Paul: And Bill P.... from El Dorado came into my little office I had and he
said, "We're going to have a fellow coming here tomorrow that is Raymond
Clinton's nephew. And if you would, would you kindly welcome him aboard and
show him around and give him some insight as to what he would be expected to
do." And I said, "Alright, where does he go to school?" And he told me he's
at Georgetown. I said, "How old is he?" He said, "I think he's 19 or 20."
And I said, "Okay." I said, "That's no problem." I said, "Could you give me
any other information that might be pertinent about him?" And he said, "Well,
I know the boy's real smart." I'll never forget that. 'I know he's real
So the point is, is that when he comes in the next day, I had mentally said
that I was going to spend like 30 minutes to an hour because I had some other
projects that I wanted to do. Well, I'll just make a long story short. I
didn't get to the other projects until three days later because it was like my
long lost brother had shown up and we had to get familiar with each other. And
we clicked, quote unquote, and, you know, I made the statement to some people
in my family. I said, "I have finally met the boy that I know is going to make
the next United States Senator from Arkansas whenever he comes of age." Now
please understand, I never in the longest day of my life, ever thought an
individual from the state of Arkansas could be elected President of the United
So my mind set was strictly set towards somebody who's going to become a
senator because we know someday Fulbright was going to have to retire and for
sure John McClellan wasn't going to last forever. So you had to look at it in
that light. I made him a promise. I said, "When you decide that you want to
run for Congress, you make sure you call me because I will run your campaign
for you." And, you know, I did that in the second day that I had met the man.
I knew that he had what it took to make it happen.
Q: Tell me who were the three or four most notable young men.
Paul: Well, you could probably count them on one hand at that time that you
knew that had that little something extra, that was going to count down the
road. Obviously Bill Clinton was, in my mind, was the leader of the pack. My
wife really liked Jim Guy Tucker and I felt like that he had a tremendous
amount of savvy and ability to offer to the state. And, you know, eventually
he was elected to Congress and ran for Senate and got beat. And then he
resurrected his career some 12 years later and ran for governor. He had that
little something extra about him.
I also felt like that Jim McDougal had abilities in that sense because of his
tremendous mind power. He really had the ability to put things together and to
weld a process together as it related to a campaign. He also had
organizational skills that a lot of people didn't have.
Q: Smart? He was smart?
Paul: Oh, sure. No question about that.
Q: It showed?
Q: And you put him in that class of people.
Paul: No question. No question.
Q: Right alongside Clinton and Jim Guy?
Paul: Yes, yes.
Q: So Mr. Prewit comes to you and says, "Paul, we had this young fellow.
Raymond Clinton's nephew who's going to be joining the campaign." Did the name
Raymond Clinton mean anything to you?
Paul: Yes, it did. Because he was basically a person that could make things
happen in a couple or three counties. And I was aware of that. I had been
made aware of it in '64. He was, quote, a real strong person in Faubus' line
up in the sense that Faubus could count on him to deliver the vote in certain
places. Not that he could steal it, but just the fact that, you know, he knew
the people to talk to. I'm sure that since he owned the Belvedere Club over in
Hot Springs that he probably had some markers out on some of those people. And
I mean in the sense that they had borrowed money on a gambling debt or
something to that effect. I don't know that to be a fact, but then again, I
would like to say that at least he made the effort to make sure that these
people did what was right in his mind.
Q: Arkansas is in all of these ways, a very small place.
Paul: Oh, no question.
Q: Not just physically but, you know, sort of psychically, it's a small
Paul: Yes, it is.
Q: And that influences its politics and its way of doing business and way of
doing politics, does it not?
Paul: Sure. There's no question about that. I think that if you look back
in history-- Someone does need to write a book on the fact that a number of
politicians, they have aligned themselves with certain influential bankers,
businessmen, certain influential people out in these respective communities.
