The industrial and military complex can't survive
Without their little horror wars they artfully contrive.
If they push us to the big one then we won't come out alive
His dream goes marching on.
Things were fairly normal for me for the next few months, with the exception of curious persons who popped into the Sheriff's Office from time to time to ask me questions about the assassination.
On the first anniversary of the assassination a team of newsmen from NBC New York came to Dallas. They wanted to do a documentary on the assassination and they contacted Jim Kerr of the Dallas Times Herald who told them of me.
Jim approached me and said that the NBC people were interested in what I had to say and would I talk to them? Jim Kerr indicated to me that he had it all set up. However, because I knew how Bill Decker felt about anyone in his Department talking about this particular event, I told him I would have to get Decker's permission. NBC had been calling me since October 1964 asking to talk to me but I would not commit myself.
When they arrived during the week of November 22, I went to Decker to ask permission to do the story. Decker promptly sat me down in the private office, closed the door and sat there looking at me for several minutes. It was difficult to tell if Decker was looking at you -- with that glass eye of his -- but at the same time you had the uneasy feeling that he was looking straight through you. Decker began to talk with that even, never-rising voice which commanded attention and gave you the feeling that it was dangerous to interrupt or even question him.
Decker told me to tell these people (Jim Kerr and NBC) that I was a Deputy Sheriff -- not an actor -- and for me to keep my mouth shut. He then went on to say, "Tell them you didn't see or hear anything." He then went back to the papers on his desk and I knew he was through -- and so was I. I relayed the message to Jim Kerr, who was very disappointed -- and even mad, but he, like me, knew that he must not challenge Decker's law.
From that day forward Bill Decker began to watch my every move. People in the office who, before this, very seldom spoke to me, began to hang around watching my every move and listening to everything I said. Among these were Rosemary Allen, E. R. (Buddy) Walthers, Allen Sweatt and Bob Morgan -- Decker's four top stoolies.
Combine the foregoing with the run-in I had with Dave Belin, junior counsel for the Warren Commission, who questioned me in April of 1964, and who changed my testimony fourteen times when he sent it to Washington, and you will have some idea of the pressures brought to bear.
David Belin told me who he was as I entered the interrogation room (April 1964). He had me sit at the head of a long table. To my left was a female with a pencil and pen. Belin sat to my right. Between the girl and Belin was a tape recorder, which was turned off. Belin instructed the girl not to take notes until he (Belin) said to do so. He then told me that the investigation was being conducted to determine the truth as the evidence indicates. Well, I could take that several ways but I said nothing. Then Belin said, "For instance, I will ask you where you were at a certain time. This will establish your physical location." It was at this point that I began to feel that I was being led into something but still I said nothing. Then Belin said, "I will ask you about what you thought you heard or saw in regard." Well, this was too much. I interrupted him and said, "Counselor, just ask me the questions and if I can answer them, I will." This seemed to irritate Belin and he told the girl to start taking notes with the next question.
At this point Belin turned the recorder on. The first questions were typical. Where were you born? Where did you go to school? When Belin would get to certain questions he would turn off the recorder and stop the girl from writing. The he would ask me, for example, "Did you see anything unusual when you were behind the picket fence?" I said, "Yes" and he said, "Fine, just a minute." He would then tell the girl to start writing with the next question and would again start the recorder. What was the next question? "Mr. Craig, did you go into the Texas School Book Depository?" It was clear to me that he wanted only to record part of the interrogation, as this happened many times.
I finally managed to get in at least most of what I had seen and heard by ignoring his advanced questions and giving a step-by-step picture, which further seemed to irritate him.
At the end of our session Belin dismissed me but when I started to leave the room, he called me back. At this time I identified the clothing wore by the suspect (the 26 volumes refer to a box of clothing -- not boxes. There were two boxes.)
After I identified the clothing Belin went over the complete testimony again. He then asked, "Do you want to follow or waive your signature or sign now?" Since there was nothing but a tape recording and a stenographer's note book, there was obviously nothing to sign. All other testimony which I have read (a considerable amount) included an explanation that the person could waive his signature then or his statement would be typed and he would be notified when it was ready for signature. Belin did not say this to me.
