On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of over 60 prominent American citizens is calling upon Congress to reopen the investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Signers of the joint statement include Isaac Newton Farris Jr., nephew of Reverend King and past president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Reverend James M. Lawson Jr., a close collaborator of Reverend King; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, children of the late senator. The declaration is also signed by numerous historians, journalists, lawyers and other experts on the four major assassinations.
Other signatories include G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which determined in 1979 that President Kennedy was the victim of a probable conspiracy; Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the surgeons at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas who tried to save President Kennedy’s life and saw clear evidence he had been struck by bullets from the front and the rear; Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower who served as a national security advisor to the Kennedy White House; Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and a leading global authority on human rights; . . . .
To mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day a group of academics, journalists, lawyers, Hollywood artists, activists, researchers and intellectuals, including two of Robert F. Kennedy’s children, are calling for reinvestigation of four assassinations of the 1960s.
John Curington has since expressed hopes that the following youtube video of another interview by posted here on Vridar. It appears to have relevance for the call for reinvestigation. Hence this post with the video below.
(I understand concerns of some readers that we are into the territory of recycling conspiracy theories here and my own initial reservations had to be broken down enough to venture into these posts. But the names of those calling for a reinvestigation do lend credibility to the view that not everything has come to light about the assassinations of the 60s, and the interviews previously published, whatever our thoughts of Curington himself, do raise serious questions.)
For future easy reference I have archived the series of posts of the interview with John Curington in the Archives by Topic page linked in the right hand bar of this blog: Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK
But first, here is what I wrote at the beginning of this series:
. . . . Since reading the interview I have followed up some of the information and names mentioned and the more I learn the more questions I have. . . . .
I have never followed closely the many statements that have been published in relation to JFK’s assassination and have routinely shunned conspiracy theories for anything on principle. Sometimes, though, historical research does lead to new questions and interpretations of events. Historians have ironically noted that ancient history and contemporary history are very similar in the sense that so much vital information is either lost or hidden from view so we are left to posit only the most tentative explanations for events pending new discoveries.
On re-reading the interview as I have been posting it here, I am in the same position as when I began. I find myself suspending judgment entirely. I simply don’t know what to make of it all. Others more familiar with related details will have stronger views for or against what one might make of events raised in this interview. I would encourage others more knowledgeable than myself to add their own questions or thoughts in the comments on these posts. Hopefully comments will reference accessible sources. Some may dismiss everything Curington has said in this interview and I would appreciate comments to that effect as long as they give fair reasons for doing so. I have linked to a review of the book Motive and Opportunity beneath the cover image below.
At the end of this interview is another statement by Greg Doudna.
~ ~ ~
As I look around me, I find that most everyone else involved from this time is gone—I’m the sole survivor, the last man standing, and I simply want to tell my story.
GD: There’s one question I’ve got to ask because other people will ask. Many of these important events, you were at the heart of it. It’s a long time now, and people might say, why didn’t you say something earlier? I mean, when the Warren Commission and the House Committee were investigating—
JC: It was their job to find out what was involved. Mr. Hunt was well enough known that somebody should have gone and talked to him.
JC: And they would have talked to me first before they talked to him. I would have answered their questions. But that could have been planned. Johnson—Johnson and Hoover had to present this lone theory shooter in the initial beginning. Johnson had more to gain from the lone shooter than anybody on the face of the earth, you understand that? He didn’t want Sam Giancana involved, or Lucky Luciano, or H. L. Hunt, or Joe Civello. He wanted a lone shooter, acted alone, that’s the only way he’s going to save his own ass there.
GD: The 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, they didn’t contact you?
GD: What about Garrison, in Louisiana?
(Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans 1962-1973. In the late 1960s Garrison undertook criminal prosecution of a conspiracy in the death of President John F. Kennedy which Garrison charged involved New Orleans figures in conjunction with the CIA. Garrison was the inspiration for and the central character of the Oliver Stone movie, JFK.)
JC: Well he came in our office. He became a big pest. I imagine I talked to him maybe twenty-five or thirty times. He had nothing to hang his hat on. Of course he was always trying to get a little money. And Mr. Hunt, as far as I know, never let him have a nickel.
GD: He was asking Hunt for money?
GD: For what?
JC: Well, to help build his case on—
GD: How’s the money going to help build his case?
JC: Well, you have to have traveling expenses. You have to—and he’s on a limited budget with the DA’s office—you know he was just an attorney there.
GD: But he suspected Hunt. How is he asking a suspect for money?
(“The assassination, Garrison charged, was ordered and paid for by ‘a handful of oil-rich psychotic millionaires’ … he refused to say how many ‘Texas style’ millionaires were involved, although he identified them all as extreme conservatives … Garrison said he could reveal the latest developments because his investigators were finished in Dallas.” The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Sept. 22, 1967.)
JC: Well, I never got that feeling in talking to him. Mr. Hunt may have met him a time or two, but he’d <unintelligible> step into my office, when Garrison came in.
