Written Testimony of Norma C. Nicolls
Former Assistant to M. Larry Lawrence
Submitted to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subsommittee on Investigations

23 January 1998

I received a phone call from a columnist, Arianna Huffington, on November 22, 1997. She asked me if I would speak to her about Larry Lawrence and his military background. I told her I was only willing to go on the record with my opinion and attached is a copy of what I faxed to her. She asked me if I would be willing to speak to someone from the Veteran's Affairs Committee and promised not to print anything that I did not want printed. I told her that I would agree to do so.

On the 25th of November, I received a phone call from Kingston Smith. He is with the VETERANS' AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE'S OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATION. He asked me what I knew about Mr. Lawrence's military background I had no reason to be anything but truthful to him. I told him that one day in the mid-1980's (I'm not absolutely certain about the exact date) Mr. Lawrence came into my office and said, "I would like you to do something quietly for me and don't look at me as if I'm crazy. I need you to do some research and find out the names of all the Merchant Marine ships in the Pacific during World War II "

I did the research and gave it to him. The names that come to mind are the Bushnell and the Battle of Murmansk. He started receiving newsletters from Maritime Associations and invitations to different events. He never attended any of them. However, he sent small contributions, $25 to $100. I mentioned to his secretary that it looked as though the boss was trying to establish some kind of a relationship with the Merchant Marines. I also mentioned that l thought it was odd that he couldn't remember the name of the ship that he was supposed to be on during the War and, also, how could he be in school and in the Pacific at the same time? I wouldn't find out the answer to this puzzle until many years later.

When Mr. Lawrence was under consideration for an Ambassadorial position, I received a phone call from a friend who was just interviewed by an investigator. He said he gave him my name because since I had spent so many years working with him, I probably knew more about Larry Lawrence than any other living person. The investigator called me and we set an appointment to meet in my friend's office the next day. This took place some time in August, 1993.

I immediately called Larry Lawrence's attorney to get permission to speak to the investigator. This was done because I had signed an agreement that I would not disclose any information unless I had their permission. The attorney at the Hotel del Coronado gave me permission and told me to say nice things so that he would get the appointment and be out of the country for a few years. It was a known fact that the employees breathed a sigh of relief whenever he went out of town. 

I met with the investigator in my friend's office and the meeting lasted a total of 45 minutes. I found this strange, since he was doing background information for someone who was going to represent the United States of America in a foreign country. I told him to check out Mr. Lawrence's Curriculum Vitae and note the discrepancies in the dates he was supposed to be in school and also in the War. I cannot honestly say that I mentioned doing research on ships in the Pacific. I do remember jokingly saying that if he was selected to be an Ambassador, I hoped it was for a neutral country. Otherwise, he would have us at war in no time. I also added that Mr. Lawrence was an astute businessman, but he certainly was not a diplomat. I remarked to my friend when the investigator left that I didn't think he took me seriously.

I was also interviewed by another investigator regarding Shelia Davis Lawrence. She spent almost four hours with me and I couldn't figure out why since Shelia was being considered for a lesser position

A few days prior to Mr. Lawrence's funeral in January, 1996, at the Hotel del Coronado, I received a phone call from one of his associates who asked me if I knew where to locate anything at all on the Merchant Marines. He told me that Shelia wanted him buried at Arlington. I told him I had no idea, and when I got off the phone, I was sick to my stomach.

I would like to say to anyone who thinks that I have an ax to grind that if I did, I would have done it three years ago for profit. I am sitting here, not represented by a public relations firm nor an attorney. I might add that my life has been turned upside down for the past two months. I even got a letter from the IRS last week saying I owe them $300 for the year 1995.

Larry Lawrence was my boss for almost 15 years. He played a big part in my life and in my family's life. He was very good to us. We had an excellent working relationship as anyone could tell you. We survived many ups and downs, but not of this justifies lying. I was not the first, and certainly not the last, of a very long list of staff, at the Hotel del Coronado, his home in Coronado, and the Embassy in Switzerland, who came under the wrath of his fourth and last wife. Truth and decency should always prevail. It's a shame that the abuse of money and power usually does.