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The Harry Dean Story (Part 8)

(Photo: W.R. Morris, ca. 1975)

I continue from notes of my interviews with Harry Dean over the past decade. We pick up the story in early 1964, as the Warren Commission (WC) began its exhaustive analysis of the JFK Assassination. Harry expected the WC to discover the Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plot to attack JFK. His expectations would be frustrated at every turn.

Year of the Warren Report -- 1964

Harry vividly remembers 1964 as the year of waiting for the publication of the Warren Report in hopes that the WC would name General Walker, the JBS and the Minutemen as prime suspects. Harry trusted that he’d eventually be called to testify before the WC about the JFK Assassination so that he could clear his conscience about it and prove his innocence.

Instead, as 1964 dragged on the WC never contacted Harry. The Beatles come out on the Ed Sullivan show. Malcom X led protest marches in Harlem. The Rolling Stones came out, and LBJ traveled to Moscow to visit Nikita Khrushchev. Harry joined Goldwater’s 1964 campaign for US President. Three Civil Rights workers were murdered in Mississippi. LBJ signed his Civil Rights Act into law. Riots and looting broke out in Harlem, New York after a white policeman shot and killed a black teenager. LBJ and the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving LBJ special war powers for the Vietnam War. More racial riots broke out in the US, e.g. in Paterson, New Jersey and Jackson, Mississippi. Harry waited in vain for a WC subpoena.

Finally, in September 1964, the Warren Report finally published its firm conclusion – LHO acted entirely alone in the JFK Assassination, period. Harry was disappointed. It meant that Walker, Rousselot, Gabaldon, Hall, and Howard, would never be charged.

Yet Harry took heart when scholars around America immediately began challenging the Warren Report. Mark Lane, Sylvia Meagher, Penn Jones, Harold Weisberg, Jay Epstein, Vincent Salandria – they all filled bookstores with their criticisms. Harry started reading all over again.

In October, China tested their first atomic bomb. Barry Goldwater welcomed Ronald Reagan into the Republican Party. In November, Goldwater lost by a landslide as LBJ and the Democrats took the White House and the full Congress. As November 1964 dragged on, Harry came to a stunning realization – none of the many critics of the Warren Report bothered to pursue leads about Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon-Hall-Howard-JBS-or-Minutemen. They had no clue.

The only hint of Harry’s account was the WC testimony of Sylvia Odio and her dim memories of a Cuban and a Mexican at her doorstep with LHO in late September 1963. Harry felt certain that Sylvia was telling the truth, since that was exactly when his personal associates, Loran Hall and Larry Howard, had traveled to New Orleans to chauffeur LHO to Mexico City. Odio described them to a “T”. Yet Odio got too little attention – not nearly enough.

Harry wondered – how could he go public with his own story? He wasn’t a writer, so he needed another strategy.

Harry Dean meets Marguerite Oswald (1964)

After intensive study, it eventually dawned on Harry that he and LHO had much in common. Both had been linked with Fidel Castro. Both had been officers in the FPCC. Both had been linked with the resigned General Walker. Both had been linked (rightly or wrongly) with the FBI. Then Harry recalled the time when he and Gabby sat in a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles where a waitress took close-up photographs of Harry with two young women. Harry remembered that Gabby invited him to fly along to Mexico City – but wouldn’t tell him why.

Had Gabby been setting up Harry to be a patsy, too, just in case LHO somehow escaped Walker’s web? As 1964 wound down, Harry was feeling badly for the JFK Assassination and for the televised murder of LHO. Harry felt certain that LHO had lost his life so that the real JFK conspirators could escape. But Harry himself had also escaped. If LHO had refused to play along, Harry himself might have become the former FPCC official that Walker twisted into his patsy. So, Harry began to feel particularly guilty about LHO.