GD: So Garrison was seeking extra funds for the investigation?
JC: Yeah. He was seeking funds to help him on the investigation. Of course as a district attorney, you know, you have certain things available to you, but if Garrison could pick up ten thousand here, or twenty thousand there, he wouldn’t be averse to it, no.
GD: So Garrison was—
JC: Garrison wanted to make a name for himself, and he didn’t care whose toes he stepped on to do it there. And he got laughed out of the courtroom.
Part 5 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.
The previous installment ended with Curington’s recalling a visit by Adlai Stevenson amidst a rowdy demonstration and H.L. Hunts interest in retrieving an autographed book.
~ ~ ~
GD: The Adlai Stevenson incident happened less than a month before the Kennedy assassination.
You have to accept this fact: Johnson had worn his welcome out with the Kennedys on the ‘60’s ticket there. He was gonna be—he was not gonna be on the ticket in ’64. Bobby Kennedy was going to indict a fellow named Bobby Baker. And that deal was already made. Bobby Baker would in turn turn against Lyndon Johnson, enter into a plea agreement on his deal, just like they’re doing on the deal with Trump. Johnson was going to be out in ’64. No ifs, ands, buts, and maybes.
And nobody realized this until about the beginning of ’63, latter part of ’62 or ’63. Johnson was losing his skills every day, and Jack Kennedy was gaining more. So Mr. Hunt was almost at the stage where he didn’t have much time to fulfill his obligation that Kennedy would not live through four—would not survive four years in the office there. That’s really the essence of the Kennedy story. For Mr. Hunt to protect his empire, and to honor his commitment to Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy had to leave office. No ifs, ands, buts about it.
GD: How could Hunt make that happen?
JC: Having somebody shoot him with a high-powered rifle. Pretty easy.
GD: How would Hunt go about doing that?
JC: I don’t think Hunt would have gotten on the telephone and called somebody up. I think he would have had enough power with Sam Giancana or Joe Civello, or Luciano, just to make a suggestion that he needed a little help, and I think they would run it there.
GD: So Hunt may not know how they did it—
JC: No, he wouldn’t care how they did it.
GD: After the assassination, did Mr. Hunt show any signs or unusual knowledge or say anything?
JC: No. And that wouldn’t be unusual at all.
GD: And you say that Hunt—nobody was above Hunt?
JC: No. No. No.
GD: Hunt gave orders, but nobody gave Hunt orders.
JC: No. No. I don’t—Hunt would give orders to Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover—
Part 4 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.
The previous installment ended with Curington’s testimony concerning a meeting between H.L. Hunt and Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina. Discussion of that meeting continues here.
Further details covered: circumstances surrounding Oswald’s murder; rowdy crowds at Adlai Stevenson’s visit to Dallas; and retrieval of an autographed book.
~ ~ ~
GD: You mentioned that it was maybe thirty minutes. That’s not a very long time for a visit.
JC: It would be less than—oh he wouldn’t, no, that would be a long time for Mr. Hunt to spend with somebody. I don’t believe he’d have had any interest whatsoever in other than a five or ten minute conversation.
JC: Again, you’re going back to what most people would do, but you know, he just wasn’t most people.
JC: But again, when I make a statement like that, or when I write something like that, when Marina Oswald denies the story, most people hearing my remarks wash ’em off as a fictitious story. Nothing I can do about that. You know, they’ve got their opinion. But I know—you just don’t go lock a door between two buildings that’s never been locked before, never been locked since. You don’t normally go in and tell every Hunt employee to go home if in fact they are there. And you don’t stay in the lobby and if a Hunt employee comes in to send them home. It would suggest to me that he wanted somebody coming into that office that he didn’t want anybody else to recognize or see.
GD: Did she speak to you or anything?
JC: No, my instructions were not to look at her, not to speak to her. She didn’t look left, didn’t look right, I didn’t show any recognition whatsoever. She was well dressed, her hair was combed, had on lipstick, she would not be what I would call a pretty woman, but sort of an attractive woman you know, just the way she walked and carried there—she didn’t look left, she didn’t look right, she punched the elevator door. Of course at that time all of the elevators were on the ground floor. I think there were four there in the lobby. It opened immediately, she disappeared, and came back within a less than a thirty minute period of time.
GD: Is the fact that she says she never went to see Mr. Hunt—could that be as simple as he asked her not to tell anyone?
JC: Well, again in fairness to her, she may not have known. But you’ve been around me long enough to know that I sort of have a grasp of the situation—
JC: —going around me, you know.
JC: I’m not going to be in the lobby under a very set of mysterious instructions, see a lady come in that is on the news 24 hours a day 7 days a week, that I don’t know who she is, you know.
JC: An orangutang if he had been with me he could have told me who the lady was there.
(This is one of Mr. Curington’s favorite expressions to emphasize something that, in his opinion, should be obvious, some form of even an orangutang could figure that out.)