Q: Back in 1966, young Bill Clinton comes to you. Describe to me a couple of
particulars about that. What did he look like then? How did he dress in that
Paul: Yeah. He basically wore the same old blue shirt after a while. And we
all had these little blue short sleeve shirts and, you know, we had little Holt
Generation buttons on. And the kicker is that he looked no different than
anyone else other than the fact that he was taller than I and I'm about six
two, he's close to six three. And he has real wavy hair and which he still
has. And, you know, he was a very striking person. And he had a certain
presence about him that no one else really possessed in the sense that he could
walk in the room and you knew he was there because he did turn the heads.
And he melted me within an hour because he knew where I was coming from and he
related to me as to who I was, where I was, and where I was going. And he and
I had a kindred spirit because I saw where he had been. And, you know, I went
to his home within a week and met his mother and met his stepfather and met his
little brother. And, you know, they became very close friends of mine. Very
THE CONVERSATION TURNS TO FORMER GOVERNOR BOB RILEY...
Q: In his time and place, would you characterize Bob Riley politically as
being more progressive, generally speaking, than the state?
Paul: Oh, sure. No question. No question.
Mary Lee: But not liberal. Very progressive.
Paul: I mean, he basically was anti-Faubus and he taught us to be that.
It's not that he had a mill of left wing liberals down there by any stretch.
But then again, you had to have an open mind to understand basically where he
was coming for.
Mary Lee: We were very liberal civil rights group of-- As a school
Paul: Very liberal as it related to that.
Q: And so these young people who came in and out of his circle, either as
students or later on meeting him after they had entered the political world,
would bear from their relationship with him a Bob Riley stamp?
Paul: Yes, indeed.
Q: Did Clinton know him?
Paul: Yes, he did.
Q: And they came to be very close did they not? The Rileys to Jim and Susan
Q: How? How did that happen?
Mary Lee: Much later.
Paul: I think, the truth be known, that dear Riley's last days on the face of
the earth, that he asked Claudia to make sure she took care of Jim. Because
Jim was living in their little house that he originally had put on his property
for his mother before she passed away. And they basically took those kids into
their arms, you know. When he came down there in '70-- I can't remember
exactly what year it was. I think it was '72, if I recall correctly, Jim was
down there working. My point to you is, is that he eventually went on the
faculty at Washataw. A lot of people don't know that. But Jim McDougal was a
member of the faculty at that institution.
Q: What did Riley, what did the Rileys see in Jim McDougal?
Paul: That he was an overtly brilliant person. I can tell you that he had
memorized all of FDR's fireside chats. He knew how to annunciate a position
and he would have made a tremendous lawyer. In fact, I'll assure you that when
you visit him and you ask him that question about have you ever considered
becoming an attorney, and he will wax for a few minutes telling you why.
Because he has the ability to annunciate a position quite well.
Q: Yes. I didn't mean to veer off into the wilderness here. It's
fascinating stuff to me. But we were back in 1966. You were about to tell me
your first impression of Bill Clinton, how you met Bill Clinton.
Mary Lee: I met Bill Clinton on a first personal on a basis and then it would
be maybe months and months later, Paul said that we met over-- With the Frank
Holt situation. Or either on campus. Bill, to me, was just the guy who had
gone-- I'm from northern Virginia. I mean, it was just we sort of clicked at
that time on a friendly relationship. It was never out of politics. It stayed
in the role of the politic arena. I was president of the Young Republicans by
this time or either just elected. And it was my job to challenge young
thinkers to look into the world of the Republicans. To look into the
possibility of studying the way the Republicans run versus the Arkansas
Democrats...And so I was allowed to take these type of people out to dinner.
Any young college student. I was not into taking businessmen to dinner, but
the college students. And we went to just one of the local college type
restaurants. Of course Bill was always gung ho to eat. This is a bar(?) type
food and I'm going to talk about a Southern bar type. And we're talking about
food, we're talking about piles of fried chicken, piles of catfish, great big
dishes of green beans and lima beans and black eyed peas and cornbread. And
Bill could fill his plate over and over and over again. And this was only like
$2.35 with all the sweetened iced tea you wanted.
