Tuesday, November 9, 2010
"Hail of Bullets"--November 22, 1963 Revisited
Just Another Day
It was just another day in Dallas, Texas, that Friday 47-years ago to 39-year old Malcolm Summers. He had just delivered the mail to the main post office terminal annex on Houston Street in downtown when it hit him.
The crowds across the street meant one thing. President Kennedy's motorcade was due any minute. What seems so monumental an occasion today, was just an afterthought. After all, he had business to do and the rain, sleet, snow-thing meant the mail got delivered on time.
So without further thought after seeing the growing crowds across the street, Malcolm hurried across the Commerce, Main, Elm Street median and hit the Elm Street curb just minutes before the Presidential limousine turned left onto that fateful, final stretch of the motorcade.
And so, Malcolm Summers had the catbird seat to one of the most controversial incidents in United States history--the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Setting the Stage
I first met Malcolm Summers sometime shortly after Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie opened in April of 1997. He was one of thousands of horseplayers in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex who had longed for their favorite pasttime to be legalized in their hometown. He and others had long grown tired of 3+ hour jaunts to Louisiana, Arkansas and most recently Oklahoma to enjoy parimutuel horse racing.
Lone Star Park was built for men like Malcolm Summers. He had graduated from Dallas Public Schools' Crozier Tech High School in 1942, joined the Aviation Cadets in 1944 to serve his country in World War II, and afterwards was placed in the Reserves and returned home to raise a family and start a career. Called to reserve duty in the Korean War, Malcolm served 18 months in the Air Force stationed in Greenville, South Carolina where he met his future wife Mim. Mim was smitten with Malcolm but wanted more information about her dashing young suitor. She asked him if he was married because she was certainly not going to date a married man. Malcolm said no but that he was divorced. Not convinced, Mim persisted on seeing the divorce papers. When Malcolm returned with his divorce papers they began their courtship and soon married. He found his calling starting Summers Mailing Company in 1960. He settled in Oak Cliff and began raising his family.
A larger-than-life laugh that was full of optimism and a positive sense of purpose, characteristics that Tom Brokaw aptly used to describe "The Greatest Generation," also defined Malcolm. His presence was larger than life. When you were his friend, you were his friend for life. He was the kind of person you felt better about yourself and the world after an encounter with Malcolm.
However, my first encounter found me avoiding him like the plaque. It seemed he was hell-bent on securing the Lone Star Park mailing account that had somehow slipped by him in the hoopla of opening Dallas/Fort Worth's first Grade I racetrack since prohibition. A larger outfit, Lee Data, had somehow wrangled the business from Summers Mailing. Malcolm was on a mission to get what he felt was rightfully his!
So, after an initial meeting at which time I explained to Malcolm that we already had a mailhouse, he turned up the heat. A season box seat holder and regular at the track, Malcolm was at Lone Star Park several times a week during live racing. That meant that virtually every night of live racing I was exposed to somehow running into him during my daily "walk-arounds" checking things out. I made it a point to avoid Malcolm!
It wasn't just the fact that he was damn near over-bearing in his pursuit. He had this iron-claw handshake that nearly broke your hand. And, he had a tendency to grasp on just a little bit longer if he wanted to make a point with you. Such as, "So, G.W. when are you going to give me your mailing business?" He was very persuasive.
To make a long story short, we eventually switched our business to Summers Mailing. Part due to Malcolm's persistence, part due to the fact our existing mailhouse was really too big an operation for our account and part due to Malcolm being a box seat holder. He was thrilled when we told him the news. And, so was I. It meant I could walk around the beautiful Lone Star Park grandstand unencumbered from the threat of trying to avoid Malcolm Summers and his vice-like handshake at every turn!
A Chance Encounter
Malcolm and I enjoyed a postive business relationship for several years before we realized we had a common interest.
It was during the fall racing season when I saw Malcolm coming down the main escalator from the box seat level one day. He was not in the usual jovial disposition. A frown and look of concern was on his face. After greeting him at the bottom of the escalator, I could tell something was bothering him so I asked him what was wrong.
He pulled me over in front of the large Fred Stone mural, "Lone Star Legacy," that dominates the east entrance lobby and said something about the "assassination." I was immediately intrigued and the next few moments changed our relationship.
The Composite Drawing
It was at that point that Malcolm reached into his pocket and pulled out an 8-1/2" x 11" piece of paper with two images. One was a black and white photograph and the other was a composite drawing. The two images were of the same man.
Malcolm explained that he had just been to the Assassination Symposium held in downtown Dallas annually on the anniversary of November 22, 1963. The usual suspects attended these events. Scholars, conspiracy-nut cases, news media and the ever-shrinking Grassy Knoll eyewitnesses like Malcolm. Each was drawn there by a different circumstance but all for the same purpose: understanding what exactly had happened in Dealey Plaza all those years ago.
It turned out that a lady who had interviewed Malcolm some time before while researching the assassination had given Malcolm that drawing at the Symposium. She had tracked him down and interviewed him in the early 90's hearing his story that he had kept to himself all those years and had drawn that composite drawing from Malcolm's eyewitness description from almost 40-years earlier.
The Man Behind The Picket Fence
It turns out that the made-up-man-from-memory in the composite drawing that Malcolm had described so precisely was an actual, real-life man named Charles Nicoletti. At least that is the man in the photograph that the lady had placed opposite the composite drawing.
Nicoletti was a notorious Mafia hitman who worked primarily for legendary Chicago Mafia Boss Sam Giancana. It was after hearing that day that Nicoletti was the man who Malcolm had encountered behind the picket fence on the Grassy Knoll on November 22, 1963, that changed Malcolm's disposition that afternoon.
It seemed his instinct all those years ago to keep quiet was a good decision.
"Hail of Bullets"
Malcolm explained that after seeing JFK assassinated in the Presidential limousine, he immediately hit the ground. He told me a"hail of bullets" rained down on the motorcade.
Malcolm was taking cover not so much from the sound of gunfire but to save his own life! A World War II vet, he didn't need anyone to tell him to duck. You can see Malcolm's swift actions yourself in the final frames of the infamous Zapruder film as the final shots make impact with JKF's head and the limousine passes through the frames from left to right. That's Malcolm hitting the ground on the grass just south of Elm Street as the limousine continues toward the Triple Underpass. The film doesn't lie.
After the limousine had passed, Malcolm said he got up and immediately ran across Elm Street because that's where everyone else was running. However, I was surprised he said he didn't dart up the Grassy Knoll behind the infamous picket fence. Rather, Malcolm said he went up the street and to the far-east end of a concrete pergola, made a left on the street adjacent to the Texas School Book Depository and headed toward the railroad tracks behind the picket fence where everyone else seemed to be headed. As he headed west towards the picket fence where the commotion seemed to be directed he had a chance encounter.
