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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Clay Shaw's Attorneys Rebut the Clinton Witnesses

New Orleans States-Item, October 7, 1963

Because there was no discovery in Louisiana courts in 1969, Clay Shaw's attorneys did not have access to Garrison's investigative reports on the Clinton/Jackson witnesses. So, they were not aware of the various inconsistencies these reports (to be examined in a future post). However, they were able to show exactly why it was extremely improbable that Clay Shaw was in the Clinton area in late August or early September of 1963.

The late summer and early fall of 1963 was an extremely busy time for Clay Shaw. His team was finalizing leases for the new International Trade Mart -- the only way they could float some bonds to finance the building was to have the leases in place for the New York investment bankers.

Did Shaw have time to take off one day, let alone three, to drive Oswald and Ferrie to Clinton and Jackson? Let's have a look at some of the testimony from Shaw's trial.

Mr. Dymond: Now, during the months of August, September and October 1963 was there anything unusual going on in connection with the new Trade Mart Building.

Mr. Cobb: We think it was unusual.

Mr. Dymond: Will you please describe that.

Mr. Cobb: About June, about July 1963 this financing contract was entered into between the International Trade Mart and Bloomfield Building Industries, which later built the building, and Blyth & Company for the sale of bonds to finance the new 33-story structure and the contract provided that the closing date would be October 8, 1963, a period of 90 days.

During that time the Trade Mart was under the obligation when the bonds were to be issued to do many things, one of which was to get bonafide leases to support the bond issue. The bond issue was to be for $12,800,000.00 and it was necessary to inaugurate a crash campaign to get leases from tenants, which leases were to produce $1,425,000 as I recall it, gross annual rental to support the $12,800,000.00 bond issue, and the bond issue ultimately concluded on October 10, 1963 in New York.

Mr. Dymond: Now during the say three months preceding October '63, did Mr. Shaw have any duties in connection with the negotiating of these leases for the proposed Trade Mart?

Mr. Cobb: Well, as I have described it, it was a crash operation and as President of the International Trade Mart, and the man responsible for putting the deal together and bringing about the issuance of the bonds to make the Trade Mart possible, it was my responsibility to delegate work, and the work load of obtaining the leases was delegated to Mr. Shaw for many reasons There was about 40 or 44 foreign consuls here in New Orleans and Shaw had been working with them over a long period of years so naturally he was delegated to try and obtain leases from them, which in turn meant many instances the changing of the offices then occupied into the new building. He was also in direct charge and was responsible for obtaining other leases to make up the total the investment company and the insurance company standing by would require before they would buy the bonds.

Mr. Dymond: Would you or would you not term that a busy period, Mr. Cobb?

Mr. Cobb: It was busy to this extent. I practice law and during that period of time I worked on the project every day. I don't recall if I even took a day off during that whole period. We had a dedicated team and had a job to do and I had delegated it and everybody knew what his responsibility was and we were working under adverse conditions because many civic and public institutions in New Orleans and the press were not in favor of the project and, and it was a crash program in every sense of the word. There wasn't a moment when it was left unattended.

Mr. Dymond: Now, you say that you worked every day on this. How many days a week?

Mr. Cobb: I personally worked probably around the clock except for a little time out at home on Sundays I worked around the clock.

Mr. Dymond: You worked on Saturdays?

Mr. Cobb: I worked on Saturday, on Sundays, I can't tell you how many Sundays, but Sundays, Saturdays, holidays.

Mr. Dymond: Mr. Cobb, in connection with the work you were doing on the project and Mr. Shaw, was it necessary for you to contact him frequently or not?

Mr. Cobb: Well, in the nature of things it was absolutely necessary. Shaw had the responsibility for obtaining leases from the consuls and foreign governments; had responsibility for obtaining other leases; and in addition to that we were dealing with many public agencies. For instance, we were dealing with the Board of Commissioners for the Port of New Orleans which involved the demolition of the Dock Board Headquarters at the head of Canal Street and the exchange of that property for two squares that the Trade Mart owned that now form a part of Rivergate. We were busily engaged at that time working out with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad the relocation of all railroad tracks of the Public Belt on the riverfront. We were engaged with Southern Pacific Railroad moving that railroad after 100 years clean off the riverfront. We were engaged with the Dock Board too in revamping the ferry landing at Canal Street and then we were working almost constantly with Edward Durell Stone, the architect of the Trade Mart, on the plans and the specifications which had to be submitted to the investment house at the time of closing, and Mr. Shaw was, Shaw did more of that work I think than anybody else deciding what would go into the building and where and what the cost would be and so forth.

