WHY APPEASE PROTESTERS?
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
(Across the street from Milwaukee’s City Hall – one of the tallest buildings in the USA when it was constructed around 1895 – lies Red Arrow Park. The park is not large and probably contains more cement than grass, but a Starbucks attracts visitors, in summer to sit in the air conditioned interior or outside in the sunny outdoors. In winter, there is ice-skating in part that converts into a rink. The park is named after a military division that fought in WWI.
In April 2014, Dontre Hamilton, a man with a history of mental problems lay on the grass, and on the sidewalk. The details follow. To summarize, this has become Milwaukee’s Ferguson incident with many protests over the year, stopping traffic, marches, and considerable media play for the brother and family of the troubled man. On 24 November 2015 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the large newspaper for the city, published my letter on series of incidents. HM)
WHY APPEASE PROTESTERS?
WHY APPEASE PROTESTERS?
On Thursday 19 November protestors disrupted the tree-lighting ceremony at Red Arrow Park. Middle-schoolers’ songs for the occasion were drowned out by the shouts and megaphones of the disruptors. The protestors claim they seek justice, but even Pres. Obama’s Dept. of Justice could find no reason to reopen the case.
If a church wanted to present a nativity scene in the park, it would be denied because of the religious nature of the scene. However, for months there has been a memorial in Red Arrow Park to Dontre Hamilton which includes a cross. If a church asked to place a cross in the park, it would be denied, but the Hamilton crowd can have a cross and a memorial.
Dontre Hamilton was killed in the park in April 2014 after several calls to police about the man on the ground. One policeman approached Hamilton and wanted to pat him down – the park is across the street from City Hall and no one wants threats to city leaders. Hamilton resisted, grabbed the officer’s baton, and was shot numerous times by the policeman. Hamilton may have been unarmed (the policeman did not know that till the pat down), but a 300-pound man who is mentally unstable can be and proved to be dangerous. Unarmed AND dangerous. The policeman did his duty to protect the general public. For that, he was fired.
Suppose some want a memorial in Red Arrow Park to the fired policeman. Will they be allowed? Will a church be allowed to display a cross in the park? Or a nativity scene?
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
GENERAL WALKER AND THE MURDER OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY:
The Extensive New Evidence of a Radical Right Conspiracy (Moreland Press, 2015)
By JEFFREY CAUFIELD
Rev. by Hugh Murray
I begin with some of my background related to this 1,000-page book: 1) I attended P T G Beauregard Jr. High in New Orleans, 1952-53, a year when Lee Oswald was also a student there. As there were a thousand students, and we were in different grades, I never knew him. 2) From 1953-1956 I attended Warren Easton Sr. High, also in NO. Some report that Oswald attended Easton for about a month in 1954 before he enlisted on his 17th birthday in the Marines. Again, I did not know him. 3) In the mid-1950s I began to attend the First Unitarian Church in NO, and my conservative views were challenged, especially on the race issue. About May 1955, a year after the US Supreme Court’s notorious decision overturning segregation in schools, students at Easton chose to demonstrate their disapproval of the “Black Monday” decision. Almost all students left the school to march in protest, stopping street cars, and demanding continued good schools through segregation. This was one demo in which I did not partake, and was one of the few who remained inside the school.
4) In the summer of 1955 I attended Pelican Boys’ State, organized by the American Legion (an organization that features prominently in Caufield’s book). (A few years later student Bill Clinton would meet John Kennedy at the Arkansas Boys’ State, and be inspired to enter politics) (In Louisiana, Bayou Boys’ State was conducted for incoming Black high-school seniors; of course, all our schools were still segregated.) I was elected to the Pel. Senate, and on the final day of the conclave, we would take over the La. State Senate Chamber and debate a law that we thought should be enacted. One Pel. Senator proposed that all public high schools include a ROTC program for basic military training. One suspects the Legion was delighted with this suggestion. Instead, I proposed the integration of public schools in Louisiana as the legislation we debate on the night of big publicity in the Capitol Senate. I suspect the Legionnaires were less pleased with my idea. Another Pel. Senator thought my proposal a poor choice, for I was the only Senator who favored it. Suddenly many other Pel. Senator rose to disagree with him and support my proposal. We were high school jun/seniors in Louisiana in 1955. Indeed, we did debate my proposal for integrated schools on the big night, but, probably because there was a close division of opinion, no vote was taken because the officials informed us, “we ran out of time.”
