Skip to comments.The Last Confessions of E Howard Hunt
Posted on 03/28/2007 11:29:12 AM PDT by meg88
Once, when the old spymaster thought he was dying, his eldest son came to visit him at his home in Miami. The scourges recently had been constant and terrible: lupus, pneumonia, cancers of the jaw and prostate, gangrene, the amputation of his left leg. Long past were his years of heroic service to the country. In the CIA, he'd helped mastermind the violent removal of a duly elected leftist president in Guatemala and assisted in subterfuges that led to the murder of Che Guevara. But no longer could you see in him the suave, pipe-smoking, cocktail-party-loving clandestine operative whose Cold War exploits he himself had, almost obsessively, turned into novels, one of which, East of Farewell, the New York Times once called "the best sea story" of World War II.
Diminished too were the old bad memories, of the Bay of Pigs debacle that derailed his CIA career for good, of the Watergate Hotel fiasco, of his first wife's death. But his firstborn son -- he named him St. John; Saint, for short -- was by his side now. And he still had a secret or two left to share before it was all over.
They were in the living room, him in his wheelchair, watching Fox News at full volume, because his hearing had failed too. After a while, he had St. John wheel him into his bedroom and hoist him onto his bed. He asked St. John to get him a diet root beer, a pad of paper and a pen.
There were a couple of days back in 1972, after the Watergate job, when the boy, then eighteen, had risen to the occasion. The two of them, father and son, had wiped fingerprints off a bunch of spy gear, and Saint had helped in other ways, too. He was E. Howard Hunt, a true American patriot, and he had earned his while serving his country. As he once said, "I had always assumed, working for the CIA for so many years, that anything the White House wanted done was the law of the land."
Now, in August 2003, propped up in his sickbed, paper on his lap, pen in hand and son sitting next to him, he began to write down the names of men who had indeed participated in a plot to kill the president. He had lied during those two federal investigations. He knew something after all. He told St. John about his own involvement, too. It was explosive stuff, with the potential to reconfigure the JFK-assassination-theory landscape. And then he got better and went on to live for four more years.
In the early days of the cold war, the CIA's mandate was simple: to contain the spread of communism by whatever means necessary; it was tacitly given permission to go about its dirty business unfettered by oversight of any kind. For much of the Cold War, it was answerable to no one. And if you were lucky enough to become one of its agents, you had every right to consider yourself a member of an elite corps, a big swinging all-American dick like no other. The middle-class son of a Hamburg, New York, attorney, E. Howard Hunt graduated from Brown University in 1940 with a bachelor's in English, joined the Navy during World War II, served in the North Atlantic on the destroyer Mayo, slipped and fell, took a medical discharge and wound up in China working under "Wild" Bill Donovan in the newly formed Office of Strategic Services. When the OSS was transformed into the CIA, Hunt jumped onboard. He loved action as much as he hated communism, and he soon began operating with a level of arrogance entirely typical of the CIA. He was instrumental, for instance, in planning the 1954 coup in Guatemala that overthrew the left-leaning, democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, and ushered in forty years of military repression, which ultimately cost 200,000 Guatemalans their lives. Years later, when asked about the 200,000 deaths, E. Howard said, "Deaths? What deaths?" Like Saint says, he never felt guilt about anything: "He was a complete self-centered WASP who saw himself as this blue blood from upstate New York. 'I'm better than anybody because I'm white, Protestant and went to Brown, and since I'm in the CIA, I can do anything I want.' Jew, nigger, Polack, wop -- he used all those racial epithets. He was an elitist. He hated everybody."
In the early Fifties, his father could often be seen cruising around in a white Cadillac convertible; he loved that car. He also loved his cigars and his wine and his country clubs and being waited on by servants and having his children looked after by nannies. He was full of himself and full of the romantic, swashbuckling, freewheeling importance of his government mission. He had quite an imagination, too. When he wasn't off saving the world from Reds, he spent much of his time in front of a typewriter, hacking out espionage novels, some eighty in all, with titles such as The Violent Ones ("They killed by day, they loved by night") and I Came to Kill ("They wanted a tyrant liquidated, and cash could hire him to do it").
Wherever E. Howard was stationed -- he'd pop up Zelig-like in hot spots from Japan to Uruguay to Spain -- he and his family lived lavishly and well, all presumably to lend credence to his cover job as a high-ranking embassy official. One estate was as large as a city block, and one dining table as long as a telephone pole, with the parents sitting at distant opposite ends. Sadly, he treated his children the way he and the CIA treated the rest of the world. They were supposed to bend to his will and otherwise be invisible. God forbid during a meal one of them should speak or rattle a dish.
