Kid Carolina: R. J. Reynolds Jr., a Tobacco Fortune, and the Mysterious Death of a Southern Icon
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The Reynolds tobacco family was an American dynasty like the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Astors. R.J. "Dick" Reynolds Jr. was born into privilege and decadence, but his disastrous personal life eventually destroyed almost every relationship he cherished and stole his health at a relatively young age.
Dick Reynolds was dubbed "Kid Carolina" when as a teenager, he ran away from home and stowed away as part of the crew on a freighter. For the rest of his life he'd turn to the sea, instead of his friends and family, for comfort. Dick disappeared for months at a time, leading the dual life of a business mogul and troubled soul, both of which became legendary.
Despite his personal demons, Dick played a pivotal role in shaping twentieth-century
to Wife of Tobacco Heir.” New York Times, December 16, 1952. “Air Crash Suits Shifted.” New York Times, October 19, 1929. Albright, Robert C. “ ‘Boss Away,’ Democrats Call Off $100 Feast.” Washington Post, March 28, 1941, p. 1. “American Sent to Prison.” The Times (London), August 1, 1929. “American Yacht Disqualified in Race.” Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1937. “American Yawl Is Fifth.” New York Times, August 13, 1937. “Amerikanischer Zigarettenfabrikant in Luzern Gestorben.” Luzerner
divorce. Dick wasn’t the slightest bit heartbroken over his split from Blitz, except for the breathtaking amount of money he had to part with. He quickly recovered and made plans to marry Marianne as soon as he could. Mary and Nancy were furious with Dick for leaving Blitz and abandoning his sons. They were even more incensed that he had run off with a woman who, in their minds, was a gold digger. More than anything, Mary and Nancy were embarrassed by Dick. Nancy, especially, would later seek to
of his factory at work, and he lived and worked in his personal office above his factories for most of his life. Today, one of R.J.’s old factories still stands, along with the rail line that trailed through it. R.J. at Work Young R.J. was a tall and handsome man—six foot, four inches—and although he spoke with a stammer, he was thoughtful, confident, and intriguing to the town’s ladies. In spite of the attention he received from women in Winston, R.J. stayed intensely focused on his
his sons as a “just because” gift. He had his sons on his mind too. Twenty-five-year-old Josh had become somewhat unstable and had a nervous breakdown before he was hospitalized in Detroit. Dick let him stay in their apartment in New York, and Josh lived with Dick and Muriel on and off for a year. He became very close to Muriel especially, and she coached him through his low periods. When Dick returned from Fancy Gap in September, he had given up drinking completely and suffered from severe
society. John Gates, current master of the Aries, testified as to Dick’s and Muriel’s conduct on their yachts over the years. Gates also told the court that Muriel cursed too much and encouraged Dick’s drinking, even when he was trying to quit. Muriel Takes the Stand On direct examination, Muriel talked about her marriage with Dick and recalled their wedding. “Karl Weiss baked a cake, the housekeeper made a lovely hat of gardenias to wear, Karl put lanterns in the garden,” she said.