Problems in Black and White
Zombie myths are those ideas that should have died but persist despite the facts and despite the amount of verifiable evidence contrary to a popular claim, some ideas plod groaning onward undaunted by the evidence. One example that has dragged on for twenty years are the allegations focused on a particular Dallas Police officer. Some advocates continue to suggest that Dallas Police Officer Roscoe White is still relevant and was a "secret operative" for the CIA named "Mandarin". They link him to JFK's murder by a picture of Oswald in his backyard, a missing diary, a green book, a secret journal, and the statements of the White family. Despite the already existing proof that dispels the allegation, at least one book due for release this year advocates it. While facts cannot prevent some future literary necromancer from partially reviving this shambling mass of ideas, inspecting them can assist others who must eventually dispatch these claims again. Proponents claim White is guilty of President Kennedy's murder and Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit's as well, so let us test these ideas against the evidence and see precisely what lies within the associated claims.
In the frigid winter months of 1990, the pages of the Texas Monthly magazine presented one woman's story that purported to answer multiple great questions regarding the Kennedy assassination. Cast as antagonist in this narrative is Dallas Police clerk Roscoe White, who some persist in claiming was a third gunman positioned on the Grassy Knoll. This is despite the later revealed fact that no shot from the Grassy was verified to strike President Kennedy, contrary to the prior beliefs of those molding the White story. Roscoe's wife Geneva White presents a tale that includes discussion with Roscoe the night before the assassination reaffirming his supposed resolve to kill the American president despite his two young children. She claims that White told her the President was a national security threat and nuclear war loomed eminent if he was not killed. Yet in reality, President Kennedy's death would not avert nuclear war but instead this inspired possibilities of military intervention following Kennedy's assassination. The author of the magazine piece states the "story was full of holes and contradictions and wildly implausible coincidences-if this had been a book I would have thrown it away after page one-yet there was something interesting in the way she told the story." Mrs. White seemed to weave a compelling if unproven tale based on popular and prior ideas, yet who is this alleged killer husband.
Roscoe Anthony White was born during late November of 1935 in Glenwood, Arkansas. He is noted to have grown up in a rural community in the Little River region where his family lived on a farm and he spoke out in high school against Communism and the alleged international Communist conspiracy. He continued working as a farm hand on a family property after high school and performed manual labor that included stacking lumber. White married his teenage bride Geneva in 1956 and joined the United States Marine Corps a year later where he is stationed on the U.S.S. Bexar and sent to Japan. One of the other men on board was a Texan named Lee Harvey Oswald and following White's arrival in Japanese city of Atsugi he worked in the First Marine Air Wing. Advocates offer these connections between Lee Harvey Oswald and Roscoe White because they both are placed in the same military division and for a time sailed to Japan on the same military vessel. This biographic information is true; however, for context we might consider that over five hundred men were on the Bexar and roughly seven thousand other people were in the same Marine division. While Oswald and White simultaneously were stationed at the same Atsugi base, the different groups could be quartered a great distance from each other because their jobs were not in similar areas. Among the many present, it is possible they could have met at a common enlisted personnel club but they also might never encounter one another. White reenlisted for another six-year tour during 1959 the same year Oswald defected to Russia, this is notable because it proves White had not intended to leave the military prior to 1965 at the time. He was reassigned to the Philippines and White applies for a hardship discharge in 1962 and eventually moves with his family to the Oak Cliff area of Texas.
Roscoe gains employment with the Dallas Police a month before President Kennedy's assassination and his application to the DPD notes that Geneva White suffered a head injury at work in August of 1963. She was constantly sick and nervous during Roscoe's overseas military service and felt similarly about police work, this constant obsessive worrying and related physical illness would infer Mrs. White suffered from persistent unproven thoughts regarding her husband's activities. Additionally, in October of 1963 White is merely an Apprentice Policeman clerk who did not receive his full police training until 1964.i Yet decades later some claim that during 1963 Roscoe White became a key part of the alleged plot based on allegedly "nefarious" pieces of misread evidence and questionable information.
