The Prime of Ms Tweet Kimball
By Alex Constantine
The late Mildred “Tweet” Kimball, a bejeweled fixture of Denver high society and political circles, lived in a castle off US 85, just south of Denver, Colorade, in Sedalia. The castle was deeded to Tweet by Merritt Ruddock, a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, an obscure CIA official and her first of four divorced husbands. Tweet Kimball dissolved the marriage in 1955, as she explained to a local reporter forty years later: “When I divorced him, he said I’d probably go back to Tennessee and talk about him. He said ‘If you’ll buy property west of the Mississippi, I’ll help you.’ And that’s what I did.” She bought a 24-room castle on a sweeping 4,000-acre estate on a promontory overlooking much of the Rockies.1
Merritt Kirk Ruddock had good reason to buy the silence of his estranged wife. He was the immediate deputy of the CIA’s Frank Wisner, the notorious overseer of Nazi recruitment by the CIA after WW II. Ruddock, a fleeting shadow in CIA histories, was hired by Wisner in 1949. Ray Cline, another Agency stinkbug (the organizer of a support network for George H.W. Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign, composed almost entirely of former intelligence officers headed by Steven Halper, Cline’s son-in-law), kept close to Ruddock throughout the war. Cline recalls Ruddock as “a hard drinker” and “a personal manipulator of ideas and people.”2
Ruddock hailed from an aristocratic family with political connections. His uncle was Alexander Kirk, the U.S. minister to Egypt after WW II with diplomatic bona fidés in Rome, Moscow and Berlin, where he was a mentor to George Kennan and worked intimately with the German Resistance. His father was assigned to the State Department’s diplomatic service. The family lived in Berlin in 1913 when Merritt was born. They left the Rhine for Belgium four years later when the U.S. entered the First World War, and returned to the States in 1918. Merritt took his grammar school training in Peking, China and Pasadena, California, graduated from St. Paul’s, a prep school in Concord, New Hampshire. He enrolled at Harvard.
Merritt worked briefly for a bank in San Francisco’s Spanish section while on summer vacation in 1941. He told a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “After searching half the night for a mistake of $20,000.57 in my first day’s figures, I was shunted to another department, and finally was advised that my talents undoubtedly lay in other fields.”
He graduated from Harvard in 1936 and signed on as a a reporter for the Chattanooga News in Tennessee. Merritt married Tweet Montague Kimball in 1938. He hired on as reporter and broadcaster for the Mutual Broadcasting Network a few years later. The couple moved to Virginia and traveled widely in Europe before the war. Back home, he joined the Country Club of Virginia and the Deep Run Hunt Club. 3
Joe Calhoun, a reporter in Boulder and screenwriter on the Oscar-winning The Panama Deception, in an interview with Alex Constantine’s Blacklist, informs us that the castle purchased by Tweet after the divorce was an enclave for fugitive Nazis entering the country with CIA assistance after WW II. (The Colorado Department of Tourism doesn’t advertise the fact, but the state has a thriving intelligence establishment. Loring Wirbel, an environmental researcher in Monument, Colorado, found that worldwide “intelligence expansion by U.S. agencies has a very real impact on Colorado. Buckley [Air Force Base] is now the major employer in the Denver metro area, with the classified Aerospace Data Facility section of the base responsible for far more jobs than the public Tactical Air Command portion of the base. The Denver Business Journal estimated in April that classified intelligence spending by NSA and NRO in Colorado may exceed $3 billion annually. Support facilities for Buckley include Falcon Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs, which performs intelligence fusion missions; Lockheed-Martin’s Waterton Canyon plant in southwest Denver, which builds spy satellites and Titan-4 rockets; Peterson Air Force Base, the headquarters of the Space Command; and the aging North American Aerospace Defense Command inside Cheyenne Mountain west of Colorado Springs. Another Air National Guard base outside Greeley, Colorado, is receiving many mobile satellite reconnaissance troops formerly housed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, part of a mission to make the Colorado Front Range a center of excellence for technical intelligence.”)
