Text and photos by Rob Clark.
Finally, after almost thirty years of looking into the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I was going to Dallas to inspect the scene of the crime, to see everything through the eyes of a seasoned veteran awash in all aspects of the Kennedy assassination and to attend a conference held in Dallas on the 56th anniversary of the assassination.
Boarding the plane in Baltimore I could barely contain my excitement. As my wife and I arrived in Dallas late in the afternoon Thursday the 21st of November, my first thought was how large the city of Dallas actually is. We grabbed an UBER to our Air B&B, a small one bedroom apartment located in the now apparently hip “West End” section of downtown Dallas located just half a mile from Dealey Plaza. After venturing out to find something to eat, my second thought was how horrible the city actually smelled. Maybe the rain had stirred up something in the sewers, like a hundred years of hate and faeces. Perhaps it was the poor homeless folks that seemed to litter the streets upon every turn of a corner. Whatever the case, thankfully the smell retreated back from whence it came by the next day with the cold front and the 30 mph winds that attacked us on Friday, but more on that later. We settled on Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse, a Dallas standard of barbecue since 1910. After indulging in some delicious pulled pork and brisket and with a big day looming ahead of us on Friday the 22nd, we decided it best to call it a night, and get some much needed sleep.
I had purchased tickets to the Sixth Floor Museum before we left, and had secured a spot as they opened the doors at 10 a.m.on the 56th anniversary of the murder.
We arrived in Dealey Plaza about an hour early, so I took the time to thoroughly inspect it from all angles From Zapruder’s pedestal, behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll, down to the sewer opening by the overpass, out onto the overpass, and even over to the South Knoll. I scanned the streets, the buildings, the “X” and took it all in.
Everyone says that Dealey Plaza is smaller than they had imagined it, but I didn’t get that feeling. It seemed just right as I devoured every inch, as it may be my last time to ever see it. Just for the record, I didn’t purchase museum tickets to do the tourist thing and listen to Pierce Allman ramble on incessantly in the headphones of my self guided tour. I wanted to see the building itself, to breathe it in and mentally orientate my grasp of the layout of the building.
Sure the view from the 6th floor window next to THE window was interesting, although I don’t believe that Oswald was shooting from it. Much more interesting to me were things like where the freight elevator was located, where the stairs were, the size of the floor itself, and the immediate surroundings of the building all the way around it.
I’m well aware that over the years things have been added like the access elevator on the rear of the building and things taken away such as the rear docks, the fire escape, and the truck parking enclosure. Also certain aspects have been reconfigured such as the front Elm Street entrance, in fact a lot of the buildings in Dealey Plaza are suffering the same fate. The Dal-Tex building looks nothing like its former self, and now the County Records building and the Criminal Courts building where Jack Ruby once stood trial and housed in jail for three years until his death in 1967, are in the midst of a $140 million dollar “renovation”.
In truth, these once iconic buildings surrounding Dealey Plaza will soon be unrecognisable. Speaking of unrecognisable, the unofficial moment of silence that was started by Penn Jones Jr in 1964 and carried on by John Judge and COPA until 2013, has been turned into a circus sideshow. For the past five years it has been slowly commandeered by Judyth Baker and fellow fraudster in arms Beverly Oliver Massegee.
Complete with a professional sound system array, off limits VIP area, elegantly draped tables and chairs, flower arrangements, a podium, a pledge of allegiance to the flag, a military bugler, as well as the self proclaimed Babushka Lady belting out hits of the 60’s and gospel standards…and high definition cameras to record it all. What was once an informal gathering of respected researchers and those wishing to pay their respects to our slain 35th President, has turned into a sideshow interspersed with generic and cheer-leading messages of hope and keeping up the good fight.
The only thing entertaining this year, was the extremely incensed elderly man rattling his cane and loudly espousing from the sidewalk on Elm Street his views on the assassination. Ultimately, I think we were all on the same side of the truth, whether it was dementia or he consumed too many alcoholic beverages, he just didn’t understand what was going on.
After two hours of freezing on the knoll, I had enough, and it was on to my next adventure of the day. After ordering an UBER, and asking the driver to turn up the heating, we proceeded to the corner of 10th & Patton streets to meet up with some Facebook friends around 1:15 p.m.
Especially of interest to me was figuring out where some of the witnesses were located, the exact spot Tippit was killed (someone was kind enough to mark this with an “X” as well), and follow Oswald’s alleged path to the Texas Theatre.