Mr. Dymond: When you say "we," in your testimony, to whom are you referring?

Mr. Cobb: In connection with the Trade Mart project?

Mr. Dymond: That is correct. In outlining what you had to do.

Mr. Cobb: The whole project was put together by a good many people but the responsibility in the final analysis rested on, I would say, three people.

Mr. Dymond: Who were those people?

Mr. Cobb: It rested on Clay Shaw to obtain the leases and Mr. Jimmy Coleman and his office who worked with me on a day-to-day basis, working out all the legal details in connection with the Mart and they were considerable because when I went to New York on October 8 to conclude the issue I carried with me 44 separate legal documents and over 100 leases all of which had to be approved by counsel here, Mr. Coleman and his associate, Mr. Yuratich and myself. Others worked on the project but the great bulk of work virtually all was done by that small team.

Mr. Dymond: You say you were working with Mr. James Coleman on a day-to-day basis. On what basis were you working with Clay Shaw?

Mr. Cobb: I was working with Clay Shaw during that period almost on a constant basis. I don't mean, I was with him but my office is in the Whitney Bank Building and his office was in the International Trade Mart Building and we were talking back and forth throughout the period in the negotiation of leases and I was calling on him and he was asking me for advice with respect to approaches to be made to this tenant or that tenant and more or less constantly dealing together.

Mr. Dymond: Do you recall any work days during that approximate three-month period that you were not in touch with Clay Shaw?

Mr. Cobb: Well, I recall there was one day during that period when I was not in touch with him because he had requested me --

[Court asked Dymond to rephrase the question]

There was only one day that Shaw was absent and that was September 23, 1963, when he went to Hammond, Louisiana. And even on that day, Shaw was in touch with the Trade Mart.

Mr. Dymond: Now, Miss Moore, were you Mr. Shaw's secretary during the negotiation of the leases for the new Trade Mart Building back in '63?

Miss Moore: Yes, sir, I was.

Mr. Dymond: Was there anything unusual about the work load at that time during the say 90 days preceding the windup of the leasing?

Miss Moore: It was a tremendous task we had to accomplish.

Mr. Dymond: Now when you say, "tremendous task we had to accomplish," whom are you referring to?

Miss Moore: Mr. Shaw. Mr. Shaw and I helped in typing up offers to lease and Mr. Shaw attended many meetings, and we had correspondence in regard to offers to lease.

Mr. Dymond: Did you during that period have any occasion to be in touch with Mr. Lloyd Cobb?

Miss Moore: Mr. Cobb was our President. We met many times with Mr. Shaw.

Mr. Dymond: During the approximate 90 days preceding the windup of the lease negotiations would you say that that period was a usual period of work for Mr. Shaw or unusual, and if unusual, in what respect?

Miss Moore: I would say that it was, it was unusual because we were trying, we wanted to build the new Trade Mart and therefore in order to do so our work load was much heavier.

Mr. Dymond: Do you recall any days, any work days, on which Mr. Shaw was absent from the office in that period?

Miss Moore: Only one.

Mr. Dymond: What was that if you recall?

Miss Moore: September 25.

Mr. Dymond: And how do you happen to recall that day, Miss Moore?

Miss Moore: I had occasion to call Hammond where his mother and father lived because I had a call from one of our Directors --

[an objection to the stating of her reason is sustained]

Mr. Dymond: Do you know Mr. Shaw's voice on the telephone when you hear it?

Miss Moore: Yes, I do.

Mr. Dymond: Were you able to reach Mr. Shaw on the telephone while he was in Hammond?

Miss Moore: Yes, sir, I did.

Mr. Dymond: Approximately what time, what time of day or night was that, Miss Moore?

Miss Moore: Well, I would say probably sometime before 4:00 or 5:00 o'clock, I can't really say the exact hour.

Mr. Dymond: I would assume you mean 5:00 p.m.?

Miss Moore: Yes, sir.

Mr. Dymond: To your knowledge were there any other work days that he was absent from the office during that period?

Miss Moore: No, sir.

Mr. Dymond: Were you absent from the office during any of that work period?

Miss Moore: No, sir.

Mr. Dymond: Mr. Shaw, have you ever been in the town of Clinton, Louisiana?

Mr. Shaw: I have never been to Clinton, Louisiana.

Mr. Dymond: Do you have any relatives who live there?

Mr. Shaw: Yes, I have a first cousin, who is married to a Mr. Yarborough, and they live in Clinton.

Mr. Dymond: You say you personally have never been there?