To ease his conscience, on the anniversary of LHO’s murder, November 25, 1964, Harry sent a Western Union telegram of one of his poems, as well as a flower bouquet to LHO’s grave site. Soon afterward, Marguerite Oswald called Harry on the telephone, thanking him for his kindness. Harry told Marguerite of his belief that LHO was innocent of the shooting of JFK. He told her that he had also been involved with Fidel, with the FPCC, with General Walker, and he would not be surprised to learn that LHO also had close ties to the FBI. Marguerite appreciated those consoling words, and they conversed regularly after that.

Harry and Marguerite on the Joe Pyne Show (1965)

In early 1965 Harry’s home life was in shambles. He was continually daydreaming, and he always became rattled whenever the FBI called for a favor. Harry couldn’t tell Millie about his secret life, so she finally threatened to leave him and take the kids. Harry decided that to save his family he had to cut the cord with the FBI. But how?

He thought of a plan while watching Hollywood’s conservative TV talk show host, Joe Pyne. He would ask Marguerite Oswald to join him on Joe’s show, and then he would come out publicly with his story. That would alienate the FBI so that they would finally leave him alone. (Maybe it wasn’t the best plan, but that was all he could muster under the circumstances.) So, Harry called the producer of the Joe Pyne show.

Joe Pyne’s producer, Bob Hayward, liked the idea and said, “Harry, if you can get Marguerite Oswald on my show, I’ll buy you the best steak dinner in Hollywood!” Harry got Marguerite to agree, so Bob arranged for Marguerite to be Joe’s guest and for Harry to address her from the “Questioner’s Box.” It was exciting.

First, of course, Bob Hayward had to inform the FBI of this plan – as a formality and a courtesy. The FBI quickly demanded that Bob cancel all plans for such a program. They forbade Harry to appear publicly. The FBI also contacted Harry, warning him to refrain from publicizing any contact that he’d had with the FBI. But Bob Hayward was energized by the FBI resistance! He was under no legal obligation to conform to the FBI’s desires. Bob gave Harry a green light, and so Harry and Marguerite Oswald prepared for their first appearance on The Joe Pyne Show in January 1965.

On the day of the show after Marguerite Oswald arrived on the set, she approached Bob Hayward and demanded $100 or she wouldn’t go on. Bob quickly complained to Harry, and Harry was also taken by surprise, but he saw no other solution than for Bob to simply pay Marguerite the $100. Bob paid her, but he also canceled Harry’s steak dinner.

As the show proceeded, Joe Pyne treated Marguerite with great respect as she did her best to defend LHO from the charges that history had laid upon his head. The call-in audience, as we might expect, treated her badly. Harry pitied her, yet he also pursued his own plan to come out into the open. On the air, he explained to Marguerite and to the TV audience that his story had parallels with LHO’s story – which led Harry to believe that LHO might be innocent of the shooting of JFK. Joe Pyne’s audience wasn’t convinced, but Harry at least got the burden off his chest, and in doing so he shattered his relationship with the Los Angeles FBI, as planned.

After the show, Marguerite and Harry went to dinner with a former civil engineer, George C. Thomson who was keen to share his booklet about the JFK Assassination, The Quest for Truth. Over dinner, George spoke at length about triangulation crossfire, the windshield bullet, the strange death of Officer Tippit, the public sacrifice of LHO, and a conspiracy at Dealey Plaza. It was an exciting night – and then Marguerite flew back to Texas.

The next day Harry got a phone call from Joe Pyne who praised his ratings for the show and invited Harry to be his guest for another show on JFK. Harry accepted. The FBI dropped Harry like a hot potato, and Mille, over local TV, finally heard Harry’s explanations for his behavior. Millie now understood Harry’s behavior a bit better and this saved their marriage. Marguerite and Harry remained in contact for many years.

Harry kept reading JFK conspiracy literature after 1964, always seeking some book to tell the truth as he had personally witnessed it with his own eyes. Harry tried to write his own story; yet although he could write poems, he couldn’t write a full book.

Yet Harry was convinced that he had personally witnessed the full truth about the resigned General Walker – the truth that Jack Ruby had told to Earl Warren – the truth that ATF Agent Frank Ellsworth had told the FBI – the truth that Sylvia Odio had partially figured out. Specifically, Harry saw with his own eyes that the US Radical Right had framed LHO for the JFK Assassination. He’d never change his convictions – to this very day.