For me, the time frame put forward by the Warren Commission has never made much sense. Kennedy is killed at 12:31 p.m., Oswald has to exit the TSBD, walk through throngs of people and cops, walk a couple blocks where he got on a bus at 12:40 p.m., exits the bus at approximately 5 minutes later and makes his way to a Greyhound bus station three-and-a-half blocks away where he got a taxi cab at around 12:50 p.m. After a two-and-a-half mile ride, he was dropped at the corner of Neely and Beckley which is about a 10 min walk back to his rooming house. He was in the house approximately 4 minutes according to Earlene Roberts, and when last she saw him, he was standing on the corner of Zangs and Beckley at the bus stop. According to the death certificate, Tippit was deceased at 1:16 p.m., but several eyewitnesses have placed it closer to 1:06 p.m. According to Google Maps, the distance from Oswald’s rooming house to the Tippit murder scene is 0.8 miles, a 16 minute walk, 12 minutes by bus, or 3 minutes by car. All of this is what made me believe over the years of researching that Oswald simply could not have made it to 10th & Patton and killed Officer Tippit in the time frame attributed to him. With the help of a local Dallas researcher, I orientated myself with where the witnesses were located, where Tippit was shot, and his alleged flight from the scene. And off we went, around the corner and up towards Jefferson Blvd., passing by what was left of the gas station, now a muffler place where a jacket was discarded under a 1954 Oldsmobile that was parked in the adjacent lot. Passing the Hughes Funeral Home, we then continued up towards the Hardy Shoe Store where Johnny Brewer saw a man acting suspiciously in the entryway of his shop. It is now Liz Bridal & Quiceanera, offering beautifully elaborate gowns for the Latin American celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her transition to womanhood. And finally, after 0.6 miles and 12 minutes of walking, we made it to the Texas Theatre where Oswald allegedly snuck past Julia Postal without paying. The ticket booth is located between the two main doors. Unless she was legally blind, I don’t know how she didn’t see him.
It was an amazing experience just to see how the murder sites are configured and laid out, and while it’s one thing to read about it, to see everything finally with my own two eyes is quite another. After a long day out and about, cold and windblown, we headed back to nap before I had to guest on another podcast and still be ready to get up early and head to the CAPA conference Day 2, Sat. November 23.
The speakers I missed on Friday the 22nd included John Curington talking about H.L. Hunt, David Denton backed out of speaking, Wecht and Aguilar on evidence of a shot from the front, Jim DiEugenio on the FBI, JFK, and Garrison…his PowerPoint presentation can be found at kennedysandking.com, Russ Baker, Bill Kelly on withheld documents. I really wasn’t too heartbroken at missing that line-up. Saturday started off great, stopping for some coffee and breakfast burritos on the way, I made my way along the 6 blocks to the Marriott Courtyard located just 2 blocks down from Dealey Plaza on Houston Street. I was surprised to see a fairly packed room upon entering. I would call the conference an overall financial success for CAPA judging from attendance of the conference and the dinner banquet held that night. I would also consider the conference a financial boon for the hotel bar, located just outside the conference room as it was constantly packed by attendees and speakers talking shop about the assassination. First up was Bill Simpich speaking on the role of Dallas police intelligence, their many ties to military intelligence, and the roles of various officers throughout the day on Nov. 22, 1963. Interesting, but not much new info there. Next we had a ballistics forensic panel with David Josephs and Cliff Spiegleman. David Josephs is a great guy, great speaker, and has done some amazing work on tracking the Mannlicher Carcano, its origins, the supposed path to Klein’s Sporting Goods, and also the money order. Cliff Spiegleman spoke on potentially being able to test the bullet fragments for their metallurgical properties to possibly identify their origin or compare to other known batches of Carcano bullet lots. Again, some great work, but Josephs’ research has been available for years and until the actual tests are done and we can learn something from it, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot.
Then they had James Wagenvoord who worked at Life magazine in 1963 speak on his experiences such as finding out the backyard photo used for the iconic Life cover had in fact been touched up and apparently a scope had been added. Also, he was involved in the meagre offer of $3,000 made to Orville Nix for his “nuisance film” and a Life copy of the Zapruder film stolen from his apartment around the time it was shown on the Geraldo Rivera by Groden and Gregory. Again, a great guy, I had met him five years ago at the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report conference where he gave much the same presentation. He is also currently working on a book about his life and experience working in the publishing industry. Next up was lunch time, and I was starving! A listener friend of mine and I made our way to a bar Lee Harvey’s for lunch and some much needed refreshing beverages. Lee Harvey’s is an interesting place, from the alt music blaring from the speakers inside and out, to the flea market set up around the outside tables, to the disgusting graffiti covered bathrooms. It had heart though, the food was amazing, and a spirit…almost channelling the alleged aura of the real Lee Harvey’s rebellious and loner persona.
