Motivations & Movements Of Lee H. Oswald In Dallas #2

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Oswald handing out Pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans Photo Credit: HSCA Exhibit F-596

Oswald handing out Pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans
Photo Credit: HSCA Exhibit F-596

There he goes again, stirring up people. No it’s not a March Of Dimes cup in his hand. It’s Mr. Oswald in New Orleans, during the summer of 1963, handing out Pro-Castro leaflets.

Pro-Castro leaflets handed out by Oswald in New Orleans Photo Credit: HSCA Exhibit F-595

Pro-Castro leaflets handed out by Oswald in New Orleans
Photo Credit: HSCA Exhibit F-595

This brazen act of standing in the streets of New Orleans handing out Pro-Communist literature has sparked many of a debate amongst researchers. There is an overwhelming majority of people that believe this act was some sort of intelligence operation performed by Oswald. They point to possible links with rabid anti-communist characters such as Ex-FBI agent turned private investigator, Guy Bannister, Naval Intelligence, FBI, etc. The common thread running in these theories was Oswald was acting as intelligence operative for this government to “lure” possible commie sympathizers so the intelligence agencies could monitor their activities. This leads to all kinds of international espionage and adventure theories from people who clearly attempt to link Oswald to everyone’s favorite boogeyman, the CIA. From that easy link, they go onto conclude the CIA murdered President John Kennedy with Oswald as a fall guy or operative.

Cuban Anti-Batista Rebels move into Havana 1959. Photo Credit: LatinAmerican Studies

Cuban Anti-Batista Rebels move into Havana 1959.
Photo Credit: LatinAmerican Studies

Ok, I admit all this talk of Cuban revolution, spies, mercenaries, nuclear mass destruction, Mafia and international espionage is more exciting than what I’m going to discuss in this article. Oswald’s Pro-Castro “activities” in New Orleans have spawned all kinds of spy vs. spy rabbit holes sucking researchers to bottomless pit stories with no conclusions. However, this is an article about Oswald in Dallas and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out something researchers have possibly overlooked.

Author at 214 West Neely apartment in June 2014

Author at 214 West Neely apartment in June 2014

In the first article I gave a little background info on the Oswald’s living on 214 West Neely street in Oak Cliff. Oswald was working at Jaggers-Chiles Stovall on 525 Browder street in downtown Dallas. He would ride the bus everyday to work. Oswald had everything set up downtown for convenience from his post office box on North Ervay street to some shopping excursions to HL Green’s. On payday, he would occasionally cash his Jagger’s check at Mart’s Liquor store just up the street. HL Green’s department store could be best described as a large Five & Dime type store that carried a little of everything from clothing to pet box turtles. It sat on the busy corner of Ervay and Main streets.

Map of Oswald's work to post office box route. Photo Credit: Google Maps

Map of Oswald’s work to post office box route.
Photo Credit: Google Maps

HL Green Department Store Civil Rights Protestor Photo Credit: Marion Butts collection, Dallas Public Library

HL Green Department Store Civil Rights Protestor
Photo Credit: Marion Butts collection, Dallas Public Library

It was at this busy corner in front of HL Green’s that something occurred that angered some shoppers and citizens. Citizens were used to seeing the occasional civil rights picketing on the HL Green company out front, but this time an unusual man with a sign around his neck was causing a scene.

DPD Finnegan affidavit on Pro-Castro picketer Photo Credit: Warren Report Vol 22 CE 1409

DPD Finnegan affidavit on Pro-Castro picketer
Photo Credit: Warren Report Vol 22 CE 1409

After the assassination, a couple of Dallas Police officers remembered an encounter with a man passing out Pro-Castro literature in front of HL Green’s back in the late spring of 1963. The first on scene was DPD officer W.R. Finigan, who called for back-up. Finigan was joined by Commissioner of the Northern Texas Judicial District, W. Maddon Hill who remarked “Something should be done about that guy passing out literature”. The man was described as a white male of medium height, white shirt and no hat. He was wearing a sign or placard on his back that read ” Viva Castro” and handing out literature. Sound familiar?

Harkness affidavit on Pro-Castro picketer Photo Credit: Warren Report, Voll 22 CE 1409

Harkness affidavit on Pro-Castro picketer
Photo Credit: Warren Report, Voll 22 CE 1409

As Sgt. David Harkness drove up on his three wheel motorcycle, the “man” dropped his sign and ran inside the HL Green department store. A passerby who observed the scene remarked to officer Finigan “the white male said, oh hell, here come the cops”. Harkness told Finigan to let him go, and the ordeal was all over. Everyone went on about their own business. (1) Was this Lee Harvey Oswald handing out Pro-Castro literature before his New Orleans adventure? I believe the probability remains high that they are one in the same, as you will see forthcoming.

Oswald letter to FPCC stating he was demonstrating for Cuba in Dallas Photo Credit: Warren Report VT Lee Exhibit #1

Oswald letter to FPCC stating he was demonstrating for Cuba in Dallas
Photo Credit: Warren Report VT Lee Exhibit #1

In fact, he did claim to have a placard around his neck, passing out Pro-Castro literature with “Hands Off Cuba! – Viva Castro!” handwritten on it. He states this was the first time in his life that he did this in this letter to the Fair Play For Cuba Committee. (2) Oswald lost his job at Jagger-Chiles-Stovall on April 1, 1963. The notation on the above letter, written by FPCC personnel, shows April 19, 1963.(3) It is unclear when Oswald wrote the letter, but it’s very close to the Walker shooting attempt on April 10, 1963.

