[Photo: Lee Harvey Oswald was wearing his Marine Corps ring and ID bracelet when he was arrested around 2 p.m. on 11/22/1963. The bracelet is inscribed simply, “Lee.” Taxi driver, William Whaley, testified at length that LHO’s ID bracelet was the stretchable kind. It wasn’t.]
Disclaimer: The following analysis of Warren Commission testimony consists of my independent research and observations regarding the hundreds of testimonies contained in the WC Hearings and Exhibits. My observations inform my opinion.
NOVEMBER 22, 1963 – LHO’S ALLEGED JOURNEY TO HIS ROOM
The Warren Commission (WC) relied upon the testimony of three key witnesses to establish that Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) took a public bus and a taxi to arrive at his rooming house at 1026 North Beckley at about 1 p.m., a half-hour after the JFK killing. We’ve already reviewed the WC testimony of Cecil McWatters (bus driver) and Mary Bledsoe (bus passenger). Now let’s review the WC testimony of this third witness, namely, William Whaley the taxi driver.
The WC summoned Whaley three times, to double-check his testimony. He was about 55 years old and he’d been a steady taxi driver in Dallas at City Transportation Company since age 18. Whaley was on duty on 11/22/1963, driving a 1961 checkered cab with a company dispatch radio. Per company rules, Whaley kept a trip manifest in 15-minute increments.
Whaley’s trip manifest is part of the WC Exhibits (CE 382). In his 12:30 to 12:45 increment we see that he logged a rider from the Greyhound station to Oak Cliff. He later claimed that this rider was LHO.
THE MYSTERIOUS TAXI TRIP
According to Whaley’s trip manifest, it was about 12:15 p.m. when he got a fare at the ContinentalTransportation station to go to the Greyhound station – a 7-minute ride. After he completed that fare he parked at the Greyhound curb, left his cab to buy some cigarettes, and returned to his cab to wait for a new fare. Soon he saw a man walking south on Lamar toward his taxi. Whaley waited for him. Let’s begin with this scene.
Mr. BALL: Let's take the 12:30 trip, tell me about that, what the passenger said.
Mr. WHALEY: He said, "May I have the cab?" I said, "You sure can. Get in." And instead of opening the back door he opened the front door, which is allowable there, and got in.
Mr. BALL. Got in the front door?
Mr. WHALEY. Yes, sir. The front seat. And about that time an old lady… [I remember her] sticking her head down past him in the door and said, "Driver, will you call me a cab down here?" …He opened the door a little bit like he was going to get out, and he said, "I will let you have this one," and she says, "No, the driver can call me one."
Let’s note that Whaley described LHO initially asking for the cab politely, asking “May I?”
Whaley also described LHO as polite when he offered an elderly lady his taxi. Whaley nodded to the lady, then asked the man where he wanted to go. The man said, “500 North Beckley” in Oak Cliff.
Whaley drove off and soon encountered several police cars crisscrossing everywhere with sirens blaring. Whaley grumbled, “I wonder what the hell is the uproar!” His passenger sitting next to him said nothing, however, so Whaley figured he was just the silent type and said nothing further to him.
Whaley navigated to Zang Boulevard and took Zang the rest of the way to N. Beckley Avenue in Oak Cliff. Whaley testified that he and LHO traveled about 2.5 miles in less than 6 minutes (despite the downtown traffic jam). Instead of going all the way to 500 N. Beckley, however, the passenger motioned to Whaley two blocks earlier, around 700 N. Beckley, and said, “This will do fine.” Whaley let the man out there – around 700 N. Beckley.
After the trip, Whaley entered it in his manifest in the 12:30 to 12:45 slot, with the original address, “500 N. Beckley.” Whaley regularly recorded his trips after the trips.
That night, if Whaley had watched any TV evening news, or read any evening newspaper, he would have seen several photographs of LHO. If he was 100% certain that LHO had been his passenger that day, I suppose he would have quickly called the Dallas Police. But he didn’t call. Perhaps Whaley was less than 100% certain at that time, or perhaps he didn’t watch the news or read the evening newspaper.
