
Young Howard grew up under the strong influence of his mother, who was obsessed with protecting her son from all germs and diseases. From his father, Hughes inherited an interest in all things mechanical. At age 12, Hughes was photographed in the local newspaper as being the first boy in Houston to have a 'motorized' bicycle, which he had built himself.
Hughes' parents died within two years of each other, while he was still in his teens. Allene Hughes died at the age of 39 in March 1922 due to complications from a tubal pregnancy. Less than two years later in January 1924, Howard Hughes Sr. died of a heart attack. Although Howard had an aunt who died of tuberculosis, neither parent succumbed to any contagious disease that the medical institute bearing Hughes' name would eventually work to cure or prevent. Their untimely deaths apparently were not the motivation that caused 19-year-old Howard to include the creation of a medical research laboratory in his 1925 will. Because Howard Sr.'s will had not been updated since Allene's death, young Howard inherited 75 percent of his father's multi-million dollar fortune, which included the increasing amounts of cash flow generated from oil drilling royalties. Hughes dropped out of Rice University shortly after his father's death. In June 1925, at 19 years of age, Hughes married Ella Rice, and shortly thereafter they left Houston and moved to Hollywood where Hughes hoped to make a name for himself making movies.
He was at first dismissed by Hollywood insiders as a rich man's son. However, his first two films released in 1927, Everybody's Acting and Two Arabian Knights, were financial successes, the latter winning an Academy Award for Best Director of a Comedy Picture. The Racket in 1928 and The Front Page in 1931 were nominated for Academy Awards. Hughes spent a then-unheard-of $3.8 million of his own money to make Hell's Angels, which he wrote and directed and which became a smash hit, along with his 1932 film Scarface which he produced. Hughes' best-known film may be The Outlaw starring Jane Russell, for whom Hughes designed a special brassi่re. Scarface and The Outlaw received attention from industry censors; Scarface for its violence, The Outlaw due to Russell's revealing costumes. He signed an unknown actor David Bacon in 1942 to play Billy The Kid, and then later replaced him with Jack Buetel. Bacon's murder the following year sparked an investigation. Greta Keller, Vienna-born cabaret singer and actress and Bacon's widow, claimed later that Bacon wanted to get out of his contract with Hughes and had been prepared to reveal details about Bacon's alleged homosexual relationship with Hughes in order to secure a release from the studio.
Hughes kept his wife isolated at home for weeks at a time and in 1929 Ella returned to Houston and filed for divorce. Hughes was a notorious ladies' man who allegedly had affairs with many famous women including Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Gene Tierney, and Ava Gardner. Bessie Love was a mistress during his first marriage. Jean Harlow accompanied him to the premiere of Hell's Angels, but Hughes' longtime right-hand man Noah Dietrich wrote many years later that the relationship was strictly professional - Hughes personally disliked Harlow. In his 1971 book Howard: The Amazing Mr. Hughes, Dietrich also noted that Hughes genuinely liked and respected Jane Russell but never sought romantic involvement with her.
Aviator and engineer
Hughes was a lifelong aircraft enthusiast, pilot, and self-taught aircraft engineer. He set many world records, and designed and built several aircraft himself while heading Hughes Aircraft. The most technologically important aircraft he designed was the Hughes H-1 Racer. On September 13, 1935, Hughes, flying the H-1, set the world speed record of 352 mph (566 km/h) over his test course near Santa Ana, California. (The previous record was 314 mph (505 km/h). A year and a half later (January 19, 1937), flying a somewhat re-designed H-1 Racer, Hughes set a new trans-continental speed record by flying non-stop from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds (beating his own previous record of 9 hours, 27 minutes). His average speed over the flight was 322 mph (518 km/h). The H-1 Racer featured a number of design innovations: It had retractable landing gear and all rivets and joints set flush into the body of the plane, to reduce drag. The H-1 Racer influenced the design of a number of World War II fighter airplanes such as the Mitsubishi Zero, the Focke-Wulf FW190, and the F6F Hellcat. The H-1 Racer was donated to the Smithsonian in 1975 and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum. On July 10, 1938 Hughes set another record by completing a flight around the world in just 91 hours (3 days, 19 hours), beating the previous record by more than four days. For this flight he did not fly a plane of his own design but a Lockheed Super Electra (a twin-engine plane with a four-man crew). In 1938, the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, known at the time as Houston Municipal Airport, was re-named "Howard Hughes Airport," but the name was changed back after people objected to naming the airport after a living person.
