Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of NBCNews.com.
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Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of NBCNews.com.

Bill Dedman is an investigative reporter for NBC News, a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting, and a bestselling author of "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune."

Bill is always looking for good investigative story ideas of national interest. Send him an email with a description of your story idea, with documents and sources for more research.

Bill stumbled onto the mystery of the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, who was featured in a series of reports on NBCNews.com and the Today show. The Clark series has been the most popular feature ever on NBCNews.com, with more than 110 million page views. Bill has co-written a nonfiction book about the Clark family, "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune." The biography hit No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list and was chosen among the best books of 2013 by Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and others.

Bill received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for "The Color of Money," a series of articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on racial discrimination by mortgage lenders in middle-income neighborhoods. Among other awards, in 2008 he received a national award for investigative reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists for his articles and video on firefighter deaths. In 2011 he received a Best in Business award for investigative reporting from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers for his narrative on Huguette Clark and her family.

He joined NBCNews.com (then known as msnbc.com) in 2006, reporting and writing investigative stories for the website and NBC television. He reports to Michael Brunker, investigations editor for NBCNews.com.

For NBC News he has uncovered stories on the Pentagon's efforts to identify servicemen and women lost in past wars, fatal problems with firefighter safety equipment, uninspected highway bridges, the Obama administration's visitor logs, coercive interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo, and strategies for discouraging school shootings.

Bill got his start in journalism at 16 as a copy boy at The Chattanooga Times. He has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe, and was the first director of computer-assisted reporting for The Associated Press. He taught advanced reporting part time at the University of Maryland, Northwestern University, and Boston University, and created the Power Reporting site of research tools for journalists. He served for six years as a member of the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

An archive of his work is below, and check out his recent work at NBC News Investigations.

Connect with Bill on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/investigative.reporter

Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/billdedman

Articles and videos by investigative reporter Bill Dedman:

Hurricane Sandy:

An odd pattern in FEMA flood insurance maps:

The effort to identify missing and dead American service men and women:

Image: The White House
Brendan Hoffman  /  Getty Images file

The nuclear power emergency in Japan

Image: firefighter family at memorial
Bill Greenblatt  /  UPI

'Cause for Alarm,' a special report on firefighter safety

Image: Sarah Palin and her husband Todd
Robyn Beck  /  AFP-Getty Images file

Sarah Palin's emergence on the national stage

The killing of Osama bin Laden

Image: Salon in Clark mansion
Peter Harholdt  /  Corcoran Gallery of Art

Huguette Clark and her empty mansions
All the stories, photos and videos in our Huguette Clark series are collected at clark.msnbc.com

A firing in the federal government: a case of religious discrimination?

A shooting in Tucson

Image: man being tested by handheld lie-detector.
Jimmy Hall for msnbc.com

The Pentagon's new truth device

The downside of boutique medicine

Image: Rescue Children orphanage in Haiti
David Friedman  /  msnbc.com

A church group protects an orphanage in Haiti after the quake

Video: Haitian orphans look toward new beginning (on this page) (by David Britt-Friedman, Bill Dedman, Kevin Flynn and Eric Zuckerman)

Slideshow: Church rushes to help orphanage in Haiti (by David Britt-Friedman)

Interactive: Meet the children


Blog posts:



Ted Kennedy's FBI file

Image: Graffitti in Detroit says Help.
Carlos Osorio  /  AP file

The Adversity Index

Image: School bus approaching bridge
Bill Dedman / msnbc.com

Bridge inspections


Image: young Hillary Clinton with thesis title page.

The 2008 campaign and transition

Banks in crisis



Privacy vs. protecting children

The ditching of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River



Leavenworth Street Blog  /  Leavenworth street blog
Reporter Calvert Collins and congressional candidate

Journalists and independence



Image: Students hold hands at Virginia Tech
Mary Altaffer  /  AP

School security and school shootings



Benefits for cops, firefighters and EMTs


Health insurance reform


On the lighter side

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Photos: The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal, mystery

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  1. By Bill Dedman, NBC News. Why are the mansions of one of America’s wealthiest women sitting vacant? Huguette Clark's father, the copper king and "Paris millionaire senator," was the second richest American — or first, neck and neck with Rockefeller. Huguette, 103, has no children. Where is she? And what will become of her fortune?