A POLICE ESCORT ON SATURDAY
In any case, it was Saturday morning, when Whaley showed how much he trusted his boss. He told his boss that LHO had been his rider at 12:45 the previous day. His boss immediately told his own bosses and then called the police.
The police promptly sent a police car to escort Whaley to the station. Whaley was to give an affidavit and then attend a line-up (show-up) featuring LHO.
Upon arriving at the police station, two detectives walked Whaley down the halls to the office of Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander. Countless TV cables blocked their way to Alexander’s office. Countless news reporters pushed their way to Whaley to find out why he was there.
In his office, Assistant D.A. Bill Alexander sat among several federal and local government agents, eager to receive Whaley’s affidavit to support Hoover’s lone shooter mandate.
After writing Whaley’s deposition, officer James Leavelle took Whaley to a line-up (show-up) where LHO was to parade with multiple prisoners all handcuffed together. Whaley’s task was to identify which one of them happened to be his passenger yesterday afternoon. Soon police escorted a line of five teenagers in ordinary street clothes, testified Whaley at first. They were all handcuffed together with LHO.
LHO was the oldest in the line-up, and he wore only a T-shirt and plain pants. He was the only one with a bruise on his face. Furthermore, he obnoxiously shouted that the line-up was unfair because the other prisoners all had better clothing. LHO yelled at the police officers, accusing them of railroading him. He bellowed for his lawyer. Whaley testified as follows:
Mr. BALL: They had him in line with men much younger?
Mr. WHALEY: With five others.
Mr. BALL: Men much younger?
Mr. WHALEY: Not much younger, but just young kids they might have got them in jail.
Mr. BALL: Did he look older than those other boys?
Mr. WHALEY: Yes.
Mr. BALL: Did that aid you in the identification of the man?
Mr. WHALEY. No, sir; it wouldn't have at all – except that I said anybody who wasn't sure could have picked out the right one just for that…
Mr. BALL: You don't think that that in any way influenced your identification?
Mr. WHALEY. No, sir; it did not. When you drive a taxi, sir, as long as I have, you can almost look at a man…to be able to tell whether you can trust or whether you can't trust him, what he is…[But] the average person might single him out just by the way he acted… Anybody who wasn’t sure could have picked out the right one just for that!
Whaley denied that LHO’s line-up behavior influenced his identification of LHO “in any way.” Let’s read more:
Mr. WHALEY: …What I actually thought of the man when he got in, was that he was a ’wino’ who’d been off his bottle for about two days. That is the way he looked, sir. That was my opinion of him.
Mr. BALL: What was there about his appearance that gave you that impression? Hair mussed?
Mr. WHALEY: Just the slow way he walked up. He didn’t talk. He wasn’t in any hurry. He wasn’t nervous or anything…
Mr. BALL: Did he look dirty?
Mr. WHALEY: He looked like his clothes had been slept in, sir, but he wasn’t actually dirty…You have to know those winos, or they will get in and ride with you and there isn’t nothing you can do…
Recall that Whaley’s opening words described LHO as polite when asking for the taxicab and as very polite to offer the elderly lady his cab. In this section, however, Whaley describes LHO as a ‘wino’ who had slept in his clothes the night before and shunned common conversation. (Did officials give Whaley instructions, clues, or hints to portray LHO as deranged)?
SUMMARY SO FAR
The WC used a stopwatch to confirm the Bledsoe and Whaley timeline as follows:
(1) LHO was seen by Mary Bledsoe aboard Cecil McWatters’ bus on 11/23/1963 at about 12:40 p.m. Mary had been LHO’s landlady for only 5 days, and that was only seven weeks ago, so her identification of LHO as a lonely maniac on her bus was welcomed warmly;
(2) LHO exited Cecil’s bus around 12:45 p.m. and entered William Whaley’s taxicab shortly afterward;
(3) Whaley’s taxi took less than 6 minutes to travel from the Dallas Greyhound terminal to 700 N. Beckley in Oak Cliff, through busy traffic.
