Let’s move on to the next section of WC questions directed at Robert Alan Surrey regarding the April 10, 1963 shooting at General Walker. I pause here in order to include the black and white memories of his son, David Surrey (1950-2013), who was 13 in 1963.
Two years ago, Gayle Nix Jackson sent me the first edition of her remarkable book, Pieces of the Puzzle (2017) which consists of her personal interviews of various children of various WC witnesses from Dallas, including the three children of Robert Alan Surrey in her chapter entitled, “The Strange Surrey Story.” Here’s a little background.
David Surrey’s good friend, neighbor and golfing buddy, Alan Trent, had videotaped David on June 27, 2012, the year before David died from COPD. Gayle saw this videotape in 2015 and published her impressions in her 2017 book. David Surrey was only 13 in 1963 – and although he remembered many events well, he admittedly could not remember personal names. He admitted when he was unsure. For example, David believed that his father’s friend, “Lee,” may or may not have been Lee Harvey Oswald.
Upon closer review it wasn’t, but let’s hold that thought.
David Surrey had long attempted to understand his childhood in the context of his father’s admitted role in the tragic fate of JFK in Dallas in November 1963. Some of these efforts were mere guesswork – but some of his efforts were based on actual memories – and those are important to US history, in my opinion. When it comes to people’s names, the memories of a 62-year-old man about the days when he was 13, are rightly subject to doubt – especially regarding a world-famous murder case. However – an old man’s memories of his boyhood tend to remain crisp and clear when limited to family and family events.
The most glaring fact is that David Surrey recalls that he and his father were present inside the home of General Walker on the night of April 10, 1963, when somebody shot at General Walker at his home. The problem, as Gayle Nix Jackson rightly notes, is that Robert Alan Surrey claimed four times under oath that he wasn’t inside Walker’s home during that shooting. He said he drove to Walker’s home after Walker’s urgent phone call, and when he arrived 15 minutes later, the Dallas Police were already swarming Walker’s home.
In a surprise move, Gayle supplied a Dallas Police Department “Supplementary Offense Report” of April 10, 1963, in which the Police explicitly affirm, “We also interviewed Robert Surrey w/m/35 of 3506 Linde Wood LA 6-7741 who was at the scene upon our arrival.” Here is the URL to see it up close.
What about General Walker – what did he testify about Robert Alan Surrey at his home that night? Actually, General Walker didn’t mention Robert Alan Surrey in any capacity on that night. So, there is nobody but Surrey who claimed that he traveled to Walker’s home only after the shot. Yet why would Surrey lie about it?
Something else sounds fishy about his WC testimony here. Surrey says that General Walker called him at about 9PM to complain about a shooting and to ask Surrey to come over right away. Surrey sped there. Yet, when he allegedly arrived, and the house was swarming with Dallas Police – the first thing that Surrey testified that he said was, “What’s going on?” And when Walker then pointed to a hole in the wall, Surrey testified that he made a joke: “Oh, you found a bug?” It’s too witty; it’s too pat. The question remains – why would he lie?
Let’s continue with David Surrey’s memories and search for clues. In 1960, when David was about ten years old, his father remarried. David’s new stepmother, formerly Mary Kessler, brought her two older daughters, Karen and Julie to join David, William and Richard in an instant family. She also brought her strong attachment to the John Birch Society (JBS) and convinced Robert Surrey to join.
It was like a religious conversion. They held JBS meetings at their home – with up to 50 people attending, buying books, making contributions and watching JBS films. Although Robert Surrey worked for Johnson Printing Company, in late 1961 Surrey was smitten by General Walker’s segregationist speeches in Dallas. When Walker chose to run for Texas Governor, the ambitious Robert Surrey stepped up to lead his campaign. David Surrey says his dad became the “PR” man for Walker.
In any case, on April 10, 1963, David remembers that his whole family had gathered at General Walker’s house for dinner, and to stuff envelopes for Walker’s political mail-order business. The next thing that David remembers is that a gun shot rang out. Robert Surrey shouted, “hit the ground!” and all those present did just that.
After a few moments of silence, Robert exclaimed, “Come with me David!” They climbed into his dad’s Ford Sunliner (white, with a black convertible top) and toured the neighborhood, seeking a runaway gunman. After a few minutes, Robert pulled over to the curb behind another car, got out of his car and the two drivers in the middle, in the dark. David heard his father ask, “Did you get him?” The other driver answered, “No, I missed him.”
At the time, David presumed that the other driver was a friend who was helping his dad seek the shooter, but they “missed him.” Later in life, David wondered if the other driver was Lee Harvey Oswald, and if his dad was asking Lee whether he “got” Walker; but Lee had “missed him.” No – it makes no sense. If Robert Alan Surrey was present with Walker, he knew for a fact that Walker wasn’t hit – so he wouldn’t ask the alleged shooter if he “got” Walker. Surrey already knew Walker was OK. So, David’s first impressions were the correct ones.
Another error that David Surrey made (in his late life attempt to make sense of his father’s life) was to presume that the bullet recovered from Walker’s home that night was an exact match for the rifle of Lee Harvey Oswald. Experts from Washington DC were very clear about this – that bullet was far too mutilated to be recognizable. It could have come from thousands of other rifles.
Another error that David Surrey made was his belief that he had met Lee Harvey Oswald through his dad. His dad and his friend named “Lee” would go out into the countryside for target practice with their hunting rifles. David was going on 13, and this was his first time shooting a large weapon. David’s job was to collect all the spent shell casings after the practice. David enjoyed that task.
