(PHOTO: courtesy of Mark Bridger and his Dealey Plaza Echo). In my last blog post, I covered the first section of questions in the WC testimony of Robert Alan Surrey, given on June 16, 1964 in Washington DC, attended by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, Senator John Cooper, Congressman Hale Boggs, and attorneys J. Lee Rankin and Albert Jenner. The main purpose of those questions was to get to the truth about the famous handbill, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK, which had circulated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Surrey responded by pleading the 5th Amendment 27 times.
In this blog post, I’ll summarize most of the second section of WC questions to Robert Surrey, which is about the circumstances regarding the April 10, 1963 shooting at Ex-General Edwin Walker at his home in Dallas. I found most of these questions to be irrelevant. Where the questions seem relevant in my opinion, I’ll include some of Surrey’s WC testimony almost verbatim (mainly avoiding repetition, superfluity and preliminaries). Let’s begin.
Attorney Jenner asked Robert Alan Surrey 75 irrelevant questions about the floor-plan of General Walker’s home and the layout of his neighborhood. The reason for this long excursion was not stated. Perhaps Jenner hoped to wear Surrey down. If so, then it didn’t work. Surrey answered all of these questions calmly and accurately. More likely, Jenner sought to show that Surrey knew Walker’s home like the back of his hand, because Surrey practically lived at Walker’s home. Surrey kept his business office at Walker’s home and was practically inseparable from Ex-General Edwin Walker. If Jenner sought to show the extremely close connection between Surrey and Walker, then it worked.
Next, Attorney Jenner asked Surrey about the famous photograph of a 1957 Chevy outside of Walker’s residence, where somebody had blacked out the rear license plate (CE 1005). Surrey guessed that Charles Klihr was the vehicle owner. Klihr was one of the many volunteers at General Walker’s home, and Surrey had often seen his car in Walker’s driveway. Surrey had no idea about who had blacked out that license plate (though the WC members probably knew that the FBI had blacked it out as SOP). If Jenner was trying to trip Surrey up, it didn’t work.
Next, Attorney Jenner asked Surrey another 61 irrelevant questions about the validity of WC Exhibits 1006 through 1012, which are photographs of Walker’s home after the April 10, 1963 shooting. Surrey patiently confirmed the validity of all of them. Jenner by this exercise perhaps showed that Surrey was intimately familiar with every square inch of Walker’s environment in 1963.
Next, Attorney Jenner questioned Surrey directly about the April 10, 1963 shooting at General Walker by someone who might have been Lee Harvey Oswald. This is very interesting to me, so I’ll reproduce most of that testimony here. (I note in passing that Surrey’s own son, David, later contradicted key aspects of this testimony. I’ll return to David Surrey during my interpretation of Robert Alan Surrey’s WC testimony.) Let’s examine Surrey’s WC testimony at this point.
Mr. JENNER: Were you at General Walker’s home the evening of the attempt on his life?
Mr. SURREY: Yes – after the shot. I was not there at the time.
Mr. JENNER: How soon after the shot were you there?
Mr. SURREY: About 15 minutes. General Walker called me on the telephone at my home immediately, so I immediately drove over there.
Mr. JENNER: How far did you live from General Walker’s home?
Mr. SURREY: About 2 miles. I have a 1961 Ford convertible which I drove to his home between 9 PM and 9:30 PM on April 10th, 1963. It was dark outside. When I arrived, Dallas Police were already there.
Mr. JENNER: Where did General Walker tell you that he was at the moment of the shooting?
Mr. SURREY: He told me that he was seated at his desk on the first floor, at his desk, across from the rear window. (His front door is to the south. His back door is to the north.) His back was to the rear window as he faced west.
Mr. JENNER: Tell us what General Walker told you about how it occurred.
Mr. SURREY: I walked in from the south, through the front door, and past the so-called hallway which is really through glass doors. There were several Dallas Police standing around in various areas. I walked into the room where General Walker’s desk is located.
Mr. JENNER: The wall of which on that side appears shown on CE 1008?
Mr. SURREY: Correct. The General was sitting at his desk when I arrived. He was facing west and talking to a policeman in uniform. I asked, “What’s going on?” And he pointed to this hole in the wall.
Mr. JENNER: Shown on CE 1008?
Mr. SURREY: Yes. And I made a joke – I said, “Oh, you found a bug!” It was a common joke around the General’s house that there may be hidden microphones. Anyway, he said: “No; I have been shot at,” pointing to a hole in the window. And then a policeman asked him a question, and I noticed that General Walker’s right forearm was bleeding a little bit in four or five places.
Mr. JENNER: How was he dressed?
Mr. SURREY: In a dress shirt – not a sport shirt – and slacks. No tie. No uniform. Long sleeves rolled up. He said, “The jacket of the bullet must have come apart when it went through the window.” And he brushed plaster from this wall out of his thick, dark brown hair.
Mr. JENNER: Now, that bullet hole is how high from the floor? I am showing you now CE 1009.
Mr. SURREY: The police and I measured it – it is between 4 and 4.5 feet high. General Walker was about 18 inches from the wall. The desk was right up against the wall, and he was seated in the middle of the desk. That’s how he got the plaster in his hair.
Mr. JENNER: All right. Proceed, sir.