(4) LHO took about 7 minutes to walk about three blocks from 700 N. Beckley to his rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley;
(5) LHO entered his residence shortly before 1 p.m., perhaps 12:52 p.m. His housekeeper, Earlene Roberts saw him rushing in. LHO stayed perhaps 3 minutes before silently rushing out, at perhaps 12:55 p.m.
(6) LHO walked perhaps 17 minutes and 45 seconds to the site of the Tippit slaying, just in time to slay Tippit at around 1:15 p.m.
However, the WC timetable was incorrect if we add the following sworn WC testimony:
(i) Cecil McWatters refused to identify LHO in a police lineup;
(ii) Mary Bledsoe’s testimony was halting, reversing, and sometimes plain weird, perhaps because she'd suffered at least one stroke. She was under doctor’s care.
(iii) Whaley’s final description of his passenger’s clothes failed to match 100% with any other WC eyewitness of LHO’s clothes during that half-hour;
(iv) Earlene Roberts testified that LHO arrived at the rooming house “in his shirt sleeves” a little “after” 1 p.m. For the sake of argument, let’s say 1:02 p.m. Also, as Earlene said, while LHO was deciding on his jacket, a Dallas Police car stopped by the curb outside her house, beeped “tit-tit” twice, then drove away. LHO zipped up a zipper jacket as he walked out about 3 minutes after he’d arrived. In Earlene's timeline, this could be no earlier than 1:05 p.m.
(v) If LHO left his rooming house at 1:05 p.m. and walked southeast for 17 minutes and 45 seconds to 10th and Patton, LHO couldn’t have arrived there at 1:15 p.m. when Tippit was slain.
Since we have ample evidence to connect LHO with the Tippit shooting, a better solution to all of this timing is that LHO had at least one accomplice – who had a car!
I see no credible argument to place LHO on Cecil’s bus or in Whaley’s taxicab just 15 minutes after the murder of JFK. Insofar as LHO wasn’t on that bus or in that taxi, we propose that LHO needed accomplices with cars to get him to (1) 1026 N. Becket a little after 1 p.m.; and (2) the Tippit murder site by 1:15 PM.
Earlene Roberts, many have noticed, suggested something about accomplices in her observation that a Dallas Police vehicle, one she didn’t recognize, stopped in front of her house and honked, and then drove off. Who were they?
William Whaley testified to the WC that he let his mysterious passenger out at 700 N. Beckley. However, in his affidavit to the Dallas Police, he’d said that he let the passenger out at 500 N. Beckley. Let’s read more – this time Whaley answers questions by WC attorney David Belin:
Mr. BELIN: I will hand you a document which I am calling Whaley Deposition Exhibit A, and ask you to say if your signature appears on there?
Mr. WHALEY. Yes, sir; that is my signature.
Mr. BELIN: Now I notice in the statement there it says… "I traveled Zang to Beckley and turned left and traveled on Beckley until…I got in the 500 block of North Beckley. He said, ’this will do,’ and I stopped." Now is that what you told them on that day?
Mr. WHALEY. Yes, sir; that is what I told them on that day.
Mr. BELIN: Well, was it the fact that you drove until you reached the 500 block, or not?
Mr. WHALEY. No, sir, I didn’t drive until I reached the 500 block. I drove until I reached [the 700 block which was the closer location]…
Belin pressed the issue. Whaley explained that his DPD affidavit said he stopped at 500 N. Beckley because the police station was in chaos, and because his trip manifest said, ‘500 N. Beckley.’ It was the quickest answer that Whaley had.