Mr. Shaw: I have never been there.

Shaw then outlined his work for the Trade Mart during the late summer of 1963:

Mr. Dymond: Now, Mr. Shaw, referring to the period from July into October of 1963, where were you employed at that time, sir?

Mr. Shaw: I was Managing Director of the International Trade Mart here in New Orleans.

Mr. Dymond: Now, as Managing Director what were normally your duties there at the Trade Mart?

Mr. Shaw: The managing of the building, the promotion of trade, the handing of various activities that the Trade Mart undertook. In general, I supervised the operations of the building and the institution.

Mr. Dymond: Now, was there anything unusual about the duties which you had during the period from July 8 until approximately October 8, 1863?

Mr. Shaw: Yes, there was. We were planning to build a new International Trade Mart, which has now been built. To do this it was necessary we issue bonds which a New York syndicate was to buy. A condition of their buying these bonds, however, was that during the period of approximately July 8 to October 8 in 1963, we had to obtain from potential tenants offers to lease totalling an annual income of $1,425,000.00 a year, and this we had to do within a period of 90 days.

Mr. Dymond: Now, had you not succeeded in doing that, what would have been the result?

Mr. Shaw: Had we not succeeded in doing that, there would be no Trade Mart now at Canal Street and the River.

Mr. Dymond: Now, what was the nature of the work load as a result of your being obliged to do this withing that given period, Mr. Shaw?

Mr. Shaw: It was extremely heavy; I have never worked harder in my life than I did those three months, and I have had some hard jobs.

Mr. Dymond: During that time, Mr. Shaw, that is, the period you mentioned, did you take any trips out of New Orleans?

Mr. Shaw: To the best -- yes, I went to Hammond on one occasion I recall.

Mr. Dymond: What was that occasion?

Mr. Shaw: My father was not well, and in late September I went one day to Hammond to visit with him.

Mr. Dymond Now, on that one day did you have any contact with your office here in New Orleans?

Mr. Shaw: Yes, my secretary phoned me in Hammond at my parents' house on that day concerning a business matter.

Mr. Dymond: Now, on that day did you have occasion to go to any other town than Hammond, with the exception of the towns which would be on the way to Hammond?

Mr. Shaw: No, I did not.

Mr. Dymond: Now, how did you get to Hammond upon that occasion, Mr. Shaw?

Mr. Shaw: I do not recall exactly. Sometimes I went by train, there was an early morning train; sometimes I drove; I could not tell you now six years later which way I went to Hammond on that particular day.

Mr. Dymond: Now, other than that trip, did you take any other trip out of New Orleans between July 8 and August 8, 1963?

Mr. Shaw: To the best of my recollection, no.

Mr. Dymond: During that period, Mr. Shaw -- and with the exception of this one day that you went to Hammond -- were you absent from your job at the Trade Mart on any work day?

Mr. Shaw: No, I was not.

Mr. Dymond: And how many days a week were your working, Mr. Shaw?

Mr. Shaw: The average work week was Monday through Friday. However, during this extremely busy period there were a number of Saturdays when I worked as well.


Shaw's attorneys did not know that Corrie Collins had given a statement in January 1968, stating that the day in question had to be either a Wednesday or a Thursday.

If Clay Shaw's attorneys had this memo, they might have been able to produce specific records for the relevant dates (Wednesdays and Thursdays).

Andrew Sciambra wrote a memo in January 1968, to Jim Garrison narrowing the dates to Thursdays or Fridays:

Shaw's absence from the Trade Mart during a work day(s) would have been noticed.

An ethical District Attorney would have checked Shaw's whereabouts and workload before accepting this story.

Before we delve further into witness statements, it is important to understand what was going on in Clinton in the summer of 1963.

It was not business as usual.

The Series on the Clinton/Jackson Witnesses

Part One: The witnesses testify at the trial of Clay Shaw.

Previous Relevant Blog Posts on the Clinton/Jackson Witnesses

Three case studies on how Garrison was less than inquisitive, including the possible check of the Cadillac in Clinton.

Why didn't Garrison check out whether the Trade Mart in New Orleans had leased a Cadillac?

An interview with Weisberg in which he discusses the Clinton witnesses.

Two of the Clinton witnesses claimed they were intimidated. But were they really?

Some background material on Clinton.

William Dunn initially said that Thomas Beckham was with Shaw and Oswald.

Andrew Dunn said Jack Ruby was in Clinton.

None of Garrison's witnesses, including the witnesses from Clinton/Jackson, came forward in 1963 -1964.


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