Was Jim Hicks the Communications Man in the JFK Assassination?
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
This is a very strange case, and I still don't have all the answers. In the summer of 1967, assassination witness Jim Hicks came to see Jim Garrison in New Orleans. Richard Sprague wrote that he had driven to "give Jim Garrison some information about the assassination." Researcher Jones Harris happened to be there, and he recognized Hicks from a picture taken in Dealey Plaza.
Here is Phil Willis Slide #7:
The man on the right is supposedly Jim Hicks. You can also see the picture in Volume XXI of the Warren Commission volumes:
While Hicks was in Garrison's office, Garrison noticed something peculiar about the picture. It looked like there was some sort of antenna-device in Hicks' back pocket. Most probably, it was an imperfection in the picture. But this was enough to get them thinking about something much more conspiratorial.
It's hard to know exactly what happened in Jim Garrison's office. Here is what Harold Weisberg wrote in Chapter 3 of his unpublished work on the JFK assassination industry:
"In the middle of all of this supposedly dealing with “Additional Shots” Groden has another of his many boxes headed “Mysterious Death Projects.” This one says that Jim Hicks told Jim Garrison that “he was the radio coordinator for the assassination” (page 40). Hicks had gotten himself beaten up in New Orleans. After some time and after release from a mental hospital he was, Groden says, murdered in Oklahoma.
I happened to be there for Hicks being awarded the title of assassination coordinator. It came about when Garrison spotted an imperfection on a Dealey Plaza news picture showing Hicks from the back and with the imperfection appearing to be a stiff and crooked wire hanging from his left hip pocket. Garrison realized immediately that that flaw in printing the picture was the aerial for a radio transmitter that the assassins were anxious to have seen so they could be caught, thus that imagined wire was not inside Hicks’ shirt or pants leg.
Neither Garrison nor Groden nor any of the others who made a big thing of poor Jim Hicks ever explained the need for any “radio coordinator for the assassination,” assassins not having to be told to skedaddle and the sound of a bullet being fired being enough of a signal. Nor was it necessary to file any report boasting of success. But here it is, more than twenty-five years later, in this definitive book on the assassination and its cover-up. It says, anyway.
There is nothing at all “mysterious” in Groden’s cribbing nor is there anything mysterious in his cribbing without discrimination, taking the irrational with the factual that he usually corrupts from his subject-matter ignorance. If Hicks was murdered as Groden says, with his customary lack of any source at all, he still had no connection with the assassination and thus there is no relevance.
I was there and I know. I asked Garrison what need there was for any assassination “communications” and by radio at that, radio being the most public form of communication. First he said as a signal to the shooters. When I asked him why they needed any signal when to shoot when they saw their target, but if they did by any chance require directions why the sound of the first shot was not enough. He had no answer. But he did have Hicks come to New Orleans, where he was almost killed, without being used as a witness in the trial to develop Garrison’s imagined conspiracy case."
Garrison's office spoke to Jim Hicks in mid-July 1967. He then visited Jim Garrison a few days later. Whatever happened inside of Garrison's office is unclear, but here are the two memos that were written regarding Jim Hicks:
Now we have a Clay Bertrand in Dallas. But when he was shown a picture of Clay Shaw, Hicks said it could have been him, but he needs black hair and a beard. But then he was shown a picture of leftist James Dombrowski and Hicks identifies him as Bertrand.
It appears to me that Hicks was trying to please. There is nothing in these memos about Hicks admitting he was the communications man in the assassination.
In January 1968, Garrison subpoenaed Hicks to appear before the grand jury. His statement said that Hicks "was there when President Kennedy was murdered," and that "Hicks might have special knowledge concerning the details of the assassination with respect to its planning and execution as well as personnel employed in the assassination of the president." Sure sounds like Garrison was describing the communications man.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 5, 1968
An Oklahoma City newspaper detailed Hicks' record of arrests:
Oklahoma City Times, January 5, 1968
While Jim Hicks was in New Orleans to testify before the grand jury, he claimed he was beaten up in his hotel room:
New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 12, 1968
Hicks noticed two people in a car in the parking lot by the Texas School Book Depository:
Hicks offered more information about the two men with the car:
As for the sign:
There is no record of such a sign being taken down.
Hicks was asked about the two men:
Hicks described the location of the two men and was asked if it was near the manhole cover. Before he could answer, Garrison interjected to discuss the sewer system:
Hicks was asked about getting beaten up the night before:
The whole affair was traumatic for Mr. Hicks:
No mention of being a communications man, and no questions about Clay Bertrand.
G = Jim Garrison
T = Bill Turner, writer for Ramparts and part-time investigator for Jim Garrison
F = Bernard Fensterwald
Bx = Bill Boxley, one of Garrison's investigators.
Now, Garrison says that Hicks was a communication man in Dealey Plaza. But he was "hopeless" as a witness. "He bartered his way out so to speak by creating a mythical assassination -- he described the gun and everything."
Garrison also mentioned that Hicks was in a mental institution. This was in January, and so Hicks clearly had issues before his testimony, or right after. In June, Hicks was committed:
"Earlier on, (about a month ago,) a guy called Jim Hicks had come to see Garrison in his office one Saturday afternoon. He said he had been in Dealey Plaza when JFK was shot, although I recall he had 2 versions as to which side of the street he was on. This evening Garrison told us that Hicks has a drunken driving rap hanging over his head. He now wants us to write to the D.A. in Oklahoma to get him off. This is obviously the explanation of Hicks' visit."
I was surprised to see this article about Hicks being subpoenaed to appear at the Clay Shaw trial.
The Daily Oklahoman, January 16, 1969
Hicks was never called to testify. And his name was not on the list of witnesses in the memo that Tom Bethell gave to the Shaw's attorneys. Perhaps Hicks was making this all up.
Of course, conspiracy theorists buy into the nonsense. Here is a page from J. Gary Shaw and Larry Harris's book Cover-Up published in 1976.
And guess who else couldn't resist the Jim Hicks story.
None other than our favorite conspiracy theorist, Fletcher Prouty. Here is an excerpt from his article "The Guns of Dallas," which appeared in the October 1975 issue of Gallery magazine.
Few people talk about Jim Hicks. He's fallen out of favor with the conspiracy theorists.
I wonder why.
Even Doonesbury noticed Jim Hicks (this is from the Harold Weisberg archive):
Jim Hicks was murdered in July 1988. There is a major obituary in the July 2, 1988 edition of Tulsa World, but I can only find a partial copy from the John Armstrong papers: