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

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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