Jerry P. Shinley Archive:Some Information About Clinton, La.
Some Information About Clinton, La.
This is some background on the situation in Clinton, Louisiana around the time Oswald, Ferrie and Shaw were allegedly spotted there. Some information about the Garrison probe is presented as well. One reference will be pages 176-178 and 261-266 of the book "CORE - A Study in the Civil Rights Movement 1942-1968" by August Meir and Elliot Rudwick (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973, referred to as CORE in future citations).
Clinton was the county seat of East Feliciania Parish, located in Louisiana's Sixth Congressional District. Ronnie Moore was the head of CORE in Louisiana. CORE was a participant in the Voter Education Program whose purpose was to increase black voter registration in the South. "In Louisiana, four parishes had completely excluded blacks from voting since the turn of the century, while many rural parishes which had, beginning in the 1940's allowed them to vote, purged thousands in 1956-57 after the Brown Decision. [This purge was instigated and nurtured by State Senator Wllie Rainach, whose gubernatorial campaign was supported by Hubert Badeaux and Delphine Roberts.] When CORE started its Sixth Congressional District project in 1962, registars were putting up all the roadblocks they could. Like the Delta counties in Mississippi, the rural Felicianas [East and West] represented extreme cases of the oppression of a black majority by a white minority. Although between one-third and one- half of the eligible Negroes had been able to register in most of the district, total disfranchisement existed in West Feliciana, while in East Feliciana only 1 per cent of the Negroes were on the roles." (CORE, pp176-177)
By the spring of 1963, the voter drive had encountered some success, but in the Felicianas Moore "was unable to counter the apathy and fear" and convince any blacks to go to the courthouse. (CORE, p177) In the summer, the Sixth District Drive became CORE's "chief project". An interracial task force of forty, "recruited from across the country", canvassed potential voters. Moore made "numerous protests to the Justice Department" concerning intimidation. "At Clinton, ... the registrar's [Henry Earl Palmer, witness at the Shaw trial] unconcealed hostility was unnerving; he admitted only one person at a time, set rigid identification requirements that few Negroes could meet, and usually flunked the few whom he permitted to take the tests. Out on the streets blacks heard veiled threats, '... boy, you got to leave here. Don't get pushed up to doing things against white folks.' Within a week after CORE's arrival, three blacks lost jobs for attempting to register. Police constantly patrolled the homes of citizens who provided CORE people with living quarters. A white task force worker from Newark, Mike Lesser, was jailed simply because he accompanied Negroes into the registrar's office." (CORE, p 262)
Local officials obtained a court order enjoining CORE from further voter registration activities. (CORE, p262) On September 30, 1963, a hearing related to the injunction was held in the Clinton courtroom of State District Judge John Rarick. At the hearing, a special counsel for the town of Clinton, R. G. Van Buskirk, attacked CORE as a communist front, claiming that he could prove that 14 of the CORE directors had been cited over 400 times for Communist-front activities. (NOTP; October 1, 1963; s1, p16) This is interestingly similar to the 1961 claim of L. P. Davis and George Singelmann that 13 members of the CORE board were Communist connected. (NOTP; June 3, 1961; s3, p20)
With the voter drive effectively halted, "a radical young white task force member stationed in Clinton proposed ... a boycott against the local white merchants." (CORE, p262) The boycott triggered arrests and a raid on CORE headquarters in Clinton. "Controversial literature of an allegedly Marxist nature", consisting of works by Karl Marx published in Moscow, were seized in the raid. Arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors was Edgar Herbert Vickery, "a white CORE worker from Palo Alto, California." FBI agents were present and photgraphed the arrests. (NOTP; October 13, 1963; s1, p24; October 14, 1963; s1, p11)
The day before the assassination, another hearing was held in Rarick's court. "Witnesses summoned included Ronnie Moore..., Edgar Vickery, Emmett Collins [father of Corrie Collins?], Sheriff Arch Doughty and three of his deputies, State Rep. Reeves Morgan, Henry Earl Palmer, registrar of voters, Dr. Richard K. Munson and several others." CORE was represented by lawyers Murphy Bell and Nils Douglas, who attempted to kill the subpenas for Moore, Collins and Vickery. District Attorney Richard Kilbourne indicated that the purpose of the hearing was to look into law violations "dealing with public intimidation, perjury, criminal anarchy, extortion, subversive activities, [and] falsification of voting records." (NOTP; November 22, 1963; s3, p13)
In March of 1964, the Civil Rights Divison of the Justice Department filed suit against Henry Earl Palmer. Palmer was asked to show cause why he should not be "enjoined from discriminating against Negroes in voter registration." (NOTP; March 27, 1964; s3, p21)
Judge John Rarick addressed the Citizens' Council of Greater New Orleans on February 17, 1964. In his speech he styled the civil rights bill of 1964 a "dastardly act" and a "blueprint for destruction". He called for a "war of letters" to stop the bill. (NOTP; February 18, 1964; s1, p3)
Rarick would later be elected to congress from the Sixth District in 1966. He received a law degree from Tulane and was admitted to the bar in 1949. (Who's Who in the South and Southwest 1969-70; p 826). Jim Garrison also got his law degree from Tulane and was admitted to the bar in 1949. (ibid, p371) Were Garrison and Rarick acquainted?