He said an odd thing when I left. It is the only time that he said it, and I have never read anything similar in any testimony. "Be SURE, when you get back to the office, to thank Sheriff Decker for his cooperation." I know of no one else he questioned who he asked to thank a supervisor, chief, etc.
I first saw my testimony in January of 1968 when I looked at the 26 volumes which belonged to Penn Jones. My alleged statement was included. The following are some of the changes in my testimony:
Arnold Rowland told me that he saw two men on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository 15 minutes before the President arrived: one was a Negro, who was pacing back and forth by the southwest window. The other was a white man in the southeast corner, with a rifle equipped with a scope, and that a few minutes later he looked back and only the white man was there. In the Warren Commission: Both were white, both were pacing in front of the southwest corner and when Rowland looked back, both were gone;
I said the Rambler station wagon was light green. The Warren Commission: Changed to a white station wagon;
I said the driver of the Station Wagon had on a tan jacket. The Warren Commission: A white jacket;
I said the license plates on the Rambler were not the same color as Texas plates. The Warren Commission: Omitted the not -- omitted but one word, an important one, so that it appeared that the license plates were the same color as Texas plates;
I said that I got a good look at the driver of the Rambler. The Warren Commission: I did not get a good look at the Rambler. (In Captain Fritz's office) I had said that Fritz had said to Oswald, "This man saw you leave" (indicating me). Oswald said, "I told you people I did." Fritz then said, "Now take it easy, son, we're just trying to find out what happened", and then (to Oswald), "What about the car?" to which Oswald replied, "That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine. Don't try to drag her into this." Fritz said car -- station wagon was not mentioned by anyone but Oswald. (I had told Fritz over the telephone that I saw a man get into a station wagon, before I went to the Dallas Police Department and I had also described the man. This is when Fritz asked me to come there.) Oswald then said, "Everybody will know who I am now;" the Warren Commission: Stated that the last statement by Oswald was made in a dramatic tone. This was not so. The Warren Commission also printed, "NOW everybody will know who I am", transposing the now. Oswald's tone and attitude was one of disappointment. If someone were attempting to conceal his identity as Deputy and he was found out, exposed -- his cover blown, his reaction would be dismay and disappointment. This was Oswald's tone and attitude -- disappointment at being exposed!
Shortly after the Kerr and Belin incidents, the Sheriff took me out of the field and assigned me to the Bond Desk. This meant that I was sitting directly in line with Decker's office door, where he could watch me. It made me feel a little like a goldfish in a bowl!
While I was on the Bond Desk I noticed Eva Grant (Jack Ruby's sister) was making daily visits to Decker's office. During this time Eva and I came to be on good terms. It was convenient for her to speak to me when she came in because of the position of my desk -- close to the door leading into the Sheriff's Department. As time went on Eva Grant would stop me in the hall every time I went for a cup of coffee or took a break. Decker became very concerned over this and it was not long before I realized that ever time Eva and I talked we were joined by someone. In addition to this, Buddy Walthers would be standing close by and listening. (This is another example of his talents as a peace officer -- that he would make himself so conspicuous.) First he would stand and listen, and then head into Decker's office.
After a few days of this and armed with information from this so-called detective -- who couldn't track an elephant through the snow with a nose bleed -- Decker called me into his office and pointed to a chair without saying a word. Well, knowing he wasn't giving me the chair or asking me to look it over, I sat down. After a long silence he finally said, "What about it?" This was Decker's way of telling you he knew it (whatever it was) and he wanted you to "confess." I felt sure Eva Grant was going to be the subject of conversation but I was determined to make him start the interrogation -- after all he wanted the answers and, apparently, Buddy had not heard as much as he thought he had.
Finally he gave in and said, "You've been talking to Eva Grant." I said, "Yes sir." Decker then said, "What about?" I replied, "She is concerned about Jack's depressed state of mind and worried about the fact that he looks ill." Decker said, "That's none of your business." I replied with the only thing that Decker would accept -- I said, "No sir." Apparently sure that he had convinced me once again that there was no law except Decker's law, he pointed to the door and I left. He was a man of few words!