5) Because I had moved so far to the Left and favored integration, some high school friends showed concern. Probably in the spring of 1956, a very sweet student, Mary Jane, urged me to speak with her father whom she thought could put some sense into my head. I was not enthusiastic about such a meeting, and, turns out, neither he. So, we went through the motions to satisfy a kind young woman. I went to her home and met her father, Guy Banister, while he was sorting mail. He said little to me other than some grunts. He did not convert me from my turn to the Left. Mary Jane and I remained friends.
6) From 1956-60 I attended Tulane U. in NO on scholarship, eventually deciding to major in American history. Also, at the Unitarian Church I met one of my professors, Georg Iggers and his wife Wilma, both refugees from Nazi Europe, and both teaching at Black colleges in NO. Georg also taught a few courses at Tulane, in one of which I had enrolled. One day, I asked him if I might sit-in one of his classes at Dillard, and proceeded to attend his class on the Black campus about twice a week. In that class I met Shirley Dede, who told me they were organizing a Youth Chapter of the NAACP. I joined. Shirley also subscribed to Workers World, a Trotskyist newspaper. The youth chapter did little, for soon the NAACP was outlawed in Louisiana, using a 1924 anti-KKK law.(p. 723. Caufield states the injunction against the NAACP was issued in 1956, but I do not think the organization closed down in Louisiana until about 1958 or 59.) The adult NAACP was then reincarnated as the New Orleans Improvement Assn.
7) In Feb. 1960 the modern sit-in movement started in North Carolina and spread in much of the South. Today, one forgets that New Orleans was still the largest city in the South in 1960 as it had been since 1840. The 60 census figures had not yet been published so. NO was still viewed larger than Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta. Meanwhile, the civil rights movement seemed unable to crack the South’s largest city. Tulanian Lanny Goldfinch informed me in the spring of 1960 that there would be a meeting at Dillard to organize a sit-in in NO. I went. There was an awareness that such action would likely bring arrests, and many in the large hall were hoping to avoid such drastic consequences. The Dillard Dean was able to persuade the students not to be imitative of others, not to simply sit-in as had been done elsewhere, but to do something unique to Dillard. There would be a march for civil rights on the sidewalk in front of Dillard campus. I felt that was an operation for Dillard students and did not participate. There were no arrests.
8) Later that spring Lanny Goldfinch told me the Consumers’ League (a Black group) would be picketing shops in the Dryades Street area that refused to hire Blacks. Both Lanny and I picketed for short periods with the League on different days. 9) Late spring, summer 1960, national Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sought to form a group in NO. With some from the Consumers League and students from various universities, CORE began to meet at the Negro YMCA on Dryades St. There would be a 3-week training program in Miami that August, and CORE sought participants from NO. Seven of us went and an 8th was a driver. I had trouble convincing my parents to allow me on this excursion, but I could point to another white who was also going. He was a staunch Roman Catholic, a junior at Loyola U. in NO. He was a year or 2 older than I. As a youth he had had troubles, dropping out of school, and on the road to becoming a “juvenile delinquent.” But Oliver St. Pe was saved when he joined the Civil Air Patrol and was guided in the right direction by its leader, David Ferrie. I did not know it at the time, but Oliver was legally blind. In Miami there were only about 45 official participants from all over the country with 7 from NO indicating how important CORE assessed New Orleans for the future of the organization. One day we had a lecture by baseball great Jackie Robinson, who was also a firm supporter of the Republicans led by Richard Nixon that election year. Another day we had a lecture by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, then off the record, was for Democrat Jack Kennedy. We had training in non-violence and how to conduct demonstrations. In one sit-in, Oliver and 16 others of our CORE conclave were arrested.
