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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jim Garrison's Fascination with Odd (and Old) Churches...

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Both Jack Martin and David Ferrie were clergy in the Orthodox Old Catholic Church of North America. It was an "odd sect" which drew the attention of Jim Garrison, thinking that perhaps there was some CIA connection. Making it all the more suspicious, there was a rumor that Oswald had tried to seek refuge in the Abundant Life Temple, after killing officer J.D. Tippit. He hadn't, but he probably ran through the alleyway next to the Temple.

And so Garrison had investigator Bill Boxley look at the Abundant Life Temple. Here is his report:

The Abundant Life Temple was a member of the American Council of Christian Churches - a right-wing organization headed by Carl McIntire. This became more interesting to Garrison because Edgar Eugene Bradley, whom Garrison indicted for conspiring to kill JFK in December 1967, worked for McIntire.

Garrison opened an "Odd Sects" file:

There is a notation on the file that it was copied and returned to Garrison in 1978 - perhaps to prepare material for the HSCA or for his book.

Here is a memo that Garrison wrote on Odd Churches:

This is very much in line with Garrison's theory of propinquity. Note the section above on the Jewish Civic Press - they had the misfortune of being located near David Ferrie's house. I hope Garrison didn't cause them any trouble.

Here are some other memos from Garrison's "Odd Sects" folder:

In July of 1977 Garrison sent a memo to the HSCA about Thomas Beckham. He included a section on "old churches." Here is that part of the memo:

Here is a typed version of the above memo:

A Note as to the Possible Function of the “Old Churches” :
Similarly, as with Crisman, I think that in the course of the memo the periodic necessary references to the OLD CHURCHES have half answered the question. Applying to this subject the available models, I suggest that the most likely rational conclusion is that here, again – except with more particularity – we have a clandestine substructure, developed to serve the intelligence community’s concept of national security.
A bygone structure, to be sure, but its very strangeness – its threadbare irrelevance makes it all the more safe from possible investigators who are looking for spies wearing trench coats and carrying, like so many James Bonds, gold cigarette cases. The churches – like all churches – are virtually free from official inquiry by virtue of the Constitution, not to mention American custom. The “ministers” and “bishops” can accumulate money (religious fund raising) without serious inquiry as to the sources. They are free from the 9 to 5 routine expected of normal patriotic Americans, free to operate in relative seclusion from the expected social involvements, free to engage in obscure crusades or missions and free to travel extensively (for unmarked and unobserved periods) as assignments may dictate. And where, as may be the case in some instances, they may naturally be a home structure for the particular church, one would have the most natural of safe-houses.
Let a few examples make the point. Crisman’s background with the Air Force and with Boeing before he takes up his unconfining “ministry” in the Boeing Company’s backyard (Tacoma, Olympia). Beckham, upon his accession to “bishop” (and, apparently, following some time spent with Crisman in Washington) arrives in Omaha – a place with which he has no previous discernible affiliations or contacts – and sets up his own obscure ministry in THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH (establishing, en passant, a high level contact officer at Offutt A.F.B. with whom he “is in business) a ministry which – despite its obscurity – is sufficiently successful so that by 1968 he is driving a 1968 Dodge Charger. David Ferrie, whose contract pilot-adventurer indicates affiliation with the agency, should no longer need elaboration, who by 1963 is not only operating out of BANISTER’S place (who, a year or so earlier, was helping to administer the New Orleans version of the Cuban Revolutionary Front), is not only a priest in the Old Orthodox Catholic Church but has, to boot, the warranty supplied by a priest’s lace vestments. And last, but hardly least, we have the handy old evangelical church, (which I now recall was the Abundant Life Church or something close thereto) at the scene of Tippit’s killing, which provided apparent sanctuary for his murderer – and no telling what cover and organizational-locale value prior to the assassination itself. Nor should one overlook the expressed affiliation of the peripatetic Laverne Crafard with the General Assembly and the Church of the First Born, whatever that is).
*all of which may happen to be relevant, operating, needless to say, at different levels, ranging from couriers and spear-carriers on through the ranks of foreman and supervisor on up to section and logistics executives.

Of course, this was all swallowed by Joan Mellen in her book, A Farewell to Justice, (page 290 - 291).

I'll be publishing Garrison's Chrisman-Beckham HSCA memo tomorrow.

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