In a new look at LBJ, Joan Mellen debunks the Mac Wallace myth

Joan Mellen on LBJIn her new book about Lyndon Johnson, Faustian Bargains, Joan Mellen does something all too rare in the world of JFK research. She checked an oft-asserted “fact,” and found it isn’t a fact at all, but a fiction.

But first, the book. Faustian Bargains is intended less as a biography of LBJ than a portrait of the “robber baron culture” of Texas” and corrective to Robert Caro’s magisterial multi-volume biography, which Mellen scorns for its favorable depiction of LBJ’s political skills and legislative accomplishments.

On one point, Faustian Bargains is especially useful. Mellen makes the very fair point out that Caro never mentions Bill Sol Estes, a con man whose multimillion dollar business schemes depended very much on his association with LBJ. Mellen is convincing that Caro’s omission of this story is a favor that LBJ’s historical reputation does not deserve.

Mellen also excavates in LBJ’s corrupt connections with Bobby Baker and George Brown of Brown & Root Construction Co. fame, who are not exactly ignored by Caro. Mellen’s debatable point is that LBJ’s corruption is more essential to understanding the man than anything else. It seems more credible to say that Johnson’s profound corruption was of a piece with his big accomplishments.

Mellen’s description of LBJ’s Great Society domestic agenda as a “cynical ploy” seems more rhetorical than fair, especially in the context of current American politics. If only Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were so “cynical” to address persistent poverty in America with ambitious measures like Head Start, Medicaid, and affirmative action.

Robber Baron Culture

Where Faustian Bargains is most effective is showing how LBJ’s wheeling and dealing on behalf of himself and his business backers. Mellen shows how LBJ enriched Texas defense contractors, Ling Electronics and TEMCO, in his rise to power.

I was fascinated, but not altogether convinced, by her account of how LBJ absconded with gold bars stashed on the White Sands missile range in New Mexico. One of the sources for the story also alleges that Richard Nixon also enriched himself. LBJ and Nixon working the exact same scam strains credulity.

Fingerprint

As for LBJ’s role in JFK assassination story, Mellen is discerning. She dispatches the only two pieces of “evidence” connecting Johnson to the murder of his predecessor.

One is the story of Madeleine Brown, LBJ’s mistress, who purportedly predicted on November 21, 1963 that he would not have to worry about the Kennedy’s anymore. Mellen shows why her story is not particularly credible.

But Mellen’s biggest service is to revisit the story of an unidentified fingerprint found on a box on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Numerous JFK researchers have repeated the claim that the fingerprint was that of Mac Wallace, an LBJ associate who apparently murdered a man whom he believed to have slept with his wife. As Mellen shows with a careful reconstruction of the case, Wallace escaped punishment for the crime thanks to legal machinations of Texas politicos aligned with LBJ. From these events arose the hoary legend that Mac Wallace had something to do with JFK’s assassination.

Mellen kills the legend. She points out that the two “experts” who said that fingerprint came from Wallace were not certified identification experts at the time of their claims. They also used a faulty image of the fingerprint. She notes that the JFK authors who repeated the story of the Mac Wallace fingerprint often used identical language without ever bothering verify the claim.

By contrast, Mellen did the due diligence. She obtained a quality fingerprint image from the National Archives and showed it to an accredited expert, Robert Garrett, without disclosing the issue at stake. Garrett stated, without qualification, that the fingerprint does not match Wallace’s. Mellen reproduces his methodology. The Mac Wallace fingerprint myth has now been definitively debunked.

LBJ, she argues, understood that President Kennedy had enemies in his own government who would prefer he occupy the Oval Office. While LBJ was unnerved by the gunfire aimed at the presidential motorcade in which he rode on November 22, 1963, he seems to have contemplated what he would do if the president was killed. Mellen’s judicious conclusion is supported by fact.

 

40 comments

  1. ed connor says:

    As I recall, the fingerprint match was made by a retired FBI print analyst with many years of experience. The fact that he was not “certified” goes to the weight of his testimony, not its admissibility, under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
    But let’s assume Robert Garrett is right; so who DID leave the fingerprint on the 6th floor? The evidence has already eliminated LHO, the other TSBD employees and the Dallas PD officers who worked the crime scene.

  2. Dan Clark says:

    It would behoove the FBI to figure out who’s fingerprint that is if in fact is is not Wallace’s.

    Also, I’m curious, does Mellen reference LBJ ducking in his car 20 seconds before the shots ring out?

