How Multiple Lookalikes Were Used to Craft One Lone Scapegoat
The following segments of Jim Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable – Why He Died and Why It Matters examine the composite scapegoat served up to the world in the guise of Lee Harvey Oswald and the domestic intelligence network that was writing his story. Recently I read Norman Cousins remarkable “Asterisk to the History of a Hopeful Year, 1962-1963,” The Improbable Triumvirate: John F. Kennedy, Pope John, Nikita Khrushchev. In it, Cousins describes his experiences as an emissary between President Kennedy, Pope John XXIII, and Nikita Khrushchev.
In an April 1963 meeting with Khrushchev at his retreat in Gagra, Cousins asked, “What would you say your principal achievement has been during your years in office?” Khrushchev replied, “Could I talk about two achievements and not just one? The first was telling the people the truth about Stalin. There was a chance, I thought, that if we understood what really happened, it might not happen again. Anyway, we could not go forward as a nation unless we got the poison of Stalin out of our system. He did some good things, to be sure, and I have acknowledged them. But he was an insane tyrant and he held back our country for many years.” (pp. 108-109).
Just as Khrushchev chose to reveal to the people of Russia what had truly occurred during Stalin’s reign of terror so they could all move forward, it is of utmost necessity for all of us in America to finally choose to know the facts concerning why our President was publicly executed in 1963 for becoming, in the eyes of his national security state managers, a traitor and a national security risk. John Kennedy was turning toward peace in the critical imperatives of seeking to end the Cold War with the enemy, his Russian counterpart, and a rapprochement with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the “thorn in the side” of the American military-industrial-intelligence complex.
The following truth-telling of Butch Burroughs, Bernard Haire, T. F. White, Wes Wise, Robert G. Vinson, and Ralph Leon Yates allows us to peel back layers of obfuscation and unspeakable deception that have been directed at this country’s people for fifty years about why their beloved President was murdered by elements of U.S. national security state personnel that evermore direct the affairs of this corporate empire state. Peace is possible and can manifest when we are willing to see and acknowledge the unspeakable.
Warren Commission counsel David Belin wrote: “The Rosetta Stone [the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics] to the solution of President Kennedy’s murder is the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit.” From the Warren Commission’s standpoint, the killing of Tippit, who presumably challenged the assassin’s flight after he killed Kennedy, was said to prove “that Oswald had the capacity to kill.”
Warren Commission critic Harold Weisberg saw Tippit’s murder instead as the government’s way of poisoning the public mind against Lee Harvey Oswald: “Immediately the [flimsy] police case [against Oswald] required a willingness to believe. This was provided by affixing to Oswald the opprobrious epithet of ‘cop-killer.’”
According to the Warren Report, the tracking of Oswald from Dealey Plaza to Tippit’s murder began with eyewitness Howard Brennan, a forty-five-year-old steamfitter who was standing across the street from the Texas School Book Depository watching the presidential motorcade. Brennan told a police officer right after the assassination that he saw a man standing in a sixth-floor window of the Depository fire a rifle at the president’s car. The Warren Report says Brennan described the standing shooter as “white, slender, weighing about 165 pounds, about 5’ 10” tall, and in his early thirties,” a description matching Oswald that was radioed to Dallas Police cars at approximately 12:45 P.M. Yet, as Mark Lane pointed out, “There could not have been a man standing and firing from [the sixth-floor window] because, as photographs of the building taken within seconds of the assassination prove, the window was open only partially at the bottom, and one shooting from a standing position would have been obliged to fire through the glass.” Moreover, Brennan’s testimony that the man firing the rifle “was standing up and resting against the left windowsill” was also impossible because the windowsill was only a foot from the floor, with the window opened about fourteen inches. So if it was impossible for key witness Howard Brennan to have provided such a description, and if the Warren Commission could cite only him as a source for the 12:45 P.M. police description, who put out that Oswald-like alert if not the conspirators?