10) Shortly after we returned to NO, we organized for the sit-in. Tulane seemed to know about our plans, and read us the rules that, if arrested, we would be suspended until proven innocent (which, if lucky would have to await a US Supreme Court decision, which would take years). (Suddenly many more people were coming to the CORE meetings, and one stood out because he was fatter and looked older than most white college students. In today’s p.c. world, we should not notice things like that but we do. I remember George Higginbotham because he looked unusual for a white student. I had no idea at the time he was employed by Guy Banister to spy on the Left.)(41) I was entering TU as a grad student in history. Happily, there was another white Tulanian, so with 5 Blacks we had 7 in the first sit-in. (Our defiance led eventually to a change of Tulane’s rules and neither Bill Harrell nor I was kicked out.) I moved from my parents, but that did not stop the threatening phone calls (all our names had been in the local papers, and we had been on national TV, though we did not see that as we were still in jail for the nightly news shows. My father had to borrow a pistol and bullets from a co-worker to defend the house. In November 1960, when the NO integrated school crisis erupted, the hate-crowd moved on to that issue, and my dad felt safe enough to return the items to his co-worker. The worker asked him, “Why did you borrow so many bullets? Only one would have done the job.” I was not too popular with some union members. 11) To restore honor to the family, my father’s brother, my uncle, sent $20 to George Lincoln Rockwell’s Nazi Party. His wife, my aunt Vera, would have trouble on her side of the family in a few years. Her relative, a pastor of a Methodist Church on Esplanade Ave., formed the Quorum Club beside his church and across the street from the French Quarter. It was probably in 1963 when the police raided the club and arrested about 33 in attendance and the papers printed their names and addresses on page 1. The police said it was a hangout for homosexuals, drug users, and race mixers. Vera had been razzing my Uncle Jim about me, but suddenly she had a black sheep on her side of the family too. I don’t know if Jim sent more money to Rockwell about the Quorum Club.
12) Also during these years, my mother’s Avon lady lived a few doors down the street. She was attractive, rather young, and the wife of an American Legionnaire activist who in 1960, was elected as a Democratic member of the State legislature, James Pfister. Pfister would lead the raid on SCEF in October 1963, an important key to Caufield’s understanding of the Kennedy assassination. I point this out to show that in NO people on the Left had connections, sometimes relations, to those on the Right.
13) In 1962-63 I returned to Tulane as a grad student, but I changed the topic of my thesis. I had heard the reason no legitimate Black organization could work with Communists was because of what they had done during the Scottsboro campaign. So my topic was the Scottsboro rape cases that began in 1931 Alabama. I tried to be objective: my title “The NAACP vs. the Communist Party” was neutral enough, but my conclusion was that the CP and its front group the International Labor Defense had saved the 9 young Blacks accused of rape, while the approach of the NAACP would have led to their conviction and likely executions. Although several chapters have since been published in academic journals, the Tulane history dept, then headed by “the Confederates” was determined that I not remain at Tulane for a doctorate. I worked hard on the thesis, some 270 pages. But I was slow and could not finish in time to receive my degree in May. So I had to work harder to finish in the summer of 1963 with little time for political protest. I received my MA in August 1963.
14) In Nov. 1962 I published an article in The Reed, the left-wing alternative to the Tulane Hullabaloo. I titled it, “The Munich of the 60s,” in which I analyzed the recent missile crisis with an analogy. I compared Kennedy’s demands for removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, a sovereign nation, to German demands upon Czechoslovakia concerning the Sudetenland; and I compared Khrushchev’s yielding to Kennedy’s demands to Chamberlain’s concessions to Hitler at Munich. I entered a class room and saw copies of The Reed, not torn in half, not in quarters, but into fingernail-size fragments. My article was not popular.
15) Summer 1963 when Oswald was most active in NO, I was busy finishing up my MA thesis. Friends, a history student and his wife told me they had heard an unusual discussion on WDSU radio with a Marxist who had lived in Russia and was involved in a pro-Castro group in NO. I may have seen an Oswald leafleting incident on local TV news. 16) One afternoon I walked into the Tulane U. Library (now Joseph Jones Hall) and on a small table in front of the glass to the staircase was a stack of leaflets – Hands Off Cuba! I took one, and went upstairs to the carrels (desks) behind the book stacks to find a grad student friend who had been involved in Fair Play in another city. “What are you putting out?” “Let me see that.” Harold Alderman knew nothing about it. Who might be organizing then? There was only a post office box address on the flyer. Should we respond? I joked, it might be the FBI. Neither of us made contact with the address. Harold did tack the leaflet to his dorm-room door - until Nov. 22.
17) Even with my MA, the best job I could get was teaching 5th grade at a brand new private school in NO. It payed higher than public schools, and better, there were fewer pupils per class. There were 3 of us teaching 5th, Mrs. Flagg who was much older and had taught in the public schools; and Richard Humphries, a new grad who was born in British Guyana. He and I became friends, and one autumn afternoon after school, we played tennis. Consequently, I arrived home late (I was back at my parents). When I arrived, my mother greeted me with, “Huh, I thought they had rounded you up too.” I did not know what she was referring to, but rushed to the TV as it was news time. Oct. 4, 1963, the Louisiana UnAmerican Activities Committee (led by neighbor Jim Pfister) and over 100 police and troopers raided the SCEF offices and the homes of James Dombrowski, Ben Smith, and Bruce Walzer. A good friend was a junior law partner in Smith’s firm, and Jack Peebles wondered if he too was to be arrested. The SCEF raid is a pivotal event in Caufield’s book and analysis.
