50 Years from that Fateful Day in Dallas...



By Martin J. Steadman


Zapruder Film



Fifty Years from that Fateful Day in Dallas



By Martin J. Steadman



        The murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 has been the subject of fierce debate ever since.  It didn’t have to be that way.  Long ago--when it happened--there should have been an exhaustive search for the truth about the assassination of the President, but there was not.


        As early as November 25, on the day the President was buried, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover and newly-sworn President Lyndon Johnson reached agreement to squelch widespread speculation that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted in concert with conspirators unknown.


        And of all the mysteries about the assassination that linger 50 years later, none is more baffling than the decision by Attorney General Robert Kennedy to distance himself and his Justice Department from the feeble inquiry that followed.


        The Johnson/Hoover deal to stifle speculation about the assassination of President Kennedy resulted in the appointment of a Presidential Commission to inquire into everything that happened on that weekend in Dallas.  The Blue Ribbon commission would be guided with a hastily prepared report from the FBI that said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and   no connection could be established between Oswald and the man who shot and killed him in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters two days later--Jack Ruby.


         That’s right.  The new President and the FBI Director made up their minds immediately that Oswald killed Kennedy, and Ruby killed Oswald, and case closed.


        The White House moved swiftly.  Within days President Johnson lined up the members of his Blue Ribbon panel, and on November 29 he signed an Executive Order creating the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.  Within seven days of the death of John Kennedy and five days of the murder of Lee Oswald, the White House had assembled an impressive group of national leaders headlined by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren.  The panel was charged with “finding the full facts of the case and reporting them, along with appropriate recommendations, to the American people.”

        Shortly after the announcement of the appointment of the Warren Commission the Associated Press sent a story on its national wire, reporting that a high-ranking official of the Justice Department said the murder of President Kennedy was the work of a lone assassin, and no evidence of a conspiracy had been found linking Oswald to Jack Ruby or anyone else.  The Associated Press at that time had my respect and admiration.  But that was the moment my illusions were forever shattered.  The AP was used and abused by the President and the Director of the FBI.


        I was in Dallas as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, there to inquire into the unanswered questions surrounding the shocking events of November 22-24.  On the morning of Monday, November 25, the Herald Tribune was holding its own high-level conference on what to do with its Investigative Unit--William Haddad, chief of the unit, and myself.   Haddad had been the best investigative reporter in New York City in the late 1950s, until he left the New York Post to work in the Kennedy for President campaign in 1960.  When John Kennedy was elected, Haddad became the first Inspector General of the Peace Corps.  But in September of 1963 he was lured away from government by the Herald Tribune to lead a newly-created Investigative Unit.  When the President was killed, I was Haddad’s second man, but I had a background that was a neat fit for this assignment.  When I worked at the old New York Journal-American I spent three years tracking a Senate investigation of labor racketeering that was driven by Chief Counsel Robert F. Kennedy. 


          Already the newspaper stories out of Dallas had identified Jack Ruby as a former organizer for the Waste Paper Handlers union in Chicago.   That one little sentence in a newspaper profile of Ruby hit me like a thunderclap because I was familiar with that Chicago union and its history.  The Waste Paper Handlers union was owned and operated by Paul Dorfman, Jimmy Hoffa’s partner in crime.  And Hoffa despised the Kennedy brothers, both of them.


         The Herald Tribune editors sent Haddad to Washington, where he would be at the nation’s listening post for everything that might break in the days ahead.  While Bob Kennedy and I knew each other from his labor racketeering investigation days, Haddad had a close personal relationship with him, and with others in the administration he had only recently left.  So it was Haddad to Washington and I would go to Dallas to scratch for any additional information I could find, and for good measure I would be in the right place at the right time if the FBI conducted one of its famous roundups of co-conspirators in the middle of the night.


          No one at the Herald Tribune that day could have known that while the paper was assigning its two investigative reporters to Washington and Dallas, the White House and the FBI had already closed the case.  One more time--they closed the case on the day the President was buried..  We knew nothing about a top-level, secret pact to close the case prematurely, and that surely was true in newsrooms all over America, and beyond.


         I spent 11 days in Dallas following the murder of President Kennedy, from November 26 to December 6, and I never wrote a word about my time there, mostly because I came home with no proof of anything conclusive about the unanswered questions-- many of which are still unanswered   I came home only with a deep, unsettling feeling that I was leaving Dallas too soon.


    But as the years go by, I believe I have an obligation to write some things that I feel strongly about, especially as November 22 approaches each year.  Every year since 1963,  I’ve been left with (a) major grievances against the highest-ranking people in our own government and (b) a haunting memory of a private interview with a doctor who attended the dying President, and (c) some bits and pieces of information that might help historians   to a consensus on what was most likely the case.   The official finding that Oswald acted alone is believed by almost no one today.














     The Warren Commission, guided by Hoover’s FBI, deliberately misled the American people.  Its conclusion that Oswald was the only person who could have fired off all three shots was demolished early on by Fred Cook, a truly great investigative reporter.  His painstakingly detailed reenactment of the series of shots at the Presidential limousine appeared in The Nation in 1966.  Cook was the first to identify Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter as a classic empty barrel.   Specter’s Magic Bullet theory that never happened should have disqualified him for any position in government to follow.  Fifteen years after the release of the Warren Commission Report a far more thorough investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations buried the findings of the Warren Commission forever on a shocking number of crucial points.  The House committee was chaired by Rep. Louis Stokes of Ohio, and its 1979 final report included a blistering denunciation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  A sampling of just some of its conclusions pulled no punches:


§         “The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President.”


