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The Gilded Leaf

Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco
Three Generations of the R. J. Reynolds Family and Fortune

by Tom Shachtman & Patrick Reynolds

'Fascinating ... Illuminating ... stunning detail.' Chicago Tribune - 'Fascinating insight into the evolution of a family over three generations that is simply a good read ... panoramic sweep, bitter irony and tragic touches.' Detroit Free Press - 'Fascinating insider's view of three generations of the R. J. Reynolds tobacco family ...compelling.' Richmond Times-Dispatch 'An altogether fascinating story that quickly builds speed and interest and becomes an absorbing story of fortune and misfortune.' Washington Post Book World - 'Readers of this captivating account may need to remind themselves that it is not fiction. There are colorful characters, a family rising from humble beginnings to attain fabulous wealth and power, scandal and tragedy wrought by excess -- and an irony-laden finale.' Publishers Weekly - 'A courageous and worthwhile book. More than an entertainment, it documents the danger of parents who confuse money with love.' New York Times Book Review, R.J. Reynolds photos, RJ Reynolds photos, R.J. Reynolds family photos, RJ Reynolds family photos, RJ Reynolds biography, by Tom Shachtman, Patrick Reynolds, RJ Reynolds book, The Gilded Leaf

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“Fascinating…Illuminating…stunning detail.” 

Chicago Tribune

“Fascinating insight into the evolution of a family over three generations that is simply a good read…panoramic sweep, bitter irony and tragic touches.” 

Detroit Free Press

“Fascinating insider’s view of three generations of the R. J. Reynolds tobacco family…compelling.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch 

“An altogether fascinating story [that] quickly builds speed and interest and becomes an absorbing story of fortune and misfortune.”

Washington Post Book World 

“Readers of this captivating account may need to remind themselves that it is not fiction. There are colorful characters, a family rising from humble beginnings to attain fabulous wealth and power, scandal and tragedy wrought by excess—and an irony-laden finale.”

Publishers Weekly 

“A courageous and worthwhile book. More than an entertainment, it documents the danger of parents who confuse money with love.” 

New York Times

“Fiction doesn’t get any better than this. It’s the kind of true-life story Hollywood scriptwriters dream about — murder, mayhem, messy divorces, titillating escapades of a tobacco dynasty, souls bared to the tabloids, racing through life in the fast lane…The Reynolds family makes TV’s ‘Dynasty’ look downright hokey.” 

The Washington Times

The Gilded Leaf is the riveting, dramatic saga of the R. J. Reynolds tobacco family, one of America’s richest and most intensely private clans.

R.J. was the original founder of the company that became part of RJR Nabisco, which in 1988 was involved in the largest business takeover in history.

Spanning three generations, the Reynolds’s story moves from the triumphs of founder and corporate genius R. J. to the dissipation, scandal, and tragedy that plagued his children and grandchildren.

There is a redemptive close, with grandson Patrick Reynolds founding Tobaccofree World and becoming a leading anti-smoking advocate.The Gilded Leaf presents, for the first time, a complete account of the family who captured, spent and redeemed the American dream.

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Photo 32 – RJ Reynolds

Above: R.J. REYNOLDS founded the tobacco company in 1875, and began manufacturing Camel cigarettes in 1913. He died in 1918 of cancer of the pancreas, after a lifetime of  chewing tobacco — the same product which established his fortune, and earlier, his father’s. He married at age 53, and died at age 67, when his eldest son, RJ Reynolds, Jr., was only 12. As a result, R.J. Jr. would never spend much time working in the tobacco business, nor would any of R.J. Jr.’s 6 sons.

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Above: R. J. and Katherine’s family life was full in the days just before the Great War; while they built Reynolda, they lived in a Victorian wedding cake house on Winston’s Fifth Street.

From left: Mary, R. J., Katherine, Nancy, Dick, and Smith.

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R.J. Reynolds, Jr. in 1946, age 40 Photo 29

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BEFORE: Patrick’s father, R.J. Reynolds, Jr. in 1946, in good health at age 40. A Lieutenant-Commander in the Navy in WWII, he was navigator for a task force in the Pacific. He smoked since his teens, first Camels and later Winstons.