Yet no matter what conspiracy theories Harry read or heard about in subsequent years, whether from Lane, Meagher, Jones, Weisberg, Epstein, Salandria, or anyone – none ever suspected a Walker-Rousselot-Gabaldon plot. Even the Warren Commission pages came closer to Harry’s truth than these writers. While they all agreed that LHO could never have acted alone, yet they all failed to name the actual people who had made LHO into their patsy.

Harry knew that the CIA inside Cuba helped Fidel Castro in the early days, just as they helped the Bay of Pigs soldiers attempt to kick Fidel out of power afterwards. Yet Harry could clearly see that the CIA wasn’t the real force behind the JFK Assassination. Evidently, few others could see it.

Harry found rays of hope here and there. For example, early in 1965, a WC member, Congressman Gerald Ford (later President Ford) – published his own criticism of the Warren Report. His book, Portrait of the Assassin (1965), related that the WC leaders were stunned during their very first month in operation, as Dallas AG Waggoner Carr and Dallas DA Henry Wade submitted documented evidence to the Committee that LHO had been a paid street informer for the FBI.

At the time, the WC kept this a secret but Congressman Ford made it public a year later. J. Edgar Hoover had been obliged to deny the Carr-Wade evidence by means of a sworn affidavit to the WC pledging that LHO Oswald was never, in any way, connected with the FBI at any time – ever. Although Ford also printed that the Carr-Wade claim was probably a mistake, and repeated the WC dogma that LHO had no accomplices, Ford had deliberately poked a whole in the Warren Report. Harry took some solace from that.

Later in 1965, three other WC members publicly retracted their names from the Magic Bullet and Lone Assassin theories of the Warren Report. The three were, Senator Richard Russell, Senator John Sherman Cooper, and Congressman Hale Boggs. Thus, four out of the seven original WC members had publicly criticized the Warren Report – a majority! Senator Russell was miffed because he had submitted a written, dissenting opinion to the WC, and the WC promised that they would include it in the record, but they “forgot.” Instead, the WC published that the Warren Report conclusion was unanimous! Despite this deception, these honorable four members retracted their names.

In any case, two years went by, and Harry saw no further relief on the horizon.

The Jim Garrison Shakeup (1967)

Suddenly, in March 1967, all of America held its breath as New Orleans DA Jim Garrison filed charges against New Orleans millionaire Clay Shaw, accusing him of participating in a conspiracy to kill JFK. This was news to Harry who had never heard of Clay Shaw before Jim Garrison’s charges. (Garrison’s story became world-famous in Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie, JFK, so we don’t need to go into details here.)

Anyway, during those months in 1967 and 1968, as Jim Garrison got national headlines, Harry hoped that Garrison might actually stumble upon the JFK truth that Harry had seen in 1963. Maybe, just maybe, Garrison might explore Walker, Rousselot, Gabaldon, Loran Hall, Larry Howard and Harry Dean.

At first, it didn’t happen. Harry didn’t recognize any of the many names from New Orleans that Jim Garrison publicly pursued – Clay Shaw, Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Jack Martin, Fred Crisman, Carlos Bringuier – not one.

However – when Jim Garrison filed a subpoena on Loran Hall, it was time for hope again. Maybe now the truth would emerge; maybe now Harry would finally see Justice. Though Loran Hall fought his extradition through the California courts and won, Loran surprised everybody when he decided to talk with Jim Garrison anyway!

As Loran explained, he had recently suffered two attempts on his life since the Garrison subpoena, so he decided that if he quickly told everything to Jim Garrison and the National Enquirer, then nobody would have a reason to kill him. So, Loran Hall allowed Garrison and his staff to interview him for several days. In the end, Jim Garrison concluded that Loran Hall had told him the truth; he did not charge Loran and he let Loran return to California. What did Loran tell Garrison?