§         “With an acute awareness of the significance of its finding, the committee concluded that the FBI’s investigation of whether there had been a conspiracy in President Kennedy’s assassination was seriously flawed.”


§         “The former Assistant Director, since deceased, who coordinated the FBI’s investigation characterized the effort in testimony before the Senate Select Committee with Respect to Intelligence Activities as rushed, chaotic and shallow, despite the enormity of paperwork that was generated.”


§         “The committee concluded that the FBI’s investigation into a conspiracy was deficient in the areas most worthy of suspicion--organized crime, pro- and anti-Castro Cubans, and the possible association of individuals from these areas with Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.  In those areas in particular, the committee found that the FBI’s investigation was in all likelihood insufficient to have uncovered a conspiracy.”


§         “The committee established that the FBI’s own Organized Crime and Mafia specialists were not consulted or asked to participate to any significant degree.  The Assistant Director who was in charge of the Organized Crime division--the Special Investigations Division--told the House committee, ‘They sure didn’t come to me…We had no part in that that I can recall.’”


§         “The committee further concluded that the critical early period of the FBI’s investigation was conducted in an atmosphere of considerable haste and pressure from Hoover to conclude the investigation in an unreasonably short period of time.”


         Final reports from Congressional committees don’t get any tougher than that.  Especially as they relate to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


         Beginning in late 1977, the House committee pieced together Jack Ruby’s connections to organized crime, something the FBI had brushed off and the Warren Commission simply ignored.  Incidentally, Chief Justice Earl Warren made a critical error at the outset of his assignment.  He decided the Warren Commission did not need investigators.  He assembled a staff of 14 lawyers and relied almost exclusively on the FBI for the investigative work.  He and his Commission did this with full knowledge the FBI had already given them a hastily prepared report—written before they even began-- that found no evidence of a conspiracy.  


         The investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was directed by G. Robert Blakey, whose first job in Washington after graduation from law school was with the Justice Department when Robert F. Kennedy was the Attorney General.  Blakey was assigned to the Organized Crime unit from 1960 to 1964.  Later he came back to Washington as Chief Counsel to the Senate Committee on Labor Racketeering, led by Arkansas Senator John McClellan. Fittingly, his four years with the Attorney General led him to Senator McClellan, whose committee in the late 1950s was driven by Chief Counsel Robert F. Kennedy through years of memorable exposes of union corruption.  Before he left that job and moved up and on, Bob Kennedy was a hands-on Chief Counsel, personally attending to many of the most critical moments in the committee’s long inquiry.  It was not unusual for him to take a committee staffer with him on a plane to anywhere, walk in on a suspected labor racketeer and begin the questioning before he sat down.  And he carried a Congressional subpoena in his pocket if the interview wasn’t going well.


        As chief counsel to the McClellan Committee, Kennedy relentlessly pursued both Jimmy Hoffa and Paul Dorfman, and the sweetheart deal they had reached.  Dorfman gave Hoffa the Mob Muscle he needed to consolidate his growing power in the Teamster hierarchy, and in return Dorfman’s stepson Allen was given control of investments by the massive pension funds of the Central States Conference of Teamsters.  The Dorfmans, father and stepson, made millions on the arrangement, and to this day no one knows how much of that money was shared with their partners in crime.  Paul Dorfman, remember, ran the Chicago racket union where Jack Ruby served his apprenticeship.  Dorfman’s own apprenticeship was served with the notorious Al Capone.  And with Capone gone, Paul Dorfman was still hand-in-glove with the new bosses of the Chicago Mob.  If anyone was wondering where Hoffa’s Mob Muscle came from, it came from way back in America’s most corrupt city, then and now--Chicago.


        Teamster leader James R. Hoffa despised Bob Kennedy, which was well known at the time.  Hoffa also hated John F. Kennedy, who sat in on the McClellan Committee hearings as a Senator from Massachusetts..  How deep did the hatred go?  Bob Kennedy wrote a book (The Enemy Within) about his experiences in that long investigation, and here is his own account:


         “In the most remarkable of all my exchanges with Jimmy Hoffa,” Kennedy wrote, “not a word was said.  I called it ‘the look.’  It was to occur fairly often, but the first time I observed it was on the last day of the 1957 hearings.  During the afternoon I noticed that he was glaring at me across the counsel table with a deep, strange, penetrating expression of intense hatred.  I suppose it must have dawned on him about that time that he was going to be a subject of a continuing probe—that we were not playing games.  It was the look of a man obsessed by his enmity, and it came particularly from his eyes.  There were times when his face seemed completely transfixed with this stare of absolute evilness.  It might last for five minutes—as if he thought that by staring long enough and hard enough he could destroy me.  Sometimes he seemed to be concentrating so hard that I had to smile, and occasionally I would speak of it to an assistant counsel sitting behind me.  It must have been obvious to him that we were discussing it, but his expression would not change by a flicker.


         “During the 1958 hearings, from time to time, he directed the same shriveling look at my brother.  And now and then, after a protracted, particularly evil glower, he did a most peculiar thing:  he would wink at me.  I can’t explain it.  Maybe a psychiatrist would recognize the symptoms.”