A nattily-dressed man wearing a fedora hat, coat and tie with a topcoat draped over his arm stepped in front of him and stopped him cold. He told Malcolm that he might want to get out of there or he "could get shot." At this point, the man pulled back enough of his top coat draping over his arm to reveal a gun barrel. Thinking the authorities had apprehended someone back there and seeing the gun and implied threat, Malcolm didn't need to be told twice. He obliged and ambled back across Dealey Plaza.
Still awe-struck over what he had just seen he returned to the terminal annex to tell everybody there what had just happened. He then called Mim to tell her about the President being shot, the pandemonium and aftermath. Interestingly, he did not tell her about the man behind the picket fence! At first she thought he was joking because she could hear laughter in the room. But when she asked Malcolm what they were laughing at he replied "me." Apparently, still excited over what he had seen with adrenaline still pumping, he was rather animated in his description of the events. He told her to turn on the television set but nothing was on yet. So he attempted to exit the terminal annex post office parking lot and enter Houston Street to cross over the Houston Street viaduct to his house on 12th and Patton. However, a car full of "dark-complected men" suddenly pulled in front of him from its' parked position along the curb on Houston Street. The maroon-colored Chevrolet nearly hit Malcolm's mail truck in its' haste to depart the scene of the crime.
Malcolm continued home to his Oak Cliff house and arrived a few minutes later. He was pale as a ghost. At this point there was quite a commotion in the neighborhood with police sirens blaring from the 10th and Patton area which Malcolm had driven by on his way home. So Malcolm and Mim grabbed 4-year old son Kevin and headed to the corner of Jefferson and Patton to see what the fuss was all about. There they came upon the activity surrounding the Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit murder scene. At approximately 1:15 p.m., 45-minutes after the assassination, Tippit was apparently shot by Presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald who was now on the run in the neighborhood. Upon returning home, Mim asked Malcolm if he had told anyone about what he saw downtown. When he replied no he had not, she instructed him to get back in the truck and go back down to Dealey Plaza and tell the authorities what he had witnessed.
Malcolm obliged. "A day or so later." Seemed he didn't want to get involved and begrudgingly did so only because he thought he had knowledge that could help the investigation. Once there, Malcolm gave a sworn statement to the authorities and returned home. Only just like he did with Mim, he left out the part about the mysterious man behind the picket fence. Or did he? Although the official Dallas Sherriff's statement from Malcolm is dated November 23, 1963 and it does in fact not include anything about a man behind the picket fence, I am not certain that was the case.
I recently watched on C-SPAN as Malcolm recounted his story on May 7, 2002, to Gary Mack for the Sixth Floor Museum oral history program, that he in fact did tell the authorities about the mysterious man. However, they told him that there were not any men that fit that description in that location. Malcolm didn't think any more about it other than it sure was taking them a long time to follow up. Surely someone would follow up with him. About two months later, men from the Secret Service visited him in Dallas and took his story again. They told Malcolm that he didn't see anyone behind the pergola because they didn't have anyone up there at that time. They said he must be imagining things. And although Malcolm told Mack they never tried to get him to change his story, Malcolm didn't argue because he knew what he had seen and had no agenda arguing with them so he let the moment pass. A fact that would haunt Malcolm to the end of his life.
No More Silence
And that was it. For 25 years Malcolm Summers would fade into the background of one of the most notorious crimes of the century. The man who was one of the closest eyewitness to the JFK assassination (only 10-12' away at the time of the fatal headshot,) disappeared from the public eye. No Warren Commission testimony. No House Select Committee on Assassinations testimony. No book tours. No breaking news interviews with Walter Cronkite. Malcolm Summers vanished from the public eye as quickly as Charles Nicoletti had appeared behind the picket fence, as far as his eyewitness story to history was concerned.
It wasn't until 25 years later that Malcolm was persuaded by his two sons to tell his story. He had said the reason he didn't talk to anyone about it was his fear of testifying in a lengthy trial or some investigation would take him away from his mailing business. So in 1988, Malcolm told his story in the PBS program "NOVA--Who Shot Kennedy?," narrated by Walter Cronkite. But although the NOVA program was widely viewed he didn't tell his story in print until the 1998 book, "No More Silence--An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy," by Larry A. Sneed. Sneed, a researcher, had taken on the monumental task of tracking down the key eyewitnesses to the assassination who were in Dealey Plaza that day. His mission was simple. He wanted an oral history before they all died. He found Malcolm living in Dallas still running Summers Mailing Company.
Malcolm recounted his story to Sneed and is featured under the section titled, "Eyewitnesses." Here is an excerpt of what Malcolm told Sneed:
"I thought it would have been hard for one man doing it all. You hear that many shots that close together, you just don't think about them coming from one gun."
Malcolm was one of 13 Dealey Plaza eyewitnesses whose first-hand accounts are chronicled in Sneed's book for the first time. Most were just regular folks like Malcolm who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Others were police officers just doing their job in the line of duty. Like Malcolm, most had never told their story publicly. Talk about a code of silence! However, some more famous eyewitnesses who regrettably came forward earlier are included such as Bill Newman who boldy covered his wife and children as soon as the crackle of gunfire penetrated the airwaves of Dealey Plaza. Opposite the street from Malcolm and closer up Elm Street toward the Texas School Book Depository, Newman had the same reaction as Malcolm further down and across the street: duck!
There was James Tague. The only other person not in the motorcade who was injured when he was struck by a piece of flying concrete caused when one of the assassins bullets strayed and hit the curb in front of him. Tague was standing further down the road behind Malcolm against the Triple Underpass on Main Street. Tague felt a tinge on his cheek and reached up and felt blood trickling down his face. Thankfully, he came forward immediately. The press was all over him in Dealey Plaza. It was hard for anyone to dispute his story, coerce another version from him or make a veiled threat about being shot with blood running down his face. Hell, he had already been shot! His eyewitness testimony to the Warren Commission changed the course of the investigation forever. If Tague was hit by fragments of a separate bullet other than the ones that had hit President Kennedy and Governor Connally, and there was no reason to believe that he could have been hit by the same bullets, that meant only one thing: someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was shooting that day. Warren Commission attorney Arlen Specter solved that connundrum by inventing the "single bullet theory." Case closed.
