Alice Glass

Alice Glass

Alice Glass, the daughter of George Glass and Judith Ligon Glass, was born on 11th October, 1911, in Lott, Texas. Her father was the president of the local bank. Glass graduated from high school in Marlin and attended Texas Christian University. She then moved to Austin where she worked as a secretary to state senator William Robert Poage.

Frank C. Oltorf, who worked for Brown & Root, got to know Glass during this period, described her as an extremely attractive young woman: "Austin had never seen anything like her... Her blond hair had a red overlay... Usually it was long enough so that she could sit on it, and it shimmered and gleamed like nothing you ever saw... There was something about the way she walked and sat that was elegant and aloof. And with her height, and that creamy skin and that incredible hair, she looked like a Viking princess."

In 1931 Glass attended a party given by Charles Edward Marsh. According to Jennet Conant: "The first time Charles Marsh saw her, she was stark naked, a pale, shimmering goddess rising unexpectedly from the mists of his Austin swimming pool... Almost six foot in her bare feet, she was slim, graceful, and startlingly beautiful with delicate features, wide-set blue eyes, and strawberry-blond hair that cascaded past her shoulders." Marsh was 44 years old, had been married to Leona for twenty years and had three children. He was also a multimillionaire newspaper publisher and was one of the most powerful men in Texas. Apparently, the following morning, he woke up in bed with Alice and told her: "You are not for Austin, Texas, little girl."

Alice Glass became Marsh's mistress. One friend claims Marsh "lavished jewels on her - not only a quarter-of-a-million-dollar necklace of perfect emeralds, but earrings of emeralds and diamonds and rubies". Alice's cousin recalls: "The first time she came back to Marlin and walked down the street in her New York clothes and her jewels, women came running out of the shops to stare at her." Another friend said that "when she walked into a restaurant, between those emeralds and her height and that red-gold hair, the place would go completely silent."

Alice became pregnant and according to Ralph Ingersoll: "To have the baby Alice was sent on holiday to London. From there she wrote at once to her family that she had fallen in love with a wonderful Englishman, Major Manners. She had married him on the spur, because he was an officer in a regiment which was suddenly posted to India. She was to join him after he was settled. But he was hardly gone when Alice's family heard from their surprising daughter the happy news that she would be presenting him with a baby." Alice's baby was born in London and christened "Diana Manners". Soon afterwards Alice wrote to her parents, informing them that her husband had been killed in a border battle.

Marsh left his wife and built a new home for Alice and himself in Virginia named Longlea. The historian, Robert A. Caro, claims that: "Longlea was her place. She had designed it, asking the architects to model it on the Sussex country home she had seen when Marsh had taken her to England, working with the architects herself for months to modify its design, softening the massiveness of the long stone structure, for example, by setting one wing at a slight angle away from the front, enlarging the windows because she loved sunlight, insisting that the house be faced entirely with the native Virginia beige fieldstone of which she could see out-croppings in the meadows below; told there were no longer stonemasons of sufficient skill to handle the detail work she wanted, she scoured small, isolated towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains until she found two elderly master masons, long retired, who agreed, for money and her smile, to take on one last job. She furnished it herself, with Monets and Renoirs and a forty-foot-long Aubusson rug that cost Marsh, even at Depression bargain prices, $75,000."

According to Jennet Conant "Longlea was set on a thousand acres in the northern Virginia hunt country, was named for the eighteenth-century Sussex manor house on which it was modeled, but it could have been named for its setting. The roads towards it, toward its blue-slate roof and its great chimneys that rose above the soft Virginia hills, led across long, rolling meadows, and the meadows before it were nothing to the meadow behind it. The broad flagstone terrace at the rear of Longlea - a terrace 110 feet long - was bordered by a low stone parapet."

Frank C. Oltorf was a regular visitor to Longlea. He later recalled: "Alice Glass was the most elegant woman I ever met and Longlea was the most elegant home I ever stayed in." Arnold Genthe, who photographed the world's most attractive women for Vanity Fair, described Alice as the "most beautiful woman" he had ever met. He also considered Longlea as the "most beautiful place" he had ever seen and asked for his ashes to be scattered on the estate. Marsh's eldest daughter by his first marriage, Antoinette Marsh Haskell, did not like Alice: "She (Alice) took on the privileges of a great beauty, and was very self-serving and demanding. She was a real courtesan. She knew what she was doing."

