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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Did Lee Harvey Oswald Live with a Doctor in Jackson?

One of the more incredible stories to come out of the Clinton/Jackson witnesses was the one regarding Oswald living with a doctor from the East Louisiana State Hospital.

This all started with a story Henry Earl Palmer told Anne Dischler. Here is a excerpt from her notes for May 22, 1967:

The note reads in part:

boy had I.d card

-Navy - Lee H. Oswald

staying w/doctor - Jackson -

Dr. Picard possibly - at ELSH -

h/bn [had been] there 6 mo - Dr. w/not

reg - w/Palmer

Alcock then reported he had an earlier call from Lieutenant Fruge, in which he said he had a report that Oswald had applied for work in October 1963 at the Jackson Hospital. He was turned down because he was not a registered voter in Louisiana, which [sic] a requirement for employment at a state hospital, which might explain why Oswald would have attempted to register to vote.

It was later determined by Loisel that the name of the doctor with whom Oswald stated he was living at the time is a Doctor Frank Silva, who was born on the 10th of October, 1929, in Havana. He reportedly married a girl from Jackson, which is a town as well as the name of the state institution. And he lived in Jackson from 1958-64; he was employed as an associate professor and consultant at Tulane University, though he lived on the grounds of the institution. He did consulting work for the institution, and was on its payroll for a very short time in May of 1963, for the month of May 1963. The source of this information is a Mr. McLeury of the State Sovereignty Commission. Garrison's office is checking the report further.

So, Francis Fruge called the Garrison office to tell them that the doctor that Oswald supposedly lived with was Dr. Silva, rather than Picard.

Here is an excerpt from an interview that Andrew Sciambra conducted with Henry Earl Palmer on May 29, 1967:

The memo reads: "OSWALD told Mr. Palmer he was living at Jackson and had been living there for 6 months with some doctor at the hospital. Mr. Palmer said that OSWALD named the doctor but that he cannot remember the doctor's name."

Sciambra then interviewed Dr. Silva:

Sciambra writes "DR. SILVA said that he was working at the hospital all during the year 1963 but had never seen or heard of LEE HARVEY OSWALD."

As far as I can tell, Dr. Silva was the only doctor at ELSH that Sciambra talked with

A New Orleans informant? Was that Francis Fruge or Jack Rogers?

Sciambra spoke again with Palmer in January, 1968, and he was again unsure of the doctor's name:

Palmer says that "the doctor that OSWALD mentioned was in the second register which covers L to Z. The name RIERA rings a bell in some way for him."

From the HSCA outside contact report, on January 19, 1978, Palmer said:

When Palmer testified before the HSCA on April 19, 1978, his story changed:

Now Palmer says that the doctor that Oswald said he lived with was Dr. Pierson. And there was in fact a Dr. Pierson at ELSH.

In our lengthy telephone conversation, Dr. Silva was unclear about the timing of that incident, though he thought it could have been in the summer months prior to the assassination based on his recollections of the way people were dressed.

It began when an excited hospital attendant, knowing where Dr. Silva was born, rushed up saying, “You have to meet this guy—he knows about Cuba.” Dr. Silva “very reluctantly” went along with him to an “open corridor” where the man “was at the entrance” of the “back unit,” talking “with two or three other attendants.”

“This man came to the hospital asking for work,” Dr. Silva said, “and apparently somebody told him that he had to get registered to vote. . . . My impression of him at that time was that this guy was, excuse my language, a bullshitter. He was very braggadocio. . . . he was bragging about his ability with an AK-47, whatever you call them. . .” “[He] apparently had been in Guantanamo at one point. . .I think he said that, because apparently he had been in the Marines.” “He said something about Castro. I can’t remember what he said, positive or negative—I can’t remember.”

Right away, Dr. Silva said, “this guy turned me off.” “[T]he things he was saying irritated me. . .because I knew this guy didn’t know what he was talking about. . .I just didn’t like him.” “So I disconnected in my mind; I just didn’t pay too much attention to him.” “[T]he only thing I remember was my negative reaction to this person. I don’t like people who brag and he was talking and telling this bunch of naïve country people all kinds of stories about what he had done.” What those stories were, Dr. Silva couldn’t remember.

The encounter was brief. “. . .[T]he whole conversation,” Dr. Silva said, “didn’t last more than, overall, I would say not more than ten minutes, if it lasted that long.” Dr. Silva didn’t recall the man’s name, or how he was dressed, and he made only one comment regarding what he looked like: “He had not a very well-kept appearance,” Dr. Silva said. Beyond a strong sense of the man’s personality, the braggart in the hall was a virtual blank to Dr. Silva. He remained a blank at the time of President Kennedy’s murder, when Lee Harvey Oswald’s media exposure was most intense, and which occurred only a few months after the meeting in the hospital hallway.

