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Walker and the Black Bordered Ad (Part 2)

[Photo: Larrie Schmidt, 1962]. On the night of Thursday, November 21, 1963, the evening edition of the Dallas Morning News included a full-page advertisement with a thick black border which was hostile to JFK. We will call it the Black Bordered Ad. Its headline was, “Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas.”

The FBI learned that the three main financiers for the publication of the Black Bordered Ad were prominent Dallas citizens, all members of the John Birch Society (JBS), namely: (1) Edgar R. Crissey; (2) H.R. Bright; and (3) Nelson Bunker Hunt, son of H.L. Hunt. The FBI also named four other people in the production of the Black Bordered Ad, namely, Bernie Weissman, Larrie Schmidt, Joseph Grinnan and Robert Grinnan.

Except for Bernie, all were members of the JBS. Yet Bernie was the one who signed his name to the Black Bordered Ad, and he alone handed the Dallas Morning News their $1,462 in cash to print the ad. I will begin with this orienting quotation from Dr. Jeffrey Caufield:

The mocking “Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas” newspaper ad sponsored by Walker associates Joseph Grinnan, Nelson Bunker Hunt and Larrie Schmidt published on the morning of the assassination may have also served as a Declaration of Grievances that preceded the president’s murder on November 22, 1963. (Caufield, General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy, 2015, p. 354)

One might wish to give full credit to the generic cells of the John Birch Society in Dallas for the composition of the Black Bordered Ad. Yet that would identify no specific writers. That would mistakenly withhold credit from Citizen Walker for his central role – as I propose to show.

Before we embark on a point-by-point comparison of the Black Bordered Ad with Walker’s six copyrighted speeches, let’s briefly peruse how the various writers came together to write the text, according to Bernie Weissman.

Bernie Weissman’s Confessions to the Warren Commission (WC)

Bernard (Bernie) Weissman, 26, told the WC that the Black Bordered Ad was composed around November 15, 1963. It was signed by Bernard Weissman, allegedly the “Chairman of the American Fact-Finding Committee.”

The FBI found that the so-called American Fact-Finding Committee was a newly formed front group established by two bodies: Dallas JBS leaders and a rightist group of American soldiers, namely, Conservatism USA (CUSA). The key members of CUSA were three young Army veterans: Larrie Schmidt, Bernie Weissman, and Bill Burley.

On June 9, 1964, during his first few minutes of WC testimony, Weissman asked to read a prepared statement into the record. It read, in part:

…In Dallas, we decided not to become, at least as far as we knew, involved with anybody associated or doing business with General Walker…

Then he refused to say anything else without a lawyer present. On Tuesday, June 23, 1964, Bernie Weissman returned to the WC with a lawyer to testify in detail about his role in the Black Bordered Ad. Here’s a summary of what he said.

In July 1962, two US Army enlisted men, Bernie Weissman and Larrie Schmidt met in Munich, Germany. Larrie had recently registered CUSA in Munich and Bernie joined. The plan of CUSA was this: after honorable discharge from the Army, CUSA members would infiltrate all the major right-wing political groups in Dallas (NIC, YAF, Friends of Walker and the JBS) and slowly take them over, to unite them all under CUSA. It was a bold plan.

Weismann was due for discharge in August 1963 along with his pal Bill Burley. Larrie was honorably discharged on October 5, 1962 and he quickly moved to Dallas. He wrote to Weissman each time he made a little progress in the CUSA plan, e.g. when he met Ex-General Walker. Weissman objected to Walker, so when he and Burley were finally discharged, they moved to New York instead. In early October 1963, Larrie wrote the following to Bernie.

My brother has begun working as an aide to General Walker. He is being paid full time… Watch your newspaper for news of huge demonstrations here in Dallas on October in connection with UN Day and the Adlai Stevenson speech here. Plans already made, strategy being carried out.

