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Johnnie M. Walters Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-JOMW

The Johnnie M. Walters Papers span Walters’ life and career from 1935 until 2003, particularly the years between 1969 and 1978. The collection has been organized in the following series: General; Public Papers; Personal Papers; Speeches; Clippings; and Photographs; and largely consists of correspondence.

General Papers contain chronologically arranged correspondence and other documents from 1946 to 2003. The correspondence relates to politics, Walters’ opinions about possible improvements to the tax system, and other aspects of his family, life, and career.

Public Papers include materials relating to Walters’ service as a government official, including his appointments to the offices of Assistant Attorney General and Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and his role in the Watergate investigations. Public papers are divided in sub-series according to offices Walters held.

Walters’ correspondence as Assistant Attorney General reflects his active involvement in reforming the federal tax system and his work on other issues such as tax fraud and sentencing standards in criminal tax cases. Walters’ work on several Civil Disturbance Teams is revealed in detailed accounts of missions in which he took part. The teams were formed of Justice Department representatives and sent to areas where a civil disturbance such as a demonstration or riot was expected. Correspondence relating to the nominations and appointments of judges also reflects Walters’ work with non-taxation issues. The bulk of this correspondence relates to Walters’ efforts on behalf of the failed nominations of Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court. Also included are letters regarding the nominations of other judges, such as Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court, as well as nominations of district court judges in Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Much of the nomination-related correspondence concerns garnering support for Republican nominees. Included is a December 1969 letter from Spiro Agnew commenting on bias in the media.

Papers from Walters’ employment with the IRS include materials from his work with the Chief Counsel’s Office between 1949 and 1955. Papers from his service as Commissioner of Internal Revenue are focused on the re-organization of the IRS to be more efficient and taxpayer friendly.

Walters’ drive to make tax service efficient is apparent in handwritten notes about suggested reorganization of the IRS, in correspondence reflecting Walters’ reforms, as well as by a copy of a 1040A tax form from 1972, reintroduced by the IRS under Walters and featuring his “letter” to the taxpayer. His attention to taxpayer concerns can be seen in his correspondence with Vivien Kellems regarding her campaign against unfair taxation of single people. The operation of Walters’ administration is also represented by papers regarding the resignation of Deputy Commissioner William Loeb. A Democrat, Loeb’s appointment by Walters proved unpopular with the Nixon Administration. Also, Walters’ two resignations from 1972 and 1973 reveal an interesting aspect of the Nixon Administration. In 1972 all Nixon appointees were asked to tender their resignations, a request which Walters complied with, issuing a second resignation several months later. Commissioner’s Advisory Group correspondence and materials from 1973 to 2001 illustrate Walters’ continuing interest in the affairs of the IRS. The Advisory Group was formed of past Commissioners of Internal Revenue to discuss IRS issues and problems and to suggest improvements and solutions.

Watergate investigation files include documents relating Walters’ preparation of his statement before the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Investigations. Walters' handwritten notes from the Committee’s proceedings provide insight into Walters’ very public role in the investigation of the politicization of the IRS. Other items of note include correspondence about the release of the Nixon Oval Office tapes in 1991 and 1996 and transcripts of conversations discussing Walters and the IRS.

Personal Papers consist of correspondence and other papers arranged in sub-series that document Walters’ education, service in the military, early career struggles, successful legal practice and relationships with public figures.

Education is comprised of material from Walters’ high school and undergraduate studies. Yearbooks and papers reflect his active involvement in student activities and his reputation for responsibility. His early interest in aviation is represented by a Student Logbook from flying lessons Walters completed while working his way through college at Furman University. His continuing involvement with Furman is demonstrated by the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree presented to him in 1973 and correspondence suggesting Walters as a candidate for President of the University. Records of his legal studies at the University of Michigan Law School also are present.

Military Service, 1942-1945, contains a wealth of information relating to Walters’ service in the Army Air Force Reserves during and after World War II. Notably, papers include navigator’s logs from bombing raids within Nazi controlled Europe on which Walters acted as navigator. The logs include a record of the mission on which Walters was wounded by flak, earning him the Purple Heart. Walters’ handwritten war diary covers three months of his 1944 service in Italy. The Photograph series contains numerous images of Walters’ military service.

Legal papers are arranged by the different legal firms for which Walters worked. Legal association papers and correspondence from various groups Walters participated in evince his career-long efforts to improve the tax system and the legal profession. Walters’ applications to the New York and South Carolina State Bars, and papers relating to his admission to the Supreme Court are present. Published documentation of the legal suit Darlington-Hartsville Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. U.S. provides an example of Walters’ work with taxation issues while with Greer, Walters, and Demo in the 1960s. A continued interest in and emphasis on tax reform is apparent in papers relating to case work, legislation, and lobbying created by Walters while with Hunton, Williams, Gay & Gibson. Walters’ view of the need for increased legal specialization and standardization within the legal profession appears in letters relating to his work on various American Bar Association committees.

The Persons sub-series consists of files created by Walters relating to public figures with whom Walters maintained a personal relationship, often as an advisor, friend, or confident. Included are files on John B. Connally, Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., and South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell.

Writings include articles authored by Walters for law journals and other publications.

Speeches consist of speeches written or given by Walters between 1960 and 1994 on subjects ranging from tax legislation to World War II. As both a tax lawyer and a prominent tax official, Walters often was asked to speak about changes to the tax code and pending legislation. Some speeches delivered as Commissioner of Internal Revenue attracted media attention, particularly those addressing corporate tax fraud issues and advocating simplification of tax forms. Notable is Walters’ May 1973 speech before a Joint Session of the South Carolina General Assembly. A speech index created by Walters is included. Speeches by Donna Hall Walters are present and relate to such topics as the functions of the IRS and a brief history of the Spanish Basques. Several of Donna Hall Walters’ speeches were prepared for presentation to the Thursday Club of Greenville.