That same year, his father retired from the CIA after being relegated to the backwaters for his role in the Bay of Pigs. He went to work as a writer for a PR firm. He was bored and missed the hands-on action of the CIA.The following year, however, his lawyer pal Chuck Colson, who was special counsel to Nixon, called him up with an invitation to join the president's Special Investigations Unit as a kind of dirty-tricks consultant. He signed on. He really thought he was going places.
Around the time of St. John's Miami visit in 2003 to talk to his ailing father about JFK, certain other people were also trying to get things out of E. Howard, including the actor Kevin Costner, who had played a JFK-assassination-obsessed DA in the Oliver Stone film JFK and had become somewhat obsessed himself. Costner said that he could arrange for E. Howard to make $5 million for telling the truth about what happened in Dallas. Unbeknown to St. John, however, Costner had already met with E. Howard once. That meeting didn't go very well. When Costner arrived at the house, he didn't ease into the subject. "So who killed Kennedy?" he blurted out. "I mean, who did shoot JFK, Mr. Hunt?" E. Howard's mouth fell open, and he looked at his wife. "What did he say?"
"Howard," Laura said, "he wants to know who shot JFK."
And that ended that meeting, with E. Howard grumbling to himself about Costner, "What a numskull."
But then St. John got involved, and he knew better how to handle the situation. For one thing, he knew that his stepmother wanted to forget about the past. She didn't want to hear about Watergate or Kennedy. In fact, E. Howard swore to Laura that he knew nothing about JFK's assassination; it was one of her preconditions for marriage. Consequently, she and her sons often found themselves in conflict with St. John.
"Why can't you go back to California and leave well enough alone?" they asked him. "How can you do this? How dare you do this? He's in the last years of his life."
But Saint's attitude was, "This has nothing to do with you. This stuff is of historical significance and needs to come out."
So when Saint arrived in Miami to talk to his dad, the two men spent a lot of time waiting for Laura to leave the house. Saint painted the living room and built a wheelchair ramp. In the mornings, he cooked breakfast. In the afternoons, he plopped a fishing hat on E. Howard's head and wheeled him around the neighborhood. They drank coffee together. And watched lots of Fox News. And when Laura finally left, they talked.
Afterward, another meeting was arranged with Costner, this time in Los Angeles, where the actor had fifty assassination-related questions all ready to go. (The actor declined comment for this article.) Though the $5 million figure was still floating around, all Costner wanted to pay E. Howard at this point was $100 a day for his time. There would be no advance. St. John called Costner.
"That's your offer? A hundred dollars? That's an insult. You're a cheapskate."
"Nobody calls me a cheapskate," said Costner. "What do you think I'm going to do, just hand over $5 million?"
"No. But the flight alone could kill him. He's deaf as a brick. He's pissing in a bag. He's got one leg. You want him to fly to Los Angeles and for $100 a day? Wow! What are we going to do with all that money?!"
"I can't talk to you anymore, St. John," Costner said. And that was the end of that, for good. It looked like what E. Howard had to say would never get out.
One evening in Eureka, over a barbecue meal, St. John explains how he first came to suspect that his father might somehow be involved in the Kennedy assassination. "Around 1975, I was in a phone booth in Maryland somewhere, when I saw a poster on a telephone pole about who killed JFK, and it had a picture of the three tramps. I saw that picture and-- like a cartoon character, my jaw dropped, my eyes popped out of my head, and smoke came out of my ears. It looks like my dad. There's nobody that has all those same facial features. People say it's not him. He's said it's not him. But I'm his son, and I've got a gut feeling."
He chews his sandwich. "And then, like an epiphany, I remember '63, and my dad being gone, and my mom telling me that he was on a business trip to Dallas. I've tried to convince myself that's some kind of false memory, that I'm just nuts, that it's something I heard years later. But, I mean, his alibi for that day is that he was at home with his family. I remember I was in the fifth grade. We were at recess. I was playing on the merry-go-round. We were called in and told to go home, because the president had been killed. And I remember going home. But I don't remember my dad being there. I have no recollection of him being there. And then he has this whole thing about shopping for Chinese food with my mother that day, so that they could cook a meal together." His father testified to this, in court, on more than one occasion, saying that he and his wife often cooked meals together.
St. John pauses and leans forward. "Well," he says, "I can tell you that's just the biggest load of crap in the world. He was always looking at things like he was writing a novel; everything had to be just so glamorous and so exciting. So my dad in the kitchen? Chopping vegetables with his wife? I'm so sorry, but that would never happen. Ever."
