The JFK 100

Clay Shaw Identified as Clay Bertrand

"Bill Broussard" (Michael Rooker, right) questions
a witness (J. J. Johnston) about "Clay Bertrand"


To hear it from Oliver Stone, "everybody" in New Orleans's famous French Quarter knew that businessman Clay Shaw used the alias, "Clay Bertrand."


[Bill] Broussard walks past a jazz wake leaving the cemetery -- black flambeurs carry torches, people sing "When the Saints Go Marching in." Bill is with a local gambler type.

Clay Bertrand? Sure I know him. He comes around the Quarter.

Who is he, Joe? I've been to every bar, no one wants to talk.

I told your uncle I never met a lawman who wasn't a punk. You too, Bill, even if you're family. He's a big shot businessman. I seen him on the TV news a lot with all the other big shots. A fag, you know. Goes by another name down here.

BILL (excited)
What's the other name?

Shaw. Clay Shaw.

BILL (stunned)
Clay Bertrand is Clay Shaw? The guy who used to run the International Trade Mart?

Yeah, what's the big mystery? Everybody down here knows the guy.(1)


Stone takes this claim from former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Yet in the two years between Shaw's arrest and trial, Jim Garrison could not produce even a single witness to substantiate this allegation.

On the contrary, attorney Dean Andrews, who introduced the name "Clay Bertrand" to the world in 1963, testified that no "Clay Bertrand" had ever existed, and that he had invented the story. Garrison could not produce a single witness to contradict him.

Who was telling the truth: Dean Andrews or Jim Garrison?

We know for certain that Jim Garrison had concluded that Clay Shaw used the alias "Clay Bertrand" no later than December 23, 1966, when Garrison and his staff called Shaw to the DA's office to question him on the matter. But there is not a single scrap of paper in the Garrison files indicating that any informant, even anonymously, had furnished information on "Bertrand."

In fact, as late as February 25, 1967 (four days before Shaw's arrest), Garrison's chief investigator, Lou Ivon, recorded in a written memorandum to his boss that he had been unable to establish even that any "Clay Bertrand" had ever existed in New Orleans.(2)

Another key NODA investigator, Assistant DA Andrew Sciambra, told the exact same thing to journalist Edward Jay Epstein some months later. Sciambra, in fact, had been the investigator assigned by Garrison to scour the French Quarter, and Sciambra was unable to find any trace of a "Clay Bertrand" in New Orleans.(3) Jim Garrison confirmed to NODA investigator Tom Bethell in October 1967 (over half a year after Shaw's arrest and indictment) that Sciambra had "squeezed the Quarter" looking for Bertrand, but had come up with nothing.

On August 19, 1967, Assistant DA James Alcock, designated lead prosecutor for the Shaw trial, acknowledged to investigator and NODA archivist Tom Bethell that, as far as anyone at the DA's office knew, Dean Andrews could have simply made the name up.

In January 1967, Garrison told Life editor Richard Billings, who was working closely with the DA's office, that he had been unable to confirm whether "Bertrand" actually existed.(4) Comparing notes in March 1968 -- a full year after Shaw's arrest -- Richard Billings and Tom Bethell agreed that the single most important question the DA's office needed to resolve was, "Who is 'Clay Bertrand?'"

Even one of Garrison's most ardent supporters and a personal friend, Mark Lane, says, "I never saw credible evidence which convinced me that he [Clay Shaw] had ever used the ["Bertrand"] alias." Lane blasted Oliver Stone for implying otherwise.(5)

How had Jim Garrison come to the conclusion that Clay Shaw used the alias, "Clay Bertrand"?

Several members of the DA's staff were present at a December 1966 meeting at which Garrison unveiled his theory. "One, Bertrand is homosexual," Garrison claimed. "Two, Bertrand speaks Spanish," he declared. "Three, his first name is Clay."(6)

The DA then silently displayed a photograph of prominent businessman and civic leader, Clay L. Shaw. Shaw fit Garrison's criteria; therefore Shaw was Bertrand.(7)

No witness had made this claim; only Jim Garrison.(8)

And Oliver Stone fell for it.



