My parents’ bookshelf has always had an original copy of the official Warren Commission Report for as long as I can remember.
My grandfather, Sam “Monk” Zelden, had been friendly with the late Congressman Hale Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission, and received a signed original Report. Sam Zelden was one of the greatest criminal defense attorneys the City of New Orleans has ever produced. For many years after WWII, he represented a number of colorful characters like “Diamond Jim” Moran and Dean Andrews, and often was the go-to lawyer on criminal defense cases at the time of the Kennedy assassination in New Orleans. Therefore, it should have been no big surprise that Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, Marguerite, reached out to my grandfather through Andrews and another intermediary that fateful weekend in 1963. She had remained in New Orleans at that time and was no doubt aware of Sam Zelden’s reputation on criminal defense matters.
My grandfather and many Jewish members of the New Orleans Athletic Club (NOAC) back in the day often played handball on Sunday mornings. The NOAC was less crowded then, as many of the Christian members were at church services or Mass. According to Zelden family lore, many of the guys were huddled around watching the televised proceedings of Oswald being transferred from one correctional facility to another, when Jack Ruby famously killed him at close range. At this point one of the guys looked at my grandfather and said, “well Monk, there goes your case.”
Due to his unusual relation to the case, he eventually jousted with the then Orleans Parish DA, James Garrison over his high profile prosecution of Clay Shaw and others in the late 1960’s. Those famous trials in New Orleans spawned many conspiracy theories, most famously portrayed in Oliver Stone’s film, JFK. My grandfather half-heartedly believed then that Garrison was a dupe for KGB-funded conspiracy plots to destabilize America. Events in recent decades proved some of this accurate – but it’s no match for Stone’s deceptive and effective propaganda.
Given my family’s connection with all of this, I was unfamiliar with the immediate effort in November of 1963 to portray the Kennedy Assassination as the product of right-wing extremism in Dallas in the early 1960’s. I had been correctly taught that Lee Harvey Oswald was an outright communist, who had actually defected and lived in the old Soviet Union and made a similar effort to defect to Cuba, not long before he tragically assassinated President Kennedy. Imagine my surprise in 1993 in graduate school when a professor spoke of this alternative scenario about Dallas being a hotbed of right-wing extremism fostering the culture that led to President Kennedy’s assassination. I politely dissented given my aforementioned family connection to the actual history, and everyone looked at me like I was completely off base.
From that point forward I had intended to read my family’s copy of the Warren Commission Report, but I only did so in the last year. What is unmistakable to anyone who takes the time to read the Report, is how depressing it all is. This two- bit Communist, who defected to the Soviet Union after training as a marksman in the US military, brought back a young Russian bride, bounced around from job to job and only had moved to Dallas a few months before Kennedy’s visit in November of 1963, could nevertheless kill the President.
Oswald was unstable enough to fire shots into the home of Edwin Walker, a retired Major General he considered a staunch anti-communist (he was) in the weeks leading up to November 22, 1963.
The whole Report is extremely depressing, but also makes sense that the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, would not want to accept that this lowly man killed her husband and our President. It makes perfect sense to me, from a psychological perspective that an organized effort would be made to deflect attention from the actual ignominious history and blame this on some perception of “right-wing” extremism emanating from Dallas. That is far more tragic in the truest Greek sense of the word and creating Camelot out of this was brilliant in retrospect.
I strongly urge people to read the full Warren Commission Report. If they do so, they will be stunned that today any thinking person would continue to parrot the “Dallas and a hotbed of extremism causing this horrific day in our nation’s history” narrative. Is it any surprise, then, that the New York Times in 2013 would run articles focusing on this fraud?