So I don’t think, you know—I don’t have any reservation, conscience whatsoever in telling that story. That’s exactly what happened, and I think what happened with Marina Oswald, one, Mr. Hunt could or could not have given her a pretty substantial gift. He could or could not have identified himself. Normally he wouldn’t identify himself. But he just had enough ego that in his mind, if he could talk to Marina Oswald for three or four minutes, he could pretty well tell anything she believed as far as Lee Harvey Oswald and Kennedy was concerned.
GD: And when you saw her, how long did it take for you to say, “That’s Marina Oswald”?
JC: The minute she was out of the car. Of course I had an opportunity to observe her for about a two hundred foot walk there, so, you know, it wasn’t just a haphazard glance where well maybe it is, maybe it’s not.
But, anyway, I’m the first to admit, that’s my story, she has a different one, but mine’s correct and hers may not be deliberately incorrect, but she may not have known any differently.
GD: That’s one of these unexplained questions, as to what that meeting was about, but who knows—yeah.
JC: Yo. But anyway, having said that, you know, we could speculate forever on did this happen or did that happen. The comments that I am making leave just as many unanswered questions as when we started. But I can move that pendulum a little bit, a little bit step further.
GD: Let’s go back to Civello there in Dallas. Was Civello under any other Mob boss?
JC: Civello was not a high profile Mafia leader. But he was one of the smarter Mafia leaders, and in a way more cruel. He ran his part of the United States with an iron fist—but in a gentlemanly manner you know. He just had the ability to get things done the way he wanted them done, without a lot of the adverse publicity that some of the people out of Chicago and New York and Los Angeles may have done there.
When the United States was divided there were eight different sections in the United States. It wasn’t an organizational chart, but they didn’t go out of their geographical area. And it was a gentleman’s agreement, this is your area, and you run it. You don’t get involved in this place, and you don’t get involved over here, and we’re not interested in your concerns as to what happens in Louisville Kentucky. You run your business and we’ll take care of the rest of it here.
I would guess that Marcello—well I wouldn’t have any way of guessing—but it wouldn’t be uncommon for Marcelloto come to Dallas two or three, four times a year, you know—
10 Lamar Waldron, The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2013), 189; John L. Davis, Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy (New York: Signet, 1989); Stefano Vaccara, Carlos Marcello: The Man Behind the JFK Assassination (New York: Enigma Books, 2013).
(Carlos Marcello was head of the New Orleans crime family from 1947 to the 1980s, considered one of the top Mob bosses in the United States. Marcello’s sphere of operations included Dallas, and according to an FBI informant, Jack Van Laningham, Marcello said, speaking of Dallas, that “all the police were on the take, and as long as he kept the money flowing they let him operate anything in Dallas that he wanted to.”10)
JC: Yeah. It wouldn’t be uncommon, you know, to get a call, “Well, Marcello’s here if you want to drop by.” Nothing planned, nothing formal, nothing regimented or—just a routine thing. Normally it wasn’t a formal meeting. It sort of was like saying, “If you and Mr. Hunt—Marcello’s going to be in town tomorrow, just stop by the liquor store by the airport”—just very informal, no scheduled meeting, no plan to get together, no drawing up a plan or anything—
GD: Most people would be scared to meet these guys.
JC: I had a limited knowledge of a lot of these activities. But astute people don’t have to go into a long-winded detailed explanation of what to do or how to do it. Just three or four words gets the message across you know. And I don’t think Civello, or Marcello, or H. L. Hunt or anybody else is gonna sit down and write out a plan, and discuss it, and call in people to evaluate it—
Again, I’m making a statement. It has nothing to do with anything. But just suppose that H. L. Hunt did have enough concern that Lee Harvey Oswald needed some way not to testify. All he’d have to say is, “Man if there’s any way in the world that somebody could get to Oswald and keep him quiet.” That’s all that would be said, you know. Civello wouldn’t say, “Well what do you want me to do? How much money you gonna—?” Its not that kind of conversation at all. People want there to be something like that, where you want a committee meeting, and you want a faculty meeting, and you want an outlined plan, and you want it written down, and you want to rehearse it and go over it. Its not that kind of a deal at all.
JC: But the people that think they’re in the know, they believe they have every answer in the world as to why Jack Ruby should not have been at the spot he was when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Again, my opinion. I’m not giving you any evidence whatsoever. But in my opinion, Ruby was given instructions to get rid of Lee Harvey Oswald. He didn’t want to do it! But he was afraid not to do it. So he left a paper trail as wide as he could, on protecting his image. And everything he did corresponded with the delay that exactly corresponded with what the Dallas police department was bringing on themselves. Not deliberately. But they had the car parked wrong. That cost ten minutes. They had to do something else to change the deal there. So the Dallas police department was making time mistakes there, so when the shooting <unintelligible>, Ruby over here was leaving the best defense he could as to where he was and it being impossible for him to be there. But by him building up his defense theory, and the Dallas police department making mistakes, put the two together, unintercooperated (sic)by anybody else, to me the explanation is just as simple as two and two is four.