Not that it was all bad back then, in Potomac, at Witches Island. E. Howard played the trumpet, and his son was into music too, so sometimes the pair went down to Blues Alley, in Georgetown, to hear jazz. Back home, E. Howard would slap Benny Goodman's monster swing-jazz song "Sing, Sing, Sing" on the turntable, and the two would listen to it endlessly. And then, sometimes, during the stomping Harry James horn solo, E. Howard would jump to his feet, snapping his fingers like some cool cat, pull back his shirt sleeves, lick his lips and play the air trumpet for all he was worth. It was great stuff, and St. John loved it. "I would sit there in awe," he says. But the best was yet to come. It was well past midnight on June 18th, 1972. Saint, eighteen years old, was asleep in his basement bedroom, surrounded by his Beatles and Playboy pinup posters, when he heard someone shouting, "You gotta wake up! You gotta wake up!"
When he opened his eyes, Saint saw his father as he'd never seen him before. E. Howard was dressed in his usual coat and tie, but everything was akimbo. He was a sweaty, disheveled mess. Saint didn't know what to think or what was going on.
"I don't need you to ask a lot of questions," his father said. "I need you to get your clothes on and come upstairs."
He disappeared into the darkness. Saint changed out of his pajamas. Upstairs, he found his father in the master bedroom, laboring over a big green suitcase jumble-filled with microphones, walkie-talkies, cameras, tripods, cords, wires, lots of weird stuff. His father started giving him instructions. Saint went to the kitchen and returned with Windex, paper towels and some rubber dishwashing gloves. Then, in silence, the two of them began wiping fingerprints off all the junk in the suitcase. After that, they loaded everything into E. Howard's Pontiac Firebird and drove over to a lock on the C&O Canal. E. Howard heaved the suitcase into the water, and it gurgled out of sight.
They didn't speak on the way home. St. John still didn't know what was going on. All he knew was that his dad had needed his help, and he'd given it, successfully.
The next day, dressed in one of his prep-school blazers, he drove to a Riggs Bank in Georgetown and met his father inside the safety-deposit-box cage. His father turned him around, lifted his blazer and shoved about $100,000 in cash down the back of his pants. The boy made it home without picking up a tail. Then his father had him get rid of a typewriter. Saint put the typewriter in a bag, hoofed it across the Witches Island property onto the neighboring spread and tossed it into the pond where he and his brother David used to go fishing.
"Don't ever tell anybody you've done these things," his father said later. "I could get in trouble. You could get in trouble. I'm sorry to have to put you in this position, but I really am grateful for your help."
"Of course, Papa," Saint said.
Everything he had done, he'd done because his father and his gang of pals had botched the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Soon his mother would be killed in a plane crash, and his father would be sent to jail, and Nixon would resign, and his own life would fracture in unimaginable ways. But right now, standing there with his father and hearing those words of praise, he was the happiest he'd ever been.
Years later, when saint started trying to get his father to tell what he knew about JFK, he came to believe the information would be valuable. He both needed money and thought he was owed money, for what he'd been through. Also, like many a conspiracy nut before him, he was more than a little obsessed.
"After seeing that poster of the three tramps," he says, "I read two dozen books on the JFK assassination, and the more I read, the more I was unsure about what happened. I had all these questions and uncertainties. I mean, I was trying to sort out things that had touched me in a big way."
Touched him and turned him upside down, especially the death of his mother. He had been particularly close to her. She was part Native American and had sewed him a buckskin shirt that he used to wear like a badge of honor, along with a pair of moccasins. At the same time, Saint feels that he never got to know her. She told him that during World War II, she'd tracked Nazi money for the U.S. Treasury Department, and Saint believes that early in her marriage to his father, she may have been in the CIA herself, "a contract agent, not officially listed." But he isn't sure about any of it, really.
"In our family, everything was sort of like a mini-CIA," he says. "Nothing was ever talked about, so we grew up with all of these walls, walls around my father, walls around my mother, walls around us kids, to protect and insulate us. You grow up not knowing what really happened. Like, who was my mom, for Christ's sake? Was she a CIA agent? What was her life really like?" The one thing he does know is that when she died, so in large part did the Hunt family.
That time in Miami, with Saint by his bed and disease eating away at him and him thinking he's six months away from death, E. Howard finally put pen to paper and started writing. Saint had been working toward this moment for a long while, and now it was going to happen. He got his father an A&W diet root beer, then sat down in the old man's wheelchair and waited.
E. Howard scribbled the initials "LBJ," standing for Kennedy's ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under "LBJ," connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that's never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer's name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer's name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales' name, with a line, the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."