The next day Eva and I had another talk. She was getting more and more concerned about Jack's health. She had been to see Decker several times trying to secure medical help for her brother. By this time the rumor was all through the Sheriff's office that Jack was, indeed, ill. Most of this information came from the deputies assigned to guard him. The deputies were Walter Neighbors, James R. Keene, Jess Stevenson, Jr., and others. Finally Decker permitted a doctor to see Jack, a psychiatrist, who said Jack Ruby had a cold!
A few weeks passed, during which time I received same telephone calls concerning the assassination and my testimony. These calls came from various people from different parts of the country who were, apparently, just interested. These calls somehow were reported to Bill Decker. Not having a reason to fire me, he did the next best thing, he had a monitoring unit connected to the telephone system so that he could periodically check any telephone calls.
I will not go into the events leading to Jack Ruby's death. Much has already been written about this but I would like to say that Jack Ruby made several statements to guards, jail supervisors and assistant D.A.'s in which he said "they are going to kill me." These statements became a private joke among these people and they discussed them freely in the hall of the court house. When the Sheriff from Wichita Falls, Texas came to observe the prisoner he was about to take charge of, due to Ruby's change of venue, he refused to accept the prisoner on the grounds that Ruby was very ill. Then, and only then, did Decker send Ruby to Parkland Hospital where he died a few short days later (some cold!).
I was not too concerned about the minor attention I was receiving from Decker regarding the assassination and its aftermath until August 7, 1966. At 2:30 a.m, I was approached by Hardy M. Parkerson, an attorney from New Orleans, La. Mr. Parkerson was interested in the assassination and the Jack Ruby trial. I was working late nights on the Bond Desk when he came to the Sheriff's office. He asked me several questions relating to these tragic events and I answered him as honestly as I could and he thanked me and left.
However, on October 1, 1966 Mr. Parkerson wrote to me advising me that I was receiving more publicity than I might be aware of. He mentioned in his letter that he had picked up a book on a New Orleans newsstand. The book was entitled, The Second Oswald by Richard H. Popkin and my report had been mentioned in the book. This disturbed me as I knew my popularity with Decker was fading anyway.
On October 18 I received another letter from Mr. Parkerson. It seemed that he had come across another book on a New Orleans newsstand which mentioned my name. This one was Inquest by Edward J. Epstein. Then I began to worry a bit. Of course other names were mentioned also in these books but I was concerned because of my employer's attitude and the fact that I was in definite conflict with the Warren Commission in my testimony.
In February of 1967 the lid blew off. District Attorney Jim Garrison announced publicly his probe into the John F. Kennedy Assassination. It wasn't long -- in fact, a matter of hours -- until Decker walked up to me and asked, "Have you been talking to Jim Garrison?" I told him that I had not, which was the truth. Decker then said, "Somebody sure as hell has." That was the beginning of the end of my career as a law officer and my future in Dallas County.
As more and more books critical of the Warren Commission began to hit the newsstands throughout the country and I received calls and visitors asking questions my future with the Sheriff's Office became very shaky. Finally, on July 4, 1967 Bill Decker called me into his office and told me to check out. Knowing there was no grievance board and that Decker was the supreme ruler of his domain, I left the Sheriff's Office for good.
I was saddened by the loss of eight years in a job that I had given my ALL to. But I was soon to find out that this was only the down payment on the price that I was to pay for the truth! I immediately began looking for work and found that the Commerce Bail Bond Company was just opening an office and needed someone to help in the office as Les Hancock, the owner, was just starting out.
Mr. Hancock and I had a long talk and he agreed that I would be an asset to the business because he knew nothing about it and I was familiar with bonds and most of the people at the Sheriff's Office as well as those wishing to make bond. Les and I seemed to get along very well. I posted most of the bonds and kept track of our clients. Posting the first few bonds with the county went slowly -- although the money was in escrow, Decker wanted to personally approve all bonds posted by me. I did not mind this delaying tactic because all it involved was a little extra time for me. The bonding business was going very well -- within two months we were making money.
I kept up as much as possible on Jim Garrison's probe and decided to write him and tell him what I knew -- if it would help him. Jim Garrison answered my letter and asked me to call him, at which time he made arrangements for my trip to New Orleans.