  3. pat speer says:

    The idea that fingerprint analysis is a hard science–in which accredited examiners will come to the same conclusions and not be subject to bias–has long been destroyed. In 1995, 156 currently accredited fingerprint examiners were asked to match 7 latent prints to the prints of but 4 suspects. Only 44% were correct on all 7 latents, with 22% of the examiners making one or more mis-identifications. Although limited in size, a 2006 study was even more disturbing. In this study, 5 examiners were shown a set of prints (a latent found at a crime scene and a print from the card of a suspect) which they had previously testified were a match, and told these were the latent and card print of a notorious mis-match made by the FBI. Of the 5, only one said he thought the prints really were a match, with one saying they were inconclusive, and the other three saying they were definitely not a match.

    Fingerprint analysis is prone to error, and it’s not at all surprising that Darby would get it wrong, or that someone like Garrett would say he got it wrong, for that matter.

  4. Russ Tarby says:

    Excellent overview of Joan Mellen’s meticulously researched and exceptionally well-written new book!
    I was especially impressed by her in-depth biography of Mac Wallace, a fascinating if seriously flawed man of unusual intellectual, political and technical knowledge. Mac was also a sexual adventurer, a predilection that led to the only murder he unquestionably committed, the 1951 shooting of John Douglas Kinser after Kinser had slept with one of Mac’s many wives…that Kinser had also coupled with LBJ’s sister, Josefa, may or may not be germane.
    To her credit Mellen reports work of the late researcher J Harrison in great detail and with great respect, even mentioning the Woodrow Wilson H.S. yearbook photos and covering Mac’s college days as a student activist during WWII at the Univ. of Texas in Austin.

    her acknowledgements recognize folks such as John Armstrong, Malcolm Blunt, Rex Bradford, Tosh Plumlee, Rachel Rendish, Lyle Sardie, Doug Horne and even the late Billie Sol Estes…
    these and several more are thanked for “contributing to the research…”

    Mellen’s exhaustive research thoroughly debunks the fingerprint,
    and she concludes that Mac killed Kinser, of course, and remained beholden to LBJ for job security at Ling-Temco-Vought etc., but she seriously doubts his culpability for the murders of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture office Henry Marshall and JFK…

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Russ Tarby
      October 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      I’ll probably read this one. Sounds to me like the book is on a higher level than most of the crap put out. I salute Mellen for not drinking the kool aid about the fingerprints, the “party” and Madeleine Brown.

      As for correcting Caro, I’ll have to wait and see. That would be pretty heavy stuff.

      • HIDEJI OKINA says:

        But her past book is bad.
        Especially “Farewell Justice” is worst conspiracy book.
        If you read a her book,then you read and analyzed her material,you will understand my comment.

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        Between Jeff and Jim DiEugenio’s review’s my copy is on the way. If they both conclude it’s relevant who am I to argue? I’m intrigued enough to want to see for myself.

  5. HIDEJI OKINA says:

    Thanks your comment.I will buy and read this book.
    In Japan,”Mac Wallece did it” theory is very famous.
    The men who interested JFK case are believed this theory.
    Because few years before,”Guilty man” partly on-air JAPAN-TV.

  6. Alan Dale says:

    My recent conversation with Professor Mellen regarding Faustian Bargains may be heard here: http://www.jfkconversations.com/

  7. James says:

    Ok, I appreciate we have to work with ‘facts’, and I don’t dispute those excellent dlfibdings concerning Wallace although it doesn’t prove his innocence and like so many others Wallace met an untimely end under sus circumstances like the so many others!

    It’s easy to attack and right off the account of one person, LBJ’s mistress, simply due to no corroboration. Why say those things? Money?

    The famous LBJ wink image when stood next to Mrs Kennedy paints a thousand words and there is credible tangible evidence showing LBJ bracing himself for gunfire before anything happens.

    Regardless of how many books are written, let’s deal with the FACTS as you say- who gained the most from JFK’s slaying? L B J

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Hook, line and sinker eh?
      Dulles and Angleton’s bosses and friend’s profited even more.

      • James says:

        How did they? I agree they were all involved as they all had huge gains but none more so than LBJ! He achieved his life long ambition and stole even more millions from the US public as a result with corrupt defenders contracts etc etc.

  8. Allen Lowe says:

    “it doesn’t prove his innocence” ????? Sorry, the burden of proof goes the other way. You gotta prove his guilt with something more than strangely-disconnected rhetoric.