Copyright © 2001 by David Reitzes


You may wish to see . . .

The JFK 100: Was There a "Clay Bertrand"?

The JFK 100: Clay Shaw Admits an Alias

The JFK 100: Who Was Clay Shaw?


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1. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 76. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.

2. Memorandum from Lou Ivon to Jim Garrison, February 25, 1967, re: Clay Bertrand.

3. Edward Jay Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1992), p. 196.

4. Richard Billings, "Dick Billings's personal notes on consultations and interviews with Garrison," January 22, 1967.

5. Mark Lane, "Fact or Fiction? The Moviegoer's Guide to the Film JFK," Rush to Judgment (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992), p. xxxi.

6. Edward Jay Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1992), pp. 196-97; Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 47.

7. Edward Jay Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1992), pp. 196-97; Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 47. Garrison said essentially the same thing to Richard Billings. (G. Robert Blakey and Richard N. Billings, Fatal Hour [New York: Berkley, 1992], p. xxii.)

8. In 1967, Garrison advocate Joachim Joesten wrote, "It is not known yet who or what provided the original clue to Garrison's investigators for thinking that Clay Bertrand was an alias used by one of New Orleans' most prominent citizens who real name was Clay L. Shaw." (Joachim Joesten, The Garrison Enquiry [London: Hills and Lacy Ltd., 1967], p. 49.)

Two decades later, researcher Scott Van Wynsberghe wrote that "pro-Garrison sources are peculiarly silent over the exact mechanism by which 'Clay Bertrand' became 'Clay Shaw.'" (Scott Van Wynsberghe, "Dead Suspects, Part VI," The Third Decade, May 1988, p. 4.)

The publication of Garrison's 1988 memoir marked the first time the former DA ever publicly advanced any explanation at all for the means with which he purportedly identified Shaw as "Bertrand." In On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1992, p. 99), Garrison claims that "everyone" in the French Quarter knew that Clay Shaw was "Bertrand," but no one was willing to testify to that effect. (The DA apparently was too softhearted to compel anyone to do so.)

Garrison then claims that two witnesses had made on-the-record identifications of Shaw as "Bertrand" prior to Shaw's arrest on March 1, 1967. (Ibid.) However, both witnesses were interviewed several months after Shaw was arrested (and publicly named by the DA as the elusive "Clay Bertrand"), and both identifications are suspect, to say the least.

The first witness is one William Morris, a convicted felon interviewed in prison on July 14, 1967 -- two weeks after Dean Andrews announced publicly that he'd used "Clay Bertrand" as a cover name for his friend, Eugene C. Davis. Morris claimed that in 1958, Eugene C. Davis introduced him to a Clay Bertrand, who paid him twenty dollars for sex. Morris had seen Shaw on television and identified him as Bertrand. Morris also claimed that Shaw once visited his home in the company of a man who resembled Jack Ruby; and that a friend of his, a yacht-owner named Bill Boone, had had Clay Shaw aboard his yacht and knew Shaw as "Bertrand." A month later, Boone was interviewed and denied knowing Shaw or "Bertrand." Gene Davis had already testified under oath to the Grand Jury that he had never spoken to Clay Shaw in his life, and he would testify to this again at Shaw's trial. Jim Garrison did not challenge him. William Morris was not called to testify; in fact, the District Attorney's office never acknowledged Morris as a viable witness.

The second witness named in Garrison's memoirs is Mrs. Jessie Parker, who testified at trial that she had been working at the Eastern Airlines VIP Room in New Orleans on December 14, 1966, when she saw a man she identified as Clay Shaw sign the guest register. The prosecution offered into evidence the relevant page, with the name "Clay Bertrand" signed at the very bottom.

