John George Schmitz
(August 12, 1930 – January 10, 2001) was a conservative Republican
member of the United States House of Representatives
from Orange County, California
, prominent member of the John Birch Society
, and the American Independent Party
candidate for President of the United States
Schmitz was notable for his far right-wing sympathies. By one measure, he was found to be the third most conservative member of Congress since World War II, and was expelled from the John Birch Society for "extremism".
His daughter, ex-schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau, is famous in her own right after gaining national attention from a late-1990s sex scandal involving an underage former student.
Early life and military career
Schmitz was born in Milwaukee
. He obtained his B.S.
degree from Marquette University
in Milwaukee in 1952 and an M.A.
from California State University, Long Beach
in 1960. He served as a United States Marine Corps jet
fighter and helicopter pilot
from 1952 to 1960, and was a lieutenant colonel
in the United States Marine Corps Reserve
from 1960 to 1983.
Brief stint in Congress and presidential campaign
After leaving the Marines, Schmitz took a job as an instructor in philosophy
and political science
at Santa Ana College
. He also became active in the John Birch Society
. His views attracted the attention of wealthy Orange County conservatives such as fast-food magnate Carl Karcher
, sporting goods heir Willard Voit
and San Juan Capistrano rancher Tom Rogers
. They helped him win election to the California Senate
in 1964 from a district in Orange County. His views were very conservative even by the standards of Orange County -- Schmitz once joked that he had joined the John Birch Society in order to court the centrist vote in Orange County. He opposed sex education
in public schools, and believed citizens should be able to carry loaded guns in their cars. He was also very critical of the civil unrest that characterized the mid-1960s. He called the Watts riots
of 1965 "a Communist
operation," and believed that state universities should be sold to private corporations as a curb against student protests. Some of his remarks had anti-Semitic
He served in the state senate until 1970, when he won a special election to succeed the late James B. Utt in the House from California's 35th Congressional District. He won a full term in November.
When Richard Nixon, whose permanent residence at the time was in San Clemente--located in Schmitz' district--first went to China in 1972, Schmitz was asked if he supported President Nixon going to China. Schmitz replied, "I didn't care that Nixon went to China, I was only upset that he came back." Nixon recruited Orange County Tax Assessor Andrew J. Hinshaw, a more moderate Republican, to run against Schmitz in the primary. Hinshaw edged out Schmitz in the Republican primary. Angry at Nixon's role in his defeat, Schmitz ran as the American Independent Party candidate for president in the 1972 election. He won just over a million votes. His best showing was in Idaho, where he won almost 10 percent of the vote and even finished second in some counties, ahead of Democrat George McGovern.
Return to the state senate
Schmitz won back his state senate seat in 1978. He was named chairman of the Constitutional Amendments Committee. However, his behavior became increasingly erratic. For instance, soon after his election, he advocated a military coup
similar to that of Augusto Pinochet
In 1981, he chaired a committee hearing on abortion, which led to the issuance in his name of a press release headlined "Senator Schmitz and His Committee Survive Attack of the Bulldykes." It referred to his audience at the hearings as having "hard, Jewish, and arguably female faces." Feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who testified before the committee, sued Schmitz for $10 million, but settled for $20,000 and an apology. Schmitz's "apology" read, in part, "I have never considered her to be... slick, butch lawyeress." The incident cost him his committee chairmanship and the John Birch Society stripped him of his membership for "extremism." Despite this, Schmitz announced plans to run for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 1982.
Early in 1982, John George Stuckle, an infant born on June 10, 1981, was treated at an Orange County hospital for an injured penis. A piece of hair was wrapped so tightly around the organ "in a square knot," according to one doctor--that it was almost severed. The surgery went well, and the baby suffered no permanent injury. However, the baby's mother, Carla, a 43-year-old Swedish-born immigrant and longtime Republican volunteer, wasn't allowed to take John George home, since some of the attending doctors were convinced the hair had been deliberately tied around his penis.
Detectives threatened to arrest Carla and take John George away permanently unless she identified the father. In a shocking development, Carla said that Schmitz was John George's father.
During a custody hearing, Schmitz acknowledged fathering John George out of wedlock. He'd also fathered Carla's daughter, Eugenie. The admission effectively ended his political career (though he made a quixotic run for the Congressional seat of Bob Dornan in 1984). Schmitz and his wife, Mary, a right-wing political commentator, briefly separated over the incident.
In 1997, Schmitz's daughter, Mary Kay Letourneau
, was arrested for the statutory rape
of a teenaged boy with whom she had an affair and a child. Newspapers reported that Letourneau's father had attempted to find a loophole in United States treaties with Samoa
in order to find out if his daughter could be excused from trial (the boy victim in the case was of Samoan extraction).
At the time of his daughter's scandal, Schmitz had left politics and started a winery in rural Virginia. He also sold political memorabilia one day a week at a shop in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. He had also bought the home of his hero, Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The newspapers had a field day with the Schmitz family in the wake of the Letourneau case. Some reporters painted a picture of a chilly household with an unemotional mother who stressed appearance over affection. This explanation was disputed by Schmitz family friends.
Schmitz died on January 10, 2001 of prostate cancer and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
John P. (son): Deputy Counsel to the Vice President during Reagan
administration, Deputy Counsel to the President, George H. W. Bush
Joseph E. Schmitz
(son): Department of Defense Inspector General
, George W. Bush
administration. Other children: Phillip (deceased), Mary Kay
, Jerome, Terry Ann, and Elizabeth. Illegitimate children: John and Eugenie Bostrom. He was married for 47 years to the former Mary E. Suehr.
California's 45th congressional district special election, 1970 (Republican primary)
California's 45th congressional district special election, 1970
Note: All independent candidates were Republicans running against Schmitz without nomination
California's 45th congressional district special election, 1970 (Runoff)
California's 45 congressional district election, 1970
1972 American Independent Party National Convention
United States presidential election, 1972