Hal Hendrix was one of those respectable figures who hovered on the edge of the JFK assassination story. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose service to the CIA is well-documented (though blandly denied in his recent Miami Herald obituary). He died Feb. 12 in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 92 years old.
Who was Hal Hendrix and what was his role in the JFK story?
One version comes from the Spartacus Educational Forum. John Simkin writes:
“A few hours after John F. Kennedy had been killed, Hendrix provided background information to a colleague, Seth Kantor, about Lee Harvey Oswald. This included details of his defection to the Soviet Union and his work for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This surprised Kantor because he had this information before it was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation later that evening.”
Kantor, a Washington reporter for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, told the story in his 1978 book The Ruby Cover-Up. Kantor had accompanied the presidential entourage to Dallas. When President Kennedy was shot in Dealey Plaza, Kantor raced to Parkland Hospital, where he ran into Jack Ruby, the owner of a Dallas strip club, whom he knew from his days as a reporter in Dallas.
Ruby later denied that he had ever been to Parkland that day. The Warren Commission, in its eagerness to play down conspiratorial speculation about JFK’s murder (and about Ruby’s murder of suspected assassin Lee Oswald) concluded (on page 336) that Kantor, a veteran newspaper reporter, “probably” did not see Ruby where he said that he had seen him.
Kantor’s book politely demolished the Warren Commission’s erroneous account of this minor but telling episode, and Burt Griffin, a commission attorney, came to agree with him.
What Hendrix knew
Hal Hendrix also figured in Kantor’s account of that terrible day. While at Parkland, Kantor was constantly on the phone with his editors in New York, one of whom told him to call Hendrix, also a Scripps-Howard reporter, in Miami. Kantor said it was 6 p.m. in Dallas when he reached Hendrix.
“The information he gave me, according to my notes, concerned details of Lee Harvey Oswald’s past, particularly Oswald’s time span in Russia and his later connections with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans. Hendrix gave me a bunch of knowledgable background on Oswald’s appearance on the New Orleans radio station WDSU the previous August. In a show moderated by William Kirk Stuckey, Oswald had debated Carlos Bringueir, an anti-Castro activist and Cuban refugee.”
Hendrix’s knowledge of the WDSU debate, including the identity of Bringuier, who belonged to the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE), a Miami-based anti-Castro group funded by the CIA, is noteworthy. (Bringuier denies receiving money from the agency; I know of no evidence that contradicts his claim.)
But Simkin’s claim that Hendrix’s information was not released until later that night by the FBI is mistaken.
A tape of the WDSU radio debate was first played on the air by NBC television at 3:30 Central Time (4:30 Eastern) on November 22. So the imputation that Hendrix had some inside knowledge is not confirmed. He could have gotten the information about the WDSU debate that he relayed to Kantor from watching TV.
But Hendrix’s collaboration with the CIA is not in dispute, even if his eulogists of the Miami Herald do not know about it.
Hendrix’s CIA connection
In a piece I wrote last June, “Memories of the CIA in Miami,” I reported on a lunch that Hendrix had with Miami station chief Ted Shackley during the missile crisis in October 1962. Hendrix was looking for help in writing a piece critical of President Kennedy.
After the lunch, Shackley (known by the cryptonym “Andrew K. Reuteman”) reported to CIA headquarters via cable:
“Hendrix trying research story on inconsistencies in [US.-Cuba] policies: statements to [Cuban Revolutionary Council] re liberation [of Cuba] versus guarantees to Soviets that [United States] will not intervene militarily if Soviets withdraw missiles from [Cuba]. ”
Shackley added: “If above info used by [Headquarters] pls protect fact that info obtained from Hendrix. This most important if we are to continue development of Hendrix as source.”
So the CIA was seeking to develop Hendrix as a source in 1962. And the CIA succeeded.
Simkin’s account finishes the tale.
Hendrix left the Scripps-Howard News Service in 1966 and went to work for the International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation, as director of inter-American relations in Buenos Aires. Officially, Hendrix worked in public relations, but according to Thomas Powers, “he was something in the way of being a secret operative for the company.” Later Hendrix moved to ITT’s world headquarters in New York City.
In 1970 ITT sent Hendrix to represent the company in Chile. On 4th September, 1970, Salvador Allende was elected as president of the country. Hendrix was disturbed by this development as Allende had threatened to nationalize $150 million worth of ITT assets in Chile if he won the election. It later emerged that Hendrix worked with the CIA in the overthrow of Allende. His CIA contact during the Chile operation was David Atlee Phillips.
On 20th March, 1973, Hendrix gave evidence before Frank Church and his Multinational Corporations Subcommittee. He denied ever being a paid agent of the CIA. However, an investigation by Justice Department lawyer Walter May discovered documents that showed that Hendrix had lied when interviewed by Church’s committee.
Hendrix was allowed to plead guilty to lying under oath (which cost him a $100 fine and a one-month suspended sentence) in return for his cooperation with the Justice Department in its pursuit of perjury charges against higher-ranking ITT and CIA officials in the Chile matter.