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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Why Did the Clinton/Jackson Witnesses Not Come Forward?

Updated: Dec 10, 2023



After the assassination, the Clinton/Jackson witnesses all said they recognized Lee Harvey Oswald from press coverage and that he had been in the area. Why didn't any of them come forward in 1963 and 1964 to talk to the FBI or to the Warren Commission?


I recently went to NARA in Maryland to photograph the HSCA depositions and outside contact reports of the Clinton/Jackson witnesses. This material is unfortunately not available online. Jonathan Blackmer was the HSCA attorney who led the HSCA investigation and his questioning of these witnesses leaves much to be desired. For instance, he never asked any of the witnesses about the KKK and the politics of the time. A future blog post will examine his investigation.


So, here is what these witnesses told the jury in the Shaw trial and and what they told the HSCA about why they never came forward:


Lee McGehee



Mr. Alcock: Did you have occasion, Mr. McGehee, after giving Oswald a haircut on this occasion to ever see his picture on television.


Mr. McGehee: Yes.


Mr. Alcock: When was that?


Mr. McGehee: I was at my mother-in-law's house on the day of the assassination and -- I think it was the day -- and when they arrested Oswald and brought him to the jail -- I think it was the jail -- and that was the first time I saw his picture, and I told my wife, I said, --


Judge Haggerty: Don't tell us what you told your wife.


Mr. Alcock: That is what he said, Your Honor.


Judge Haggerty: All right.


Mr. McGehee: I told my wife, I said, "I recognize that man from somewhere."


Mr. Alcock: Now, did you have occasion subsequent to this time when you made that comment to your wife, to have a conversation with Reeves Morgan?


Mr. McGehee: Right. That must have been about two weeks later. Mr. Reeves Morgan

--


Mr. Dymond: I object, Your Honor. He has answered the question already.


Judge Haggerty: He stated yes. He can tell him.


Mr. Alcock: You did have a conversation with Reeves Morgan?


Mr. McGehee: It must have been about two weeks later.


Mr. Dymond: Your Honor, I ask that the witness be instructed to answer questions and not elaborate.


Judge Haggerty: Mr. McGehee, the answer to the question Mr. Alcock put to you, which was did you have a conversation, you can say yes, you don't have to tell us the substance of it, what he told you; you can tell us what you told him.


Mr. Alcock: What did you tell Reeves Morgan during that conversation? Say what you said.


Mr. McGehee: I said that the man that I saw on the T.V. was the man that I sent to him.


Mr. Alcock: Is that the man that you identified in Court as Lee Harvey Oswald?


Mr. McGehee: Right.


Mr. Alcock: Up until that time, Mr. McGehee, had you sent anyone else to Reeves Morgan's house?


Mr. McGehee: He was the only one.


Mr. Alcock: Mr. McGehee, did you ever, subsequent to the assassination of President Kennedy, mention this incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other federal agency?


Mr. McGehee: No.


So, we can see that McGehee claims to have instantly recognized Lee Harvey Oswald and that he discussed this with Reeves Morgan. But he did not come forward. He then tells us why:


Mr. Dymond: Just one question, Mr. McGehee: Was there any special reason that you waited five years before saying anything about this to anybody?


Mr. McGehee: Nobody approached me.


McGehee was also deposed by the HSCA:


Mr. Blackmer: The next time you saw Lee Harvey Oswald was on television --


Mr. McGehee: Right.


Mr. Blackmer: After the assassination?


Mr. McGehee: After the assassination, right.


Mr. Blackmer: Did you recognize the individual you saw on television?


Mr. McGehee: The time I saw him I told my wife, I said, "I recognize that man." And she said, "Oh." And I said, "Yes, I recognize him. I seen the man." And she said, "Well, be quiet. Let's watch him." So, I didn't say no more to her. And then the next day or two, Mr. Reeves Morgan come in the shop, and we were talking, and Mr. Reeves said, "You know that fellow that they arrested? Oswald? He came out to my house."


And I said, "Mr. Reeves," I said, "now, I know. That's the fellow I sent out to your house." And I explained to him. Well, I hadn't talked to him about it until it happened.


Mr. Blackmer: Until the day of the assassination?