Ruddock owned one of the earliest uranium mines excavated by the Atomic Energy Commission. Miner Mark Steen, in a biography of his father, legendary miner Charlie Steen, reports that the Ruddock clan had been stuck with several under-productive copper and uranium mines with the exception of one, the Small Fry claim in southeastern Utah. The AEC contacted the Ruddocks in early 1953 to inform them that tons of uranium ore had been discovered at the claim. The extraction of the ore was managed by Merritt Ruddock, “one of the most incredible characters who ever owned a radioactive hole in the ground,” Steen writes. “He weighed 240 pounds; stood six feet, eight inches; spoke with a Harvard accent; and he said things like ‘most unsavory’ and ‘how deplorable’ and ‘fruitful collaboration.’ Although he dressed in tweeds and was seen using silk handkerchiefs rather than his sleeve, Ruddock managed very well indeed.”
True — though the family was already immensely wealthy — by jumping a nearby mining claim. Ruddock extracted a fortune in uranium ore by helping himself to the Steens claim: “By the early summer of 1954, the Ruddocks’ Cal Uranium Company’s 280-foot shaft had reached an ore body and started shipping ore. However, most of the ore deposit was actually covered by the Mamie claim that my father had staked in 1952, and now belonged to Big Indian Mines.”4
On April 22, 1955, Ruddock, now board chairman of the California Institute of Technology, and his family had made a uranium deal with a number of movie stars, including June Allyson, Robert Taylor and Humphrey Bogart, for more than $10 million, according to wire reports the Blacklist discovered in decades-old newspaper archives.5
Ruddock was not the only member of the family with CIA and Nazi ties. Ms Kimball’s father, according to a Boulder police file obtained by Calhoun, “Colonel Kimball of Chattanooga, Tennessee, had been a prime mover in the growth of the Post-WWI Ku Klux Klan.”6
Tweet bonded with her castle and its environs, re-christened Cherokee Ranch, and lived like a European monarch. One Ranch tour guide told an AP reporter, “the house has a number of Portuguese tile murals and many examples of parquetry (an artistic inlaid wood design done on furniture). As she describes the lavish contents of several china cabinets, words like Dresden, Spode, Meissen and Waterford slip into the conversations. That bed was built for Charles II, and he actually slept in it. This inlaid cabinet came from the court of Spain, and the pictures represent Aesop’s fables. The libraries are full of first editions, some quite old and valuable. Well, with names like Dickens and Thackeray on the bindings, one would think so.”7)
Tweet Kimball died in 1999. She had been an active Republican. Kimball served on the Douglas County Planning Commission and the commissioners’ Water Advisory Board, as well as the board of the Douglas County Educational Foundation. She also spent 14 years on the board of the Denver Art Museum as accessions chairman. She was the local matriarch of local Republican party politics and frequently played hostess to the Douglas County Republican caucus.8
“Kimball’s castle and ranchland provided an extravagant vehicle for her varied pursuits,” the local County News-Press noted in her obituary, “wildlife conservation, a vast, eclectic art collection, politics, innovative ranching, royal relationships and storied social events.”9
1.) Ralph McGehee’s CIABase Web site, http://webcom.com/~pinknoiz/covert/ ciabasesearch.htm
2.) Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA, New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1992, p. 242.
3.) James Birchfield, “Newscasters Sees the News,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 9, 1941. Also, Anonymous, “Ruddock to Broadcast Daily on Mutual Network,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 12, 1942; and Richmond Times-Dispatch Reference Department biographical form, handwritten by Merritt K. Ruddock, November 4, 1941.
4.) Joe Calhoun, interview with the author. And Mark Steen, “My Old Man: The Uranium King,” http://www.canyoncountryzephyr.com/aug-sept2002/steen4.htm
5.) Anonymous, “Ex-Richmonder in Uranium Deal,” AP Release, April 22, 1955.
6.) Author’s interview of Joe Calhoun.
7.) Linda DuVal, “Splendor in the Rockies,” Colorado Springs Gazette tour guide, 1999..
8.) Susan Casey, “The lady of the castle,” Douglas County News-Press, May 8, 1996. Brandt.
9.) Mike Colias, “County Says Goodbye to Tweet Kimball,” obituary, Douglas County News-Press, January 20, 1999.