A later military photograph offered by Geneva White with Oswald is a reproduction of a Life Magazine image where some claim another unidentified person in the photograph is Roscoe White, yet no verification ever occurred. Geneva White further claimed to meet Oswald just months before the assassination with her husband practicing at a firing range at Grand Prairie Naval Air Station. Yet she offers no specific dates, copies of logs from the day, no statements by other unconnected people observing them, or any independent corroboration whatsoever. One important factor concerning this purported meeting is the verifiable evidence does not support Lee Harvey Oswald had consistent practice. Not a single witness on the record ever observes these men together, if they were friends for years would they not have associated socially at least once in public that can be verified? Beyond the claims of a friendship between Oswald and Roscoe asserted by Mrs. White and her supporters, there is no evidence the two ever were friends before the assassination, nor grounds to believe they ever verifiably met socially. A pattern is quickly developing on which one can rely on demonstrable facts or yarns about Roscoe White.
Another proffered connection to the Kennedy case is Geneva and Roscoe's employment by Jack Ruby's Carousel Club as a bouncer in the fall of 1963. For context dozens of various dancers and people worked for Jack Ruby over the years, some of them also offered tales of connections to the assassination such as host Bill Demar. Geneva White claims she overheard Ruby and Roscoe plotting the death of President Kennedy, and when Ruby discovered her, a threat of torture and death was made upon her and the White children. This most dramatic claim seems improbable considering that if Ruby sought to employ Roscoe White, threatening his family with torture and death would likely have created some resentment prior to the alleged plot and might compromise it. No dubious claim is complete without also attributing the bullet found at Parkland hospital to Jack Ruby planting it as one famous film later suggests but that is not enough for Geneva White, she also claims they referred to this as the "Magic Bullet". However, that specific term in relation to the case was not publicized until years later and the Commission would not even create and declare the Single Bullet Theory until the latter half of 1964. She is quickly corrected by her son Ricky during the interview that her claim is not correct after she was "positive" and then states "I get confused, it's been a long time" which leads one to believe any of her claims might result from this confusion and her admitted lack of clear memories.ii With Roscoe's Marine past and photographic claims largely dealt with the White family subsequently recalled more information to offer.
Mrs. White contends Roscoe made several "suspicious" trips to New Orleans and other locations in the United States but nothing linking all but one of these multiple trips to her other claims is ever mentioned. One possible reason that Roscoe might be the later target of Geneva's anger was they sought counseling with the Reverend Jack Shaw for Roscoe's serial unfaithfulness. Shaw claimed that White admitted repeatedly cheating and taking human lives on domestic and foreign soil, but his time as a soldier and police officer would largely explain this statement without more information. Shaw would later contend he knew the names of the conspirators that Roscoe White served but refused to reveal them publicly. Conversely, undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder was quite common during that period and without specific allegations from White himself or contrary evidence there is no reason to believe he referred to any famous assassination.
Geneva White states later receiving electroshock therapy treatments designed to erase her memory of the plot but they began in 1971 and continued based on the last reported instance until 1975. She claimed that after a prior trip to New Orleans an unknown man approached her to use Roscoe White's services who worked for the "mysterious" group she blames for hiring White to kill President Kennedy. Notably they did not need to tell her about the matter again if her Jack Ruby yarn were regarded as reliable, this would mark another time people are just throwing around vital secrets without any reason to do so. Perhaps a less interesting but more accurate reason for Geneva White's electroshock therapy was due to her past head injury and subsequent emotional breakdown in 1971 that left her in the hospital for roughly a month.
Months following the purported trip Roscoe White is employed at the M&M Equipment Company. As he worked one day, a fuel leak flared up in the cutting torch he was using and his clothes burst into flames. This officially declared accident resulted in horrible burns and White on his deathbed reportedly confided to Jack Shaw some unnamed person was to blame. Roscoe White died in Dallas at Parkland Memorial Hospital September 24, 1971 from extensive 3rd degree burns on his body. While it is possible there was sabotage, it could also have been a rivalry at work or any manner of conflict without relation to the Kennedy assassination because White never mentioned it specifically. It further is possible White in his excruciating suffering wanted to blame, rightfully or not, someone else for not being aware of the leak in the torch. No one wants to believe they can be destroyed and lose everything because of accidental circumstances, because if such things can happen we are never truly safe. It requires inventing reasons and ignoring evidence to claim that White ever substantiated later claims and connections offered by his family.
Eminently worthy of mention is the settlement the family reached with a related chemical manufacturer that would infer possible legal liability for Roscoe's death did not rest with a powerful unnamed cabal. Verified events confirm that Geneva White had a period of emotional instability and submitted to multiple electroshock sessions. Her fallible claims and memory, repeatedly unfaithful husband, and Roscoe White's brutal death currently provides a more persuasive argument for continued therapy and her animosity than a few unverifiable stories about nefarious meetings.