Supposedly on the basis of nothing more than that radioed description, Officer Tippit stopped his car at 1:15 P.M. to confront a man walking on East 10th Street in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. The man then shot Tippit to death. The murderer fled the scene on foot. Half an hour later, the man was reported sneaking into the Texas Theater, which the Dallas police then stormed, arresting a man who was soon identified as Lee Harvey Oswald.
As Weisberg pointed out, the killing of Tippit provided a dramatic reinforcement of Oswald’s assumed killing of Kennedy. At the same time, the killing of a fellow police officer helped motivate the Dallas police to kill an armed Oswald in the Texas Theater, which would have disposed of the scapegoat before he could protest his being framed.
Once again, however, the assassination script was imperfectly carried out. Oswald survived his arrest in the theater. And as in a flawed movie where scene variations are shot, doubles are used, and the director is in a hurry, the final version of this film for our viewing doesn’t add up. The Warren Commission’s attempt to squeeze it all into a lone-gunman explanation has resulted in an implausible narrative.
According to the Warren Report, between President Kennedy’s assassination at 12:30 P.M. and Officer Tippit’s murder at 1:15 P.M., Lee Harvey Oswald did the following:
After the lone assassin shot the president to death and wounded Governor Connally from a sixth-floor window in the Texas School Book Depository, he hid his rifle and stepped quickly down four flights of stairs to the lunchroom, where he was seen calmly preparing to buy a bottle of Coca Cola from a vending machine. He escaped from the building and walked seven blocks. He took a bus that was headed back toward the Texas School Book Depository, got stuck with the bus in a traffic jam, and got off it. He walked three to four blocks to hire a taxi. He offered to give up his taxi to an old lady when she asked his driver for help finding a cab (an offer she refused, allowing him to continue his escape without changing taxis). He rode 2.4 miles in the taxi, taking him five blocks too far past his rooming house. He paid his fare, got out, and walked five blocks back to his rooming house. “He went on to his room and stayed about 3 or 4 minutes,” picked up his jacket and a revolver, and departed. The housekeeper saw him standing in front of the house by the stop for a northbound bus. He apparently gave up on the bus and instead walked south another remarkably brisk nine-tenths mile. All of these actions, following his killing of the president, were, by the Commission’s timetable, accomplished in forty-five minutes. Oswald then, we are told, used his revolver to calmly murder Officer J. D. Tippit on a quiet street in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, “removing the empty cartridge cases from the gun as he went,” helpfully leaving a trail of ballistic evidence for the police to collect. He thereby aborted his escape and became a magnet for a massive police chase. The police arrested him in the Texas Theater at 1:50 P.M.
This jam-packed scenario was created by more than one man bearing Oswald’s likeness, with help from behind the scenes. At 12:40 P.M., exactly the same time that Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig and Helen Forrest saw Oswald get into a Rambler station wagon in front of the Book Depository, Oswald’s former landlady, Mary Bledsoe, saw him board a bus seven blocks east of the Depository. Oswald told Captain Will Fritz he rode the bus, until its holdup in traffic made him switch to a taxi. A bus transfer found in his shirt pocket at his arrest seemed to confirm the short bus trip. Yet when Fritz told Oswald that Craig had seen him depart by car, Oswald said defensively, “That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine. Don’t try to drag her into this.”
When he added dejectedly, “Everybody will know who I am now,” Oswald seemed to imply that his (or a double’s) departure in the station wagon, and the vehicle’s association with Mrs. Paine, were keys to his real identity.
If he was not the man picked up by the station wagon, then Roger Craig and Helen Forrest had seen, in Forrest’s words, “his identical twin.” The man spirited away by the Nash Rambler had been either Oswald or a double; driven, Craig said, by “a husky looking Latin.”
Besides the mysterious Nash Rambler that was in the end spotted by so many mutually supportive witnesses—Craig, Forrest, Pennington, Carr, Robinson, and Cooper—there may have been two more cars even more deeply in the shadows that helped Lee Harvey Oswald make his otherwise unlikely transitions that climactic afternoon in the assassination plot. Another car appeared out of nowhere when he arrived at his rooming house.