Harry would find out years later – when the transcripts were made public – that Loran Hall told Jim Garrison whatever Garrison wanted to hear. For example, Loran told Garrison that he once met Warren Reynolds at the home of General Walker and decided that Reynolds and Walker were both gay. Loran distracted Garrison with many such irrelevant anecdotes and didn’t tell the full truth. Otherwise, said Harry, Jim Garrison would have also subpoenaed Walker, Rousselot, Gabaldon, Larry and Harry.

In that 1968 National Enquirer article, Loran Hall gave an interview to Harold Weisberg in which he claimed that he had heard some right-wing extremists in Dallas plotting to kill JFK, RFK and MLK. Loran didn’t name any of these plotters – but this article came closer to Harry’s truth than any article he had seen to date.

Sadly, Jim Garrison dropped the entire thread, and took a detour toward Clay Shaw and the CIA. Soon, Clay Shaw walked out of court a free man, and Garrison was humiliated.

Harry Dean Meets W.R. Morris (1975)

A popular novel, The Twelfth of August (1971) was the first book by W.R. Morris, a talented writer from Tennessee. It’s the true story of a Tennessee sheriff who lost his wife and his own life while fighting the Mafia there. Morris continued the theme with a popular series, Walking Tall (1973).

Then, in the spring of 1975, W.R. Morris wrote a long article for the Chicago Tattler in which he claimed that he saw Harry Dean personally setting a bunch of flowers and a poem on LHO’s tomb. Morris claimed that when he introduced himself, Harry Dean told him that he was a former FBI agent as well as a former CIA agent.

That was pure fiction. Harry never visited LHO’s tomb personally. Harry never met W.R. Morris in his life. Harry never told anybody that he was ever an FBI Agent or a CIA Agent, and much less both at the same time! So, Harry found Morris’ phone number, called him up and demanded an explanation for the lies. W.R. Morris smoothly apologized and claimed that he must have talked to some other government agent.

Then he invited Harry to call him W.R. and he offered to cover Harry’s expenses up to $250 to accompany him to New York City for an upcoming June appearance on Tom Snyder’s TV program, The Tomorrow Show, so that Harry could tell the world his story.

Harry had doubts because national TV was different from the local Joe Pyne Show. Harry would need to personally warn the FBI. While Harry was thinking about it, publisher John Moulder of the Tattler phoned Harry to pressure him into cooperating with Morris. Harry told Moulder to get lost.

Yet Harry knew that the FBI could make trouble for him if he failed to warn them. So, Harry contacted Los Angeles FBI agent Wesley Grapp about his wish to go on national TV and tell his story. Grapp begged Harry – don’t even think about it. Many FBI agents involved in many related cases would find their jobs much harder by such national attention. Harry asked Grapp if the FBI was ordering Harry to keep silent, and Grapp admitted that the FBI had no such authority. Grapp warned Harry that he would personally make Harry’s life difficult if Harry made his life difficult.

Harry weighed the stakes. His biggest fear was that if he went on national TV, then the hot-tempered Guy Gabaldon – especially – might try to kill him. So, Harry decided to go on national TV wearing a hood over his face and head and would assiduously avoid the name of Guy Gabaldon.

Harry Dean and W.R. Morris arrived at NBC studios in New York City on Monday, June 9, 1975. Morris handed Harry a check for $250 for his travel expenses and introduced him to Tom Snyder. When Harry announced his plan to wear a hood on the Tomorrow Show, Tom Snyder chose to call him, “Mister X.” Harry had only a few minutes to tell his story, so it was terse, although “Mister X” did name the resigned General Walker, the JBS leader Congressman Rousselot, and Loran Hall in his expose.

As the show progressed, however, W.R. Morris kept interrupting Harry. Yet Tom Snyder was asking Harry these questions, and more than once, Tom Snyder told W.R. Morris to let “Mister X” answer the question. At the end of the interview “Mister X” told Tom Snyder that he sometimes disagreed with W.R. Morris. That was his parting shot.

