On the afternoon of November 22, 1963 – the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the day Marcello was acquitted in his deportation case – New Orleans private investigator Guy Banister and one of his employees, Jack Martin, were drinking together at a local bar. On their return to Banister’s office, the two men got into a heated argument. According to Martin, Banister said something to which Martin replied, “What are you going to do – kill me like you all did Kennedy?” Banister drew his .357 magnum revolver and pistol-whipped Martin several times. Martin, badly injured, went by ambulance to Charity Hospital.
In the ensuing days, Jack Martin told reporters and authorities that David Ferrie might have been involved in the assassination. Martin told the New Orleans police that Ferrie “…was supposed to have been the getaway pilot in the assassination.” He said that Ferrie had threatened Kennedy’s life, even outlining plans to kill him, and that Ferrie might have taught Oswald how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight. Martin also claimed that Ferrie had known Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol, and that he had seen a photograph, at Ferrie’s home, of Oswald in a Civil Air Patrol group.
Martin’s accusations soon got back to Ferrie, who contacted several of his former Civil Air Patrol associates. Former cadet Roy McCoy told the FBI that “…Ferrie had come by looking for photographs of the cadets to see if Oswald was pictured in any photos of Ferrie’s squadron.”
Jack Martin also told bail bondsman Hardy Davis that he had heard on television that Ferrie’s New Orleans library card had been found in Oswald’s possession when he was arrested in Dallas. Davis reported this to Ferrie’s employer, the lawyer G. Wray Gill. (In fact, no such library card was found among Oswald’s possessions.) Ferrie subsequently visited both Oswald’s former New Orleans landlady and a former neighbor about this report. Ferrie was able to produce his library card for FBI agents who interviewed him on November 27, 1963.
Martin also claimed that Ferrie had driven from New Orleans to Texas on the night of the assassination. When questioned by the FBI, Ferrie stated that he and two friends drove 350 miles (560 km) to the Winterland Skating Rink in Houston, about 240 miles (390 km) from Dallas, that evening. Ferrie said that “…he had been considering for some time the feasibility and possibility of opening an ice skating rink in New Orleans” and wanted to gather information on the ice rink business. “He stated that he introduced himself to [rink manager] Chuck Rolland and spoke with him at length concerning the cost of installation and operation of the rink.” However, Rolland said that he never spoke to Ferrie about running an ice rink. Rolland said that Ferrie had spent his time at the rink’s pay phone, making and receiving calls.
On November 25, Martin was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Martin told the FBI that Ferrie might have hypnotized Oswald into assassinating Kennedy. The FBI considered Martin’s evidence unreliable. Nevertheless, FBI agents interviewed Ferrie twice about Martin’s allegations. Ferrie claimed that in June 1963, he had been involved in an altercation with Martin, in which he had thrown Martin out of the office of lawyer G. Wray Gill. The FBI also interviewed about twenty other people in connection with Martin’s allegations. The FBI said that it was unable to develop a substantial case against Ferrie. An inquiry by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, conducted a decade and a half later, concluded that the FBI’s “…overall investigation of the 544 Camp Street issue at the time of the assassination was not thorough.”
David Ferrie (second from left) and a teenaged Lee Harvey Oswald (far right) in a group photo of the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol in 1955 (click to enlarge)
Some of this information reached Jim Garrison, the district attorney of New Orleans, who had become increasingly interested in the assassination after a chance meeting with Louisiana Senator Russell Long in late 1966. Garrison said that Long told him: “Those fellows on the Warren Commission were dead wrong. There’s no way in the world that one man could have shot up Jack Kennedy that way.”
In December 1966, Garrison interviewed Jack Martin. Martin claimed that during the summer of 1963, David Ferrie, Guy Banister, Lee Harvey Oswald, and a group of anti-Castro Cuban exiles were involved in operations against Castro’s Cuba that included gun running activities and burglarizing armories. Garrison would later write: “The Banister apparatus … was part of a supply line that ran along the Dallas–New Orleans–Miami corridor. These supplies consisted of arms and explosives for use against Castro’s Cuba.”
According to testimony by Banister’s personal secretary, Delphine Roberts, Ferrie and Oswald were frequent visitors to Banister’s office in 1963. She remembered Ferrie as “one of the agents.” “Many times when he came into the office he used the private office behind Banister’s, and I was told he was doing private work. I believed his work was somehow connected with the CIA rather than the FBI…” The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated Roberts’ claims and said that “because of contradictions in Roberts’ statements to the committee and lack of independent corroboration of many of her statements, the reliability of her statements could not be determined.”
As Garrison continued his investigation, he became convinced that a group of right-wing extremists, including Ferrie, Banister, and Clay Shaw, were involved in a conspiracy with elements of the CIA to kill John F. Kennedy. Garrison would later claim that the motive for the assassination was anger over Kennedy’s attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam. Garrison also believed that Shaw, Banister, and Ferrie had conspired to set up Oswald as a patsy in the JFK assassination.
