Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Did Lyndon Johnson order the Assassination of John Kennedy?

I recently read Madeline Duncan Brown’s autobiography, Texas in the Morning, about being Lyndon Baines Johnson’s mistress. Published in 1997, this book has been difficult to get and yet there is a high demand for it; it is a collectible and a good copy goes for $200, a reading copy for $100. I had a hard time finding the book; there was only one on Cal Poly’s entire intra-library loan network and it was checked out when I first found it. She had help writing it and so the prose is well done; she comes across as a credible witness regarding the inner workings of high Texas society, but she makes factual errors when she comments on national history or politics. There is also an hour and a half interview with Brown on the Internet at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6962062879996612313

I am still looking into whether or not Lyndon Baines Johnson ordered the plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy and so I was interested to read that Madeline Brown “attended a social” at rich oilman Clint Murchison’s home on November 21, 1963, the night before the assassination. It was a tribute to honor the long time head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover who was present along with his companion and assistant Clyde Tolson and many other elites including Richard Nixon, John McCloy, H.L. Hunt and of course Lyndon Johnson.

As soon as Johnson arrived he went “behind closed doors” with many of the important men. “A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, reappeared…Squeezing my hand so hard it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper—a quiet growl into my ear not a love message, but one I’ll always remember: ‘After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again—that’s no threat—that’s a promise.”[1]

Johnson was too busy to meet privately with Brown for one of their regular intimate sessions but he called her the next morning.

"It was evident that the tone of fury in his voice from last night had not dissipated. I had barely eked out the words, “About last night…” when his rage virtually went ballistic. His snarling voice jolted me as never before—“That son-of-a-bitch crazy Yarborough and that goddamn fucking Irish mafia bastard, Kennedy, will never embarrass me again!”[2]

A little while later she was on the phone with Jesse Kellam the manager of the Johnson family’s TV and radio station and also close confidant of Lyndon. Another of Kellam’s functions was to arrange meetings between Brown and Johnson. After making arrangements with Brown for a very brief sexual liaison with her lover she said, “Jesse, for any time I have with Lyndon, I’m grateful.’ Jesse added, ‘Lyndon is in a terrible mood, screaming about the Kennedys. All he can say is, ‘Those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again after today.’” Brown assured Kellam that she knew this but that “after my fifteen minutes with him, he’ll love the world!”[3]

This account of Johnson before the assassination shows that he was quite animated with the foreknowledge of President Kennedy’s imminent demise. Johnson obviously knew about the assassination ahead of time and he worked himself up in anger over his previous humiliations to help himself rationalize his part in the crime. What exactly was said at the closed meeting at Murchison’s house the night before? It seems implausible that the upcoming assassination was talked openly of in this meeting because in her Internet interview Brown lists many people who were in the meeting room: George W. Owens, John Currington, John J. McCloy, P. Charles Cabal, J. Edgar Hoover, George Brown, Richard Nixon, Amin Carter Jr., Earl Cabal, John Connolly, R. L. Thornton, Joe Yarlborough, W. O. Bangston, Clint Peoples, Bill Decker, Cliff Carter, Mac Wallace, Carlos Marcello, Joe Civello, Jack Ruby, Larry Campbell, Clint Murchison, H. L. Hunt, R. L. Sheffield.[4]

It makes the most sense to me that nothing was said openly about the assassination in that room. I find it hard to believe that both John Connolly, wounded in the front seat of Kennedy’s car, and Joe Yarlborough were also told of the impending assassination, and much less all these people. Remember, all we know is what Johnson said to Brown and Kellam after the meeting. Maybe Johnson found out about the assassination before the meeting, but something said in the meeting or shortly before put it on his mind. Maybe he ordered the plot and was just getting worked up as the time neared. Robert D. Morrow, former contract agent for the CIA wrote:

"It was from his good friend Hoover that Richard Nixon learned of the pending assassination. Interestingly, on the eve of the assassination, Hoover and Nixon attended a meeting together at the Dallas home of oil-baron Clint Murchison. Among the subjects discussed at this meeting were the political futures of Hoover and Nixon in the event President Kennedy was assassinated."[5]

So, perhaps there was a smaller meeting inside the room including Nixon, Hoover and Johnson. Morrow is not clear and he does not give his source for this information, but in his book he confesses to his part in the assassination and gives many details from first hand knowledge. I will source him more when I finally deliver my promised post where I will detail all the names of the involved in the plot and what their roles were.