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R.J. Reynolds, Jr. with oxygen bottle and emphysema, age 56 

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AFTER: R.J. Reynolds, Jr., in 1962, age 56, terminally ill with emphysema, caused by his lifelong smoking habit, holding an oxygen bottle. A photographer caught Dick during bitter divorce proceedings against his third wife, Muriel Marston Reynolds, outside the courthouse in Darien, Georgia. 
When this was taken, Dick had, he believed, only a short time to live – and would now spend some of it in a courtroom, doing battle with a woman he hated. When the divorce was at last final, he remarried Annemarie Schmidt, and died less than a year later, in Switzerland in December, 1964. Muriel fought on; the divorce would be overturned only to be later reinstated.
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Marianne O’Brien Reynolds, 1946

Marianne O’Brien Reynolds, age 32, in 1946 at the time of her wedding to R.J. Reynolds, Jr.

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Above: Patrick’s mother, MARIANNE O’BRIEN REYNOLDS, in 1946, age 30, newly wed to R.J. Reynolds, Jr. In order to marry her, he paid $9 million to divorce first wife Blitz.

A former starlet under contract to Warner Brothers, Marianne began smoking during their long distance courtship. She thought it would please her husband. However, he was very unhappy about her taking up the habit — even though he smoked himself. Later she would suffer from angina and endure two heart attacks. Marianne died in Miami in 1985, of a stomach aneurysm.

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Mariannein 1944, age 30
Photo by Bruno of Hollywood

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Above: Marianne O’Brien, late 1944. When she opened her first letter from Dick Reynolds, out fell several hundred-dollar bills. Dick wrote her to have pictures taken of herself, mail him copies, and not to object, because “the money is better spent helping your career than moldering in some bank.”

Marianne followed his wishes. She mailed the photos to Dick, then serving aboard a baby flattop aircraft carrier in the Pacific in WWII. Their love letters resulted in Dick’s proposing marriage to Marianne in the mail; they had met on only one occasion, at a reception in San Diego just before Dick shipped out. He would later pay $9 million to divorce first wife Blitz; the tabloids claimed it was the largest divorce settlement ever.

Dick (RJR Jr.) would later name one of his larger sailing yachts the Scarlet O’Hara after Marianne – almost in anticipation of her well-publicized affair with notorious Latin playboy, Porfirio Rubirosa, five years into their marriage. The press attention would publicly humiliate Dick. “Ruby” would go on to marry heiresses Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke and other women far wealthier than Marianne.

One night after a couple of drinks together, her son Patrick, then an adult and researching The Gilded Leaf,asked why she had the affair. This was always a taboo subject; Marianne always refused to speak of it. That night she angrily replied, “Look, Patrick, I was standing on the deck of my husband’s yacht, the 200’ Zapala, watching the lights of Monte Carlo glittering on the shore. Every night by 5pm, your father had passed out from drink. Every night!

“I had designer gowns and furs, magnificent jewelry, and I was young and beautiful — but I was a prisoner on that boat. So when Rubirosa and his friend, Ali Khan, son of Prince Aga Khan and a leader of the Muslim world, began calling the yacht, saying, ‘Marianne, come to dinner! Come to the casino!’ – by God, I went ashore. He followed me to Rome, then Paris, then Miami, where I gave in to him.

“It was the biggest mistake of my life, because I lost the man I truly loved – Dick Reynolds, your father. I would never get over him.”

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Above: This photo appears on the cover of The Gilded Leaf.

An actual tobacco leaf was plated in gold, and presented to Patrick Reynolds as a wedding gift by a German man who invented this process, on the occasion of Patrick’s first marriage to Regine Wahl DeGarduno, held in Germany.

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Above: Following their father’s model, all five Reynolds brothers went into the tobacco business. Some worked for R.J., others for Abram, and later switched.

Seated, from left: R.J., Abram, and Harbour; standing, from left:Walter and Will about 1915

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Above: Where it all began: Rock Spring (above), in southern Virginia, seemed a very modest starting place for two separate fortunes. RJ Reynolds’ childhood home is known today as the Reynolds Homestead. In Critz, VA, it is now a museum and community center, restored and endowed in the late 1960’s by Nancy Susan Reynolds, one of RJ the founder’s four children.