Dr. Silva was scrupulously precise, painstaking even, in emphasizing that at the time of the assassination he did not relate Lee Harvey Oswald to the man he met at the hospital. He made no connection whatever between that man and the president’s assassin. “[Oswald’s] face was not familiar,” Dr. Silva said. “I don’t think anybody [at the hospital] remembered him, not anybody that I knew.” When the assassination happened, no one said this is the guy who came here. “No one said anything.” “If you had shown me a picture of this guy, Lee Oswald [as seen] on television and in magazines, and said had you ever seen this guy, I would have said no, I’ve never seen him.” “This Lee Harvey Oswald was a complete stranger to me.” Dr. Silva had never seen or heard of him.

There apparently had been a black Cadillac with strangers in Clinton. There also might have been an ex-Marine who wanted a job at the hospital. It was relatively easy to take these stories and graft Lee Harvey Oswald into them. If you show his picture to enough people, you will eventually find usable witnesses.

Why was Dr. Silva mentioned by Palmer?

Linking Dr. Silva to the president’s assassin was a particularly vicious form of payback, a ratcheting up of the crosses left burning on his lawn in earlier days. “[T]hose were kind of bad times in Louisiana, in the south in general,” he said. “And we were having [civil rights] demonstrations and everything and everyone was in turmoil.” “[T]he segregation was so incredible. We got reported to the [White] Citizens Council for calling a black man ‘mister,’ or you have a maid that sits in the front seat with you—you got reported for that. . . .and these are the kind of people that spread rumors about everything.”

Palmer’s tale of Oswald’s living arrangement was, as Dr. Silva put it, “preposterous.” “I was married,” he said, “had two children. . .and all the residents were there all the time, and of course my wife’s family.” “There was no way [Oswald] could [have been] living in my house.” (Perhaps that is why Palmer’s “doctor” story veered wildly in one direction then another. Interestingly, Palmer was the tipster whose information brought Garrison’s investigators to the area.

It's instructive to examine how conspiracy theorists have treated this story. Here is an excerpt from James DiEugenio's Destiny Betrayed: (pages 91 -92 in the Kindle edition)

Consequently, Palmer now asked Oswald where he lived. He said he lived at the hospital. Palmer now asked him who he was living with there. There is confusion as to how Oswald replied. Palmer said, “He told me— I’m not positive about this name—but I think he said, Doctor Person [sic].” In the journal that Life reporter Richard Billings kept on the Garrison investigation, he wrote that Garrison had determined that Oswald said he was living with a Cuban doctor named Frank Silva. What is astonishing about these replies— whichever is correct—is this: Both men did work at East at that time. For when the HSCA subpoenaed a list of doctors employed from that hospital in 1963, both a Malcolm Pierson and Frank Silva were on it.

The obvious question then becomes: How did Oswald know the names of these men?

It's not Oswald who knew the names of the doctors, it's Henry Earl Palmer. And how did Palmer know the names? Well, here is an article from 1948 which indicates that his wife worked at ELSH:

Baton Rouge State Times Advocate, August 24, 1948

What makes this even more interesting is that Dr. West Palmer divorced Henry Earl Palmer in the 1950s and remarried Jack N. Rogers, the former chief counsel of the Louisiana Un-American Activities Committee. Remember that Henry Earl Palmer and Jack Rogers were originators of the Clinton/Jackson stories.

Baton Rouge Advocate, October 10, 1997

How does Jim Garrison treat the supposed episode at the ELSH? Here is an excerpt from On the Trail of the Assassins: (page 140 in the Kindle edition)

The fact remained that Oswald had applied for a job at the mental institution, and that would have been all that his sponsors needed for another touch of sheepdipping. A few weeks of menial work there would have been enough to complete the picture of Oswald wandering haplessly from one job to another, each more obscure than the last. With a bit of luck and a little orchestration, it might even have been possible—with a switch of cards from “employee” to “patient”—to have the right psychiatrist at Jackson describe the problems he had in treating this strange outpatient named Lee Oswald.

This explanation borders on the insane.

Oswald did not live with a doctor in Jackson for six months, just as he was also not a roommate of David Ferrie's in New Orleans (a story told by Perry Russo).

This story is somewhat outside the Clinton/Jackson canon, and it did not make the trial. It would have been way too easy to debunk. But it resurfaced during the HSCA and conspiracy theorists have since run with it.

Why they believe that this story supports the Clinton/Jackson scenario is beyond me.

The Series on the Clinton/Jackson Witnesses

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

Part Two: A response to the allegations made by the Clinton/Jackson witnesses.

Part Three: A look at racism and the politics of the early 1960s.

Part Four: Many of the witnesses were either members of the KKK or sympathizers.

Part Five: None of the Clinton/Jackson witnesses came forward in 1963-1964.

Part Six: Just where did the Clinton/Jackson witnesses come from?

Part Seven: Dischler was an investigator for Garrison who was teamed up with Lt. Francis Fruge of the Louisiana State Police.

Part Eight: The evidence that David Ferrie was in Clinton is poor.

Part Nine: Lee McGehee, the barber in Jackson, claimed that the racist newspaper The Councilor wrote about the Clinton/Jackson witnesses in 1966. No one has been able to find the article.

Part Ten: Corrie Collins continually changed his story about what happened in Clinton.

Part Eleven: Reeves Morgan claimed he called the FBI right after the JFK assassination. But did he really?

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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