Both Newman and Tague became reluctant instant-celebrities following the assassination. Newman and his family were featured only hours later on the local news stations 24-7 make-shift coverage of the assassination that ushered in a new era of television news coverage. Newman, his wife and two small children were across the street and slighty up Elm Street from where Malcolm was standing and saw the assassination from the opposite view from Malcolm. Both Newman and Malcolm were two of the closest eyewitnesses to the motorcade at the time of the fatal head shot. Both gave statements immediately following the assassination to the authorities. However, they both were never called to testify before the Warren Commission. Amazing. Two of the closest eye witnesses to the limousine at the time of the fatal head shot, actual bookends on opposite sides of the street, were never called to testify before the one investigative body that President Johnson personally created to solve the crime. Why? Perhaps it was because both Malcolm and Bill Newman saw something completely contrary to the official "lone nut" cover. Malcolm saw the mysterious man behind the pergola that the Secret Service said didn't exist and Bill Newman said the fatal headshot came from right behind him up the Grassy Knoll. Oop's. Not what the script called for. And even though the Newmans were contacted relentlessly by the hundreds of nouveau assassination researchers who cropped up every year and had their 15-minutes of fame extended for over 40 years, Malcolm's 15-minutes wouldn't come for 25 years.
And, although not included in Larry Sneed's book, a thorough look at the Kennedy assassination would be incomplete if it didn't review what the other person who was shot that day had to say about things. Texas Governor John Connally was sitting in the jump seat right in front of President Kennedy. The infamous Zapruder film shows his reaction to hearing the first shot. The Governor was turning to his right to see what the commotion was all about. The President is clearly hit in the throat by the time Governor Connally begins to turn back to his left. Although Governor Connally, an avid hunter used to the sound of gunshots, told television crews from his hospital bed the next day that he was hit with a separate shot than the one that hit President Kennedy, the Warren Commission reported that both men were hit with Arlen Specter's "single bullet."
Governor Connally would take his story to his grave that he was hit by a separate bullet. He already had his 15-minutes from his hospital bed. He like Malcolm saw something else that would lead investigators to another conclusion. The Warren Commission wanted nothing but their facts.
A Deeper Understanding
I learned alot about the Kennedy Assassination from my friendship with Malcolm Summers. I learned more about him.
I never sought out the information. It was by mere happenstance that we even discovered our mutual interest in the events of November 22, 1963. Soon aftwerward Malcolm started inviting me and my wife to attend assassination-related anniversary events with he and Mim. All were at the Sixth Floor Museum from where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly did the deed.
He even took my family and our two-year old girl Lucy to her first restaurant after we arrived home from China! The irony of that moment sitting in Bob's Steak and Chop House with Malcolm didn't go unnoticed. Here was the same guy I had avoided for several years at work now treating my daughter to her first-ever restaurant dinner in Dallas!
As our relationship grew, Malcolm invited me to breakfast with some of his racetrack buddies. We ate at the old Austin's Barbeque located at the corner of Illinois and Hampton Avenues in Oak Cliff. It was an old establishment that had a drive-in outside and red vinyl booths complete with record juke-boxes at every booth inside. It was one of Malcolms' favorites. It was also where Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit moonlighted as a security guard prior to his murder!
There were cocktail receptions and the mock trial of Jack Ruby from the Dallas County Commissioner offices located in the Texas School Book Depository. Malcolm paraded me around and introduced his new friend to all his old friends. It seems I was being invited to join the club. I met the FBI agent who found Oswald's rifle on the sixth floor. Al Maddox, a former Dallas County Sheriff, whose daughter married Malcolm's son and who also had an encounter with a man who resembled Charles Nicoletti. Jim Leavelle, the Dallas detective who interrogated Lee Harvey Oswald and who was handcuffed to him when Jack Ruby cut him down in the Dallas City Jail basement. I also met Bill and Gayle Newman who were the other closest eye witnesses to the fatal headshot. And, Murphy Martin and Hugh Aynesworth: the former Dallas television anchorman who covered it all for ABC-TV in New York City and The Dallas Morning News reporter who was the only newsman to witness both JKF's assassination and Oswald's murder.
All were fascinating in their own light. And other than the Newmans, who I briefly met, none of them had the firsthand knowledge that Malcolm had witnessed that day. The firsthand knowledge that he so proudly shared with me and my family.
It was at the last such event at the Sixth Floor Museum that Malcolm asked me if I wanted to go down to Elm Street to see where he was standing on that fateful day. I was shocked and excited. I never asked Malcolm too much about the assassination for at best, fear of being perceived as an interloper to his personal history or worse a conspiracy-theorist out to write his own version of history.
But there we were that night. Malcolm, Mim, Mindy and Me. He led us straight out the Sixth Floor Museum doors across the street, down the sidewalk and across Elm Street to his spot in history. From there, he described the motorcade making its' way down the street. The sounds of sirens. Shots being fired. His reaction. The President's reaction. Jackie's reaction. Pandemonium. The man across the street. For a brief moment, you felt like you were there with Malcolm all those years ago.
Looking back, it was as if Malcolm was sharing his story with me so I would understand what happened by helping him understand, as well.
It was bitter irony that following Malcolm's passing, his son Kevin Summers invited me to attend the annual assassination event that Malcolm had taken me and Mindy earlier at the Sixth Floor Museum. It was less than a month since his passing but there we were sitting in the seventh floor of the Sixth Floor Museum listening to an oral history of the Kennedy Assassination from some of the eyewitnesses. We were both stunned when all of sudden Malcolm's voice came over the speakers. He was recanting his brush with history for the official record captured by the museum. Neither Kevin or I had ever heard this and were taken aback.
No More Silence indeed.
Malcolm was so excited to attend the Breeders' Cup at his home town track, Lone Star Park. He had purchased his box and was looking forward to attending the races during our fall meet leading up to the big day on October 30, 2004.
Unfortunately, Malcolm Summers never saw racing's richest day at his beloved hometown track. He became ill a few weeks before the Breeders' Cup. After a short hospitalization, he succumbed in his hospital bed at Baylor Hospital a few short miles across town from his spot in history in Dealey Plaza.
I was saddened and shocked by Malcolm's passing. You see I had just talked to him on the phone from his hospital bed a few days before. He sounded just like the same old Malcolm. Told me not to worry that he would be fine and home in a few days. I told him I would come see him on my day off on Monday.
However, it rained on Monday and I was feeling tired and sorry for myself having to work nights and the weekend. I decided I would see Malcolm on Tuesday. Only one thing happened to prevent that visit. Malcolm passed away. Just like Malcolm regretted not convincing authorities about the man behind the picket fence all those years ago, I regretted not getting off my ass and visiting my friend in the hospital before he passed.
Being asked by his son Kevin to serve as a pallbearer at Malcolm's funeral took some of the sting out of making that decision not to go see my friend. His funeral service was very warm and touching. His old friends recanted stories about a part of Malcolm that I had never known. Trips in the airplane to visit his oil wells. The gambling trips. His love for horseracing. It was very touching to hear of his life.