Mrs. Parker testified that Shaw had been accompanied by one individual, about whom she could recall nothing. Clay Shaw testified that he was not in the Eastern Airlines VIP Room at this time, did not ever use the Eastern Airlines VIP Room, was not aware there was such a room at the airport, and had not himself flown with a commercial airline in many years. (Transcript, State of Louisiana v. Clay Shaw, February 27, 1969, [2047] pp. 20-21.)

The defense called handwriting analyst Charles Appel, Jr., who displayed blow-ups of Shaw's signature and the "Bertrand" signature to the jury. He testified that the "Bertrand" signature had been written "by some other writer entirely," pointing out numerous features of the handwriting upon which he based his analysis. (Shaw, February 25, 1969, (2039), pp. 15-32.)

During cross-examination, Mrs. Parker revealed that she had initially refused to identify Shaw as the man from the VIP Room. Her initial affidavit of September 12, 1967, also reveals that her story underwent some significant changes prior to her testimony. Originally she stated that the VIP Room patron in question had been accompanied by not one undistinguished man, but by "four persons from Caracas, Venezuela and one other individual." (William Davy, Let Justice Be Done [Reston, Va.: Jordan, 1999], p. 178.)

Garrison's office subsequently identified the five men who had paid a visit to the VIP Room on December 14, 1966. They were Henry C. Spicer, a retired Navy captain and Managing Director of International Relations of the International House and Executive Director of the Foreign Relations Association of New Orleans, and four members of the Venezuelan government and military. (Davy, p. 180. The identity of the men was originally suggested by a December 15, 1966, New Orleans Times-Picayune article, and confirmed by the NODA on January 10, 1969.) Bill Davy reports, "On January 10, 1969, a representative of Garrison's office visited with Captain Spicer. Spicer allowed the DA's man to view his scrapbook of activities he kept as Director of International Relations." The scrapbook included a photograph of Spicer with his four Venezuelan visitors. A Grand Jury subpoena was issued for Spicer on January 14, 1969, but Spicer did not testify. "It is unknown what subsequently transpired," Bill Davy writes, "but Assistant DA Alcock interviewed Spicer and was apparently convinced he could add nothing more to the case and directed Spicer to ignore the subpoena." (Davy, p. 180.)

The day after Charles Appel testified for the defense, the prosecution brought forth one Elizabeth McCarthy, a handwriting analyst flown in at the last minute from Boston. McCarthy declared it was "highly probable" that the "Clay Bertrand" signature on the guest register was the handiwork of Clay Shaw, offering vague stylistic criteria she had identified with the aid of a pair of binoculars. (Shaw, February 28, 1969, [2049], pp. 83-90.) During the prosecution's closing remarks, Assistant DA James Alcock expressed his doubt that Shaw would sign the name "Clay Bertrand" in his usual handwriting anyway. (Shaw, February 28, 1969, [2049] p. 161.)

Scrutiny of the journals kept by two NODA insiders, Richard Billings and Tom Bethell, reveals that, well after Clay Shaw's arrest, the DA's men were desperate enough for evidence linking Shaw to "Bertrand" that they were considering such meager leads as the claim that "a man named Clement Bertrand -- Clem Bertrand to us -- appears in French history as the man who got the Marquis de Sade out of the Bastille. We are making an independent check of that"; "we're continuing research on the source of the name, Clay Bertrand, or Clement Bertrand. [States-Item reporter] Hoke May points out that the real name [of] Pope Clement I was Bertrand (which is spelled a couple of ways . . .) D'Agoust, or De Got; he was the Pope from 1305 to 1316, and it is suspected by May that this may be the source of the name, pseudonym, Clement Bertrand, the man who, May still insists, was the one who got the Marquis de Sade out of the Bastille"; "[Mark] Lane did produce one bit of information, which we will follow up; he produced a letter from Arthur A. Cohen of Holt, Rinehart & Winston, his publisher. Mr. Cohen said that if we checked Shaw's record at Harvard, we would come up with the name Bertrand. [Clay Shaw never attended Harvard.--DR] We did pursue that; we talked to Mr. Cohen by phone the next day and he said a high official at Holt, Rinehart & Winston had told him this, an official whose name he would not give, and we are now proceeding; we have learned since then that, contrary to reported fact, that Shaw did not attend Columbia, which is a bit of a surprise. [Shaw took courses at Columbia but was not matriculated.--DR] So we now checked the records at Harvard and we find that over a period of 11 years, from 1927 to 1938, a man named Clayton Bertrand Shaw attended Harvard on three different occasions. He got no degree and he lists his home in the alumni records as Shaney, Washington, and we find from the atlas there is no such town, so we are having that checked in Cambridge."

