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Henry Salvatori, GOP Kingmaker, Dies

Politics: Oil company founder was contributor to Republicans, confidant to three presidents.


"These revolutionaries and critics of our society, lacking wisdom and understanding and beguiled by Communist-inspired ideology, focus on the unresolved problems of our nation and demand instant solutions," he said at a Columbus Day observance at Los Angeles City Hall in 1970. "Deficient in perspective and realism and with little understanding of our inspiring history, they would destroy the highest civil order ever created by man--the United States of America."

Salvatori always was proud of his role. "The Eastern press in particular always describes me by implication at least as if I'm secret, or sinister, perhaps, a mysterious guy in the background," he once said. "This isn't so."

Instead, he was assertive, in private as well as public.

Probably the most famous example of Salvatori's self-confidence and general assertiveness was his attempt, on Feb. 25, 1976, when he was 75, to personally fight off two young masked gunmen who invaded his home and carried off $450,000 in silverware and other loot.

At one point, he pulled a pistol on the pair but was quickly disarmed. He suffered a 2 1/2-inch cut on his right leg in a scuffle with the gunmen, who finally left him and his wife bound hand and foot in an upstairs bedroom. The injury later required an operation.

"There wouldn't have been any violence if I didn't react," a calm and unruffled Salvatori told reporters a few hours later. He said the two burglars seemed surprised when he grabbed for his weapon in a night stand and quoted one of them as saying, "Can you imagine this guy pulling a gun on us?"

Police said Salvatori was lucky he was not shot. Much of what was stolen was later recovered, and the two burglars were convicted and sentenced to prison.

Survivors include a son, Henry Ford Salvatori; a daughter, Laurie Salvatori Champion, and a grandson. His wife of 54 years, Grace, died in 1990.

Funeral services will be private. Memorial donations may be made to St. John's Hospital Foundation.

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