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O’Donnell Ousts Fay Dallas It was to have been a press conference, this thing State Republican Chairman Peter O’Donnell Jr. of Dallas called for very early on the afternoon of May 3. Instead, it quickly became a game of cat-and-mouse between O’Donnell and the newsmen present. The session had been called to make official what everyone had known all along: that O’Donnell had just finished disposing of Houstonian Albert Bel Fay as GOP national committeeman from Texas, a post the Dallasite had coveted openly for more than a year. Actually, Fay’s demise was a foregone conclusion on the part of both men. Fay knew he did not have the votes on the State Republican Executive Committee to stop O’Donnell’s drive to oust him from the prestigious post. O’Donnell knew it, too; otherwise, he would not have called the SREC together to “consider the resignation of the Republican National Committeeman from Texas and choosing a successor,” as the call to the meeting said. The party chairman had proved his control of the SREC last September when he was re-elected to his fourth two-year term, despite opposition from some quarters. O’Donnell spent the better part of his half-hour press conference dodging the reporters’ questions of exactly why he wanted the national committee post. .A question from a reporter or a television newsman brought the vaguest of answers, or, after a pregnant pause, no answer. All O’Donnell would say specifically was that he and Fay disagreed on “policy” matters, and the only policy matter on which he would elaborate was whether Fay was to seek the 1970 GOP nomination for governor. On this point, O’Donnell said, it was felt that Fay’s continuation in the national committee post would amount to encouragement for him to seek the top state office. The SREC, he indicated, sought to discourage Fay’s gubernatorial hopes once and for all by ousting him. Technically, Fay did not have to resign. He had been elected to a second four-year term last June 11 at the state convention in Corpus Christi, and he would not be bound by any vote or request that he resign. He could be just as stubborn as the state chairman. But in the end, Fay yielded to extremely strong pressure from the uppermost reaches in Republican circles and from within his state and surrendered his title to O’Donnell. THEIR DISPUTE BEGAN a few months before that Corpus Christi meeting when O’Donnell let it be known he would challenge Fay for the national committee post in the election to be held at the state convention. Fay said he first learned of O’Donnell’s plans through a story in a Dallas newspaper. The challenge threatened a split in party ranks just ahead of the national convention and the elections. On top of this, Fay’s financial contacts were and still are better than O’Donnell’s, and on that score the Houstonian was worth far more than the state chairman. Texas Sen. John G. Tower, Cong. George Bush, and other top GOP leaders held a hurried meeting in Houston on a Sunday afternoon to mediate the dispute. From this came what O’Donnell called “a written memorandum that was never signed” but which stipulated that the re-election of Fay would be unopposed. But Fay was to resign his post after the election, thus clearing the way for the By an Observer Correspondent ascension of O’Donnell to his first national GOP office. Fay had his notions about his worth, too, and soon after the election of Richard M. Nixon, he sent word to the president-elect that he wanted an ambassadorship preferably to Denmark. But such an offer did not come; nor did Fay’s other preferences of a high post in the Departments of Interior or Commerce. When Fay finally received an offer from the White House, it was to become head of the Import-Export Bank, which he declined, and then to be ambassador to Malta, which he rejected. Six months after the election, O’Donnell found himself still party chairman and Fay still national committeeman, with no visible signs of quitting. Then O’Donnell began calling in the pledge to step down, and apparently Fay resolved to make a fight of it. Fay was sure of support from his own Harris County contingent; its eight members are the largest delegation of the 64-man executive committee. This support was not based on a love of Fay entirely, but rather a much deeper hate for O’Donnell as state chairman. It was O’Donnell and Tower who swung 75 per cent of Texas’ convention votes to Nixon instead of Ronald Reagan, the favorite of the Harris County set. And it was O’Donnell who has skirted the official GOP ranks in Harris County in almost all his actions since then, including a separate Nixon for president organization. Fay was able to gather a few more pledges of support from Reaganites in southeast Texas, and a flying trip to the Panhandle and some West Texas regions netted still more support. Reagan forces in those areas also held little love for O’Donnell. But the approaching showdown between these two stubborn men began breaking in the newspapers first and on television and radio later. Fay ducked comment, while O’Donnell uttered only guarded statements about his plans. Word of the clash reached the White House in the days before the meeting, and attempts to head off any more public displays of party unrest in such a financially important state as Texas were renewed with vigor. ONCE AGAIN Tower and Bush found themselves in the role of peacemaker, although both denied they had brought any messages from the White House when they arrived in Dallas. But sources on the scene reported that Fay had been told in a pre-meeting telephone call that the door “is still open” to a top-level appointment in the Nixon administration. Bush was to repeat the message personally. Fay was interested but not dissuaded. The state chairman showed his confidence in his position by hosting a cocktail party on the eve of the SREC meeting, to which everyone was invited, including the press \(whose name tags bore the word “press” in red letters as a this that he disclosed that he was considering ruining O’Donnell’s plans he would leave Dallas on a late flight for Louisville and the Kentucky Derby to be run the next afternoon. There would be no national committeeman around either to resign or from whom to request a resignation. It would have been a classical Mexican standoff. But Fay stayed. After hours of negotiations and planning into the early morning hours Saturday, Fay finally reached a decision. About 3 a.m. he telephoned Tower’s suite to say he had one final offer. Tower, as the middle-man sent word to O’Donnell. About 7 a.m., O’Donnell refused the last offer. Actually, Fay’s plan was brilliant. He would, indeed, resign “unconditionally,” but he posed one condition to his unconditional offer: O’Donnell had to go, too. Fay said both men had been “in positions of leadership too long,” and it was time for the party to elect new blood. If the SREC would pick one member of the state’s Congressional delegation to succeed him on the national committee, Fay would quit. That man was to be Cong. Bob Price of Pampa in West Texas, but Price was at the Derby and could not be reached for comment. FAY OFFERED THIS plan almost as soon as the meeting opened, behind closed doors, but it was talked to death in short order. Then Doug DeCluitt of Waco, the unsuccessful GOP candidate for lieutenant governor last fall, moved that the committee ask Fay to resign. Another May 23, 1969 7