After Oswald went to his room at 1:00 P.M., the housekeeper, Mrs. Earlene Roberts, saw a police car stop directly in front of the house. She told the Warren Commission that two uniformed policemen were in the car. The driver sounded the horn, “just kind of a ‘tit-tit’—twice,” an unmistakable signal, then eased the car forward and went around the corner.
After “about three or four minutes,” Oswald returned from his room and went outside. Before Mrs. Roberts turned her attention elsewhere, she saw him standing in front of the house by a northbound bus stop—to be heard from next in the Warren Report twelve minutes later as the apparent killer of Officer Tippit near the corner of Tenth and Patton, almost one mile away in the opposite direction. How he got there in time to kill Tippit, or even if he did, has never been clearly established.
He may have been picked up by the Dallas police car that parked briefly in front of the house, beeped its horn twice lightly—tap, tap—in an apparent signal, and drove around the corner (perhaps only to circle the block and return for him). Earlene Roberts told the Warren Commission that the number on the police car was 107. As the Commission’s staff would discover, the Dallas Police Department no longer had a car 107. It had sold its car 107 on April 17, 1963, to a used car dealer. The Dallas Police would not resume using the number 107 until February 1964, three months after the assassination. If Mrs. Roberts had the car’s number right, then the horn signal to Oswald came from two uniformed men in a counterfeit police car. Their likely destination, with Oswald as their passenger, was the Texas Theater, where they would drop off Oswald for a setup for his arrest and murder—while the Oswald impostor in the Nash Rambler was being let off for a short walk to meet Officer Tippit in a fatal encounter at Tenth and Patton.
The Warren Report describes the murder of Officer Tippit “at approximately 1:15 P.M.,” after he confronted a man walking east along the south side of Patton: “The man’s general description was similar to the one broadcast over the police radio. Tippit stopped the man and called him to his car. He approached the car and apparently exchanged words with Tippit through the right front or vent window. Tippit got out and started to walk around the front of the car. As Tippit reached the left front wheel the man pulled out a revolver and fired several shots. Four bullets hit Tippit and killed him instantly. The gunman started back toward Patton Avenue, ejecting the empty cartridge cases before reloading with fresh bullets.”
As the gunman walked and trotted away from the murder scene while still holding the revolver, the Warren Report says he was seen by at least twelve persons: “By the evening of November 22, five of them had identified Lee Harvey Oswald in police lineups as the man they saw. A sixth did so the next day. Three others subsequently identified Oswald from a photograph. Two witnesses testified that Oswald resembled the man they had seen. One witness felt he was too distant from the gunman to make a positive identification.”
The fleeing man identified later as Oswald was seen finally by Johnny Calvin Brewer, manager of Hardy’s Shoestore, located a few doors east of the Texas Theater. After spotting the man acting suspiciously in the recessed area in front of his store, Brewer went outside. He saw the man ducking into the theater up the block. The ticket-seller, Julia Postal, confirmed to Brewer that the man had not bought a ticket. She called the police.
However, the man who shot Tippit, fled the murder scene, sneaked into the Texas Theater just before 1:45 P.M., and was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, posed another bi-location problem. Oswald once again seemed to be in two places at the same time.
According to Warren H. “Butch” Burroughs, the concession stand operator at the Texas Theater, Lee Harvey Oswald entered the theater sometime between 1:00 and 1:07 P.M., several minutes before Officer Tippit was slain seven blocks away. If true, Butch Burroughs’s observation would eliminate Oswald as a candidate for Tippet’s murder. Perhaps for that reason, Burroughs was asked by a Warren Commission attorney the apparently straightforward question, “Did you see [Oswald] come in the theater?” and answered honestly, “No, sir; I didn’t.” What someone reading this testimony would not know is that Butch Burroughs was unable to see anyone enter the theater from where he was standing at his concession stand, unless that person came into the area where he was working. As he explained to me in an interview, there was a partition between his concession stand and the front door. Someone could enter the theater, go directly up a flight of stairs to the balcony, and not be seen from the concession stand. That, Burroughs said, is what Oswald apparently did. However, Burroughs still knew Oswald had come into the theater “between 1:00 and 1:07 P.M.” because he saw him inside the theater soon after that. As he told me, he sold popcorn to Oswald at 1:15 P.M.—information that the Warren Commission did not solicit from him in his testimony. When Oswald bought his popcorn at 1:15 P.M., this was exactly the same time the Warren Report said Officer Tippit was being shot to death—evidently by someone else.