  9. BG says:

    What about Texas Ranger Clint Peoples, who investigated the Marshall killing and others? Shortly before Peoples died in another traffic accident in Texas in 1992, he had supposedly told a friend that he had evidence that Wallace fired at least one shot at Kennedy in Dealey Plaza.
    Just a lot of these strange stories surrounding Wallace and LBJ in Texas. A lot of people winding up dead in either suicides involving carbon monoxide or auto accidents.

    • BG says:

      I too, find it hard to believe someone close to LBJ like Wallace would be on the sixth floor. But my point is there were a lot of weird deaths going on of people connected to Estes and LBJ.

      • Bill Clarke says:

        BG
        November 6, 2016 at 11:39 pm

        “I too, find it hard to believe someone close to LBJ like Wallace would be on the sixth floor. But my point is there were a lot of weird deaths going on of people connected to Estes and LBJ.”

        Have you heard all the deaths blamed on Hillary? Do you believe that BS too?

  10. James says:

    Are you aware that the Times newspaper in London hired a mathematician to calculate the odds of X amount of witnesses (and those linked to the assassination), dieing. The odds were something absurd like 1 in 100 trillion of that happening.

    I recall an admiral present at the autopsy of JFK at Bethesda being found dead having blown his own head off and was recorded as suicide. Interestingly the gun used was in his left hand which was also crushed incidentally. He was right handed also. The admiral was due to retire and told a friend he had originals of the autopsy and was his pension!

  11. Jean Davison says:

    In 1978 the HSCA investigated the London Times story and found it was a bogus statistic that was immediately retracted, as a London Times spokesman explained:

    http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=957&search=%22london_sunday+times%22+letter#relPageId=468&tab=page

    A researcher who investigated William Spitzer’s death in depth ultimately concluded that it was a suicide:

    http://www.manuscriptservice.com/Pitzer/homrecon.html

    http://www.manuscriptservice.com/Pitzer/opinion.html

    Among other things, he found that Pitzer wasn’t left-handed and the gun was found on the floor, not in either hand.

  12. Ramon F Herrera says:

    In reference to the number of suspicious deaths, there is a much stronger mathematical case to prove the impossibility of the official version.

    Probabilities as calculated as follows. Let’s say that you want to calculate the odds of getting the number 4 in a dice:

    1/6 = 0.17 (17%)

    Now we want to know the possibility of getting a 3 followed by a 5:

    1/6 x 1/6 = 0.027778

    Next, the possibility of -say- three 1s in a row:

    1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6 = 0.004629

    As you can see, we keep on multiplying small numbers by small numbers and the results are increasingly tiny. Above, the number of terms was only 3. If we use the number of dead we end up multiplying some 78 small numbers:

    https://richardcharnin.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/jfk-witness-unnatural-deaths-a-statistical-summary/

    HOWEVER, if we use the number of “coincidences” we will multiply about 1,000 small numbers and the probability of ALL those coincidences (*) holding results in 1 in a penta-quadrillion. That would be like hitting the jackpot several times and getting hit by lighting multiple times.

    (*) Here’s one “coincidence”: I contacted the people who did the laser survey of Dealey-Plaza for the Koch-brother sponsored Nova documentary, and I told them that I am willing to pay for an equivalent study. They won’t even give me a price, they won’t answer my e-mail or calls.

    Coincidences my rear bottom. I understand the motivation of, say, John McAdams (Conservative, death penalty “expert”, schadenfreude) to perpetuate something that he knows perfectly well to be a lie, but I am baffled by people like:

    • Edward Jay Epstein
    • David Von Pein
    • Jean Davison

    who are Liberals and yet they pretend to know better than the Kennedy family.

    • Jean Davison says:

      The HSCA asked two actuarial firms to look into the “mysterious deaths.” Their conclusions start here:

      http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=957&search=%22london_sunday+times%22+letter#relPageId=469&tab=page

      They point out the difficulty of making this kind of determination and I hope those here will read it.

      I don’t even need to be a statistician to see problems with Charnin’s claim that “There were 122 suspicious deaths among 1400+ JFK-related witnesses from 1964-1978.” His list includes many people whose connection to the JFK assassination is marginal or speculative at best — for instance: a woman friend of Judyth Baker, reporter Lisa Howard, a New Orleans policeman who questioned Ferrie, the daughter of a newspaper columnist, and Chep Morrison, a former mayor of New Orleans who died in a plane crash.

      Charmin also repeats the myth that the death of the brother of Tippit witness Domingo Benavides forced Domingo to “change his testimony.” The brother was actually killed in a barroom shooting *after* Benavides testified, and Benavides’ testimony wasn’t crucial in any event. But never mind the facts. JFK myths never die, they just keep on being repeated on the internet.