    Click on the photo to continue. (W.A. Clark Memorial Library) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. She doesn't live here. The mysterious Clark estate in Santa Barbara, Calif., has been empty since 1963. Named Bellosguardo for its "beautiful view" of the Pacific, it's worth more than $100 million, a 21,666-square-foot house on 23 acres. Caretakers have labored at the Clark estate for generations — and not met Huguette Clark.

    Click on the photo to continue. (John L. Wiley, http://flickr.com/photos/jw4pix/) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She also doesn't live here. In 1951, Huguette Clark bought this home in New Canaan, Conn. She named it Le Beau Château, or "beautiful country house." And she never spent a night in it. Now her 13,459-square-foot home, with 52 wooded acres, is for sale for $24 million, marked down from $34 million. Taxes are $161,000 a year.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. And she doesn't seem to live here, though her belongings are here. The largest spread on New York's Fifth Avenue is her three apartments at 72nd Street overlooking Central Park. She has 42 rooms and 15,000 square feet. That's all the 8th floor and half the 12th, worth more than $50 million. The building staff have seen Huguette ("u-GET") few times in 30 years.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Where did such wealth come from? It started with hard work, ingenuity and unfettered ambition. One of these miners in 1863 in Bannack, Mont., would, by the end of the century, own banks, railroads, timber, newspapers, sugar, coffee, oil, gold, silver, copper — seemingly unending veins of copper. He's on the right, William Andrews Clark, Huguette's father.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Newell family photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Born in a log cabin in Pennsylvania in 1839, of Scotch-Irish and French Huguenot immigrants, Clark stood 5 feet 8½, with fastidiously tended whiskers, unruly red hair, and cold blue eyes. A contemporary wrote, "There is craft in his stereotyped smile and icicles in his handshake. He is about as magnetic as last year's bird's nest."

    Click on the photo to continue. ("The Clarks: An American Phenomenon," 1941) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. After two years panning for gold, Clark turned to selling goods he hauled by wagon through the Rockies. He bought eggs at 20 cents a dozen, marketing them for $3 a dozen to miners for a brandy eggnog called Tom and Jerry. He took a year back East to study geology at Columbia University, then returned to Montana, to Butte's "Richest Hill on Earth."

    (Lewis Pub. Co. / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Clark made his greatest fortune in the Southwest. His United Verde copper mine, in Jerome, Ariz., yielded a profit of $400,000 a month, or in today's dollars, $10 million a month. The trading post of Las Vegas was a stop on his rail line. Here he speaks to a crowd in Las Vegas from his Pullman car in 1905. Las Vegas today is in Clark County, named for him.

    (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Libraries, Special Collections) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Clark's desire was a title: Senator Clark. Montana denied him time after time, a battle called the War of the Copper Kings. Who knows how a feud flared between Democrats: Marcus Daly, left, a Catholic who loved racehorses, and Clark, a Presbyterian who loved art. Legislators picked senators; newspapers made legislators; all were for sale.

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. An aide said, "We'll put the old man in the Senate, or the poorhouse." Clark was elected in 1899, but $1,000 bills turned up in envelopes. He had to resign. Clark said publicly, "I propose to leave to my children a legacy, worth more than gold, that of an unblemished name." Privately he said, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Clark's men tried one more audacity: On the day he resigned, they tricked the governor into traveling outside Montana. His lieutenant filled the vacancy — with Clark! When the governor returned, again Clark was out. Finally, he was elected in 1901. Though he retired after one term, for the rest of his life he insisted on being "Senator Clark."

    (Clinedinst / The National Magazine, 1905) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Mark Twain had a few other names for Senator Clark. "He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs."

