PINE BLUFF, Ark. -- A life-sized bronze bust of Martha Beall Mitchell, this town's chief tourist attraction, was unveiled before 500 admirers Sunday on the fifth anniversary of her death.
'I think that it's a fitting tribute to her,' said Jefferson County Judge Earl Chadick. 'I believe Miss Martha would have been pleased.'
The wife of former Attorney General John Mitchell, the Pine Bluff native became famous for her candor and outspokeness. She made headlines with her late-night telephone conversations with newspaper reporters and her call for the resignation of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
'She is our biggest tourist attraction,' said Ray West, once a close friend of Mrs. Mitchell. 'People come here every day to visit her grave and her home -- at least that's what the Chamber of Commerce says.'
The bust was unveiled by Mrs. Mitchell's son, Jay Jennings of Washington. Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, R-Ark., spoke at the unveiling.
She said she had learned 'never to lie,' which may have prompted members of the Martha Mitchell Memorial Committee to place the inscription, 'Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free' on the bust's granite pedestal.
'At a time when the noblest ideals of the nation were threatened from within, Martha Beall MItchell knew the truth and wrote it on her lips. It cost her dearly to tell the truth,' J. Howard Edington, the pastor of her church, said at the unveiling.
Money for the bust, by Houston sculptor Larry Ludtke, was raised during the last four years from small donations sent to the Martha Beall Mitchell Memorial Fund.
'Contributions came in from all over the United States,' said West, who also heads the fund.
Committee members managed to collect $10,000, mostly from donations totaling$1 and $2.
The only child of a successfull cotton broker and a popular elocution teacher, she married John Mitchell in December 1957, a week after she had divorced her first husband. At the time of their marriage, Mitchell was a successful Wall Street lawyer.
When Mitchell joined the Nixon administration, his wife entered the limelight as well. Although satirized and sometimes ridiculed, a 1970 Gallup poll reported her name was recognized by 76 percent of the American public.
In one of her late night calls to a newspaper reporter, she accused a security guard of manhandling and drugging her and holding her prisoner at a villa at Newport Beach, near Nixon's California Coast home, to keep her from speaking out on Watergate.
It was in May 1973 when she tracked a UPI reporter down to a small hotel at Madison, Wis., and said, 'Nixon should resign. He has lost his credibility in the country and in the Republican party. I think he has let the country down.'
She died May 31, 1976, of a rare type of bone marrow cancer.