Another seemingly prior instance Geneva White forgot is a statement to officials that never mentions anything nefarious about Roscoe White, Lee Harvey Oswald, or Jack Ruby. White's statement to the House Select Committee on Assassinations neglects to offer anything on the record to assure her later tale's memorialization. A Press Release offered to the public September 14, 1978 confirms a "first generation print, was given to the Committee on December 20, 1976 by Ms. Geneva Dees (White) of Paris, Texas. According to Mrs. Dees, this print was acquired by her former husband Roscoe White, now deceased, in the course of his employment with the Dallas Police at the time of the assassination."iii No unproven friendship or suspicious connection is required, White did as so many others had in the Dallas Police and kept evidence for personal use when it appeared no trial for Oswald would occur. Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry had kept files he later used in a book as did various other related officials and none of these actions prove anything beyond a disregard for maintaining legal evidence and seeking to benefit from an event they failed to investigate properly. Some questioned related officials could not give investigators a specific number of photographic copies in existence and this would infer possible misconduct and unprofessional behavior not complicity in a conspiracy.
During 1987, Ricky White contacted J.D. Luckie an investigator for the Midland County District Attorney's office seeking information on his father. He told Luckie that he desired information for a family reunion, believed Roscoe might possibly be connected to the Kennedy assassination, and supposedly conducted a romantic affair with an unidentified female worker at the Texas Schoolbook Depository. White also was seeking a reported two-hundred thousand dollars his father allegedly had earned from purported criminal acts. Luckie contacted the Dallas Police Intelligence Division seeking information about Roscoe White and paired with FBI Special Agent Kenneth Bersano to locate the bank and account described by Ricky White. After some investigation, they failed to locate any safety deposit box using the information provided to them.iv
Following Ricky White's public claims the FBI interviewed him, inspected the contents of his father's footlocker, and reviewed the alleged journal in 1988. Yet after hours of questioning and access to all the information contained in the footlocker, they returned everything. Following this extended period where all the assertedly secret information was available to officials, Ricky White claims a lone FBI special agent returned. White alleges this unnamed official secreted the journal away but the FBI denies it sent their agent to steal this journal. While the FBI did seize many pieces of evidence and seldom returned items in pristine condition during the original investigation, there is no reason to assume they would do so decades later. Consider since officials had access to copy the entire journal or could retain it for subsequent inspection there is little reason to doubt their denial in this particular matter. There is no reason to steal what you can possess easily by law and without regard to the wishes of the White family.
Mr. White repeatedly mentions the alleged missing journal of his father to several people, yet never showed it to anyone publicly. Those who claimed to see the journal were Geneva White, Ricky White, his wife Tricia, and their babysitter Denise Carter. The journal's contents as recounted by Ricky White are noted by one reporter to be "an interesting mix of the familiar, convenient, and the ludicrous...yet is was a scenario that nearly every critic of the Warren Commission wanted to believe." Ricky claims his father's code name was Mandarin, that he was positioned on the Grassy Knoll, and fired two shots. Yet not a single witness places White bearing a gun in that position, and the House Select Committee on Assassination concluded while a single missed shot was possible in that area, two successful ones were not.
White further claims that his father escaped the Grassy Knoll unseen and headed to a White Ford Galaxy parked on the Interstate 35E. Roscoe then somehow is able to find Oswald without verified means of knowing his location, leave behind his escape vehicle, proceed to J.D. Tippit's car, and murder Tippit without anyone observing him taking a single related action less than an hour following the assassination. This contends all the evidence of Oswald's actual path after leaving the Depository that we can verify.v According to Ricky, Roscoe had convinced Tippit under false pretenses that he and Oswald needed to get to Red Bird Airport, a location that appears in the later James Files myth. Unfortunately, Roscoe White is still in training and he likely was at Dallas Police headquarters or dispatched to aid others at the assassination scene. Not a single witness identified Roscoe White at the suburban Tippit crime scene; no one mentions a second uniformed police officer present or ever observes Lee Harvey Oswald in Tippit's car.vi
While it is possible as Ricky White asserts that his father wrote the missing journal, there is no evidence to support this was the case. No group of handwriting experts was ever consulted with overwhelming support for the material, no paper or ink specialists were consulted to determine the authenticity of these various collected writings. Ricky's departure from the verifiable record has deviated into wholesale conjecture without any solid basis for these ideas. Perhaps instead of FBI theft, White or his mother eventually realized the journal would not stand up to professional review and trusted that people would support him despite possessing not a scrap of proof. Yet once the journal vanished, the story grew in scope and the opportunities began to materialize.