    (Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Clark's first wife, Kate, died in 1893, leaving him four grown children. In 1904, while in the Senate, Clark announced that he had taken a second wife in France three years earlier, and that the couple already had a 2-year-old daughter. At the time of the supposed marriage, he was 62, and wife Anna was 23. No proof of the wedding date has been found.

    (The Butte Miner) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. His new wife, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle, had been Clark's ward. She came to him as a teenager for support. Clark sent her from Butte to boarding school, then to Paris, where she studied the harp. He visited by steamship. They had two daughters: Andrée, born in 1902 in Spain, and Huguette in 1906 in Paris, where they lived with Anna.

    (The Butte Miner) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. "THEY'RE MARRIED AND HAVE A BABY," thundered Daly's opposition paper. All this was news to Clark's children from his first marriage, who were older than his young wife. One older daughter wrote that, while she was "greatly grieved and dreadfully disappointed, we must all stand by our dear father."

    (The Anaconda Standard) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. After he left the Senate, Clark moved his young wife and daughters into this Beaux-Arts house he built at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street in New York. It had 121 rooms, four art galleries, Turkish baths, a vaulted rotunda 36 feet high, and its own railroad line to bring in coal. All for a family of four. It was known as "Clark's Folly."

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Clark spent as much as $7 million on the house, about three times what it would later cost to build Yankee Stadium. The mansion's treasures included this Louis XVI salon, a marble statue of Eve by Rodin, oak ceilings from Sherwood Forest, and the grandest American collection of European paintings, lace and tapestries.

    (Salon Doré, 1770, on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Clark hosted organ recitals, so his neighbors on Millionaire's Row could see his paintings by Degas, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian, van Dyck, Gainsborough, Cazin, Rousseau. Once his chosen artworks were installed in the house, Clark bought few more. If he acquired any more paintings, he wrote, he would have to remove something.

    (Edgar Degas, "The Dance Class," 1873, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Writer Wallace Irwin set it all to verse: "Senator Copper of Tonopah Ditch made a clean billion in minin' and sich. Hiked for New York, where his money he blew, bildin' a palace on Fift' Avenoo. 'How,' says the Senator, 'kin I look proudest? Build me a house that'll holler the loudest. None of your slab-sided, plain mossyleums! Gimme the treasures of art ...

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. ... an' museums! Build it new-fangled, scalloped and angled, fine like a weddin' cake garnished with pills. Gents, do your duty, trot out your beauty. Gimme my money's worth, I'll pay the bills.' Pillars Ionic, eaves Babylonic, doors cut in scallops resemblin' a shell. Roof was Egyptian, gables caniptian. Whole grand effect when completed was — hell."

    (One of four galleries in the Clark mansion, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Clark's wife was rarely seen in public. He wrote of Anna, "Mrs. Clark did not care for social distinction, nor the obligations that would entail upon my public life." In 1912, former Senator Clark, 73, and Anna, 34, walked in the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue with Andrée, 9. Huguette, not pictured, was just 5, starting her collection of dolls from France.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Clark family traveled often to Paris. A ship's registry from 1914 sets birthdates for the family: William Andrews Clark, age 75, Connellsville, Pa., Jan. 8, 1839; Anna E., age 36, Calumet, Mich., March 10, 1878; Andrée, age 12, Spain, Aug. 13, 1902; and Huguette, age 8, Paris, June 9, 1906. At home, they had 10 servants and a French chef.

    (Ship's registry from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Clark and daughters visit Columbia Gardens, which he built in Butte. It was about 1917. Andrée (left) would be about 15, and Huguette 11. Clark was 78. In 1919, a week before her 17th birthday, Andrée died of meningitis. "When her sister died, it left a hole in her life," said Huguette's great-half-nephew through the first marriage, Ian Devine.

