[Photo: Lee Harvey Oswald under arrest on 11/22/1963, wearing a brown shirt with a hole in the right elbow]
Disclaimer: The following analysis of Warren Commission (WC) testimony consists of my independent research and observations regarding the hundreds of testimonies contained in the WC Hearings and Exhibits. My observations formed my opinion.
NOVEMBER 22, 1963 – LHO’S ALLEGED JOURNEY TO HIS ROOM
Our current theme is that any WC testimony which claims that Lee Harvey Oswald (hereafter LHO) took a bus and a taxi to his rooming house at 1026 North Beckley Street must fall under the category of “mistaken identity.” We’ll now explore the WC testimony of Mary Bledsoe in the context of the testimony given by bus driver Cecil McWatters who categorically affirmed that the unknown white male bus passenger in question in question was not LHO. Mary will claim, on the contrary, that he was LHO. Let’s examine this.
Mary Bledsoe knew LHO fairly well during the second week of October 1963, because he rented a room in her house for one week. His bedroom was next to hers. She lived in the Oak Cliff district of Dallas, at 621 Marsalis Street. It wasn’t far from LHO’s next rooming house (though she didn’t know that). She gave her WC testimony on April 2, 1964, about six months later.
I begin this account by affirming my general respect for Mary Bledsoe. By the date of her divorce from her husband in 1925, when she began to raise her two baby boys by herself (this was the only personal date that she gave the WC) we can guess her age to be her early sixties. Yet Mary had suffered a stroke shortly before LHO came to rent from her, as she testified.
The Mayo Clinic defines a stroke as a brain disease. This best explains the halting, confusing, sometimes self-reversing nature of so much of her WC testimony. I think she did her best under stressful conditions though we can observe flaws in her testimony. Her testimony comes in two parts:
1. During the second week of October 1963, she rented a room to LHO for one week. I regard this part of her testimony to be clear and correct.
2. During the third full week in November 1963, she claimed that she saw LHO on a downtown Dallas bus. She testified that LHO looked like a maniac, dirty, face distorted, ragged pants, and shirt buttons torn out. I regard this part of her testimony to be blurry and incorrect.
(1) LHO the Renter
I accept Mary Bledsoe’s testimony that she rented a bedroom to LHO for $7 weekly, starting on Monday, October 7th, at about 3 p.m. He came knocking on her door in response to her signs. Her tense relationship with LHO in October 1963 lay beneath the false memories of her bus ride.
At first LHO seemed congenial to her. He told Mary that he was job hunting in the electronics field. He didn’t have a car but he knew the bus routes well. He told her that he was a former Marine and that he had a wife and child with whom he would rejoin as soon as he got a job. He showed Mary a photograph of his family.
(Though baby Audrey Oswald wasn’t born yet, we can forgive Mary Bledsoe for testifying that Audrey was also in that photograph. She sometimes confused news reports with her actual memories, as WC attorney Ball himself suggested).
Mary approved of LHO’s rental. LHO handed her $7 cash for the week and he moved in right away – and she quickly became annoyed with him. On that first day, LHO bought milk and put it in her refrigerator without permission. That annoyed her. She never allowed renters to use her kitchen. Then, LHO took his food to his room without permission. That also annoyed her.
Also, the workday was still in progress, yet LHO stayed in his room all Monday instead of job-hunting. That didn’t seem like an eager job-hunter to Mary.
On Tuesday morning, Mary helped LHO search newspaper want ads for jobs. He dressed up well and went out at 9:30 a.m., but unexpectedly he came back at 2:30 p.m. and stayed in his room the rest of the day and all night. That seemed odd to Mary.
On Wednesday, LHO went out again at 9 a.m. well-dressed. At 1:30 p.m. Mary took her daily nap. But LHO came back so early that he interfered with her nap. Let’s read part of her WC testimony here:
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Let's see. 1:30. I have my nap then, and it kind of interfered, but I didn't say anything.
Mr. BALL: You say you have a what?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: I have a nap then.
Mr. BALL: You take a nap in the afternoon?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Yes; I had a stroke, you see.
Mr. BALL: And it interfered with your nap when he came back?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Yes; but I didn't say anything then, but then the next day…
We’ll emphasize Mary’s testimony that she needed a nap because she had suffered a stroke – we might suppose recently. Then matters became worse.