Hughes received many awards as an aviator, including the Harmon Trophy in 1936 and 1938, the Collier Trophy in 1939, the Octave Chanute Award in 1940, and a special Congressional Gold Medal in 1939 '...in recognition of the achievements of Howard Hughes in advancing the science of aviation and thus bringing great credit to his country throughout the world.' According to his obituary in the New York Times, he never bothered to come to Washington to pick up the Congressional Gold Medal, and it was eventually mailed to him by President Harry S. Truman.
Near-fatal crash of the XF-11
Hughes was involved in a near-fatal aircraft accident on July 7, 1946, while piloting the experimental U.S. Army spy plane XF-11 over Los Angeles. An oil leak caused one of the counter-rotating propellers to reverse its pitch, making the plane yaw sharply. Hughes tried to save the craft by landing it on the Los Angeles Country Club golf course, but seconds before he reached his attempted destination the plane started dropping dramatically and crashed in the Beverly Hills neighborhood surrounding the country club. When the plane finally skidded to a halt after mowing down three houses, the fuel tanks exploded, setting fire to the plane and a nearby home. Hughes lay wounded beside the burning airplane until he was rescued by Marine master sergeant William L. Durkin who happened to be in the area visiting nearby friends. The injuries Hughes sustained in the crash including a dislodged heart, crushed collar bone, six shattered ribs and numerous third-degree burns affected him for the rest of his life. Many attribute his long-term addiction to opiates to his use of morphine as a painkiller during his convalescence, during which time he engineered the modern hospital bed. The trademark moustache he wore afterwards was meant to cover a scar on his upper lip resulting from the accident.
Hughes H-4 Hercules ("Spruce Goose")
One of his greatest endeavors was the H-4 Hercules, nicknamed to his dismay the "Spruce Goose" (although its frame was built of birch, not spruce), a massive flying boat completed just after the end of World War II. The Hercules flew only once for a mile (with Hughes at the controls) on November 2, 1947. The plane was originally commissioned by the U.S. government for use in World War II, as a viable way to transport troops and equipment across the Atlantic out of range of German U-Boats. However, the "Spruce Goose" was not completed until after the war.
Hughes was called to testify before the Senate War Investigating Committee to explain why the plane had not been delivered to the United States Army Air Forces during the war, but the committee disbanded without releasing a final report. Because the U.S. government denied him the use of aircraft aluminum, which had been rationed, Hughes built the plane largely from birch in his Westchester, California facility to fulfill his contract. The plane was on display alongside the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for many years before being moved to McMinnville, Oregon, where it is now part of the Evergreen Aviation Museum.
Hughes Aircraft Company was originally founded by Hughes in 1932, in a rented corner of a Lockheed Aircraft Corporation hangar in Burbank, California, a division of Hughes Tool Company, to carry out the expensive conversion of a military plane into the H-1 racer. During and after WWII, Hughes fashioned his company into a major defense contractor. The Hughes Helicopters division started in 1947 when helicopter manufacturer Kellett sold their latest design to Hughes for production.
In 1948 Hughes created a new division of the company, the Hughes Aerospace Group. The Hughes Space and Communications Group and the Hughes Space Systems Division were later spun off in 1948 to form their own divisions and ultimately became the Hughes Space and Communications Company in 1961. Portions of the company wound up with McDonnell Douglas, and eventually Boeing when those two companies merged. The remainder of Hughes Aircraft was sold to Raytheon in 1998.
In 1939, at the urging of Jack Frye, president of TWA, Hughes quietly purchased a majority share of TWA stock for nearly $7 million and took control of the airline. Upon assuming ownership of TWA, Hughes was prohibited by federal law from building his own airplanes. Seeking an airplane that would perform better than TWA's fleet of Boeing 307 Stratoliners, Hughes approached Boeing's competitor, Lockheed. Hughes already had a good relationship with Lockheed since they had built the plane he used in his record flight around the world in 1938. Lockheed agreed to Hughes' demand that the new plane be built in absolute secrecy. The end result was the revolutionary Constellation, and TWA purchased the first 40 of the new planes off the production line.