The police department made enough administrative errors that it delayed the meeting about fifteen minutes from the schedule. Jack Ruby didn’t know those things were going on. If the Dallas police department had done what they were supposed to do, and not made the errors that they did make, Oswaldwould have been in the car and disposed of by the time Jack Ruby was building his alibi that he couldn’t have been there. Everything just unraveled where, without any assistance from anybody, just unraveled, to put him where he was able to confront Lee Harvey Oswald and do just exactly what he did.
Now me saying that doesn’t make it happen that way. You can accept it or reject it. That’s my theory as to what happened there. The Dallas police department didn’t plan on making the mistakes it did. Ruby knew what time that he should have been coming out of that deal. He scheduled everything he did, going to the Western Union office, calling somebody, calling in, so it would have been impossible for him to have been there. I don’t think Ruby wanted to do the shooting. But then he had no other choice. You know, somebody told him what needs to be done. And he knew if he didn’t do it, he could very well have been ground up in a sausage grinder, and all his brothers and sisters and everybody else there.
So its not that simple to just say, “Well I don’t believe I’ll load my gun this morning and go down and shoot somebody.” You don’t have that, you know, you don’t have that choice there.
GD: When Ruby was arrested, after shooting Oswald, Ruby said he did it on his own—
JC: Well, what do you think he’s gonna say?! “Oh, me and Joe Civello, the leader, we own the Carousel Club together, and Civello called me this morning—woke me up, just told me to go down and shoot the deal, and I had to do it.”
Part 3 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.
~ ~ ~
GD: No one at the door asked for ID?
JC: No. Nobody asked for ID, nobody looked into my briefcase. I even got on an elevator to go up where the man, to get him released from his jail cell—
GD: On the fifth floor, right? The jail?
JC: Yeah. And Captain Will Fritz got on the elevator, and he had Lee Harvey Oswald with him. And Captain Fritz, of course we knew each other, and he just looked over and said, “Meet the S.O.B. that shot the president.” Oswald didn’t make a comment, I didn’t make a comment. But anyway that was the gist of the conversation.
But after that I did get the man out of jail. Then I went down to get out of jail. And then by this time it was about 1:30, 2 o’clock in the morning. I had to go to Mr. Hunt’s house. And as I recall, he was still up. Anyway I rang his doorbell and he came to the door almost immediately. He had his clothes on which suggested to me he was still up. And I gave him a report, that there was no security that I could see whatsoever around Lee Harvey Oswald, around the jail.
And he said, if you would, I want you to go out and have “The Man”—he called Joe Civello “The Man”—and have him come over to Mount Vernon. That was the name of his home. And I did that and I went home.
(Joseph Civello was the leader of the Dallas crime family 1956-1970.)
GD: You called Civello in the middle of the night?
GD: Just called him in the middle of the night?
JC: It was about 2 o’clock in the morning.
GD: He’s not angry at being called in the middle of the night?
JC: No. Civello, although he had a pretty bad reputation in the Mafia circles, look, all in all he was a pretty nice kind of a fellow. As far as I know I never saw him take a drink of whiskey, I never heard him use a word of profanity, he tipped his hat to the ladies. Outside of shooting one or two people he had a pretty fair background.
GD: So there was a meeting of Hunt and Civello set up—
GD: You were not at that meeting?
JC: I was not at that meeting.
GD: So that was Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the security situation?
GD: And he couldn’t wait until the next day to set up the meeting?
JC: No. He asked for that meeting right then.
GD: Did Fritz know that you were coming to the police station? I mean, did you contact—
JC: No, no.
GD: So that was an accidental meeting?
JC: Accidental, just a random accidental meeting. I couldn’t have timed it, and he couldn’t have timed it. Nobody—we just happened to get on the same elevator at the same time.
GD: Did Civello know Jack Ruby?
(Jack Ruby, 1911-1967, operated the Carousel Club, a Dallas strip club. He cultivated relationships with the Dallas police. On Nov. 24, 1963 Ruby shot and killed accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.)
JC: Yeah, they would have had a—I don’t know that they would have had a close working relationship, but Jack Ruby would have certainly known Civello and Civello did know Jack Ruby.
It is interesting to compare today’s events with “fake news” and its correlation with criminal violence.
~ ~ ~
GD: So then we come to—Kennedy is assassinated.
JC: Yeah. At the time Kennedy came to Dallas in November ’63, our offices—when I say our I mean Hunt Oil company offices—were in the Mercantile Bank Building there in Dallas. And the Mercantile Bank Building had windows that were about four by six foot in dimensions, and you could raise them up and be exposed without a screen or anything. And when the Kennedy caravan passed our offices on the day of the assassination, Mr. Hunt and I were in the window looking out, and John Connally was in the front seat of the limousine in which Kennedy was a passenger. He turned up and looked at our building and recognized Mr. Hunt, and he turned around and made a comment to Jack Kennedy. And Kennedy in turn turned up and waved to Mr. Hunt there. So I think there was a recognition of Mr. Hunt on the parade route looking out his office window and being recognized by both John Connally and John Fitzgerald Kennedy there.