Q: And so over these meals, you would talk politics, the two of you?
Mary Lee: We would talk about the things in Virginia, international politics.
Bill talked about a lot of things. We talked about world trade. How it
affected the rice markets. How we could open markets more into Arkansas. We
had the beautiful mountain areas, we had the pine areas. We were talking about
people who were unemployed.
Q: And you had a sense even from that very early moment, that he was of
Mary Lee: Correct.
Q: And he didn't see himself as having gone off and--
Mary Lee: Gone to the U.N., no. No, not a big--
Paul: He never had the trappings of an individual who had been to the East
Coast. Now understand--
Mary Lee: Oh, I saw it because I'm from the East Coast. [Laughter]
Paul: But he never gave you the appearance that in fact he was over educated.
And, you know, there was a lot of people tried to pin that on him. But he was
able to arrest those fears quickly. And, you know, he had that ability. A lot
of people-- You know, I was just speaking this week with a fellow and we were
talking about how he has really run into some different problems, but he always
comes out smelling like a rose. And I said, "Yes." I said, "He's probably one
of the few people in the world that could fall in a dung heap and come out
smelling out like he had perfume on him." And I said, "The point is, is that
it's because of the fact that he can rise above the conditions quicker than any
individual I have ever encountered."
And you know, it's like I've always said, he's probably the smartest man I've
ever met that's got common sense.
Paul: He was best man in my wedding. He and I became that close. I
considered him as good a friend as I've ever had in my life time.
Q: Did you feel the same way about him?
Mary Lee: At that time, Paul and Bill were very close. I mean, where they
considered themselves as brothers, as an adoptive brother. And an adoptive
brother, by Jewish(?) customs, you never kick out of the family.
Mary Lee: Bill was a house guest a lot. Bill was just like a big-- a little
brother that I didn't have. I mean, he had become very close with my parents.
He had spent several nights in my home in Virginia. Thought nothing of eating
dinner with my parents. And we didn't think anything about it.
Q: And you all saw him in his Arkansas manifestation and he had acquired
along the way a deeply felt affection for this Yankee girl that he'd met at
school, up at Yale, and brought her down and injected her into his life here.
In his political life and then, ultimately, married her. How did you perceive
Hillary fitting into his life?
Mary Lee: Bill called frequently. A lot of times it was collect and other
times he would just pick up the phone and call. He was exuberant, he was
excited. And we had gone to dinner and gone to the lake at Marge Mitchell's
place with dates with Bill. And it was always just a date. And I was close
friends to one of the girls he had dated for a very long time and it was
totally different. This time, he was excited. He kept on telling me on the
phone how much Hillary and I were alike, although we were different in many
aspects. You had this in common and this. And we were both daddy's little
girls. Both Republican backgrounds and excited about children's activities.
I was very concerned about the lack of childcare regulations in Arkansas.
Anyone could just apply for license if you were clean and met very few
qualifications, you could open up a daycare center. I wanted to find daycare
centers that had teachers, certified teachers. Wanted more than a coloring
swing day for my children. I was pregnant with our second child this time. We
had done several campaigns. And Bill kept on telling me oh how I would like
Hillary. And it was just he was willing to give up everything he had, all his
goals, share his life with a woman. He never talked about any date. Just over
the phone, I told Paul. I said, "He is madly in love. I hope he passes the
semester because the bug has bitten Bill."
He was excited. Yet he had not asked her to get married that I-- There were
no indications that he had proposed to Hillary, but you could tell this was the
woman he wanted to share the rest of his life with.