Les Hancock tried to persuade me not to go, saying I shouldn't get involved (a little late). I arrived in New Orleans in late October and was picked up at the airport by Bill Boxley, one of Jim's investigators, and four men who didn't work for Jim. Boxley took me to a motel where I was to meet Jim and the other four men followed -- apparently, they were not invited. Most of my talks with Jim were at his office while my "tails" (apparently government agents) searched my room. I must apologize to them for not bringing what they could "use."
I had several meetings with Jim Garrison. He showed me numerous pictures taken in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. Among them was a picture of a Latin male. I recognized him as being the same man I had seen driving the Rambler station wagon in which I had seen Oswald leave the Book Depository area. I was surprised and I asked Jim who the man was. Jim did not know but he did say this man was arrested in Dealey Plaza immediately after the assassination but was released by Dallas Police because he could not speak English! This was, to me, highly unusual. In my experience as a police officer I had never known of a person (or prisoner) being released because of a language barrier. Interpreters were, of course, always available.
We also discussed the 45 caliber slug found on the south side of Elm Street, in the grass, by E. R. (Buddy) Walthers. Buddy had indeed found such a slug. He and I discussed it the evening of November 22, 1963. Buddy also gave a statement to the Dallas Press confirming this find (found among bits of brain matter). However, he later denied finding it -- after Decker had a long talk with him and subsequent to newsmen questioning the Sheriff about the evidence.
Jim Garrison also had a picture of an unidentified man picking up this 45 slug and Buddy is also in that photograph. I asked Buddy about this many times -- after his denial -- but he never made any comment.
Jim also asked me about the arrests made in Dealey Plaza that day. I told him I knew of twelve arrests, one in particular made by R. E. Vaughn of the Dallas Police Department. The man Vaughn arrested was coming from the Dal-Tex Building across from the Texas School Book Depository. The only thing which Vaughn knew about him was that he was an independent oil operator from Houston, Texas. The prisoner was taken from Vaughn by Dallas Police detectives and that was the last that he saw or heard of the suspect.
Incidentally, there are no records of any arrests, either by the Dallas Police Department or the Sheriff's Office, made in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. Very strange! Any and all arrests made during my eight years as an officer were recorded. It may not have been entered as a record with the Identification Bureau but a report was always typed and a permanent record kept -- if only in our case files. A report on any questioning shows a reason for your action and protects you against false arrest. I am saying that there is absolutely no record in the case files or any place else.
Upon returning to Dallas from my first contact with Jim Garrison, I was picked up by another "tail." I was followed constantly after that. My wife could not even go to the grocery store without being followed. Sometimes they would go so far as to pull up next to her and make sure she saw them talking on their two-way radios. They would also park across from my house and sit for hours making sure I knew they were there.
On the morning of November 1, 1967 I received a call from a friend of mine. He owned a night club at Carroll and Columbia Streets in Dallas. Bill said that he wanted to see me and would I meet him in front of the club. Bill had called me many times when I was a deputy as he was frequently in financial trouble and I would have the citation issued for him held up until he was in a position to accept them. Some people in Dallas did receive Special Treatment in the matter of citations. Bill was not one of these but I did this for him because I knew that by holding it up a day or so I could save his credit rating -- and the creditor would be paid without having a Judgment entered. We were friends and it was a natural -- and practical thing to do.
When Bill called me on November 1 he said he wanted to talk to me about money he owed the Bonding Company where I worked -- for getting one of his employees out of jail on traffic tickets. He had asked that I meet him at 9:00 a.m. At about 8:30 a.m. "me and my shadows" started for the club, arriving at approximately 9:00 a.m.
When I parked in front of Bill's club "my shadows" began one of the sweetest set-ups I had ever seen. One car, a tan Pontiac, parked one block in front of my car, racing me, and the other, a white Chevrolet with a small antenna protruding from the roof, kept circling the block again and again, never stopping. There were two men in the Chevrolet. I couldn't get a good look at the driver but the other man was in his early thirties. He had dark hair, was nice looking and wore a black-and-white checked sport coat.
Bill had never been late before for an appointment with me but he was this time. When it was nearing 10:15 I began to worry that those poor bastards would get dizzy from driving around and around -- and might hit someone.
Finally, at 10:15 a.m. Bill arrived and we went to the Waffle House across the street for coffee. There, as big as life, sitting on a stool was the man in the sport jacket -- from the white Chevrolet. Well . . . we sat down and had coffee. We talked about how each of us was doing -- just shot the bull -- and Bill never did bring up the subject which he had said he wanted to discuss with me!