Mr. McGehee: Right. We never discussed it. And so, then, it just clicked in, just like that. I said, "That's the same fellow; that's the one I saw."


During the Shaw trial, McGehee said he talked to Morgan two weeks after the assassination; to the HSCA, he said he talked to Morgan the next day or two days later.


McGehee elaborated about why he had not come forward:


Mr. Blackmer: Mr. McGehee, after the assassination of President Kennedy, when you recognized on the television set Mr. Lee Harvey Oswald, did you make any attempt to contact any officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the State Police or anyone and relate this story to them?


Mr. McGehee: I didn't because Mr. Reeves had told me he had called the FBI, and I said there was no need of me doing it too.


Mr. Blackmer: In 1964, were you aware that the FBI was conducting an investigation for the Warren Commission of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy?


Mr. McGehee: Yes.


Mr. Blackmer: Did you, at that time, contact any individuals from the FBI and relate your story to them?


Mr. McGehee: No, I didn't.


Mr. Blackmer: Did the FBI or anyone from the Warren Commission contact you?


Mr. McGehee: No.


Once again, McGehee's story has changed. He told the Shaw jury that the reason he never talked to the FBI was that nobody approached him, and now he says he didn't come forward because Reeves Morgan had already notified them.


Reeves Morgan



Mr. Alcock: After the assassination of President Kennedy, did you see a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald on television or in the paper?


Mr. Morgan: I saw it in the newspaper first, I believe. As well as I remember, the newspaper picture was the first one I saw.


Mr. Alcock: Did you recognize him?


Mr. Morgan: Yes, sir.


Mr. Alcock: Where did you recognize him from?


Mr. Morgan: From being at my house.


Mr. Alcock: Did you ever tell this incident to anyone?


Mr. Morgan: Well, yes, discussed it with several people around there, and I even called the FBI and told them.


Mr. Alcock: When did you call the FBI?


Mr. Morgan: I would say that it was practically the next day after I recognized it, I believe it was the next day.


Mr. Alcock: After the assassination?


Mr. Morgan: No, the day after I recognized his picture. Maybe it might have been the next day after the assassination before I saw his picture, as well as I remember.


Mr. Alcock: Did the FBI ever send anybody to talk to you about this?


Mr. Morgan: No, sir, they never did send anybody, because when I called then, when we got through talking, I told him I was glad that they already knew he was up there in the vicinity. They already knew it. And he thanked me for my trouble of calling them.


Mr. Alcock: Did you have a conversation regarding this matter with a Mr. Lee McGehee?


Mr. Morgan: I was over there in the barber shop several times after that, and we was talking about it.


Morgan says he did call the FBI and that they already knew that Oswald was in the vicinity. But does this sound like how the FBI operated? If they really knew Oswald was in the vicinity, they would have scoured Jackson and Clinton for witnesses.


Morgan had a slightly different story for the HSCA:


Mr. Blackmer: Mr. Morgan, after you recognized the photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald, after the assassination, did you attempt to contact anyone in the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Louisiana Police and relate the story of meeting Oswald?


Mr. Morgan: I called the FBI. They are the only ones I ever related it to.


Mr. Blackmer: And when did you call the FBI?


Mr. Morgan: Well, it might have been the same day; or it might have been the next day, after I recognized the picture and the name.


Mr. Blackmer: Do you remember any individual you --


Mr. Morgan: No, I don't remember who it was I talked to.


Mr. Blackmer: Where did you call the FBI?


Mr. Morgan: Here in Baton Rouge.


Mr. Blackmer: You knew that they had an office in Baton Rouge?


Mr. Morgan: Yes, sir. I believe I looked in the phone book maybe to find their number. I don't remember now how I got it.


Mr. Blackmer: And you called the FBI and related to them the story of meeting this individual?


Mr. Morgan: Yes, sir.


Mr. Blackmer: Do you recall what they told you?


Mr. Morgan: Well, the fellow I talked to thanked me, but he said, "We already knew he had been up in those parts." He didn't say he knew he had been to my house. But they knew he had been up there.


Mr. Blackmer: And did you later receive a telephone call from the Federal Bureau of Investigation?


Mr. Morgan: Sometime afterwards, several days or so, I received a call from them, and they wanted to know what kind of clothes he had on; whoever it was called me from the FBI, said they was calling from the FBI. Federal Investigation or whatever they said. But it was from the FBI really.