So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that's the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.
"By the time he handed me the paper, I was in a state of shock," Saint says. "His whole life, to me and everybody else, he'd always professed to not know anything about any of it. But I knew this had to be the truth. If my dad was going to make anything up, he would have made something up about the Mafia, or Castro, or Khrushchev. He didn't like Johnson. But you don't falsely implicate your own country, for Christ's sake. My father is old-school, a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, and that's the last thing he would do."
Later that week, E. Howard also gave Saint two sheets of paper that contained a fuller narrative. It starts out with LBJ again, connecting him to Cord Meyer, then goes on: "Cord Meyer discusses a plot with [David Atlee] Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City... Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons."
David Atlee Phillips, the CIA's Cuban operations chief in Miami at the time of JFK's death, knew E. Howard from the Guatemala-coup days. Veciana is a member of the Cuban exile community. Sturgis, like Saint's father, is supposed to have been one of the three tramps photographed in Dealey Plaza. Sturgis was also one of the Watergate plotters, and he is a man whom E. Howard, under oath, has repeatedly sworn to have not met until Watergate, so to Saint the mention of his name was big news.
In the next few paragraphs, E. Howard goes on to describe the extent of his own involvement. It revolves around a meeting he claims he attended, in 1963, with Morales and Sturgis. It takes place in a Miami hotel room. Here's what happens:
Morales leaves the room, at which point Sturgis makes reference to a "Big Event" and asks E. Howard, "Are you with us?"
E. Howard asks Sturgis what he's talking about.
Sturgis says, "Killing JFK."
E. Howard, "incredulous," says to Sturgis, "You seem to have everything you need. Why do you need me?" In the handwritten narrative, Sturgis' response is unclear, though what E. Howard says to Sturgis next isn't: He says he won't "get involved in anything involving Bill Harvey, who is an alcoholic psycho."
After that, the meeting ends. E. Howard goes back to his "normal" life and "like the rest of the country . . . is stunned by JFK's death and realizes how lucky he is not to have had a direct role."
After reading what his father had written, St. John was stunned too. His father had not only implicated LBJ, he'd also, with a few swift marks of a pen, put the lie to almost everything he'd sworn to, under oath, about his knowledge of the assassination. Saint had a million more questions. But his father was exhausted and needed to sleep, and then Saint had to leave town without finishing their talk, though a few weeks later he did receive in the mail a tape recording from his dad. E. Howard's voice on the cassette is weak and grasping, and he sometimes wanders down unrelated pathways. But he essentially remakes the same points he made in his handwritten narrative.
Shortly thereafter, Laura found out what had been going on, and with the help of E. Howard's attorney put an end to it. St. John and his father were kept apart. When they did see each other, they were never left alone. And they never got a chance to finish what they'd started. Instead, the old man set about writing his autobiography. He asked for his JFK memos back, and Saint returned them, though not before making copies. There is no way to confirm Hunt's allegations -- all but one of the co-conspirators he named are long gone. St. John, for his part, believes his father. E. Howard was lucid when he made his confession. He was taking no serious medications, and he and his son were finally on good terms. If anything, St. John believes, his father was holding out on him, the old spy keeping a few secrets in reserve, just in case.
What a great story. I don't believe a word of it.
Watch the Zapruder film and the photos of LBJ (it is hard to when you are so focused on JFK)
The zapruder film proves the head shot came from the front (I went to college ror Physics- no one can tell me different)
I stopped at "Rolling Stone".
Even if it's true, why would LBJ want that ? Not just power lust, has to be more.
He says this like it's a bad thing...
I went a little further than that.
I stopped at "murder of Che Guevara"
Maybe you are referring to the photo of Speaker of the House Carl Albert winking at LBJ (who is smiling at Albert) as LBJ is being sworn in as President aboard Air Force One? Jackie is in the photo, too, of course. She's not as happy as LBJ.
Also, if you have seen the photo of the Three Tramps, you will notice the similarity between Hunt and one of the Three Tramps. But actually, the article implies Hunt was grateful to not be "directly involved," even though he was (according to Saint) in Dallas that day and appeared to be one of the Three Tramps. Kind of an inconsistency, I guess.
Loved this article. Very interesting.
I've long suspected LBJ might have been involved. He was ruthless and unscrupulous, like the Klintoons.
Something more? How about to avoid going to prison with Bobby Baker? How about his connections to Mac Wallace and some murders? Those are a couple of my guesses.