Butch Burroughs was not alone in noticing Oswald in the Texas Theater by then. The man who would soon be identified as the president’s assassin drew the attention of several moviegoers because of his odd behavior.
Edging into a row of seats in the right rear section of the ground floor, Oswald had squeezed in front of eighteen-year-old Jack Davis. He then sat down in the seat right next to him. Because there were fewer than twenty people in the entire nine-hundred-seat theater, Davis wondered why the man chose such close proximity to him. Whatever the reason, the man didn’t stay there long. Oswald (as Davis would later identify him) got up quickly, moved across the aisle, and sat down next to someone else in the almost deserted theater. In a few moments, he stood up again and walked out to the lobby.
Davis thought it obvious Oswald was looking for someone. Yet it must have been someone he didn’t know personally. He sat next to each new person just long enough to receive a prearranged signal, in the absence of which he moved on to another possible contact.
Back out in the lobby at 1:15 P.M., Oswald then bought popcorn from Butch Burroughs at the concession stand. Burroughs told author Jim Marrs and myself that he saw Oswald go back in the ground floor of the theater and sit next to a pregnant woman—in another apparently fruitless effort to find his contact. Several minutes later, “the pregnant woman got up and went to the ladies washroom,” Burroughs said. He “heard the restroom door close just shortly before Dallas police came rushing into the theater.” Jack Davis said it may have been “twenty minutes or so” after Oswald returned from the lobby (when Burroughs saw Oswald sit by the pregnant woman) that the house lights came on and the police rushed in.
The police arrested Oswald in a curious way. They entered the theater from the front and back, blocking all exits and surrounding Oswald. Officer M. N. McDonald and three other officers came in from behind the movie screen. With the theater lights on, McDonald scanned the audience. Johnny Brewer, who had seen the man who looked like Oswald duck into the theater, showed McDonald where the man was sitting—in the third row from the rear of the ground floor.
With the suspect identified and located, McDonald and an accompanying officer, instead of apprehending the man in the rear of the theater, began searching people between him and them. As the police proceeded slowly toward Oswald, it was almost as if they were provoking the suspected police-killer to break away from his seat. His attempt to escape would have given Tippit’s enraged fellow officers an excuse to shoot him.
When McDonald finally reached his suspect in the third row from the back, Oswald stood up and pulled out his pistol. While he struggled with McDonald and the other officers who had converged on the scene, they heard the snap of the hammer on his gun misfiring. However, Oswald, instead of being shot to death on the spot, was wrestled into submission by the police and placed under arrest. The police hustled him out to a squad car. They drove him to Dallas Police Headquarters in City Hall.
Butch Burroughs, who witnessed Oswald’s arrest, startled me in his interview by saying he saw a second arrest occur in the Texas Theater only “three or four minutes later.” He said the Dallas Police then arrested “an Oswald lookalike.” Burroughs said the second man “looked almost like Oswald, like he was his brother or something.” When I questioned the comparison by asking, “Could you see the second man as well as you could see Oswald?” he said, “Yes, I could see both of them. They looked alike.” After the officers half-carried and half-dragged Oswald to the police car in front of the theater, within a space of three or four minutes, Burroughs saw the second Oswald placed under arrest and handcuffed. The Oswald look-alike, however, was taken by police not out the front but out the back of the theater.
What happened next we can learn from another neglected witness, Bernard Haire.
Bernard J. Haire was the owner of Bernie’s Hobby House, just two doors east of the Texas Theater. Haire went outside his store when he saw police cars congregating in front of the theater. When he couldn’t see what was happening because of the crowd, he went back through his store into the alley out back. It, too, was full of police cars, but there were fewer spectators. Haire walked up the alley. When he stopped opposite the rear door of the theater, he witnessed what he would think for decades was the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald.