Rarick and Major General Edwin Walker shared the platform at a July 4, 1965, Baton Rouge rally sponsored by the Citizens' Councils of Louisiana. Walker pontificated on how the U. S. was losing in Viet Nam and on the JFK assassination. "Every foreign country knew we had a coup d'etat, but not the American people." The Citizens' Council of Louisiana was represented by its director, Courtney Smith, and Ned Touchstone, editor of the group's paper, "The Councilor". (NOTP; June 25, 1965; s1, p8; July 5, 1965; s2, p1)
"The Councilor" is the paper that ran the purported photographs of Shaw and Ferrie together.
In January of 1968, it was reported that "two men who identified themselves as investigators for Garrison" were in Clinton investigating reports that Oswald had been there in 1963. An unidentified Clinton merchant said that "rumors [had] persisted ever since the assassination that Oswald had been in Clinton during a voter registration drive and had attempted to register. He said a woman, [who] died two years ago, ... claimed to have seen Oswald in a car with two other men outside a drugsore where she was employed as a clerk." Garrison's investigators were equipped with pictures of Ferrie and Ruby, among others. (NOTP; January 13, 1968; s3, p2) In his book, "On the Trail of the Assassins", Garrison says he sent Andrew Sciambra and State Police Lieutenant Francis Fruge to Clinton. Garrison places this in early 1967, not 1968, however. (p 106)
Lt. Fruge hit the papers in April of 1968, when he was "named in a legislative audit for travel expense irregularities. Colonel Thomas D. Burbank, head of the state police, said that Fruge had been on loan to Garrison and had made "several trips" to Texas. (NOTP; April 30, 1968; s1, p1) As the story developed, it turned out that Garrison may not have had exclusive use of Fruge's services. E. W. "Bud" Moriarty, the Third District representative to the State Sovereignty Commission, said that the Commision had borrowed Lt. Fruge from the State Police. Previously, the Commission had used private investigators, but budget cuts had necessitated the use of state employees as an economy measure. Fruge, and a Mrs. Anne Dischler, were involved in an investigation of a community action poverty program. Dischler was also cited in the legislative audit. Garrison confirmed Fruge's work for his office, but became "indignant" when asked about the audit. (NOTP; May 1, 1968; s1, p1; s1, p17; May 2, 1968; s1, p1)
The Sovereignty Commission was formed in 1960 to fight integration. Fruge's involvement with this group is interesting in light of his role in the Clinton investigation. The Commission would have logically have been interested in developments in Clinton. Perhaps assistance would have been given to the city in its suit to enjoin the CORE voter drive. Who paid for the special counsel Van Buskirk? How did Garrison's office learn of the Clinton incident. "The Councilor" seemed to be supportive of Garrison's prosecution of Shaw. Yet, Garrison had also investigated the publicly proclaimed segregationist Guy Banister. Why would other segregationists aid that investigation?
Guy Banister was present at the first meeting of the Sovereignty Commission in 1960. At this meeting, the Commission asserted its primacy in voter discrimination cases. Citizens were encouraged to bring such complaints to the Commission. (NOTP; August 9, 1960; s3, p21) The New Orleans area members of the Commission at that time were Emile A. Wagner and Walter J. Suthon. (NOTP; July 30, 1960; s1, p1)
Fruge was in Clinton again shortly before the beginning of the Shaw Trial. He spent three days going though records in the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse "on an undisclosed mission." (NOTP; January 11, 1969; s1, p1)
An odd postscript was added to the Clinton incident in 1971, when, at a Federal Court hearing on an injunction against the perjury prosecution of Clay Shaw, Garrison's office identified an Andrew Haden Dunn as a potential witness to a Shaw association with Ferrie and Oswald. Reporters learned that Dunn had died on June 6, 1968, hanging himself while in the Clinton jail on a drunkenness charge. Garrison's office explained that they had meant to name William E. Dunn, who had testified at Shaw's conspiracy trial. (NOTP; January 27, 1971; s1, p10)
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