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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Michael Lesser has Died, R. I. P.; Some Thoughts on Clinton...

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

You can read more about Michael Lesser here. Paragraph relevant to the Jim Garrison investigation:

"While at Syracuse he helped form a local chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and actively fought housing segregation in the school dorms and surrounding community. In 1963, just before taking his oral exams for his PhD, he dropped out and went to work for CORE in Louisiana. Michael stayed with CORE for four years, eventually becoming the Mid-West Regional Field Secretary. He was jailed 11 times, the last time for three weeks under a charge of criminal anarchy, a capital offense. He left CORE when the white staff were asked to leave and moved to San Francisco during the summer of love."

Lesser was arrested in Clinton, Louisiana in early August 1963:

The treatment meted out to Lesser was far different than the treatment that Oswald supposedly received in Clinton. And when we think about what really happened in Clinton, we must always remember that the essence of the story was civil rights, the right to vote, and the influence of the KKK.

Here is a description of Clinton, Louisiana by Adam Fairclough from his book, Race & Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972: (page 301-302)

Here is an FBI report about the Clinton witnesses at the Clay Shaw trial. Note that Henry Palmer was an Exalted Cyclops in the KKK and John Manchester was also in the KKK.

Here is an excerpt from Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America By Ari Berman, describing the situation in 1965: (pages 44-45)

For a little more flavor about what was going on, here is an excerpt from a letter that Hugh Aynesworth sent to James Kirkwood about Clinton. Aynesworth had been to Clinton right before the Clay Shaw trial:

October 9, 1969
Gurvich and I drove to Clinton in his car, following a visit with a top Louisiana State Police official in Baton Rouge. We learned enough from the state police official to let us know that the whole thing was a hoax, but we decided to visit several of the witnesses anyway - in the belief that if we could talk with them, and tape record the conversation we would probably find flaws in their stories. "It's for sure they'll never be able to tell the same wacky story twice," said Gurvich. This turned out to be true.
John Manchester, the town marshall, was the first witness we encountered. He was shocked that we knew what he was to testify. Manchester, a foul-talking, dirty and scruffy man who looked like the only way he could whip a man was to kick him in the groin, wouldn't comment on his testimony at first, but he kept saying', "Ain't no way that son-of-a-bitch (Oswald) coulda fired all them shots. Ain't no way."
We visited with Manchester - in the Clinton Jail - for a couple of hours, until he was called away by somebody. Then we sat talking with a deputy and some of his gin buddies. From them we got the rundown on practically all the witnesses in town and in nearby Jackson. One was a hard drinker, another "couldn't find the truth, it was writ on the front of his head." Still another, was dead, having committed suicide in the Clinton jail a few months before.
Mrs. Maxine Kemp lived in a nicely arranged trailer with her teenaged son. She seemed pleased to have someone to talk with. Then she told her story - not noticing the tape recorder Gurvich placed on the floor in his case. Has she really seen an application file for LHO at the Jackson State Hospital? No, she related to the tape and to us, all she knew was that she and a co-worker, Mrs. Aline Woodside, had located a folder with the name "Harvey Oswald" on it.
She went on to say that applications were not kept for several years (this would have been 3 1/2 years) and that the folder she described was not in a place where applications would have been or where past records would have been filed.
We never found Corrie [Collins], but it was simple to see how he had to testify to what Manchester and the other scrub-nuts wanted him. His father was simply terrified by three white men [Aynesworth, Gurvich and Kent Biffle] barging into his house after dark. In short, being a Negro in Clinton - a hot bed of red-neck and the Klan, is not much fun.
First, I think John Manchester, and a State policeman Lt. Francis Fruge, put it all together. Fruge, fired by the state police, turned in bills for 75 head lights inside of a year.

You can see more of Aynesworth's account in Kirkwood's book, American Grotesque, pages 220-222.

And, here is an article from the Shreveport Journal of July 5, 1965:

Interesting that nothing was mentioned about Oswald being in Clinton, Louisiana. John Rarick and Ned Touchstone (Editor of The Councilor) were at the rally, and they had connections to Clinton. Note their interest in tying Oswald to 'assistants' in Louisiana - and the fact that they asked that there be a reward for information.

And, here is an excerpt from The Councilor, a racist newspaper out of Shreveport (and house organ of the segregationist Louisiana Citizens' Council) dated July 1975.

The column on the far right reads:

"Time after time, Ned Touchstone and The Councilor named Ferrie as a prime suspect in the JFK murder, We goaded him,. We challenged him to sue us or to take public issue with the accusation.
He never did.
Then we noted something else very strange. Ferrie was known to be involved in interstate transportation of young boys for..."

The Councilor never reported that Lee Harvey Oswald or David Ferrie were ever in Clinton. We don't know the full story on Clinton. The Garrison story of the friendly treatment given to Oswald, Ferrie & Shaw in Clinton - when you consider that they were outsiders - and we know how they treated outsiders who weren't wanted - just doesn't make sense. Something else was going on.

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