Walker Merryman

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Walker Merryman

Walker P Merryman was the head of the public relations division of the US Tobacco Institute in the 1980s. He was often referred to in letters and memos as "Walter".

In the mid-1990s Walker Merryman was listed as Director of Communications, and also as Vice President of the Tobacco Institute.(Note: VP in 1994; Dir. of Tobacco Institute Communications, 1988): Vice President of the Tobacco Institute in 1994. (L.A. Times 3/26/94). For many years he ran the tobacco industry's annual training program known as the College of Tobacco Knowledge.

He is also described in the tobacco industry documents as "Assistant to the President" in October 1993 when there was a general blood-letting at the Tobacco Institute. Thirty eight staff positions were eliminated and they closed all field offices, and terminated the services of five regional Vice Presidents. Walker Merryman survived the culling and may have been responsible for devising the plan. His area of Public Relations was merged with Federal Relations, and came to be called "Issues Management".

He was a politically conservative from South Dakota and supposely the model for the sleazy character Nick Naylor in 20th Century Fox film "Thank you for Smoking" (spring 2000)


This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Documents & Dates

1948 Feb 21 Born in Rapid City SD. Adopted by Doctor and Mrs Margaret Merryman. Educated in Emerson College, Boston, Career in broadcasting as a country-western radio DJ, a basketball sportscaster, then news director at Rapid Springs.

1968 Walker Merryman, a Beloit College student who later transferred to Emerson College, (worked in radio station) WBCR In 1968 he was running College radio station for 'Country at 88.9" Emerson College with Lloyd Roach.

1975 /E Radio News Director and broadcaster for stations in South Sioux City, IA, North Platte, NE, and Rapid City in Nebraska. In a suit later brought on by the State of Minnesota he explained how he was hired:

Q. Now tell us how is it that you came about to take a position with The Tobacco Institute?

A. Well I became aware of their interest in hiring someone who was familiar with broadcasting and journalism. Friend of mine who ran a job-placement service for the Radio and Television News Directors Association (later the RTDNA) told me of the position. I applied for it, and they asked for a substantial amount of background material on me, which I submitted, and went to Washington then for a personal interview, and subsequently I was hired.

Q. And what were you hired to do?

A. I was hired to respond to inquiries from the news media about issues that The Tobacco Institute addressed on behalf of its member companies.

The writer, Geoff Fox says that the main character (Nick Naylor) in the movie "Thank You For Smoking" was modelled on Walker Merryman. http://www.geofffox.com/MT/archives/2006/04/13/thank-you-for-smoking.php

1976 Feb 24 The Tobacco Institute Newsletter reported on new appointments.

Walker Merryman, as assistant to the president and spokesman for TI . His background is broadcast journalism in Iowa, South Dakota, Mass, and Nebraska.


1976 May 26 Merryman was working for TI in 1976, when complaint made about his appearance on TV to the FCC. This was over supervision by the FCC of the fairness doctrine, and the way the tobacco industry was getting around the advertising ban by public relations. The writer complains that Merryman was able to "promote unrestricted tobacco smoking and tobacco industry profits" and that this "constituted institutional advertising." She questioned "why the tobacco industry is being given an opportunity to promote a product banned by law from being advertised on television" [1]

1979 Brown & Williamson 's briefing book on Smoking and Health (and asbestos). [Updated by Shook Hardy & Bacon in April 1986]

Tobacco Institute
The Institute employs more than 100 persons in its federal and state activities, scientific and public relations departments. Four professional spokespersons -- Connie Drath, Bill Dwyer, Anne Browder and Walker Merryman -- travel the country to present the views of the tobacco industry to the public through the media and in personal appearances. They have visited 48 states and have appeared on more than one-third of the nation's television stations.