When we finished we started to leave and the man in the sport coat jumped up and beat us out of the door. We paid our checks and walked out the door and my shadow was nowhere in sight -- believe me, I looked. We crossed the parking lot and stopped at the traffic light, as it was red against us. For some reason I stepped down off the curb before the light changed. As I did, Bill fell flat on the sidewalk. I was about to find out why. At that very instant a shot rang out behind me and the hair just above my left ear parted. I felt a pressure and sharp pain on the left side of my head. I bolted for my car leaving Bill lying on the ground. I heard him say, "You son of a bitch" and I jumped into my car and drove home as fast as possible. When I arrived home I told my wife what this good friend had done for me. I pondered the idea of moving my family to some safe place.
A curious note: my friend (?) Bill was deeply in debt and about to lose his business at the time of the shooting. However, about a month later he was completely out of debt, his business was doing great and he had invested in two other businesses which were doing very well. (Payment was, apparently, not withheld just because the trigger man missed.) I decided to get in touch with Jim Garrison. I tried all day and finally reached him around ten that evening. After I told him what had happened he said someone would be at my home within the hour.
At approximately 11 p.m. someone knocked on the door and I opened it with my left hand, holding my 45 automatic in my right hand. Standing there was a small but well-built man in his late forties or early fifties. He said, "My name is Penn Jones. Jim Garrison called me." My hand tightened on the 45 when my wife, Molly, took hold of me and said, "I've seen him on T.V. He is Penn Jones." With that I relaxed and he remained Penn Jones!
Penn Jones listened to my story and then began making telephone calls to newsmen and wire services that he had contact with, explaining to me that the best protection for me was open coverage on the incident. After a long talk with Penn Jones I found that I had a great deal of respect and admiration for this man. Although small in stature, I felt he would fight the devil himself to find the truth about the assassination.
The next day, November 2, 1967, when I went to work at Commerce Bail Bonds I was approached by two reporters and a photographer from Channel 8 in Dallas. They had picked the story up on the news wire and wanted a personal interview. After the interview my boss, Les Hancock, called me into his office and told me he didn't think that I should have done the interview (giving no specific reason).
The next few days Les' attitude was very cold and he would barely speak to me. Then, on the 7th of November he called me into his office once again. This time he told me the business wasn't doing well and he would have to let me go because he was closing the office. Of course, I knew better than this -- after all I had access to all the records and I knew the business was making money. A few days later I found out Les merely moved to another location and his business continued as usual.
However, this knowledge did not help me for I was back pounding the pavement looking for work. In the meantime I had been in contact with Jim Garrison. He informed me that there was an opening at Volkswagon International in New Orleans and that I might try there. By this time my health had begun to be affected. I had undergone a serious stomach operation in August of 1963 and I suffer from chronic bronchitis and emphysema (not to mention Dallas County Battle Fatigue).
My family and I made the trip to New Orleans, where I was interviewed by Willard Robertson, the owner of the company. Mr. Robertson told me he was looking for a Personnel Manager and because of my background of dealing with the public he hired me. After a long trip back to Dallas where we gathered up our meager belongings we moved to New Orleans and I felt good -- I was working again!
We had been there but a few days when all of our neighbors and half the people where I was working knew who I was. This was due to the newspaper and television coverage of Jim Garrison's probe into the assassination. Again came the never-ending questions, which I did not mind because outside of Dallas people were sincerely interested and I certainly did not mind doing what I could to clear up any doubts they had. The people at the office treated me very well.
Unfortunately, after about a month I realized that I was not doing anything but going in to the office and coming home -- nothing in between. Although I appreciated Jim Garrison recommending me for the job, I knew by this time that he had done this because he was concerned about my safety and wanted me out of Dallas. Because this company did not really need a Personnel Manager and I couldn't take the money for a job I was not doing, I submitted my resignation to Mr. Robertson and my family and I returned to Dallas.