Hughes' ownership of and plans for TWA may have been the real reason he was investigated by the Senate following the war. Pan American World Airways chief Juan Trippe sought to monopolize international air travel and had influenced powerful Maine Senator Owen Brewster to propose legislation securing Pan Am as the sole American airline allowed to fly overseas, at a time when Hughes planned TWA service to Europe with the Constellation. Noah Dietrich wrote of the investigation that Hughes beat the Senate committee by turning the hearings into an attack on Brewster. Hughes successfully exposed Brewster's dealings with Pan Am and later caused his re-election bid to fail by pouring considerable funds into the campaign of his opponent, Frederick Payne.
In 1956, Hughes placed an order for 63 Convair 880s for TWA at a cost of $400 million. Although Hughes was extremely wealthy at this time, outside creditors demanded that Hughes relinquish control of TWA in return for providing the money. In 1960, Hughes was ultimately forced out of TWA, although he still owned 78 percent of the company and battled to regain control.
Before Hughes' ouster, the TWA jet financing issue provoked the end of Hughes' relationship with Noah Dietrich. Dietrich remembered Hughes developing a plan by which Hughes Tool Company profits were to be inflated in order to sell the company for a windfall that would pay the bills for the 880s. Dietrich agreed to go to Texas to implement the plan on condition Hughes agreed to a capital gains arrangement he had long promised Dietrich. When Hughes balked, Dietrich resigned immediately. "Noah," Dietrich quoted Hughes as replying, "I cannot exist without you!" Dietrich stood firm and eventually had to sue to retrieve personal possessions from his office after Hughes ordered it locked.
In 1966, he was forced by a U.S. federal court to sell his shares in TWA due to concerns over conflict of interest between his ownership of both TWA and Hughes Aircraft. The sale of his TWA shares netted him a profit of $547 million. During the 1970s, Hughes went back into the airline business, buying the airline Air West and renaming it Hughes Airwest.
To the surprise of many, in 1948 Hughes gained control of RKO, a struggling major Hollywood studio, by acquiring 25% of the outstanding stock. During his tenure RKO suffered as a result of his management style. Within weeks of taking control, he dismissed three-fourths of the work force and production was shut down for six months in 1949 while he undertook to investigate the politics of all remaining studio employees. Completed pictures would be sent back for reshooting if he felt his star (especially female) was not properly presented, or if a film's anti-communist politics were not sufficiently clear. An aborted sale in 1952 to a Chicago-based group with no experience in the industry disrupted studio operations even further.
Hughes let go of the RKO theaters in 1953 as settlement of the United States vs. Paramount Pictures, Inc. antitrust case. With the sale of the profitable theaters, the shaky status of the film studio became increasingly apparent. A steady stream of lawsuits from RKO's minority shareholders, charging him with financial misconduct and corporate mismanagement became an increasing nuisance, especially as Hughes looked to focus on his aircraft-manufacturing and TWA holdings during the Korean War years. Anxious to be rid of the distraction, Hughes offered to buy out all other stockholders.
By the end of 1954, at a cost of nearly $24 million, he had gained near total control of RKO, becoming the closest thing to a sole owner of a studio that Hollywood had seen in more than three decades. Six months later, Hughes sold the studio to General Tire and Rubber Company for $25 million. Hughes retained the rights to pictures he had personally produced, including those made at RKO. He also retained Jane Russell's contract. For Howard Hughes, this was the virtual end of his twenty-five-year involvement in motion pictures; though he had all but destroyed a major Hollywood studio, his reputation as a financial wizard emerged unscathed he reportedly walked away from RKO having made $6.5 million in personal gains.
General Tire was interested mainly in exploiting the value of the RKO library for television programming, though it made some attempts to continue producing films. After a year and a half of mixed success, General Tire shut down film production at RKO for good at the end of January 1957. The studio lots in Hollywood and Culver City were sold to Desilu Productions later that year for $6.5 million.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Hughes launched in 1953 the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland, formed with the express goal of basic biomedical research including trying to understand, in Hughes' words, the "genesis of life itself." Hughes' first will that he signed in 1925 at the age of 19 stipulated that a portion of his estate should be used to create a medical institute bearing his name . Despite this, when he finally initiated the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, it was viewed by many as a tax haven for his wealth. Hughes gave all his stock of the Hughes Aircraft Company to the institute, thereby turning the defense contractor into a tax-exempt charity. The deal was the topic of a protracted legal battle between Hughes and the Internal Revenue Service which Hughes ultimately won. After his death in 1976, many thought that the balance of Hughes' estate would go to the institute, although it ultimately was divided among his cousins and other heirs, given the lack of a will to the contrary. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is America's second largest private foundation and the largest devoted to biological and medical research with an endowment of $12.8 billion as of September 2005.
