April 1963: Oswald in New Orleans

“The five months that Oswald spent in New Orleans during the spring and summer of ’63 played a critical role in the assassination,” explains historian Michael L. Kurtz in the October issue of New Orleans Magazine.

Lee Oswald came to the attention of CIA-funded anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans in the summer of 1963.

“No one knows the reason for Lee’s decision to move to New Orleans in April 1963,” Kurtz writes. “Although his aunt, Lillian Claverie Murrett, and uncle, Charles ‘Dutz’ Murrett, lived there, his mother and brother lived in Fort Worth. The Warren Commission, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy, tread very lightly over the minefield of espionage and suspicion that encompassed Oswald’s five months in the Crescent City in the spring and summer of ’63. Eager to attribute a motive to Oswald’s alleged killing of Kennedy, the commission focused exclusively on Oswald’s public espousal of socialist, communist and Marxian ideology.”

Kurtz continues:

“Three years after the 1964 publication of the Warren Report, the district attorney of Orleans Parish, Jim Garrison, would startle the nation by announcing (after the publication of a States-Item news article by Rosemary James and Jack Wardlaw), that his office was conducting an investigation into the Kennedy assassination. Garrison further stated that the assassination resulted from a conspiracy hatched in New Orleans in the summer of ’63, and that Lee Harvey Oswald projected a public image of sympathy for communism in Cuba and the Soviet Union, but beneath the surface associated with extreme right-wing elements taking actions to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro. By early March ’67, the District Attorney’s office had arrested Clay L. Shaw and charged him with conspiracy to commit the murder of John F. Kennedy. A native of Kentwood, Shaw was a prominent member of the New Orleans business and civic community. He had served as director of the International Trade Mart and played a prominent role in the ’60s movement to revitalize the French Quarter.”

Kurtz is right about the importance of New Orleans in the JFK story, but some scholars of the case says he’s wrong on some facts.

What is certain is that the CIA had an active office in New Orleans both in 1963 when accused assassin Lee Oswald lived there and in 1967. Here is a CIA document identifying some of the personnel in the office.

As dramatized in Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” in 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison sought to prosecute local businessman Clay Shaw for conspiring to kill President Kennedy. There was little evidence to support Garrison’s charge and Shaw was acquitted.

At the time, the CIA claimed its New Orleans office had “professional contact” with Shaw but had “never remunerated him.”

But in 1992, J. Kenneth McDonald, a CIA historian, wrote a memo based on his review of CIA records, stating Shaw had been a “highly paid CIA contract source.” You can read McDonald’s memo here.

Independent scholar Max Holland said in an email that he later spoke with McDonald about the memo. “His recollection was that the memo was assembled from a couple of summaries that were prepared for him by the History Staff” of the CIA.

So CIA personnel reviewing CIA documents concluded that Shaw had been “highly-paid.” Others said he had never been paid. That’s not evidence Shaw was part of a JFK conspiracy, but it does indicate that Shaw had a closer relationship with the CIA than it ever admitted.







15 thoughts on “April 1963: Oswald in New Orleans”

  1. steve kasarsky

    I have written a manuscript which deals with the identity of the Dark-Complexioned Mystery Man as he was dubbed by Jim Marrs in “Crossfire”. The man was my Kennedy-hater neighbor from the 60’s living in Chester, Pa. Never gave the man a second thought until I saw him in “Crossfire” in 1996. Then I recalled that he once told me he was there when Kennedy “got his”. Why would Albert Osborne, who was with Oswald on the Mexico City bus and who had fore-knowledge of the assassination, tell FBI in his interview that he was born in Chester, Pa. when he was actually born in Grimsby, UK? Coincidencia? Steve Kasarsky… stevekazz@tds.net

  2. Again, the most important information from the source is left out:” . . . Highly paid contract source UNTIL 1956.”
    Don’t you think that is important?

    1. Why did the CIA initially lie about their relationship with Shaw if it ended long before 1963? Why was the CIA so concerned about Jim Garrison’s investigation if the allegation that Shaw was still involved with intelligence ops in New Orleans 1963 were baseless?

      1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

        Why was long term CIA assett William George Gaudet given a rent free office in the Trademart, near Clay Shaw?

        1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

          For that matter, why did William G. Gaudet even know who Guy Bannister, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby were, prior to the assassination?

  3. I have heard that Michael L. Kurtz has written that the New Orleans CIA office loaded its Domestic Contact files related to the 1963 activities into a U-Haul trailer and drove them to CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. These documents have not been produced under the JFK Records Act of FOIA. I would appreciate any information that others might have on this issue.