We arrived back in Dallas on a cold and snowy seventh of January, 1968, and moved in with Molly's parents as we had very little money and nowhere to stay. The next few days I spent looking for work. I tried every ad and every lead I could find. The people who interviewed me always seemed interested but like all companies, they wanted to check out my references. When I failed to receive any results from my efforts, I called some of the places where I had placed applications to see what was wrong. I always received the same answer, "the position had been filled." Finally, I decided something was wrong and I suspected one employment reference, Bill Decker. I had a friend write Decker asking for an employment reference -- he never received an answer!
My next move was to have someone call Decker and ask for a reference and this took some doing. Writing him was one thing but talking to him on the telephone was another. He would bait you on the telephone and, before you knew it, he knew who you were and whether you were legitimate or not.
Many people in Dallas liked Decker for the favors he could do for them but those who did not like him were afraid of the tremendous power he possessed in Dallas County. They were afraid to oppose him in any issue for fear that this man could, indeed, affect their professional careers. A good example is the charge, "Hold for Decker." This meant that when Decker wanted to talk to you or some friend of his disagreed with an arrest (without warrant), you were detained in the county jail until Decker wished to talk or release you. No attorney in Dallas County would dare apply for a writ of habeas corpus to secure your release.
Well, to get back to my "minor" problem, I finally found someone to call Decker for a reference and when he did Decker informed him that, "Mr. Craig had worked for me and I would not re-hire him and that is all I've got to say about Mr. Craig." So . . . I had worked for the Sheriff for eight years and yet, without a reference, it was as though those years had never existed. How do you explain this kind of situation to a prospective employer?
After many more exhaustive interviews, I found a company, on February 1, 1968, which had just opened a branch office in Dallas and was in BAD need of security guards to work in department stores where they had new contracts. When I applied for the job I told them of my background in law enforcement, leaving out the details of my separation with the Sheriff's Office. I only showed them the watch I was wearing, which is inscribed: Roger D. Craig, First Place, Sheriff's Department 1960. (The award was for Officer of the Year). They were impressed and with a sigh of relief I was hired without the customary background check.
My first assignment was a department store in East Dallas, where I held the very important position of keeping the shopping baskets out of the aisles. (Don't knock it -- I was working 12 hours a day and making a whopping $1.60 per hour).
By this time my creditors were knocking on my door day and night. All of the furniture we had, which was not much, we lost and then "along came Jones."
I had contacted Penn when I arrived back in Dallas and after I lost the car he let me use his 1955 Ford, which he wasn't driving, and I was back in business!
Because of the crowded quarters at Molly's parents, we began to search for an apartment. We found many and were turned down every time. Some people said they did not want to rent to families with children. Others would accept us and then when we were ready to move in, they would say it was already rented and they had "forgotten." Finally, in mid-February we found a couple on Tremont Street, who were not afraid to rent to us. Oh, they knew who I was but they said it did not matter -- they had kept up on the assassination.
Our only outlet for our tensions were the Sunday trips we made to the Penn Jones home in Midlothian, Texas. During these visits I would try to bring Penn up to date on the latest from the Dallas Police Department and Sheriff's Office. I was able to give him some help from time to time because I could keep in touch with these offices through officers there who were still friendly toward me. It was fun and relaxing to get together with Penn and his wife L.A., who is a delightful person with a great sense of humor. The two of them made you feel as though the whole world was right there.
On one of these visits Penn told me he was going to appear on the Joe Pyne show in Los Angeles and asked if I would go with him. Needless to say, I owed Penn Jones much over the previous months and if I would be an asset, I was certainly prepared to go, I told him. I got a leave of absence from my employer, Penn made the arrangements and we were off to Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles trip was a success as far as I was concerned, especially when we spoke to the young people at U.C.L.A. They were very concerned about the assassination and were kind to Penn and me. The only disappointment came in the form of Otto Preminger, who was sitting in for Joe Pyne that night. I think his statement to the audience speaks for itself. He said that he believed whole-heartedly in the Warren Report and when I asked him if he had read the Warren Report, he said "no"! After a week of appearances on television and radio my lungs were beginning to give me trouble and I returned to Dallas with Mrs. Jones, while Penn went on to San Francisco.
After a few weeks back on my important job of keeping the shopping carts in line I found that at a dollar and sixty cents an hour I had too much month left at the end of the money. We were behind on our rent and, oh well, back to the want ads.