Did Johnson order the plot or was he just privy to the plan? Even if he did not order it, he is guilty of knowing about it and not stopping it, even looking forward to it with relish. There is evidence that he did order the plot. Jack Ruby wrote while in prison that Johnson ordered the assassination.[6] E. Howard Hunt of Watergate fame made death-bed confessions to his son Saint John Hunt in 2007, in which he admitted his part in the plot and said that Johnson ordered the plot through long time CIA Cord Meyer.[7] Another man of Watergate fame, the attorney Douglass Caddy became the lawyer of Bille Sol Estes (Johnson’s business crony who made him illegal money) and wrote the Justice Department in 1984, in which he said that his client (Estes) was willing to testify that Johnson ordered the murder of JFK as well as many other people investigating Estes’ misdeeds.[8] Many people who threatened Johnson’s political career in Texas were murdered over the years, especially relating to the Estes scandal. Madeline Duncan Brown puts the count at 17 or 18.[9]

She relates one incident when her long time African-American nanny Dale Turner caught a glimpse of she and Johnson hugging in a hotel room with the door open. Johnson saw Dale see them and told Brown, “I’ll have Ragsdale replace her on Monday.” Despite Brown’s pleading Turner left work a few days later and never returned. Brown wrote that Turner, “disappeared without a trace. The boys cried for days. I notified the police, telephoned her family and friends—all to no avail. To this day, I have not seen or heard from Dale Turner. Never.”[10] In her 2006 interview she said that she believed Johnson had had her killed.

Shortly after the assassination, Madeleine Brown asked Lyndon Johnson why he sealed the records for 75 years. “He smiled his little boy smile and said humorously, ‘Remember Box 13?”[11] This of course was a reference to the 1948 senatorial election in Texas that was stolen for Johnson. It is interesting that Johnson compared the Kennedy Assassination to the stolen election of 1948. In the 1948 senate election, the vote was close and Johnson made frantic phone calls to the powerful South Texas political boss George Parr. Parr ordered the local election judge to make a vote “correction,” which threw the election to Johnson by only 87 votes. There was a long legal battle and the facts remained murky until the election judge, Luis Salas, confessed to doing it in court in 1977.[12] In this case, Johnson did not himself do the dirty deed, but he certainly pressured for it and in effect ordered it down through a political chain of command. So when Johnson answered Brown, “Remember Box 13,” was he saying to her that he ordered the Kennedy Assassination, but it was done by people way down below him in the authority chain?

Johnson was working against the Kennedys and in cooperation with the CIA from early in the Kennedy administration. Robert Morrow relates an incident in which he was shown a memo from Johnson to top CIA official Charles Cabal warning the CIA about Kennedy’s plan to replace them with the Defense Intelligence Agency after the Bay of Pigs disaster in April of 1961.[13] All through his vice presidential days, Johnson made regular reports to the CIA after his daily trips to the White House on the way to his office.

The threats to Kennedy’s life were well known to many people. All the democrats from Texas warned him against going to Dallas. Johnson was the only exception. He pushed hard for it.[14] Johnson had the most to gain from Kennedy’s death. In addition to retaining the presidency he could head off the Bobby Baker investigation that was on going in the Senate, which was sure to implicate him in corruption scandals with the mafia. It was a well known fact that the Kennedys were going to use this scandal as an excuse to drop him from the vice president position on the 1964 election ticket.[15]

Did Lyndon Baines Johnson order the assassination of President John F. Kennedy? You have read the evidence I have found. You decide. I would very much appreciate more evidence about this if any of you have it. My next post will be about who was part of the plot and what were their roles.

[1] Madeleine Duncan Brown, Texas in the Morning: The Love Story of Madeleine Brown and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, (Baltimore: The Conservatory Press, 1997), 166.
[2] Ibid, 167.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Robert Gaylon Ross Sr. interview with Madeleine Duncan Brown, August 31, 2006 at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6962062879996612313.
[5] Robert D. Morrow, First Hand Knowledge: How I Participated in the CIA-Mafia Murder of President Kennedy, (New York: S.P.I. Books, 1992), 195n.
[6] Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, (New York: Carroll & Graff Publishers, 1989), 430-431.
[7] Saint John Hunt, Bond of Secrecy, (Self Published, 2008), 51-54. Available on the web at http://www.saintjohnhunt.com/.
[8] Glen Sample and Mark Collom, The Men on the Sixth Floor, (Garden Grove, CA: Sample Graphics, 2003), 165-170.
[9] Gaylon interview with Brown.
[10] Brown, 133-134, 136-137.
[11] Ibid, 186.
[12] Marrs, 291-292.
[13] Morrow, 76-77.
[14] Joachim Joesten, The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson in the Assassination of President Kennedy, (Europe: Self Published,1967), 33-48.
[15] See Joesten, 22-27 for details Johnson’s vulnerability in the Bobby Baker scandal.