1980 Tobacco Institute
Budget $16.6 million General Administration

  • Horace Kornegay, President
  • T Frankovic, Executive VP
  • J Ehringhaus, Senior VP
  • F Dryden, Senior VP
  • M Kastenbaum, Director of Statistics
  • C Waite, Medical Director
  • William Adams, Controller
  • D Hilderly, Accountant
  • S Byrd, Accountant/Analyst
  • K Golden, Office Manager/Corp Secretary
    • Y Buran, Secretary
    • Dianne Savarese, Sec/Research Assistant
    • M Judge, Admin Assistant
    • George Yendowine, Production Services Director

Federal Relations

  • J Mills -- Senior VP
  • Fred Panzer, VP
  • W Hecht, VP
  • Earle Clements, Special Consultant
  • P McGovern, Admin Assistant
  • M Judge, Admin Assistant

  • Public Relations
    • Bill Kloepfer -- Senior VP
    • M Stark, Secretary
    • R Miller, Media Relations Dir.

      • Anne Duffin, VP Publications Director
      • P Knopick, Editor
      • R Goldberg, Writer
      • M Hayes, Secretary


      • C Drath, Communications Director
      • Ann Browder, Assist. to President/Speaker
      • Walker Merryman, Assist to President/Speaker
      • C Musgrave, Program Planner
  • State Activities
    • John D Kelly -- Senior VP
    • Roger Mozingo, VP/Dir of Headquarters Activities
    • W Cannell, Program Administrator
    • A Walker, Secretary
    • S Wall, Secretary

      State Activities Legislation
      • R Oliverio, Director of Legislative Activities
      • G Scott, Legislative Analyst
      • P Beeley, Secretary

      State Activities Training and Communications (TAN)

      • M Craig, Dir Field Training and Communications

      State Activities, Field Administration

      • M Kerrigan, Director/Field Activities
        [96 Area Managers, and 13 State Offices (rising to 21)]

    1980 Jun 1 Tobacco Reporter article Re Fire-safe cigs (quotes from Walker Merryman, Tobacco Institute) in Washington Post

    "They've developed technology which will cause cigarettes to self-extinguish. But at the same time, the output of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide would increase. We might cut down on an insignificant number of people dying in fires. But at the same time we would be increasing the number of people who would contract lung and heart disease due to the increased tar and nicotine." "Sure I think smoking might produce cancer... but it is not addictive. I do not choose to give up cigarettes."

    See Page 372 http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/esh10d00/pdf

    1981 Jun Gene Ainsworth of RJ Reynolds has prepared a confidential report on the Tobacco Institute and its staff . He believes the TI has "spent the last few years resting on its laurels."

    My visceral reaction to the future of the Institute is that we need to have some type of trade association as our "front." Since we are such a concentrated industry and since we are such big fish in this pond, we need to have a front to absorb a lot of the heat that is generated with the Surgeon General's report etc.

    He recommends
    • A 'top-flight lobbyist, a heavy hitter with 5-7 staff, to replace Jack Mills.
    • Jack Mills is too closely associated with "his tenure as the Executive Director of the RNCC/RCCC, and is approaching retirement age.
    • Fred Panzer is limited in effectiveness and is best dealing with the unions and the 'liberal fringe of the Democratic party.'
    • George Yenowine - should be chief administrator.
    • Sam Chilcote, Jack Kelley, Roger Mozingo, Peter Sparber, Walter Merryman all get the tick of approval
    • Mike Kerrigan -- "I wouldn't trust him to give me the right time of the day.
    • Bill Kloepfer -- "a goose egg".
    • Bill Prendergast: Bill has served in a consultant srole in the.past year and to my mind has been worth his weight in gold. He has brought a fresh perspective to the job. His former life at DISCUS [Distilled spirits lobby] has exposed Bill to a number of situations that now threaten the tobacco industry.
            He has been able to make excellent suggestions that, woefully, no one in our industry had thought of. I hope that Bill will want to stay on a while longer at TI.

    • TI has but one full time lobbyist, Jack Mills. The rest, Fred Panzer, Bill Prendergrast, Horace Kornegay, and Sam Chilcote are part-time at best. The outside law firm of Cook and Henderson is being utilized as in-house lobbyists and are being paid a very large fee for its services.
    • [T]he federal lobby function should be primarily an "in-house" function of TI. There undoubtedly would be roles for law firms and consultants, but they should not be handled in the currently incestuous manner which TI, at Horace Kornegay's insistence, maintains with Marlow Cook and Dave Henderson.