Mary permitted LHO to use her telephone for job-hunting, but on Wednesday he used her phone to speak with somebody in a foreign language. That annoyed Mary because she despised all foreign languages (as un-American). LHO spoke on the phone in this foreign language for the better part of an hour and then he returned to his room for the rest of the day and night. He never went out at night and he never had any visitors. Mary said that seemed strange to her.
On Thursday LHO went out at perhaps 10:30 a.m. and again came back early, and again interfered with Mary’s nap. This time she told him she didn’t like the interference, but he just ignored her. Again, he used her telephone, talked with somebody in a foreign language, and this time he raised his voice in a heated argument. Again, he returned to his room to stay the rest of the day and night.
On Friday, LHO never came out of his room at all – not even once! Mary decided finally that she didn’t like him. On Saturday, LHO came out of his room around 9:30 a.m. with his duffel bag and announced that he was going to Irving for the weekend. He added that he expected his room cleaned with clean sheets for his bed!
That was the last straw! Mary told him flatly – move out right now! So LHO demanded a refund – $2 for two weekend days. Mary said she didn’t have it, so LHO just marched out without a word and came back Monday for the rest of his things, and then walked out again without a word. That was the last time Mary saw LHO – unless we accept the second part of her WC testimony (which I don’t).
(2) LHO Allegedly on a Public Bus
I don’t accept Mary Bledsoe’s WC testimony that she saw LHO on a public bus shortly after the JFK Assassination. Let’s look closer.
According to Mary, on Friday, November 22, 1963, she took a bus to downtown Dallas to watch the JFK motorcade. She stopped near Titche’s department store on Elm Street – about a half-mile east of Dealey Plaza. There she saw the parade pass and she saw JFK drive by and she enjoyed it very much. Then, Mary walked to a nearby bus stop and according to Dallas Police and WC conclusions she boarded the bus driven by Cecil McWatters to return home.
Mary testified to the heavy traffic that day, though she saw only about 10 people on the bus. She sat where she always sat – in the side seat next to the front door, facing the driver to make her exit easier. Yet after that sober beginning, the WC testimony of Mary Bledsoe deteriorates into an emotional blast as she described the moment when a man whom she believed to be LHO, boarded that bus.
Mr. BALL - All right, now, tell me what happened?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: …After we got past Akard at Murphy – I figured it out. Let’s see. I don’t know for sure. Oswald got on. He looked like a maniac. His sleeve was out here. His shirt was undone. There was a hole in it, and he was dirty.
Mr. BALL: Did he look at you as he went by? …
Mrs. BLEDSOE: I don’t know. I didn’t look at him. That is – it was just – he looked so bad in his face, and his face was so distorted.
Mr. BALL: Now, what color shirt did he have on?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: He had a brown shirt…Hole in his sleeve right here [indicating the right elbow].
Mr. BALL: …Was the shirt open or was it buttoned?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Yes; all the buttons torn off.
Mary testified that she quickly averted her eyes because she didn’t want this disheveled creature to recognize her. She was instantly certain that it was LHO, and that he was so frightening that she couldn’t look at him.
Minutes later, Cecil McWatters learned and announced to his passengers that somebody had shot JFK. Despite the fact that she quickly averted her eyes, Mary testified that she was certain it was LHO. Through the corners of her eyes, she testified, he sat somewhere near the back of the bus. (Yet the bus driver testified that he sat in the second row near the front of the bus).
We note – Mary sat in a side-seat next to the front door facing the driver so that anybody boarding the bus would have their left side turned to her as they walked past, two feet from her face. Mary instantly believed it was LHO and she didn’t want him to see her! She deliberately averted her eyes against any further glance at him. Yet as he had his left side turned to her, how did Mary notice a hole in the right elbow of his shirt? Keep that question in mind. Let’s continue.
Mr. BALL: Now, you say the motorman said something?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Motorman said, “Well, the President has been shot,” and…we all got to talking about four of us sitting around talking, and Oswald was sitting back there, and one of them said, “Hope they don’t shoot us!” And I said, “…I don’t believe it. Somebody just said that.” And it [the traffic] was too crowded, you see, and Oswald had got off…
Mr. BALL: Did you see the motorman give him a transfer?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No; I didn’t pay any attention, but I believe he did.