Q: And having heard of all of this, you meet Hillary. Was there a
Paul: Yes, because I never figured that Bill Clinton would bring a person to
Arkansas that did not fit somewhat the mold. And she didn't. I mean, you
know, when I first met her I thought, "Oh, my gracious, this girl's a hippie
or, you know, something like that." And I thought well, maybe she's a reject
flower child. I don't really understand. I mean, you know, she had these
round glasses and, you know, I thought, "Man, what are we looking at here?"
But, you know, like he told me, he said, "She's the smartest person I ever met
in my lifetime." And I can assure you, she's brilliant. Bar none.
Mary Lee: We met Hillary after she had been traveling in Bill's car. Bill
never drove luxury cars after he got into law school. The Buick stage was
while he was in college. But to just drive in Bill's car was enough to make a
woman feel that every bone in her body had been beaten up. Hillary did not
dress as the norm was dressing in Arkansas. But that was her choice. She was
very clean, her hair was clean. She did not look like she was dressed to go
meet her future mother-in-law as a typical Arkansan would have. Put nail
polish on. Colorful nail polish. Have worn a lot of make up. I mean, Hillary
was going to be Hillary. She wasn't going to put on any false pretenses for
And Virginia was very much so into the cosmetic world. Bill's mother always
wore make up. I could remember when Bill's mother wake up in the morning to
fix breakfast. She was totally painted. Hillary was totally different, but he
loved her. Just the way he would touch her and look in her eyes and talk about
how much he loved her and appreciated her and her brilliant mind and her hopes
and dreams. It wasn't Hillary's dreams, it wasn't Bill's dreams. He mentioned
the word, it's ours. We're going to do this. We, ours. And Paul didn't see
that. Paul wanted her to fit the mold of an Arkansan or a Southerner. I'm
going to put more of a Southerner...
THE CONVERSATION TURNS TO JIM MCDOUGAL...
Q: And so Jim McDougal was what? He had political talent, you think, back
Mary Lee: Very much so. Jim knew the insides and out. I had met Jim in the
summer of '65. Because I was not an Arkansas, Dr. Riley decided I had to do
Jim was fantastic. He never treated me as if I was a female or a person from
out of state. He explained every detail. And let me feel comfortable in
asking questions. Why did this happen? Why did you respond to this man on the
very same situation, you took an opposite viewpoint?
And Jim was like a professor who would sit down and take time and talk to you.
At that time, I never saw this hot tempered Jim. I saw a very warm person who
had a very well developed skills on working with females.
Q: Your impression was he was trusted by Senator Fulbright?
Mary Lee: Yes.
Q: They were close?
Mary Lee: They were close. He had to have Jim to win. I don't think
Fulbright would have won the election in '68, if he had not had Jim McDougal.
Q: What did Jim do?
Mary Lee: Jim was able to organize. Pull things back together. Fulbright
was a fantastic, brilliant man.
Mary Lee: He had been a Baptist preacher and--
Q: Jim McDougal?
Mary Lee: Was a preacher. By the time I met Jim, he was-- By the time I went
to the Federal Building, Jim was sober. Jim had battled alcoholism, he'd won
the war and he's quit being a dependent on alcohol. And since I do not smoke
or drink, I was the perfect person to have in an office with Jim because I
wouldn't have a bottle tempting him or we wouldn't go to lunch and I'd ask for
Q: You knew David Hale?
Paul: Yes, I did. He was always politically active. Very much so. And we
became just really close friends.
Mary Lee: He and his wife were one of my first house guests at Quapaw. When
the first week we were married.
Paul: Yep. We had them over.
Q: And he went into business and?
Paul: He was a lawyer and he, you know, with his brother. And he eventually
was elected to the Municipal Judgeship for this county and he had a development
finance type operation where that he had, you know-- it was a capital
management corporation thing.
Q: Apparently, at some point, you all lived with him or rented a house from
Paul: We bought the first house, to my knowledge--
Q: Tell me that story.
Paul: Okay. The Hale operation went into a thing called Hale Realty and we
were one of the first homes that they ever sold and it was out in Sherwood, at
Idowan Country Club. And we bought that house and eventually I let my brother
take it over when I went to Fayetteville to help Bill Clinton.