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Above: RJ Reynolds’ eldest brother and rival Abram Reynolds, about 1872. Abram founded his own, separate fortune in tobacco, and later became an early advocate of prohibition. A Christian revivalist, Abram sold his tobacco company and founded the Lustre Bubbles Soap Company. His land was rich in bauxite, an ingredient in both soap and aluminum; his son RS Reynolds, trained in business by business titan and Uncle RJ, would found Reynolds Metals, and help popularize aluminum foil. RS was an heir to something more valuable than a large inheritance at a young age; he had RJ’s training and mentoring in business.

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Above: The thousand-acre Reynolda estate in Winston-Salem was founder R.J.’s primary residence for only a few months. Shortly after moving in, the patriarch died of cancer of the pancreas. Ironically R.J.’s death may have been caused by a lifetime of chewing tobacco, the same product that initially made him wealthy.

In 1932, his son Smith Reynolds would die tragically at Reynolda. Today the estate is an art museum and community center.

Below: The interior of the great living room at Reynolda, as it appears today.

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Above: In 1934, on his 28th birthday, Dick and Blitz took possession of his inheritance of more than $25 million. “I know it’s a lot of money, but I can’t get excited,” Dick Reynolds told reporters.

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Above: The interior of the great living room at Reynolda, as it appears today.

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Above: Michael, Dick, Marianne, and baby Patrick, in December, 1948, before the fantasy crumbled.

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Above: Dick with third wife Muriel Greenough Reynolds at a nightclub in the mid-1950s; later he was convinced she wanted to murder him. In marrying wife number three, Dick left behind a second set of sons, having earlier abandoned the four boys from his first marriage. Muriel later died of lung cancer caused by smoking.

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Above: In the wake of his parents’ divorce when he was three, Patrick longed for his father. But Dick had abandoned his sons, much as he done to his older sons by first wife, Blitz. Dick moved on to his new life with Muriel, sailing his new yacht, the 110′ sailing yacht Aires, in the Pacific islands.

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Above: Patrick, age 7, in front of a Fire Department of New York official’s car. The child shut down his sadness and anger with a sunny-boy disposition; Dick would not see Patrick for six years.

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Above: In later years, after years of bitter acrimony, wife number three, Muriel Marston Reynolds (left), and wife number two, Marianne O’Brien (right), would become friends. In Palm Beach and Monte Carlo, the two former Mrs. R.J. Reynoldses met and commiserated, both believing that Annemarie was somehow involved in Dick’s seemingly premature death, though they thought they’d never prove it.

Dick’s unwitnessed, two page handwritten will left everything to wife number 4, Anne Marie Schmidt Reynolds, after less than three years together. Both suspected foul play.

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Above: Patrick, age 10

Above: Patrick on his way to see his father on Sapelo Island off the GA coast, in front of an early Delta Boeing 707. At this time, Dick was the largest shareholder of Delta Airlines.

A year before, at age 9, Patrick wrote to his father, who then dispatched one of his fleet of small private planes to bring him and Michael to his North Carolina mountain retreat. When they met him for the first time in 6 years, the boys found their father lying down, ill with emphysema, caused by smoking the family brands. Their father Dick ’s death in 1964 would later set the stage for Patrick to speak out publicly against the tobacco industry.

Earlier, in the 1920’s, in the early days of aviation, Dick had a teenage fascination with flying; Orville Wright signed Dick’s pilot’s license. His younger brother Smith Reynolds was even more passionate about aviation, and would attempt the first round-the-world flight in a small plane. His plane broke down near Hong Kong.

Dick would later invest in airlines; his tiny Reynolds Aviation became Piedmont Air, which later merged with US Air. Dick switched his holdings into Eastern Airlines, and later Delta. By the time the photo above was taken of Patrick in front of an early Delta 707, Dick was the largest shareholder of Delta Airlines. Patrick was on his way to visit his father on his Sapelo Island estate, located just off the Georgia coast.

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Above: Patrick’s older half-brother Zach had the world’s largest collection of motorcycles and the world’s largest ham radio station of its time (c 1972). This is a posthumous spread from a motorcycle magazine.