Alice gave birth to a second child, Michael. Jennet Conant has argued: "Charles knew the father was de Terrey, the charming decorator who had become her constant companion. Although he publicly acknowledged the boy as his own, he privately complained about her infidelity to close friends like Ingersoll and Dahl. (The baby had been conceived while Marsh was away on a long trip to California.) Alice, who was at best an indifferent mother, entrusted her children's care to the ever-efficient Rudolf and his wife, Margaret, who over time became devoted surrogate parents."

Alice Glass gave birth to two children but refused to marry Charles Edward Marsh. Alice's sister, Mary Louise Glass, explained her unusual character: "She (Alice) was a free spirit - very independent - in an era when women weren't that way... Above everything else, Alice was an idealist... She had a very particular view of the kind of place the world should be and she was willing to do anything she had to do to make things come out right for people who were in trouble."

Alice and Marsh were both strong supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. They were close friends with people on the left of the Democratic Party. This included Henry A. Wallace, who was Secretary of Agriculture in the Roosevelt administration and Claude Pepper, the leading progressive in the Senate who was described by his enemies as "Red Pepper". Wallace used to try out his visionary ideas on Alice and recorded in his diary that "she seems to be the only person with enough imagination to know what I am talking about."

In July 1937 they visited the Saltzburg Music Festival. While they were in Europe they heard Adolf Hitler speak and saw the impact his policies were having on liberals and racial minorities. During their trip they met Jews who feared for their life. This included Max Graf, who was a professor at the Vienna Conservatory. Marsh told him he would do what he could to get him out of the country. It has been claimed that on the day when he was leaving the office for the last time, a colleague had given him the Nazi salute and said, "Heil, Hitler!". Graf replied "Heil, Beethoven!"

Marsh and Alice also met Erich Leinsdorf, a twenty-five-year-old musician. Leinsdorf later described how this "immensely rich" couple had offered to help him. In 1938 he arrived in the United States to take up a temporary position as assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. When his term of employment came to an end he went to stay with them at Longlea. "It was a large farm, dominated by a magnificent house... with eighteen servants, over whom a German butler and his wife, a superlative cook, held sway."

Leinsdorf did not want to return to Nazi Germany and asked Marsh if he could help him to stay in the United States. The next day Marsh drove Leinsdorf to Washington where they stayed in his suite at the Mayflower Hotel. Leinsdorf explained in his autobiography, Cadenza: A Musical Career (1976), that Marsh summoned Lyndon B. Johnson to the hotel: "A lanky young man appeared. He treated Charles with the informal courtesy behooving a youngster toward an older man to whom he is in debt." Johnson then arranged for Leinsdorf to become a "permanent resident" of the United States.

Johnson brought Leinsdorf's documents to Longlea personally. It was the first time Alice had met Johnson. The author of The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power (1982) has argued: "Alice Glass, who wanted to help people, believed that Lyndon Johnson shared the same desire. She believed that he was unlike the other politicians who came to Longlea, and whose conversation revealed, before a weekend was over, that their only interest was personal advancement. She believed that he was unlike the other politicians who came to Longlea, and whose conversation revealed, before a weekend was over, that their only interest was personal advancement. She believed that she had finally met a politician who was not constantly scheming on behalf of his ambition, a politician whose dreams were for others rather than for himself. Listening to his stories of how he was getting the dams built and the programs implemented, she came to believe, moreover, that he possessed not only the desire but the ability to help people."

According to Jennet Conant: "Both Alice and Johnson took great pride in rescuing such a talented young musician. Leinsdorf had opened Johnson's eyes to the plight of refugees, and like Alice, who had been providing money to Jews fleeing Hitler, he began doing more on their behalf, eventually helping hundreds of Jewish refugees to reach safety in Texas through Cuba, Mexico, and other South American countries."

Alice told her sister Mary Louise, that Johnson had limitless potential: "She thought he was a young man who was going to save the world." She decided to help him become a successful politician. According to her sister, Alice taught him how to dress and how to eat food. She recommended the reading of books including the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Alice also advised him on how to be photographed. She told him that his left side was much better than his right. For the rest of his life "he would try to allow only the left side to be seen in photographs".