        Now in 1963, several years after he experienced and then wrote those words, Bob Kennedy was burying his brother, but across Washington at the Teamster Headquarters Building the American flag was still flying at full staff.  Everywhere else in the nation the flags had been lowered to half staff, but Hoffa ordered the flag atop the Teamster building should not be lowered to honor the dead President.


         On the plane from New York to Dallas, I thought I would come upon a beehive of law enforcement activity in Dallas.  I knew immediately what Attorney General Robert Kennedy must have been thinking.  He had to be looking at the Paul Dorfman/Jack Ruby connection.  He put in years of his life chasing down Hoffa.  I imagined law enforcement was turning Jack Ruby upside down, inside out and every way but loose on his connections to Hoffa, Dorfman and the Chicago mob.  I’m still stunned by how little interest J. Edgar Hoover had in following leads or suspicions President Kennedy had been killed by his most hate-driven enemies in Organized Crime. 


        Consider the blizzard of long-distance telephone calls unleashed by Ruby in the three weeks prior to the assassination.  Blakey and his House Committee found a Dallas newspaper item dated April 24. 1963 that quoted Vice President Johnson saying President Kennedy might visit Dallas and other major Texas cities that summer.  The House Committee pieced together all of Ruby’s toll calls from his apartment and five office phones in his two night clubs, and a pattern emerged:  Ruby’s long-distance calls increased significantly in the months leading up to the assassination—from less than 10 calls in March (before the alert that Texas might be the place to strike) to 25 to 35 calls a month in May, June, July, August and September.  The Presidential trip to Texas was officially confirmed by the White House in September and Ruby’s long-distance calls reached 75 in October and 96 toll calls in the first three weeks of November.  In his book “Fatal Hour,” Chief Counsel Blakey wrote, “It was perhaps more significant that we discovered a pattern of telephone calls to individuals with criminal affiliations, calls that could only be described as suspicious.”


         Suspicious?  How about stunningly suspicious?  Many of Ruby’s frenetic phone calls were to associates of Organized Crime chieftains Santo Trafficante and Carlos Marcello, and ultimately to a very close associate of Jimmy Hoffa--two such calls in November were to Robert “Barney” Baker, Hoffa’s notorious strong-arm man for many years.  At one point in testimony before the HSCA, Baker said there was “nobody closer to Jimmy Hoffa” than himself.  Baker was a 320-pound gorilla whose dearest friends were ruthless killers.  He appeared before the McClellan Committee in 1958 and an exchange with Chief Counsel Robert Kennedy says all you need to know about Barney Baker.  He was asked about the killing of Anthony Hintz, a famous New York gangland murder case in 1947.  How famous was it?  After the legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan won convictions in the case, corruption on the New York City piers captured the attention of a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the World Telegram and the writers and producers of the Academy Award winning movie, “On the Waterfront.”


        District Attorney Hogan was later on top of a gangland attempt by Hoffa to gain control of the New York metropolitan area of the Teamsters Joint Council.  Some of the most notorious New York racketeers were issued phantom Teamster Local Union charters to cast enough votes to remove the incumbents and replace them with Hoffa supporters.  Hogan’s expose opened the door for Senator McClellan and his Committee to set up shop in the Federal Courthouse in New York City and splash that outrage all over newspapers across the country.  District Attorney Hogan assisted Chief Counsel Robert Kennedy every step of the way.  Why is that important to note here?  It was District Attorney Frank Hogan’s findings that led to my assignment to cover the McClellan Committee..  But here is that memorable exchange between Kennedy and Barney Baker:


Mr. Kennedy:    Do you know Cockeye Dunn?


Mr. Baker:         I don’t know him as Cockeye Dunn.  I knew him as John Dunn.


Mr. Kennedy:    Where is he now?


Mr. Baker:         He has met his maker.


Mr. Kennedy:    How did he do that?


Mr. Baker:         I believe through electrocution in the City of New York of the State of New            York.


Mr. Kennedy:    Did you know “Squint” Sheridan?


Mr. Baker:        Mr. Sheridan, sir?  He also has met his maker.


Mr. Kennedy:    How did he die?


Mr. Baker:        With Mr. John Dunn.


Mr. Kennedy:    He was electrocuted?


Mr. Baker:        Yes, sir.


Mr. Kennedy:    He was also a friend of yours?


Mr. Baker:         Yes, he was a friend of mine.


       Chief Counsel Kennedy then asked Baker about a third man involved in the killing of Anthony Hintz, a gangster named Danny Gentile.


Mr. Kennedy:    Where is he now?


Mr. Baker:         I don’t know where he could be now—excuse me.  I believe he was implicated in a certain case in New York.  He must be in jail. 


Mr. Kennedy:    That was the Hintz killing.  You see we have testimony that you were closely associated with these people, Mr. Baker.


Mr. Baker:         Yes, I knew them real well.   


         For good measure, Baker testified he knew a number of other underworld luminaries, such as Joe Adonis, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Trigger Mike Coppola and Vincent Alo, (also known as Jimmy Blue Eyes) who was identified as a close friend of Cockeye Dunn at the trial.   Ten years or so after the Hintz murder, when I was a young reporter at the Journal-American, a veteran NYPD detective told me Vincent Alo was the new Boss of Bosses in New York City..  That would be circa 1958.  Shortly thereafter, when Barney Baker’s testimony before the McClellan Committee included Jimmy Blue Eyes in his galaxy of underworld associates, that got my attention.  