R.J. Reynolds photos, RJ Reynolds photos, R.J. Reynolds family photos, RJ Reynolds family photos, RJ Reynolds biography, by Tom Shachtman, Patrick Reynolds, RJ Reynolds book, The Gilded Leaf

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Above: RJ Reynolds., Jr. and first wife, Blitz, built estate ten times the size of Reynolda, near Zephyr, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. They would call it Devotion, a name – an action – that would reflect the young couple’s strong feelings for each other.

Hundreds of men labored on its construction, and Dick, then Mayor of Winston Salem and contemplating a run for Congress, was deeply beloved by the community for creating so many jobs. Some of them called it Dick Reynolds’ own WPA jobs program.

The four story main lodge, above, was built atop a large dam, creating an artificial lake which Dick stocked with trout. He commissioned the entire circumference to be lined in slate, in part to keep the men working a few months longer. He then commissioned yet another dam on the property, some 70′ high; this created a second, much larger lake. As the depression wore on, Dick also had the circumference entirely lined in hand-placed slate.

When Patrick interviewed locals for this book, more than one man in his 80’s cried at the memory of the charismatic tobacco heir.

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Above: Patrick Reynolds interviewing one of Dick’s former employees at Hog Hammock, on Sapelo Island, 1987.

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Photo credit: Dave Phlederer

Patrick Reynolds in 2006

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Above: Patrick first spoke out publicly in 1986 against the tobacco that was the foundation of his family’s fortune. In 1989, he founded the Foundation for a Tobaccofree World, and in 1994, launched the website, tobaccofree.org and later, Anti-smoking.org.

In 2007 he released a new DVD for families, A Talk With Your Kids About Smoking. Today Mr. Reynolds is a frequent speaker at colleges, middle schools and high schools, and educates youth through his 501c3 non-profit group, The Foundation for a Tobaccofree World.

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Above: Critically acclaimed author Tom Shachtman has written more than two dozen books and many television documentaries. The Economist called his AROUND THE BLOCK: THE BUSINESS OF A NEIGHBORHOOD (1997) “a near-classic,” The New Yorker, “A grand idea, splendidly executed.”

His ABSOLUTE ZERO AND THE CONQUEST OF COLD (1999) was hailed by The New York Times as written “with passion and clarity,” and by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “an absolute delight.”

Publisher’s Weekly gave a starred review to RUMSPRINGA: TO BE OR NOT TO BE AMISH(2006), saying, “Shachtman is a sensitive and nimble chronicler …he uses the Amish rumspringa experience as a foil for understanding American adolescence, and identity formation in general…This is not only one of the most absorbing books ever written about the Plain People, but a perceptive snapshot of the larger culture in which they live and move.” Library Journal said, “A fascinating and near-unprecedented glimpse into the inner lives of Amish society…Sensitively addresses the unique position of the Amish and the challenges they face. Highly recommended.”

For more details or to email Tom Shachtman, see his website, www.TomShachtman.com

R.J. Reynolds photos, RJ Reynolds photos, R.J. Reynolds family photos, RJ Reynolds family photos, RJ Reynolds biography, by Tom Shachtman, Patrick Reynolds, RJ Reynolds book, The Gilded Leaf
Patrick Reynolds in 1992

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Patrick Reynolds and former Surgeon
General C. Everett Koop, 1989

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop commented, “Patrick Reynolds is one of the nation’s most influential advocates of a Tobaccofree World. His testimony is invaluable to our society.” They met on May 3, 1989 in Washington, D.C. In December, 2003, Dr. Koop renewed this statement of support for Patrick and the 501c3 non-profit group he runs, The Foundation for a Tobaccofree World. 

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Press info for Patrick Reynolds’ live talks

Press info for Patrick Reynolds’
educational DVD for grades 6 – 12
The Truth About Tobacco, Educational Video

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Contact: Tobaccofree.org Office Manager

Tel: 1 310-577-9828

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The Foundation for a Tobacco Free World merged with the Foundation for a Smokefree America in 2019. We are an anti vaping and anti smoking international group with a global outreach and mission.

Global tobacco industry photos at this site by Rocco Rorandelli, TerraProject.net. View his work in our Photo Gallery.

The Foundation for a Tobaccofree World is firmly on the side of the global health community, and is not associated with The Foundation for a Smoke Free World, to which Big Tobacco's Philip Morris has pledged $80 million annually.

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