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Through the '20s, society pages chronicled the debutante. "Miss Huguette Clark, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Andrews Clark of 962 Fifth Avenue, entertained a party of girl friends yesterday at Sherry's." At Miss Spence's School for Girls, she learned politics; Isadora Duncan taught interpretive dance. Skirts had to be 3 inches below the knee.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. William Andrews Clark died in his house on Fifth Avenue on March 2, 1925, at age 86, with his wife and children by his side. He lay in honor in his own gallery, as his paintings looked down. President Coolidge sent flowers. Clark's will called for a "decent and Christian burial in accordance with my condition in life, without undue pomp or ceremony."

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. He was entombed, along with his first wife and Andrée, in this mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His neighbors now are Woolworth, Macy, Pulitzer — all better remembered. Clark left $350,000 to a Clark orphans home; $100,000 each to Clark kindergarten and Clarkdale, Ariz.; $25,000 to Clark women's home; $2,500 to his butler.

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Clark had promised his daughters from his first marriage that Anna would not inherit the New York City mansion. It was sold in 1927 for less than half what it cost to build, and was torn down for apartments. Many other houses on Millionaire's Row fell, including the Astor and Vanderbilt palaces. The Gilded Age had passed.

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Anna got the mansion in Santa Barbara and $2.5 million. The rest of Clark's estate — as much as $300 million, or $3.6 billion today — went to Huguette and the four older children, who soon cashed out all his businesses. Huguette, 18, also received an allowance for three years: up to $90,000 a year, equal to $1 million today.

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. To the art, Clark attached conditions. The Metropolitan Museum could have it, if it kept it all in a separate Clark gallery forever. The Met declined. The art went to his second choice, the Corcoran in D.C. His wife and daughters paid for a Clark wing to hold it. The museum found that some of the paintings were misattributed; this Corot was authentic.

    (Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, "Repose," 1860, reworked 1865-1870, Corcoran Gallery of Art) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Clark bequeathed this advice as well: "The most essential elements of success in life are a purpose, increasing industry, temperate habits, scrupulous regard for one's word ... courteous manners, a generous regard for the rights of others, and, above all, integrity which admits of no qualification or variation."

    (Woodlawn Cemetery, Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Clark's descendants say he should be remembered as a Horatio Alger hero, a boy from a log cabin who conquered the worlds of finance, politics and art. "He lived exactly as he had planned," said André Baeyens, a great-grandson and diplomat, who wrote a book in French about the family. "He had a ferocious will to 'better my condition in life.'"

    (William Merritt Chase, 1915, Corcoran Gallery) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Bettering the condition of others wasn't his concern. Clark cut timber on federal land, and he benefitted from Arizona's "deportations" of union men who were kidnapped and driven out of state. Criticized for the sulfurous smoke and denuded landscape from his mines, he said, "Those who succeed us can well take care of themselves."

    (B.L. Singley, Butte, 1904 / Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. "Robber barons," some historians call the tycoons of that era. Others prefer "industrial statesmen." Unlike Carnegie or Rockefeller, Clark left little charity, only corruption and extravagance. "Life was good to William A. Clark," wrote historian Michael Malone, "but due to his own excesses, history has been unkind."

    (Harris & Ewing / Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. After her father's death, Huguette Clark practiced music and art; seven paintings she created were shown at the Corcoran. In 1928, she became engaged to William Gower, a law student whose father had worked for Clark. "No married couple ever started married life under more brilliant auspices," The New York Herald said.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. They were wed at Bellosguardo, the Clark home in Santa Barbara, on Aug. 18, 1928. The groom was 23, the bride 22. That year, Huguette donated $50,000 to the city to restore a salt pond behind the estate (top), called the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge. The couple moved into the elegant apartment on Fifth Avenue, with her mother in the same building.

    (Pictometry International) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. It lasted two years. To establish Nevada residency for a divorce in 1930, she moved to Reno for the summer with her mother and six servants. With the papers signed, mother and daughter took a cruise to Hawaii, then returned to the apartment in New York.

    (The Los Angeles Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. This is the last known photograph of Huguette, cornered by a photographer on the day of her divorce in August 1930. In 1931, an Irish nobleman denied reports that he would marry Huguette, then 24. She dropped her seat at the opera, and slipped from the society pages.

