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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

The Origin of the Clinton/Jackson Stories

Whenever I write about a particular conspiracy story, I try to figure out where it came from. For instance, the stories about Eladio del Valle all stem from an article in the National Enquirer. The allegations about David Ferrie all come from Jack Martin's phone calls during the weekend of the assassination. The claim that there was a plot against JFK in Chicago in November 1963 comes from Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden.

So, how did Jim Garrison learn about the Clinton/Jackson witnesses and their encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw, and David Ferrie?

Let's start with Jim Garrison's book, On the Trail of the Assassins: (page 136 - 137 in the Kindle edition)

In 1963 Clinton was a rural hamlet in deep south Louisiana. It was a relic of the long-ago time when cotton had been king, a farmers’ center where the cotton crops were weighed and buyers bid for them.

Clinton was the kind of place whose continued survival had no visible basis. Its importance to the cotton industry had faded; it remained only because it had always been there. But in early 1967 we picked up a lead that made that sleepy town very important indeed.

It seemed that back in late summer or early autumn of 1963, Lee Oswald had been seen in Clinton in the company of two older men. The descriptions of these men closely fit Clay Shaw, whose hometown of Hammond we knew was just east of Clinton, and David Ferrie, who had spent a lot of time at Guy Banister’s anti-Castro camp a little farther east on Lake Pontchartrain.

It was a slim lead, little more than a whisper in the air which most law enforcement agencies would have waved away impatiently, but such thin leads were what we had been forced to work with from the beginning.

Clinton was a good ways off the beaten path, and I decided that sending assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra by himself from the city might not be the right way to approach this rural town. Sciambra needed someone else with a bit of country background. I called Governor John McKeithen, and he ordered Lieutenant Francis Frugé, a state police officer of Cajun descent, accent included, to join Sciambra in Clinton immediately.

All Garrison says is that "we picked up a lead," and that he sent Andrew Sciambra and Louisiana State policeman Francis Fruge to investigate. Of course, this is not true -- he sent Francis Fruge and Anne Dischler to investigate. The fact that Garrison is unable to shed any light on how these witnesses were 'found' impugns the credibility of the entire story.

The conspiracy books aren't much better.

Here is an excerpt from Joan Mellen's book, A Farewell to Justice: (page 210 -211 in the Kindle edition)

On April 28th, Fruge and [Garrison investigator Anne] Dischler met with Garrison’s staff at Tulane and Broad. “Frank Jeanette,” Rose Cheramie’s pimp, had been seen at “Jim’s Lounge” with a Ruby stripper, they learned. They wanted to proceed to Shreveport, following the trajectory of the Holiday Inn lead. Two sets of Oswald tracks, one heading for Texas by way of Clinton and Shreveport, the other by way of Morgan City and Lake Charles, with a man calling himself “Oswald” and attacking the Kennedys, suggested that a cover-up was in place well before the assassination. Later Ned Touchstone, editor of The Councilor newspaper, who had also been investigating the Louisiana roots of the assassination, would apologize to his readers for not pursuing the divergent tracks of Oswald, who “could have had a double.”

Jim Garrison put aside this set of leads in favor of an incident he believed was more promising. Fruge and Dischler had discovered that people in East Feliciana Parish had observed Oswald in the company of both David Ferrie and Clay Shaw. Information of the trio traveling together in the area had begun to circulate early in 1964.

All we learn here is that "Fruge and Dischler had discovered" people had seen Oswald, Ferrie and Shaw and that "information of the trio traveling together in the area began to circulate early in 1964." There is no footnote to support that statement.

James DiEugenio in his book, Destiny Betrayed, says nothing about how this story originated. He just goes right into the story of barber Lee McGehee cutting Oswald's hair in Jackson, Louisiana. Bill Davy does much the same in his book Let Justice Be Done.

However, I found this article from January 1968, to be helpful:

Baton Rouge State Times Advocate, January 13, 1968

The importance of this article is that it gives us some insight into what people in the town of Clinton were whispering. One woman, now dead, thought that Oswald was in Clinton during voter registration.

Now this is not that unusual. There were lots of reports, after the assassination, of people reporting they had seen Lee Harvey Oswald. There were even reports of Oswald being in my hometown of Montreal, Canada. He was also seen in Alice, Texas, looking for a job. What I find interesting about this rumor is that only one woman saw Oswald, not that several people saw him, and not that he tried to get a job at the East Louisiana State Hospital.

It was very easy to graft Shaw and Ferrie into this rumor. The one witness was dead, and they could 'come up with' people to confirm the story. Had many people really seen Oswald, the rumor in town would have been a lot different.

Perhaps this woman saw Michael Lesser, the CORE worker who had been arrested in August 1963. Here is a picture of Lesser who was 26 years old in 1963, and two pictures of Oswald:

I can certainly see how she could have been confused.

I believe that woman was Gloria Wilson who was mentioned by Henry Earl Palmer in his May 29, 1967, interview with Andrew Sciambra:

Interestingly, Patricia Lambert wrote that Anne Dischler told her that Francis Fruge had talked to Gloria Wilson before she died. According to Dischler's notes, Wilson died on November 4, 1965.

All of the above is consistent with Wilson seeing Michael Lesser.

The story that was told in court in February of 1969 was first told to investigator Anne Dischler in May of 1967 by Fred Dent, Jr. of the State Sovereignty Commission. He heard it from Jack N. Rogers, the counsel of the Louisiana Un-American Activities Committee.