Alice told her cousin, Alice Hopkins, the wife of the politician, Welly Kennon Hopkins, that by the end of 1938 that she and Johnson were lovers. Mrs. Hopkins later recalled: "They were unbelievably discreet and no one could have guessed that they were lovers. Nothing showed. Nothing at all." Alice also told her sister, Mary Louise, who had become one of Marsh's secretaries. Mary Louise claims that "Lyndon was the love of Alice's life. My sister was mad for Lyndon - absolutely mad for him." She later recalled that Marsh spent a lot of time away on business. It was during this time that Alice and Johnson were together at Longlea. When Marsh was at home Johnson often brought his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. She later told Philip Kopper, the author of Anonymous Giver: A life of Charles E. Marsh (2000), that Alice was "so tall and blonde" that she looked "like a Valkyrie". Lady Bird also admitted that "she helped educate Lyndon and me, particularly about music and a more elegant lifestyle than he and I spent our early days enjoying".

Charles Edward Marsh repeatedly asked Alice to marry him. According to Mary Louise the reason she refused was she wanted to marry Johnson. He was in a difficult position as in the 1930s a divorced man would be effectively barred from a political career. Johnson considered taking up a job as a corporate lobbyist in Washington. Alice rejected this idea as she considered he had the potential to become president of the United States.

In 1939 Marsh discovered that Alice was having an affair with Johnson. Marsh's daughter, Antoinette Marsh Haskell, said he knew that she had been unfaithful in the past but her relationship with Johnson infuriated him. After loudly berating Johnson, Marsh threw him out. The next morning Johnson returned and apologized. He also promised to end the relationship with Alice and Marsh forgave him. Antoinette commented: "They didn't let her come between them. Men in power like that don't give a damn about women. They were not that important in the end. The were not that important in the end. They treated women like toys. That's just the way it was."

Soon afterwards Alice agreed to marry Marsh. After their marriage in early 1940 the couple moved to Washington where they purchased a stately four-story house at 2136 R Street in Dupont Circle. Senior political figures such as Henry A. Wallace, Claude Pepper, Jesse H. Jones, Henry Morgenthau, Drew Pearson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Walter Lippmann, Walter Winchell and Ralph Ingersoll. Another frequent guest was Creekmore Fath, a young lawyer working for the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration: "Charles was able to entertain on a grand level, and kept a very good staff and cook, so that during the war it was one of the best restaurants in town... He entertained all sorts of Washington characters. You'd get a telephone call inviting you to dinner Wednesday, or a luncheon Friday at noon. Everybody came and traded information and gossip."

Alice continued to have affairs. Marsh retaliated by having sexual relationships with her sister, Mary Louise and his secretary Claudia Haines. One of his close friends, Ralph Ingersoll, commented: "Hawk-beaked Charles, the sultan in his castle, off-handedly gracious with his mini-harem in attendance." Ingersoll claims that he was very open about his sexual relationships: "At a formal dinner, he was as apt to discuss his erections as he was to expound on Einstein's theory. His non-stop conversation varied from the profane to the profound, and there is no evidence that he ever considered anything about himself secret."

The marriage eventually came to an end and Alice married Palmer Weber. Her third husband, Zadel Skolovsky, was a concert pianist, and her fourth husband, Robert Lester, was a Korean War veteran. She married Richard J. Kirkpatrick in 1959. She continued her sexual relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson but according to Robert A. Caro, their relationship finally ended as a result of their bitter disagreement over the Vietnam War, which she passionately opposed.

Alice Glass died of cancer at her home in Marlin, Texas, on 9th December, 1976.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Jennet Conant, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington (2008)

Alice had designed separate bedroom suites for herself and Charles and began to keep more and more to her own quarters. It did not help matters between them that when she gave birth to a son. Charles knew the father was de Terrey, the charming decorator who had become her constant companion. Although he publicly acknowledged the boy as his own, he privately complained about her infidelity to close friends like Ingersoll and Dahl. (The baby had been conceived while Marsh was away on a long trip to California.) Alice, who was at best an indifferent mother, entrusted her children's care to the ever-efficient Rudolf and his wife, Margaret, who over time became devoted surrogate parents.

(2) Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power (1982)

Longlea was her place. She had designed it, asking the architects to model it on the Sussex country home she had seen when Marsh had taken her to England, working with the architects herself for months to modify its design, softening the massiveness of the long stone structure, for example, by setting one wing at a slight angle away from the front, enlarging the windows because she loved sunlight, insisting that the house be faced entirely with the native Virginia beige fieldstone of which she could see out-croppings in the meadows below; told there were no longer stonemasons of sufficient skill to handle the detail work she wanted, she scoured small, isolated towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains until she found two elderly master masons, long retired, who agreed, for money and her smile, to take on one last job. She furnished it herself, with Monets and Renoirs and a forty-foot-long Aubusson rug that cost Marsh, even at Depression bargain prices, $75,000.