 

212 and 214 West Neely Street apartments in 1963 Photo Credit: McAdams

212 and 214 West Neely Street apartments in 1963
Photo Credit: McAdams.posc.mu.edu

Oswald eventually moves out of 214 West Neely, skipping out on the rent, on April 24, 1963. Ruth Paine takes him to the bus station to his next adventure in New Orleans.

So there you have it, Oswald had already started his Pro-Castro activities in Dallas, before New Orleans. Was this a high level covert intelligence operation going on with Oswald handwriting a homemade sign and wearing it around his neck in a right wing town? I seriously doubt it………

References:

  1. Warren Report, Vol 22, CE 1409
  2. Ibid
  3. Vincent T. Lee testimony, Warren Report Vol. 10, page 86

 

 

 

 

 

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Motivations & Movements Of Lee Harvey Oswald In Dallas

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Oswald's Oak Cliff Rental Residences 1962 - 1963 Photo Credit: Google Maps

Oswald’s Oak Cliff Rental Residences 1962 – 1963
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Oak Cliff was a prosperous community in Dallas during the 1960’s. Situated just west of downtown, across the Trinity River, it began in the early 1900’s as farm land that was developed into homes and shops. In the early 1960’s, I spent part of my early youth in Oak Cliff. Almost every Sunday or weekend was spent with my cousins in the Wynnewood area of Oak Cliff.

Author with his cousins and sister in Oak Cliff 1960

Author with his cousins and sister in Oak Cliff 1960

Attending the Boulder Church of Christ was mandatory for us kids, both mornings and evenings. Uncle Ben had done well for his family working at the printing shop. He had a nice brick home on Shady Glen lane with air conditioning, a big Chrysler and owned a rental apartment unit on Winnetka street. The big event of our week was going out to eat the only restaurant meal of the week, after church.

El Chico Restaurant Oak Cliff Photo Credit: Oak Cliff Advocate

El Chico Restaurant Oak Cliff
Photo Credit: Oak Cliff Advocate

Usually Sunday lunches were at the El Chico, Kip’s Big Boy, Wyatt’s Cafeteria and other local establishments. Occasionally my Aunt LaVonne would have her famous pot roast in the oven when we came over Sunday morning. After church the whole house was permeating with the mouth watering aroma. I swear I’ve never tasted a better pot roast in my life. In the summer months, the church would usually have a big picnic at Kiest park. My sister Susan and I, along with my two cousins, had a blast playing horseshoes, softball, football, badminton with all the other church kids. My fondest memory of those church picnics in the sweltering heat, was pulling a ice cold Dr. Pepper out of the big gray circular metal ice coolers. It seemed everyone around Oak Cliff were having similar Sunday afternoon experiences. Well maybe not everyone…….

Oswald in the backyard of his 214 Neely Street apartment Photo Credit: Warren Report

Oswald in the backyard of his 214 Neely Street apartment
Photo Credit: Warren Report

A young couple had moved into town. Lee H. Oswald, his wife Marina and new baby, June. Recently they moved to Fort Worth after Lee’s defection to Russia in 1959. They moved into Lee’s mother’s (Marguerite) home on June 14, 1962. Out of work, with a wife and kid, Oswald finds employment at the Louv-R-Pak division of the Leslie Welding company in Fort Worth. A little time later, they moved into Lee’s brother’s (Robert) home on Mercedes street in Fort Worth. Oswald, still fresh from his Russian experience in the summer of 1962, seeks out a Peter Paul Gregory, a Russian immigrant from Siberia who taught Russian at the Fort Worth public library. Oswald is interested to see if he could apply his Russian language skills as an interpreter or translator. Peter Paul Gregory and his son Paul Gregory, go to meet Lee and Marina at Robert Oswald’s house in Fort Worth. Lee develops a relationship with the son Paul Gregory and he starts to introduce him and Marina to the Russian émigré community at a dinner party at the Gregory home. (1)  At that party the Oswald’s meet another Russian immigrant, George DeMohrenschildt. From that party, the Oswald’s get the encouragement to move to Dallas to be closer to the Russian émigré group. Marina and baby June move in with Elena Hall in Dallas. Lee quits his job at Louv-R-Pak and signs up with the Texas Unemployment Commission to seek a job in Dallas on October 9, 1962. Finally on October 12th, he starts work at Jagger-Chiles-Stovall (graphic arts company) at 525 Browder street in downtown Dallas. Meanwhile Oswald moves out of the Dallas downtown YMCA and finds an apartment on 602 Elsbeth in Oak Cliff. Marina and June move in with him, but then they later move just around the corner to 214 West Neely street, a two story converted duplex-home. The Oswald’s lived on the top unit. (2)

Oswald's P.O. Box #2915 In Dallas Photo Credit: Warren Report

Oswald’s P.O. Box #2915 In Dallas
Photo Credit: Warren Report

Previous to starting work at Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall, Oswald opens up a P.O Box at the downtown Dallas Post Office on Ervay Street on October 9, 1962. This is convenient for him because it is under a half mile away north of his employment. Things began to stabilize for Oswald as he settles into the family life and a steady job. Although the money wasn’t great, he at least begin to support his family.

