Monday, August 19, 2013

Owington Gordon Delk Jr. (1911-1990)

From the Binghamton Press, September 7, 1955

   While many Americans have feelings of ill will towards that often maligned institution called the Internal Revenue Service, its 140-year history has seen the likes of George Sewall Boutwell and Columbus Delano (both former Congressmen and Cabinet members) serve as its Commissioner. In its long history, the IRS has also had two oddly named individuals serve as its head, Green Berry Raum (1876-1883) and the man profiled today, Mr. Owington Gordon Delk Jr. Despite being the acting head of the venerable IRS, little information could be found on Mr. Delk, whose terms in office came about due to resignations by prior IRS commissioners. 
   O. Gordon Delk (as most sources list him) was born in Virginia on December 28, 1911, a son of Owington Gordon (1881-1956) and Lena Frances Tulloss Delk (1891-1970). Little is known of Delk's early years, although notice is given as to his entering government service in 1928 "as a messenger in the general accounting office." He later went on to study accounting at George Washington University and graduated from the Southeastern University in Washington, D.C. with a Bachelor of Laws degree. Following his graduation Delk was involved in "banking and farming in and around Smithfield" and he later married to Frances Channell (1915-2012), with whom he would have three children, son O. Gordon Delk III (1950-1972) and daughters Sarah and Emily.
  O. Gordon Delk Jr. was appointed as Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue on March 30, 1953, serving under Commissioner Thomas Coleman Andrews. On October 31, 1955, Andrews resigned from the post to return to his earlier position as an insurance company executive and Delk became acting commissioner. He served until December 4th of that year when Rhode Island native Russell C. Harrington took over as Commissioner.

From the Gastonia Gazette, November 1, 1955.

  Delk returned to his duties as deputy commissioner under Harrington until similar circumstances arose in September of 1958. Russell Harrington resigned as commissioner and Delk once again became acting head of the IRS. Despite serving as the top IRS official for a combined total of 68 days, his second term in the post saw a confrontation arise between the IRS and Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus (1910-1994). As the Tonawanda News related in its October 8, 1958 edition, an error in IRS accounting made it appear that Faubus "owed income taxes on $105,499.14." Governor Faubus, well known at the time for being outspoken on his views regarding segregation, publicly chastised the IRS, noting that the government was trying to punish him for his views and stance against school integration. Arkansas IRS District Commissioner Curtis R. Mathis proclaimed that "somebody goofed" in regards to the mistake, but acting commissioner Delk was quoted as taking a "less than apologetic attitude" to the situation,  noting that "Faubus' overall tax affairs are still under scrutiny."
   Following the conclusion of his second stint as acting IRS Commissioner, Delk resigned from the Internal Revenue Service and was awarded a civilian service medal by the U.S. Treasury Department in January 1959.  Little could be found on Delk's later years, although it is known that he resided in Punta Gorda, Florida for a number of years, and in 1977 was named to the Civic Advisory Council at the Medical Center Hospital in that city. A death notice for Delk (published in the February 10, 1990 edition of the Hampton Roads Daily Press) also notes that he was a past financial executive for the RCA Corporation, but fails to mention his length of service with that company. 
   O. Gordon Delk died at age 78 on February 8, 1990 in Punta Gorda, Florida and was later interred at the Saint Luke's Cemetery in Smithfield, Virginia. He was survived by both of his daughters and his wife Frances, who died in June 2012 at age 96.

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