General Walker's Mental State (Part 5)


<Photo: The Resigned General Walker returns to Dallas on October 7, 1962 -- sixty years ago. The location is the Love Field Airport. Notice the warm welcome he received from supporters who wanted him for US President, and waving the Confederate flag.>


Finally, we will read excerpts from the Grand Jury testimony of two psychiatrists, Dr. Charles Smith and Dr. Manfred Gutmacher regarding the mental condition of the resigned General Edwin A. Walker in the context of his role in the Ole Miss riots of September 30, 1962.


Those riots represented a coast to coast protest against the enrollment of the first Black American student, James Meredith at the traditionally all-white University of Mississippi in Oxford.


Before we begin, I want to assure the reader that I have no personal animosity toward the the resigned General Walker, who performed bravely for his country during World War 2 and the Korean War. (My father was also in World War 2). However, I sharply disagree with the rightist politics of the resigned General Walker and I still believe that there is ample evidence to suspect him of a leadership role in a Dallas plot to assassinate JFK. It’s a question of Truth and US History. I remain open to facts, subject to fact-checking.


One more background point. A young Associated Press (AP) writer Van H. Savell was an eye-witness of Walker’s behavior at Ole Miss from about 9 pm to midnight. The AP published this on October 3, 1962. The psychiatrists will sometimes refer to his report. Here are excerpts:


“...I dressed as any college student would and easily milled among the several thousand rioters on the University of Mississippi Campus Sunday night. This allowed me to follow the crowd – a few students and many outsiders – as they charged federal marshals surrounding the century old Lyceum Building. It also brought me into direct contact with former Army Major General Edwin A. Walker


“...Walker first appeared in the riot area at 8:45 p.m., Sunday near the University Avenue entrance about 300 yards from the Ole Miss Administration Building.


“...One unidentified man asked Walker as he approached the group. ‘General, will you lead us to the steps?’ I observed Walker as he loosened his tie and shirt and nodded ‘Yes’ without speaking. He then conferred with a group of about 15 persons who appeared to be the riot leaders... Walker assumed command of the crowd, which I estimated at 1,000...


“Two men took Walker by the arms and they headed for the Lyceum and the federal marshals. Throughout this time, I was less than six feet from Walker.


“...We were met with a heavy barrage of tear gas about 75 yards from the Lyceum steps and went a few feet further when we had to turn back. Before doing so, many of the rioters hurled their weapons (bricks, bottles, rocks, and wooden stakes) toward the clustered marshals. We fled the tear gas and the charging marshals – the crowd racing back to a Confederate soldier's statue near the grove entrance below the Lyceum.


“...Shortly thereafter, Walker climbed halfway up the Confederate monument and addressed the crowd. ‘...Don't let up now. You may lose this battle, but you will have been heard.’


“He continued: ‘This is a dangerous situation. You must be prepared for possible death. If you are not, go home now.’ There were cheers. It was apparent that Walker had complete command over the group…


“...One Ole Miss student queried the former General, ‘What can we use to make the tear gas bombs ineffective?’ ...Walker suggested the use of sand to snuff out the tear gas. ‘This stuff works real well, but where can you get it?’ he asked.


“At this time the rioters were using a University fire truck and fire extinguishers in an attempt to make the tear gas bombs ineffective.”


This report was perhaps the most notable news story of the Ole Miss riots because the reporter infiltrated the rioters to observe General Walker close-up. It became part of the evidence that the two psychiatrists would use in their professional opinions about Walker’s mental state.


Walker's defenders said that he merely observed like a member of the Press; he only wanted a peaceful protest, he was never in front of the crowd, never participated in the riot, never directed or suggested that others direct or charge the marshals or assault them.

Yet another eye-witness, namely, the Episcopalian Reverend Duncan Gray, agreed wholeheartedly with Van Savell’s report. Reverend Gray suffered personal violence at the hands of the rioters at Walker’s suggestion, as he has told several reporters over the years when interviewed about these historic riots.


All right, let’s get busy and hear from the psychiatrists. The Edwin Walker Collection of personal papers within the archives of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at UT Austin – in collection Box 96-023/32 – contains their Grand Jury testimony. Evidently, citizen Walker chose to keep copies for his memoirs.


The two psychiatrists were: (1) Dr. Charles E. Smith, the doctor who first recommended a psychiatric examination of Walker; and (2) Dr. Manfred Gutmacher, an impartial, military psychiatrist.


TESTIMONY OF DR. SMITH


Let’s begin with the testimony of Dr. Smith on November 20, 1962, before the Court of the Northern District of Mississippi. He opened his testimony with the sources of information that he used for his official affidavit authorizing the commitment of the resigned General Walker to an Army hospital for psychiatric observation. The sources were:


(1) Walker’s Testimony before the 1962 Senate Subcommittee

(2) A report by newsman Howard Reis to a Department of Justice official

(3) Army medical reports.