GD: You were standing right there with Mr. Hunt?
JC: Yeah, he and I were—in fact I’ve seen one clip, that I can recognize myself in that window and Mr. Hunt is standing by me there. But it has to be <unintelligible> personal recognition, which was more of an important issue there.
He and I were looking at—then I received a telephone call, I would say within three or four minutes of the shooting. And the person that called me stated that they had just heard that there had been a shot fired at John Kennedy. And I told that person that was impossible, because I had just seen him pass the window three or four minutes before, and that was impossible. But I had a TV in my office, and I did go over to my office and turn the TV on. And after a few minutes there was an interruption in the program, and it, the interruption, stated that yes there had a been a shot fired, and they at that time did not know where the shot was fired, who was hit, or what was involved with it, but as the story unraveled it became clear that yes, Kennedy had been shot, and yes, it was a fatal shot.
GD: Do you recall Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the news?
JC: I don’t think there was any visible reaction. He shared the same view that I did. He did not have a TV in his office. But after the program began to get interrupted with the story, then Mr. Hunt did come into my office and did sit down in a chair and watch the news. But I don’t remember him making any comment one way or the other, as to what was happening or not happening.
GD: But you said he did not make comments very much on things—
JC: No, no.
GD: Then—Officer Tippit was shot, and Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the movie theatre, and this was on a Friday afternoon—
(J. D. Tippitt, 1924-1963, was a Dallas police officer who was shot to death in another part of the city an hour after the Kennedy assassination, by an assailant described as matching Oswald’s description near to and immediately prior to Oswald’s arrest in a movie theatre.)
GD: And then the Dallas police—he was being questioned by Captain Fritz—
JC: Yeah. Will Fritz, he was Captain, head of the Homicide Division of the Dallas Police Department.
GD: Did you know Captain Fritz?
JC: Yes. I knew him, was on a first-name basis with him.
GD: Did you know others in the police department pretty well?
JC: Well, I guess my best contact, we tried to keep pretty good contact with all the law enforcement people, but I guess my best contact would have been Lieutenant George Butler. He was a frequent visitor to our office, and I was able to do some things for George Butler that he was appreciative of me being able to do, that—nothing illegal or unethical about it—but we just developed a pretty close working relationship. And I was able to call upon him for information, or his assistance on anything that I needed a little help on.
8 Ray Zauber, “George Butler: His Word Was Law,” Oak Cliff Tribune, Jan. 10, 1980, 1-2.
(“A friend of the late H. L. Hunt, Butler was a confidante of the famed oil tycoon and handled personal investigative assignments for Hunt Oil.”8 Butler is said to have been the officer in charge, under Captain Fritz, of the Oswald transfer in the basement of the Dallas Police Department in which Oswald was killed on Sunday morning, Dec. 24, 1963.)
GD: Then there’s the story that’s been partly reported in the past, that Mr. Hunt asked you to go to the police station and check on the security of Oswald.
JC: Well, there’s a little bit more to that story than just, you know, going down to check on security. Of course at that time Mr. Hunt was a very well-known person, in wide circles, but was well known in the Dallas area, and was well known by a lot of people who listened to his political views. And when the accident happened with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mr. Hunt immediately started getting threatening, what I would call threatening telephone calls, in the sense that they would be badmouthing Mr. Hunt for badmouthing the President on previous Life Line programs. Nothing more than what I would say random calls from people who shared different political views. But after you get several of those over a short period of time you become a little bit concerned with what their next step might be there.
GD: So Mr. Hunt was getting threatening calls—
G: And did that have anything to do with him asking you to go check the security of Oswald?
JC: Well, I think so. Because immediately after the assassination, everything started off in slow motion, as far as publicity and information being distributed. On a minute-to-minute basis that information was being upgraded, changed, altered, but presented in a different light. So I think that continuous new information just encouraged people to more and more call Mr. Hunt, expressing their frustration that, one, could he have been involved in the assassination? And two, did he feel any remorse by putting out programs that were detrimental to the Kennedy political agenda there? So Mr. Hunt was nothing more than a person that people could and would express their indication, you know, their concern over him being involved in anything that could have affected the president there.
In my opinion it was nothing more than a normal reaction, you know, to any given set of an event that had worldwide exposure, and of interest to almost every person in the United States.
GD: In Mr. Hunt’s view did he maybe wonder if his Life Line program had incited the assassination?
I am going to post in installments an interview that relates to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Since reading the interview I have followed up some of the information and names mentioned and the more I learn the more questions I have. The interviewer, Greg Doudna, has kindly agreed to write an introduction. (I have previously posted on some of Greg’s work — a totally different subject from this interview.)
The following is an interview with John Curington, former right-hand man of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas, concerning the John F. Kennedy assassination.
