THE MAN WHO KILLED KENNEDY: THE CASE AGAINST LBJ
By Roger Stone with Mike Colapietro
Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95, 424 pages
The title pretty much explains the book’s theory. If a reader doesn’t let facts get in the way, it could be an interesting adventure.
The premise — not entirely a new one — is that Lyndon Baines Johnson, with the help of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, ex-presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and a host of other well-known politicians, leaders and a smattering of Mafia and CIA operatives, planned President Kennedy’s demise, then enacted a massive cover-up that remains five decades later.
Mr. Stone produces a group of alleged “witnesses” that Damon Runyon would have loved — from the Texas woman who claimed (no proof, of course) that she was LBJ’s “mistress” for more than 20 years and said she had borne a son by the former senator. Perhaps even more remarkably, Madaleine Brown claimed that LBJ told her at a party the night before Kennedy’s death that “after tomorrow those SOBs will never embarrass me again.”
Brown’s description of the “celebration party” — as she had described it — kept many real reporters busy for years.
It was allegedly held at the spacious Dallas home of Clint Murchison Sr., a super-rich oilman. Invited guests, claimed Brown, included FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, former Dallas mayor R.L. Thornton, New York financier John J. McCloy, Brown and Root Chairman George Brown, oil scion H.L. Hunt and Richard Nixon. Oh, and yes, Jack Ruby and one of his strippers dropped by, she added
Myriad problems erupted when Brown wrote a book in 1987 and went on the talk-show circuit. First, it was shown that Murchison hadn’t been in that Dallas house in more than two years. After a stroke in 1958, he moved to a ranch home, some 70 miles east of Dallas, between Athens and Palestine. LBJ, it was soon determined, had been in political meetings until late that night and didn’t leave Houston until about 10 p.m., arriving at Fort Worth’s Carswell Air Force Base at 11:07. A wire service photo shows LBJ at Fort Worth’s Texas Hotel at 11:50 p.m. — at least two hours from where Murchison actually was.
Further investigation showed that on the evening of Nov. 21, 1963, Hoover was in Washington, Brown was in Houston, McCloy never left New York and Nixon, who was in Dallas that night, was seen by several reporters near midnight at a function with Pepsi Cola Corp. bigwigs at the Baker Hotel in downtown Dallas.
A generation or so ago when I mentioned to Brown that I knew of strong evidence her “party” story was a bit off the mark, she replied, “I don’t care if you believe me or not. A lot of people do and I’ve sold a lot of books.” Then, smiling, she added, “There will be a lot more coming out. Stay tuned.”
Indeed there was. Brown was later convicted of forging a will involving a couple she had long known. She was handed a 10-year prison sentence — later reduced to 10 years’ probation by a judge because, he remarked, “she’s too old to go to prison.” She was then 67.
You won’t find that sad chapter in this book, of course, but Mr. Stone mentions his disrespect for several noted historians and others who disbelieve his interpretations.
He writes that he felt “uniquely qualified” to author this book because he has been “involved in every presidential election since 1968, except 1972” and was told as far back as 1979 by Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge’s brother that JFK had been killed by LBJ and co-conspirators.
A reader is also informed that the author worked in the Reagan campaigns of 1976 and 1980 and later for President Nixon, who is described by Mr. Stone as a man who loved “political intelligence and gossip,” adding, “I fed him a steady diet of both.”
One might chuckle a bit at the testimony of Jean Hill, who was in Dealey Plaza that fateful day and swore that Jackie Kennedy held a small puppy in her lap as the first shot struck, or at New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who put a surprise witness on the stand against Clay Shaw in 1969 to describe Oswald, Ruby and Shaw making plans to kill Mr. Kennedy — only to slink from the courtroom when his witness admitted he always fingerprinted his own daughter when she came to visit him, “because sometimes they disguise themselves.”
One of the strangest offerings concerns a man well known to LBJ, a onetime federal employee once convicted of murder, Malcomb Wallace. Several conspiracy theorists have claimed that a fingerprint of Wallace’s was found on the sixth floor of the book depository.
Several fingerprint professionals have disagreed, but the author quotes one Texas fingerprint examiner as saying he found 16 matches to Wallace’s with the print allegedly found on a book box, on the sixth floor. Mr. Stone thoroughly accepts the one opinion and labels Wallace the assassin.
The author’s strongest source on Wallace? One of the biggest liars and con men in Texas history — Billie Sol Estes.
Estes, who died recently, sometimes would spit out three lies when one might have worked. When I visited him at his assisted living home in Granbury, Texas, a year or so ago, he told me that he was negotiating with two huge movie companies about a book he had written, “telling the whole truth about Kennedy’s death.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “I just saw a story about Mac Wallace and the Jack Ruby connection.”
“No, you are way off. I guess I never told you about this. My lawyer found out where Mac was that Friday afternoon. He was screwing Ruby’s wife and Ruby came home and caught him. This is different. I know now who shot JFK. It was a cop I hired to drive me for a while.”
I didn’t pursue it further. I recalled that Estes had once tried to get the feds to grant him immunity if he told them that Wallace had killed JFK. I knew that Ruby was only at The Dallas News and his strip club the afternoon of Nov. 22 and that Ruby had no wife, and never had.
As I left Estes’ home that afternoon, he grinned and said, “Maybe you can play a part in my movie.”
While this reviewer is not impressed by the allegations throughout, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy” is well written, and there are many good stories that Washingtonians will enjoy repeating.
Hugh Aynesworth, a reporter for more than six decades, is a widely recognized authority on the Kennedy assassination.