“Police brought a young white man out,” Haire told an interviewer. “The man was dressed in a pullover shirt and slacks. He seemed to be flushed, as if he’d been in a struggle. Police put the man in a police car and drove off.”
“I don’t know who I saw arrested,” he said in bewilderment.
Butch Burroughs and Bernard Haire are complementary witnesses. From their perspectives both inside and outside the Texas Theater, they saw an Oswald double arrested and taken to a police car in the back alley only minutes after the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. Burroughs’s and Haire’s independent, converging testimonies provide critical insight into the mechanics of the plot. In a comprehensive intelligence scenario for Kennedy’s and Tippit’s murders, the plan culminated in Oswald’s Friday arrest and Sunday murder (probably a fallback from his being set up to be killed in the Texas Theater by the police).
There is a hint of the second Oswald’s arrest in the Dallas police records. According to the Dallas Police Department’s official Homicide Report on J. D. Tippit, “Suspect was later arrested in the balcony of the Texas theatre at 231 W. Jefferson.”
Dallas Police detective L. D. Stringfellow also reported to Captain W. P. Gannaway, “Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the balcony of the Texas Theater.”
To whom are the Homicide Report and Detective Stringfellow referring? Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the orchestra, not the balcony. Are these documents referring to the Dallas Police Department’s second arrest at the Texas Theater that afternoon? Was Butch Burroughs witnessing an arrest of the Oswald look-alike that actually began in the balcony? That would have likely been the double’s hiding place, after he entered the theater without paying, thereby drawing attention to himself and leading the police to the apprehension of his likeness, Lee Harvey Oswald (who was already inside). As Butch Burroughs pointed out, anyone coming in the front of the theater could head immediately up the stairs to the balcony without being seen from the concession stand.
The Oswald double, after having been put in the police car in the alley, must have been driven a short distance and released on higher intelligence orders. Unfortunately for the plotters, he was seen again soon. With the scapegoat, Lee Harvey Oswald, now safely in custody, we can presume that the double was not supposed to be seen again in Dallas—or anywhere else. Had he not been seen, the CIA’s double-Oswald strategy in an Oak Cliff shell game might have eluded independent investigators forever. But thanks to other key witnesses who have emerged, we now have detailed evidence that the double was seen again—not just once but twice.
At 2:00 P.M., as Lee Harvey Oswald sat handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car boxed in by police officers on his way to jail, Oswald knew what final role had been chosen for him in the assassination scenario. That night, while being led through police headquarters, he would shout out to the press, “I’m just a patsy!”
Also at about 2:00 P.M., a man identified as Oswald was seen in a car eight blocks away from the Texas Theater, still very much at large and keeping a low profile. A sharp-eyed auto mechanic spotted him.
T. F. White was a sixty-year-old, longtime employee of Mack Pate’s Garage in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. While White worked on an automobile the afternoon of the assassination, he could hear police sirens screaming up and down Davis Street only a block away. He also heard radio reports describing a suspect then thought to be in Oak Cliff. The mechanic looked out the open doors of the garage. He watched as a red 1961 Falcon drove into the parking lot of the EI Chico restaurant across the street. The Falcon parked in an odd position after going a few feet into the lot. The driver remained seated in the car. White said later, “The man in the car appeared to be hiding.” White kept his eye on the man in the Falcon.
When Mack Pate returned from his lunch break a few minutes later, T. F. White pointed out to his boss the oddly parked Falcon with its waiting driver who seemed to be hiding. Pate told White to watch the car carefully, reminding him of earlier news reports they had heard about a possible assassination attempt against President Kennedy in Houston the day before involving a red Falcon.
T. F. White walked across the street to investigate. He halted about ten to fifteen yards from the car. He could see the driver was wearing a white t-shirt. The man turned toward White and looked at him full face. White stared back at him. Not wanting to provoke a possible assassin, White began a retreat to the garage. However, he paused, took a scrap of paper from his coveralls pocket, and wrote down the Texas license plate of the car: PP 4537.