It was probably at this juncture of his life, he was the happiest. He even reunites with his step brother John Pic at Robert’s house at Thanksgiving on the eerie date of November 22, 1962. Ironically it would be one year to the day that Robert will see his brother again, at the Dallas City Jail.

George DeMohrenschildt

George DeMohrenschildt

The Dallas Russian community are somewhat eager to help this young struggling family. George DeMohrenschildt and his wife Jeanne make a few trips to 214 West Neely to see them. However, most of the émigrés are quickly turned off by Oswald and his anti-social behavior. George DeMohrenschildt seemed to get along with the abrasive Oswald. Oswald looked up to him as a father like figure in his life. (3) Other friends donated clothes to Marina and little June. Meanwhile, 6-1/2 miles south of Neely street, while as I was playing with a train set at my cousin’s, Oswald was beginning to play with guns.

Oswald with The Worker and The Militant Newspapers

Oswald with The Worker and The Militant Newspapers

Take a good look at the above photo. Everyone has seen it a thousand times. However people tend to forget what Oswald is holding in his right hand. One is a copy of “The Worker” and the other is “The Militant”. The Worker was a weekly newspaper published on the east coast by American communist sympathizers. The Militant was also a weekly newspaper published by the American Socialists Workers Party (SWP). Oswald subscribed to these papers, and probably received them in his Dallas P.O. Box 2915. Generally both of these newspapers covered current world events, social injustice, civil rights and anything anti-capitalist in nature. The Militant was especially Anti-Kennedy and Pro-Castro. Just the kind of stuff Oswald, an avid reader of books and newspapers, would enjoy.

The Militant, Feb 25, 1963 Photo Credit: Militant Archives

The Militant, Feb 25, 1963
Photo Credit: Militant Archives

Oswald continued his life uneventful until a chance meeting at a party at the Dr, Everett Glover home in Dallas on February 22, 1963 (5). Glover, a friend of George DeMohrenschildt,  introduced him to another oil geologist, Volkmar Schmidt of the Magnolia Oil Company (Mobil) in Dallas. Oswald was always happy to discuss one of his greatest heroes, Fidel Castro and his communist revolution in Cuba. (4) Not happy about the one-sided coverage about Cuba and Communism, Oswald relied on The Militant and The Worker for his news. The Cuban missile crisis had just occurred in October 1962, so Cuba was always front and center of the news. In an conversation with Schmidt, Oswald goes into his old routine about Cuba and Castro. He is livid with Kennedy trying to crush this tiny Caribbean nation of burgeoning communists. This conversation went on for awhile, but Schmidt, feeling Oswald’s anger, begins to steer him onto the subject of General Edwin Walker.  A discussion ensues about General Walker and his anti-communist and racist leanings. The Oxford, Mississippi integration riots at Ole Miss occurred back on October 1, 1962. General Walker was arrested on orders of Robert and John Kennedy, for his part in instigating the uprising of white college kids and local supporters. The General is whisked away and held in a Federal detention center in Missouri. Slowly this talk of Walker began to sink into the radical brain of Oswald. According to Schmidt, he made references as Walker just another Nazi hell-bent on racial segregation and down on Castro communists. To top it all off, Walker lived right there in Dallas in a big Turtle Creek mansion. Though all this talk was non-intentional on Schmidt’s part, this is where he felt Oswald began to turn his anger from the Kennedy administration to General Edwin Walker. This is explained by Schmidt in the 1993 Frontline series program, “Who was Lee Harvey Oswald” and this telephone interview with William E. Kelly in 1995:

K: So do you think your conversation with Oswald about Walker may have instigated him to take a pot shot at him?

S: Yes, he did, and naturally it was a terrible responsibility, and for years when I drove past the underpass I literally had to cry because, you know. But I exonerate myself completely because I had the best intent, embarrassed Kennedy, and I certainly didn’t tell him to take a pot shot at him.

K: I didn’t think you told him to do it, just because you were talking to him about it…

S: I may have triggered it. Actually, a few days after I talked with him, he bought his weapons (6)

Oswald's Postal Money Order for Klein's Mannlicher Carcano Rifle  Photo Credit: Warren Report

Oswald’s Postal Money Order for Klein’s Mannlicher Carcano Rifle
Photo Credit: Warren Report

Indeed that’s what he did on March 12, 1963. Long before any talk of President Kennedy coming to Dallas, Oswald’s first motivation was to kill General Edwin Walker. That opportunity would come on April 10, 1963, at General Walker’s house on Turtle Creek Blvd. However something interesting to this case “may” have been overlooked, if not for an early researcher named Albert Newman.

The Militant, Letters to the Editor column, March 11, 1963.

The Militant, Letters to the Editor column, March 11, 1963.