So, still reeling over the loss of my friend I was concerned that Malcolm's passing did not go unnoticed. I realized that his story had long since been told but that his passing needed to be given the proper send-off for a man with his history with the JFK assassination. I knew someone would be interested. But first I called Kevin Summers. I wanted to get the family's blessing before I did anything. Kevin talked to Mim and she said it was fine. So I contacted my long-time friend and Dallas P.R. pro Barbara Buzzell. She put me in contact with Joe Simnacher. Joe wrote obituaries for The Dallas Morning News. How odd? I never thought I would be talking to an obit-reporter.
However, my instincts were correct. Simnacher was interested in telling Malcolms' story and the next day Malcolm's obituary appeared in The Dallas Morning News as an actual news story under Joe Simnacher's byline. What a relief. Malcolm had finally made his hometown paper for his eyewitness story that he never told anyone about for 25 years--41-years later! You can imagine my joy when I did a Google search later that day and Malcolm's story had hit the wire and been picked up by Reuters! He was worldwide. One story in particular caught my eye and had a special connection for me and my family. The China Daily News ran Malcolm's obituary. Now all 1.2 billion Chinese would know about my friend, too!
I am not writing an assassination story. Others have beaten me to the punch on that one. Rather, I am writing a story about my friendship with Malcolm Summers who just happened to be an eyewitness to history.
I will never know why Malcolm did not tell his story for 25 years after the Kennedy assassination but I have my thoughts. Dallas was a small-big town in November of 1963. A staunch, conservative city in the midst of one of the most turbulent political times in our history. There were many of the locals--powerful businessmen, politicos and oil men, who didn't like President Kennedy, his elite, Harvard education or his liberal policies. Dallas had voted for Nixon in 1960 by the widest margin of any major city. A month before Kennedy visited Dallas, United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was heckled off a stage, spat upon and hit with a placquard that said, "IF YOU SEAK PEACE, ASK JESUS," during a visit.
Dallas was the home of retired controversial, U.S. Army General Edwin A. Walker, who President Kennedy's Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had fired in 1961 for trying to indoctrinate troops under his command in his right-wing ideology. Walker, a member of the John Birch Society, had moved back to Dallas to spread his right-wing zealotry and spoke out about communism. He would make headlines in April of 1963 when he was supposedly shot at in his home by none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. Walker was, as David Talbot described, "the apocalyptic "Christian Soldier" who electrified his fellow citizens with his attacks on Kennedy's "defeatist" foreign policy and "socialistic" domestic agenda."" He declared that JFK was turning the American eagle into a "dead duck." Dallas was a "seething Mecca of John Birchers, Minutemen and Christian Soldiers."
It didn't get any worse anti-Kennedy commentary than from conservative newspaper publisher, Ted Dealey, who even carried his personal venom for Kennedy to the White House in 1961. Dealey, publisher of The Dallas Morning News and family namesake for Dealey Plaza, told Kennedy at an off-the-record press luncheon of Texas newspaper publishers:
"We can annihilate Russia and should make that clear to the Soviet government." He continued reading from a 500-word prepared statement, "The general opinion of the grass-roots thinking in this country is that you and your administration are weak sisters. We need a man on horseback to lead this nation, and many people in Texas and the Southwest think that you are riding Caroline's tricycle."
An irate Kennedy responded that he was elected President not Dealey and there were other ways to handle U.S. foreign relations.
Some of these same men who hated Kennedy and his policies paid for a full-page ad in Dealey's The Dallas Morning News on the day of President Kennedy's arrival that fateful day attacking his policies and questioning his patriotism. Hugh Aynesworth, The Dallas Morning News reporter who was the only reporter who witnessed the JFK assassination and the Oswald murder, wrote in his book, "JFK: Breaking the News:" "It was the most outrageous ad I'd ever seen in any Dallas newspaper." The ad was a full-page, black bordered page in the main section and featured the headline, "Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas." It was paid for by a group called "The American Fact-Finding Committee."Aynesworth discovered that Texas oil money paid for the ad. Among donors were Nelson Bunker Hunt and H.M. "Bum" Bright. Bernard Weissman's name was on the ad with a P.O. Box address. Weissman was a right-wing devotee to General Edwin A. Walker whom he had served under in Germany. This is the same ad that President Kennedy showed Jackie the morning of his assassination in Fort Worth. JFK told her, "Now we're entering nut country."
And the lunatic fringe messages were not limited to the ad pages. As Aynesworth reported, President Kennedy's old nemesis Ted Dealey, his boss, used his bully-pulpit newspaper to, "routinely excoriated Kennedy in its editorial columns, part of the paper's shrilly right-wing political slant," and welcomed him to Dallas with an eerily prescient editorial page cartoon on Thursday, November 21. Incredibly, the cartoon featured President Kennedy standing up in a moving open-air jeep shooting a high-powered, scoped rifle at deer named as the 24 Texas electoral votes. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was driving the jeep. Coincidence or conspiratorial?
How much of an overstatement was the President's "nut country" label. Not much. According to none other than Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry, the following groups were under surveillance prior to President Kennedy's arrival in Dallas:
The Klu Klux Klan.
Indignant White Citizen's Council.
National States Rights Party.
John Birch Society.
Dallas White Citizen's Council.
Oak Cliff White Citizen's Council.
The General Edwin A. Walker Group.
American Opinion Forum.
Dallas Committee for Full Citizenship.
Young Peoples Socialist League.
Dallas Civil Liberties Union.
Texas White Citizen's Council.
Any obvious suspects missing from this list? Yep. Lee Harvey Oswald who had apparently escaped any scrutiny from Chief Curry and his men. Seems that Lee Harvey had been moving around Dallas for the past year moving back and forth to New Orleans and changing residences so much that they lost sight of him. Or so you would think. You see the Dallas Police had never heard of Lee Harvey Oswald until they arrested him in the Texas Theater on November 22, 1963. Sound unbelievable? Even Jack Ruby knew about Lee Harvey Oswald. It was at the midnight press conference following the assassination that Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade misstated that Oswald was a member of the Free Cuba Party. It was Ruby, standing in the back of the room wearing glasses, who corrected Wade by shouting, "that's the Fair Play for Cuba Party, Henry." With all of the hoopla and notoriety associated with Oswald's past, you would think that some government agency would have had him on a watch list. They did. The FBI had Oswald and his family under surveillance ever since his return from the Soviet Union in 1962. It seems that they simply lost track of him in the weeks preceding the assassination and were unaware he was working in a building that overlooked the planned Presidential motorcade.