18) Life went on. Work went on. I was teaching around midday, when Mrs. Flagg, whose class was directly across the hall, came to me and requested that I come to her class. I told my class I would return shortly, and went with the older woman. Her class was then having a combo lunch and recess, and as we had no cafeteria, they were eating in class and playing about, shouting, but not out of hand. One boy had brought with him a new invention, a transistor radio, and he was listening. Mrs. Flagg and I then hovered over the boy trying to hear the radio above the din of the kids playing. I heard and then had to return to my class. I entered and announced, “I just heard on the radio, Pres. Kennedy was shot in Dallas.” The kids immediately cheered and applauded. I was taken aback. One girl, the exception, put her head on the table and cried. The others expressed glee. These were 10 and 11-year-olds, and a few older ones. I normally liked them very much, but suddenly I was angry. “You think that this means the end of integration. You think that this means segregation will be the law of the land. After the Civil War, some thought that the South could rise again, if only Lincoln were dead. They killed him. Instead of making it easier for the defeated South, it made the North more determined to destroy slavery, to destroy the plantations, to destroy most things connected to the South. The result was Radical Reconstruction, and for many white southerners it was a difficult time. Killing Lincoln made things more difficult. Killing Kennedy will make things more difficult.” Those were not my exact words but it was the message of my unscheduled history lecture.
19) The school let us out early that Friday afternoon. I went home and soon thereafter received a phone call from Shelly, the wife of Carlos Zervigon. Carlos was of Mexican-Cuban heritage, a friend and fellow Tulanian 1956-60, and a former member of CORE during the year I was active 1960-61. Shelly was less politically active, but went along with her husband. On the phone she asked if I had heard the news. “About Kennedy? Of course.” “You know they found the assassin.” “No.” “He’s a communist from New Orleans.” “What?!” I could hardly believe her words. A communist from NO? My mind is blank on the rest of our conversation. I suddenly began to fear. If they are rounding up “communists” in NO in October over nothing, what will happen now? Many assumed I was a communist. I knew that in 1938 a young Jew entered the German Embassy in Paris and shot an official. A few days later, the Nazi government hammered its revenge, the first major pogrom in Nazi Germany with burnings of numerous synagogues, massive arrests of Jews, some killings, and so many shop windows shattered it was called Kristallnacht. And that was for the assassination of a minor official. What would happen here with a NO communist killing the President?
20) That Friday night I went out to get drunk, thinking it might be my last chance before the roundup. I met a few friends, and had the same question – “Who the hell is Lee Oswald?” No one I spoke with that night ever knew him. Later that year, I began to feel lucky that I never knew him, and that no one on the Left seemed to have known him. That was my basic feeling until the Garrison probe, when I learned that Oswald had right-wing associates in NO. Caufield’s book provides even more evidence that Oswald was associated with the far right wing in New Orleans and Texas. Caufield has amassed far more research on this aspect of Oswald, and his book should be kept as a reference work.
This book is 1.000 pages with footnotes at the back, so you must refer back and forth many times. A cheaply manufactured book would fall apart. This book is well-made and can endure the activities of researchers as they peruse both text and notes. Many of the chapters are written as if they are independent articles; consequently there is much repetition. But the hefty volume is worth wading through. Caufield has performed considerable research. He bested me in searching for members of the New Orleans Council for Peaceful Alternatives, some of whom did encounter Oswald. He found at least 11 people who linked Oswald with Guy Banister. Unlike some who portray Jim Garrison as more liberal to make him more acceptable to the Northern Left, Caufield reveals that in Garrison’s first run for the DA post in New Orleans, he spoke before a White Citizens Council gathering, and won the backing of segregationist Judge Leander Perez. (Despite such, Garrison remains a hero to me.) Caufield spoke with many people in New Orleans and in Texas. His description of the FBI informer William Somersett and his most important exposes of proposed assassinations, of Pres. Kennedy, of Rev. M L King, of many on the Left, is fascinating. Caufield’s description of the riot at Ole Miss is to the point, with 2 dead and many injured, and led by Gen. Edwin Walker.