  4. I feel that LHO’s time in New Orleans could well be very significant when you consider how the CIA have not been very forthcoming with his contacts with anti castro cubans that summer.

    You have the omission on the Oct 10 cable concerning oswalds fracas with the DRE, the failure of the CIA to inform the WC or HSCA of its sponsorship of the DRE, and George Joannides being put forward as a liason to the HSCA and not revealing his role in 1963 to them.

    All this could mean that there is something about LHO’s time in New Orleans which the CIA do not want us to know about.

      1. Yes, facts is what we are after, which is why we should support Mr Morleys lawsuit re George Joannides files.

        I wonder if it was just “attempting a confrontation”, why did the CIA put George Joannides forward as a liason to the HSCA without revealing his role in 1963 or their sponsorship of the DRE?

  5. It can’t be beyond our comprehension in 2013, to figure this out, can it?
    This stuff happened before the Beatles, before the moon landing, before pot invaded the USA & England, before Nixon & Watergate, before Led Zeppelin & Kiss, before the Internet & Windows vs. Apple, 9-11, Spears & Bieber & Eminem.

    Surely, we can figure it out for what it was.

  6. Shortly after the Walker shooting deMohrenschildt saw the rifle and joked with Oswald about the Walker shooting and then deMohren went to NYC to meet with CIA officers and military intelligence agents before moving to Haiti. Because of the heat over the Walker shooting, Oswald took a bus to New Orleans, got a job and the apartment then Mrs. Paine drove Marina and the baby and the rifle to New Orleans, which was a very hot spot for the next few months.

    Jim Braden, who was taken into custody in the Dealey Plaza dragnet was also there that summer – as described in his sealed HSCA testimony.

    Kurtz was there himself, as was Kerry Thornley and another USMC – Hindell, and a of the Shennagans went down at the Habana bar and the Trade Mart.

    Adele Edisen, the OTHER research scientist in New Orleans, knew where Oswald was going to live a week before he did, and a lot went down while he was there and in the days after he left New Orleans.

    Max Holland in an article in a CIA publication, also claims that Garrison’s whole attack on Shaw was a CIA dizinformation campaign based on a European publication linking Shaw to the CIA.

    While Kurtz’s summary of New Orleans in the summer of ’63 captures the key players, some of his facts are wrong – such as Oswald didn’t participate in the Huma bunker raid because he was in USSR at the time, and Ruby’s pal Larry Meyers was not a mobster.

    But Kurtz knows that something happened at that place and time and neither Garrison’s case and Shaw trial nor Oliver Stone’s JFK actually get to the heart of it.

    1. Bill,

      Do you feel Max Holland’s article in the CIA publication is more fact-based representing the truth than the European publication? If not, the activity in New Orleans could “Be Relevant” and provides a connection to further individuals that need more investigation. For example, the role that William Harvey played during his tenure in Rome may be important in the consideration of others: Banister and Souetre.

    2. Bill, I agree. Garrison never got to the heart of it, but that does not mean that he wasn’t on the right track. Houma (not Huma) was home to US oil interests at the time, and those particular entities (Schlumberger et al) dovetail directly with other aspects of the assassination, which in my view suggests a very broad cabal behind the assassination.

      To complicate or perhaps distort matters (by subjecting it to ridicule), Shaw’s role in Garrison’s investigation introduced an element of the esoteric that many researchers choose to avoid. Anyone studying the cast of characters listed in Shaw’s papers will appreciate the significance in relation to Europeans who long associated with the arcane. For whatever reason, John Kennedy represented a demystification of that stranglehold.

      Recently I revisited a segment of Garrison’s notes that refer to one Stephen Lemann, an alleged paymaster for the CIA in New Orleans (his nephew went on to head Columbia’s School of Journalism) and note that Lemann’s law firm was ensconced in the Whitney Building in New Orleans, and enjoyed a direct affiliation with Freeport Sulphur, long suspected of association with certain CIA operations given Freeport’s interests, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere.

    3. Bill, Lawrence V. Meyers’ employer, Ero Mfg. and Lone Star Steel of Dallas shared the same Chicago bankers, American National Bank & Trust.

      ANBT board member, J. H. Leslie was related to Leslie Steel of Ft. Worth, Oswald’s first employer when he returned to Ft. Worth from the Soviet Union. Oswald’s pay checks originated in Chicago.

      Meyers’ Ero Mfg. was affiliated with American Machine & Foundry, whose board included former CIA head Walter Bedell Smith who sat on the board of United Fruit with investments in Cuba and the Southern Hemisphere.

      The Lone Star Steel board included Joe Zeppa, friend of George Bush and Al Ulmer, all of whom were together the week of the assassination.

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