White eventually gained minor celebrity status for his family's claims and was invited to appear on talk shows, public meetings, and interviewed by Morton Downey Jr., Nigel Turner, and Bill O' Reilly. The newfound fame caused dissension between Ricky White and his wife leading him to state in one interview" It was not her daddy that killed Kennedy" when she requested credit for assisting him. A man referred to as Bill X, a friend Roscoe and Geneva's that allegedly was a member of US Naval Intelligence told Ricky the House Select Committee on Assassinations would name his father a conspirator in President Kennedy's death, yet this never occurred. This mystery man was noted to have given Geneva White the "mysterious photographs" that would later inspire Ricky White to believe her evolving claims but we can now establish that Roscoe White took the most important photographs home, and Bill X's appearance seems more poetic license than credible source.
Once Mr. White began equating his claims as verified facts his mistakes became magnified upon greater scrutiny. By 1990, Ricky White had added concerns about his and his family's safety, publisher interest for a book, and a possible movie deal to the reasons he came forward.vii This pattern of claiming mysterious threats and people conspiring against those who fail to produce actual evidence too has become a seeming enduring but inadequate defense to rational criticism. Yet Ricky is considered by one source to be a victim of the feasible White hoax; he is referred to as honest and without guile but ironically a pawn in a larger plan. One reporter speculates "Maybe Geneva planted the idea in his head-or maybe it got there by itself-but Ricky was overwhelmed by the belief that his father had meant for him to find the journal, that is was some kind of message from the grave."viii It may be that conspiracy is afoot in the White affair but I would contend it is not the sort where Geneva or Ricky White is a victim.
Mr. White's coworkers Andy Burke assisted him in publicizing and investigating the journal's claims, however with the journal missing believers were forced to rely on the memories of the four who claimed to read it. Burke told the White family the story was quite financially valuable and he sought out writers, publishers, and film producers. However, meetings with a publisher failed to produce much interest, lacking the journal the story was just a series of claims. As Ricky White painted a local oilman's house, he confided that his father was responsible for the shots that killed President Kennedy. This led to the White family providing their story to "a consortium of Midland oil men who agreed to fund the research in return for a share of any profits that might be forthcoming."ix Ricky White began to receive a monthly salary from the consortium and his partner Andy Burke cashed out his portion of the investment proceeds for sixteen thousand dollars.x By 1990, after reportedly spending one-hundred thousand dollars, the investors had serious reservations about continuing to fund the research and Ricky White decided to reach out for additional help.
White consulted a group of conspiracy researchers at the JFK Assassination Information Center in Dallas, Texas. A group of conspiracy advocates began to champion the White story including Joe West, a proponent of the James Files myth that sought to link mobster Charles Nicoletti to the Kennedy assassination. A series of events later occurred that appear more than coincidence when Geneva White had another revelation naming the sinister man who approached her in New Orleans seeking to use Roscoe was Nicoletti. This would bolster and eventually lend cover to White and Files proponents, yet it was not the last myth the White story would employ.
As summer approached following the Nicoletti assertion, Ricky then recalled the journal spoke of a witness elimination program that he neglected to ever mention prior. Unsurprisingly, this idea has existed and been proposed by various people over the decades and seemingly Ricky White decided to add this enduring claim to the list of things he attributed to his father. White claimed that strips of cedar bark in the footlocker were clues that would lead to a hidden box Roscoe White allegedly buried years earlier, a story that eventually Geneva White and others would support. A complex excavation project at the old White cabin revealed nothing but Geneva White later believed that Roman Numerals and the word Paris written in the bag containing wood led her to believe the box was actually located at her in-laws house.
At his mother's prompting, Ricky went to his grandfather's old house and found a green book in a steel canister that appeared to be a mixture of a journal, mysterious symbols, numeric code, and a collage of notorious crimes attributed to Roscoe White. Similar to the missing journal this green book had no verified origin, it was seemingly another item suddenly found by the White family. However, the green book expanded the claims to include theories that are more popular but all those included suffered from the same problems the White idea does. The green book claimed that "Mandarin", the name appearing in unauthenticated messages killed the President with a 7.65 Mauser. This attempts to mix in the unproven claims of Roger Craig and the official murder weapon being switched; however, those claims take place inside the Texas Schoolbook Depository. One of two other supposed CIA assassins named by Ricky White was a CIA agent codenamed Saul, and this likely emerged from a 1970s book on the assassination by Hugh McDonald regarding claims of an intelligence agent named Saul.xi The story based on Ricky White's later green book attempts to establish an assassination operation called RERIFLE, which is a seeming poor imitation of the proven CIA assassination program ZRRIFLE that Congressional investigators revealed over a decade prior to the White claims. These ham-handed attempts to incorporate outside existing claims become obvious as mutually exclusive ideas morph into a growing mass of improbable assertions.