Mr. Blackmer: In 1964, sir, were you aware that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was conducting an investigation for the Warren Commission in Washington, D.C?


Mr. Morgan: How is that, now?


Mr. Blackmer: Were you aware in 1964, that President Johnson had set up a committee called the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination?


Mr. Morgan: I read about it, yes.


Mr. Blackmer: And were you aware, sir, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was conducting an investigation for this Warren Commission?


Mr. Morgan: Well, I didn't know too much about that. All I knew is they had set up a commission and called it the Warren Commission that was investigating.


Mr. Blackmer: Did you make any attempts, sir, to contact the Warren Commission or the FBI again?


Mr. Morgan: No. No. I didn't bother about it. I figured I went as far as I wanted to go. If they wanted to know any more, I figured they'd contact me.


Now Morgan says he not only called the FBI, but that they then called him back several days later. And all they wanted to know was what kind of clothes Oswald was wearing.


During his first contact with the HSCA, just four months earlier, Morgan said "a few months after the assassination he did receive a call from someone identifying himself as an FBI agent, but this person only inquired as to what kind of jacket Oswald had been wearing."


John Manchester



Mr. Dymond: Were you aware of the fact that several residents of Clinton said that they had seen Lee Harvey Oswald in Clinton and in Jackson, Louisiana, back in 1963?


Mr. Manchester: Yes, sir.


Mr. Dymond: When did you first find out about that?


Mr. Manchester: Soon after the Kennedy assassination.


Mr. Dymond: Soon after the Kennedy assassination? Is that right?


Mr. Manchester: Yes, sir.


Mr. Dymond: Were you aware of the fact that the Warren Commission was conducting extensive investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy?


Mr. Manchester: I knew they was conducting an investigation.


Mr. Dymond: Did you have occasion to report to the Warren Commission that any testimony was available in your area which might be connected with the assassination?


Mr. Manchester: No, sir. I figured if they wanted it, they could come and get it.


Mr. Dymond: As a law enforcement officer you didn't feel it your duty to make it available to them?


Mr. Manchester: I felt it was my duty if they came and asked for it.


Mr. Dymond: It was your duty if they came and asked for it?


Mr. Manchester: Yes, sir.


Here is Manchester's testimony before the HSCA:


Mr. Blackmer: Mr. Manchester, in November of 1963 after the assassination, did you see photographs, newspaper and television reports of the assassination?


Mr. Manchester: Yes, sir, I did.


Mr. Blackmer: Did you recognize any individuals at that time?


Mr. Manchester: Yes, sir. I had seen sometime of other, I remembered that I had seen Lee Harvey Oswald's picture, you know, his picture was familiar to me.


Mr. Blackmer: Were you aware that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was conducting an investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy?


Mr. Manchester: Yes, sir.


Mr. Blackmer: Were you aware that later the Warren Commission was investigating the assassination?


Mr. Manchester: I will say I was aware of it because of the reports.


Mr. Blackmer: At that time, did you attempt to contact any individuals in those organizations?


Mr. Manchester: No, I didn't.


Mr. Blackmer: Do you know whether or not the Federal Bureau of Investigation was in Clinton investigating the Oswald assassination of President Kennedy?


Mr. Manchester: Not to my knowledge, no.


Mr. Blackmer: Do you know whether or not the Warren Commission was in Clinton?


Mr. Manchester: Not to my knowledge.


Mr. Blackmer: Why is it, sir, that you did not approach either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Warren Commission?


Mr. Manchester: Well, I often thought about contacting the Warren Commission or somebody on this, but I felt like if I did I would just be -- I felt like they knew what they were doing and if they didn't feel like this incident in Clinton was important, then I didn't feel like it was important.


If anybody would have been aware of an FBI presence in Clinton after the assassination, it would have been Manchester. But he wasn't aware of any FBI investigation in Clinton.


Henry Earl Palmer



Mr. Sciambra: Have you ever been questioned by the FBI about this?


Mr. Palmer: I have not.


Mr. Sciambra: Has the FBI ever shown any interest in the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was in Jackson and Clinton?