Scholar Chris Cravens (1991) revealed that Ex-General Walker and the Dallas Right had planned and coordinated the October 24th humiliation of Adlai Stevenson. While insiders in Dallas knew this well, Walker’s folks hid this fact well from the FBI, Washington DC, and the national news. Immediately after the public humiliation of Adlai, and before the news was broadcast over any media, Larrie called Bernie on the telephone to boast and to describe the humiliation in detail. He knew that Bernie would approve wholeheartedly. Larrie exclaimed:

I made it! I’ve done it for us! You’d better hurry down here and take advantage of the publicity and become known among these various right-wingers, because this is the change that we’ve been looking for to infiltrate some of these organizations and become known!

When national news later broadcasted exactly what Larrie had said over the telephone, Bernie cheered. Bernie also got the impression that Larrie Schmidt had organized the entire protest. Although Larrie sent Bernie a letter a few days later explaining that his small group of picketing college students engaged in no violence, Bernie and Bill Burley finally decided to move to Dallas on November 2, 1963, to keep CUSA moving.

Bernie was disappointed when he got to Dallas, however. For one thing, Larrie was deeply involved with General Walker’s business, as his beloved older brother, Robbie, was now living with Walker as his chauffeur. Also, Larrie was now a Bircher, and Bernie, who was Jewish, was turned off by all the Anti-Semites in the Dallas Bircher circles.

A few days later, however, the JBS through Joe Grinnan (as far as Bernie knew) approached Larrie with the prospect of composing and publishing the Black Bordered Ad. Let’s focus now on Larrie Schmidt who took a far more active role in the Black Bordered Ad than Bernie Weissman ever did.

Soon after Schmidt arrived in Dallas in October 1962, he took over the NIC (National Indignation Convention) because its founder, Frank McGehee, was tired and ready for some new blood. This attracted the attention of a well-known rightwing attorney, Robert Morris (linked with both Walker and Guy Banister).

Robert Morris invited Larrie to address a group of JBS members at his home. Larrie’s theme was that the US military spends a fortune to combat Communists abroad but neglects the fight stateside. Everybody was so impressed that Larrie was quickly given a high post in the YAF (Young Americans for Freedom). By the middle of 1963, Larrie, all by himself, was making CUSA work. Here’s our second quotation from Dr. Jeffrey Caufield, summarizing the key elements for us:

Schmidt’s brother Bob who also moved to Texas became General Walker’s aide-de-camp. Larrie led a group of fourteen that picketed the Adlai Stevenson speech in Dallas in October 1963. Larrie became friends with Joe Grinnan, a coordinator for the Dallas JBS…He asked William Burley and Bernard Weissman, his army mates in CUSA, to join him in Dallas. They arrived in November 1963. Schmidt conceived the derogatory, “Welcome Mr. Kennedy” ad and persuaded Weissman to allow him to use his name on it. Joe Grinnan raised money for the ad from members of the JBS, including Nelson Bunker Hunt. (Caufield, General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy, 2015, p. 409)

Since the WC did not subpoena Larrie Schmidt to appear, they obtained most of their sworn testimony about the Black Bordered Ad from Bernie Weissman. But Bernie admitted many times that he knew few details. As to who contributed which text – he could only guess. The financiers allowed Bernie to write only one of the 12 questions in the Black Bordered Ad (the last one), and to select the thickness of the black border – and to sign the result.

With this perspective, let’s verify as much as we can from Bernie Weissman’s WC testimony. Here are some snippets from that WC testimony in a sequence I find useful:

Mr. JENNER. Tell us about the ad, the black border, the context, the text, the part which Mr. Grinnan played, you played, and Mr. Schmidt played in drafting it.

Mr. WEISSMAN. Well, after the [Adlai] Stevenson incident [only 3 weeks prior], it was felt that a demonstration would be entirely out of order, because we didn't want anything to happen in the way of physical violence to President Kennedy when he came to Dallas…So, we hit upon the idea of the ad.