In 1972, Hughes was approached by the CIA to help secretly recover a Soviet submarine which had sunk near Hawaii four years before. He agreed. Thus the Glomar Explorer, a special-purpose salvage vessel, was born. Hughes' involvement provided the CIA with a plausible cover story, having to do with civilian marine research at extreme depths, and the mining of undersea manganese nodules. In the summer of 1974 Glomar Explorer attempted to raise the Soviet vessel. However, during the recovery a mechanical failure in the ship's grapple caused half of the submarine to break off and fall to the ocean floor. This section is believed to have held many of the most sought after items, including its code book and nuclear missiles. Two nuclear-tipped torpedoes and some cryptographic machines were recovered, along with the bodies of six Soviet submariners who were subsequently given formal burial at sea in a filmed ceremony. The operation, known as Project Jennifer, became public in February 1975 because burglars had obtained secret documents from Hughes' headquarters in June 1974.
By the late 1950s, if not earlier, Hughes had developed debilitating symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Once one of the most visible men in America, he ultimately vanished from public view altogether, although the tabloids continued to follow rumors regarding his behavior and whereabouts. On January 12, 1957, Hughes married Jean Peters whom he had known for several years. This, his second marriage, suffered due to his reclusive tendencies, as much of his contact with his wife was by phone. At various times, the media reported him to be terminally ill, mentally unstable or possibly dead.
Hughes had displayed symptoms consistent with OCD his entire life. In the 1930s, close friends reported he was obsessed with the size of peas one of his favorite foods and used a special fork to sort them by size before he ate. While producing The Outlaw, Hughes became obsessed by a minor flaw in one of Jane Russell's blouses, claiming that the fabric bunched up along a seam and gave the appearance of two nipples on each of Russell's breasts. He was reportedly so concerned by the matter as to write a detailed memorandum to the film crew on how to fix the problem.
Richard Fleischer, who directed His Kind of Woman with Hughes as executive producer, wrote at length in his autobiography about the difficulty of dealing with the famed tycoon. In this book, Just Tell Me When to Cry published in 1993, Fleischer explained that Hughes was fixated on trivial details and was alternately indecisive and obstinate. He went on to say that Hughes' mood swings made him wonder at times if the film would ever be completed.
Hughes eventually became a complete recluse, locking himself away in darkened rooms in a drug-induced daze. Though he always kept a barber on call, Hughes only had his hair cut and nails trimmed about once a year. Several doctors were kept in the house on a substantial salary, however Hughes rarely saw them and usually refused to follow their advice. Toward the end of his life, his inner circle was largely composed of Mormons because he considered them trustworthy even though he was not a member of their orthodoxy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hughes by this time had become severely addicted to codeine, valium, and a number of other prescription drugs and was becoming increasingly frail. Many biographies and fictionalized works state that he stored his urine in jars and wore Kleenex boxes as shoes, although he reportedly did the latter only once, as "protection" when a toilet flooded. He insisted on using paper towels to pick up objects, so that he could insulate himself from germs. It has also been rumored that he kept the 1968 film Ice Station Zebra playing on a continuous loop in his home.
Hughes had contracted syphilis as a young man, and much of the strange behavior at the end of his life his well-documented aversion to handshaking, for example has been attributed by modern biographers to the tertiary stage of that disease. The condition first manifested itself in the form of tiny blisters that erupted on his hands. After receiving medical treatment for his symptoms, Hughes was warned by his doctor not to shake hands for some time, so he avoided doing so for the rest of his life. His syphilis was also indirectly responsible for a bizarre episode in which Hughes burned all his clothes. In the film The Aviator (2004), this incident is depicted as his response to his breakup with Katharine Hepburn. In reality, it was an overreaction by Hughes to the syphilis diagnosis; fearful of the germs which might be lingering on his clothing, he torched his entire wardrobe as well as every piece of linen in his house.