THE LINE-UP CONFUSION:
Belin next turned to the topic of the LHO line-up because Whaley told the WC that the No. 2 man had been his passenger. However, back on November 23rd, Whaley had signed a police affidavit which said that the No. 3 man had been his passenger. Let’s read more:
Mr. BELIN: All right. Now in here, it says, "The No. 3 man who I now know is Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who I carried from the Greyhound Bus Station." Was this the No. 3 or the No. 2 man?
Mr. WHALEY: …My recollection for that afternoon in that office was very disturbed because every time they would open the door, some flash camera would flash in your face and everybody coming in and out and asking you questions.
Whaley testified that the Dallas Police rushed him through the process. Whaley didn’t know whether to count the prisoners from right to left or from left to right. There were three (not five) teenagers in that line-up with LHO, so that numbers 2 and 3 simply switch places whenever we switch counting left to right and count right to left.
THE CLOTHING OF THE PASSENGER IN QUESTION
Whaley described the man’s ordinary work clothes. Blue-faded khaki pants, a white T-shirt, a brown shirt with a thin gold stripe, open three buttons down, and a blue-grey jacket. Whaley testified that it looked like a “uniform” to him.
Up to this point, Whaley’s clothing description matched the description of Cecil Watters (Earlene and Mary saw no jacket). Whaley, however, didn’t stop there. Let’s read further.
Mr. BALL: But you are not sure about that?
Mr. WHALEY: I am not sure about the pants. I wouldn’t be sure of the shirt if it hadn’t had that light stripe in it. I just noticed that.
Mr. BALL: Here is Commission No. 162 which is a gray jacket with a zipper.
Mr. WHALEY: I think that is the jacket he had on when he rode with me in the cab.
Mr. BALL: …And here is Commission Exhibit No. 163, does this look like anything he had on?
Mr. WHALEY: He had this one on, or the other one.
Mr. BALL: That is right.
Mr. WHALEY: That is what I told you I noticed. I told you about the shirt being open, he had on the two jackets with the open shirt.
Mr. BALL: Wait a minute… You said that a jacket…
Mr. WHALEY: That jacket, now it might have been cleaned, but the jacket he had on looked more the color, you know like a uniform set, but he had this coat here on, over that other jacket. I am sure, sir.
We should now ask – since William Whaley’s full description of LHO’s attire at that hour didn’t match the description of any other WC witness at that hour – how did 90% of Whaley’s description match most descriptions?
It seems plausible that since Whaley came to the Dallas Police station the day after the JFK killing (like Mary Bledsoe) he had already seen multiple photographs of the arrested LHO broadcast worldwide continually (like Mary Bledsoe).
Comparing the WC testimonies of Mary Bledsoe and William Whaley, we find many differences, as week as a dozen details that did match. Their easy access to the famous photographs of LHO’s arrest can explain why Mary and Whaley had enough of an idea of LHO’s clothing to orient their description of LHO’s clothes.
GOVERNMENT AGENTS BRING POLICE EVIDENCE DIRECTLY TO BLEDSOE & WHALEY
As Mary Bledsoe testified, the Secret Service brought LHO’s harried shirt directly to her home for her inspection. Although that’s odd, we won’t be surprised that the FBI also brought LHO’s shirt privately to William Whaley. Let’s read more WC testimony here:
Mr. BALL: Were you shown the shirt later?
Mr. WHALEY: About – it was at least a week later, sir – an FBI man brought the shirt over and showed it to me.
Mr. BALL: Is that the same shirt you saw here?
Mr. WHALEY: I think it is, sir. I am not positive, but it had the same kind of silver streak in it
Whaley testified multiple times that he wasn’t certain that his passenger wore this precise shirt, but it was surely similar. Federal agents used Whaley’s guesswork to help solidify Hoover’s story that LHO was a nutty loner.