Mr. JENNER. Would you please tell us who you mean?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Me, Larrie, Joe Grinnan – all of us together.

Rep. FORD. So, the final selection rested mainly Larrie, Grinnan, and yourself?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Well...I signed my name to the ad. But you might say the final selection rested with the contributors. I had to go along with them…

Let’s pause here to ask a question. Bernie said that the final selection of the questions that formed the text of the Ad rested with the contributors. Not textual contributors, but financial contributors. For insight, let’s shift gears briefly to focus on the financial contributors. Here’s what Bernie told the WC:

Rep. BOGGS. It has been established who paid for this newspaper ad.

Mr. WEISSMAN. Well, I am still not sure of who paid for it.

Rep. BOGGS. Have you ever heard of H.R. Bright, independent oil operator; or Edgar Crissey?

Mr. WEISSMAN. No.

Rep. BOGGS. Did you ever hear of Nelson Bunker Hunt?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Yes, that is H.L. Hunt’s son. I knew that Joe Grinnan got the money from three or four different people, because he told me he had to get $300 here and $400 there, but he did not say where.

Rep. BOGGS. Did you bring the money in to pay for it?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Yes; I did.

Rep. BOGGS. Do you know where you got it?

Mr. WEISSMAN. I know where I got it. But I don’t know where he got it from. I got it from Joe Grinnan. Joe was the volunteer coordinator for the John Birch Society. He handed it to me in cash – $1,462. It was ten $100 bills one day, and the balance the following day.

Rep. BOGGS. Did you ever ask Joe where this money came from?

Mr. WEISSMAN. No; Joe was pretty secretive. I frankly didn’t want to know...

Rep. BOGGS. Did you solicit him for this money?

Mr. WEISSMAN. No…I believe Larrie did. I think the idea for the ad originated with Larrie and Joe.

Rep. BOGGS. And Larrie solicited the money?

Mr. WEISSMAN. No; I don’t think so. I think it was Joe who originally broached the subject.

Notice – Bernie didn’t solicit the money because the Ad wasn’t his idea. Also, Larrie didn’t solicit the money because the Ad wasn’t his idea. When following the money, the WC learned that “it was Joe who originally broached the subject” -- Joe Grinnan. So, the financial contributors (whoever they were) were the final judges over what the Ad would say, and they spoke to CUSA through Joe Grinnan. Let’s continue.

Rep. FORD. But there was no real organization that backed this ad?

Mr. WEISSMAN. That is not quite accurate. You might say when you get right down to it, in the final tale, the John Birch Society printed that ad, not CUSA.

Mr. JENNER. Who was the head of the JBS?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Joe Grinnan is the only man in the hierarchy of the Birch Society in Dallas that I met. Larrie was a member of the JBS…

Mr. JENNER. How did it develop?

Mr. WEISSMAN. We started on it about a week before JFK’s visit. I had no idea; but Larrie brought out a list of 50 questions, perhaps made up by one of Goldwater’s aides, about flaws in US foreign policy. We just picked some…

Mr. JENNER. What about all the text before the questions?

Mr. WEISSMAN. As far as I know, this was written by Larrie Schmidt.

I note here that Bernie admitted his uncertainty about the precise source of the precise text of the Black Bordered Ad. Maybe the text came from a Goldwater aide – or maybe not. As far as he knew, Larrie wrote the introductory text – again, maybe not. Let's continue.

Senator COOPER. Was the idea of printing this ad conceived by you and Larrie Schmidt alone, with no stimulation from any outside group or organization?

Mr. WEISSMAN. There was stimulation. I assume from the Birch Society. In other words, I think the idea for the ad, for the 'something to do' on the occasion of President Kennedy’s visit – I think the idea for the ‘something to do’ came from the Birch Society – whether Joe Grinnan or someone else, I don’t know.

Senator COOPER. Was it communicated as an idea to you?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Larrie communicated the idea to me. I said, why not?