    1982 Apr 5 College of Tobacco Knowledge

    Walker Merryman, Vice President and Director of Communications of The Tobacco Institute, describes how the industry's team of speakers travels throughout the country presenting our views. Videotapes of several encounters will highlight this presentation.


    1983 Merryman gave up alcohol for thirty years and "became a mentor to many in the AA program". (from an obit)

    1986 Jun 12 He was the organiser of the College of Tobacco Knowledge held at Loews l'Enfant Plaza Hotel http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/search/expert

    1986 Aug A "Resource Evaluation" by the nine Regional VPs of the Tobacco Institute. They have looked at the record for each of the 100-odd cash-for-comments economists on Savarese's list, and also at the scientific witnesses available to them for hearings and court cases. The report says (about non-scientific witnesses):

    Vern Dempsey , on the sampling issue, was given high marks. He was judged to be quite effective and a "really good" witness. One RVP, however, voiced concern that Mr. Dempsey may be overused, citing the need for similar witnesses.

    Other witnesses receiving very positive comments were: Covington & Burling's Ed Beder and John Rupp , James Hargrove (National Black Police Officers Association) and Walker Merryman . There was virtual unanimity in the field staff's desire to see increased use of law enforcement and labor witnesses. Strong sentiment also was voiced for greater use of sampling and legal witnesses. Of particular interest were the comments of three RVP's on the need for labor witnesses. Feeling that labor witnesses would be "absolutely useful," there was some concern over the industry's having little to offer labor in exchange for its support. Also, RJR's non-union workforce is thought to be an obstacle in dealing with labor.

    [2] Also [3]

    1988 Vice President of TI 1988 (of 19 VPs + 4 Senior VPs) Merryman is now listed as Vice President and spokesman for The Tobacco Institute Assistant to the president of the TI He seems to be the fire-fighting spokesman when dealing with the media

    1988 Jan 12 Merryman to Susan Stuntz at the Tobacco Institute.

    Thanks for the tip about the United pilot. We've passed the information along to our friends at the Airline Pilots Assn., which represents United pilots.

    They tell us that the new California and federal laws do not apply to the cockpit, that historically it's been up to the captain to determine whether smoking is allowed in the cockpit and, as far as they're concerned, United isn't going to change that procedure without collective bargaining. They'll be getting in touch with Hall.

    FYI also, the call wouldn't have gone to John Fox, not so much because of cost control, although that is a factor, but because Fox, although a labor lawyer, represents the management side in labor disputes. Ted Hall is on the union side.


    1989 Jan Oregon and Utah are the first states to ask doctors to specify on death certificats whether tobacco use contributed to death.

    It sends a very strong message, said John M. Pinney, executive director of Harvard University's Institute for the Study of Smoking Behavior and Policy. This is another institutional recognition of the role of tobacco in deaths. For people on the borderline, who still don't believe that the evidence is all in, this is a signal that we're not kidding. Representatives of the tobacco industry, on the other hand, argue that the change is meaningless. Absent an autopsy, you don't know what caused a person's death, said Walker Merryman, a vice president at the Tobacco Institute, a trade association. A death certificate is an estimate, a guess.


    1989 Mar Merryman writes a LTE of the 'Washington Times for the Tobacco Institute. He complains that a recent Larry White column is an attempt at introducing prohibition along the lines of the Volstead Act. He suggest the fact that 40 million Americans who have quit smoking show that there's no need for government intervention. and maintains The differences between cigarette smoking and true addiction to hard drugs are stark and compelling -- the last thing we need is a policy which equates tobacco with controlled substances" (or with additional taxes of $2.00 a pack) He then promotes the 'regressive tax' line, that this is unfair on the poor. https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/#id=rrkp0138

    1991 Mar 18Fleishman Hillard advising Walker Merryman about the Washington Times Editorial Board Meeting scheduled for tomorrow Sam Francis who was acting editorial editor along with Ken Smith. They were to meet with Walker Merryman and "Jolly". The meeting was set up by Fleishman Hillard following his letter. Jolly, can only be Jolly Ann Davidson who was involved in educational institutions, and acted as a promoter of the industry's sham programs to supposedly persuade kids from smoking. She was the ex-President of the National Association of State Boards of Eduction, who worked as a tobacco lobbyist on 'youth smoking' issues. https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/#id=szmw0132