But W.R. Morris got the last word – he told Tom Snyder that he and “Mister X” were writing a book together. That was the first time Harry had heard about this, and he was speechless. After the show, Harry confronted W.R. Morris, exclaiming, “I stuck out my neck to tell the truth, but you’re just using me!” Morris looked down upon Harry and replied, “You go back to California and scratch out a living with the chickens, Harry, because I’m going down that long green road!”

Harry returned to Los Angeles disappointed by the slim results of his national TV appearance. Worse, after Harry deposited Morris’ $250 check, it bounced! Harry wasn’t surprised then, when in September 1975, Harry saw for the very first time Morris’ 28-page booklet (with lots of pictures) for sale in bookstores – with Harry’s name on it. Its title was also a big fat lie: The Men Behind the Guns: Former Undercover Agent Reveals all the Facts about the Kennedy Assassination (1975).

In a chaos of lies mixed with truths W.R. Morris doubled down on his claim that Harry was both an FBI Agent and a CIA Agent. Morris did name General Walker and Congressman Rousselot as the main plotters – but he added a lie that Harry had “several tape recordings of Rousselot and Walker making threats against JFK’s life.” There were no such tapes, nor did Harry ever claim such a thing to anyone.

Morris added more lies, saying that Harry had infiltrated the JBS as an FBI agent. Not true. Harry had been a genuine Bircher, heart and soul. Harry had only volunteered information about the Minutemen as requested by Wesley Grapp. But W.R. Morris twisted the truth for the sake of dramatic fiction.

Although Morris rightly reported that Harry Dean had often heard rightists gossiping about how JFK should be killed – actually a million people knew that back in 1963, while W.R. Morris made it sound like something extremely rare, secret and sinister. Yet the real back room secret wasn’t gossip about killing JFK – the real back room secret was the plot to make LHO into their patsy.

Finally, W.R. Morris left out the key to Harry’s story, namely, that Harry had innocently doubted that the plot was truly serious at the time – and although he told the FBI, even the FBI had innocently doubted that the plot was truly serious at the time!

It was already well-known that General Walker was enraged at JFK and RFK for sending him to an insane asylum after the Ole Miss riots in 1962. That was public knowledge because Walker repeated it so many times in so many speeches. But W.R. Morris made it sound like a melodramatic, top-secret motive.

Ultimately, W.R. Morris’ book was a fictional elaboration of the Tomorrow Show interview.

Since Harry had deliberately withheld Gabby’s name, however, W.R. Morris was reduced to a vague report about “some man” who picked up $10,000 from Rousselot and took it to Mexico to plan the JFK assassination. The key character was missing.

W.R. Morris further dramatized Harry’s story by claiming that “Harry’s family lived in constant fear,” and that “the life of a government undercover agent isn’t the glorified one as depicted on TV and in the movies.” Harry never said any such things to Morris or to anybody.

Harry did confide to W.R. Morris that he’d volunteered all this information to the FBI, but again Morris twisted it and made it sound like Harry was an FBI Agent whom the FBI had violently suppressed. In fact, the FBI never treated Harry as dangerous. Rather, they told Harry that the people he named were bumblers who would, at worst, only hurt each other.

To top off his ridiculous claims, W.R. added names and villains to Harry’s story that were totally unknown to Harry, e.g. Eladio del Valle. Harry never heard of this person before in his life. It now became totally obvious that W.R. Morris was nothing more than a fiction writer.

Harry totally cut off all communication with W.R. Morris after that Tomorrow Show, but years later Morris continued to give public appearances as though he was still working with Harry Dean! He once hired an actor who looked a little like Harry to pretend to be Harry! What malarky!

Finally, in September 1975, John Moulder published a Tattler Investigative Special that named General Walker, Congressman Rousselot, Loran Hall, Larry Howard, William Seymour, Gerry Patrick Hemming and Interpen in connection with the JFK Assassination. This was getting closer to the truth – without actually getting down to brass tacks.

For over ten years, Harry was continually frustrated in telling his actual story. In our next post, we’ll track continuing developments in Harry’s story.




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