Caufield interviewed a Right-winger who claimed that Gen. Walker wanted to stage his own kidnapping in a phony publicity stunt. Caufield suggests there was a link between Walker and Oswald, and the shooting at Walker’s home was a publicity stunt that occurred just before Walker was to begin a speaking tour. Caufield also posits that that shooting was as staged as the fight in New Orleans between anti-Castro Cuban Carlos Bringuier and the leafleting, “pro-Castro” Oswald.
Caufield’s thesis is that Oswald was in reality a man of the Right. Even as a boy, when skipping school in NYC, one reason for his truancy was there were Negroes in his class. His favorite TV show was “I Led 3 Lives,” about a man who pretended to be a Communist for the FBI. Back in NO in the 1950s, Oswald joined the Civil Air Patrol led by the charismatic David Ferrie. Ferrie, himself, was extreme right-wing. On Oswald’s 17th birthday, he joins the Marines. Caufield discovered a letter in which an official involved in anti-communist activities wrote that he had found someone, no longer in NO, who would be good at infiltrating university left-wing groups. Caufield contends that Hubert Badeaux was referring to Oswald.(274, 727-29)
Meanwhile, the threat of communism in the South grew, for to right-wingers, integration was communism. The 1954 Supreme Court decision overturning over 50 years of precedent that segregation was Constitutional, the integration of Central High in Little Rock with the use of Federal troops (under Gen Walker’s command), the bus boycott in Montgomery, the sit-ins throughout the South, the Freedom Rides, the integration of Ole Miss (in which Gen. Walker now led an impromptu army to oppose integration), and Pres. Kennedy’s proposing a civil rights bill in 1963 – along with his failure to support the anti-Castro invasion at the Bay of Pigs, his refusal to invade Cuba during the missile crisis, his talk of peace, all showed how communism was advancing in the US.
Louisiana was inventing a method to halt the flow of communism and integration. In 1962 Louisiana passed a Communist Control Act, led by Rep. Jim Pfister, but originating with Judge Perez, according to Caufield. The point was to impose heavy fines and decades in jail for those who associated with Communists or Communist-front organizations. When Oswald returned to NO in 1963, he sought to infiltrate CORE, the NOCPA, he organized his own FPCC, and all of these organizations had connections with the Southern Conference Educational Fund. Prove it is communist; show the “communist” Oswald in CORE, NOCPA, and FPCC, and all of those organizations become tainted, and any member can be arrested and face up to 30 years in prison. In this scenario, Oswald is a fake communist who will be used to destroy the Left, and particularly the integrationist movement in the South. The man who had lived in the USSR and had a Russian wife, who admitted to being a Marxist, who subscribed to the Worker and the Militant (CP and Trot newspapers) would be used to destroy integration.
But, another conspiracy was afoot. Caufield thinks Oswald would continue to pretend to be a communist, but was assured either the shooter would miss, or would not use his rifle, so he need not worry. Caufield’s chapter on Dallas 22 November is not overly convincing, but should be read for an alternative view. Much of Caufield’s material prior to 22 Nov. is powerful in a cumulative way. Not one thing, not one speech, not one action, but together, he makes a strong argument. Caulfield thinks Oswald was a patsy, he got in over his head, and the President lost his.
One good thing, Caufield is not politically correct in his use of language. The racism of speeches given to large audiences is presented without pc euphemisms. Sometimes it is surprising, as when Gen. Walker tells someone how to add an ingredient to the motor oil that will destroy a car’s motor so the Black owner will be stranded after so many miles. Or when he describes the office of the voter registrar in Clinton, La., where the official has a black doll with a string to look like a noose – a visual lesson to discourage Black voter applications.
Caufield has amassed much material to demonstrate how much Pres. Kennedy was hated – not just by 10-year-olds. Some spoke, on tape, of conspiracy. After the assassination, Walker was worried that Jack Ruby might leave a Texas hospital alive, and Walker kept his eye (or other surveillance) on Oswald’s mother. Caufield makes much of Ruby’s request to Chief Justice Earl Warren to be taken out of Texas, but the testimony, in which Ruby does mention Walker, seems rambling, confused, and Warren seems justified to me in denying Ruby’s request. Even Badeaux’s report that he had found a young man who might infiltrate college left-wing groups might not be referring to Oswald. Oswald had just quit high school to join the Marines. Interesting but not always convincing. But neither the Warren Commission nor various Congressional inquiries have satisfied the American public either. Caufield gives the public much to ponder.