        Hoffa took the witness stand immediately following Baker’s appearance, and after saying Barney Baker “works under my direct orders,” Hoffa was asked if Baker’s testimony that he associated with killers, gangsters, gamblers, racketeers, traffickers in narcotics and human flesh bothered him at all. The response was typical Jimmy Hoffa.


         “I am sure, hearing him testify here that he knew every one of them…it doesn’t disturb me one iota.”


        I’m focusing on Jack Ruby’s phone calls to Barney Baker shortly before the assassination of President Kennedy (two of dozens of such calls Ruby made to known racketeer enemies of the Kennedy brothers) because those lengthy conversations between Baker and Ruby two weeks before the President was murdered should have set off loud alarms in law enforcement circles immediately.  For emphasis--Immediately.  Repeat--Right Now, Stupid.  


        Barney Baker called Jack Ruby from Chicago on November 7, 1963.  The call lasted 17 minutes.  One day later, on November 8, Ruby called him back and the second call lasted 14 minutes.  In a deposition taken by the HSCA on May 23, 1978, Baker swore he never heard of Jack Ruby until Ruby called him.  Baker testified Ruby left a message with his wife and his November 7 call to Ruby was a returned call.  But no record could be found by the House Committee of an initial call by Ruby.  As for the two long conversations, Baker testified he never asked Ruby for anything,  Ruby merely wanted his assistance in “settling a union dispute” Ruby was having with his dancers, who were members of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).  But Baker said he was on probation for five years following a federal conviction and jail time, and he couldn’t get involved in labor-management disputes.  As for the call from Ruby that lasted 14 minutes the next day, Baker said Ruby asked him for names of people Baker knew who might be of help to him in Dallas.  Baker said he told Ruby he didn’t have any names for him.  You be the judge.  The first call lasted 17 minutes and the second call lasted 14 minutes.  Baker said neither man knew each other before the calls.  He said Ruby was asking him for help but he couldn’t help him.  Baker said that was the sum and substance of two calls that totaled more than a half hour.  And both calls were two weeks in advance of the President’s trip to Dallas.


         Baker was under oath, but he had a comfort level against a possible perjury charge--when he was interviewed by the HSCA in 1978 Ruby had been dead for 1l years.  But that brings us to how the Warren Commission handled the same telephone log information 14 years earlier, when Ruby was in custody and still alive.  Baker wasn’t interviewed by the FBI until January 3, 1964, six weeks after the President was murdered.  Whatever he told the FBI, there is no record the FBI passed the information along to the Warren Commission.  The HSCA addressed this God-awful lapse bluntly: “Baker had been under prior investigation by the FBI and was considered a hoodlum with organized crime and Teamster connections.  The FBI and the Warren Commission failed to investigate any possible connections between Baker’s associates and associates of Jack Ruby.”


         Another of the suspicious phone calls was to Irwin Weiner, a notorious money man for the Teamsters and the Mob.  Weiner wrote bonds for huge loans from the Central States Conference of Teamsters (Hoffa) to mob-connections in Florida and Las Vegas.  He was a boyhood friend and close associate of Paul Dorfman, Hoffa’s partner in crime.   Long after, in 1983,  Paul Dorfman’s stepson Allen Dorfman was gunned down by two hit men who pumped seven bullets into him.  He and Weiner were walking to lunch in a Chicago hotel but the gunmen weren’t interested in killing Weiner.   All seven shots were aimed at Allen Dorfman.  Weiner was a Chicago-based bail bondsman, with a long record of posting bail and writing bonds for individuals and entities that walked on the wrong side of the law.  But he hit the jackpot when he teamed up with the Dorfmans and Hoffa.  He was a boyhood friend of Earl Ruby, and knew his brother Jack, but to a lesser extent.  The October 26, 1963 phone call from Jack Ruby lasted 12 minutes, and when Weiner was grilled by the House committee 14 years after the assassination, he had the same protection against a perjury rap enjoyed by Barney Baker because Jack Ruby was long dead.  Weiner was closely tied to Paul and Allen Dorfman in lucrative business deals with the Teamsters union and mob figures in Chicago, Florida, New Orleans and Las Vegas, and anywhere in between.


                So when he testified at the HSCA many years after the phone call, Weiner adopted the same line Barney Baker used--he testified Ruby called to ask him to write a bond that Ruby needed to bring an injunction against the American Guild of Variety Artists, and Weiner told him he didn’t want to get involved in a Texas matter, far from his Chicago office.  That alibi was so unbelievable that Members of the Congress on the committee took turns telling Weiner they didn’t believe him.  Were there no insurance agencies in Dallas to write a routine bond in a very small legal matter?  Did Ruby never do business with insurance agencies in Dallas during many years of operating night clubs and occasionally suffering misdemeanor arrests of his own?  Did it take Weiner 12 minutes to tell Ruby he couldn’t get involved?  Ruby was calling Weiner in Chicago for the first time in years, and it was all about a minor problem easily handled in Dallas?  Jack Ruby’s toll calls in the weeks and months before the assassination of the President, to the people who hated the Kennedys the most, were mostly ignored by the FBI following the death of the President, and later by the Warren Commission—all of it a terrible stain on the history of the assassination of a President.