Back to the conference they had Rolf Mowatt Larsen, a former CIA intelligence officer trying to figure out that if the CIA had been behind the assassination, who and how had they actually done it? His conclusion was a fellow named Jake Esterline. He was the Miami station based project director for the “Bay of Pigs” invasion. He headed up JMWAVE for the CIA from 1968-1972. In fact in 2005, Gerry Hemming claimed that Esterline was Maurice Bishop and not David Attlee Philips…which leads us right into our next speaker Dr. John Newman. His presentation was on Antonio Veciana and using his ever changing story about his meetings with “Bishop”, as a map to prove that he was actually working with Military intelligence and not the CIA. The whole story evolved from Veciana using it for leverage to get out of prison…and it worked. The problem with all this in my opinion, is that I don’t know many researchers that have put much faith in Veciana’s story over the years anyway. How this furthers the truth about the Kennedy assassination I don’t know, and while it is important to once and for all put to bed the myths surrounding the Kennedy Assassination, I’d much rather have someone of Newman’s bonafides researching other aspects of the case that could move things forward instead of sideways. It was after this presentation full of technological problems and a time extension to finish his presentation, that I decided it was a good time to go back to headquarters to relax and rest up for the banquet later. I missed Andrew Kiel on “Hoover, LBJ, & the Secret Service Cover up” and Judge Brandon Birmingham on “The Jack Ruby Trial”. I felt I knew what to expect from Kiel, and I had already listened to Birmingham’s multi-part audio show on Jack Ruby Refreshed and ready to go, I headed back to the Marriott hotel for the banquet featuring guest speakers famed director Oliver Stone and renowned medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht.
Upon entering the lobby bar I was greeted by a friend engaged in conversation with none other than Josiah “Tink” Thompson, first generation researcher and author of “Six Seconds in Dallas”. Tink was one of the friendliest and most cordial people I had the pleasure to meet at the conference. It was an awesome experience to meet and chat with him, he also informed me that he has a new book coming out next year. To quote him, “I got it wrong in the first book…but that was fifty fucking years ago. This time, I got it right!” Can’t wait for that, so we rode up the elevator together and disembarked on the 12th floor and proceeded into the banquet, Tink of course was reserved a spot at a table for the important people, and I made my way to the far reaches of the room where regular folks like myself were sitting.
After a brief introduction by Gary Aguilar, Oliver Stone took to the pulpit first. He spoke briefly about his film, meeting Fletcher Prouty and Jim Garrison, and how about how important the film was to creating the JFK Records Act and the creation of the ARRB. He also shared how doing the film damaged his career and credibility in the film industry and how he had to fight back against the system. Although most already knew, he shared that a new documentary focusing on the file releases since the creation of the ARRB and loosely based on the updated edition of “Destiny Betrayed” penned by author Jim DiEugenio is in the works, also being written by DiEugenio. Interspersed with a lot rah rah talk, and “keep fighting the good fight” and other words of encouragement Wecht finished the night off with an hour long presentation of five strange deaths linked to the Kennedy assassination from a medical examiners point of view…including Oswald, Ruby, Kilgallen, Ferrie, and Mary Sherman.
All in all, I had a good time at the conference and getting to meet several people I had only known online before. The camaraderie and conversation with like minded people is always a great time. As I said before, I think the conference was a financial success, but I was not all that impressed with the content. A conference is supposed to be a place to share new research and information, much of the line-up was not presenting anything new or profound, and some of that info had been around five years or more and readily available online. A lot of big names and heavy hitters, but for the presentations, I wasn’t all that impressed. The other conference, I call affectionately “JudyCon”, chose once again quantity over quality and a conference spanning four days instead of CAPA’s two. We’d be here all day if I listed their entire line up, but it can easily be found online if anyone cares. The big hullabaloo that came out of this conference was that Oliver Stone spent more time at JudyCon than at CAPA. He was seen conversing with her for three hours at one point, walking hand in hand together, and was overheard telling her “I believe you”. So be looking out for Me & Lee the motion picture in theatres near you soon!
I also want to take this time to chastise the Chairman of the Board of CAPA Dr.Cyril Wecht, for agreeing to speak at JudyCon. Anyone that accepts an invitation to speak where she is featured is only adding credence and legitimacy to her story and efforts. The ability to say NO is a righteous one. Saying yes to sell a couple books and compromising one’s integrity says all I need to know about the featured speakers of JudyCon. In life, and in this community you are who you associate yourself with. The choice is yours, please choose wisely.
Add on Dec 10th 2019.
Rob Clark also did a no holds barred podcast on the conferences. You can listen to it HERE.