Shortly before the 1960 Presidential election, Richard Nixon was harmed by revelations of a $205,000 loan from Hughes to Nixon's brother that was never repaid. It has long been speculated that Nixon's obsessive need to learn what the Democrats were planning in 1972 was based in part on his belief that Donald Nixon had received another loan from Howard Hughes, and this led to the Watergate break-ins.
The aging Howard Hughes, accompanied with his entourage of personal aides, moved from one hotel to another, always taking up residence in the top floor penthouse of each hotel. During the last 10 years of his life, from 1966 to 1976, Hughes lived at hotels in Beverly Hills; Boston; Las Vegas; the Bahamas; Vancouver, Canada; London, England; Managua, Nicaragua; Acapulco, Mexico; and, others. Hughes was living in a hotel near Managua Lake in Nicaragua when an earthquake damaged the city in December 1972. On the pretext of possible assassination attempts and intrusive press photographers, his aides insisted the windows be blacked out. Many hotels in which he stayed were forced to undergo major renovations to repair the damage Hughes caused to the premises.
On November 27, 1966, Hughes arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada by railroad car, and moved into the Desert Inn Hotel. Refusing to leave the hotel and to avoid further conflicts with the owners of the hotel, Hughes bought the Desert Inn in early 1967. The hotel's eighth floor became the nerve center of his empire, and the ninth floor penthouse became Hughes' personal residence. Between 1966 and 1968, Hughes bought several other hotels/casinos (Castaways, New Frontier, The Landmark Hotel and Casino, Sands and Silver Slipper) from the Mafia, transactions which ultimately ended mob control of the city's hotels and casinos. Hughes wanted to change the image of Las Vegas from its mobsters in gaudy silk suits and thousand-dollar-a-night call girls to a more glamorous image. As Hughes wrote in a memo to an aide: "I like to think of Las Vegas in terms of a well-dressed man in a dinner jacket and a beautifully jeweled and furred female getting out of an expensive car". A chronic insomniac, Hughes bought several local television stations (including KLAS-TV) so that there would always be something for him to watch in the early hours of the morning.
Hughes' considerable business holdings were overseen by a small panel unofficially dubbed "The Mormon Mafia" on account of the many Latter-day Saints on the committee. In addition to supervising day-to-day business operations and Hughes' health, they also went to great pains to satisfy Hughes' every whim. Hughes once became fond of Baskin Robbins' banana-nut ice cream, and his aides sought to secure a bulk shipment for him only to discover that Baskin-Robbins had discontinued the flavor. They put in a request for the smallest amount the company could provide for a special order, 350 gallons, and had it shipped from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. A few days after the order arrived, Hughes announced he was tired of banana-nut and wanted only vanilla ice cream. The Desert Inn ended up distributing free banana-nut ice cream to casino customers for a year, until the 350 gallons were gone.
As an owner of several major businesses in Las Vegas, Hughes wielded enormous political and economic power in Nevada and was often able to influence the outcome of elections. Once he even ordered his aides to offer $1 million each to presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon to stop underground nuclear testing in Nevada (Hughes was afraid of the risk posed by the residual nuclear radiation). His aides never offered the bribes, reporting to Hughes that Johnson declined the offer and they were unable to contact Nixon.
In 1971, Jean Peters filed for divorce, as she had been married to Hughes since January 12, 1957, but the two had not lived together in many years. Peters requested a lifetime alimony payment of $70,000 a year, adjusted for inflation, and waived all claims to Hughes' estate. The surprised Hughes offered her a settlement of over a million dollars, but she declined it. Hughes did not insist upon a confidentiality agreement from Peters as a condition of the divorce; aides reported that Hughes never spoke ill of Peters. She refused to discuss her life with Hughes and declined several lucrative offers from big-name publishers and biographers. Peters would state only that she had not seen Hughes for several years before their divorce, as his psychological problems forced him to stay in a separate room, talking with her only by phone.
In 1972, author Clifford Irving created a media sensation when he claimed to have co-written an authorized autobiography of Howard Hughes. Hughes was such a reclusive figure that he did not immediately publicly refute Irving's statement, leading many people to believe Irving's book was a genuine autobiography. Before the book's publication, however, Hughes finally denounced Irving in a teleconference, and the entire project was eventually exposed as a hoax. Irving was later convicted of fraud and spent fourteen months in jail.