Ferrie lived in the upstairs of this two story house located on Louisiana Avenue Parkway in the Broadmoor section of New Orleans.
On February 22, 1967, less than a week after the New Orleans States-Item broke the story of Jim Garrison’s investigation, Ferrie was found dead in his apartment. Two unsigned, undated typed letters were found at Ferrie’s apartment: The first, found in a pile of papers, was a screed about the justice system, beginning with “To leave this life is, for me, a sweet prospect.” The second note was written to Al Beauboeuf, Ferrie’s friend to whom he bequeathed all his possessions. Garrison said he considered Ferrie’s death a suicide, but added “I am not ruling out murder.” Garrison’s aide, Lou Ivon, stated that Ferrie telephoned him the day after the story of Garrison’s investigation broke and told him, “You know what this news story does to me, don’t you. I’m a dead man. From here on, believe me, I’m a dead man….”
Ferrie’s autopsy was performed by Orleans Parish coroner Nicholas Chetta and pathologist Ronald A. Welsh. They concluded that there was no evidence of suicide or murder and that Ferrie died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage due to a congenital intracranial berry aneurysm that had ruptured at the base of his brain. Upon learning of the coroner’s findings, Jim Garrison said, “I suppose it could just be a weird coincidence that the night Ferrie penned two suicide notes, he died of natural causes.” On March 1, 1967, Garrison had Clay Shaw arrested and charged him with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy.
Jack Wardlaw, then with the defunct afternoon newspaper, the New Orleans States-Item, and his fellow journalist Rosemary James, a native of South Carolina, co-authored Plot or Politics, a 1967 book which takes issue with the Garrison investigation. Wardlaw won an Associated Press award for his story on the death of David Ferrie.
Allegations regarding a relationship between Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations stated in its Final Report that Oswald – who had been living in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 – had established contact with anti-Castro Cubans and “apparently” with American anti-Castro activist, David Ferrie. The Committee also found “credible and significant” the testimony of six witnesses who placed Oswald and Ferrie in Clinton, Louisiana, in September 1963. One of the witnesses was Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chairman Corrie Collins. Collins identified a photograph of David Ferrie at the trial of Clay Shaw, saying, “…but the most outstanding thing about him [Ferrie] was his eyebrows and his hair. They didn’t seem real, in other words, they were unnatural, didn’t seem as if they were real hair.” A later release of witness statements taken by Garrison’s investigators in 1967, unavailable to the HSCA, showed contradictions in the witnesses’ testimony given in 1969 and 1978. For example, Collins was shown a photo of David Ferrie by Garrison investigator Andrew Sciambra in January 1968 and (in Sciambra’s words) “said that he remembers seeing this man around Clinton somewhere but can’t be sure where or when.” Yet later at the Shaw trial, he placed Ferrie in the company of Shaw and Oswald.
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations stated that available records “…lent substantial credence to the possibility that Oswald and [David] Ferrie had been involved in the same [Civil Air Patrol] C.A.P. unit during the same period of time.” Committee investigators found six witnesses who said that Oswald had been present at Civil Air Patrol meetings headed by David Ferrie.
In 1993, the PBS television program Frontline obtained a group photograph, taken eight years before the assassination, that showed Oswald and Ferrie at a cookout with other Civil Air Patrol cadets. However, as Frontline executive producer Michael Sullivan said, “one should be cautious in ascribing its meaning. The photograph does give much support to the eyewitnesses who say they saw Ferrie and Oswald together in the C.A.P., and it makes Ferrie’s denials that he ever knew Oswald less credible. But it does not prove that the two men were with each other in 1963, nor that they were involved in a conspiracy to kill the president.” Author John C. McAdams wrote: “The photo doesn’t prove that they ever met or talked to each other, but only that they were in the organization at the same time.”
Other allegations In 1978, William Gaudet, a 20-year CIA informant who had worked out of an office at the International Trade Mart in New Orleans, told investigator Anthony Summers that Ferrie “was with Oswald,” although Gaudet did not state where or when, or whether he knew this directly or by hearsay. Gaudet also said, “Another vital person is Sergio Arcacha Smith. I know he knew Oswald and knows more about the Kennedy affair than he ever admitted.”
The former Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director of the CIA, Victor Marchetti, has claimed that David Ferrie was connected to the CIA. Marchetti told author Anthony Summers that “…he observed consternation on the part of then CIA Director Richard Helms and other senior officials when Ferrie’s name was first publicly linked with the assassination in 1967.” Marchetti said that he asked a CIA colleague about this who told him that “Ferrie had been a contract agent to the Agency in the early sixties and had been involved in some of the Cuban activities.”
Marchetti’s claim, however, is contradicted by internal CIA documents that state that the Agency never contacted Ferrie at any time,[non-primary source needed] and that there had been no documented Agency utilization of Ferrie.
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