This letter to the editor column was uncovered by Albert Newman in 1966. While in Dallas researching his upcoming JFK book, The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: The Reasons Why, he contacted the local FBI office. In the above article, a “LH” writes in from Dallas. As Newman explains (verified by this author) this was the first and only time a “LH” wrote or was published in The Militant. There was only one other person from Dallas that wrote off and on, her name was Thelma Lucio. The FBI did a background check on Mrs. Lucio and found her to be an Irish immigrant (nee Smith) married to a Mexican-American veteran Eusebio Lucio. Mr. Lucio was in and out of veteran hospitals and even the Terrell State Hospital for mental reasons. (7) In the end, the Lucio’s were cleared of any possible involvement. Although one can only speculate here, but I believe there was a high probability that Oswald wrote that letter. If you factor in how many people were subscribing to The Militant from Dallas (slim) and how many “LH’s” there were in Dallas at that time, then things begin to get clearer.

FBI Shaneyfelt document stating the dates of The Militant and The Worker Newspapers in Oswald's hand Document source credit: Mary Ferrell

FBI Shaneyfelt document stating the dates of The Militant and The Worker Newspapers in Oswald’s hand
Document source credit: Mary Ferrell

To cap all this off, the above FBI document proves that Oswald had in his hand, in the backyard photo, the exact March 11, 1963 Militant newspaper with his possible “Letter to the Editor” in it. Was Oswald proud and grandstanding here? Very possible I would say……

Imperial 620 Camera used in the backyard photos Photo Credit: National Archives

Imperial 620 Camera used in the backyard photos
Photo Credit: National Archives

Were those backyard photos faked? Not in my opinion, and here’s why. Those Dallas Police Detectives found two negatives of the backyard photos in Ruth Paine’s closet, in a cardboard shoe box. They developed one and Captain Fritz showed Oswald later that day on November 22nd. Oswald said it was faked with his head on somebody’s body. Conspiracy theorists jumped all over this and the photo with the line embedded in the chin area. You know something else Oswald denied? He denied ever living at 214 West Neely to Police Homicide chief, Will Fritz. Also did you know Marina had another photo hidden in her shoe when she came down to City Hall with Marguerite Oswald to visit her husband. Also she testified and never changed her story on taking those photos. In her Warren Commission testimony, she admits burning the photo hidden in her shoe.(4) I’m not sure why people can’t understand the clear logic here.

But the fake backyard photo story continues to this day.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations took this fake photo story very seriously in 1978. They hired their own panel of independent photo experts to take a look. Their conclusion, just like the Warren Commission they are 100% real. So for the doubters out there, here is a link to that HSCA finding. I suggest you read it in detail.

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/photos.txt

References

  1. Paul Gregory Testimony, Warren Report, Vol 2, page 337
  2. Time Line of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, by W. Tracy Parnell
  3. George DeMohrenschildt Testimony, Warren Report, Vol 5, pages 166-264
  4. Marina Oswald Testimony, Warren Report, Vol’s 1, 5
  5. Evertt Glover Testimony, Warren Report, Vol 10, page 1
  6. JFK CounterCoup Blog, Volkmar Schmidt telephone interview, January 1, 2008 by William E. Kelly
  7. FBI Airtel, August 2, 1966, SA Robert Gemberling, Mary Ferrell Website

 

 

Dallas – The Turbulent Years #2

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Second in a series of the turbulent history of Dallas

Bonnie Parker Grave Photo Credit: Joe Boulton, RoadsideAmerica.com

Bonnie Parker Grave
Photo Credit: Joe Boulton, RoadsideAmerica.com

As the flowers are all made sweet by the sunshine and the dew, so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you” – Bonnie Elizabeth Parker 1910 – 1934

As a small curious kid growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s in Dallas, little did I know that one of Dallas’ infamous characters was buried right down the street from me. As the old saying goes, life was pretty simple back then on 3212 Community Drive. Most of my childhood days were spent outside playing assorted games like baseball, football, hide and seek, war, dirt clod fights, etc. with other kids in the neighborhood. We wandered off all over the place and finally came home near dark (all mothers made their kids go out and play). At the end of our block, across an asphalt two lane road (Webbs Chapel) stood the Crown Hill Cemetery. I never wandered into that place. Frankly as a kid, cemeteries just never interested me. Some years later my father took us down there and he gave us a tour of the cemetery. He wanted us to see a famous resident there, Bonnie Parker. We saw the headstone and he explained who Bonnie and Clyde were for the first time in my life. Years later I discovered this was not the original resting place of Bonnie Parker. After her ambushed death in Gibsland, Louisiana, Bonnie was buried at the old Fish Trap cemetery (now the Reunion Cemetery) near the intersection of Singleton and Hampton roads in west Dallas. Her casket and headstone were moved to the Crown Hill Cemetery in 1945.

Bonnie and Clyde Photo Credit: FBI.Gov

Bonnie and Clyde
Photo Credit: FBI.Gov

Much has been written about these two outlaws who got their start in Dallas. Clyde Chestnut Barrow came from Telico, a small town just southeast of Dallas. Impoverish and broke, the Barrow family moved off the farm to west Dallas. For some time they lived under a wagon near the Trinity River. Things got better for the Barrow family when father Henry Basil Barrow was able to buy a tent to live in.(1) Bonnie moved with her mother (father had died) from Rowena to Cement City (named for two cement plants), just three miles west from downtown Dallas, across the Trinity river. While in high school, Bonnie met Roy Thornton and they married in 1926 when Bonnie was just shy of 16 years old. Thornton a criminal himself, was gone for long periods. She never divorced him however, and when she was killed with Clyde, Roy’s wedding ring was still on her finger. Bonnie went to work as a seamstress and later as a waitress at the Hargrave’s café in Dallas on Swiss avenue.