Caufield’s research also discovered that many files have been destroyed. Files of the LUAC, of Guy Banister, of some submitted to the Warren Commission with photos, but some of the photos deleted. Yet, there may be various reasons for the destruction. I recall a PBS documentary on the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, and their records revealed that a Black minister who went to Ohio during Freedom Summer, supplied information on the integrationists preparing to go to Mississippi. He provided information to Mississippi segregationist officials about Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman (they were killed in Philadelphia, Miss. during Freedom Summer along with Mississippi native James Chaney.). The minister was not happy about being exposed as an informer decades after the murders.
There are some minor errors in this lengthy volume. Plaquemines Parish (county) is not adjacent to New Orleans (St. Bernard is the neighboring parish to the south)(p. 68) Caufield writes that Gentilly Parish was outside of New Orleans.(356) But Gentilly is not a parish at all, it is a section of New Orleans. SCEF was not the Southern Christian Educational Fund (546) but the Southern Conference…, and it was the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, not the ECL Union.(547) Mary Jane Banister was a friend, but we never dated (619, 854); I dated Karol Kloepfer of the NO Quaker family, some of whom were involved with the NOCPA, and Ruth (the mother, Karol, and Ruth Ann (daughter) visited the Oswalds on Magazine St. just prior to their departure for Texas. When in 1963 Oswald distributed FPCC flyers in front of the old Trade Mart Building, it was not located on Canal St.(746) US Supreme Court Justice William Brennan was on the high court in the 1960s; there was no Justice Brenner.(766, 946) One of the Black attorneys who represented CORE in New Orleans was Lolis Elie, not Lelis Ely.(688)
Coufield writes: “The FBI sent Somersett to New Orleans…Nov. 15-28, 1960 to monitor the Catholic school crisis…”(195) The crisis that November was the first integration of two elementary public grade schools, in which almost all whites withdrew, angry parents protested the arrival of a few Blacks each day, and the family of a white pupil who defied the boycott was threatened and rocks thrown through their home’s window. Eventually they had to flee to the North. The daily protests in favor of segregation made international news. The Catholic schools at that time remained segregated, and quiet.
In several places Caufield calls Pres. Kennedy’s proposed civil rights bill of 1963 sweeping and “it would end segregation in the South.”(289, 311) But Kennedy’s proposals were less sweeping than the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964 after his assassination, in part out of sympathy evoked by Kennedy’s martyrdom.
For what comes next, I should add a warning. I am not here to record my political drift from Left to Right. Simply put – in Louisiana in the 1950s and 60s by demanding that “we treat people without regard to race, color, or creed,” I was considered a communist by many. Indeed, that phrase was one of the traditional slogans for civil rights. Today, when I still demand that we treat people without regard to race, color, or creed, I am deemed a racist, Nazi, etc. Today, I am a staunch opponent of affirmative action, diversity, and other tools for treating people differently.
` One of the heroes of Caufield’s book is William Somersett. In his home in Miami Somersett tape recorded a conversation with extreme right-winger Joseph Milteer on 9 Nov. 1963. Caufield deemed the tape so significant he devotes pages to its transcription. (98-105) On tape Milteer discusses the upcoming visit of Pres. Kennedy to Miami set for 18 Nov. 63. Somersett interjects, “...he will have a thousand body guards.” Milteer responds: “The more body guards…,the easier it is to get him…From an office building with a high-powered rifle…Oh, yeah, it’s in the working…disassemble a gun…you don’t have to take a gun up there, you can take it in pieces.”(85-104) Then there will be a patsy arrested, “just to throw the public off.”(105) Somersett recorded that for the Miami Police and the FBI. As a result, Kennedy’s visit of 18 November was altered and his motorcade through the city cancelled. That tape also included references to the recent bombing of the church in Birmingham and a possible plot to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. Later Milteer informed Somersett that Louisiana segregationist Judge Leander Perez helped finance the assassination of Pres. Kennedy.(260) Indeed, several years later Somersett recorded something about the King murder, that would occur soon thereafter. Clearly, Somersett was a most courageous man to record the words of some very dangerous people. Somersett is a hero, in the book and out. He was an FBI informant, amazingly courageous in collecting facts, whether they were used fully by an agency or not.