Mary Lee: We sold to your brother. The house was a typical Hale project. It
looked pretty outside and had all types of problems inside.
Q: What happened with the place?
Mary Lee: Well, it didn't have any plumbing in it. I started to wash the
dishes, my feet got wet. There were no pipes. And just fine because it was
going straight under the house. And he had painted the walls, put up
wallpaper. It was a money project for them. And Paul's parents worked for the
Municipal Court where David's brother was the judge. And it was sort of like a
family thing. And the house was not appraised at what we paid for it. And
Paul had to do a lot of work to it. We're talking about heating systems and
everything were bad in it.
Q: Did this damage your friendship?
Paul: No. Friends were friends and even though they take advantage of
Mary Lee: (simultaneous conversation) to the wives.
Paul: It created a lot of problems. But, you know, that's just part of the
process. You know, they're trying to get ahead and you can't sit there and
fault them. You've just got to realize, hey, that's the way they do
Q: McDougal at the time. You know, knowing him in the old days as a young,
smart political operator with a future. Does it surprise you that he went into
the banking business?
Paul: No, because he had always spoken about the fact that he wanted to get a
bank. He wanted to be a banker. You know,because he realized that bankers do
control the political process. I don't care what you say about Arkansas,
that's one, you know, constant, static, number one lynch pin of the whole
process is the fact that, hey, everybody has got to go to the bank borrow money
in order to live in a direct majority of cases.
Consequently, if you decide to run for political office, you better be
connected properly in that regard because they do wield some unwieldy power.
Q: So it would be keeping with that truth of Arkansas political life that,
when Jim McDougal does become a banker, when he does become a savings and loan
operator, one of the things he regularly does is favor his political friends.
Paul: No question.
Mary Lee: Correct. When bankers are called--
Paul: He understood the process. He understood how the game was played. He
realized that that's just a part and parcel of the whole matter. And if you're
not in a position to do that, you're on the wrong side of the ledger.
(simultaneous conversation) I mean, it's very simple. It's very simple.
Mary Lee: When bankers would call, their phone calls would go through. I
mean, it was very important when a president would call. We're talking about
necessarily doing under the table political maneuvers. We're talking about
bankers at that time had the right to say whether they'd give you a personal
loan or not. But bankers were on the top list to be called when anything was
going to go on in their town or their area.
Paul: That's when she worked with Fulbright. She couldn't understand how the
Mary Lee: Bankers were a very-- so important that if a banker had-- If you
could only make one phone call and you were going to a meeting and President
Johnson had called, the banker would get called back. Now I did a lot of
mistakes where, you know, Jim would have to teach me things like a lot of times
Jim would come in and say, "Absolutely no calls except for these." And they'd
usually be bankers.
Q: Do you think that-- I mean, of this political truth about bankers and
their importance, do you think that was a lesson McDougal knew?
Mary Lee: Sure.
Paul: He well knew that rule. He well knew that. And he understood the
process. Because, after all, what are you going to do in a depressed economy
such as we've had here in Arkansas all these years and you've got to recognize
who is really in control of the cash flow other than bankers. So if you can't
be a kingpin, you best be knowing one. And that's why that he took it upon
himself to get into the banking business because he knew that those people
controlled the cash flow question. You know, he realized that that's the way
the game is played. Very simple. He did a good job of it. He did a good job
I mean, you know, I realize that he'd lost, you know, millions of dollars, but
the whole point is, is that he played the game to the hilt as he understood how
the game was played.
Q: Do you think Jim McDougal was a crook? Do you think he had, at bottom,
did he have a larcenous heart?
Paul: No, sir. No, sir. Not one iota's worth. He never wanted to take
advantage of anybody. His whole perception was this, I can do something to
help the common man better himself. And he went about doing that. You will
look at what we call south of the freeway on Main Street, he was the mover and
the shaker down there in the sense that he was able to refurbish a good portion
of that street. And, you know, he did that out of the goodness of his heart.