 Robert F. Kennedy




                  J. Edgar Hoover






        When President Johnson and FBI Director Hoover agreed on the appointment of the Warren Commission and immediately provided the fledgling committee with an FBI report that said there was no conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the Justice Department were cut out of the loop.  The FBI works for the Attorney General, but in this case President Johnson decreed that Hoover would report FBI findings directly to the Warren Commission.  The net effect was to muzzle all the talent and expertise of the Justice Department, including their power to convene grand juries.   The nullification of Bob Kennedy’s Justice Department was deliberate and to this day I can’t get my mind around the enormity of that decision and Robert Kennedy’s acceptance of it.


         It wasn’t just Barney Baker and Irwin Weiner.  Many of Ruby’s toll calls were placed to associates of two major Organized Crime chieftains that controlled the South and Southwest--Santo Trafficante of Tampa, Florida, and Carlos Marcello of New Orleans.  Attorney General Kennedy had built a ferocious team of attorneys and investigators assigned to the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.  Between 1960 and 1964, the number of attorneys assigned to the Section grew from 17 to 63.  The crusade began with a list of 40 gangland figures and interestingly, the two names targeted in the South were Trafficante and Marcello.  They were charter members of the nation’s worst career criminals on Bob Kennedy’s earliest Organized Crime list.


        By 1964 that initial list of 40 had grown to 2,300 Organized Crime figures and 175,000 profiles in the Justice Department’s master file on U. S. racketeers and their associates.  When President Johnson ordered the FBI to report directly to the Warren Commission, all of that Organized Crime and Racketeering Section talent and expertise and database knowledge was bypassed and ignored--all of it deemed to be of no use to the Warren Commission.   How effective had Bob Kennedy’s war on the mob been?  The number of indicted individuals rose five-fold, from 121 in 1961, to 615 in 1963.  Carlos Marcello was one of them, indicted multiple times.


        Carlos Marcello had another, more personal reason to want either or both of the Kennedy brothers dead.  On April 4, 1961, Bob Kennedy ordered U. S. marshals to arrest Marcello, load him on a plane and dump him in Guatemala with just the clothes on his back and whatever cash he had in his pockets.  Members of his family quickly dispatched an attorney and clothes and money and his Guatemala passport (his only passport) and the New Orleans Mafia chieftain and his lawyer spent a harrowing two months scrambling around Central America in a desperate effort to return to the United States.  Guatemala officials were embarrassed by his sudden appearance and the way it had been done, so they ordered their own troops to dump him again in a jungle village in El Salvador.


         El Salvador wasn’t happy with the lawyer and his client either.  The two were jailed for five days before soldiers put Marcello and the attorney on a bus and drove them 20 miles deeper into the mountains and left them off.  The two men walked for eight hours before they reached a village, and at one point Marcello fell down a hill and broke two ribs.  Marcello later reported he fainted three times during the long hike.


         Eventually the two wanderers made contact with Guatemalan officials again and this time things went a little more smoothly.  Actually, this time they got the red carpet treatment.  Marcello and his lawyer were flown on a Guatemala Air Force plane to Miami, where he reentered the U. S. on June 2, 1961.  Seventeen years later, appearing in closed session before the HSCA, he was still angry:


         “Two marshals put the handcuffs on me and they told me I was being kidnapped and being brought to Guatemala….and in thirty minutes…I was in the plane…They dumped me off in Guatemala…They just snatched me, and that is it, actually kidnapped me!”  Writing in his book Fatal Hour, Chief Counsel Blakey said Marcello explicitly fixed the responsibility for his deportation:  “(Kennedy) said…he would see that I be deported just as soon as he got in office.  Well he got in office January 20…and April the 4th he deported me.”


         Attorney General Robert Kennedy was just getting warmed up when his marshals flew Marcello out of the country.  Six days later the Internal Revenue Service filed an $835,000 tax lien against Mr. and Mrs. Marcello, and less than a week after he returned to the U. S., on June 8, 1961 a federal grand jury in New Orleans indicted him for illegal re-entry into the United States.  Four months after that Robert Kennedy had him indicted again for defrauding the United States with a false Guatemalan birth certificate.  But every charge brought against Marcello in the federal courts ultimately failed.  He was found not guilty in one trial and other indictments collapsed when witnesses changed their minds and their testimony.    


         Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was a trusted friend of the Kennedy family, and on the night of December 9, 1963 he was visiting with Bob Kennedy at his home in Virginia.  Schlesinger later wrote a book of his own, Robert Kennedy and His Times, and in it he wrote of the night when he asked Kennedy “What about Oswald?” 


          “There could be no serious doubt that Oswald was guilty,” Kennedy replied.  “But there was still argument if he had done it by himself or as part of a larger plot, whether organized by Castro or gangsters.”


          That conversation was less than three weeks after the assassination, and if at that moment Bob Kennedy knew Jack Ruby had telephone contacts with  Barney Baker and Weiner and associates of Trafficante and Marcello in the weeks before his brother was murdered, that almost certainly would have spurred the Attorney General into action of some sort   Bob Kennedy knew Baker from personal experience and his band of brothers at the Justice Department knew all of the gangland players identified years later by the House Select Committee.  If they knew Jimmy Hoffa’s closest associates were in Jack Ruby’s November telephone records, along with known associates of Trafficante and Marcello, Robert Kennedy and his Justice Department could not have remained silent.


