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Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Friday, November 01, 2019

JFK / November 2019

💔  LEJ's  Louisiana,

Yours Truly in a Swamp

a monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana

 E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org
Archives: www.LEJ.org   
November 2019

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1963 JFK memento                    Photo credit LEJ.org

J. F. K.,


22 November 1963

by Leonard Earl Johnson

When it happened I was living in Springfield, the Prairie State Capitol of Illinois.  I was twenty years old, and two-hundred-and-twenty miles north of home and school.  
Illinois Capitol, Springfield 
courtesy Illinois Secretary of State

I had flunked college and reluctantly found work with the Illinois Secretary of State.  A glamorous job for a boy from the Shawnee National Forest, in the back hills of the Illinois Ozarks ~ where I longed to be.

My Village of Ullin, population 800, is below the Mason-Dixon Line, and culturally more akin to neighboring Southern states of Kentucky and Tennessee, than Illinois.   It is in fact seventy-some miles closer to Memphis than Springfield.

Established with the coming of the rail roads, West.  Settled by mostly northern Europeans.  It was a shipping link connecting limestone mines at Ullin to markets from Chicago to New Orleans and beyond.  Since before the Civil War. 

Ullin prospered under the political sunshine of Abraham Lincoln and the grim shadow of nearby Tennessean, Nathan Bedford Forest, a reckless philosopher warrior most exemplified today in Steve Bannon.  If you can imagine Bannon slim and inside a movable body, swinging a bloody machete at helpless folks ~ then you can imagine Lieutenant General Forest, and the massacre at Fort Pillow (link in the Lagniappe Section of this column). 

C. S. A. Lieutenant General Insignia 

I had been exiled to labor midst Republican cronies of my Father at the State Capitol as punishment for failing grades at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.  College failure has taken me far, L. A. Norma likes to tell our friends.

I spent too much time liberating the downtrodden ~ in coffee shop and barroom bloviations ~ to notice my Father's concern.  Then, pow, one day I'm in Prairie cold Springfield with folks who may not know Annabel Lee from Hamlet but could speak political poetry like the Rosetta Stone's scribe and mason combined.   

My Father saw it befitting my civil rights work that I head to Springfield, "Where the tax man's bagman takes all that Gott damn tax money!"  

For it is true, all over the World, citizens live better under the crooked staff  (church and state's).  And that is where the taxman delivers his harvest.  Where politicians and priests have gone throughout history to get paid.  Along with the contractors who build their roads and airports, their camp followers, and their Sons and Daughters.

"So, it was time to put the Son on the state payroll?" L. A. Norma said.  Anyone seeking work ~ from king to janitor ~ is after that tax money.  "In one form or the other," L. A. Norma said through her fog of Camel Cigarette smoke.

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In the square around Illinois' Victorian Capitol stands a bigger than life statue of Lincoln.  I went there on 22 November 1963, when I heard the news from Dallas.  The inscription on its base is from Lincoln's farewell address, departing Springfield for Washington.  It reads:

 "I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return..."

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Cabildo, Jackson Square, New Orleans     /     photo credit: Mark Tullos

That was fifty-six years ago this month.  I did then, but don't any longer, believe the party line on Kennedy's murder, but I haven't more than a clue what happened.  I have looked at it from a hundred different angles, and it did not happen as told by the Warren Commission ~ and that is the clue. 

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This I do know first hand
In New Orleans, where many participants in the JFK drama originated ~ decades after the assassination ~ at the Old U. S. Mint, the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992's traveling circus of disclosure-hearings convened. 

Prompted, said the good government legislators, by Oliver Stone's movie, JFK, released the year before. 

At the Old U. S. Mint Hearings, one day, I sat next to Harry Connick, Sr., Orleans Parish District Attorney (and Father of the musician).  Connick stood, took the witness chair and testified at this latest "full disclosure hearing."  He testified as to the wicked work of his predecessor, Jim Garrison, NOLa D. A., at the time of the murder.  

Later, Jim Garrison authored ON THE TRAIL OF THE ASSASSINS, inspiration for Stone's movie; and got himself elected Appellate Court judge.  He retired from the office at age 70 and died that same year.  In the film, by the way, Jim Garrison plays his arch villain in the real drama, Earl Warren.  There will always be irony in New Orleans, oui?

Connick testified that Garrison burned the District Attorney's JFK investigation files ~ and he had not ought to ~ because they belonged to the holy people of New Orleans, if not the whole wide holy World.  

The World Wide Web had not yet come to pass, L. A. Norma pointed out, "Or Connick would have planted a righteous flag on its e-turf, too!"

It turned out Garrison did not burn the files.  The subject surfaced in Connick's testimony at the Old Mint; and again in a later tv-news report in Connick's own office.  
WDSU-tv reporter, Richard Angelico captured Connick on film, after the Old Mint hearings, rolling his eyes for heavenly guidance and retelling his well dressed disinformation about evil Jim Garrison and the missing files.

Like Julia Street 
chef Emeril Lagasse, "BAM!," Angelico pulled an affidavit from his coat pocket and read a retired Connick office worker's testimony that Harry Connick had ordered him to burn the files. 

Praise the Lord, the worker, Gary Raymond, did not follow those orders, and kept the files in his car's trunk all the following years.  

Just think, for the next twenty-some years, stopped at an intersection in Big Swamp City, you might have been sitting next to an old car carrying Jim Garrison's JFK files.  Ultimately Raymond was convicted of violation of grand jury secrecy laws and sentenced to six months.  Becoming the only conviction in the Warren Commision's Kennedy Assassination probe.

Angelico turned the files over to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.  They are said to contain nothing of significance, though they had led to the only charge brought in the murder of the President of the United States.  Discounting, of course, Connick's office worker, who, I believe did not serve time.  

"There will always be a Washington, D. C., too!" Norma says, from within her bubble of Camel smoke.  

 Connick did an heroic backstroke before tv-reporter Richard Angelico's lens ~ sending the bar where I was watching into blubbery blustery blasts of merriment.  

Connick ended the interview with the finely honed belly-flop of: "So what if I did? We needed the space," as we all hooted and slapped the bar from one end to the other!

So much for guardian of the sanctified City's property, mon bon ami, Harry!?  

There will all ways be a New Orleans!  
Even if we go underwater and never come out again.

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Lagniappe du jour

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Richard Angelico
Richard Angelico,
New Orleans WDSU-tv reporter 
~ Dave Walker, NOLa.com

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"New Twist in ‘JFK’ Case: Investigator Kept Grand Jury Records" 

 Associated Press, by ALAN SAYRE February 14, 1996

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President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992  
~ Wikipedia
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Massacre at Fort Pillow

~ Wikipedia


 Your comments or corrections are welcome 

Copyright2019, Leonard Earl Johnson

All Rights Reserved

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LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
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The monthly column is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
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