Mr. Dymond: That is objected to, Your Honor, on the ground that it calls for a conclusion of the witness as to whether the FBI has shown interest.


The Court: Sustain the objection.


It's unfortunate that Irvin Dymond objected to that question. I would have liked to have heard the answer because Palmer would have probably said that he did not know of FBI interest in Oswald being in Clinton and Jackson.


Palmer told the HSCA exactly why he didn't come forward:


Mr. Blackmer: And would you relate to us how you became involved in the Garrison investigation?


Mr. Palmer: The first I knew of it, I had a CB [citizen's band radio] set, and I was talking with some lady over in St. Francisville, a Mrs. Sipes or Shipes. I believe it's Shipes. And she said something about this paper in Shreveport investigating this Kennedy assassination, and something about Oswald. I said, "Well, Oswald was in my office. He tried to register in my office." And that was all I said to her. Then the next thing I knew, Jack [sic] Fruge, the State Cop -- oh, I guess it was a month or two later -- came into my office one day and wanted me to take a statement from me.


Mr. Blackmer: Approximately what year was that?


Mr. Palmer: This must have been in '67, somewhere along the first of '67 or the last of '66.


Mr. Blackmer: So, between the assassination and 1967, you had no contact with anyone about this?


Mr. Palmer: No contact about this.


Mr. Blackmer: Were you aware in 1964, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating the Kennedy assassination for a Commission in Washington that was set up by President Johnson known as the Warren Commission?


Mr. Palmer: I knew that, yes.


Mr. Blackmer: And did you make any attempt to contact any individuals with the Federal Bureau of Investigation about this incident?


Mr. Palmer: I did not.


Mr. Blackmer: Can you tell me why you didn't?


Mr. Palmer: Why I didn't?


Mr. Blackmer: Yes, sir.


Mr. Palmer: I had too much trouble with the FBI and the Justice Department with the Voter Registration, and I wanted nothing to do with them. They had been in my office I don't know how many times photographing the records, accusing me of registering people that were not qualified. I just didn't have any good blood for them, I'll tell you.


Now, we got an FBI man here in this office named Mike Beran [sic; the FBI agent's real name was Michael Baron] that was one of the first ones, and he and I are good friends, I like him, very good friends. I just saw him this morning.


It's hard to believe that all of the other witnesses were discussing Oswald being in Clinton while Palmer was not. I also find it laughable that Palmer says that the FBI was accusing him of registering people that were not qualified -- I would have thought that it was the reverse. Also, Palmer was good friends with FBI agent Baron, but never spoke to him about Oswald, although he did talk to Baron about Michael Lesser in August of 1963.


Corrie Collins



Mr. Dymond: Now, were you aware that the Warren Commission was conducting an extensive investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy, were you not?


Mr. Collins: I was aware that they were investigating it.


Mr. Dymond: I see. At the time that you were aware of the fact that this investigation was being conducted, you knew that you had seen Lee Harvey Oswald in Clinton, did you not?


Mr. Collins: That is true.


Mr. Dymond: Did you report this to the Warren Commission or the FBI or any Federal agency?


Mr. Collins: No.


Mr. Dymond: Why not?


Mr. Collins: No one asked me.


Mr. Dymond: You didn't consider it your duty to report it?


Mr. Collins: Beg your pardon?


Mr. Dymond: You didn't consider it your duty to report it?


Mr. Collins: Well, I felt like if they wanted to know they would ask me.


Mr. Dymond: Were they supposed to just guess that you had information, or what?


Mr. Alcock: Objection.


The Court: I sustain the objection.


It's too bad Judge Haggerty did not allow that question; it was certainly pertinent to understanding his thinking.


Corrie Collins was interviewed by Al Maxwell of the HSCA and supplied a written deposition to the HSCA. Here is what he said:


Mr. Maxwell: Why didn't you tell the FBI when you recognized Oswald in the newspapers after the assassination?


Mr. Collins: At first I remembered seeing him, but could not remember where I saw him; besides there wasn't any FBI connection in Clinton, and I saw no reason to say anything to anyone.


Collins testified in the Shaw trial that he was aware after the assassination that Oswald was in Clinton. But he told the HSCA he could not remember where he saw Oswald. And, of course, Collins must have known people in the FBI since he was the CORE leader in Clinton.