The Ambush Posse, Deputy Ted Hinton upper left, Frank Hamer lower far right Photo Credit: Public Domain

The Ambush Posse, Deputy Ted Hinton upper left, Frank Hamer lower far right
Photo Credit: Public Domain

One of her regular customers was a postal worker named Ted Hinton. Hinton later would join the Dallas County Sheriff’s department as a deputy and in the ambush posse organized by legendary former Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer. (2) After Hinton’s retirement, he went into the motel business opening Hinton’s Motor Lodge in Irving which closed in 1970. (5)

Small and diminutive (4’11, 87 lbs), Bonnie met Clyde in west Dallas at a mutual friend of a friend’s home in 1930. Clyde had already run afoul of the law, first being arrested for not returning a rental car in 1926, then in possession of stolen goods (turkeys) with his brother Buck. Finally Clyde was sent to State prison at the Eastham Farm near Huntsville, Texas. (1) There he committed his first murder, killing a fellow inmate who sexually assaulted him repeatedly over sometime. Clyde was still young, 5’7 and 140 lbs and had enough of this. He lured the older inmate into a shower, and beat him to death with a pipe. Finally Clyde was paroled in 1932. He left the Texas prison system already hardened and disillusioned with his treatment there. He vowed to take revenge upon the Texas prison system at Eastham. Clyde, Bonnie and Ralph Fults began a string of robberies at small businesses, grocery stores and gas stations to gather money so Clyde could purchase an arsenal of guns to launch his attack on Eastham prison. Clyde’s favorite gun was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) which greatly out powered local lawmen around the country. (3)

Although I am leaving a lot of the story out here, the Barrow gang began their long string of robberies and murders all through Texas and the Midwest states. They quickly began famous and constantly on the run from 1932 to 1934. During the height of the Great Depression of the 30’s, many gangsters such as the Barrow gang, Dillinger and others were somewhat glamourized in their roles as “Robin Hood” types by many people at the time. There was great mistrust in the banking system, big businesses and the corporate world by genuine Americans who had to scrape by day to day just to eat. Nonetheless, the Barrow gang were killers and the Dallas Law Enforcement was out to get them.

Deputy detective Bill Decker in reenactment of Tarrant County Deputy Malcom Davis by Clyde Barrow Photo Credit: Texas Historical Society

Deputy detective Bill Decker in reenactment of Tarrant County Deputy Malcom Davis by Clyde Barrow
Photo Credit: Texas Historical Society

One of those Dallas lawmen was deputy sheriff James Eric Decker, widely known as Dallas county Sheriff Bill Decker in later years. Decker was in the Barrow gang pursuit. He was in on the capture of Barrow gang member, Raymond Hamilton. They had Hamilton pinned down in a boxcar with two weapons, after his escape from death row in Huntsville. Decker calmly walked in front of the officers who had their guns drawn and told Hamilton “This is Bill Decker, Raymond, come on out”. Hamilton walked out. Also he is credited with inside information on where Bonnie and Clyde were going to be to set up the ambush on May 24, 1934 on Sailes Road, Bienville Parish, Louisiana. When asked how he knew they were going to be there, he said “Somebody told me”. (4)

Deputy Sheriff Bill Decker posing over the dead body of Bonnie Parker Photo Repost Credit: Huffington Post

Deputy Sheriff Bill Decker posing over the dead body of Bonnie Parker
Photo Repost Credit: Huffington Post

Dallas had it fair share of gangster types and vice. Gambling was no exception in the 1930’s. If there was one man that was notorious for gambling in Dallas, it was Benny Binion.

Benny Binion Photo Credit: Doug Swanson

Benny Binion
Photo Credit: Doug Swanson

Lester Ben “Benny” Binion was raised near Sherman-Denison, just north of Dallas. Born in 1904 and until his death in 1989, people are still whispering about him around town and for good reasons. Binion began his checkered career in El Paso, Texas in moonshining in the 1920’s. He was caught and convicted twice. While in El Paso, he learned to gamble. (6) He learned his craft from his horse trading days hanging around the campgrounds while waiting on the market to open. Many horse traders were card and dice players. Binion ran errands for these gamblers and help steer them to underground speak easy establishments in El Paso. (8) Not content there, Binion moved on to Dallas refining his gambling and bootlegging skills. This was dangerous business back in the early Depression years, and Binion was always prepared for the worst. He “packed heat”, and I mean “heat”. He was known to carry two .45 automatics and one small .38 revolver. Binion would eventually use one of those.