The first the Dallas police heard about Oswald's past was at 2:50 p.m. after Oswald's arrest from FBI agent William Hosty. Jack Revill, Dallas Police Lieutenant Criminal Intelligence Section filed this memo with Captain W.P. Gannaway, Special Service Bureau, Dallas Police Department after he met Mr. Hosty in the basement of the Dallas City Hall:
"Special Agent Hosty related that the Subject was a member of the Communist Party, and that he was residing in Dallas...Agent Hosty further stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of the Subject and that they had information that this Subject was capable of committing the assassination of President Kennedy."
Simply unbelievable. But that was the true story. The only two groups the Dallas Police were aware were planning demonstrations during the President's visit to Dallas were the General Edwin A. Walker Group and The Indignant White Citizen's Council. General Walker left the city for another state prior to the President's arrival and the other group was planning on picketing the President's luncheon at the Trade Mart which was abruptly cancelled by the rifle volleys minutes earlier in Dealey Plaza. Other agitators that Chief Curry and his men were unaware of distributed inflammatory flyers in the parade route with a two-sided mug shot of the President over the headline, "Wanted for Treason" and a list of reasons below supporting their headline.
There were alot of conspiracy theories floating around Dallas immediately after the assassination. The Cubans. The Russians. The CIA. Texas Oil Men. The Mafia. LBJ. That's a heavyweight lineup you didn't want to cross if there ever was one. And, Dealey Plaza eye-witnesses and others with "knowledge" were dropping like flies from every known cause possible: mysterious karate chops to the neck, sudden heart attacks and single car accidents on desolute stretches of highway in broad daylight! Others were suddenly running into bullets in the dark.
For instance, Lee Bowers, the railroad employee, whose eyewitness perch in the 14-foot tower behind the picket fence allowed him to see too much. Died in a single car accident in 1966 in Midlothian, Texas. Seemed he drove his car off the road at 9 a.m. into a concrete abutment. Coroner ruled out a heart attack. Said Bowers was in some sort of "strange shock." Dallas Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig: 1961 Dallas Policeman of the Year. Saw a man he identified later that day at Dallas Police headquarters as Lee Harvey Oswald, leave the Texas School Book Depository out the front door, run down Elm Street and get into a Nash Rambler with several other men--following the assassination. Died in 1975. An apparent suicide by gunshot after being shot at several times by unidentified assailants previously in his life.
How about Warren Reynolds eye-witness to the assailant fleeing the scene of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit's murder at 10th and Patton? Seems he couldn't positively identify Lee Harvey Oswald as the man who shot Tippit. He was only across the street at his brothers used car lot at Patton and Jefferson when he heard the shots and then saw the man come running south down Patton and turning west on Jefferson. The man ran right by him. In fact, it was Warren Reynolds who gave the Dallas Police the first eye-witness description they used to broadcast over the police radio to alert all units of the assailant's description during the pursuit:
"White male. 27 years old. Five feet seven inches tall. 165 pounds. Black, wavy hair. Fair complexion."
Pretty specific description of the assailant. The only problem? Lee Harvey Oswald was 24 years old. Five feet nine inches tall. 150 pounds. Brown, receding, thinning hair.
Reynolds entered the auto dealership basement where he worked on January 23, 1964 just two nights after giving his initial testimony to the FBI. Seems the basement lightbulb was out--later it was learned it had actually been taken out. As he went downstairs toward the fuse box, he was shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle bullet! Although he survived, police couldn't find any evidence of robbery but did say the assailant had been waiting on him for several hours. Reynolds somehow had a brain-cleansing in the hospital because he would later positively identify Lee Harvey Oswald as Tippit's killer for the Warren Commission in July.
It gets weirder with the Reynolds story. Darrell Garner was arrested for shooting Reynolds on February 3, 1964. However, Garner was released two days later after his girlfriend Nancy Jane Mooney (aka Betty McDonald, an alleged stripper at Jack Ruby's Carousel Club) signed an affidavit swearing that she was with Garner that night at the time Reynolds was shot. Her reward for her efforts to save Garner? According to the FBI, she got herself arrested for disturbing the peace at 2:45 a.m. in her own apartment on February 13, 1964--8 days after her alibi freed Garner. While in the Dallas City Jail, Mooney hung herself to death in her jail cell with her trousers.
After some thoughtful recollection and several visits with retired General Edwin A. Walker (yes, that same General Walker and the one Marina Oswald said her husband shot at in the spring of 1963 apparently to serve as evidence he was a real killer,) Reynolds would later tell Warren Commission counsel in July of 1964 that he believed he was shot through the head because of what he saw on November 22, 1963 in the Tippit murder and that he was scared. He told them that three weeks after being released from the hospital someone attempted to abduct his 9-year old daughter. He also told them about that same time, someone unscrewed his front porch lightbulb. The Warren Commission stated in its' official report that Warren Reynolds positively identified Lee Harvey Oswald as Tippit's assailant.
And what about Bill Hunter and Jim Koethe? Reporters who met with Jack Ruby's roommate George Senator, and two of Ruby's attorneys all of whom had visited with Ruby earlier that day in jail, in Ruby's apartment on Ewing Street in Oak Cliff on the evening of Sunday, November 24, 1964, following Oswald's murder by Ruby. Hunter, a reporter for the Long Beach Press Telegram, was killed five months later in the Press Room of the Public Safety Building in Long Beach, California. Seems a police officer accidently discharged his gun and shot Hunter in the chest. Koethe, a Dallas Times Herald reporter, was killed on September 21, 1964 by a karate chop to the neck by an unknown assailant in his Dallas apartment which had been ransacked. Koethe had been working on a book on the Kennedy assassination.
One of Ruby's attorneys, Tom Howard, who was present that night in Ruby's apartment, died of a heart attack in March of 1965. No autopsy was performed. He was 48 years old. And what about George Senator? He was so scared after the Oswald murder that he never stayed in the same spot twice and moved around staying with friends for 10 days following the murder. Senator told the Warren Commission he was afraid he would be hurt or killed.
And what about Dorothy Kilgallen, perhaps the most famous journalist associated with the Kennedy Assassination? She of "What's My Line" television fame and a national columnist for "Journal American," came to Dallas in March of 1964 and scored the only exclusive jailhouse interview with Jack Ruby. Conducted the interview in private in the judges chambers. Called Ruby a gangster in one of her columns. She was found dead in 1965 in her New York City apartment from an apparent drug overdose. Her Ruby interview notes and her pending book notes about the assassination, "Murder One," were never found. She had told close friends two days before her death that she was going to New Orleans in five days to break the Kennedy case wide open.