The reason that we can be certain that this wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald, is that David also remembers visiting the home of “Lee” in Oak Cliff a couple weeks later. He recalls that the “Oswalds” lived in a small, white-frame house on a hilly slope, and that “his wife Martina” had a boy by a previous marriage, also about 12 or 13 years old – and a dog. Yet the Oswald’s had no such son, and their addresses in Oak Cliff were on flat roads, namely, a roach-infested apartment (604 Elsbeth Street) and the second floor of a duplex (214 West Neely Street). Also, Marina (not Martina) Oswald was 21, and had a one-year old baby girl, “June.” That was all. So, that wasn’t Lee or Marina Oswald, obviously.
Anyway – the main evidence that David Surrey had used in order to convince himself that his father’s friend, “Lee” was the famous Lee Harvey Oswald, was that planted rifle shell casings were a major part of the manner in which LHO was framed as the most notorious of the alleged Communist shooters at JFK in Dallas The rifle shell casings that he, David, had collected for his father and “Lee” at 12 years old became – as David had come to believe in his old age – exactly the same rifle shell casings that those who conspired with his father in framing LHO had used. It’s a stretch.
Those errors, however, are not very important. They were only guesses, anyway. What’s important to US History are David’s memories about his events involving his family directly – which don’t rely on remembering names, adult faces or addresses, or guesswork about rifle shell casings.
David next tells about his family’s labor – which he regarded as fun – to cooperate with another family to build a two-story house in Antler, Oklahoma. This other family had two parents and three children, and he couldn’t remember their last name, except that it was something like the “Assyrians”. This 30-acre lot in Oklahoma was owned by H.L. Hunt. The Surreys would drive up on weekends, bringing lumber and other supplies. There were six bedrooms up-ladder for the two families. They built the house on a hill overlooking the valley below in all four directions. On top of the roof was a machine gun nest with a swivel chair. Young David thought it was cool. (By the way, Robert and Mary Surrey in those days also went by the name "Esurry". If they had ideological followers in those days, then they might be called, "Essurians." Perhaps.)
During this period, as David recalled, Mary and Robert Alan Surrey became increasingly radical – they kept White Supremacy literature at home and shared it with their children. They spoke increasingly about a Neo-Socialist White People’s Army, or something similar. As we approach the JFK Assassination period, David’s memories about his family’s activities are clear. One night his father took him to the Johnson Printing Company after closing time (as he recalled) to see the workmen print up a boisterous poster which read, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK. The poster itemized various accusations intended to demonstrate that JFK was a Communist.
Now, David Surrey later told his friend, Alan Trent, that the, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK, handbill had appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Alan corrected him – that was another propaganda piece, a black-bordered advertisement, while the “Wanted” poster was a standalone handbill (which it was). Yet, IIRC, Chris Cravens (1993) wrote that in some Dallas neighborhoods, this “Wanted” poster was folded into the DMN by some local paperboys for their personal paper routes (as their fathers had instructed them). So perhaps David and Alan were both right.
In any case, the climax of David Surrey’s story was that on the night before the JFK Assassination, the Surrey family was completely packed and ready to hurry to Oklahoma, just in case anything bad might happen. They did not go. Instead, as David remembers it, Surrey was arrested on the day of the JFK Assassination in connection with that “Wanted” poster.
This is an interesting claim – since this account does not appear in Warren Commission, FBI or Dallas Police records. David’s claim is the only evidence I have seen for this, and because his memory is faulty on some of the other things that a 13-year old might only hear about, I must set this claim aside pending further information. Yet if it is true – then it shows that the FBI and Earl Warren deliberately withheld the truth about the Dallas Radical Right with respect to the JFK Assassination. Perhaps new FOIA releases of FBI or Dallas Police records will reveal that David was right in this memory. I will keep this avenue open.
After the JFK Assassination, Mary and Robert Alan Surrey became so radical that they invited George Lincoln Rockwell – founder of the American Nazi Party – to their home for dinner. The Surrey’s had become full-fledged racists – and soon after that, David Surrey left home and never returned. But that’s another story.
So – why did Robert Alan Surrey lie to the Warren Commission in July 1964? Why did Surrey testify that he wasn’t physically at the home of General Walker during the April 10th shooting, when the Dallas Police Report and Surrey’s own son say that he was clearly there? Based on the above, I surmise that Surrey had only wished to avoid the risk that newspapers would waste time wondering if the sniper was aiming for Surrey. As Walker’s PR man, Surrey sought to keep the limelight on his hero, General Walker, at all times. I think that’s all there was to it.
By the way – in the past year, Alan Trent’s video of David Surrey has appeared on YouTube. It’s about 25 minutes long. I still say it contains important and long-lost snippets of 20th century American history despite a few minor errors here and there. The name of the video is the same as the name of that chapter by Gayle Nix Jackson: “The Strange Surrey Story.”
Here’s the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NtOlTQ1kzA
Finally, I say that the future of JFK research is this direction pioneered by Gayle, namely, to interview the children of WC witnesses who had lived in Dallas in 1963. It’s the most important direction in today’s research. I’d join Gayle in that project if I had the time.)
I continue to opine that Robert Alan Surrey was one of the most important figures in US History and deserves much more attention. His son, David Surrey, has confirmed for us as an eyewitness, that the “Wanted for Treason: JFK” poster, was truly the handiwork of his father, Robert Alan Surrey.