Death and burial
Hughes died on April 5, 1976, at the age of 70 while en route on an airplane from his penthouse in Acapulco, Mexico to The Methodist Hospital in Houston. His reclusive activities and drug use had made him practically unrecognizable, his hair, beard, finger and toe nails having grown grossly long, his once strapping 6'4" frame now barely weighing 90 lbs, and the FBI had to resort to fingerprint identification to identify the body. A subsequent autopsy noted kidney failure as the cause of death. Hughes was in extremely poor physical condition at the time of his death; X-rays revealed broken-off hypodermic needles still embedded in his arms and severe malnutrition. Howard Hughes is interred in the Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
Approximately 3 weeks after Hughes' death, a holographic or handwritten will was found on the desk of an official of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. The so-called "Mormon Will" gave $1.56 billion to various charities (including $625 million to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute); nearly $470 million to the upper-management in Hughes' companies and to his aides; $156 million to first cousin William Lummis; $156 million split equally between his two ex-wives Ella Rice and Jean Peters; and $156 million to a gas-station owner named Melvin Dummar. Dummar initially denied any knowledge about the will but changed his story when his fingerprints were found on the envelope containing the will. Dummar had appeared on Let's Make a Deal, among other game shows, and claimed to reporters that late one evening in December 1967, he found a disheveled and dirty man lying along U.S. Highway 95, 150 miles (250 kilometers) north of Las Vegas. The man asked for a ride to Las Vegas. Dropping him off at the Sands Hotel, Dummar said the man told him he was Hughes. Dummar then claimed that days after Hughes' death, a "mysterious man" appeared at his gas station, leaving an envelope containing the will on his desk. Unsure if the will was genuine, and unsure of what to do, Dummar left the will at the LDS Church office. In a trial lasting seven months, the Mormon Will was eventually rejected by the Nevada court in June 1978 as a forgery. The court declared that Hughes had died intestate.
Hughes' $2.5 billion estate was eventually split in 1983 between 22 cousins, including William Lummis who serves as a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dummar was largely discounted by the public as a phoney and an opportunist. A motion picture, directed by Jonathan Demme and entitled Melvin and Howard (starring Jason Robards and Paul Le Mat), was based on Dummar's tale.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hughes Aircraft was owned by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who sold it to General Motors in 1985 for $5 billion. Suits brought by the states of California and Texas claiming they were owed inheritance tax were both rejected by the court. In 1984, Hughes' estate paid an undisclosed amount to Terry Moore, who claimed to have been secretly married to Hughes on a yacht in international waters off Mexico in 1949 and never divorced. Although Moore never produced proof of a marriage (and married five more times, while Hughes married Jean Peters), her book, The Beauty and the Billionaire, became a best-seller.
Dummar's Story reconsidered
A 2005 book titled "The Investigation", written by F.B.I. Agent Gary Magnesen, supports Dummar's claims and brings to light three new witnesses. John Meier, a former Hughes employee, stated that Hughes left the Desert Inn Hotel on different occasions to visit mine sites in the area where Dummar claims to have picked up Hughes. Robert Deiro, a former pilot for Hughes Tool Company, stated that between Christmas and New Year's Eve during 1967 he flew Hughes in a Cessna 206 to a brothel called the Cottontail Ranch located in the area where Dummar claims to have picked up Hughes. While waiting for Hughes, Deiro fell asleep and later awoke to learn that Hughes had left the Cottontail Ranch. Unable to locate Hughes, Deiro flew back to Las Vegas alone, and learned later that Hughes somehow had made it back to the Desert Inn. The third witness is Howard Harrell, the widower of Madam Beverly Harrell, who ran the Cottontail Ranch in 1967. Howard Harrell stated that his wife had told him of Hughes' visits to the Cottontail Ranch. The location where Dummar claimed to have picked up Hughes is 6 miles south of the Cottontail Ranch.
On June 12, 2006, based on the accounts of the three witnesses, Dummar filed suit in Utah against William Lummis, the primary beneficiary of the Hughes estate, and Frank Gay, the former chief operating officer of a number of Hughes entities, claiming that the two had conspired to defraud Dummar out of his rightful share of the Hughes estate by presenting perjured testimony and concealing evidence in the 1978 trial. Dummar's complaint demanded the $156 million which he would have received from the estate, plus punitive damages and interest.