A curious side note to the "Bertrand" affair concerns a document from the files of the New Orleans Police Department.

When Clay Shaw was arrested, he was booked and fingerprinted by Officer Aloysius Habighorst of the NOPD. Seventeen months later, Habighorst informed the District Attorney that when he had routinely asked Shaw for any aliases he may have used, Shaw had responded, "Clay Bertrand." (Shaw, February 19, 1969, [2029] pp. 53-59.) Habighorst produced the card, upon which the officer had typed that name.

Shaw adamantly denied saying any such thing. He insisted under oath at trial that Habighorst had not questioned him at all during the booking procedure and that the form had been blank when he signed it. He testified that Officer Habighorst had informed him he had to sign the card if he expected to be allowed to post bail. (Shaw, February 19, 1969, [2029] pp. 167-68.)

A full day of the trial was expended upon hearing testimony about the suspect arrest record. Jim Garrison would later falsely claim that Judge Haggerty interfered with the prosecution's case at this point, a charge uncritically adopted by Oliver Stone. James Kirkwood's book, American Grotesque, contains a concise summary of the relevant testimony, and the entire available trial transcript is also online.

Sworn testimony confirmed that it was standard operating procedure for the NOPD to ask the suspect to sign the arrest record while it was still blank, then fingerprint him, then fill out the form last. At that time, the booking officer would have the suspect's field arrest report, containing all the necessary information. (Shaw, February 19, 1969 [2029], pp. 122-30.)

The most significant testimony came from Sgt. Jonas J. Butzman, who had been assigned by Captain Louis Curole to guard Clay Shaw throughout the booking procedure. Butzman testified that he had complied with this assignment, staying within "about five or ten feet" of Shaw the entire time he was being booked.

Contrary to Officer Habighorst's testimony, Butzman stated that Habighorst had not asked Shaw any of the questions on the arrest record. He specifically denied that Shaw had been questioned about aliases, and insisted he did not hear the name Clay Bertrand mentioned. (Shaw, February 19, 1969, (2029), pp. 109-11.)

Clay Shaw later told Penthouse magazine that "if there was anyone in New Orleans who would have difficulty using an alias, it would be me. . . . For about seventeen or eighteen years I had been managing director of the International Trade Mart here and in that capacity I was in the public eye a great deal. I was on television quite often and my picture had been in the local papers. I attended many civic affairs, luncheons, meetings. In addition, I'm a highly recognizable fellow. I'm rather outsized -- six feet four inches tall -- and I have a shock of prematurely gray hair that is almost white. In a town of this size, where I had made perhaps five hundred speeches and knew literally thousands of people, the idea that I would go around here trying to use an alias is utterly fantastic." (Clay Shaw interview, Penthouse, November 1969.)

Of course, even if Shaw had been "Bertrand," the most incriminating act ever ascribed to that mysterious individual by Dean Andrews was nothing more than a purported phone call to obtain legal counsel for Lee Harvey Oswald. Nevertheless, this was the keystone upon which Jim Garrison's entire prosecution of Clay Shaw was erected.



You may wish to see . . .

The JFK 100: Was There a "Clay Bertrand"?

The JFK 100: Clay Shaw Admits an Alias

The JFK 100: Who Was Clay Shaw?


Back to the top

Back to The JFK 100

Back to Oliver Stone's JFK

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Back to JFK menu


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