The court first reviewed the newsman’s statement, dictated by telephone on October 1, 1962 from Oxford Mississippi. Here’s an excerpt:

“Walker went out on the campus…and he wandered about. After the first tear gas bomb was shot, which was estimated to be about 9:30pm, he got in a group of about 500 students which had separated themselves from the other students and started what they said would be a charge to the steps of the Lyceum…Walker appeared at the front of the group…Some student asked Walker, ‘Will you lead us to the steps?’ The students had bricks in their hands. Walker nodded his head in an affirmative manner, then huddled with about sixteen students. The witness was about six feet from them at the time…so he could not hear what was said. The group then turned about and headed toward the Lyceum. Walker said, ‘Well, we are ready.’ They and the larger group moved toward the Lyceum… The whole group turned and fled when they were flooded with tear gas. They ran back to where they had started. About ten minutes later, Walker got up as high as he could on the Confederate statue and he told the students in essence: ‘Barnett has not lost the fight. You can still fight and we are ready to fight possibly to the death.’ He is positive about that last phrase.”


Dr. Smith accepted this account as factual, and it formed the basis for his medical opinion.

Dr. Smith also considered various excerpts from Edwin Walker’s testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Military Preparedness from April 1962. For example, Walker’s public statements that:


1. Unidentified forces control the Army through Public Relations Media;

2. There exists a control apparatus influenced by a secret policy;

3. He was the scapegoat of an unwritten policy of collaboration with international Communism.


Furthermore, two public events were important for Dr. Smith’s evaluation:


a) Walker physically struck a newsman as he left the Senate hearings

b) Walker exhorted Americans to come to Ole Miss in massive numbers to protest.


Also, Dr. Smith read Walker’s Army medical history about his many psychosomatic complaints. These contributed to Smith’s affidavit. They showed Smith “evidence of behavior out of keeping with that of a person of his station, background and training.”


Walker’s defense attorney, Clyde Watts, cross-examined Dr. Smith and first established that Dr. Smith’s grandfather was Jewish when he arrived in the US from Russia, and changed his name to Smith. Then he asked why Dr. Smith chose to imprison Walker for 90 days.


Smith denied any sort of imprisonment. Attorney Watts then asked Dr. Smith if he had ever read a news report that stated:


During a lull in the rioting, General Walker mounted a Confederate statue on the campus and begged the students to cease their violence.


Dr. Smith said he never saw such a report.


Learning that Dr. Smith examined Walker’s military records from 1927 to 1958, Watts produced an Army medical report dated 11 September 1961 which gave Walker a glowing medical health report, and asked Smith that if he had seen this report on 1 October 1962, whether he would have made the same diagnosis.


Smith replied first, that he made no diagnosis at all, but only an affidavit of his medical opinion about the appropriateness of a psychiatric evaluation for Walker. Secondly, Dr. Smith did not believe that the 1961 medical report, combined with the other evidence that he had seen, would have changed his affidavit.

Watts then asked Dr. Smith if he had seen a report from October 13, 1961 in which the Army assigned Walker to Headquarters Pacific as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Training. Smith said he had not. Watts asked Smith that if he had seen this report on 1 October 1962, whether he would have written the same affidavit.


Smith replied that it would have made no difference to his affidavit.


Watts then demanded, “Do you feel that everyone who is apprehensive that there may be some Communist infiltration in our government is a lunatic?” Smith replied, “I certainly do not.”


Watts demanded, “Do you recognize that the Communist enemy is the most effective infiltrating enemy in the history of the world?” Smith admitted he was no authority on that.


Watts further demanded, “Do you feel that the US is immune, as their number one target, from such infiltration?” Smith stated he would rather confine himself to Walker’s actual case than to discuss Communism.


Watts then claimed that the items that Smith gave as his criterion for possible paranoia were actually rational when viewed in the context of an actual Communist infiltration. Watts pressed Smith to agree, but Smith regarded the claim as speculation.


Finally Watts concluded with the argument that Walker’s striking a news reporter in public could also indicate a man of normal feelings and responses. Smith agreed that this always remained a possibility. That ended the testimony of Dr. Charles E. Smith.


TESTIMONY OF DR. GUTMACHER


Walker’s attorneys (Watts and Morris) called for the testimony of Dr. Manfred Gutmacher, a forensic psychiatrist and chief medical officer at the Court Clinic for Baltimore City's Supreme Bench. Dr. Gutmacher testified as follows:


…It is concluded that General Walker did make derogatory remarks on the leftist influence or affiliation of Truman, Acheson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Cronkite, and Eric Sevareid of being Communist influenced. Also, Walker stated that 60% of the Press and radio were Communist influenced. . .and. . .General Walker, in violation of Army regulations attempted to influence soldier voting.


Gutmacher announced all this amounted to a serious question regarding General Walker’s ability to perform the assigned duties of a US Major General. Gutmacher said:


I had the feeling that for a man who was as much of an Army man as General Walker, who was fully conversant with Army policies and regulations…to do this type of thing might definitely indicate some change in personality and an inferior performance compared to his previous level.


