Melvin Dummar is making another run at the Howard Hughes estate.

Dummar, now 61, became famous overnight when a will purportedly written by the reclusive billionaire was mysteriously found on a desk in a Mormon church office in Salt Lake City a few days after Hughes died in April 1976. The will left one-sixteenth of the Hughes estate to Dummar, who at the time was a gas station attendant in Willard, Utah. The document was dated about the time Dummar was a resident of Gabbs, Nevada.

Dummar claimed to have picked up an old man and given him a ride one night and that the bequest was Hughes’ way of thanking him. After a seriocomic 1977 trial in Las Vegas, the will was discredited, and the estate was eventually settled by three other states.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Dummar, these days delivering meat in rural Nevada and Wyoming, has been taken in hand by an author, a pilot and a lawyer who say they can now show Dummar’s story was true all along. Dummar is suing two elderly Hughes executives for defrauding him out of his share of the estate. The pilot claims he once flew Hughes to the Cottontail Ranch brothel in Nye County and that Hughes wandered off while the pilot was asleep in the kitchen. Dummar claimed to have picked the old man up near the brothel.

In the course of the investigation preceding the Mormon-will trial in 1977, the FBI found Dummar’s thumbprint on the will, and he later admitted placing the will on the church desk.

But if he failed to obtain the bequest, Dummar did sell his story to Hollywood, which made the well-regarded film Melvin and Howard that made Mary Steenburgen a star. Dummar was played by Paul LeMat, and Dummar himself appeared in a cameo filmed at the Reno bus station.

Avatar photo

Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...