Longworth at Large: JFK death still a mystery
By: Jim Longworth
Last month, in accordance with a 1992 law, President Trump ordered that the JFK assassination files be made public. However, thousands of documents in those files still remain under lock and key, at the request of the CIA and FBI. The remaining documents will now undergo a six-month review to determine if they too should be released. Some political pundits speculate that the protected documents might compromise informants who had been recruited by the CIA. Others believe that release of the remaining files will prove that US intelligence agencies were lax in their protection of Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. In a sense, though, the speculation and the documents are moot because most Americans still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone in Dallas and that a conspiracy existed to murder our 35th President. That was also the same conclusion reached by a Triad Congressman 40 years ago.
Greensboro native L. Richardson Preyer first came to national prominence when President Kennedy appointed him to serve as a US District Court Judge. Preyer made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1964, then was elected to Congress in 1969. But Preyer was most famous for having served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1978. The committee was formed to re-examine the facts surrounding the assassinations of John Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and to determine if government agencies were involved in either murder. In 1979 Preyer and his colleagues released their final report, which concluded that there was at least one other shooter in Dallas and that a conspiracy was involved. The committee’s findings were a shocking rebuke of the Warren Commission and its report which attributed Kennedy’s murder to a lone gunman and a magic bullet.
Historians and news reporters are no doubt salivating at the prospect that the complete JFK assassination files will be released next year, but even if that happens, it’s unlikely those documents will reveal the names of every conspirator, or tell us exactly what happened in Dallas. That’s because the kinds of people who would plot a high profile murder are not likely to have left a paper trail. Instead, what we are left with are a myriad of books, documentaries, and recorded eyewitness testimonies that offer up several plausible scenarios, from which we can draw our own conclusions.
One school of thought is that the CIA acted in concert with the Mafia to murder President Kennedy. Preyer’s committee found no evidence that such a partnership was responsible for JFK’s death, although the Church Senate committee suspected that the two factions had worked together before, including when mob bosses were employed by the CIA to attempt an assassination of Fidel Castro. Those who believe in a CIA/Mafia plot say that each side had good reason to want Kennedy out of the way. Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana reportedly wanted revenge on the Kennedys for double-crossing him in 1960. That’s when JFK’s father had asked Giancana to help deliver West Virginia in the Democratic Presidential primary, and, in return, a Kennedy White House would turn a blind eye to mob activities. But once elected, JFK appointed his brother Bobby as Attorney General, and Bobby went on a crusade to expose and punish Giancana and other bosses. Meanwhile, CIA director Allen Dulles supposedly wanted revenge as well. Dulles had been fired by Kennedy who blamed him for the botched Bay of Pigs invasion.
Though Richardson Preyer and his fellow committee members found no documented evidence of a government-led conspiracy to murder JFK, a conspiracy nevertheless existed. Regardless of who organized the hit, though, there is mounting evidence to support the Congressman’s findings. For example, just days before the assassination, Miami police informant William Somersett recorded a phone conversation with a radical White supremacist named Joseph Milteer who told Somersett that Kennedy would be shot from an office building, and that police would pick up somebody within hours “just to throw off the public.” (the official recording is still available on youtube). Later, FBI agent Don Adams gave credence to Milteer’s detailed prediction, and taped a video interview (also on youtube) in which he said that Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy and that there was a “massive failure to communicate the threat among intelligence agencies.” Meanwhile, no less than 58 eyewitnesses testified that they heard gunfire coming from the grassy knoll, some having even seen puffs of smoke from a rifle, but their testimony was dismissed by the Warren Commission. And recently a British documentary expanded the conspiracy theory even further, claiming that there were eight sniper teams positioned in Dealey Plaza, including six gunmen spread out among three buildings, one set up behind the grassy knoll fence, and one hidden at road level, firing from a storm drain.
I believe that Congressman Preyer was on the right track 40 years ago, and I’m glad that President Trump is advocating for transparency 40 years later. But I fear that 40 years from now, we still won’t know exactly how many people were involved in the Kennedy assassination. Perhaps we’re not meant to know the entire truth, after all, they say ignorance is bliss. But ignorance can also lead to history repeating itself, and that’s not something any of us wants.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).