In 1931, he got into an argument with a fellow black bootlegger, Frank Bolding, suspecting him of stealing some of his liquor. Binion was sitting on a tree log in a backyard, Bolding quickly stood up in anger, and Binion rolled backwards off the log, shooting Bolding in the neck. Bolding was dead on the scene, and Binion got his famous nickname “Cowboy” from shooting him Cowboy style. A knife was found on Bolding’s body and Binion got off with a two-year suspended sentence. Dallas cops sympathized with Binion because Bolding had a bad reputation. Maybe something to do with being black didn’t help either during those days (see my first blog). Western justice at it’s finest. (8)

Even during the depression, money was flowing into Dallas by the train loads. The East Texas Oil boom was going full swing by the mid and late 1930’s. More people began to move away off the struggling farms and little towns into this mecca called Dallas. Business prospered and Dallas was expanding. Binion was moving up in the gambling world, trying to wrestle control over his rivals. In 1936 he stalked a fellow numbers rival named Ben Frieden. Binion and one of his henchmen caught up with Frieden and they unloaded their .45’s into him. However, it was noticed that Frieden was unarmed, so Binion shot himself in the shoulder and then turned himself into the police. Charges were brought against Binion but overturned because they ruled he acted in self defense. Clearly Binion had friends in high places. Another murder of Sam Murray, a Binion rackets rival, was executed by Binion henchmen, charges were dropped. Life was good for Benny “Cowboy” Binion. (6)

Southland Hotel 1200 Main Street Dallas Photo Credit: Dallas Public Library

Southland Hotel 1200 Main Street Dallas
Photo Credit: Dallas Public Library

Dallas in 1936 ignored gambling laws for the most part. Dallas county Sheriff Richard Allen “Smoot” Schmid would have his occasional raid, but for the most part, he continued business as usual. Sheriff Schmid was the county sheriff from 1933 to 1947, longer than FDR was in office. In 1937, the Southland Hotel on 1200 Main Street near Murphy was not the Adolphus, but a close runner up. It catered a business class type of clientele. Binion ran a high class gambling speakeasy from the Southland Hotel. Craps was especially popular there. Frequent visitors including H.L. Hunt whose offices were just down the street. According to Binion, if Hunt wasn’t tired, he would shoot craps all night long till daylight, then go home. Other occasional visitors included Howard Hughes who according to Binion never lost over $10,000. Other Dallas dignitaries and business were frequent patrons. Binion quickly expanded his gambling empire with close associates and partners. He was involved with gambling at the Maurice, Bluebonnet, Birdwell, Troxy and Jefferson hotels. A dozen other hotels across the city not controlled by Binion paid him a 25% rake just to keep the peace. You can forget about the Mafia, Benny Binion was the mob boss of Dallas up to the late 40’s. (7)

Dallas County Sheriff "Smoot" Schmid Photo Credit: Texas Hideaway website

Dallas County Sheriff “Smoot” Schmid
Photo Credit: Texas Hideaway website

After WWII, things began to change in Dallas. Sheriff Smoot Schmid had served 7 terms and was succeeded by Steve Guthrie. Still a young deputy under Sheriff Schmid, Bill Decker resigned as well. Guthrie pledged to clean up the city of it’s gambling operations. He formed a 60 man posse task force to begin the crackdown in 1947.(9) Binion was feeling the heat. The tide was turning for ole “Cowboy” and Dallas clearly didn’t want his type anymore. He had enjoyed a good ride. So did the Hillcrest State Bank who welcomed his weekly deposits. Binion had insured that local politicians were kept in his hip pocket for many years. He used the old cut-out method by giving cash to bankers who in turned made “political” contributions as per Binion’s instructions. A law enforcement report back in that day reported “that nearly all the banks in the city lend them (Binion’s operatives) silent support”. Slowly Binion lost his political support after the 1946 elections, coupled with the increase pressure of the  Chicago Mafia moving into Dallas after WWII. (6) Binion was getting the message, get out of town and now! (7)

Bomb kills gambler Herb Noble Photo Credit: Oak Cliff Advocate

Bomb kills gambler Herb Noble
Photo Credit: Oak Cliff Advocate

By 1951, the “Cowboy” had established his self in Las Vegas. He left Dallas behind to start his new career “legally” this time. However, a long standing feud was still festering with Binion. A small time gambler out of Oak Cliff, Herb “The Cat” Noble gave the “Cowboy” problems. Binion with his tentacles still in Dallas, demanded that Noble increase his payoff money from 25 to 40%. Noble flatly refused. “The Cat” nickname for Noble came from all the failed attempts to kill him, from gun shots (he was wounded) to car bombs. One car bomb did explode in Oak Cliff in Oak Cliff, killing his wife in 1949. Noble suspecting Binion, concocted a wild retaliation plan. Already a seasoned pilot, Noble was caught by Dallas cops rigging two large bombs to his private plane. One bomb was an incendiary and the other high explosives. In addition, a map of Binion’s home in Las Vegas on Bonanza Road, clearly marked was found. However “The Cat” had finally outlived his 9 lives when a bomb exploded at his mailbox in 1951. (6)

Benny Binion surrendering to US Marshall for tax evasion Photo Credit: Dallas Public Library

Benny Binion surrendering to US Marshall for tax evasion
Photo Credit: Dallas Public Library

Maybe you can out-run the law, but you can’t out-run the IRS. In 1953, Binion lost his Nevada gambling license and was facing Federal Prison at Leavenworth, Kansas for 5 years, federal tax evasion. (6)

