When Joyce Dodson asked the U.S. Olympic Committee if she could be its Texas fund raiser, the USOC said sure, though it really did not expect startling results—and certainly not what it got
April 15, 1968

As if the 1968 Olympic Games were not in enough trouble, a Texas grand jury has returned a series of indictments that could have a jarring effect on the financial health of the U.S. team and on the confidence of those who contribute to it. The indictments charge a petite 27-year-old Dallas woman, Joyce Ann Dodson, with embezzling $72,000 and various properties that were donated to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney who received international attention for his investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald and his role as prosecuting attorney at the Jack Ruby trial, suspects the total of vanished Olympic money may be far more than that. "We have no way of knowing as yet how much money might have been collected in the Southwest," Wade says. "I shudder to think what the sum could be."

Oddly, there might not have been an investigation of the missing Olympic funds except for the naiveté of a young lawyer. Last winter Wade's office got an anonymous phone call with the tip that a large part of the money contributed to the Olympic fund had been diverted into someone's pocket. "We don't have much use for anonymous phone calls," says Wade, a big white-haired fellow who chews tobacco and spits into the wastebasket. "If the call had gone to an experienced man on my staff we might have ignored it. The caller wouldn't give his name, and we had no complainant. So it figured to be a crank. But the phone call was answered by a new assistant district attorney who didn't know any better. He immediately wrote to the U.S. Olympic Committee in New York and discovered that there really was a lot of money unaccounted for."

The fund-raising arrangement between the Olympic Committee and Joyce Dodson began sometime in 1966 when the woman and a male associate, Joe William Tate, went to New York with the proposition that their public-relations firm—then called Law-Mears Associates—help raise Olympic money in the Southwest. Ordinarily the USOC depends for its funds on volunteer drives by groups like the AAU, NCAA and NAIA. But the Southwest had been notably poor territory for Olympic soliciting, and the USOC had once before used a Dallas public-relations firm, Orville McDonald and Associates, to appeal for money.

The Olympic officials—including Executive Director Arthur G. Lentz—were led to believe that Joe William Tate and Joyce Dodson had the support of Lamar Hunt, wealthy Dallas sportsman who was originator of the American Football League, is owner of the Kansas City Chiefs football club and the Dallas Tornado football (soccer) club, part-owner of the Chicago Bulls of the NBA and a backer of a professional tennis tour, among other things.

In fact, Tate had once worked for the Newton Agency, a Dallas advertising firm that had acted as a house agency for the Hunt Oil Company. "I can't say I have never met Joyce Dodson or Joe Tate, because I might have encountered them at a party or someplace," Lamar Hunt says. "But I wouldn't know either of them if they walked into the room. I'm ashamed to say there has been quite a bit of taking for granted in this affair. When Dodson and Tate came to me, I assumed that if they represented the Olympic Committee, they must be all right."

The use of Hunt's name was magic. So on Oct. 4, 1966 Douglas F. Roby, president of the USOC, wrote a letter granting Law-Mears Associates, of which Joyce Dodson was chairman of the board, the right to collect Olympic funds in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico. "We are especially pleased to know that your organization, in the true spirit of the Olympic Movement, has agreed to render this service without compensation to you," wrote Roby. "It is understood, however, that approved out-of-pocket expenses, other than payment of salaries, will be allowed." That sentence, discounting the word "approved," apparently gave Miss Dodson the peg upon which she subsequently operated. On Oct. 10, 1966 J. Lyman Bingham, director of fund raising for the USOC, followed with a "To whom it may concern" letter authorizing Law-Mears Associates to represent the Olympic Committee.

Had the USOC not taken Joyce Dodson at face value and had thoroughly investigated, it might have found that she had been in several financial jams in Dallas. According to Wade, a Dallas businessman had rescued her from $2,000 worth of bad debts. She has a record of what Wade calls "excessive" traffic violations. She is a short, well-built, seductive brunette with rather prominent teeth. Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander, who was also one of the prosecuting lawyers at the Ruby trial, described her as "a country-looking girl who seems to have a way with men."