We found a couple who were looking for someone to live in and care for their elderly mother, rent free. After all this time there was something free? Getting settled did not take very long -- with just a few clothes. This worked out fairly well. I worked twelve hours a day and Molly did all of the washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning -- in addition to caring for Terry, Deanna and Roger Jr. (Who had been staying previously with his grandmother). Did I say free?
In the meantime Penn had returned from San Francisco and during a visit to our house he told me he could get me a job in Midlothian working at an oil refinery and that the pay was $500.00 per month. I hated to give up the prestige of my present position but money was money. I gave my employer notice and on April 15, 1968 I started work at the refinery. This was not crude oil but used motor oil -- we re-re-processed it. The work was new to me and I had never re-refined used motor oil before. I found that I was a little soft. I had to dump three thousand pounds (50 fifty-pound bags) of clay into hot oil every morning and pump it back into the still which cooked it. This whipped me into shape quite rapidly. I was not concerned with the physical work involved for I knew that I had a chance to support my family and that was what counted.
The work went smoothly until the second Thursday of May, 1968 when, while trying to start an engine at the plant, I slipped and broke my arm -- "good ole lady luck." I had my arm set and missed one day of work. On Monday morning I returned to work, knowing I could not live on workmen's compensation, which was about $40.00 per week. I painfully continued to work with the arm in a cast for the next six weeks.
During this six week period my boss had offered to let me move into a house he owned in Midlothian so that I would be closer to work. I took him up on the offer because I was driving sixty miles each day to work and back and Molly was worried about me driving and working with the broken arm and -- again I was being followed.
During this time a Dallas Sheriff's car stopped me and asked where I was going. I had known this deputy for several years and there was no reason for his behavior. Molly's health was getting worse. She had serious stomach disorders and the strain of past events had not helped -- so we moved. Now we were in Midlothian and I was driving four miles to work and back.
During the time I was still driving back and forth from Dallas to Midlothian -- or the job -- I noticed that I was being followed by a blue and white pick-up, occupied by a white male. One day, after being followed by this truck for several days, as the truck was approaching the driver stuck a revolver out the window and was about to fire, when another car pulled up behind me and he withdrew the pistol. My hours were never the same two days in a row but this man seemed to know the precise hour I would leave work. Penn Jones and I tried to set a trap for this man but, he, apparently knew it and got away. I never saw him after that.
It was six weeks since I had broken my arm and this was the day I was to have the cast taken off. I felt good as it had been quite a burden. On that morning I reported for work and started preparing the pumps and tanks for cooking the oil when lady luck smiled down on me once again. I started to light the furnace and it blew up, burning my face and a good deal of hair and my arms. This was around the first of July, 1968. After the doctor treated me, he advised me that I would have to wear the cast another two weeks because he was afraid that I would get an infection in the burned area if the cast were removed. I do not want to leave the impression that my conflict with the Dallas establishment was the direct cause of these accidents. However, had the door not been closed to me in Dallas, I would not have had to turn to work with which I was not familiar.
In August of 1968 (while living in Midlothian) I received a visit in the middle of the night from a man in his fifties who said he was out of gas. I was already in bed and Molly was catching up on some of my court records when this man came to the door. Molly told him I was in bed with a sprained ankle and would not be able to help him. She directed him to the neighbors down the road. He went straight to his car, which was parked beside our house, got in, started it right up and drove off! Apparently, he was not out of gas but wanted us to know we could be found. This was about the time Penn was printing some pretty hot editorials in his paper with information I had supplied. I guess someone didn't like it.
I made some friends in Midlothian and was getting along fairly well. I had a job, a place to live and was able to purchase a used car.
The City Council was taking applications for a city judge. After talking it over with Penn Jones and some of my other friends, I went before the council for an interview, and, I must say, it was somewhat of a surprise when they appointed me. The future was beginning to show some promise. I continued the work at the refinery and pursued my new duties at city hall.
On August 5, 1968, Bill Seward, the only other employee at the refinery, was discussing a better way to process the oil with Dale Foshee, the owner. They were going to try something new in an attempt to obtain a better quality of oil. Dale purchased a new type of clay which would absorb more waste from the used oil as it cooked. Neither of these men told me that this new clay contained a substantial amount of some sort of acid. This meant that when I dumped it (the clay) into the hot oil tank, as I did every morning, and did not wear any sort of breathing devise, I inhaled a great deal of the dust from this new product.
