March 18, 1951 – Voices and Events – NBC Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
March 18, 1951 – news for this week in 1951, and a busy week it was. Eyes and ears were glued to radios and TV’s all across the country as the Kefauver Crime Committee Hearings moved to New York and were underway.
The Kefauver Committee was named after Estes Kefauver who was the first chairman to sit in on the hearings. The committee was officially known as United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, but most people knew it as the Kefauver hearings.
The aim of the select group of members was to look into and investigate organized crime in America, and the hearings began in 1950. The Kefauver Committee travelled to 14 cities, and interviewed over 600 people in just over a year that it was active.
During this week in Washington, a parade of witnesses passed through the witness stand – and there were a remarkable number of Fifth Amendment pleas. On the stand was a veritable who’s who in the organized crime world, including one somewhat odd defendant. Virginia Hill, whose short life took her from a Lipscomb, Alabama horse farm to Chicago, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills, was called to testify before the U.S. Senate in March 1951 about the organized crime figures she met along through the years.
The testimony of the 34-year-old, in whose home her gangster boyfriend Bugsy Siegel was gunned down in 1947, was seen by 20 million Americans on national television.
On March 15, 1951, as Hill testified in a $5,000 mink stole before Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver, chairman of the committee investigating organized crime, her lifelong dream of fame finally came true.
Though she guarded the secrets of the gangsters she befriended and bedded over 17 years, Virginia’s testimony sent the federal government after her like a bloodhound.
In a matter of minutes, she turned her into a celebrity, pariah, legend, and a fugitive.
Hill testified she made $30,000 a year, just by betting on horses. Today, that’s more than $300,000 a year.
“I don’t bet anything now,” Hill said. “I am afraid I will win, and then they will say I made more money than I did.”
And while Capitol Hill was entertaining America, the war in Korea was offering grim assessments. The South Korea Capital of Seoul changed hands for the fourth time when UN forces once again liberated the city. For the most part, Seoul had been devastated by fighting, and its population had been reduced to a fraction of its prewar size. General MacArthur was calling it a “War of Attrition” and no one had any clue as to when or even how this war was going to end.
And that’s a small slice of what went on, this week ending March 18, 1951 as reported by NBC Radio’s Voices And Events.
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