And it didn't stop with the local eye witnesses or nosy reporters. What about Malcolm's nattily attired stranger behind the picket fence, Charles Nicoletti? Oh, he of Mafia hitman fame was surely safe, wasn't he? Nope. Nicoletti was found with eight .38-caliber slugs in the back of his head in 1977. So was his running buddy Sam Giancana who was found in the kitchen of his suburban Chicago home with six gunshots surrounding his mouth in 1975. George DeMohrenschildt, the mysterious White Russian who had befriended Lee and Marina Oswald in Dallas upon their return from the Soviet Union, was found dead from a gunshot to the mouth in an apparent suicide in Palm Beach in 1977.
Johnny Roselli, the one-time actor and mob enforcer, who ran the CIA/Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro in the early 1960's and guns to Cuba with Jack Ruby. His dismembered body was found stuffed in an oil drum floating in Key Biscayne Bay in 1976. This just months after he had testified in secret before the Senate Intelligence Committee and was scheduled to appear again in Washington. Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, a committee member, said "He was killed everyway possible." Seems he had described Jack Ruby as "one of our boys" who was ordered to eliminate Oswald to silence him. Other than their obvious Mafia-ties and personal relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald, what else did these men have in common? They were all scheduled to or had recently testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970's. No more silence indeed!
Anyone, especially a 39-year old man just starting his business and raising a young family, might be a bit intimidated to tell what he saw that was opposite of the "official story." Best to just be quiet. Keep it to yourself. Keep your mouth shut. Or like the man said, "you could get shot."
I think these reasons more than anything compelled my friend Malcolm Summers to remain silent for 25 years. Especially since Malcolm lived in what could be called "ground zero" for many of these suspicious events. Consider that Malcolm's house was located at 12th and Patton. Tippit was murdered at 10th and Patton. Warren Reynolds' brothers automobile dealership was located two blocks south at Jefferson and Patton. Jack Ruby's apartment was just a few blocks away on Ewing. Lee Harvey Oswald lived 1.2 miles from where Tippit was murdered. Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theater on Jefferson a few blocks from the Tippit murder scene. He had lunch regularly at the same restaurant Tippit moonlighted. Heck, he even had to deliver the mail every day right across the street from the JFK assassination site in Dealey Plaza!
If not personally aware of these and other events surrounding mysterious deaths of assassination witnesses, he most certainly had heard about them, read the newspaper about them or saw stories on television. And, he most definitely had heard about the first and most mysterious death of them all, the Rosetta Stone of the Kennedy Assassination: Lee Harvey Oswald's murder by Jack Ruby was captured on live television and broadcast for the entire nation to witness right in their own living room. And even though he didn't learn Nicoletti's identity until years later, I used to tease Malcolm that the only reason he was still alive was because he "kept his mouth shut!" He would raise back his head and let out that big affectious Texas laugh. I was serious.
Additionally, although Malcolm couldn't convince the authorities about the man behind the picket fence in his initial statements in 1963, he might have had good reason not to. Malcolm certainly wasn't the only Dealey Plaza witness to head toward the railroad tracks behind the Grassy Knoll to see what the commotion was about. And Charles Nicoletti wasn't the only man with mob ties or suspicious intent in the area that day.
In addition to Lee Harvey Oswalds' arrest just 1-1/2 hours after the assassination, the Dallas police actually did a pretty good job of arresting folks that day. Jim Braden was arrested minutes afterwards coming out of the DalTex Building across the street from the Texas School Book Depository. Police reports said he was acting "suspiciously." Braden, who said he was from Los Angeles on business, said he met with Nelson Bunker Hunt just prior to the assassination. Hunt's office was located in the DalTex Building. Braden was briefly detained but released after having no prior arrests. His sworn testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations is textbook intelligence-ease on how to say much about nothing without implicating yourself. However, subsequent researchers discovered that Braden was using an alias that day and his real name was Eugene Hale Brading. The real Braden had a rap sheet a mile long and known mob ties. He resurfaced in 1968 when he was questioned by Los Angeles police regarding his whereabouts at the time of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination.
And what about the two suspicious men standing opposite my friend Malcolm on Elm Street that day? Clearly depicted in the Zapruder film as well as numerous photographs taken during and following the assassination, these two men's identities have never conclusively been proven. One is dressed in black and holding an umbrella. As the motorcade approaches, he opens the umbrella and begins pumping it up and down. The second fellow is standing a few feet down Elm Street and is seen in the Zapruder film holding his arm straight toward the sky. At several times during the film, the suspect is seen pumping his arm repeatedly toward the sky. After the assassination, both men are shown in photographs seated next to one another on the curb. The man seen pumping his arm appears to be talking into a walkie-talkie with an antennae.
Then consider the most infamous characters arrested that day and certainly the most sinister. After all the commotion in the railroad yard and picket fence area, police scoured the area. Shortly after the assassination police arrested up to six to eight men who were hiding inside box cars on the railroad tracks, according to Dallas Police records that were released many years later. Three of these men were paraded across Dealey Plaza to the Dallas Sherriff's office for questioning. Amazingly though, neither any of the other men or these three were ever formally booked or photographed nor were their names taken for further questioning. They simply vanished into thin air. Fortunately, several black and white photographs of these "three tramps" (as they were labeled) walking through Dealey Plaza under police escort surfaced years later. Although never positively identified, one man did come forward a few years ago and claimed on "A Current Affair" to be one of the "tramps," these men have caused many conspiracy-skeptics to take another look into the assassination.
Several researchers have attempted to identify these "three tramps" to no avail. Two of the most famous suspects were also associated with another national incident nine years later. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis were two of the Watergate burglars who were arrested for that infamous break-in of the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. on June 17, 1972. The break-in would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon two years later. Nixon incredulously told aide H.R. Haldeman on the infamous Watergate tapes to tell CIA Director Richard Helms to tell the FBI to "back off" the ongoing Watergate investigation or "the whole Bay of Pigs-thing" was going to be exposed.
Haldeman said in his book, "The Ends of Power," that he believes Nixon was using code words to describe the Kennedy assassination since both Hunt and Sturgis were known CIA operatives who had also been involved in the failed CIA invasion of Cuba that was defeated by Cuban troops at the Bay of Pigs. Nixon should have known more than anyone. He was President Eisenhower's Vice President when the CIA plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion were hatched, had inside operational knowledge and knew which buttons to push to get Helms' attention. If in fact both men were involved in the Kennedy assassination, new evidence has since come out that Nixon was in charge of a top secret CIA assassination program called "Operation 40" that was aimed at killing Fidel Castro, Nixons' threat was enough to silence the investigation into their backgrounds. Both strongly resemble two of the "three tramps." Both have steadfastly denied being in Dealey Plaza. Both have flimsy alibis for their whereabouts that day. Sturgis was actually interviewed by the FBI the day following the assassination at his Miami home. He said, "They told me I was the one person they felt had the capabilities to do it." Hunt even sued assassination researcher Mark Lane in Miami for libel for Lane's repeated accusations that Hunt was one of the "three tramps." He lost. Lane wrote about the trial in his book, "Plausible Denial--Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK?" a must-read for any person interested in peeling back another layer of the onion.