    (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. After her mother died in 1963, Huguette stopped visiting Bellosguardo. Vintage cars remained in the garage. Paintings stayed on the walls, depicting her sister, Andrée, living well past her death at age 16, on into middle age. A caretaker's stepdaughter, Joan Pollard, recalls, "It was immaculate, as if someone had just left for the weekend."

    (John L. Wiley, http://flickr.com/photos/jw4pix/) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. In 1964, Huguette gave 215 acres near Santa Barbara for Boy Scout camps. "These camps serve 4,000 kids a year," said Ron Walsh, a Scout executive. "She did a lot of people a lot of good through the years." In 2003, she sold this Renoir for $23.5 million. In 2007, the IRS placed a lien on her houses for $1 million in back taxes; it was paid quickly.

    ("In the Roses," Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1882) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Huguette is trying to sell Le Beau Château, in wealthy New Canaan, Conn., an hour from New York City. She bought it in 1951, and added the wing at top right. It has 22 rooms, nine bedrooms, nine baths, 11 fireplaces, a wine cellar, trunk room, elevator, and walk-in vault. It has sat empty for 57 years, so the kitchens need updating.

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. The only residents on 52 acres are the caretaker and his son, in twin cottages, and wild turkeys and deer. The property is silent except for a waterfall. Her attorney put it on the market in 2005 at $34 million, now $24 million. Neighbors in this corner of town include Harry Connick Jr., Paul Simon, Glenn Beck and Brian Williams.

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Why would someone buy such a retreat, and never use it, but hold on to it for half a century? Huguette's great-half-nephew, André Baeyens, said he was told by his mother that Huguette bought Le Beau Château as a sort of bomb shelter during the Cold War. "She wanted a place where she could get away from the horrors."

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. "Huguette has always led a sort of reclusive life," said nephew Devine. "I think everybody's respected that. She wasn't just sitting in a room herself all her life. She had a small group of friends, confidants and assistants, very small, probably fewer than five people. Her world was always very small; when Anna died, it just became smaller."

    (Le Beau Château, Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Now 103, she may be in a nursing home or hospital. Relatives say they don't know, and fear that flowers and letters are discarded before they reach her. Her attorney, Wallace Bock, won't say. Devine said, "I think various family members have asked Mr. Bock for information, and he's always very respectful of his client and doesn't wish to reveal anything."

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Facing Central Park with curtains drawn, her Fifth Avenue apartments contain her mother's harp and Huguette's French dollhouses. Only a few times in decades has the building's staff seen her, a thin woman retreating into the shadows. They say she's not there now. André Baeyens said of his aunt, "She's withdrawn from this world."

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Her eighth-floor apartments contain two galleries, seven bedrooms, rooms for nine servants. And her fortune? Where will it go? "The rest of the family would respect her decision," said nephew Devine. "But if she leaves it all to some sketchy cause that she has no close connection to, that would be of some concern."

    ("Apartments for the Affluent," 1975, by Andrew Alpern) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Her attorney, Bock, said her hearing and eyesight have diminished with age — after all, she'll be 104 in June — but her mind is clear, and he receives instructions from her frequently by phone. He said he would not pass along a request for an interview. "She's a very private person. She doesn't care about publicity or reputation."

    (Huguette Clark in France, "Le Sénateur Qui Aimait La France," Andre Baeyens) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Tracing the lives of William Andrews Clark and his Huguette, we are left with mysteries. What does she remember of "Papa"? Is she well cared for? What will she leave to the world? "It's hard to find out what the real story was," said nephew Devine. "No one is alive — except for Huguette."

    (The Copper King Mansion) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. W.A. Clark Memorial Library
    Above: Slideshow (48) The Clarks: an American story of wealth, scandal and mystery
  2. Karl Obert / EmptyMansionsBook.com
    Slideshow (16) A tour of Huguette Clark's empty mansion, Bellosguardo

Video: Haitian orphans look toward new beginning