If he wanted to be really a-- a money mongrel, he would have placed his money
in something much more safe. He would have done things totally different.
Instead he made the Quapaw Quarter and a whole lot of the state's what it is
Q: Paul, what do you think Jim McDougal and Bill Clinton saw in one another?
Paul: I think that Bill realized that Jim McDougal had a tremendous mind and
he wanted to capitalize on the fact that the man wanted to make money and that
he, himself, not coming from money, quote unquote, he wanted to be a part of
the process and try to help the man. By the same token, Jim McDougal saw that
Bill Clinton was going to be something. He was going to be a major player
within the system and that, you know, he could-- It was just a mutual
admiration process and I think they were trying to make a hand in glove where
both could shake and keep going and both be doing well. And at one time, they
did do well. No question about that.
Q: Do you think they were truly friends?
Paul: I would seem to think that that would be the case. I know some people
have told me, "Well, hey, Bill Clinton's just of the old school were, you know,
what have you done for me lately type of thing."
I know his heart. And I know Jim McDougal's heart and I know that both of
them are good people.
Q: What about Hillary?
Mary Lee: Paul and I had two different angles on Hillary. Hillary and I
disagreed politically on a lot of issues. But I do not detest the woman. I do
not think she has a heart to be greedy.
Q: Do you think she saw you as an ally back in 1974?
Mary Lee: There were some situations. Bill had me to do some things for him
on a personal basis. I bucked up at Paul, I bucked up at Bill. I did not want
to do it.
Q: Did she know you were hiding girlfriends from her?
Mary Lee: At the end, she did. And it was very--
Q: She ever talk about it?
Mary Lee: We would talk about problems in the campaign. I tried to be as
soft as I could on her. On that issue. Paul had preferred an Arkansan or a
Southerner as Mrs. Clinton. It would have been easier for a political person.
I saw Bill. I knew what Bill thought about her. I was the person who was told
by Bill to change Hillary's mode of dress. I don't care how you do it, but do
it. I mean, that's usually how Bill would talk. And we talked about fashions.
I did not see that Hillary needed to change all her clothes. It was just a few
accessories or a little bit of change in some things.
Q: Bill had asked you to change Hillary's clothes?
Mary Lee: But he didn't ask me to totally remake her. He wanted me to make
her more appealing to the voters. Not to make her sexier. Not to take away
her personality. Not to make her wear certain colors. But sometimes, just
accessorizing with scarves or pins gives you a softer view. After all, she was
talking to Arkansan women who were still at home cooking. They were not using
canned biscuits. They were still making cornbread and biscuits the old
WHEN CLINTON BECAME GOVERNOR...
Q: Was there ever a sense at the time Bill Clinton becomes governor, this
group moves up, these young politicians suddenly arrive at their moment. One
of them, Bill Clinton becomes governor. Another, Jim McDougal, becomes the
head of his own bank, saving-- big hot shot savings and loan fellow here in
town. Did the family take care of its own? Did people reach out?
Mary Lee: Arkansans are known to take care of themselves. If there's an
illness, a fire, the Arkansans will be there. This was proven in our recent
tornadoes. The Arkansans are there within minutes with food, clothing, a
hammer, a saw, whatever it takes. Bill Clinton had a vacation from the
governor's mansion because he had built a wall and kept friends away. It was--
I don't want to say it was Bill's friends who brought him down, they didn't get
behind him and support him in '80. Bill did what he thought was right. We had
political issues that people were taking their own sides. Paul made a very
I cannot say that we broke up with the Clintons and it was all because of
them. I think a lot had to do was we were going our own way. Paul had
political ambitions and we were still having more children. Paul Fray suffered
a massive cerebral hemorrhage, May 20, 1977. The people who got behind me were
not only our church friends, but our political friends.
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