That night, while T. F. White was watching television with his wife, he recognized the Dallas Police Department’s prisoner, Lee Harvey Oswald, as the man he had seen in the red Falcon in EI Chico’s parking lot. White was unfazed by what he did not yet know—that at the same time he had seen one Oswald sitting freely in the Falcon, the other Oswald was sitting handcuffed in a Dallas police car on his way to jail. Mrs. White, fearing the encompassing arms of a conspiracy, talked her husband out of reporting his information to the authorities. Thus, the Oswald sighted in the parking lot might have escaped history, but for the fact White was confronted by an alert reporter.
On December 4, 1963, Wes Wise, a Dallas newscaster whose specialty was sports, gave a luncheon talk to the Oak Cliff Exchange Club at EI Chico’s restaurant. At the urging of his listeners, he changed his topic from sports to the president’s assassination, which Wise had covered. He described to his luncheon audience how he, as a reporter, had become a part of Jack Ruby’s story. Wise’s encounter with the man he knew as a news groupie came on the grassy knoll, the day before Ruby shot Oswald. Wise had just completed a somber, day-after-the-assassination radio newscast from the site banked with wreaths.
While he sat in his car in silent reflection beside the Texas School Book Depository, he heard a familiar voice call out, “Hey, Wes!”
As Wise told the story, “I turned to see the portly figure of a man in a dark suit, half-waddling, half-trotting, as he came toward me. He was wearing a fedora-style hat which would later become familiar and famous.” Jack Ruby was making his way along the grassy knoll “from the direction of the railroad tracks,” precisely where the day before, as Ed Hoffman watched, another man in a suit had fired a rifle at the president—an hour and a half after Julia Ann Mercer saw a man, dropped off by Jack Ruby, carry a rifle up the same site.
Ruby leaned into Wise’s car window and said, his voice breaking and with tears in his eyes, “I just hope they don’t make Jackie come to Dallas for the trial. That would be terrible for that little lady.”
In retrospect, Wise wondered if Ruby was trying to set him up for a radio interview—to go on record the day before with his famous “motive” for murdering Oswald. Although Wise had no interest then in interviewing Jack Ruby, he had already just been told enough for him to be called as a witness in Ruby’s trial. He would be subpoenaed as a Ruby witness by both the prosecution and the defense. His testimony at the trial, quoting what Ruby said to him the day before Ruby murdered Oswald, would then be cited in Life magazine.
At the end of Wise’s talk to his absorbed audience at the Oak Cliff Exchange Club, Mack Pate, who had walked across the street from his garage to listen, gave the newscaster a new lead. He told Wise about his mechanic having seen Oswald. Wise asked to go immediately with Pate to speak with his employee.
As Wes Wise told me in an interview four decades later, he then “put a little selling job on Mr. White” to reveal what he had seen. Wise said to the reluctant auto mechanic, “Well, you know, we’re talking about the assassination of the president of the United States here.”
Convinced of his duty, T. F. White took Wise into EI Chico’s parking lot and walked him step by step through his “full face” encounter with Oswald. Wise realized the car had been parked at the center of Oswald’s activity in Oak Cliff that afternoon: one block from where Oswald got out of the taxi, six blocks south of his rooming house, eight blocks north of his arrest at the Texas Theater, and only five blocks from Tippit’s murder on a route in between.
White reached in his pocket and took out a scrap of paper with writing on it. He handed it to Wise.
“This is it,” he said.
Newscaster Wes Wise notified the FBI of White’s identification of Oswald in the car parked in the EI Chico lot, and cited the license plate number. FBI agent Charles T. Brown, Jr., reported from an interview with Milton Love, Dallas County Tax Office: “1963 Texas License Plate PP 4537 was issued for a 1957 Plymouth automobile in possession of Carl Amos Mather, 4309 Colgate Street, Garland, Texas.” Agent Brown then drove to that address. He reported that the 1957 Plymouth bearing license plate PP 4537 was parked in the driveway of Mather’s home in Garland, a suburb of Dallas. Thus arose the question of how a license plate for Carl Amos Mather’s Plymouth came to be seen on the Falcon in EI Chico’s parking lot, with a man in it who looked like Oswald.
