David Lifton (1939-2022), R.I.P.
Updated: May 29
JFK researcher David Lifton died this week. This is very sad news as David was one of the good guys. Over the past couple of years, we exchanged several emails and had one long phone call.
I bought a copy of Lifton's Best Evidence when it first came out in 1981. I was living in Toronto and had given up study of the JFK assassination. It was rare for me to buy first-run hardcovers, but I couldn't resist buying David's book.
I didn't believe his thesis right from the start. But I found his history of the JFK assassination buffs and his interactions with Wesley Liebeler to be incredibly fascinating. These were stories I had not known, and his book was valuable for his documentation of that time period.
David's character really shined in relation to Jim Garrison. He met him in Los Angeles, and it didn't take him long to figure out that he was a charlatan. Lifton was a friend of Kerry Thornley's, and he realized that Garrison was out to get him. There are links below to some of David's important writings on the Thornley affair.
In November 2021, I sent David a copy of my book, On the Trail of Delusion -- Jim Garrison: The Great Accuser. Here is an excerpt of an email he then sent me:
I received your book — On the Trail of Delusion —yesterday. And I spent good hour (at least) reading it.
Of course, its packed with information.
One problem however: it lacks an index; even a simple name index would have been helpful (!).
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As you probably know, I spent hours alone with Garrison, back around 1968; because (around 1965) I had met Kerry Thornley —LHO’s friend from his USMC days. In 1965/early 1966, I had dinner with Thornley and his wife (Kara, I think) at their home in West L.A. Garrison entered the public scene with his announcement that he had “solved” the assassination. Because of faulty reasoning and just plain incorrect research, Weisberg, Salandria et al (who were close with Garrison) concluded that Kerry Thornley was a sinister figure (e.g., a "second Oswald” etc.). Pure nonsense. Thornley was foul-mouthed, but he was not a conspirator. He had nothing to do with any plot to murder JFK.
Bottom line: as a consequence of one —possibly two —personal meetings with Garrison (circa 1967 or 1968), I had first hand experience with what an incompetent buffoon he was. (I’m assuming that you are aware of my two articles in the L.A. underground newspaper, OPEN CITY (circa 1968) about Oswald and Thornley; one of which, as I recall was titled “Is Jim Garrison out of his mind?”)
The place where we (you and I) “diverge,” Fred, is that you apparently believe —i.e., you still believe —in the official version of the JFK assassination (per the Warren Report). That is unfortunate but, of course, you are entitled to your views.
Anyway, despite our entirely different views on this point, I still gave your book a careful reading.
Remember what Garrison told me (which is quoted on the London Forum by one of the really good researchers): “After the fact there is no truth; only what the jury decides.” IMHO: that’s a good summary of JG’s “modus operandi” —the key to how he thinks. Its the mentality of very simple minded thinking, and of a demagogue.
In March of this year, I called David to discuss his interviews with Paul O'Connor and the claim in Oliver Stone's JFK Revisited that General Curtis LeMay was at JFK's autopsy. David was one of the first people to talk to O'Connor and I wanted to find out what he said before he became a star in the JFK conspiracy world.
He had no firm recollection of O'Connor saying LeMay was there, but he wasn't sure. Right after our call, he posted on the Education Forum that O'Connor did not tell him LeMay was at the autopsy.
We talked for a while. David only had a cell phone and there was only one place in his apartment where he could get a good signal. After about a half an hour, we were disconnected. He sent me an immediate email saying to call back. We spoke for another half hour.
A large part of our conversation was on his book, Best Evidence, and the various iterations that were published over the years. I got the sense that he was lonely and was happy to talk to someone. He certainly relished telling me his old war stories.
David was also disappointed that Oliver Stone never used his book for a movie. He did say that he sued Oliver Stone in 1992 because he had used stuff from Best Evidence in JFK. He eventually settled with Stone - got his name in the film credits, and received five thousand dollars.
Here is a letter that David wrote Mark Lane in May 1968 about Kerry Thornley.
I will miss David Lifton.
I do hope that his collection is donated to a university, or some other institution, so that others can have access to his research.
Here is the Mourner's Kaddish:
Relevant David Lifton Links