Benny Binion at the Horseshoe casino, 1969 Photo Credit: Unknown

Benny Binion at the Horseshoe casino, 1969
Photo Credit: Unknown

Binion went onto building his famous Horseshoe Casino on Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas. I stumbled into that old tired dive in the mid 80’s. By that time it was a worn out, low ceiling, smoke filled piece of worn out crap casino. Even the green felt was peeling off the black-jack tables. It made a resurgence with the World Series Of Poker and Texas Hold ’em resurgence in the last 15 years. The old “Cowboy” finally cashed in his chips in 1989 at the age of 84. In the end, the “Cowboy” had won living his life to a peaceful end. However Benny Binion will never bluff himself out of his murderous past.

References

  1.  Go Down Together: The True Untold Story Of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn
  2.  Bonnie and Clyde Hideout website by Frank Ballinger
  3. On The Trail Of Bonnie And Clyde by Winston Ramsey
  4.  Washington Post Newspaper August 31, 1970 Bill Decker Dies
  5. Flashback Dallas Blog by Paula Bosse
  6. The Green Felt Jungle by Reid/Demaris
  7. Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion by Doug Swanson
  8. Las Vegas Review-Journal article February 7, 1999 by A.D. Hopkins
  9. History Of Dallas County Sheriff’s Department by Dick Hitt

Dallas – The Turbulent Years

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First in a series of the turbulent history of Dallas

Southern Rock Island Plow Company circa 1910
Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News
Look familiar? Not much has changed in the old façade of the former Texas School Book Depository building on Elm and Houston street in Dallas. In 1894 the Rock Island Plow Company out of Illinois purchased this site and originally built a five-story building there. This plant was among other Rock Island Plow buildings that sold farm implement equipment. In 1901, the building caught fire (lightning by some accounts) and replaced with a more permanent seven story structure. In 1963 another fateful event would manifest itself upon this building that the city of Dallas could never erase in the minds of its citizenry. Near the end of the American Depression era, the building was sold to Carraway Byrd Corporation in 1937. However the corporation defaulted on the loan and it was purchased in a public auction by Dallasite, David Harold Byrd. (1)

D.H. Byrd began his career in the burgeoning oil boom in Texas, starting from the bottom and worked himself through Trinity and University of Texas studying geology. Like a lot of Texas wildcatters, he struck out on his own and finally shook his “Dry Hole Byrd” moniker when he struck two significant oil wells in the East Texas field. By 1931 he formed his own oil company, Byrd-Frost Incorporated with 492 producing wells. Somewhat of a celebrity (his cousin was explorer Admiral Richard Byrd, who named a range of Antarctica mountains, Harold Byrd mountains in his honor), business continued to prosper for Byrd. (1) Upon purchase of the building, Byrd leased it out to the Perfection-Aire Conditioning company, which went into bankruptcy sometime after. However Byrd finally found a client, the John Sexton Company out of Chicago. The Sexton company leased the building as a branch warehouse to distribute wholesale food/grocery items from 1941-1961. (2) The company utilized the rail spur behind the building to receive products manufactured in Sexton plants. Sexton did not renew their lease and moved out in 1961 to a modern single story facility. After the Sexton company moved out, the building was leased to the Texas School Book Depository company who moved most of their operation and books from an old warehouse on 1917 North Houston street. In 1963, the TSBD company employed 19 warehouse employees (including 4 at the Houston street warehouse) and 12 office support staff. The Houston street warehouse is where unknowingly TSBD warehouse worker Wesley Buell Frazier parked his car on November 22, 1963 and let out his soon to be infamous passenger, Lee H. Oswald. Today the building is operated as the Sixth Floor Museum housing various JFK assassination items and exhibits. Every year thousands of tourists flock to the museum to see what the old folks and long time civic leaders of Dallas would love to forget……… the cold-blooded death of JFK on Elm street.

David G. Burnet Elementary School Dallas
I was outside on the playground when I heard the news
November 22, 1963 was a very dark day for us Americans. Everyone of age remembers where they were and the shock that swept our nation. I remember that day as a 8-year-old kid in school in Dallas. It seemed the world just stopped and everybody just froze in place. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis was fresh in our minds, and certainly on the lips of people in Dallas that I knew. Nobody knew what was coming next….. Nobody!

A lingering fog of shame held over many Dallas residents for years. This was exacerbated by people from other places than Texas blaming us for killing Kennedy. The remarks were very demeaning in nature. To this day, I still get angry…..it never goes away.

Dallas, like many cities faced lots of challenges and hard times. Though my generation grew up living through the tragic days of November 1963, there were more difficult times that were played out in this city decades before.

It happened in the 1920’s when Dallas overcame one of it’s biggest menace to society.