Joe West confiscates the original White messages and material and puts them in his safe; this denies all participating from authenticating the messages and places West in control of the original material. Further vying for control of the materials and rights to the Roscoe White story led the oilmen consortium to sue Joe West who countersued alleging libel and death threats. West largely stole the investigation from most originally associated with it by retaining the messages and his association to White family religious adviser Jack Shaw that secured the support of Geneva White. Conversely, Ricky White and his supporters formed a separate competing faction in this matter seeking to capitalize on the newly offered green book. Based on the subsequent turn of events, it seems perhaps the largest motivating factor in the mind of some were financial concerns.
During September of 1990, Joe West issued a press release claiming a monumental discovery by Geneva White. She claimed to have stumbled upon another secret journal from her deceased former husband concealed in a book about Presidents of the United States. However, she never mentioned this item to a reporter that interviewed her days after this discovery, nor did she tell her family or friends about this until subsequent weeks passed. She had apparently decided only to share it with Joe West and Jack Shaw and received a payment of thirty-five hundred dollars for this new "evidence" and the money emerged from a gift provided by Jack Shaw's ministry and film director Oliver Stone. West states at the public unveiling he was unable to vouch for the journal's authenticity and this was likely among the reasons his partner Jack Shaw reportedly attempted to prevent the press conference and slipped out of the situation.
A related article states, "Almost everyone who saw the journal believed that it was a fraud." One issue the media notes is the appearance of the word "Watergate" and claims it was to be Roscoe's last assignment. However, this failed subsequent break-in did not occur until nearly a year after Roscoe White died and those eventually becoming the Watergate Plumbers were not recruited until the summer of 1971. Ricky White too had issues with these latest claims from beyond the grave and stated, "That's not my daddy's handwriting... And that's not the way he wrote." Beset with extensive medical bills and months behind on her mortgage payment Geneva's son and daughter-in-law "believe that Geneva created the journal...Given her nearly hopeless financial situation and the constant admonitions of others, imploring her to come up with some new piece of evidence-something else-the creation could be viewed more as an act of desperation than a hoax."
The White family unity was destroyed by the potential financial gains and influence wielded over materials related to the story. Eventually following the schism Geneva White died, Joe West died, and the story has faded in most circles with exception for those few who still attempt to revive these improbable claims. Despite all the attempts of various people to justify and propagate the Roscoe White story it remains as unproven as the day Geneva and Ricky White began presenting their assertions long ago. The White story proves that believing in claims despite the lack of evidence is a significant mistake and those who support the verifiably insufficient are lost seeking novelty over substance.
i. Dallas Police Department files, Subject: Roscoe Anthony White, Police Applicant, Harold Weisberg Archives, Hood University, jfk.hood.edu, p. 1
ii. Gary Cartwright, (December 1990), I Was Mandarin..., Texas Monthly Magazine, texasmonthly.com, pp. 131-133, 160-162
iii. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Press Release...Agenda, Blakey Narration (White, McCamy, Kirk, McNally), September 14, 1978, p. 6
iv. Dallas Police Intelligence Division file, Request for Assistance from Midland County District Attorney's Office, January 28, 1988, jfk.hood. edu
vi. Earl Golz, (August 5, 1990), Nov. 22, 1963: Another Story Blurs the Facts: Son of Dallas cop says dad was 1 of 3 who shot Kennedy, Austin American-Statesman, HWA, jfk.hood.edu, p. A-12
vii. Ashley Cheshire, (August 7, 1990), JFK Plot thickens in Dallas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, p. 6
viii. Cartwright, I Was Mandarin, p. 162, 164
ix. Ibid, 166, 167
x. Earl Golz, (August 7, 1990), Dallas cop's son rolls out JFK theory, Austin American-Statesman, HWA, jfk.hood.edu, p. A-4
xi. Scott Baradell, (August 7, 1990), Another Kennedy Assassin?, Dallas Times Herald, HWA, jfk.hood.edu, p. A-6
Was Roscoe White Involved in the JFK Assassination?