Mr. BALL: Well, what do you mean…you believe he did? Did you remember seeing him get on, or are you telling me something you read in the newspapers?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No; I don’t remember. I don’t remember.
Notice how quickly Mary reversed her testimony. WC attorney Ball suspected in open court that she repeated something that she “read in the newspapers.” Nor was this the only time that Mary would reverse herself. Let’s keep reading:
BALL: Did you pay any attention at that time as to whether he did, or did not get a transfer?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: I didn’t pay any attention to him.
Mr. BALL: Well, did you look at him as he got off the bus?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No; I sure didn’t. I didn’t want to know him.
Mr. BALL: Well, you think you got enough of a glimpse of him to be able to recognize him ?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Oh, yes.
Mr. BALL: You think you might be mistaken?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Oh, no.
Mr. BALL: You didn’t look very carefully, did you?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No; I just glanced at him, and then looked the other way and I hoped he didn’t see me.
I repeat here that bus driver Cecil McWatters saw no disheveled, dirty “maniac” with a “face so distorted” boarding his bus near Elm and Griffin. Cecil said that this man wore “ordinary work clothes and a little old jacket” and used the word “gentleman” to describe him. Nor did Cecil describe any buttons torn from his shirt or any hole in the right elbow of his shirt. His “little old jacket” would have covered that right elbow.
Cecil saw an ordinary worker pay his fare, and without asking for a bus transfer, quietly sit down on the “second cross seat on the right,” quite close to the driver. Let’s read on.
Mr. BALL: Did anybody else get off at that time when he got off?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No, not then, but there was a lady sitting right across, she wanted to go to the train station…And she was worried about trying to get off, you know, trying to get there... Because the crowd [of traffic] was so bad we still didn’t know the President had been killed, and finally she got off, but I think it was after Oswald did.
Mr. BALL: Did anybody get off when the lady got off? Anybody that was going to the train station?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No.
Well, according to the bus driver, the lady wishing to go to the train station got off first, and then the man who boarded at Elm and Griffin quickly chose to exit afterwards. How much did Mary truly remember? Let’s read on.
Mr. BALL: Did Oswald get on at a regular bus stop?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: I didn’t pay any particular attention to him.
Mr. BALL: Do you remember anyone knocking on the door, and as a result, the motorman opened the front door?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No. I don’t remember.
Mr. BALL: And you are not able to tell us whether he got off at regular bus stops, or between?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: That’s right.
Notice that she was certain that this passenger was LHO, while she couldn’t remember that a traffic jam caused the bus to stop in the street between bus stops, and this man beat on the bus door to get in, as Cecil testified. Let’s read on:
Mr. BALL: When did you first notify the police that you believe you’d seen Oswald?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: When I got home…I called my son… and so, about an hour my son came home, and I told him, and he immediately called the police and told them, because we wanted to do all we could. And so, I went down the next night. He took me down, and I made a statement to them, what kind of – Secret Service man or something down there.
We should ask – since Mary and her son “immediately called the police,” why did the police allow more than 24 hours to pass before bringing her to the police station? On the night of the JFK Assassination, police actually stopped the bus of Cecil McWatters in the street and immediately brought him to the station to ask about his bus transfers. Why did the police wait another 24 hours to hear her story? Let’s read on:
Mr. BALL: …Now, did you ever see Oswald in a lineup?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No.
Mr. BILL: Did they ever show you pictures? …
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Yes. The man down at the police station, he had a picture of him with a gun, and said, “Do you recognize him?” And I said, “Yes; it is Oswald.” That is the one that I remember him.
This is unclear for multiple reasons. LHO was in a jail cell upstairs, yet the police didn’t bring him down for a line-up for Mary to identify. They showed her a photo instead. But LHO was once her renter! So, the question, “Do you recognize him?” was ambiguous. Mary of course recognized the man who had lived at her house for five days. But the question wasn’t, “Was this the man on the bus?” If the police merely asked if Mary recognized the face of a former tenant – then what were they thinking?
Attorney Ball then asked about the number of officers at the Dallas Police station who questioned her:
Mr. BALL: Was there one man or more than one man?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Oh, about a dozen.
Mr. BALL: Oh, a dozen men?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: There sure was a lot of them. Two Secret Service men, and two to do this, and oh, I had interviewed about 9 or 10 or 12, plenty of them.