    1993 Jun 1 Tobacco Institute list of "Witness/Expert Appearances
    Tom Lauria, Mike Buckley, Simon Turner of ACVA/HBI,
    Gio Gori, [[Bill Wordham, Gray Robertson of ACVA/HBI,
    Peter Binnie of ACVA/HBI Larry Holcomb, John Fox,
    Rich Silverman, Walter Merryman of the Tobacco Institute, David Remes,
    Frank Powell, Melinda Sidak, Rudy Cole,
    Larry Halfen
    (Note: Binnie appears to be concentrating on airports - not aircraft?)
    An attached 1991 Witness List includes
    Brennan Dawson, Jeff Seckler of HBI, Jim Goold,
    Joe Pedelty, Jolly Ann Davidson school/educational lobbyist, Dick Wagner economics professor,
    Bernadette Davidson, Walt Decker
    Also attached is a 1990 Witness List (page 35) includes
    Bill Orzechowski, Mike Davis, Morris Coats,
    Also this long document has attached the 1989 witness list with (in addition to above)
    Dwight Lee economics professor key
    cash-for-comments economists network member,
    David Weeks, Alan Kassman,
    Robert Tollison professor of economics GMU
    (who ran the cash-for-comments network,
    Richard Wagner professor of economics,(Tollison's assistant) Jack Peterson,
    "Bestype Consulting", Dennis Vaughn,
    And 1988 List (Most of above) and
    A Katzenstein, David Brenton (focus on airlines)

    1993 Jun 1 Tobacco Institute list of "Witness/Expert Appearances -- Scientific/Legal/Spokespersons."

    Tom Lauria,  Mike Buckley,  Simon Turner of ACVA/HBI,  Gio Gori,   [[Bill Wordham,   Gray Robertson of ACVA/HBI, < >Peter Binnie of ACVA/HBI  , Larry Holcomb,   John Fox,  Rich Silverman,   Walter Merryman of the Tobacco Institute,   David Remes,  Frank Powell,   Melinda Sidak,   Rudy Cole,  Larry Halfen. 

    (Note: Binnie appears to be concentrating on airports - not aircraft?) An attached 1991 Witness List which includes, Brennan Dawson, Jeff Seckler of HBI, Jim Goold, Joe Pedelty, Jolly Ann Davidson school/educational lobbyist, Dick Wagner, Bernadette Davidson, Walt Decker Also attached is a 1990 Witness List (page 35) includes Bill Orzechowski, Mike Davis, Morris Coats, Also this long document has attached the 1989 witness list with (in addition to above) Dwight Lee economics professor key cash-for-comments economists network member, David Weeks, Alan Kassman, [[Robert Tollison Bob Tollison]] professor of economics GMU (who ran the cash-for-comments network, Richard Wagner professor of economics, Jack Peterson, "Bestype Consulting", Dennis Vaughn, And 1988 List (Most of above) + A Katzenstein, David Brenton (focus on airlines) http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/otz92b00/pdf

    1993 Oct Towards the end of this year there was a reorganisation of the Tobacco Institute where:
    • The overall TI budget was proposed to be cut by 61%, from $38,925,000 down to $15,000,000
    • 38 staff positions were to be eliminated.
    • 34 staff were to be fired (15 professional and 19 support staff) -- $2m in termination costs.
    • Close all field offices -- terminate 5 Regional VPs
    • Freeze all salary reviews
    • Eliminate the Public Affairs and Federal Relations divisions and merge the remaining staff into Issues Management

    His position was not terminated. The others were fired in November http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/olb97h00/pdf

    1993 Oct 22 This person survived the day of the mass termination of staff at the Tobacco Institute. 38 staff members were fired. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/dpg05b00/pdf

    1996 Listed as friend of tobacco, by Texas government in 1996 in action against tobacco.

    1997 Walker Merryman had heart bypass surgery and gave up smoking. He had given up alcohol in 1983.

    1998 Feb 9 "Financial Review" [Page 63??] The old trooper Walker Merryman, director of communications for the US Tobacco Institute, singing the party line. Merryman chose to give up smoking when he had bypass surgery last year.