Gutmacher admitted that any medical opinion might be mistaken, however, he added:


In a high proportion of individuals who have this feeling of suspicion and of being ganged up against, that with this goes a very marked kind of egotism, what we call grandeur, and I think that some of these are present. I have marked some passages which I think indicates that.


In addition to these indications of grandeur, Gutmacher also marked passages from Walker’s Senate Subcommittee testimony that, in his medical opinion, indicated “a defective judgment” which was out of character for a man of Walker’s intelligence and former degree of high performance.


On the question of over-suspicion and grandeur, Dr. Gutmacher read another passage from the Senate Subcommittee hearings, where Walker had said:


I was a scapegoat of an unwritten policy of collaboration and collusion with the international communist conspiracy which had superseded all written directives and our traditional policy of complete understanding of our enemy. (Walker, 1961)


In Dr. Gutmacher’s opinion, Walker implied that he was specially marked for this kind of treatment. This was a sign of over-suspicion. Also, Walker said (speaking of himself in the third person):


It seems from this that my case is not merely unusual, but unique. The forces back of it must be extraordinary. These forces cannot be identified fully, but in general the Walker case can be recognized as basically a fight between the internationalist left and the nationalist right, with control of part of the US Military Establishment at stake. (Walker, 1961)


Such language, testified Dr. Gutmacher, was also a sign of over-suspicion. To speak of Walker’s sense of grandeur, Gutmacher quoted Walker’s statement to the Senate:


I have one consolation, that the whole world knows that this paper (the Overseas Weekly) and I are enemies. (Walker, 1961)


Again, Walker portrayed himself at the center of a worldwide event -- in his own mind. Then Senator Cannon had asked Walker why he had even previously stated:


As far as my military career was concerned, my assignment to Germany amounted to entrapment. (Walker, 1961)

Senator Cannon Walker for his actual meaning, and at length Walker had responded as follows:


As events occurred and as you can trace them through the Communist publications overseas and over here, it finally led up to me being pointed out while I was still in Germany as an ultra. An ultra is a communist target. It comes from the revolutionary days. It is a noun. It means ‘get him’. (Walker, 1961)

Such language, said Dr. Gutmacher, also portrays signs of a sense of grandeur in which the subject is the very center of all-important events – in his own mind.


Next, Dr. Gutmacher cited that text where Senator Cannon asked Walker for specific names regarding his claim that communists infiltrated the Army since 1928, and also infiltrated the US Government. Walker replied,


“I am not ready to release any right now, sir.”


Dr. Gutmacher offered his opinion about this:


It seems to me that here again when a man is going to testify before a Senate committee, one would be armed with specific material rather than vague generalizations, if one is going to show good judgment.


Finally, Dr. Gutmacher cited Walker’s stated doubts that the Soviet flights of Gagarin and Titov really happened, as Walker had said:


Mr. Eisenhower’s congratulations to them on their picture

of the back side of the moon was very likely a picture out

of our own Popular Mechanics. (Walker, 1961)

Dr. Gutmacher concluded:

I feel that this is not good judgment, since certainly this is conjecture and not something that can be backed up by facts from the witness before a Senate committee.


Dr. Gutmacher also cited Walker’s behavior at Ole Miss University as described by Van Savell on October 3, 1962 in the Washington Evening Star, as well as by John Roberts in the Washington Post and the Denver Post. Gutmacher summarized:


It seemed to me here again that General Walker was playing a role that didn’t seem to show good judgment, and was using tactics and carrying out this mission without the judgment and the control that one would feel appropriate to a man of his type and of his long and very honorable Army record.


When the Court asked Dr. Gutmacher for a conclusion, he said:


The only conclusions I would draw is that there is a real possibility that there has been a deterioration in the mental processes of General Walker in the past year or two. I certainly would not…hazard a diagnosis…without a very detailed…examination, but I do think that there is sufficient smoke here to feel that one ought to look to see whether there’s any fire.


There was Dr. Gutmacher’s professional psychiatric opinion. In cross-examination, Walker’s defense attorneys insisted that in the context of an actual Communist infiltration of America, Walker’s pronouncements were certainly not grandiose. Dr. Gutmacher disagreed.


Counsel then asked Dr. Gutmacher about a news report that said Walker actually tried to calm the rioters. Dr. Gutmacher added this claim to the many opposite reports and replied:


It’s possible that Walker was confused as to what his role was.


Counsel then raised a hypothetical case: if Van Savell’s account was incorrect, and Walker really did try to calm the rioters, “Would it not change your whole concept of everything that you have said?” Dr. Gutmacher replied:


It would certainly throw considerably more doubt into my mind as to whether there is enough here to merit exploration, but I think I would still feel that it would be desirable to have a psychiatric examination.


And there we have it, from the University of Texas at Austin, Dolph Briscoe Center for the Study of American History, in the collection of personal papers of the resigned General Edwin Walker. There are two professional psychiatric opinions about General Walker’s mental condition in 1962.


Best regards,

--Paul Trejo

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