         Which raises another question that is so difficult to comprehend.  How could all of that talent and knowledge and experience at Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department have been silenced for the 10 months the Warren Commission conducted its inquiry?  Initially, Bob Kennedy removed himself from the events that followed the assassination of his brother, on the grounds that it would not seem proper for him to lead the investigation.  But he and his powerful Organized Crime strike force accepted the role of unconcerned spectators totally.   At no time from the murder in Dallas to the issuance of the Warren Commission Report 10 months later was the Justice Department a factor in the process.  What the hell happened then and thereafter?






        When the FBI quickly leaked its conclusions that Oswald acted alone and Ruby killed Oswald to avenge the murder of the President, much of the air went out of my Dallas assignment to pursue the unanswered questions.  But there were still some important stories to cover.  Texas Governor John Connally was still in Parkland Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds.  A superb television reporter, Martin Agronsky, was selected as the pool reporter to interview Governor Connally when he was well enough to speak about the shots fired into the Presidential limousine that fateful day.  Nellie Connally was present at her husband’s hospital bedside.  All the other reporters were gathered in a makeshift hospital press room downstairs and I called my office in New York to tell them to turn on the TV and have a reporter ready with a tape recorder for the Governor Connally interview.


         Agronsky’s interview remains a classic instruction for young journalism aspirants everywhere.  Always sensitive, always conscious of the Governor’s condition and his wife’s concerns, always aware that the Governor and his wife were wounded witnesses to history, Agronsky’s interview nevertheless documented the horrifying moments in the rear seats of an open limousine in Dallas that can never be fully explained or forgotten.  Agronsky and the reporters downstairs hanging on every word by Governor Connally, had no idea that the Governor’s recollections of what happened that day would conflict with the conclusions of the Warren Commission a year later.  Somehow, Governor Connally’s most critical moments meant nothing at all to the Warren Commission.  His recollections didn’t fit their findings.


         I had been elsewhere scrounging for any scrap of information missed by the first wave of reporters to descend on Dallas and when I got to Parkland Hospital just in time to learn that the Agronsky interview would be taking place upstairs, I missed the briefing that instructed the pool reporters that the TV interview would be embargoed for an hour to give the reporters assembled downstairs time to file. I alerted my newsroom and  I took only a few sketchy notes as Agronsky worked his deft touch, believing the interview was going live around the world and I was covered by my newsroom back in New York City, capturing every word. 


        The interview over, I called my office and said, “Okay.  Did you get all that?”


          “Get all what?” was the answer.  “We don’t have anything.”


         Oh, no.  My first solid story down there, and all I had was sketchy notes.  A Dallas reporter told me what I hadn’t heard sooner--the Connally TV interview was on a one-hour delay.  The Herald Tribune City Desk put a rewrite man on the phone with me, and I was bumbling and stumbling through what I could recall when he told me the wire services were beginning to come through with bulletins on the story.  Fortunately, we weren’t anywhere near deadline and the wire copy and the delayed TV broadcast bailed me out.  The Herald Tribune story for the next day was as complete as could be, with little or no help from me.


         I felt like a dope, but the paper put my byline on the story and nobody gave me any more grief than I had already taken upon myself.


         After that incident, I told the City Desk there was too much happening in Dallas and if I was ever going to wrap up some loose ends on the investigative assignment, we needed another guy down there.  They gave me the best reporter I could hope for--Fred Ferretti. 


         There were no more glitches, and when Ferretti arrived a day later I was pretty much free to roam again.  In fact, there were occasions when I wanted Fred to accompany me.  One such memorable evening was an interview with Dr. Malcolm Perry at his home.  Dr. Perry was among the team of doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital when a mortally wounded President Kennedy was rushed into Emergency Room One.


          The meeting with Dr. Perry occurred the evening of December 2.  Fred and I were joined by Stan Redding, a first-class crime reporter for the Houston Chronicle.  I’d taken a liking to Redding as soon as I met him; he was my kind of reporter.  Speculation and suspicion and insinuation were never part of his game.  He was interested in facts, only facts.  But he was a keen political observer as well as a seasoned police reporter.  It was no secret in Texas that the President and the First Lady had come to their state because Texas polls showed Kennedy was in trouble for re-election in 1964.  Arizona GOP Senator Barry Goldwater held a comfortable lead, despite the fact Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was a Texan.  And the Goldwater edge in the polls also applied to other states in the South and Southwest at that time.  Stan Redding spoke softly when he allowed an opinion, but I’ll never forget what he said:  “Those three bullets shot Barry Goldwater right out of the saddle.”  He was noting that Texan Lyndon Johnson was now the President, and Senator Goldwater would be matched against a man of the South in the new polls.  How bright was Redding’s political crystal ball in November 1963?  Johnson led Barry Goldwater in the first wave of new national polls, and Johnson buried Goldwater in November 1964, in a landslide.    


          Our meeting with Dr. Perry was after dinnertime at his home, and I remember a little girl playing with her toys on the living room floor as the three reporters and her father talked about how he tried to save a President’s life.  She was oblivious to the gravity of the conversation, playing quietly with her toys throughout.