Clippings are arranged chronologically, 1943-1999. Articles from 1943 to 1945 refer to Walters’ military service and include accounts of his injury while in Italy. A majority of the clippings dating from 1973 through 1975 relate to Watergate and investigations into the possibility of a politicized IRS. Included are articles about the testimony of John Dean, the “enemies list,” possible IRS investigations of Lawrence F. O’Brien, and questions about President Richard Nixon’s tax returns. Articles after 1975 relate to honors awarded Walters, his continuing interest in national tax matters, and the release of additional hours of the Nixon tapes in 1991 and 1996.

Photographs are topically arranged into the following sub-series: Education; Military; Persons; Portraits of Walters; Department of Justice Tax Division; and IRS Events, People, Staff, and Official Visits to Government Sites. Many of the photographs are from Walters’ service in the Army Air Force. Notable are public relations photographs of Tonopah Army Air Field in Tonopah, Nevada, where Walters was stationed from 1944 to 1945. Also of note are photographs of Walters speaking at various events, being sworn in, and greeting guests with Donna Hall Walters at an IRS function. One photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, is included.

One folder of ephemera contains invitations and Christmas cards received by the Walters family from presidents and other notable figures, and items relating to his service with the military and IRS.


  • 1918 - 2003



Library Use Only


7.5 Linear Feet


Johnnie M. Walters began his legal career with the Chief Counsel's Office of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., in 1949. In 1953, he moved to the private sector and eventually returned to practice law in his native South Carolina. In 1969, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice. He was named Commissioner of Internal Revenue in 1971 and served until 1973. He is best known for his efforts to reorganize the IRS to be more efficient and taxpayer friendly, and for his defiance of President Richard Nixon's orders to use the IRS to investigate and audit those on his "enemies list."

Biographical Note

In 1971, embattled President Richard M. Nixon sought to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon to investigate and punish his “enemies.” Tapes of White House conversations reveal Nixon wanted as Commissioner “a ruthless son-of-a-bitch, that he will do what he is told, that every income tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends.” Attorney General John Mitchell recommended one of his assistants, a specialist in tax law, Johnnie McKeiver Walters for the key post.

Walters was confirmed as Commissioner of Internal Revenue in August of 1971 and served until 1973. Apparently, neither Nixon nor Mitchell ever spoke with Walters to ensure he would aid them as they desired. In fact, Walters was “shocked” when Nixon aid John Dean presented him with an “enemies list,” and he refused to politicize the IRS as Nixon wanted. When presidential domestic advisor John D. Erlichman confronted Walters about his “foot-dragging tactics” in regard to ordered audits, Walters told Secretary of the Treasury George P. Schultz that he could “...have my job anytime he wanted it.” In an administration largely remembered for its abuse of power, Walters stands apart for his steadfast performance under pressure.

A native of Hartsville, South Carolina, Walters was born to Tommie Ellis and Lizzie Grantham Walters on December 20, 1919. He was educated in the Hartsville public schools and received his A.B. degree from Furman University in 1942. He earned an LL.B. degree in 1948 from the University of Michigan, where he also met and married his wife, Donna Hall. They have four children, Donna (Dee Dee), Hilton, Lizbeth (Betsy), and John Roy (J.R.).

During World War II, Walters served in the U.S. Army Air Force as a navigator, flew fifty bombing missions out of Southern Italy, and was a recipient of the Air Medal with Clusters, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross. Walters served in the Air Force Reserves from 1945 until 1955.

Walters began his legal career with the Chief Counsel’s Office of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., in 1949. In 1953, he moved to the private sector, taking a job in New York City in the Tax Division of Texaco’s Legal Department.

In 1961 Walters moved to Greenville to become a founding partner of the law firm of Geer, Walters & Demo, where he remained until 1969 when he was appointed Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice. In this role, he was deeply concerned with civil unrest and headed one of five Civil Disturbance Teams, often being deployed across the country to cities where incidents of civil unrest were anticipated. As Assistant Attorney General, Walters was also actively involved in the nomination processes of several Supreme Court and District Court judges.

As Commissioner of the IRS, Walters worked to emphasize fast, orderly, and efficient service. Beyond his role in the Watergate investigations, Walters may be best remembered as a vocal advocate for reform of the voluntary tax system into a more taxpayer friendly system. He received attention from the media for his efforts to simplify and clarify tax forms, for his reintroduction of the 1040A form, and for his pledge to crack down on corporate tax fraud.

Later, as a member of the Tax Division in the Washington-based legal firm Hunton, Williams, Gay & Gibson (often referred to as Hunton & Williams), he was involved in various lobbying activities and important legal cases. For example, Walters worked with other Washington law firms to contest a tax on D.C. based professional offices, and also argued for an end to the government employee pay freeze of March 1974 as a key part of the McCorkle v. U.S. suit. As a tax attorney, Walters was an active member of the American Bar Association, and he promoted specialization in the legal profession as well as reform of the tax system.

Leaving Hunton & Williams in 1979, he returned to Greenville, where he worked as a partner with the firm of Leatherwood, Walker, Todd & Mann until 1996. He left to become Executive Vice President and General Counsel with Colonial Trust Company of Greenville, an investment management firm providing administrative and custodial service to individual investors.


Donated by Mr. Johnnie M. Walters.


Copyright of the Johnnie M. Walters Papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Koser, 2003; additions by Laura Koser, 2004; updated 2015, by Kate Moore; addition, 2015, by Chandler White

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA

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