There is a contradiction in Caufield’s thought. When it comes to FBI agents informing on right-winger, KKKers, Nazis, he cheers. When it comes to those who informed on Communists, Caufield smears.
Diana West, in her American Betrayal reported that in April 1943, the FBI bugged the home of California Communist leader Steve Nelson when he was visited by a Soviet Embassy official. The Soviet presented money for the American party, but also wanted Nelson, through power in labor unions, to assign Communists to posts in various new defense facilities – facilities connected to the development of the atomic bomb. According to West, this was the first that the FBI learned of America’s Manhattan Project – and learned it from a Soviet agent!
In many places Caufield criticizes Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his investigations of subversives. Caufield is critical of the ex-communists who identified old comrades to the FBI, etc. He is especially critical of the paid witnesses, those who made a living exposing those whom they knew to be or have been members of the CP.
Finally, on the more difficult issue of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the exposing of Communists and treason, it is clear that Caufield holds the liberal-left position – “The 1950 Joseph McCarthy Communist witch hunts were front-page news…”(210) Here Caufield describes former Communist, “paid witness,” Paul Crouch: “Crouch testified before McCarthy’s committee in 1955, that Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, was a Communist. Oppenheimer denied…Crouch alleged that he had been at Oppenheimer’s home at a meeting of top drawer Communists.”(708) Caufield judges that “a blatant lie” on Crouch’s part. Oppenheimer had conclusive proof that he was in another state on the date of that alleged communist meeting. Blatant liar! However, Crouch may have simply had the date wrong. Oppenheimer’s wife was a member of the CP. So was his mistress. So was his brother. And his sister-in-law. More recent allegations about Oppenheimer came from a Soviet secret agent. He maintained Oppenheimer was himself a CP member, though a secret one to avoid problems while he headed the sensitive atomic project. If you google Oppenheimer on these issues, he apparently was responsible for assigning communists to places like Oak Ridge. Might he have passed secrets? Or may he have simply set it up so others could do it? In January 2012 Russian leader Vladimir Putin thanked Western scientists who provided secret documents on atomic research to hasten Stalin’s acquisition of the bomb. Putin bragged, “They provided suitcases full; suitcases full!” Oppenheimer was a secret member of the Communist Party. Why try to discredit Crouch? Sen. McCarthy was on the right track. Caufield and I disagree on this issue.
Caufield writes that despite the allegations of treason, Alger Hiss was merely convicted of perjury. But the Venona files, only released to the public in the 1990s, show that Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent. Indeed, only a small percentage of the Venona files have been deciphered, so there may well have been many more Soviet agents handing over America’s secrets to the Soviets.
The problem, especially in the South, was that those investigating subversion equated integration with communism. And communists were indeed some of the most determined to destroy segregation and discrimination. The communists were determined, showed bravery, knowledge of tactics, and organizing abilities. Was it a coincidence, or a plot, that Rev. M L King sat beside Communist Abner Berry at the Highlander Folk School? Remember, when the FBI first wire tapped King on the phone, they were not listening for him, but for Stanley Levison. The FBI believed Levison, a former communist, was still a secret member, and a leading financial figure in the Party. They were taping his calls when suddenly they heard him advising Rev. King.
And it was not only King who had connections to the left and possible members of the CPUSA. Rosa Parks, so the story goes, the tired seamstress, simply wanted to remain in her seat on the Montgomery bus. This may well be true. But before she was arrested for that crime, she had gone to Highlander Folk School for training. Highlander was a popular-front operation, and anti-racists, including Communists were welcome.
The main question in the South was not one of espionage and atomic secrets; the question was of a political group set upon destroying segregation. To some, this translated, destroying the Southern way of life – subversion. And that is what the integrationists were indeed trying to do. But did they deserve 30 years in jail for doing so? Even if they were Communists?
The NAACP went out of business in Louisiana for a year when it refused to hand over to the state its membership list. If the Attorney General of Louisiana had that list, he would have gone after any school teachers or public employees and fired them. That is why the NAACP refused to reveal its membership list. That is why LUAC and the Eastland Committee wanted the membership list of the SCEF – to punish anyone pressing for integration.
I would argue that the civil rights movement was a popular front movement, including the religious, radicals, communists, (most liberals in the South preferred not to get involved). I doubt if many atomic secrets were passed along. Phones were tapped and mail was opened. Realistically, compared to what happened to dissidents in other nations, most of us lived to talk about the era. Unfortunately, President Kennedy did not. Caufield makes a case that the assassins shot from the right.