    1998 Mar 12 Listed in the Public Affairs Division of the Tobacco Institute, working under Walter Woodson. This sub-division is called "Media Relations"

    Walker Merryman , Vice President and Director of Communications
    TI Spokesperson
    202-457-4871 (W) 703-339-5011 (H)

    1999 Sep

    The RICO Case against Tobacco.

    1999 Sep to 2005 Sep: The USA's DC District Court issued its Amended Final Opinion in the Racketeering Influences and Corrupt Organisation (RICO) case against the US tobacco companies. This 2000 page document includes:

    152. There is no question that the Tobacco Institute intended the public to rely on the public statements the organization made on behalf of its cigarette manufacturer members.

    As already noted, the Tobacco Institute’s public spokespersons appeared on various television shows broadcast on all major networks in all fifty U.S. states. Brennan Dawson, Vice President of Public Relations for the Tobacco Institute and one of its major spokespersons, stated that she, on behalf of the Tobacco Institute, intended the public to rely on the public statements she made on television, regardless of whether the statements she made were in response to questions posed by the media or were spontaneous statements she volunteered to the media. Walker Merryman, another long-time Tobacco Institute spokesperson, similarly stated that the Tobacco Institute intended the public to believe its public statements. 153. However, when asked about public scientific support for the public statements she was making on behalf of the Tobacco Institute, Brennan Dawson could not name a single public health organization that asserted, as did the Tobacco Institute, that it had not been proven that smoking caused disease during the time she was a spokesperson on behalf of the Tobacco Institute. Nor could Ms. Dawson name a single medical doctor, not associated with the tobacco industry, who took the position that it was not proven that smoking caused disease. Similarly, Walker Merryman, also a Tobacco Institute spokesperson for over twenty years, could not name a single medical doctor not affiliated with the tobacco industry who publicly took the position that there was some medical doubt as to whether smoking caused disease. 157. During the twenty-one years that Anne Duffin, and the twenty-two years that Walker Merryman, worked for the Tobacco Institute’s Public Affairs Division, they prepared many of the Tobacco Institute publications that disputed the existence of any link between smoking and disease; that nicotine was addictive; that cigarette companies marketed to youth; and that Environmental Tobacco Smoke (“ETS”) posed a health risk.

    Titles of such publications include, but are not limited to: Cigarette Smoking and Heart Disease; Cigarette Smoking and Cancer: A Scientific Perspective: Smoking and Health, The Continuing Controversy 1964-1979; On Tobacco: 21 Questions and Answers; The Cigarette Controversy, Eight Questions and Answers; About Tobacco Smoking: Smoking and Women; and Vital Statistics -- How Accurate Are They?

    <a href="http://publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/doj-final-opinion.pdf" target=tobdocs><img src="../library/pdfer.jpg" align=right></a>

    2000 Walker Merryman retired from the Tobacco Institute. http://rapidcityjournal.com/obits/merryman-walker-p/article_e6d54ab7-2cc4-577e-996b-ce8d2f17ad69.html

    2000 Mar AG&M listing of those responsible West Virginia Class Action http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ocm53c00/pdf Merryman, Walker- Vice President and Director of Communications, Spokesman, Tobacco Institute

    2001 Sep 20 Walker Merryman is listed as a long-time member and donor to the Lou Prato Scholarship of the RTDNA (Radio-Television Digital News Association).

    2013 Jan 3 Death Announcement:

    Longtime RTDNA supporter and friend Walker Merryman has died at his winter home in (Luquillo) Puerto Rico. Merryman was a former radio news director in Nebraska and longtime executive for the Tobacco Insitute. He attended many RTDNA national conventions and was perhaps best known among members as the founder of the informal RTDNA choir, which sang together in a hotel suite following several conventions. His close friends say Merryman was an avid reader, who exchanged frequent emails, sharing a joke whenever he could.

    - See more at: http://www.rtdna.org/article/walker_merryman_passes_away#sthash.YISyWY9n.dpuf

    Other SourceWatch Resources

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