William Dunn


William Dunn wasn't specifically asked why he never came forward. Here is his testimony from the Shaw trial:


Mr. Dymond: When did you determine or find out or finally decide for yourself that the man you had seen in Clinton was Lee Harvey Oswald?


Mr. Dunn: I seed him in Clinton, but we started seeing him after the assassination of President Kennedy.


Mr. Dymond: When you saw his picture on television. Is that right?


Mr. Dunn: In the paper.


Mr. Dymond: In the paper?


Mr. Dunn: That is right.


William Dunn was deposed in person by the HSCA, but he was not asked why he did not come forward.


Bobbie Dedon


Bobbie Dedon was not asked during the Clay Shaw trail why she had not come forward. She told the HSCA that after the assassination, she was not sure when, Lieutenant Francis Fruge came to the hospital and showed her photographs. She identified the photograph of Oswald as the person she gave directions to in 1963. What is amazing is that she was not sure what year Fruge came to interview her.


Mr. Blackmer: When did you first learn that the individual you identified in the photograph as having been the individual that approached you for directions to the Personnel Office was Lee Harvey Oswald?


Mrs. Dedon: I can't remember if he told me then. I really can't.


Mr. Blackmer: Do you recall when the President was assassinated in Dallas? You saw photographs in newspaper accounts and television accounts of the assassination?


Mrs. Dedon: I didn't see it on TV until, you know, later, like much later. Because usually when the news was on in the afternoons, I very seldom ever watched, even to today because I'm always cooking. When I come home from work, the first thing I do is usually, before I even take my clothes off, I turn the oven on, and then go and change clothes and come straight to the kitchen.


It's something that I have always done, because if I don't, I'm very late.


Mr. Blackmer: Did you see newspaper accounts of the assassination?


Mrs. Dedon: Yes, I'm sure I did.


Mr. Blackmer: Do you recall seeing any photographs in the newspaper accounts of the assassination depicting the alleged assassin?


Mrs. Dedon: No, I don't know. I really don't.


Mr. Blackmer: But you did not --


Mrs. Dedon: I did not know who this individual was.


Mr. Blackmer: You did not put the face with the name in the newspaper?


Mrs. Dedon: No, no. Definitely not, you know, I did not know who I was talking to.


Mr. Blackmer: After Lieutenant Fruge showed you the photographs, of which you identified one, did you later have occasion to speak with the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning the individual you picked out?


Mrs. Dedon: No.


Mr. Blackmer: Were you aware in 1964 that there was an FBI investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy?


Mrs. Dedon: I was never contacted, or no one ever bothered me, no.


Mr. Blackmer: You were aware of an investigation.


Mrs. Dedon: Yes.


Mr. Blackmer: Were you aware of the Warren Commission set up by then President Johnson to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy?


Mrs. Dedon: I never paid that much attention to it. I never figured that I would ever be ..


Mr. Blackmer: No one ever contacted you concerning this incident?


Mrs. Dedon: I went to Court in New Orleans. Garrison had me put down there.


So, after the assassination Mrs. Dedon did not recognize Lee Harvey Oswald as the person who asked directions. Why Fruge came to interview her is a mystery.



Discussion

None of the Clinton/Jackson witnesses came forward in 1963 - 1964. And yet they were supposedly talking amongst themselves about the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald had been in Jackson/Clinton.


And there were several groups of people who were supposedly aware of his presence:

  • McGehee and his friends in Jackson, Louisiana.

  • A variety of people at the East Louisiana State Hospital.

  • Black people in CORE.

  • Palmer and Manchester's KKK crowd in Clinton.

Nobody came forward -- not the witnesses, and not their friends and family. In addition, Reeves Morgan claimed he called the FBI, and they told him they already knew Oswald had been in the area. Had the FBI really thought that Oswald had been in Jackson/Clinton, they would have talked to hundreds of people, and yet there is not one example of a Jackson/Clinton witness being interviewed by the FBI in 1963 -1964.


Lee McGehee's wife worked at the East State Louisiana Hospital, and he told Andrew Sciambra that "she has never heard anyone talk about Oswald in her department." Had Oswald really been there, wouldn't it have been openly discussed throughout the hospital?



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.



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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