In June 1977 the American tabloidNational Enquirer published a story reporting unusual information related by Curington relevant to H. L. Hunt and the JFK assassination. Despite its significance and relevance to an understanding of the JFK assassination, Curington’s story attracted little further notice. Curington himself did not seek further publicity, living quietly in the intervening decades in rural Texas in obscurity as a small rancher and country lawyer. As an illustration of how under-the-radar Curington has been, the most encyclopedic compendium of JFK assassination information available, former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s The Assassination of President Kennedy (2007; 1632 pages print plus an additional 1125 pages of footnotes on an attached CD-ROM), does not mention Curington’s name, according to the index.
My interview with Curington came about by accident, through a long-time acquaintance who I belatedly learned is a friend of Curington’s. I had read the National Enquirer article about Curington long ago and recognized who he was. I was surprised to learn he was still alive. This interview is the result.
By the time I met Curington he had prepared an unpublished manuscript of memoirs of his years with H. L. Hunt, which went well beyond the brief account inNational Enquirer of 1977. Curington’s manuscript is now published (John Curington with Mitchel Whitington, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H.L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa, 2018, available on Amazon).
This interview is appearing first onVridar, and to my knowledge is the first publication of a full interview with Curington. Many view the current political climate in the United States with foreboding. I believe it is instructive to recall an earlier time in American history with, in certain respects, parallel issues.
Billionaire Logic and the Fate of JFK
Interview with John Curington,
Right-hand Man and Attorney to H. L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas
(the Richest Man in the World in 1963),
Concerning the Assassination of President Kennedy
Texas oilman H. L. Hunt (1889-1974) of Dallas, Texas, was the richest man in the world in the 1960s—oil, natural gas, land, companies producing food and energy, worldwide.
Mr. Hunt was also America’s pre-eminent producer and purveyor of conservative, anti-communist ideology, through a daily radio program broadcast, at its peak, on over five hundred radio stations across America called Life Line. Hunt backed politicians who held political views he thought were best for business and for the country, and he was a close associate of J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hunt had a special phone line to Hoover and they talked frequently back and forth, on matters affecting the nation’s business.
Hunt’s Life Line program was relentlessly critical of President John F. Kennedy—for “creeping socialism,” for being soft on America’s enemies abroad and their fellow-travellers domestically, for cozying up to the satanic United Nations and the one-worlders behind that organization intent on America’s destruction.
One of Hunt’s sons, Bunker Hunt, helped pay the cost of a black-bordered full-page newspaper ad accusing Kennedy of traitorous actions. Its headline was: “Welcome Mr. Kennedy: Why Are You a Communist?” The black borders were like a funeral notice. This ad appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Friday, November 22, 1963. It was seeing that ad which prompted Kennedy to remark to Jacqueline at their hotel that morning, “We’re heading into nut country.”
November 22, 1963 was the day President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visited Dallas, overriding futile private pleas of people like Adlai Stevenson and Sen. William Fulbright to Kennedy not to make that trip, out of concern for his safety. But the trip had been planned and was regarded as politically necessary in the runup to the 1964 presidential elections. H. L. Hunt’s political ally and fellow Texan, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson—at that moment under investigation in Congress for a corruption scandal with a growing likelihood of being dumped from the Kennedy ticket in 1964 and ending up in disgrace—had spent the preceding month at his Texas ranch preparing for Kennedy’s visit to Texas.
And so it was that the President and First Lady waved to the crowds from their open limousine as it took its fateful slow hairpin turn in front of the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. Moments later shots rang out and part of Kennedy’s head was blown off. The motorcade sped to nearby Parkland Hospital but it was hopeless; Kennedy was dead. Texas Governor John Connally also was shot but survived. Two hours later Vice President Johnson, riding in the same motorcade two cars back, was sworn in as the new President of the United States as a nation reeled in shock and grief. To this day, every American of a certain age and unimpaired memory remembers where they were when they heard the news.
An hour after the assassination, Texas School Book Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald, an ex-Marine and returned defector to the Soviet Union with professed communist sympathies and associations (but oddly not a single known communist friend), was arrested and later that evening charged with the murder of a police officer and of President Kennedy.
1 In 1997 handwritten notes of Will Fritz from his Oswald interrogations were conveyed by an anonymous donor to authorities and released publicly after the donor had been in possession of them since Fritz’s death in 1984. Fritz’s claim to have taken no notes is in his testimony to the Warren Commission (“I kept no notes at the time”).
Oswald was denied a lawyer despite repeated requests heard by reporters. When a delegation of attorneys from the Dallas Civil Liberties Union appeared at the police station intent upon ensuring that Oswald had access to counsel, they left without seeing the prisoner after being told that Oswald had made no specific request to see them (Oswald had not been told they were there). Veteran Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz questioned the accused assassin of the President for twelve hours over two days without recording any of it (there was no tape recorder handy in the police station, he later explained) and also, he claimed, without taking any notes.1 Oswald’s story would not come out in court. Less than 48 hours after his arrest, on Sunday morning, November 24, 1963, Oswald was shot and killed while in police custody by Jack Ruby, a Mob-connected Dallas strip club operator friendly with Dallas police.
