My travels for On The Trail of Delusion
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
I tried hard to visit every archive in the United States that had primary Garrison documents. Here is a listing of archives I visited for this book:
Papers of Jim Garrison, NARA, College Park, MD.
Investigative Files received from New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick, NARA, College Park, MD.
Donated Papers of Edward Wegmann, Clay Shaw’s Attorney, NARA, College Park, MD.
Papers of Richard Billings at Georgetown University.
Papers of Richard E. Sprague at Georgetown University; and NARA, College Park, MD.
Jim Garrison Papers at the New Orleans Public Library.
Papers of Irvin Dymond, Clay Shaw’s trial attorney, at the New Orleans Historical Association.
Papers of Clay Shaw at NARA, College Park, MD.
Papers of George Lardner, Jr, at the Library of Congress.
The Harold Weisberg Archive at Hood College, MD and online at http://jfk.hood.edu/
Papers of Sylvia Meagher at Hood College, MD.
Papers of James Kirkwood at Boston University.
Papers of Gerald Posner at Boston University.
Papers of Gus Russo at Baylor University.
Papers of Patricia Lambert at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.
Papers of Louis Bloomfield at the Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa.
Papers of Elmer Gertz at the Library of Congress.
Papers of Bill Boxley at NARA, College Park, MD.
Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives, Montreal.
The only archive that I did not visit was the Assassination Archive and Research Center (AARC) which has been closed for some time. Once it reopens, I will visit.
The files of Jim Garrison are a mess. Many people in his investigation stole documents, and many JFK researchers (Mark Lane, Mort Sahl, Edward Jay Epstein and others) had access to his files. Indeed here is one memo that is quite telling:
A letter from Gary Schoener to Vince Salandria in November 1968 said this about William Turner, one of Garrison’s investigators: “He is rumored (all over the place) to literally pillage Jim’s files and often to take things with him, and in some cases may not have returned them. Someone who has access to those files like Boxley or Turner is taking things because much has disappeared. Remember the stuff I took down there that Boxley took such interest in – it disappeared at least within a week! In that case it could have been Boxley, I don’t know, but we know that Turner really goes through the files and so far, no one has explained who it is that steals the stuff.”
Garrison himself stored his files in a garage after he left office, and its unclear just how much stuff he left at the DA’s office. Many of his footnotes refer to files which were “lost or stolen. Indeed, an entire filing cabinet of documents…was stolen while I was working on the first draft of this book.” (page 310 in Garrison’s book On the Trail of the Assassins).
Harold Weisberg has a different story. He wrote a short memo for his files:
“Jim’s story on the alleged theft of his files is that Bordelon [Garrison’s chauffeur, bodyguard and a policeman in his own right] moved them and instead sold them. Steve is so mad over this he won’t even talk to Garrison. Moo [Andrew Sciambra] and I can’t imagine Bordelon doing any such thing and I got the impression he agrees with me that Garrison had to have some excuse for getting rid of all that junk.”
Weisberg also told another story and that is that Bordelon told him that he had gone through the files and had “eliminated what he referred to as the junk.” Weisberg did not believe that he was “informed enough to recognize all that was what he called junk.”
When Harry Connick, Sr., took office in New Orleans “there were two file cabinets. Originally, there were four file cabinets of Clay Shaw files. The four files became two when we got there. From what we understand from people who were in that office at that time, the files were savaged. They were rummaged and people took out whatever they wanted to take out. That left two files with really a lot of junk in it.”
As a result, Garrison files are scattered across the country. At the National Archives, you can find the remnants of the files Garrison stored in his basement, and you an also find the files found by his successor, Harry Connick, at the DA’s office. More files can be found in the files of Clay Shaw’s attorney’s, Edward Wegmann, whose files are stored at the National Archives in Maryland, and Irvin Dymond, whose files are in New Orleans. You can also find some files in the Harold Weisberg Archives at Hood College, most of which are also online, and the Richard Billings Archive at Georgetown University. The Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) in Maryland supposedly has a large collection of Garrison documents but the archive is temporarily closed.
Many files are missing. In all the files I looked at, I only found one file on Charles Spiesel. I also can’t find any memos on preparation for the Clay Shaw trial – outside of the trial memorandum that Tom Bethell leaked to the defense. I suspect that these embarrassing files have been cleansed from the record – perhaps that was the junk that Bordelon removed. I also suspect we’ll find a lot of Garrison documents in the papers of Mark Lane, but I have no idea when or whether those papers will be donated to a public institution.
Garrison always had a cavalier approach to the evidence,” and William Gurvich told Shaw’s attorney’s an appropriate anecdote.
“In fact, one day he called the office and John Volz came in and he was taking all the seized property, Clay Shaw’s property, out to Garrison’s house, and I said, “John, where are you going?” He said, “Jim wants this at his house.” I said, “Well, what the hell? What about this thing they call chain of evidence and all, and besides, nothing has been tagged.” And this was several days after the seizure of the stuff and Is said “Don’t take that stuff.” And I called Garrison and told him I didn’t think he should have it sent out, and he said he just wanted to show it to someone. I said, “But you have no right to take it from where it is because it is under lock and key, and none of it is tagged,” He said, “Well, I want it.” I said, “I don’t think you ought to have it.” We got in a real heated argument and this was in front of John Volz and Nancy Haskell, and possibly Al Oser 0 I am not sure Oser was there or not – and so I said, “If he wants it, he can have it, he’s the boss, but I am not going to let you take it until we tag it and I started to tag it, and then this girl who works for Life finished tagging it and John Volz took it out.
And you can see pictures of Shaw’s whips and hood in Garrison’s office.
This lackadaisical approach was confirmed by Edward Jay Epstein when he went down to New Orleans to visit Garrison, who allowed him to go through the evidence:
“Alcock said that he and the D.A.’s staff had yet to examine all this material and he suggested that Mr. Harris and I look through Shaw’s addressbooks and financial records in hopes of discovering some information that might interest Garrison. We were left alone with the evidence.
Though these materials, so far as I could see, had nothing directly to do with the assassination, the odd way in which Garrison treated them did, on later thought, give me ‘a new perspective on the case.” I recalled a Judge’s order had forbidden the district attorney from discussing or disclosing any of the evidence in the case. The very fact that Garrison allowed it to be showed to me, and Mr. Harris, objects seized from Shaw’s home and designated ‘evidence,’ was a direct violation of that order. Why, I wondered, should the D.A. risk having his case thrown out of court on a technicality, by having writers and outsiders freely go through the evidence?
Moreover, it seemed curious that Clay Shaw’s papers had not already been more rigorously scrutinized by Garrison or his staff, especially since Garrison had told several individuals, myself among them, that one of the main reasons for arresting Clay Shaw on March 1 was to prevent him from destroying his personal papers. Six weeks had passed, yet no list was compiled of names appearing in these documents, no analysis was made of Shaw’s finances, no attempt was made to reconstruct Shaw’s movements from appointment calendars. In fact, from what I saw, it appeared that there was no real investigation of Clay Shaw going on at all, but only a search for peripheral characters connected with the late David Ferrie. But why, if Garrison had believed that Shaw had openly conspired to kill the President, was the inquiry into his activities being treated with such apparent nonchalance.”
For those of you who would like to examine Garrison's files - here is a link to NARA's files:
Over the next several months, I'll be posting many primary Garrison documents on this blog, So, please check daily.