The City of New Orleans is attributed a unique place in the Kennedy assassination case. Divergent historical claims rest amid the city's swirling convoluted history. New Orleans housed various federal, state, and local offices that had many connections to locally operating Cuban exiles. The Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) is just one of multiple exile groups the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) supported with tens of thousands of dollars monthly. Such organizations had dozens of members that performed covert and often illegal programs nationally.
New Orleans was the site of CIA activities, housed FBI offices, their network of informants, and was part of Mafia boss Carlos Marcello's territory. Add to this menagerie of schemes the city's most historically accused former citizen, Lee Harvey Oswald. People with questionable motivations such as Jack Martin and David Lewis were among the denizens of New Orleans that often would have faded into history. Unfortunately, they and subsequently others have attempted to build unproven assertions concerning the Kennedy case.
Just days following President Kennedy's assassination, Jack Martin launched a series of accusations toward Garrison suspect David Ferrie. Martin wrote a series of unsubstantial claims asserted to be "important facts" in a letter to Special Agent Richard E. Robey of the Federal Aviation Agency. He correctly remembered Oswald in a Civil Air Patrol squadron that Ferrie participated in, and recalls seeing a photograph of Oswald and Ferrie. Yet he asserts "Ferrie was getting mail from those Cuban people Oswald was connected with...at least this is what W. Hardy Davis tell me." Martin's claims reside on secondhand information and rumor.
"We might also take into consideration that Ferrie was a professional hypnotist...that he used post hypnotic suggestion on his so-called candidates...when he advertised himself as "Ph.D." Martin's implication was that Ferrie somehow hypnotized Oswald to undertake the plot. Indeed Ferrie had misrepresented alleged credentials; his "doctoral degree" emerged from an unaccredited correspondence school in Europe. However, Martin had misrepresented Ferrie's abilities and improbable hypnotic power.i ii
Martin continues asserting, "Was not this the person (Oswald) that Ferrie helped to get in the Marine Corps...Ferrie's connection with the Cubans...Suffice it to say I am also told Ferrie had been in and out of town on several occasions just prior to this Kennedy business...Where was he..." David Ferrie was in New Orleans with Mafia leader Carlos Marcello's legal defense team. This is according to a statement voluntarily given November 25, 1963 to New Orleans Police. Ferrie offered a "detailed account" of his location prior and on November 22, 1963.iii Officials state having investigated and verified Ferrie's location in multiple instances.
Another improbable claim attributed to Jack Martin and subsequently others was alleging that David Ferrie's library card was in Lee Harvey Oswald's possession. Some declare the card was a definitive link between Oswald and Ferrie. Subsequently, others have claimed they were in possession of the card or destroyed it. Yet the evidence supports none of these later evolving claims.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation visited David Ferrie November 27, 1963. The Bureau's agents questioned Ferrie on his public criticisms of President Kennedy, including that he may have off-handedly commented Kennedy should be "shot". Ferrie also prior commented the President should not travel in an open car to prevent others from shooting him. Ferrie stated "he had never loaned his library card to Lee Harvey Oswald or any other person at any time and that his library card to the best of his recollection had not been out of his possession since it was issued to him."
Ferrie presented his library card for verification to Agents Wall and Viater.iv Eventually Jack Martin informed authorities "he had no specific information to support his allegations."v Officials determined after investigation that Jack Martin's likely motivation was a prior grudge against David Ferrie. Martin allegedly impersonated an FBI Special Agent and spent time in a psychiatric ward. Martin suffered from a character disorder and was advised not meet with investigating agents due to possible worsening of his mental health.vi
January 13, 1967 Jack Martin informed the Bureau's New Orleans office to inform them Jim Garrison "was conducting an investigation concerning the Lee Harvey Oswald case." Weeks later Martin called the FBI again demanding, "...that the FBI stop the New Orleans District Attorney's Office from 'harassing him'." Martin's speculative ire had feasibly shifted to a new target.
Additionally noted by officials were the unlikely stories involving Martin's former roommate David Lewis. Jack Martin claimed that Lewis was acquainted with Lee Harvey Oswald who plotted the President's death with David Ferrie. Martin further "Alleged that this conspiracy originated in the rooms above the offices of Mr. Guy Banister in New Orleans, Louisiana."vii This assertion document predates the Shaw trial by years and is just months after Garrison had begun quietly building his case. Unfortunately, some of Jack Martin's unproven allegations became part of Garrison's case. Jack Martin was just one of many unverified sources attempting to influence the Garrison investigation.viii Others believing enough time had passed to conceal the origin of these poorly contrived ideas have attempted to present them as "new" insights.
David Lewis was interviewed by the New Orleans District Attorney's office and he told Jim Garrison "...that he had met Lee Harvey Oswald in the office of Mr. Banister." Lewis similar to some offering improbable stories claimed, "...his life is in jeopardy" due to the information he shared with the District Attorney Garrison's office. This often-repeated allegation too relies upon no verifiable evidence.ix Unknown to Lewis and others were prior official inquiries into his unproven claims.
Among these was a letter from Mr. George Clark Johnston to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Johnston was another former roommate of David Lewis who lived with Lewis during the period of President Kennedy's assassination. George observed a television show with Lewis "making numerous comments concerning the assassination..." and decided to contact the FBI. Johnston lived "...with David Lewis in Apartment C, 1047 Conti Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, at the time of the assassination of the late President Kennedy. Johnston added that at the time he was a close confidant of Lewis. According to Johnston, at no time during the period of the assassination did Lewis ever indicate to Johnston that he had any knowledge of the assassination of President Kennedy." Quite telling is no mention of a connection until Lewis and Martin presume to benefit from the allusion.
Mr. Bob Guzman a former private investigator in Guy Banister's office informed the Bureau he too was "acquainted with David Lewis". Guzman described him as the "protégé of Jack Martin" and that Martin had promoted Lewis for Banister's use. Guzman characterized Lewis as "uneducated and completely incompetent." Guzman states Lewis was "detective-happy" and recalled one occasion when Lewis spent most of his paycheck on a new shoulder holster. "According to Mr. Guzman, Lewis then purchased a plastic pistol" from a local department store and brandished "the holster and plastic gun around town."
A confidential Bureau source of prior reliable information offered, "David Lewis is attempting in every way possible to make money out of his role in Garrison's investigation and is trying without success to sell his story to various news media for $1,000. Our source stated that he thinks Lewis should be locked up inasmuch he appears to be a dangerous mental case." Lewis received significant media publicity for his claims and likely inspired other feasible myths to emerge as well.
The unproven claims of Martin and Lewis have misled some people and others have adopted them support improbable stories. Primary evidence displays the feeble nature of the assertions while substantial verifiable problems reduce these mere rumors to proper form. They like some official and independent beliefs rely upon desire not verifiable facts.
i. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated Central Intelligence Agency files, Folder D, Garrison-DRE, Garrison Investigation Volume II, November 25, 1963, National Archives and Records Adminstration Indentification Number: 1994.05.06.08:44:58:780005
ii. HSCA Report, Appendix X, Section XII, David Ferrie, p. 106
iii. HSCA Report, David Ferrie, p. 105
iv. Ibid, pp. 105-106
v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Shaw/Allen FOIA cases, David William Ferrie-New Orleans Field Office, part 1, November 27, 1963 pp. 1-2
vi. HSCA, Segregated CIA files, Microfilm Reel 25, Folder D- Garrison Investigation Vol. II, February 21, 1967
Related Articles and Evidence:
Evidence and the Big Easy
The Garrison Investigation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
JFK 101: The Garrison Investigation p. 1
JFK 101: The Garrison Investigation p. 2
Edited: December 2017