Within hours of the assassination the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover, in consultation with the new president, took over control of the investigation from the Dallas Police Department. The FBI immediately assured the nation in definitive terms that the assassination had been done by Oswald acting alone, following which the investigation got underway.
Others however, such as some U.S. intelligence insiders seeking a cause of war for a desired invasion of Cuba, wanted it to be believed—and privately Johnson himself let it be known to a few trusted friends and media sources on a strictly confidential basis (such as CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite), that he too believed—that Castro and/or the Soviet Union were behind Oswald’s action.
But publicly Johnson appointed the prestigious President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, better known as the Warren Commission, to investigate. The Warren Commission relied in large part upon the FBI’s investigation. One of the Warren Commission’s seven members, Congressional Representative (and future president) Gerald Ford, secretly informed Hoover’s FBI on an ongoing basis via a back channel of the activities of the Commission and the thinking of its members. Another member of the Warren Commission, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Allen Dulles who had been fired by Kennedy, is believed to have functioned on the CIA’s behalf to shield certain areas of inquiry from the Warren Commission’s attention, such as a covert assassination program directed at (foreign) heads of state, which had been run by Dulles, that would later come to light in 1970s Congressional investigations.
Evoking a threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, President Johnson and members of his administration persuaded Commission members—most notably Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and respected liberal icon Earl Warren who headed the Commission—that it was imperative for the noblest of motives to find sole and complete responsibility for the JFK assassination began and ended with the dead Oswald.
And so it was that the lone-nut explanation of the JFK assassination became the conclusion of the Warren Commission in its final report issued on September 24, 1964, signed unanimously by all seven Commission members, even though at least three of those seven disagreed with the lone-assassin-without-assistance conclusion (Boggs, Cooper, Russell). Meanwhile, the question of Oswald’s motive was left unexplained: it was a “mystery.”
2 Interview in “Richard Russell: Georgia Giant,” a documentary aired Feb. 11, 1970 on WSB-TV, Atlanta, Georgia. Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., “Sen. Richard Russell and the Great American Murder Mystery” (2003). http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_pm/133.
One of the seven Warren Commission members, Senator Richard Russell, said in a television interview in 1970, the year before he died, that he “never believed that Lee Harvey Oswald planned that altogether by himself … [T]here were so many circumstances there that led me to believe that you couldn’t just completely eliminate the possibility that he did have some co-conspirators … I’m not completely satisfied in my own mind that he did plan and commit this act altogether on his own, without consultation with anyone else. And that’s what a majority of the Committee wanted to find.”2
A majority, he said? Disagreed with their own unanimous conclusion? They wantedto find differently than they did? Welcome to the surreal world of American politics of the 1960s.
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The “lone nut” conclusion of the Warren Commission was not the assessment of intelligence services of some other nations. Within the first months following the JFK assassination, the KGB (intelligence agency of the Soviet Union) as well as some European intelligence agencies concluded that the assassination appeared to have been a coup and that the deed had been pinned on the former USSR resident Oswald for the purpose of blaming the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
3 Christopher Andrew and Vasali Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 225.
“[Soviet Premier] Khrushchev seems to have been convinced by the KGB view that the aim of the right-wing conspirators behind Kennedy’s assassination was to intensify the Cold War … The choice of Oswald as Kennedy’s assassin, the KGB believed, was intended to divert public attention from the racist oil magnates and make the assassination appear to be a Communist plot.”3
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Attorney John Curington (1927- ), whose interview follows this introduction, was H. L. Hunt’s right-hand man from 1960 to 1969. Curington’s office immediately adjoined Hunt’s office in Dallas’s downtown Mercantile Bank Building.
Curington grew up in Farmersville, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, followed by law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. In 1954 he began working as an attorney for Hunt Oil. By 1960 Curington was working directly for Mr. Hunt, doing things ranging from (as described by Curington) “running HLH Products (the ‘food division’) to covering up tax-evasion schemes, collecting gambling debts, handling matters involving Hunt’s secret family [of which Hunt had two in addition to his public family in Dallas] … and carrying out covert political operations.”4
4Harry Hurt, Texas Rich: The Hunt Dynasty from the early Oil Days through the Silver Crash (New York: Norton & Co., 1981), 188-89. 5 For fuller details see Hurt, Texas Rich, 276-308. After years of legal wrangling, Curington and another aide were convicted on three federal counts of mail fraud with a suspended sentence (“Hunt Aides Plan Appeal,” San Antonio Express, April 19, 1975, p. 6). 6 Martin Waldron, “Family Fight Texas Style,” New York Times, April 15, 1973, p. 173.