Lucien Sarti (born Corsica, died April 27, 1972 in Mexico City) was a drug trafficker and killer-for-hire involved in the infamous French Connection heroin network. He was named on the television series The Men Who Killed Kennedy as one of the men who shot U.S. President John F. Kennedy. The series aimed to critically analyse the evidence in the assassination and attacked the official government conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in killing Kennedy. In one of the late episodes of the series, aired in 2003 on The History Channel, French prisoner Christian David named Sarti as one of three French criminals hired to carry out the assassination of Kennedy on November 22, 1963, when he was interviewed by author Anthony Summers. David's account was verified by Michele Nicoli, a former associate of David's who is currently in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's witness protection program. Sarti was the only man David explicitly named, as he had been killed by police in Mexico City in 1972. The trio had all been working for heroin trafficker Auguste Ricord at the time of Kennedy's death, a known client of the Marseilles underworld. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucien_Sarti
***I stopped at "Rolling Stone".***
I read the whole thing, and the ONE thing that stands out for me is ROLLING STONE.
Gee, I wonder where this writer stands on the ideological spectrum...
LBJ was looking at going to the slammer...
"Saint" trying to figure out how to get a big payday for himself, look out for a movie or a book based on this "startling new information."
"Saint" needs to get his story straight, though. So was Pop one of the tramps or did Pop refuse to be involved in the plot? Oh, foolish consistency!
i always thought it was jackie........hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned...
I believe the part about Costner being a numbskull...
LBJ had a lot to gain. I seriously doubt he would have become president had the assasination not occured. I agree that the fatal shot that day came from the front. I also think that Oswald was just what he said, "a patsy". I don't think he fired a shot that day, but was set up to take the fall. LBJ was ruthless and at his worst on 11/22/63 (in my own personal, correct opinion).
I don't see Carl Albert in that photo.
And in 1963, John McCormick was Speaker.
Better yet, just read the book
"Six Seconds in Dallas".
It proves he was also shot from the front.
Now we can add LBJ to the FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, George Bush the Elder, and anyone else who supposedly killed Kennedy.
I have never seen the photo of the "three tramps", or any reference to it before.
Can anyone here put it up for all to see?
I don't know if I believe the story, but it is at least as credible as what Earl Warren and Jerry Ford cooked up.
My thoughts, too. The story indicated that the son needed cash and the best taker he had was Costner for $100 a day. Yikes! Of course his father knew who killed Kennedy- that's why he was worth three figures a day for info! Otherwise, the son would have hopped off the gravy train. I chuckled at the "murder of Che" line and reminded myself that it was in Rolling Stoned. Quite a story- I do hope they got around to confirming it and asked Hunt if it was accurate. Oops- he's dead. I do hope the son had the foresight to have the old guy draw a map to Jimmy Hoffa's body as well.
Is that like a "numchuck"?
I always thought it was the family of Diem getting even for his death. Politics is a generational thing yonder and JFK upset their applecart big time.
Oswald killed Kennedy by himself...end of story.
Don't fall into this conspiracy trap the Democrats have fomented all these years in an effort to make his presidency more important than it was. People like to believe in a conspiracy because A) it's more fun, and B)the leftist media, teachers and cultural elites don't want to believe that some lone kook did there guy in.
The author would have felt right at home in Loose Change.
Two of the 'three tramps' look amazingly like Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt.
Johnson's longtime mistress also said he knew the night before that the assassination was planned.
It is availabe on Amazon. He was LBJ's personal lawyer in Austin, and in position to know. You don't have to believe it but it is good reading!
Years ago I read "High Treason" and a number of those other conspiracy books and took seriously the idea that because there was no way a "magic bullet" could pass through Kennedy's neck, stop in midair, move upward and then enter Connolly from the back, that there must have been a second gunman.
However, I later learned that the authors of those books and other conspiracy theorists misrepresented the relative positions of the two men - because Connolly was seated in a fold-out jump seat and Kennedy was on the back bench-style seat of the limo, Connolly was NOT level with Kennedy but was seated much LOWER.
In fact, when the relative position of the two men given the ACTUAL HEIGHT of the two seats they were sitting in is taken into account, the bullet could go nowhere else but from Kennedy's neck into Connolly's back and then into Connolly's wrist.
So there was no "second gunman." It was all based on a false representation to sell books.
Oliver Stone repeated the misrepresentation in his movie "JFK" in the famous scene where he had Costner arrange two chairs on the floor, one behind the other, to demonstrate the "magic bullet" theory. The chairs are at the same height, which was not true of the two seats in the limo.