        Dr. Perry had become a controversial figure in the assassination story--to his dismay.  With the President lying on his back on a gurney, fighting for breath in his dying moments, Dr. Perry tried to create an air passage with an incision across what he believed to be an entrance wound at the front of Kennedy’s neck.  The President was pronounced dead soon after, but the doctor’s incision at the throat had forever foreclosed a conclusion that the wound was an entrance wound or an exit wound.


         Late that Friday afternoon, the Parkland Hospital officials held a news conference for the hundreds of reporters who had descended on Dallas.  Dr. Perry spoke of his efforts to save the President and his belief that his incision was across an entrance wound.  The controversy didn’t erupt until government officials in Washington later said all three shots at the President had been fired from a sixth floor window of a building behind the President’s limousine.


        So little more than a week later, three reporters were speaking quietly to the surgeon at the center of the dispute.  As far as I know, it was the first and only such private interview with Dr. Perry.  None of us in his living room that night took out a notebook or a pencil.  It was a conversation with a clearly reluctant surgeon who had done his best in a crisis and who had agonized about it since.


          Dr. Perry said he believed it was an entrance wound because the small circular hole was clean, with no edges.  In the course of the conversation, he was asked and answered that he had treated hundreds of gunshot victims in the Emergency Rooms at Parkland Memorial Hospital.   At another point he said he was a hunter by hobby, and he was very familiar with guns and ammunition.  He said he could tell at a glance the difference between an entrance wound and an exit wound with its ragged edges.


         But he told us that throughout that night, he received a series of phone calls to his home from irate doctors at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where an autopsy was being conducted, and the doctors there were becoming increasingly frustrated with his belief that it was an entrance wound.  He said they asked him if the doctors in Dallas had turned the President over and examined the wounds to his back; he said they had not.   They told him he could not be certain of his conclusion if he had not examined the wounds in the President’s back.  They said Bethesda had the President’s body and Dallas did not.  They told Dr. Perry he must not continue to say he cut across what he believed to be an entrance wound when there was no evidence of shots fired from the front.  When he said again he could only say what he believed to be true, one or more of the autopsy doctors told him they would take him before a Medical Board if he continued to insist on what they were certain was otherwise.  They threatened his license to practice medicine, Dr. Perry said.


        When he was finished, there was only one question left.  I asked him if he still believed it was an entrance wound.  The question hung there for a long moment.


         “Yes,” he said.


        Ultimately Dr. Perry appeared as a witness before the Warren Commission.  In substance he testified that he realized he had no proof the bullet hole in the President’s neck was an entrance wound, and he conceded that the Bethesda doctors who autopsied the President would know better because they had all of the forensic evidence and he had but a fleeting recollection. 


         I can’t fault Dr. Perry for his testimony before the Warren Commission.  Surely it occurred to him there was no point in holding out for a belief that couldn’t be proved.  And just as surely, this 34-year-old surgeon with an exemplary record and a brilliant future knew his life would be forever shadowed by conspiracy theories that relied heavily on a bullet fired from the front.  He testified only as he most certainly had to testify.  But I’ll never forget what he said to three reporters that night in Dallas.


        The interview in Dr. Perry’s living room was the most memorable moment, but there were other disturbing bits and pieces of information from my time in Dallas.




         Oswald shot the President and he dropped his rifle and beat it out of the School Book Depository building.  He got on a bus to his rented room in a Dallas suburb, but the bus got stuck in a traffic jam around the Presidential motorcade route.  He got off the bus and found a taxi that took him to his room at 1026 North Beckley Street, in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas.  Once there, he picked up a jacket and a pistol and headed south along North Beckley to East 10th Street, where he made a left turn.


         A police car driven by Officer J. D. Tippett pulled alongside Oswald and Tippett told him to stop right there.  The police radios had been crackling with alerts about a lone gunman since the firing on the Presidential motorcade.  The officer got out and was headed around the front of his car to question Oswald, who pulled his pistol and fired several shots across the hood of the car, killing Officer Tippett instantly.  Oswald turned and ran back toward North Beckley.  People in the area heard the shots and came running into the street.  Someone called the police and several people tried to follow Oswald from a safe distance.  The gunman turned left on North Beckley and right on East Jefferson Blvd and onto West Jefferson running in and out of store doorways as patrol car sirens wailed from every direction.  He finally ducked into the Texas Theatre.  The ticket booth attendant told the police a guy ran right in without paying, and when the movie theatre lights were turned up, there he was in an almost empty theatre, pistol in hand and ready to shoot again if he could.  No chance.  One of the cops pistol-whipped him in the head, and he was quickly subdued and cuffed.     


        But where was Oswald going on foot when Officer Tippett pulled alongside and stopped him?  Where was the killer going on foot?  He had to be going somewhere, and on foot.  That question is rarely asked and has never been answered.  He wasn’t going to the Texas theatre for a movie; when he turned left off North Beckley he was walking in the opposite direction from the Texas theatre..  He wasn’t in a car, a taxi, or a bus, or a trolley—he was walking.  A week later I drove around that neighborhood, speaking to some of the residents.  One of the foreign reporters assigned to Dallas told me Jack Ruby lived in a nearby apartment.  I found Ruby’s apartment complex in a cul-de-sac seven blocks away from where Officer Tippett was killed.  I knocked on some doors and rang some bells in the complex and in the nearby one and two-family houses, but no one knew of any unusual activity in the neighborhood that would be of interest.  The superintendent of the complex, a woman, told me she never saw Lee Harvey Oswald there.  I can’t say I was able to interview everyone in the area.  It was hit or miss; some people weren’t home, and some people wouldn’t open their doors to me.  The one thing I learned for sure was that no one in law enforcement had canvassed the neighborhood; the people I spoke with told me so.  The FBI and the Dallas police and the Texas Rangers should have blanketed the area, searching for information of any importance.  Silly me. 