      • pat speer says:

        You’re right about the math and right about the myths, Jean. But seem unaware how many myths are at the root of the Oswald-did-it theory.

        • Jean Davison says:

          What Oswald-did-it myths did you have in mind, Pat?

          No one has ever explained how Oswald could be innocent given the evidence against him. There’s only the WC scenario explaining how the evidence got there and 50+ years of complaints about the WC’s version. Simply saying “he was framed” is not enough. How was that possible? Thousands of books/articles and nobody has explained that, to my knowledge.

          • Paulf says:

            The myth is that there is evidence against Oswald. Nobody has ever established his location, the weapons, the motive, nothing.

          • J.D. says:

            In the United States, we don’t declare people guilty on the basis that “they couldn’t be innocent given the evidence against them.” People accused of crimes are tried by a jury of their peers and provided with a professional defense attorney.

            None of this happened with Oswald, who was murdered while in police custody and posthumously declared guilty based on evidence gathered by the same people who had allowed him to be killed. The Warren Commission refused to permit anybody to represent Oswald (even posthumously) and never seriously explored the possibility that anybody other than Oswald had committed the crime.

          • lysias says:

            Didn’t the paraffin test show that Oswald had not fired a rifle that day?

          • Jean Davison says:

            Oswald will forever be legally innocent of murder, just like O.J. Simpson, just like John Wilkes Booth, just like Hitler.
            Dead people don’t get tried in court.
            I’m talking about the verdict of history.

            The evidence against Oswald is far more than the physical items collected by the Dallas police, but even that part hasn’t been explained as part of a frame-up scenario — did they steal his rifle from Ruth Paine’s garage, or what?

      • RonnieWayne says:

        Jean, one point of Mr. Charnin’s work is that even if you take out the four you mention and Several more the odd’s are still astronomical. I’m not a mathematician to question it, are you? His presentation is quite detailed and well explained, enough so a layman can comprehend most of it.

        • Jean Davison says:

          Ronnie,

          Arguments that sound detailed and well-explained aren’t always right. The actuarial firms the HSCA consulted do this sort of thing for a living — they calculate life expectancies and risks for life insurance companies. Look at what they had to say about the “mysterious deaths,”
          in the link I posted.

  13. lysias says:

    The strongest argument against Madeleine Brown’s story about the party at Clint Murchison’s estate where LBJ allegedly made the statement about never being embarrassed by the Kennedys any more has, I think, been the evidence that LBJ was at a hotel in Fort Worth at the time.

    However, I have read in Philip Nelson’s books about LBJ that LBJ had a lookalike cousin whom he used as a double.

  14. RonnieWayne says:

    Outrage. My reaction regarding the chapter in this book on the USS Liberty. Operation Northwoods, abhorred by JFK, realized, effected personally by LBJ. United States Service Men killed by a US originated attack on them to justify a Nuclear Attack on Egypt.
    God bless the sailors on board and the few others who prevented this from happening. Nuclear weapons equipped US planes called back 7 Minutes from Cairo because Israeli (US Instigated) attackers couldn’t (or wouldn’t) sink the Liberty after attacking it for two hours.
    I’ve never read about the Liberty attack in this depth. It illustrates just what the powers behind the Presidency would do, including killing a president if necessary, to achieve their objectives.
    Northwoods and this in turn deserve a book of their own.
    Thank you Ms. Mellen.

    • RonnieWayne says:

      I mean, Jesus, multiple Sailors who survived saw the Star of David on the initial observation planes, the attack planes, the torpedo boats and helicopters. LBJ personally got on the phone and ordered the Admiral who sent rescue planes to have them turn around telling him “I don’t give a Damn if the Liberty Sinks”!
      Marine Staff Sargent Bryce Lockwood and Sailor Terence Halbardier are two of the greatest Hero’s in the annals of US Military History. My Father was a Marine Staff Sargent who never had to see battle field action. His brother carried schrapnel to his grave. Other family members have served and shed blood. If you can read this chapter of this book as a US citizen and not be pissed off at “Your Government” I don’t know what to say.

  15. RonnieWayne says:

    Finally finished this book tonight. Absolute total destruction of the myth that Mac Wallace was LBJ’s long term hitman and in turn present in the Texas School Book Depository or Dealy Plaza on 11/22/63.
    In addition, the chapter on the USS Liberty, again, so to speak is a Bomb that has not yet fully exploded in terms of History.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

    Anybody understand the link?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Liberty_incident

    “error” = Bullshit.

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