There was a good documentary within the last 2-3 yrs which used computerized three-dimensional modeling to recreate at each moment in time the exact positions of the two men in their seats in the limo and the line of sight from the book depository window, synchronized with the Zapruder film and sound recordings of the gunshots, and demonstrated beyond any doubt that the shots from the book depository window were the only ones to strike the limo and its occupants.
bump for later
..unfortunately, the computer animation does not match the wounds. JFK was hit in the back...and supposedly the magic bullet comes out his neck...on a bullet that was coming from above.
computer animation = GIGO
Kennedys inaugural address on January 20, 1961 was a call to service, a signal for a new generation to assume leadership, and his words resonated with America. Tired of Eisenhower, shocked by the Soviet Unions Sputnik, angry and concerned about the Cold War, and determined to bring civil rights to African-Americans, the time for action had arrived. The silent generation would be replaced with activists in many areas.
When Johnson was sworn in that same day, the new vice president was nervous, reading his speech poorly. He was unhappy to be out of power, but he had other problems that were far more serious than being inaugurated Vice President of the United States. His true concern that day was that his many schemes with unsavory partners would surface, and one was particular concern, that of Billy Sol Estes. Trouble loomed ahead, this time threatening to be far more destructive than Doug Kinser had ever been. Clark had contained the Estes problem last year, in 1960. With the election now over, some very dangerous yet necessary steps would have to be taken to preserve Johnsons personal victory.
Ed Clark had arrived in Washington several days before the inaugural ceremonies were held, ostensibly to help celebrate. Clark never had time for such pleasures; he was always too busy exercising power. Among other things, he was there regarding the ongoing investigation by the Department of Agriculture into Estes handling of cotton allotments. Although recognized as an asset for Johnson as early as 1958, Estes was by 1960 out of control, enriching himself from government price controls by innovative means. The USDA had been trying to get ahead of him and trap him, but Estes repeatedly changed his financing approaches to deceive them with new schemes. Agriculture officials were doing their best to close the gaps in their regulations and to nail Estes.
Time and again, the successive cash schemes enriched both Estes and Johnson with large sums transferred to the then Senate Majority Leaders political re-election accounts. Those same sums were later transferred to the Brazos-Tenth Corporation administered by my law partner, Don Thomas for "investment -- 20/20/40."
Johnson was thoroughly aware of the fact that Estes was the target of an investigation. In those days, word of criminal reviews were routinely reported to top government officials known to be involved with the suspect. Just to keep politics out of the investigation, nothing had been done by USDA during the 1960 campaign; however, a top USDA inspector, Henry Marshall, had been assigned to see what was going on and his efforts were approaching critical mass. Johnson knew it was only a matter of time.
Two days before taking the oath of office as vice president, at an evening inaugural celebration at his Washington home, Johnson met in the backyard with Estes and Clifton Carter, Johnsons man at the Democratic National Committee and one of Clarks former Army buddies. A new snow had moved through Washington and the evening air was freezing. Despite the cold the three met outside because complete privacy was required. For the moment, the visiting dignitaries and well-wishers were forgotten. There was no celebrating.
Johnson was inwardly furious at Estes because the promoter did not know how to enrich himself from government and get away with it. Johnson, through Clark, knew how far to take corruption and how to use the attorney-client privilege to protect the money. In Estess case, however, stolen land already subject to government control is not easily concealed. There was just too much of an audit trail. The problem for Johnson was the fear that Estes would disclose everything, that he would squeal. The soon to be inaugurated vice president of the United States was ready to agree to anything so that Estes would not take him down any further.
At the meeting Johnson was briefed by Carter and the three men then reviewed their options, none promising. Johnson was not yet convinced the final action Carter and Estes were suggesting was necessary. Agent Marshall would have to be "taken care of for good" only if he probed further and could not be deterred. The final decision was ambiguous but final, that Marshall must somehow be stopped.
The three men realized that a scandal like this was political poison; it would mean the end of Johnsons career. Because Johnson had further ambitions, that disaster could not be allowed to happen. Estes was told to get Wallace to meet with Marshall and try to make the man see reason. If it meant a payoff, okay. Just get him to quit stirring up trouble. Estes was assured he and his family would be protected so long as Johnson was never mentioned.
In those vague terms, those words of art, those code words used by the politically sophisticated, the three agreed that Estes was empowered to let Wallace take whatever action was necessary. Under that guise, a fatal mistake was made.
A few days later Estes reported back to Johnson that everything was fine as Marshall had assured him there were no problems. Johnson, however, was not as certain as the ever-optimistic Estes. Nervous for his future, he wrote the new USDA Secretary Orville Freeman. Johnson got the factsall was not well with Estes.
Within two weeks, Estes insisted on another meeting. At the time Johnson was back in Texas. Because Estes had to be contained, Johnson agreed to fly to Pecos.