Mr. SURREY: So, I looked at his arm, and there was a piece of metal in it, and I went upstairs and found some first aid equipment and tweezers and came back downstairs and picked that piece of metal and two others out of his right forearm. I gave those metal pieces to the police.
Mr. JENNER: All right. Go ahead, sir.
Mr. SURREY: The police questioned the General and me for a couple of minutes. One of the policemen told us that the bullet went clean through the wall and that he found it laying on the packages in the other room. So, I looked around the separation there to see the exit hole. I saw books stacked on packages as in CE 1009. I myself saw no bullet. I don’t recall General Walker saying anything about the bullet at the time.
Mr. JENNER: Did you go into the room?
Mr. SURREY: No, I didn’t go into the room. After that, one policeman and I went out in the back yard and looked around. But it was too dark at the time, so the policeman said, “We’ll come back in the morning.” Then, General Walker began getting phone calls from newspaper men, and they started appearing at the door.
Mr. JENNER: After looking around, you say newspapermen began to come and interview General Walker?
Mr. SURREY: Yes, in my presence and in the presence of the policemen. I stayed at General Walker’s home all night. I heard General Walker being interviewed. He said – in summary – “I was seated at my desk working on my income tax, when somebody took a shot at me. That is the closest I have ever been missed in 30 years of military service.”
This was what Surrey was willing to tell the WC in June 1964. (As we will see in my next blog post, his 13-year-old son, David Surrey, remembered that night very differently.)
Next, Attorney Jenner asked Robert Alan Surrey about a police report that Surrey had filed with the Dallas Police on April 8, 1963, two days before the Walker shooting. Walker was still traveling back from his cross-country “Midnight Ride” tour with segregationist Reverend Billy James Hargis, which they had started in late February 1963.
From February through April 1963, Surrey worked every weekday at Walker’s home along with Walker’s secretary, Julia Knecht.
During Walker’s right-wing speaking tour, some national newspapers covered the tour, which was mainly a verbal attack on the NAACP, the United Nations and the White House. Several of Walker’s enemies had followed that news, and evidently two of those enemies went spying around Walker’s house while Walker was away. Surrey saw them and gave chase. Let’s review some of that WC testimony.
Mr. JENNER: Tell the Commission what led up to…this incident…
Mr. SURREY: I was coming from my home, came down Turtle Creek Boulevard passed in front of the General’s house, and took a right-hand turn on Avondale, to come up to the alley. This is the normal route into the parking area behind the General’s house. I noticed a car parked about 20 yards away. Then I saw two men around the house peeking in windows and so forth. I reported this to the General the following morning, and he reported it to the Police on Tuesday. Then, it was Wednesday night that he was shot at.
Mr. JENNER: Was either of the men that you saw in that automobile on April 8, to your present recollection, was Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. SURREY: I don’t believe either of them was.
Mr. JENNER: …You have never seen either of the two men you have mentioned before or since the occasion you saw that automobile with the two men in it on the evening of April 8, 1963?
Mr. SURREY: Not to my knowledge. I never got very close to them.
Mr. JENNER: What kind of an automobile was it, do you know?
Mr. SURREY: It was a new, Ford, four-door sedan. It was either a dark brown or maroon. I never saw that automobile before or since.
Mr. JENNER: You followed it awhile and then gave up the chase?
Mr. SURREY: Yes. They made a turn which would indicate they were doubling back – and I thought perhaps I had been spotted in my convertible, so I left them there.
I note here that Chief Justice Earl Warren expressed some impatience with this line of questioning, and some skepticism regarding the usefulness of this testimony. He urged Jenner to move on from this line.
Then, Attorney Jenner asked Robert Alan Surrey a dozen questions about photographs of the alley behind General Walker’s house, which joins Walkers backyard with a Mormon Church on the other side of the alley. The three photographs were CE 997, CE 1016 and CE 1017. Surrey verified that the photographs were accurate in his experience.
Next, Jenner questioned Surrey about a 13-year old next-door neighbor of General Walker, namely, Walter Kirk Coleman. Surrey did not know him except for reading in FBI files that Coleman had spotted some automobiles quickly leaving the scene of the Walker shooting. Surrey did not think much of the opinion of this young boy. The Mormon Church behind Walker’s house was just dispersing at that hour, so it is possible that Kirk Coleman saw nothing very important at all.
To complete the WC testimony of Robert Alan Surrey, the CHAIRMAN of the Warren Commission, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, asked him a few brief questions about Radical Right misbehavior in Dallas on earlier occasions.
The CHAIRMAN: Mr. Surrey, I would like to ask you if you were present at the time (October 24, 1963) that there was the demonstration against Ambassador Adlai Stevenson?
Mr. SURREY: No; I was not.
The CHAIRMAN: Did you have anything to do with that demonstration?
Mr. SURREY: No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN: Were you present at the demonstration against then Vice President LBJ in Dallas?
Mr. SURREY: No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN: Did you have anything to do with that?
Mr. SURREY: No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN: That will be all, Mr. Surrey. You may be excused now.
The Warren Commission adjourned at 12:20 PM. Surrey had been questioned for about two hours. He was not questioned again by the WC. In my next blog post I’ll offer my interpretation of Surrey’s WC testimony.