Yet Whaley’s testimony had further problems. Consider CE 383, which is a photo of LHO’s bracelet. Whaley claimed that he recognized it on the left arm of his passenger as he sat in the front seat right next to him. But his description of it was a mile off. Here is Whaley testifying to the WC about this bracelet:
Mr. WHALEY: I always notice watchbands, unusual watchbands, and ID bracelets like these because I make them myself. I made this one I’m wearing today! ...I particularly notice things like that. To me, it was just a common stretch-band ID bracelet. Most of them are made of chain links and not stretch bands. Stretch bands are unusual because there are very few of them…
Despite all of Whaley’s experience in making ID bracelets, the fact remains that LHO's ID bracelet wasn’t a stretch-band type as Whaley had testified. Was that an error of memory – or did Whaley actually have somebody else as his passenger? Somebody who really did have a stretch-band ID bracelet and two jackets and really was a “wino” who could be quite polite. (Remember that Whaley began by portraying his mystery passenger as perhaps gallant, a gentleman who asked” “May I?” and offered his cab to an elderly lady.)
Testimony about this mystery passenger’s attire at that hour changed with each witness.
* Cecil McWatters, the bus driver, said his passenger was not LHO, but anyway that passenger wore work clothes, “a little old jacket,” and was a “gentleman.”
* Mary Bledsoe, a bus passenger, reported that she briefly looked at this passenger but she was utterly certain it was LHO. She saw no jacket but only a “maniac” with “face all distorted” and a “dirty shirt” with “all the buttons torn off” and with a “hole in the right elbow.”
* William Whaley the taxi driver was “sure” that his passenger wore two jackets and a stretchable wristband.
Mrs. Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at 1026 N. Beckley, testified that when LHO returned to the rooming house, it was a little after 1 p.m. Also, LHO was “in his shirt sleeves.” No jacket. He walked faster than usual, she said, and as usual, he said absolutely nothing to her. At that time, she was channel changing feverishly to learn more about the murder of JFK.
She barely noticed LHO when he hurried inside, except for his unusual speed, his shirtsleeves, and that his shirt was some dark color. After about 3 minutes, she said, LHO emerged from his room wearing a zip-up jacket, and he zipped it up as he left.
I’m comfortable with the WC testimony of Cecil McWatters and Earlene Roberts. They carefully described two different people. Earlene saw the real LHO, and she described him accurately. Cecil admitted that he saw somebody else, and he refused to identify LHO in the Dallas Police line-up.
I’m uncomfortable with the testimony of Mary Bledsoe and William Whaley. Mary’s bizarre description of the mystery bus passenger was melodramatic theater. No other WC witness reported a “maniac” as Mary did. William Whaley’s sloppy "wino" came the closest. (And remember that Whaley began by portraying his mystery passenger as quite a polite person.)
Whaley insisted that his passenger wore two jackets and a stretchable wristband and could not be certain of his shirt and pants. Given all this, then Whaley surely had somebody else in his taxi that day. Lots of people went to the Greyhound station to get a taxi. Lots of people lived on N. Beckley Ave. in Oak Cliff. Some were “winos.” Nearly all of them treasured their privacy.
I find the testimony of Bledsoe and Whaley to be cases of “mistaken identity.” Mary and Whaley made affidavits before the Dallas Police, FBI, and District Attorney’s office on Saturday, 11/23/1963.
Whaley changed his story about the line-up multiple times in multiple ways. There were 5 teenagers and LHO in the line-up. No, there were 4 teenagers and LHO. No, there were 3 teenagers and LHO. LHO was prisoner number 3. No, LHO was prisoner number 2. Whaley testified that “anybody” could have identified the boisterous LHO in that line-up.
But that didn’t affect Whaley’s identification, he said, because anybody who drives a taxi as long as Whaley has, has already learned to “tell whether you can…or…can't trust him..."
© Copyright 2021 by Paul Edward Trejo. All Rights Reserved.
Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits:
Testimony of William Whaley to the Warren Commission – Thursday, March 12, 1964
· Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, Volume II, pp. 253-262 and 292-294
Testimony of William Whaley to the Warren Commission – Wednesday, April 8, 1964
· Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, Volume VI, pp. 428-434