         When Fred Ferretti arrived to join me, I thought it might be worthwhile to return to Oak Cliff and pick up Oswald’s walk from where he was stopped by Officer Tippett, and on to where Ruby lived.  Maybe I missed something the first time, something we might get with another try.  Maybe Fred and I would find someone who knew something of interest, but it was another failed effort and we didn’t.  We did go somewhat further than I had on the first trip though.  Behind the garden apartment complex where Ruby lived was a major Texas highway running north and south with a six-foot wire fence on a divider down the middle of the highway.  The highway, with its divider, fenced off that entire residential area and made the cul-de-sac where Ruby lived a dead end for anyone on foot.  No overpass or underpass across the highway.   It was seven blocks to Ruby’s place and nowhere to go beyond it.      


        The House Select Committee on Assassinations turned up some fascinating coincidences that, taken together, prove nothing except Dallas at that time was a small world.   Rep .Stokes reported that three Dallas police officers moved into the apartment adjacent to Ruby’s apartment.  They moved in on September 1, 1963 and moved out on October 15, 1963.  And when a combo debuted at Ruby’s Carousel Club on September 1, 1963, two of the three musicians, William Simmons (piano) and Bill Willis (drums) rented a house at 2530 West 5th Street, in Irving, Texas.   Across the street, at 2515 West 5th Street, lived Mrs. Ruth Paine, who had taken in Marina Oswald and her two children.  Husband Lee Oswald lived in a boarding house in Oak Cliff, but he visited his wife and children on weekends.  Oswald visited his family Thursday night before the day President Kennedy died..  Oswald was there to pick up his rifle, which he had kept in Mrs. Paine’s garage.  Small world Dallas was, and I still would like to know where Oswald was going on foot the next day.   He was walking directly toward Ruby’s place when Officer Tippitt stopped him.  Let’s stay with that for a moment.   Oswald walked south along North Beckley until he turned left on East 10th Street.  That turn eliminated any possible destinations to the north, the south and the west.  And now it was only seven blocks east to Ruby’s apartment complex. That small world in Dallas just got a lot smaller.  His destination could only be in the seven blocks between Officer Tippitt’s dead body and Ruby’s apartment.   


         As I said before, I never wrote anything about my time in Dallas.  The Herald Tribune editors were good about it.  I told them I didn’t have anything solid to report--just a whole lot of suspicion--and I didn’t think the Herald Tribune wanted to add to the confusion and conspiracy theories that were already beginning to surface.  I also believed then that ultimately the Warren Commission would report every detail of an exhaustive investigation.  The reason I’m writing all this now is for my wish for the permanent record to show that the investigation of the crime of the century was sabotaged at its start.  We did not get an honest investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy from our vaunted FBI and the Warren Commission.  Instead we got a cynical political decision to close the case prematurely. 


          Many years later the House Select Committee on Assassinations was able to gain access to some of J. Edgar Hoover’s personal files for those days immediately following the murder of President Kennedy.  Here are a few revealing segments:


         November 24, 1963.  In a telephone conversation with President Johnson only hours after Jack Ruby killed Oswald, Hoover said, “The thing I am most concerned about…is having something issued so that we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”


         November 26, 1963.  Hoover received a memo from an Assistant Director that warned,  “…we must recognize that a matter of this magnitude cannot be fully investigated in a week’s time.”  The House committee said Hoover jotted his reply on the memo and sent it back to his assistant.    Indicating his impatience he wrote, “Just how long do you estimate it will take?  It seems to me we have the basic facts now.”


         My own assignment in Dallas ended because Hoover leaked a story on December 1 that Oswald was the lone assassin and Ruby didn’t know Oswald.  I called my City Desk when I read that Associated Press story out of Washington in the Dallas papers.


“Who is the high- ranking person in the Justice Department who gave the AP that story?” I asked Murray “Buddy” Weiss, the City Editor of the Herald Tribune.


        “J. Edgar Hoover,” he said.


        “How do we know?”


        “Our Washington Bureau says so.”


        “Well, I guess there isn’t going to be an FBI roundup of conspirators,” I said.


        “Doesn’t look like it,” Buddy said.  “How much longer are you going to be down there?  Fred can handle it if you think you should come home.”


        “I have a couple of things still bothering me.  Give me a couple more days.”


         “Okay, but if you think you’re spinning your wheels down there, pack it in and come back.”


     I’ve often wondered how many more reporters were ordered home from Dallas following that Justice Department leak to the Associated Press.  Virtually all that I know now was learned since, as we finally got an honest effort from the Stokes Committee.  And all these many years later, I still wonder how Attorney General Robert Kennedy felt as President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover torpedoed a thorough investigation as President Kennedy was being lowered into his grave. 



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