A third tramp has been identified as Chauncey Holt by none other than Chauncey Holt himself. Holt, a career CIA operative who worked for the agency during the Bay of Pigs invasion as a documents expert, was incarcerated in Federal Prison when he began talking in 1991. Unlike Hunt and Sturgis, who steadfastly denied their involvement in Dallas, Holt has claimed to be the third tramp in several interviews with researchers. He claims he was part of a CIA team that transported weapons, ammunition and false Secret Service identification cards to Dealey Plaza. Says he put that stuff in the trunk of a pickup truck with a camper that was parked in the lot behind the infamous picket fence then just "hung around." He claims his "team" included mob hitmen Charles Nicoletti and Charles Harrelson (father of "Cheers" actor Woody.) He claims he was unaware of any plans to assassinate President Kennedy and was actually stunned when he heard the shots and witnessed the ensuing pandemonium. He and his cohorts simply ran to the railroad boxcar as they were instructed and hid.
Many critics have assailed Holt's story as being the fabrication of an inventive mind locked away in a Federal Prison. However, Holt does bear a striking resemblance to one of the three tramps. His attention to detail during his testimony is amazing. And, Charles Harrelson died in 2007 in Federal Prison for the murder of a Federal judge in 1979 in San Antonio. Harrelson shot the judge from some distance with a high-powered rifle. Harrelson admitted to the Kennedy assassination during his arrest for killing the judge, although later said he was high on cocaine at the time of his statement. The problem with his credibility is that Holt claims to be the same tramp as Howard Hunt. Regardless of the smoke-and-mirrors the CIA employed over the years, it's impossible for two men to be the same person in the same photograph. At any rate, whether you choose the Hunt-as-tramp angle purported in court by Mark Lane, or the Holt-as-tramp angle purported by Chauncey Holt, things just aren't what they seem in the Kennedy Assassination. What's black is white. What's white is black.
And, regardless of whether Howard Hunt was actually in Dealey Plaza that day in tramp disguise or plain clothes or in Washington, D.C. as he contended during the Lane trial (his son Saint John reportedly was in shock when he saw a poster of the "three tramps" on a Washington D.C. telephone pole because of the similarity to his father,) the facts look suspicious. The almost instantaneous publicity that spread the word in lightning speed talking points from Dallas to Paris that a lone gunman, communist-sympathizer, former Marine who defected to the Soviet Union had killed President Kennedy, bears all the earmarks of a very sophisticated disinformation campaign. Something that Howard Hunt specialized in while with the CIA as the first Chief of Covert Action for the CIA's Domestic Operations Division in 1962. His past work includes the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow the Castro government in 1961, the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile in 1970 and other clandestine affairs. Hunt told reporters later in his life that between 1962 and 1966, his work for the CIA largely dealt with the subsidizing and manipulation of news and publicity organizations.
In his 1973 book, "The Secret Team--The CIA and Its' Allies in Control of the United States and the World," former U.S. Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty unleases a barrage of military and intelligence agency secrets. He was the main military liaison between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA from 1960-1965. He was well-versed in the tricks of the intelligence trade. Donald Sutherland portrayed him as the mysterious character "Mr. X" in Oliver Stone's film "JFK." Prouty was in New Zealand at the time of the assassination. It was 6:30 a.m. New Zealand time on November 23 when it happened, says Prouty. He read about the President's assassination in the Christchurch Star, a local newspaper he says he purchased at breakfast. In the story it said the President had been shot by a man who lived in Russia with "three bursts of gunfire from automatic weapons." It gave a complete biography of the accused assasin Lee Harvey Oswald and other eyewitness statements. It went on to say that the assailant was later captured in a theater by Dallas policemen M. MacDonald and J.D. Tippit who had chased the assailant into the theater. The paper reported that Oswald had shot Officer Tippit as he ran into Tippit in the theater. The problem? Tippit was already in the morgue since he was the officer who Oswald supposedly killed 45-minutes prior to his arrest. Oop's. Seems the script wasn't corrected to account for the Tippit murder. That was an awful lot of detailed information for an event that had just occured a world away and included bio on an assasilant whose full background would not be obtained for several more hours in Dallas. Prouty found it further evidence of someone like Hunt's handiwork. Others, like the current day publisher, said it was aggressive reporting even for 1963 standards, it was 7 a.m. New Zealand time when the assassination occured and disputes Prouty's claim a morning paper was published. Conspiratorial or journalistic excellence?
In fact, none other than Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry had this to say following the assassination:
"The physical evidence and eye witness accounts do not clearly indicate what took place on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the time John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Speculative magazine and newspaper reports led the public to believe that numerous eye witnesses positively identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the sniper in the sixth floor window. The testimony of the people who watched the motorcade was much more confusing than either the press or the Warren Commission seemed to indicate."
Perhaps these "speculative magazine and newspaper reports" were the handiwork of none other than Howard Hunt? Who knows. But they certainly fit his profile. And, coincidentally as I was writing this story on the Friday before the 47th anniversay of the Kennedy assassination, I watched Jesse Ventura's program "Conspiracy Theory," on Tru-TV. I know. Jesse has been sensationalizing everything from mysterious Manchurian Candidates in the 60's, UFO's to 911 conspiracies. Jesse now was tackling the Kennedy assassination. And guess who Jesse interviewed? None other than Saint John Hunt, Howard Hunt's son, who played a supposedly deathbed confession by his father he recorded prior to his death in 2007. Hunt claims to have been involved as a "bench warmer" in the "Big Event," as he called the Kennedy assassination. Hunt continued to name names and implicated fellow conspirators Frank Sturgis and David Morales, both of whom were known CIA associates.
Hunt also said his dad had told him the real reason behind the Watergate break-in was to retrieve incriminating evidence that the Democratic National Party had in a safe in their offices that would link President Nixon and his past involvment with the CIA-led Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, "Operation 40" and his dad. They even played excerpts from Howard Hunt's Senate Watergate Hearing testimony. Senator Howard Baker incredulously asked Hunt what in the world was in that safe that was so important? Hunt's eerily sly grin and silence was only slightly less incriminating and disturbing than the dark sunglasses he was wearing!
