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Buron Fitts

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Subject: C. C. Young, Frank Merriam, Jurists who committed suicide, Charles E. Downs, Lieutenant Governors of California
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Buron Fitts

Buron Rogers Fitts (March 22, 1895 - March 29, 1973) was a California politician, who was the 29th Lieutenant Governor of the state from 1927 to 1928 and Los Angeles County district attorney thereafter until 1940.

Early life

Born in Belcherville, Texas, Fitts received his law degree in 1916 from the University of Southern California, and while a student there worked as a clerk for the prominent attorney Earl Rogers.

According to For the People — Inside the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office 1850-2000, by Michael Parrish, Fitts was a severely injured veteran of Battle of Argonne and limped for the rest of his life.

Career

He was appointed deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County in 1920 during the term of Thomas Lee Woolwine and chief deputy in 1924 under Asa Keyes. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1926 and served in the administration of Governor C.C. Young. Fitts term as lieutenant governor of California: January 4, 1927 to November 30, 1928. Governor Young appointed H. L. Carnahan, lieutenant governor on December 4, 1928, vice Buron Fitts, resigned.

In 1928, Keyes was indicted for bribery (in connection with the Julian Petroleum Company scandal), and Fitts resigned effective November 30 of that year to become a special prosecutor in that case. He was elected district attorney (the county's chief law officer) as well.

Fitts was elected for a second term in 1932, and he investigated the death of Hollywood producer-director-screenwriter Paul Bern, the husband of actress Jean Harlow. Samuel Marx, in his book Deadly Illusions (1990) accuses Fitts of having been bribed by MGM studio officials to accept a fabricated version of Bern's suicide to avoid scandal in Hollywood. Fitts was also indicted for bribery, and perjury in 1934 for allegedly taking a bribe to drop a statutory rape charge against a millionaire real-estate promoter. He was acquitted two years later. He was also accused of using his position to block action against the rapist of Patricia Douglas at the MGM Sales Convention in 1937 (see the documentary Girl 27 by David Stenn).

Fitts was elected to a third term as district attorney in 1936 and remained until 1940, when he was defeated by a reform candidate, John F. Dockweiler. Fitts, J.D. Fredricks (1903–1915), and Steve Cooley (2000-2012) are only Los Angeles County District Attorneys to serve three complete terms.

On March 7, 1937, Fitts was wounded by a volley of shots fired through the windshield of his car. (Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1937, quoted in He Usually Lived With a Female, referenced below.) Nobody was ever arrested in that case.

He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 with the rank of major. He was chief, intelligence, Pacific Overseas Air Technical Services.

Death

His last residence was in Three Rivers, in Tulare County, California, where he committed suicide by a pistol shot to the head in 1973, one week after his 78th birthday.


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