Early in the morning on February 7, 1962, Johnson called for his airplane. The day was heavily overcast, not safe for flying. His pilots had stayed in Austin the night before to be with their families, knowing they would have to fly to the Johnson Ranch in the morning; however, on seeing the weather, they did not want to fly in the thick fog.
For further insight into the key event, in an exercise of the journalistic novel and an attorneys right in jury argument to develop a case, the discussion between Johnson and Clark is included in chapter 17 on Desperation at page 245. They ordered the pilots to make the trip and, at the same time, Clark realized the depth of the problems Johnson faced. As events turned out after that morning of deep fog at the ranch, Johnson had over a year before the scandal made the headlines.
The pilots had only a few hours. Flying into the muck, they looked for the ranchs airstrip. No luck. Flying too low as they looked for a landmark, the two pilots crashed and died on a hillside near Johnsons ranch. In the dense and rocky brush, the bodies were not recovered for three days.
Apologists for Johnson assert he was a compassionate man. This first tragedy of the assassination underscores, once again, the obvious fact that he was not. When the pressure was great enough, particularly as it was in this case where criminal disclosures were threatened, Johnson would do anything.
In the resulting investigation, Johnson was appropriately distressed, even traveling to the crash site to show his false concern. The families of the two pilots were paid handsomely, the record was sealed, and the matter was closed. Within the next year, it would be reopened.
The death of the two pilots was a forecast of things to come. Johnson had killed men before, he was now responsible for the death of the two pilots, and he would in his desperation kill again. For him, there was no value to human life when it meant saving his future, his ambitions, his reputation, and his life.
Soon after, Johnson would take a military plane to Abilene, Texas, hoping for secrecy as he went to a meet Estes and his representatives. All went well until the plane went off the runway and a report had to be filed. Questions were raised about what had happened, but Johnson simply ignored media inquiries. After all, peace had been preserved with Estes, in person.
Over the next four months as USDAS investigation dragged back and forth, Wallace prepared for his fateful meeting. An important first step had already been taken. Wallace had moved to California, giving him a new cover. His job was with the same group of companies. The move had been made just before the end of January, right after Estes met with Johnson in Washington.
The effort at containing Marshall came to a head when, on June 3, 1961, Wallace arrived at Marshalls small ranch near Bryan, Texas. The confrontation took place in Robertson County, an agricultural area north and west of Bryan. Wallace had driven to the meeting, stopping at a filling station to ask for directions. He then went to the ranch where the two men met in a quiet, isolated place. They had to get to the heart of the matter at a location where they could talk freely, meaning without witnesses.
Wallace was not successful in bringing an end to the investigation. Marshall refused to cooperate. During the heated argument that resulted, acting pursuant to his vague instructions, Wallace attacked.
Angered at an inability to get Marshall to cooperate at all, Wallace viciously hit the man with a pistol. Marshall fell to the ground, the side of his head cut and his eye badly bruised. Since Marshall was unconscious, Wallace felt he had time to stage a suicide. Rigging a plastic liner to the exhaust and starting Marshalls truck, Wallace counted on carbon monoxide poisoning to kill. Marshall inhaled a substantial amount of the exhausts fumes, almost a fatal dose. While the poisoning was underway, Wallace removed Marshalls personal belongings and placed them on the seat of the pickup.
Then Wallace panicked. The exhaust was taking too long. He reportedly heard a truck driving nearby. Although he saw no one and no one saw the crime, Wallace had to get out of there. There was a bolt-action rifle in Marshalls truck so Wallace used the mans own weapon to shoot him five times in the side of his lower torso. Three of the shots were sufficient to kill him. After the fifth shot, finally convinced Marshall was dead, Wallace left.
At the first phone he could find, Wallace called Carter to let him know what happened. Carter told Wallace to stick around, to see if anything else needed to be done. They had to get word from Clark.
Later that afternoon, Marshalls cousin discovered the body. He was with a man from Cliff Carters Pepsi Cola bottling company in nearby Bryan. The body was near the exhaust, the rifle nearby. Personal effects were on the seat of the pickup. There was no suicide note.
The next day, the coroner ruled the death was a suicide. Working with Carter, the local authorities took quick action to cover up the crime. There was no need for an investigation. Somehow, it was accepted that a man nearly dead could work a bolt-action rifle several times, to fire bullets in his own body. Only a fix with the justice of the peace could do it, and, as we have seen, that just happened to be Clarks modus operandi.
Wallace, believing everything was okay, went back to the filling station the next morning, to tell the attendant he had not really needed to go to the Marshall ranch and had not gone there. He then returned to California, his perfect cover, out of reach of Texas criminal authorities.