In 1969 during acrimonious disputes between Hunt’s public family and his two other families, Curington left Hunt’s employ. As the family feud escalated, Curington and other aides, having sided with one branch of Hunt heirs, were charged by rival family members with embezzlement.5 To give an idea of the world in which Curington operated in that era, here is a description from a 1970s legal brief:
“The attorneys said that the two men [Curington and John K. Brown] ‘have been H. L. Hunt’s closely associated subordinates all through such periods during which, at his instance, or at the instance of members of his family authorized by him, they have engaged in many confidential and clandestine transactions for him with other persons such as holders and seekers of public office, labor leaders, actual or potential competitors, influential job holders in commercial contracts, professional sports figures and nonbusiness social persons.’”6
In this context a President was killed in Dallas. Five and a half decades later Curington has a story to tell.
Curington’s story comes in the form of a new book, written with Texas regional author Mitchel Whitington, entitled Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H. L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa(2018, published by 23House, available on Amazon). In addition to vivid day-to-day portraits of what it was like to be the right-hand man to H. L. Hunt and how billionaire power worked in the 1960s, Mr. Curington maps out his firsthand account of H. L. Hunt’s political dealings, and how and why he believes his former boss was involved in the assassinations of JFK (1963), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), and Robert F. Kennedy (1968).
Thanks to having a mutual friend in common and after he had seen a book I had written with a Texas theme,Mr. Curington granted me a rare recorded interview.
Although Curington is ninety, one would not know it in meeting him. I found Curington to be alert and active, of sharp and sound mind. In person Curington is lean, with a mustache and ten-gallon hat, looking like he could have just walked off the set of an episode of the old television show Bonanza. He walks unaided, no walking stick or cane or slow movements, and his hearing and vision are good. Before I met him I returned a phone call from him. A woman who answered said Curington could not come to the phone “because he is out hauling hay.” Was that just Texas or was it genes? In favor of the genes theory: Curington told me his grandmother lived to age 116.
The interview that follows took place March 1, 2018, in east Texas, and focuses on the JFK assassination. I have added a few notes to explain names and contexts. Mr. Curington has seen and approved this transcript. Here is this living voice of history, Mr. Curington.
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GD: Good morning Mr. Curington. I have read the manuscript of your book written with Mitchel Whitington, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H. L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa. I would like to focus on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. You were Mr. Hunt’s right-hand man in those years, right?
JC: Yes. My story goes back to 1960 at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, California. At that time Lyndon Johnson was going to run for President of the United States. Lyndon was the most powerful politician in Washington. But he was under the guidance of Sam Rayburn, who was a Congressman from Texas and also Speaker of the House for many years.
(Sam Rayburn was a Democratic Representative to Congress from east Texas 1913 to 1961. He holds the record for longest tenure as Speaker of the House, over seventeen years.)
Sam Rayburn thought he had complete control of the Democratic convention. Lyndon Johnson thought he was completely in charge of the election and would be nominated. But after two or three days—uh no, I’d say within a half a day—of Mr. Hunt and I being at the Democratic convention, I reached the conclusion, and Mr. Hunt reached the conclusion, that Lyndon Johnson was not going to receive the nomination.
Lyndon Johnson would not accept that explanation from Mr. Hunt or anybody else. If you mentioned it to him there would be a loud cussing tirade, that, you know, we were wrong and he was right, and he was going to get the nomination. After a few hours period of time it became obvious to Lyndon Johnson that he would not get the nomination, and that John F. Kennedy would. At that time Mr. Hunt came up with the idea or the suggestion that for he, Mr. Hunt, to salvage his own business empire he had to have Lyndon Johnson in office, even if it meant him accepting the Vice Presidency. And the reason for that—Mr. Hunt had enough confidence in Lyndon Johnson, that he, Lyndon, could influence John Kennedy as president and still get what Mr. Hunt wanted, and protect Mr. Hunt’s interests in all government activities there.
But at that point the situation is, Lyndon Johnson didn’t want the vice-presidency, and the Kennedys didn’t want Lyndon Johnson to accept it. But politics make unusual bedfellows, and to convince each other that both were needed, it was necessary to sell and convince Lyndon Johnson that he had to take the vice presidency. Mr. Hunt’s selling point on that was, without making any direct accusations or finger-pointing, that there were a lot of things that could happen to John Fitzgerald Kennedy while he was in office. Kennedy’s health was not good. He had medical problems. He was in a high profile situation where he would be subject to people that wanted him out of office for one reason or another.
But without assuring Johnson in direct words that Kennedy would not live through the first four years, it was certainly put in a language that Lyndon Johnson could understand.
And that was an acceptable explanation as to why he finally agreed to take the second spot, on the theory that Mr. Hunt, I think convinced him that he could still pretty well run Washington, and that he, Johnson, could control Kennedy, and in the event if something did happen to Kennedy, then in that event Johnson would move into the presidency. And if it was late in the presidency, then Johnson would by all means be elected for four more years. In 1964 that would ensure Mr. Hunt of having control of his business activities through a Washington contact for the next several years.
GD: And you were there at those discussions in 1960?