KKK Rally Texas State Fair 1923
Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News
October is Texas State Fair time in Dallas. The event is huge where people from all over Texas and neighboring states pour in to see the exhibits and rides with their families. However on October 23, 1923, a different group of folks were pouring into Fair Park in Dallas. These people wore their Sunday Best, white robes and hoods. The “Invisible Empire” of hate made a resurgence revival near Atlanta, Georgia in 1915. Fresh inspiration came forth for the “Phoenix of Hate” in the 1915 D.W. Griffith film, “Birth of a Nation”. The movement started small but quickly gained popularity after WWI in the early 1920’s. Membership soon swelled and many marches and parades ensued. The KKK in this second re-birth manifestation in America took on a religious tone this time and ardently supported Prohibition. Most of the Klansmen were protestants and the Bible was always close by at cross burning ceremonies. (4)
KKK State Fair Invitation 1923
Photo Courtesy Of Texas State Historical Society
Meanwhile the following day on October 24, 1923, the newly formed Dallas Chapter KKK #66 (1920) inducted an astounding number of 5,631 new members at Fair Park. Each member took the oath of allegiance to the KKK, with Klan #66 with a 75 member drum and bugle band playing for added inspiration and patriotism. An estimated additional 800 women were also inducted into the Klan’s women’s auxiliary unit. Thousands of spectators cheered on. The event was very much like the old tent revival evangelist meetings that were prevalent during those days. Hatred of Jews, Blacks, Hispanics and Catholics was celebrated openly in this public event.(5) Many leading civic, business and law enforcement men of Dallas joined the ranks of the KKK, including the future mayor of Dallas in 1953, businessman Robert L. Thornton. It was estimated that Dallas alone had more than 13,000 members during this time. Darwin Payne, SMU journalist professor, estimated that out of the total population of 160,000 people in Dallas at that time, excluding non-protestants, minorities, women and children, an estimated 1 out of 3 protestant men in Dallas were Klan members or supporters. That number still boggles my mind.
The Dallas #66 chapter of the KKK had the largest membership in the nation in the 1920’s.
Dallas KKK #66 Photo credit: Dallas Morning News

Dallas KKK #66
Photo credit: Dallas Morning News

The Klan were beginning to be a force to reckon with in Dallas. They began to take the law into their own hands and being outright brazen about it. Many blacks were taken to the Trinity River bottoms, beaten, tarred and feathered and just plain ran out-of-town. Most of these instances went unreported and several law enforcement authorities turned a blind eye. In the most publicized KKK event, after the KKK #66 was formed, a black man was beaten and taken to the Trinity river bottoms. The letters” KKK” were etched on his forehead with acid. He was paraded back to the Adolphus hotel where he worked, half-naked. The poor victim was of accused of seeing a white woman. Dallas County sheriff Dan Harston and Dallas Police Department decided not to investigate, “said he had it coming”. The Dallas Klan quickly through it business members began to exert financial leverage of people not sympathetic to its cause. (6)
George Bannerman Dealey
Photo From Diaper Days Of Dallas, by Ted Dealey
One of the Dallas Times Herald newspaper editors was a Klansman, so was the head of the Dallas County Democratic party. Things were starting to get ugly in the city by the Trinity. Finally a courageous Dallas Morning News editorial writer had enough. Alonso Wasson wrote a scathing attack of the brutality of the Dallas Klan in an editorial named “Dallas Slandered”. George B. Dealey, owner of the Dallas Morning News woke up the next morning and read the editorial. He was supportive, but yet he admonished Wasson for not having a formal meeting of DMN staff before to discuss editorial changes of the paper. Nevertheless, Dealey and his Morning News staff pursued a vigorous anti-Klan stance documenting the Klan’s beatings and downright lawlessness in Dallas. Members of the Klan, including those on the Dallas City Council and civic leaders were at war with George Dealey and the Dallas Morning News. They exercised great financial pressure and propaganda to put the newspaper out of business. Klan business members withdrew advertisement from the paper. Newspaper circulation dropped dramatically around the county. Things got pretty bad for George Dealey. While Dallas Klan members vowed to put the Morning News out of the business, they almost succeeded. Dealey in desperation, sold his parent company The Galveston News, just to survive. Slowly the tide began to turn when Miriam “Ma” Ferguson (with the Dallas Morning News endorsement) won the Texas Democratic Governor Primary run-off against Judge Felix Robertson, an openly known Klan member. In the early 19th century Texas was a strong Democratic state. Texas voters elected Ma Ferguson governor in 1924. One of her laws she got through the Texas legislature was no person was allowed to wear a hood or mask in open demonstrations. There was no question where Ma Ferguson stood on the Klan in Texas. Membership began to falter from the 13,000+ in 1923 to less than 1,300 members. Finally the Klan closed it’s headquarters in Dallas in 1929. (5)

The courage of George Dealey, the oppressed black community and other Anti-Klan people in Dallas is a virtual unknown story to most people in Dallas, and one that needs to be revisited. Sadly that lesson of courage against hatred and bigotry would be lost with George Dealey’s son and heir to the Dallas Morning News in later years. That my friends is yet another story………..

References

  1. Texas State Historical Society
  2. Flashback Dallas, blog by Paula Bosse
  3. Murder Perch To Museum, by Jerry Organ
  4. One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth And Decline of the Ku  Klux Klan in the 1920’s by Thomas Pegram
  5. Dallas Morning News, “At It’s Peak, Ku Klux Klan Gripped Dallas”, May 15, 2010 by Bryan Woolley
  6. Dallas: The Making Of A Modern City by Patricia E. Hill