By Ken Stone
Just as he was leaving, I shouted some questions: “Mr. Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen’s birthday is tomorrow, and we have no record of your birthdate. Can you give us a date of birth? … Mr. Secretary, all 10 other secretaries have listed their date of birth. What is your date of birth?”
He didn’t respond.
In recent months, I’ve contacted numerous state, local and federal agencies, merely seeking to fill in the blank in his record. One celebrity site even reports: “Chad Wolf has no exact birthdate but is 44 years old and born in 1976.”
Wikipedia says: “Born 1974/1975 (age 44–45).”
Wolf is no stranger to controversy, however. He’s been linked to the family separation policy of Nielsen, his former boss and one-time DHS chief. His November 2019 appointment by President Trump has been challenged as illegal.
And now, Wolf is defending deployments of sometimes unidentified federal law enforcement officers under his purview to Portland, Oregon, and other “Democrat cities” the president says have become havens for violent anarchists.
But I’m still fixated on the youngest DHS chief’s birthday.
I chalk it up to my journalism education, which included a formative class at the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.
In spring 1975, Professor John B. Bremner was my editing teacher. When this former Jesuit priest died 33 years ago this week, it was a heavy blow to his hundreds of disciples, known as “Bremner Brats.”
We all recall his maxims: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out” (a phrase he stole but popularized) and “There’s a reason for everything.”
So I’m trained to ask Why? and uncover reasons.
On June 25, 1987, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson, Mississippi, profiled Chad’s father, Jim, a Democrat seeking re-election as county land surveyor. It said: “Wolf and his wife, Cinda, have two sons, Shane, 14, and Chad, 11.” (Wolf lost, 55% to 45%.)
So that puts his birth year at 1976 — which aligns with the first DOB I could find online — June 21, 1976. But that lone source, ethnicelebs.com, also says his place of birth is “Plano, Texas, U.S. (possibly).”
(Ancestry.com lists a DOB for Chad F Wolf of “21 Jun 1976,” citing the “U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 2.” But the exact source isn’t given.)
Plano also turns up as Wolf’s place of birth in presidentialprayerteam.org.
But Sue Honea, “The Prez” of mageenews.com, told Times of San Diego in May that she spoke to Chad’s mother, Cinda, who is from Magee, Mississippi.
“Chad was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1976,” Honea relayed via email. “If possible, please send me a link to the article you write about Chad. I will share with his mother!”
I wrote back: “Might you have Cinda Wolf call me?”
Honea, 70, responded: “She does not discuss Chad.”
I hoped for better luck with the feds. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Archives.
Archives spokesman Thomas McAnear wrote back July 1: “The Federal government does not ordinarily create or maintain birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption records, or burial records. Such records are made and kept by state and local governments rather than the National Archives. For information on these records, contact the appropriate state, territory or local bureau of vital statistics.”
Well, I hadn’t overlooked smaller agencies. I wrote Eddie Jean Carr, Hinds County chancery clerk in Jackson. But she said birth information was maintained by the state of Mississippi.
So I wrote them, and Division Director Patricia Oluade of the state Department of Health replied: “MS Vital Records are not open to the public.”
I tried Wolf’s old school in McKinney, Texas — Collin College, which Chad attended on a tennis scholarship before earning a B.S. in U.S. history from Southern Methodist University (which didn’t respond to a query).
Collin spokeswoman Marisela Cadena-Smith replied: “As an educational institution, we comply with FERPA which limits information that can be disclosed about students or former students. The college may only disclose directory information and not a former student’s date of birth.”
At the Wolf press conference, I also asked about DHS opposition to mail-in ballots for the November presidential election.
Wolf replied: “Our cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency put out an advisory to talk about the inherent risks of doing that. From our perspective, making sure that voting systems are not vulnerable is really what the department is doing.”
Chad Fredrick Wolf added: “We do see some risks, we do see vulnerabilities in that mail-in balloting, electronic voting and a variety of different aspects. So I would refer you to that advisory.”
I asked the DHS for a copy of the advisory, and they never responded. But Sam Mahood, California Secretary of State’s Office spokesman, gave it a shot.
“Our staff felt that this may be the most relevant recent advisory from DHS that had been shared with elections officials,” he said.
In the process of contacting DHS, at least I had the phone number of a real person. So Monday evening, I texted my contact at the department’s Office of Public Affairs.
I’m patient, though.
In spring 1975, my editing professor, Bremner (who taught at the University of San Diego before Kansas), covered the derivation of a surgical procedure. He asked: “Why is it called hysterectomy and not Muckadilla?”
Muckadilla is a place name in Bremner’s native Australia. But he purposely never learned what it meant. He instead challenged his students to find out, and was dismayed year after year when no one did — until one came into his office with a typed letter from the South Australian Museum.
The letter told Bremner that Muckadilla was an aboriginal word for “a stony waterhole” or a “waterhole in a stone.”
The seated prof looked up at the gangly, long-haired 20-year-old, who had written the museum six months earlier. And with his typically stern voice said: “Stone, you made my day.”
That remains my fondest memory of John B. Bremner, born Dec. 28, 1920.
Updated at 10:47 a.m. July 28, 2020
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