And, I am very aware of what you might be thinking about now: Jesse Ventura just solved the Kennedy assassination? I know. Jesse has his moments. But where there's smoke, there's fire and Jesse was simply uncovering consistent threads in an unraveling enigma that others had already uncovered along the path down the rabbit hole surrounding those sordid events in Dallas. Among others, Jesse interviewed Marina Oswald off-camera who said she thought her husband was involved with the CIA. She also asked Jesse if he would sacrifice the lives of his children for the truth? A veiled reference as to why she has kept silent all these years.
And, before you think Jesses' yarn is simply made-for-Tru TV make-believe. Think about these two things: 1) In this age of diversified media, TMZ and "The National Enquirer" are now tackling stories the mainstream media either refuses to cover or can't ranging from the Michael Jackson death to Tiger Woods' dalliances; 2) And, just whose offices were Hunt, Sturgis and the other Watergate burglars looking in for that mysterious safe when they were caught? None other than National Democratic Party Chairman Larry O'Brien, a member of President Kennedy's "Irish Mafia," and one of his closest advisors. Was Nixon worried about an "October surprise" 4-1/2 months before the 1972 election? Coincidence or conspiratorial?
And what about the direction of the fatal shots? Was all that commotion behind the picket fence that Malcolm and all of the other Dealey Plaza witnesses heard justified? According to an official Dallas Police report filed by officer J.M. Smith to Chief Curry:
"I was standing in the middle of Elm Street from the southeast curb of Elm and Houston Streets at the time of the shooting. I heard the shots and thought they were coming from bushes of the overpass."
Pretty amazing statement coming from a Dallas Police officer situated directly in front and under the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly fired all three shots with a bolt-action, Italian carcano rifle, don't you think?
And the list of conspiracy theorists also includes the Kennedy family itself. Seems Robert F. Kennedy called CIA Director John McCone personally immediately upon being informed by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that his brother had been killed in Dallas. Kennedy specifically asked McCone if "one of your guys" did it? McCone assured the Attorney General that the CIA was not involved. RFK had plenty to be suspicious about since he had been intimately involved in the planning of a top secret CIA-led invasion of Cuba scheduled to take place the week after his brothers murder. Read "Ultimate Sacrifice--John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba and the Murder of JFK" by Lamar Waldron for more details. His followup book "Legacy of Secrecy" gives more information.
And, if you think Bobby Kennedy's intuition was misguided you only have to look to the Secret Service back-up car just one car back of the Presidential limousine for more intrigue. Kenny O'Donnell and Dave Powers were two of the most staunch Kennedy supporters. Had been with JFK since his early days in politics in Boston. They were as loyal as any loyalist could be. Part of Kennedy's "Irish Mafia." Both O'Donnell and Powers were riding in the next car behind JFK's limousine with the Secret Service detail. JFK wanted them there to observe the crowd's reaction during the motorcade. Both were World War II vets and both distinctly heard at least two gunshots from behind the picket fence. Just like Malcolm, they saw the Presidents' head explode in a plume of blood just feet in front of them. As O'Donnell recounted for David Talbot's book "Brothers--The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years:"
"A final shot took the side of his head off. We saw pieces of bone and brain tissue and bits of his reddish hair flying through the air. The impact lifted him and shook him limply, as if he was a rag doll, and then he dropped out of our sight, sprawled across the back seat of the car. I said to Dave, "he's dead.""
Both immediately knew Lee Harvey Oswald was just the "patsy" he later said he was.
However, as much as these two wanted to tell their story, they were put under extreme political pressure to maintain their silence. O'Donnell's college roommate at Harvard, Bobby Kennedy, counseled him to keep quiet. Told them that he was not ready to publicly question the official story. Tip O'Neill, the Massachussetts-native, later Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and close Kennedy confidante, recalled a 1968 conversation with O'Donnell in his book, "Man of the House." O'Donnell recalled what he saw in Dallas. A stunned O'Neill reminded O'Donnell, "that's not what you told the Warren Commission." O'Donnell said, "You're right. I told the FBI what I had heard but they said it couldn't have happened that way and that I must have been imagining things. So I testified the way they wanted me to. I just didn't want to stir up any more pain and trouble for the family." O'Neill responded, "I can't believe that. I wouldn't have done that in a million years. I would have told the truth." O'Donnell said, "Tip, you have to understand. The family--everybody wanted this thing behind them." So O'Donnell succumbed first. However, the relentless Powers, never did let go of his own personal anquish and flatly refused to go along with the Warren Commission script. After being repeatedly interrupted during his Warren Commission interview, Powers maintained that shots came from the Grassy Knoll. He was never called to testify before the Warren Commission.
As for Bobby Kennedy's pursuit of justice for his brother's killers. He himself was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968 in the wee hours following his victory in the California Democratic Presidential Primary. Despite public denials, seems he had secretly been working on putting the finishing touches to revealing who really killed his brother that day in Dallas. His personal private detective had uncovered many uncomfortable truths that indeed supported his initial instinct. Needed the powers of the Presidency to actually convict someone. Others had a different idea for his future. There are just as many inconsistencies in physical evidence, number of shots and eyewitness testimony in his murder as there were with his brothers'.
A second "Hail of Bullets?"
So as you can see, my friend Malcolm had inadvertently popped through the assassination looking glass when he ran across the street to see where everyone was going. He definitely was not in Kansas anymore.
I was fortunate that he invited me to join his assassination club. I still cherish the memories and the personalized books by the authors who signed, "any friend of Malcolms' is a friend of mine" on more than one occasion.
I've read a ton of assassination conspiracy books with the usual suspects. Anti-Castro Cuban Exiles. Castro. The Mafia. CIA. KGB. LBJ. All present compelling stories. Most are flawed. Some are believable. Others are unbelievable.
I've also ready many more books about the Kennedy assassination that Malcolm referred. Many of those books are signed by the authors to me. Some Malcolm bought for me. Some I bought for myself. They tell another side of a story that seems to have many multi-faceted sides.
And, for every book that supports the Warren Report, and has done a very thorough and persuasive job of convicting Lee Harvey Oswald in print for the trial he was never afforded, there are ten more websites that fan the flames of conspiracy lurking behind every link.
Which one passes your "smell test?"
Perhaps Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry summed it up best:
"Unanswered questions and puzzling evidence are not buried in irrelevant facts or answered by theory or conjecture. The events and evidence must be allowed to speak for themselves, and people must form their own conclusions."
After all is said and done, I don't have any idea who shot John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Single gunman? Synchronized assassination teams? Grassy Knoll ghosts? Storm drain snipers?
However, I was fortunate enough to know Malcolm Summers and hear his story first-hand. You might say, straight from the horses mouth. No pun intended.
I prefer his version. "A Hail of Bullets."