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When Ulysses S. Grant Ran for Governor of New Mexico

By Rick Hendricks

Ulysses S. Grant once ran for governor of New Mexico. No, not that Ulysses S. Grant! The would-be governor was born Donald R. Waskey to Calvin and Margaret Waskey in Baltimore, Maryland, about 1938.[1] Waskey apparently entered the Air Force and became a nuclear weapons mechanical technician.[2] According to his mother, he received a general discharge from the Air Force in 1958 after what she said was "an apparent mental collapse."[3] She added that after leaving the military, Donald "became strange and distant." Waskey graduated from San Francisco State College with high honors, and during a visit with his family in Maryland reportedly said that he was God and the reincarnation of General Grant.[4] In 1965 he was a graduate student pursuing a Master's degree in international relations.  He protested against the Vietnam War, penning an article entitled "A Violent Peace Movement," published in the pioneering political satire magazine, The Realist in 1965.[5] His article, “China’s Present Atomic Capability,” was included in the journal edited by Menacham S. Arnoni, The Minority of One.[6] He taught international relations at San Francisco State until 1967, presumably after completing his degree.[7]

In February 1970 Weskey was living in New Mexico when he rode his horse to the Sandoval County courthouse to file as a Republican candidate for governor.[8] The county clerk instructed him to file with the secretary of state in Santa Fe, which he did—in the form of a paper airplane that was promptly rejected. He then ran as an independent write-in on the platform of "God's law and perfect order" and lost.[9]

Waskey was one of the leaders of a hippie commune called Manera Nueva (New Way) that occupied thirty-seven acres near Placitas. The hippies occasionally clashed with their neighbors from Placitas. In late September 1970, Jim Zepeda reported that when he approached Waskey to complain about some members of the commune, Waskey attacked him, striking him in the head with a scythe.[10] As a result of the altercation, Bernalillo County Emiliano Montoya arrested Waskey.

On the night of 1 December 1970, violence erupted again and Waskey shot, killed, and mutilated two men with whom he had argued because he wanted them to leave the commune.[11] The victims were Robert Copeland, a New York resident living at the commune, and George Joseph Ornas of Kit Carson, Colorado. Waskey became a fugitive from justice and disappeared.[12]

In 1989 a forensic odontologist identified two charred bodies found in a burned cabin amidst a large marajuana-growing operation in rural Idaho as the remains of Donald Waskey and his wife Helen.[13] Before his body was burned, Waskey suffered a gunshot to the back of the head, apparently in a drug deal gone very bad.



[1] 1940 US Census, Baltimore, Maryland.

[2] The Minority of One, vol. 7 (1965): xlix.

[3] “Grant Still in Hiding,” Las Vegas Daily Optic,” 4 December 1970.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Donald Waskey, “A Violent Peace Movemment,” The Realist, No. 63 (October 1965): 21-22, 24.

[6] The Minority of One, vol. 7 (1965): xlix.

[7] “Hippies Fight Eviction in New Mexico Mountains,” Lodi News-Sentinel, 11 September 1969.

[8] Layne Vickers, “Court Dismisses Suit to Evict Hippies from Placitas Land,”Albuquerque Journal, 20 February 1970.

[9] Peter Brock, “Governor Candidate Inspects LA,” Santa Fe New Mexican, 22 March 1970; Chuck Anthony, “Two Persons Killed at Hippie Commune,” Albuquerque Journal, 2 December 1970.

[10] “Sheriff Arrests Ulysses S. Grant,” Albuquerque Journal, 2 October 1970.

[11] Chuck Anthony, “Two Persons Killed at Hippie Commune,” Albuquerque Journal, 2 December 1970; “Grant Still in Hiding,” Las Vegas Daily Optic,” 4 December 1970.

[12] “Grant Still in Hiding,” Las Vegas Daily Optic,” 4 December 1970.

[13] John Miller, “Dental Sleuth Forensic Odontologist Frank Morgan Uses His Dental Expertise to Identify Remains,” The Spokesman-Review, 6 March 1997.