Excerpt of Anne Dischler's notebook

The next entry in Dischler's notebook, from the same day, has the major elements of the Clinton story:

Jack Rogers frequently met with Dischler. Here is a note from June 12, 1967:

The next day, she talked again with Rogers, who told Dischler that a witness was "no good."

In July of 1967, Rogers met with Dischler along with Andrew Sciambra from Garrison's office:

At the end of July, Dischler met with Rogers again:

On August 29, 1967 Rogers told Dischler he was going to see Garrison:

Then in September 1967, Dischler went to Baton Rouge and met with John Rarick, Jack Rogers and two other people:

Why is this all relevant? Jack Rogers was not only involved with segregationist activities, he had also been a domestic contact of the CIA since 1959, and he also worked with Jim Garrison on his JFK investigation. Here is an excerpt from a June 5, 1967 memo in which Rogers spoke to Hunter Leake of the CIA:

Lee McGehee, the barber in Jackson, told the HSCA that the first person to talk to him about Oswald was Jack Rogers:

Mr. Blackmer: Would you explain to us how you came to appear at that trial in New Orleans in 1969?

Mr. McGehee: Well, --

Mr. Blackmer: Were you contacted by anyone concerning the events, the story you have just related to the Committee?

Mr. McGehee: The first two people that approached me were Jack Rogers --

Mr. Blackmer: And who is Jack Rogers?

Mr. McGehee: He's a lawyer here in Baton Rouge. What he was doing then, and what his job was, I'm not sure. And then Ned Touchstone was Editor of the Councilor paper in Shreveport, I believe. And they came in there and said they heard this story, you know, and they asked me about it; and I told them just like I told them in here. And that's the last I saw of them until --

Mr. Blackmer: Approximately what time was this? What date of the year?

Mr. McGehee: That was probably in May '66 or '65.

Mr. Blackmer: And when is the next time, sir, that you were contact concerning this?

Mr. McGehee: Jack Fruge of the State Police came in the shop and identified himself as working with Jim Garrison.

Mr. Blackmer: And did you relate the story to him?

Mr. McGehee: The same story.

So, Jack Rogers and Ned Touchstone came to see McGehee. McGehee says they "said they heard this story," but Blackmer doesn't ask him where they had heard it. I also believe that McGehee has the timing wrong -- no one was talking about the Clinton/Jackson story in 1965 or 1966.

By the way, Touchstone's newspaper, The Councilor, would feature many stories on the JFK assassination, but never mentioned the Clinton/Jackson witnesses. A future post will examine JFK assassination coverage in The Councilor.

These hearings were held on November 27, 1963. Here is an excerpt from Jack Rogers' testimony:

Rogers then tied the Fair Play for Cuba Committee with the SCEF:

And the connections all led back to Oswald:

Rogers did not want to make a point about Oswald by linking him to SCEF; he wanted to make a point about SCEF by linking it to Oswald. Given his interest, and the interest of many other people to do the same, it is hard to believe, that had Oswald really been in Clinton/Jackson, that these witnesses would have waited to tell their stories until mid-1967.

Rogers believed that Oswald was "a Moscow-trained agent" who killed Kennedy and that even Jim Garrison was influenced by the Oswald-linked SCEF crowd. Garrison wasn't buying Rogers' theory:

Perhaps Rogers thought the Clinton/Jackson scenario would sway Garrison.

Another racist to have a relationship with Garrison was L. P. Davis. Here is an excerpt from a leads memo that Garrison wrote in November of 1967:

So, Davis called Garrison "to advise me that we were heading in the wrong direction because, in actuality, the Communists were involved in the assassination."

And L.P. Davis was not a fan of CORE:

New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 3, 1961

Was the Clinton/Jackson scenario concocted by Jack Rogers and L. P. Davis? They would have been killing two birds with one stone -- helping Garrison with his case and diverting attention from the CIA to a communist connection to the assassination.

There is another interesting clue. Here is an excerpt from Tom Bethell's diary:

Now, this doesn't directly relate to the Clinton witnesses, but it indicates that Garrison was leaking information to Leander Perez, who was a political boss in Louisiana and who was part of the segregationist crowd.

Perez was a contributor to Jim Garrison's campaign to become District Attorney of New Orleans. Here is an excerpt of an article about a debate between Jim Garrison and his opponent Richard Dowling:

New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 20, 1962

No strings attached?

All of these segregationists - Rarick, Touchstone, Rogers, Perez, L. P. Davis - were in regular contact. They all might have wanted to help Garrison, and to help themselves.

Jack Rogers was interviewed by the HSCA. Here is his outside contact report:

Rogers should have been questioned a little more closely. If the HSCA had Anne Dischler's notes, they would have realized that Rogers was one of the early sources of the story. But where did he hear about these witnesses? Rogers should have been deposed.

The only known Louisiana Committee on Un-American Activities report on Oswald was released in 1964. If there was a later report, I have not been able to find it. I do not believe Rogers' files have ever been found, and I see no reference to his file on the assassination in the NARA database. The ARRB wanted the supposed 1967 report but couldn't find it.

Had the HSCA been on the ball, we would have known a lot more about what really happened in Clinton.

A future post will examine the HSCA and the Clinton/Jackson witnesses.

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 a member of the KKK or a sympathizer.

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

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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