Notice here that Bernie admits a passive role. We may suppose from Bernie’s testimony that the John Birch Society suggested the idea to Joe Grinnan, who suggested it to Larrie, who suggested it to Bernie. Also, Bernie was aware of this, since he explicitly said, “in the final tale, the John Birch Society printed that ad, not CUSA,” and that, “the idea for the ad…came from the Birch Society.”

Bernie also admitted that the “contributors” had the final say, and that Joe Grinnan himself was not one of the “contributors.” Bernie was very aware of the power of the “contributors” in the wording of the text of the Black Bordered Ad. For example, although Bernie agreed to the wording of most of the 12 questions, he strongly objected to two of them. Let’s listen to Bernie here:

Mr. WEISSMAN. All of the questions except for two I had a part in saying okay to. The two that I had no part in was the 11th question…I will read it to you. It says, “Why has the foreign policy of the United States degenerated to the point that the CIA is arranging coups and having stanch anti-communist allies of the US bloodily exterminated? This was handed in at the last minute by one of the contributors. He would not contribute [unless this was inserted].

Mr. JENNER. This question was written by whom?

Mr. WEISSMAN. I have no idea. But he would not contribute the money [unless this was inserted].

Mr. JENNER. Was this one of the men who gave money to Mr. Grinnan?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Yes; this is my understanding.

Mr. JENNER. And did Mr. Grinnan tell you this?

Mr. WEISSMAN. Yes; he said “This has to go in.”

Mr. JENNER. He said that to you in the presence of whom?

Mr. WEISSMAN. I believe Bill Burley was there, and Larrie Schmidt, in Joe Grinnan's office, in room 811 of the Wilson Building in Dallas.

Mr. JENNER. [You objected to this text?]

Mr. WEISSMAN. Yes..I was against this particular question, because I frankly agreed with that coup [in Vietnam]. But it is a question of having all or nothing.

Mr. JENNER. [And the other question?]

Mr. WEISSMAN. Another question that was put in here…which I wasn't in favor of…is “Why have you…permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists…while permitting him to criticize loyal Americans who criticize…your leadership?” Now, this struck me as being a States rights plea. and as far as our domestic policy goes, I am a pretty liberal guy. So I didn't agree with that.

Mr. JENNER. Who suggested that question?

Mr. WEISSMAN. I don't remember. I just remember that it came up – I didn't like it. But the fact was that it had to be in there.

Mr. JENNER. I would like to keep you on that for a moment. Was it a suggestion that had come from a contributor, or did it originate in your group? Or Mr. Grinnan?

Mr. WEISSMAN. I really don't recall. I don't recall if it originated with Larrie or Mr. Grinnan or with someone else. I really don't know.

The only question that Bernie described as “entirely my own” was the last one, the one about the Monroe Doctrine versus the ‘Spirit of Moscow.’ Bernie was still angry about the Bay of Pigs scandal, and the lack of follow-up by JFK, so he would “stand by that question.”

Yet just because he said it was, “entirely my own” and that he would stand by it – this is not an explicit claim of authorship. The idea was very common in Radical Right circles in Dallas. It remains possible that Bernie was simply proud of that question -- that Bernie was vaguely comfortable with nine of the 12 questions, and strongly objected to two, and strongly stood by only one.

In conclusion, the John Birch Society manipulated Larrie Schmidt to involve CUSA in the Black Bordered Ad, and Larrie manipulated Bernie Weissman to sign his name to it. That’s what Bernie’s WC testimony shows me.

I seriously question, then, whether we can believe any of Bernie Weissman’s claims that Larrie Schmidt played a leading role in composing the text of the Black Bordered Ad. Bernie was not close enough to the source of the text to make that judgment. So, we are justified in comparing the 12 questions of the Black Bordered Ad with Citizen Walker’s six copyrighted speeches.

We’ll see to that in our next post.

Regards,

--Paul

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