If multiple police, FBI, and Secret Service men strained to hear that Mary Bledsoe saw LHO on her bus ride, we should ask why. Why were they keen to place LHO on Cecil McWatters’ bus (despite the fact that Cecil McWatters himself refused to identify LHO as the man they asked about)! LHO could have no accomplices to drive him around. That’s the likely motivation. Let’s read on:
Mr. BALL: Now, I have a piece of clothing here, which is marked Commission Exhibit 159.
Mrs. BLEDSOE: That is it.
Mr. BALL: What do you mean by “that is it?”
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Because they brought it out to the house and showed it…because I can recognize it...The first thing I noticed is the elbow out – I saw when the Secret Service man brought it out and let me see it.
There’s the best explanation about how Mary Bledsoe recognized the hole in the right elbow of LHO’s shirt. Government agents themselves brought it to her home and showed it to her! They pointed out the hole in the elbow to her! Attorney Ball would press this issue:
Mr. BALL: Had you ever seen the shirt before that?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No; Oswald had it on, though.
Does Mary insist on a fact that she never saw? As with the bus transfer story – Mary didn’t actually see it on the bus, but she was certain that LHO got one. She apparently obtained her certainty from sources other than her actual memories. Attorney Ball kept pressing the issue:
Mr. BALL: Now, what is there about the shirt that makes you believe that this is the shirt that Oswald had on when he was on the bus?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Well, let’s see the front of it. Yes. See all this? I remember that.
Mr. BALL: Tell me what you see there?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: I saw – no ; not so much that. That is the part I recognize more than anything.
Mr. BALL: You are pointing to a hole in the right elbow?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Yes.
She insisted this was the shirt – she remembered that! But when pressed, she reversed herself again! All she could be certain about was the hole in the right elbow! Yet the man in question boarded the bus with this right elbow away from Mary, and the bus driver testified that the man word “a little old jacket” that obviously covered the elbow. More likely, then, Mary recognized it from what government agents brought to her attention at her home, as she said. Attorney Ball wouldn’t let the issue pass.
Mr. BALL: In order to convince me that you did see it before, you need to tell me WHAT there is about it that is the same. Try to convince me – tell me WHY you believe that this is the shirt that Oswald had on when you saw him on the bus?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Well, I would say it was that hole.
Mr. BALL: Mostly the hole in the right sleeve?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Yes.
Yet the hole wasn’t visible to her on the bus ride. In my reading, it was visible to her only when the Dallas Secret Service brought it to her home and pointed it out to her.
I don’t believe that Mary Bledsoe was deliberately lying under oath – instead, her medical condition best explains her testimony here. Because of her weakened state, and possibly because of medical drugs, she was especially suggestable to men in authority.
Let’s read what Mary said when Attorney Jenner decided to assess her memory with regard to identifying LHO’s duffel bags. Mary’s own attorney, Melody June Douthit, stepped in to help:
Mr. JENNER: Do you remember the color?
Mrs. BLEDSOE: No. One of them was blue, and I don’t know which one...
Mr. JENNER: I see
Mrs. BLEDSOE: Well, I am getting tired...
Miss DOUTHIT: I know it, but just do it one more time. The man was standing at your front door…
Mrs. BLEDSOE: I am getting tired, because I have had a stroke, you see.
There’s my point. Six months after she rented a room to LHO, Mary reported exhaustion from a stroke. Was this a more recent stroke? We should ask about this – and we should also ask if Mary was taking any drugs for stroke prevention in 1964.
I regard Mary Bledsoe’s WC testimony to be confusing, halting, reversing, as well as unreliable. I also perceive that Dallas Police, Dallas FBI, and Dallas Secret Service agents heavily influenced her WC testimony.
Their goal, I maintain, was to uphold the agenda of J. Edgar Hoover to demonstrate that LHO had no accomplices that drove him anywhere. We saw this same pattern in the “mistaken identity” cases of the eye-witness accounts of LHO’s alleged bus journey to Mexico City.
In our next blog post we’ll review the WC testimony of taxi driver William Whaley. His testimony is quite different from that of either Cecil or Mary – and clearly a case of “mistaken identity.”
© Copyright 9/28/2021 by Paul Edward Trejo. All rights reserved.
Testimony of Mary Bledsoe to the Warren Commission – Thursday April 2, 1964