Over twenty years later, a grand jury was again convened to investigate the Marshall death. It concluded murder had been committed and that Johnson, Carter and Wallace were the co-conspirators in the murderer.
Unfortunately, this startling decision by the grand jury was not issued until 1985. Johnson was not charged because he was dead. The other two other conspirators had also passed on and escaped justice. Estes had immunity and told what had happened in 1961, from January in Washington to June in Robertson County. The key testimony and evidence was not just from Estes; the jury also heard from Texas Ranger Clint Peoples, finally able to obtain Estess testimony and fit the facts together.
In the history of any event, what happened is usually told chronologically. Since the indictment report was not issued until 24 years after the murder, the all-important chronology of Johnsons motivations in 1961 may be difficult to appreciate. The public record is very different when Clark was not there in 1985 to provide the needed defense. By placing the grand jury action where it belongs, the motivations for what followed should be far easier to understand.
Historians will play games with history. One will write the story of what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War. Another will write what life in America would be like if he was living in a nation where the South won and he was trying to figure what it would be like if the Union won. Still another imagines Hitler had conquered England and Russia.
Johnsons history has a similar feature. Events did not happen they way they should have. To avoid guessing, the belated indictment is placed where it belongs. What we have to do is assume the indictment was returned in the summer of 1961, and that law enforcement acted in a timely and proper way. If so, one of those different worlds historians imagine would be still here, one in which John Kennedy remained president and Lyndon Johnson was convicted of murder.
Remarkably, even into the 1990s, apologists for the Warren Commission oppose efforts by Estes to tell his story. Houston attorney Doug Caddy was enlisted to seek immunity for Estes in return for his testimony to the Department of Justice. All was well when the government attorneys arrived to interview Estes. Notice was received, however, that a state district attorney had refused immunity for Estes, and the interview was canceled.
We know what happened with the Marshall murder and with the indictment. The murder plan started with an argument, and, when Marshall proved intractable, he was killed. This may not have been according to plan and was done out of anger and frustration. Marshall had to be taken care of for good. Clarks agents then moved quickly to cover up. The murder was then buried for over twenty years. Only on distant hindsight do we finally have the benefit of knowing Johnson was behind the murder of Henry Marshall and that Wallace was the gunman. We also see how Clark worked his machinery to control the key legal system.
In 1961, in the real time of Johnsons history, Marshall was ruled a suicide. The local authorities readily accepted the ruling. The death of a federal investigator working on a high-profile political case, however, did not end the case. Many eyebrows were raised in Washington, and the USDA was determined to keep looking. Fully appreciating the many political overtones, USDA officials knew a solid case had to be developed. Marshalls death required that his work had to be started over. The new investigators went to work. Robert Kennedy, as attorney general, gave his full support to the effort.
Estes would cooperate because he was sure he could convince them nothing wrong had happened. He could convince anyone, he believed, of anything. With his allotments program under intense review, however, money could not be obtained from USDA. He turned to his ongoing scheme of leasing fertilizer tanks that did not exist. Again, he hoped to get enough money to pay off his debt. As it turned out, the clock was running on his timetable for financial recovery.
Copyright © 2003 Barr McClellan
Death Of Woody Harrelson's Dad
> Normally, this is a news story that I would have ignored, save for the fact that Woody Harrelson's father may have some connection to the JFK assassination.
Below is a picture of the "three tramps" taken into custody in Dallas on that fateful day.
They were supposedly vagrants hanging around the railyards near Dealey Plaza, yet many have noted their relatively clean attire and hair. The stories vary, but the three men were interviewed (some say arrested and held for several days) by the Dallas Police. Unfortunately, their names were never recorded, and nobody can say for sure their identities.
However, many speculate that the middle "tramp" -- the tall one -- was Charles Harrelson (Woody's dad) who passed away yesterday. Charles Harrelson was a hitman at the time, and was in Texas at the time. Years later, he reportedly admitted (from his jail cell, where he served a life sentence for the murder of a federal judge) that he was involved in the JFK assassination. But even if he said that, it may be the product of rumors about his involvement, rather than the genesis of them.
In any event, it's one of the many threads in that piece of Americana known as "JFK conspiracy theory".
Actually it does match the wounds. The conspiracy book sellers have misrepresented the position of the entry wound where JFK's neck meets his back.
One has to go to the autopsy report and the autopsy photographs to see the actual position of that entry wound, and it is actually higher than the conspiracy book sellers would have the public believe.
Stopped right there...
You forgot the mens' room attendant at the Pentagon...