Joe Tate was known around town as a promoter. One of his promotions involved the promise of a chartered DC-7 to fly Dallas Cowboy fans to a football game in New Orleans. After the fans had waited for hours at the airport, Tate produced an old DC-3 and had to leave a number of people behind.

After the meeting in New York a USOC representative opened an account at the National Bank of Commerce in Dallas in the name of the Olympic Committee. Only the Olympic Committee treasurer could make withdrawals from that account. However, without the knowledge of the Olympic Committee, Miss Dodson also opened an account at the Southwest Bank and Trust Company in Irving, a Dallas suburb where Clint Murchison Jr. is planning a new stadium to house his Cowboys.

Miss Dodson and Tate began organizing committees throughout their five-state area. They gave Lamar Hunt the title of chairman of the Southwest Olympic Sports Committee and sent out solicitation letters over his signature. Another wealthy Dallas resident, Troy Post, who recently sold his Greatamerica holding company (which has Braniff Airways among its assets) for $500,000,000, was appointed to head a different committee. Hunt's committee raised $25,570 and Post's came up with $11,248. Some of their donors sent money from as far away as Chicago.

"Hunt and Post were the heads of only two of 85 committees that were set up," says Alexander. "Between them and contributions from civic groups and collections at high school and college sports events, Dodson and Tate raised $77,000. Right now we don't know how much came in from the other committees."

In talks with the USOC, Miss Dodson reported collections were mounting merrily. When the USOC asked for the money Miss Dodson stalled them. Finally in May of last year she sent the USOC an authorized check for $5,104.74 from the National Bank of Commerce, leaving $10 in the account. Some months later Law-Mears Associates became Dodson & Company, Inc. with Joyce Dodson as president.

But Dodson & Company had encountered a few intramural problems. The firm was renting an office in the Southland Center, a prominent Dallas business address. Joyce Dodson was living in a fashionable apartment at 21 Turtle Creek Square and driving a Lincoln Continental. On the surface all was fine. But on November 11 Joe Tate got married, and not to Joyce Dodson. On November 17 Joyce Dodson filed a suit against Tate in Dallas County Domestic Relations Court, alleging she and Tate had been married on or about March 25,1967. She said the marriage was common-law and had begun in Longview, Texas and that she was pregnant by Tate and wanted child support when the baby arrived.

Late in November the attorney general of Texas (along with the attorneys general of New York and Illinois) began to get anonymous calls saying Miss Dodson was misusing Olympic funds. The Texas attorney general's office began looking into the matter.

On Dec. 26, 1967 Joyce Dodson suddenly sent the USOC a meticulously detailed 42-page list of contributions that totaled $77,811.13. Why she did so is not clear, because the list of contributions was not accompanied by any more money. On January 8 of this year Z. T. Fortescue III, an assistant attorney general of Texas, wrote the Olympic Committee a letter saying, "The Dodson Company in their handling of your account has been most exemplary. We certainly regret the fact we had to impose upon Mrs. [sic] Dodson...." Six weeks later Fortescue wrote another letter reversing himself. The attorney general's office now explains that the first investigation was confined to a surplus property transaction and that the investigator was satisfied it had been done legally.

Later in January, shortly before the Olympic officials left for the Winter Games in Grenoble, France, Miss Dodson and her attorney flew to New York. Miss Dodson told Arthur Lentz of the USOC that a former employee had made off with her records and that she was starting action against him. Lentz told her that he was not interested in her missing employee and that she was going to have to account for the money. "I want a full explanation," he said. By coincidence, that same day a Dallas Morning News columnist, Sam Blair, who had also received an anonymous phone call about the missing funds, walked into the Olympic office and saw Joyce Dodson. Blair recognized her and in his column began pushing for an investigation.

After the USOC officials reached Grenoble, they received a call from Miss Dodson. Lentz says she was hysterical and said nothing to explain what had happened to the $72,000. Meanwhile, according to the Dallas district attorney's office, Miss Dodson was behaving strangely. She seemed to be trying to gather all the cash she could. She pawned a portable television set and other personal items. "She didn't have enough clothes in her apartment to outfit a clerk for a week's work," says Alexander. She was so far behind in her office rent at the Southland Center that she had to move out, and she was months behind at 21 Turtle Creek Square. Her Lincoln Continental was repossessed. The Dallas district attorney's office had received no official complaint from the USOC but decided to go ahead with the investigation. The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office entered the case.

