Clewis told Day he had known Ruby for years, that they first met in Dallas in connection with Buddy’s work as auditorium manager at San Angelo. Clewis stated awareness of Ruby’s work as a strip club owner and as a broker for striptease acts throughout Texas.
He said Ruby had a business partner who booked music shows and once bounced a check with Clewis. Buddy also maintained he couldn’t recall who Ruby’s partner was, the man who made Clewis chase him for funds.
Clewis also told of his secretary from San Angelo who went on to work for Ruby.
What neither of them elaborated upon were Ruby’s extensive connections with the Carlos Marcello crime family in New Orleans, known famously as the Dixie Mafia.
Agent Day filed the interview with the Warren Commission and that was the end of it.
Time rolled by and Clewis thrived in Mobile. The International Association of Auditorium Managers named him Manager of the Year in 1965. He became one of their board members in ’68. He was made director of the International Promoters Association in July of ’70 and became their vice president in June of ’71.
Clewis was the highest-paid city employee for years, but it still didn’t match prior salaries. Wilbur Williams still ponders, “You just got to ask yourself, ‘Why would a guy go from making $70,000 a year in Miami to making 28 [thousand] in Mobile?’”
Arch McKay pronounced Buddy the “best auditorium manager this writer has ever known.” However, Arch’s fondness for Buddy played to his baser interests. Arch had records of direct payments, Photostat copies of checks from Clewis. Buddy explained they were in exchange for “promotions work.” Others would claim they were “payola” for good reviews.
Tom Taylor said although journalistic firewalls in the 1970s weren’t what they are now, McKay being on Clewis’ payroll certainly wasn’t something the reporter would have wanted to become common knowledge.
“You wouldn’t have walked into the publisher’s office and said, ‘I’m getting paid by Buddy Clewis.’ Things were different then, but it wasn’t right,” he said.
Though he’s not sure why McKay was being paid, Taylor still believes it was for delivering favorable reviews of Civic Center shows.
Either way, they were completely legal and totally unethical. McKay could rightly lose his job, and his new position as Sunday editor, if these payments were to surface.
In January of ’73, Clewis was caught in “creative accounting” with ticket sales from a Merle Haggard show. It would travel the grapevine.
Rumors had circulated for a while. Wilbur Williams easily recalled watching auditorium staffers scam tickets one night while he worked security for a concert.
“They were taking the tickets up, tearing some up and then stuffing the other ones under their arms, in their pockets,” he described. When he brought the matter to attention, Williams was removed from any future auditorium duty.
In August of ‘73, as District Attorney Butler announced the auditorium investigation of the last nine months, federal and circuit indictments were handed down. Clewis, Noble Beasley, James Finley and local deejay Maynard Williams were accused of extortion. Beasley and Finley, owners of Soul Productions promotional company, were accused of telling acts booked into the auditorium that any success would be sabotaged without payment to Soul Productions. Beasley and Finley were also charged with conspiracy, heroin manufacturing and distribution, and tax evasion. Clewis was eventually charged with $90,000 in embezzlements as a result of the investigation.
Assistant District Attorney Charles Graddick was charged with leading the prosecution of the men. The ambitious young lawyer was eager to raise his public recognition. He was going places.
In an unforeseen turn, Gary Greenough defeated Joe Bailey to become the youngest mayor in Mobile’s history. Clewis’ close associations with, and support of, outgoing incumbent Bailey made for icy relations between the new mayor and the auditorium mogul. Their acrimony was hardly hidden.
By now, Wilbur Williams was a 25-year-old patrolman working his first beat on the north side of downtown and wondering when his first big break would come.
Arch tried to act as if nothing were wrong. It wasn’t convincing.
Through his Falstaffian bravado, some around him picked up on a new emotion. Mobilian Steve Milling took a sailing trip with Arch in the early fall of ’73, and it was obvious to him. He told a Mobile Register reporter in 1999 that Arch was downright leery.
The two-day return trip passed with Arch keeping below deck. He was vexed and told Milling, “I’m scared to death. I’m into something I should have never gotten into.”
At the beginning of September, another visitor slipped into town. He arrived with little notice, a traveling partner and a trunk full of interesting things. He and his companion checked into the Creighton Towers, now the Tower on Ryan Park, under the name of Eugene Knowles.
He kept to himself. Others were content to leave it that way. His gaze was deemed “frightening.”
His partner carried a green notebook. She guarded it with her life. Fitting, since everything within comprised her sad existence.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).