The FBI had also discovered that Carl Amos Mather did high-security communications work for Collins Radio, a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. Three weeks before Kennedy’s assassination, Collins Radio had been identified on the front page of the New York Times as having just deployed a CIA raider ship on an espionage and sabotage mission against Cuba. Collins also held the government contract for installing communications towers in Vietnam. In 1971, Collins Radio would merge with another giant military contractor, Rockwell International. In November 1963, Collins was at the heart of the CIA-military-contracting business for state-of-the-art communications systems.
Carl Mather had represented Collins at Andrews Air Force Base by putting special electronics equipment in Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s Air Force Two plane. Given the authority of his CIA-linked security clearance, Carl Mather refused to speak to the FBI. The FBI instead questioned his wife, Barbara Mather, who stunned them. Her husband, she said, was a good friend of J. D. Tippit. In fact, the Mathers were such close friends of Tippit and his wife that when J. D. was murdered, Marie Tippit phoned them. According to his wife, Carl Mather left work that afternoon at 3:30 and returned home. Carl and Barbara Mather then drove to the Tippit home, where they consoled Marie Tippit on the death of her husband (killed by a man identical to the one seen a few minutes later five blocks away in a car bearing the Mathers’ license plate number).
Fifteen years after the assassination, Carl Mather did finally consent to an interview for the first time—with the House Select Committee on Assassinations, but on condition that he be granted immunity from prosecution. The electronics specialist could not explain how his car’s license number could have been seen on the Falcon with its Oswald-like driver in the El Chico lot.
The HSCA dismissed the incident as “the Wise allegation,” in which a confused auto mechanic had jotted down a coincidentally connected license plate, as “alleged” by a reporter. The odds against White having come up with the exact license plate of a CIA-connected friend of J. D. Tippit were too astronomical for comment, and were given none.
What kept “the Wise allegation” from sinking into total oblivion over the years was the persistent conscience of Wes Wise, who in 1971 was elected mayor of Dallas. During his two terms as mayor (1971-76), Wise guided Dallas out from under the cloud of the assassination and at the same time saved the Texas School Book Depository from imminent destruction, preserving it for further research into the president’s murder.
In the fall of 2005, I interviewed Wes Wise, who recalled vividly T. F. White’s description of his confrontation with a man looking like Oswald in the El Chico parking lot. Wise said he was so struck by the incident that he returned to the El Chico lot on a November 22 afternoon years later to reenact the scene with similar lighting and a friend sitting in an identically parked car. Standing on the spot where T. F. White had and with the same degree of afternoon sunlight, Wise confirmed that one could easily recognize a driver’s features from a “full face” look at that distance, irrespective of whether the car’s window was up or down.
The possible significance of what he had learned stayed with Wise during his years as a reporter and as Dallas mayor, in spite of its repeated dismissal by federal agencies. Knowing the value of evidence, Mayor Wise preserved not only the Texas School Book Depository but also the December 4, 1963, luncheon invitation on which he had immediately written down T. F. White’s identification of the license plate on the Oswald car. Producing it from his files during our interview, Wise read to me over the phone T. F. White’s exact identification of the license plate, as the auto mechanic had shown it to the reporter on the scrap of paper taken from his coveralls pocket, and as Wise had then copied it down on his luncheon invitation: “PP 4537.”
At the end of our conversation, Mayor Wise reflected for a moment on the question posed by Lee Harvey Oswald’s presence elsewhere at the same time as T. F. White saw him in El Chico’s parking lot (in a car whose license plate could now be traced, thanks to the scrupulous note-taking of White and Wise, to the employee of a major CIA contractor).
“Well,” he said, “You’re aware of the idea of two Oswalds, I guess?”