Shortly after I started cooking the oil I noticed I was having trouble breathing. I did not pay much attention to it and finished the day's work. That night the acid really got to me and I found myself passing out. I tried lying my head right in the window to get enough air -- but still could not. Penn Jones came to the house and he and Molly rushed me to the hospital in Mansfield, Texas, about ten miles from Midlothian. I stayed under an oxygen tent for two days. On the fourth day I felt much better and was released from the hospital.
I had learned, about a week before going to the hospital, that the Justice of the Peace in Midlothian was resigning and I was persuaded by friends to seek that position. I had talked with the county commissioners before I went to the hospital and they made their final decision on the day I came home from the hospital. I was sworn in as Justice of the Peace on August 8, 1968. I would be an appointee until the November election. Now I was working at the refinery, holding the position of City Judge and also Justice of the Peace. The city paid me $50.00 a month and the Justice of the Peace position brought in about $50.00 a month. I was not getting rich but look at it this way, I was the entire establishment in Midlothian!
The business for the city was very routine and went rather smoothly. However, the Justice Court was another matter. I was having to correspond with the surrounding counties and they were all cooperative, with one exception (you guessed it), Dallas County. Some warrants, citations and subpoenas were sent to the Dallas County Sheriff for service. Needless to say, they were returned "unable to locate"!
So the door was still closed to me in Dallas -- even in matters of the law which these officials were sworn to uphold. Now, also Decker knew where I was and it was not long before my creditors, with whom I had been trying to make arrangements to pay a little to each month, had obtained judgments against me in the Dallas courts and I had been served with the papers. Now there was no hope of clearing my credit without paying everyone in full, which was impossible (I'll bet his glass was really shining). The next few weeks I managed to avoid my contact with the Good People of Dallas, hoping that they would forget about me -- a fat chance!
In October 1968, my oldest son (Roger, Jr.) wasn't doing well in school and he decided to run away from home. I was, of course, very concerned about him -- he was only fourteen years old. I contacted the Dallas Morning News to see if they would print his picture. I might have just as well invaded Russia. My name was immediately connected with Jim Garrison and before I could say stop the press, my name and connection with Jim was all over the newspaper, UPI, radio and television. I was getting calls from all over the country.
A couple of days later we received a call from the sheriff in Texarkana, Arkansas. He had Roger Jr.. We went to Arkansas and retrieved him as quietly as possible. He had been working for one day on a ranch.
On October the seventh I reported to work at the refinery at which time my boss handed me a check marked, FINAL. He told me he was cutting down on production due to a slowdown in business and he wouldn't need me anymore. Now where have I heard that before?
Being Justice of the Peace, I wasn't without influence in Midlothian. I soon secured a job at a gas station changing truck tires. Not much prestige but a lot of hours and I quickly commanded the respect of every tire tool in the place.
A few days later, my former employer came to me and said that I would have to move out of his house because he wanted to use if for a week retreat to get away from Dallas.
By this time I was beginning to suspect the periodic publicity I had been receiving through the years, might have had something to do with my trouble finding jobs and housing. I guess I am a little slow -- especially when this former employer hired someone to take my place at the refinery. He let him move into the house where I lived -- as I found out sometime later. So now I had to work 12 hours a day and try to find a place to move my family. The election was coming up. This would not have been important except for the fact that being Justice of the Peace served as a deterrent from harassment by certain people, whose names I need not mention.
It was November and I still had been unable to find a house to rent. Midlothian was a very small town and there were just no houses to rent. Anyway, the election was over and I had won by twenty votes. No doubt, twenty people who did not read the paper or watch television. I continued working at the gas station and living in my former employer's house. The election had done at least one thing for me. Dale still wanted me to move but was not pressing as hard. The days which followed were hard -- we had rain and some sleet and working in this was beginning to affect my health. Molly was ill and Deanna, who had suffered from chronic bronchitis since birth, was not doing any better than we were. December was on us before I knew it and Mr. Roberts, the owner, decided to retire from the gas station. This meant, of course, that I was back on the street.