Lamar Hunt heard about the missing money and assigned one of his own auditors to look over the Dodson & Company books, with USOC approval. The district attorney's investigators discovered the bank account in Irving and the fact that $72,000 was gone from it. (The account was $100 overdrawn.) Miss Dodson had withdrawn the $72,000 in checks ranging mostly from $500 to $800. All the checks were signed by her. Most had notations such as, "for Tulsa Olympic expenses," "for Corpus Christi pump-priming" and "for Houston office expenses." Miss Dodson insisted she had spent the money for necessary expenses. At first, according to Alexander, the USOC said no expenses had been authorized, but Lentz said 10% had been authorized in a verbal agreement.

Early last month Miss Dodson was—amazingly—still collecting for the Olympic fund. Of the six indictments against her involving surplus property, several supposedly occurred this year. In one instance she supposedly was given nine ice-making machines valued at $3,800 on March 1 and sold them to the Texas Ice Machine Co. for $350, with the check being made out to Law-Mears rather than to the USOC. Another case concerned Nardis of Dallas, a well-known dress-manufacturing firm, which donated 573 dresses valued at $4,255.75 with the understanding they not be sold in Texas. Miss Dodson allegedly sold them for $700 to an unclaimed-freight house in Dallas and kept the money.

Joe Tate says he knows nothing of the missing funds. "Gosh," he says, "I have no idea about anything like that. I only contributed my time and effort to help the Olympic Committee as a public-spirited citizen. I wasn't even with the company at that time [when the list of contributions was sent to the USOC]. I would like to help, but I have no information at all."

Wade and his staff, though, are not content with the indictments against Miss Dodson. The investigation continues. "It's like an iceberg," says Alexander. "We know what we can see, but not what we can't. I can't truthfully say the New York Olympic office has been uncooperative in this, but their cooperation hasn't been all it should be."

"In my opinion," Hunt says, "this all comes back to the looseness of the Olympic Committee."

Lentz says the Olympic Committee had never before been able to raise more than $11,000 in Texas, the area Miss Dodson was concentrating on and so never suspected that money was being diverted. Miss Dodson had talked about her money-raising ability, but they were skeptical about it, since she had sent in no expense reports and only the one check. They did not know of the bank account in Irving. "And," says Lentz, "none of the contributors ever raised a question about Miss Dodson, which is the way we usually hear about problems." He thinks this happened because Miss Dodson wrote each contributor a note of thanks and the contributor assumed the money had gone on to the Olympic Committee. "I'll grant this," Lentz says ruefully. "She lived up to her boast. She could raise money. She raised a heck of a lot more than we ever raised in Texas before."

Whoever knows where the $72,000 went is not saying, and how much more might have gone with it is still a mystery. Earle Cabell, a Dallas Congressman, says as much as $1 million in Olympic funds may have gone into wrong pockets around the country.

In Dallas County jail, where she was being held in $40,000 bail, Joyce Dodson maintained her innocence. "This just wasn't fair," she said in her small voice with its country twang. "I wasn't allowed to even go before the grand jury. If my attorneys had let me explain the situation before the grand jury, all of this wouldn't have happened. I haven't taken anybody's money. We expected to raise around $2 million from the Southwest area. We would have met our goal, too, had all this not happened. It's weird. I'm really shocked. All this could have been avoided. My side of the story hasn't even been heard yet."

When she was asked to give her side of the story she said, "Well, I'll have to get all the news media together at the same time at some sort of news conference when I get out of here...."

PHOTORUEFUL Arthur Lentz conceded, "She lived up to her boast. She could raise money." PHOTOTRUSTING J. Lyman Bingham sent Joyce Dodson a "To whom it may concern" letter. PHOTOINQUISITIVE Henry Wade said, "We have no way of knowing how much was collected."