Braniff History Today - 11/25/1967

BRANIFF HISTORY TODAY - On this day, Saturday, November 25, 1967, Braniff President Harding Luther Lawrence and Wells Rich Greene President and Founder Mary Georgene Berg Wells were married in Paris, France. America's first Power Couple formally brought together the forces of love, aviation and advertising in a union that could not have been more perfect and that would last for nearly 35 years.

Mary Wells, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, migrated to New York City to pursue a career in advertising. She quickly made her mark on Madison Avenue and joined several major firms including McCann-Erickson and Doyle, Dane and Bernbach before finally landing at Jack Tinker and Partners, a New York advertising think tank. Here she worked on a new campaign for Los Angeles-based Continental Airlines. Continental was headed by Robert F. Six but the airline's driving force was Executive Vice President Harding Luther Lawrence. Mr. Lawrence was directly responsible for the airline's astronomical and industry leading growth rate of over 500 percent in only 10 years since he had arrived via a merger with Houston-based Pioneer Airlines in 1955. Bob Six was quoted as saying that, "The only reason we bought Pioneer was so we could get Harding."

Lawrence hired Jack Tinker and Partners who placed Mary Wells on the new account. He was struck by her sharp wit and expert knowledge of airline marketing and promotion as well as her impressive Nordic beauty. Lawrence told Wells that he had another prospect in the works and that he would call her soon. That prospect was Braniff Airways and in April 1965, he left Continental to assume the presidency of the multi-purpose small trunk airline. Again, Lawrence needed an agency that could reintroduce Braniff not only to the US and South America but to the entire world. Once again, Jack Tinker and Partners won the account with Mary Wells, Dick Rich, and Stu Greene in charge of the reinvention of Braniff. Basking in the limelight from the success of the Braniff campaign, Mary Wells opened her own firm, Wells, Rich, Greene, Inc., in April 1966, with Braniff as her first account.

The Braniff Revolution did not only place Harding Lawrence into the status of an airline maverick but it also established his future wife as a force to be reckoned with on Madison Avenue. At the time they met, both Lawrence and Wells were estranged from their spouses and both marriages were long-beyond repair. Wells was married twice to Bert Wells, an industrial designer, and Lawrence to Jimmie George Bland from Greenville, Texas. Mary and Bert had two daughters, Pamela and Kathryn, who Harding Lawrence would later adopt, and Harding and Jimmie had four children State, James and Deborah. Their first child, Harding Luther Lawrence, Jr., born in 1944, died a year later in 1945.

Lawrence and Wells began to date and see each other frequently beyond their work at Braniff, which consumed the majority of their time. The romance blossomed and the two announced their intention to marry in 1967. The wedding was set for November 25, and it was the toast of the aviation and advertising worlds. Wells commissioned Bergdorf - Goodman's couture hatmaker Roy Halston Frowick to design her wedding dress, which was his first such design. Halston, known mainly for his impressive women's hat designs, created an enchanting Emerald Green Velvet frock that perfectly suited the equally enchanting Wellsian figure. The one-piece jacket styled gown featured an elegant collar in sable with matching cuffs.

Mrs. Wells' daughters, Katy and Pamela, ages 7 and 5, respectively, were bridesmaids. The young ladies were outfitted in Emerald Green Velvet frocks with white tights and Mary Jane shoes. Mother and daughter's hair was by Alexandre and Wells' mother, Violet Katherine Berg, wore a blue and silver lame gown by Sarmi, which was perfectly complimented by Halston's exquisite white mink beret. Wells' wedding ring, an impressive circle of teardrop emeralds that could be worn day or night, was designed by David Webb.

The night before the wedding, an elegant dinner, hosted by Wells, Rich, Greene, was held in the couple's honor at Grand Vefour. The restaurant was one of Paris's oldest and vaunted and served as the perfect host for the couple's 67 close friends that were flown overseas for the after-Thanksgiving nuptials. Before dinner, a special gathering, hosted by Jo Hughes, was held in the couple's honor at the home of Baroness Pantz located on the Left Bank. For the dinner at Grand Vefour, Wells wore a ravishing long slim black dress from Givenchy, which was complimented by a striking white Ermine Hug-Me-Tight, a short knitted sleeveless form-fitting jacket.

Dubbed the Colorful Jetset's Romeo and Juliet, Harding Lawrence and Mary Wells were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the mairie, the Mayor's office, Town Hall, of the 18th arrondissement in one of the most glamorous parts of Paris. The office was filled with old gilt furniture and adorned in antique red velvet. Braniff's Chairman, and owner of Greatamerica Corporation, Troy Victor Post, stood in as Harding Lawrence's Best Man. Mr. Posts's children, Jane, Judy, and John, were in attendance along with Braniff Vice President of Public Relations Walter M. Henshel and his wife, Vice President Robert H. Bob Burck, and Mrs. Tom King, wife of a Braniff Vice President or Promotion. (Contrary to rumor, there was never a member of Harding Lawrence's family who was ever married to Troy Post or to anyone in the Post family.)

The wedding party also included Haute Couturier Emilio Pucci and his wife Christina, Mr. and Mrs. Gus Levy, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the New York Stock Exchange; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Porter, Chief Partner at the law firm of Arnold, Fortas, and Porter; Mr Robert F. Six and his wife famed actress Audrey Meadows, as well as Henry Golightly, and Mrs. Troy Post.

As soon as the ceremony ended, the party retired to Tour d'Argent for a supper dance. The elegant restaurant was perched high and looked down on the beautiful Seine River and Paris. For departure from Paris, Mrs. Lawrence wore a beautiful brown suit designed by Yves Saint Laurent. The brown suit consisted of a brown velour coat with wide sable revers and cuffs, which was accompanied by a brown velvet dress designed by Halston. The bride's trousseau came from Bergdorf - Goodman. The newlyweds honeymoon was a trip to the South of France to look at boats and then back to work at Braniff and Wells, Rich, Greene.

The Lawrence's retained their current homes at the time of their marriage. Mrs. Lawrence owned a spacious duplex penthouse on East End Avenue in New York that featured a river view from every window. Mr. Lawrence had recently purchased a ranch, Five Angels, near Phoenix, Arizona, and also owned a home in Highland Park near Dallas. The couple eventually purchased another home in Dallas and also leased the home of Guy de Rothschild in Paris. Of course, Mr. Lawrence worked at Braniff in Dallas and Mrs. Lawrence worked in New York during the week at WRG. They met each weekend, however, oftentimes in Washington DC.

Photo: Braniff International Chairman of the Board of Directors Harding Luther Lawrence and his wife advertising doyenne Mary Wells Lawrence attended a dinner during an inspection trip to South America. The couple was photographed in Lima, Peru, on February 27, 1970.

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