The New Orleans connection to JFK’s assassination

Updated: Nov. 20, 2019 at 10:30 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WALA) - Possibly the strongest connection to the John F. Kennedy assassination lies deep in the lesser known history of the Crescent City: New Orleans. A city rich in culture, cuisine and, conspiracy?

It’s a question that’s been asked for more than years from the bayous to Bourbon Street, because the accused assassin was a native son.

University of New Orleans history professor, John Fitzmorris III said, “I think it’s an unfortunate connection to New Orleans.”

Lee Harvey Oswald was born in New Orleans in 1939. After a stint in the Marine Corps, and defection to Russia, Oswald came home. He lived on Magazine Street, in the corner of a building that now houses a law firm.

“He was described early on and especially by his Marine Corps drill instructors as being something of a loner and so he didn’t really have a place that he could say was his own in New Orleans,” Fitzmorris III said.

But, according to biographers, Oswald wanted to be famous and remembered by history.

Tulane professor Geoff Dancy who teaches a class on conspiracy theorizing said, “Oswald was in and out of New Orleans as a pro-Castro sympathizer that handed out propaganda in favor of Cuba and the USSR but he also infiltrated an anti-Castro group as a spy in New Orleans.”

On Canal Street, the busiest street in New Orleans, Oswald was seen multiple times handing out fair play for Cuba leaflets.

Did a building link Oswald to a conspiracy? Stamped on the bottom of those leaflets he was passing out, an address, 544 camp street, where the old Newman building used to be. What’s interesting about that address, Guy Bannister an ex-FBI agent had his office at the same building, under a different address.

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison found the possible connection between Oswald and Bannister intriguing. In 1967, Garrison opened his own investigation, and kept it secret from the public. He first zeroed in on a strange figure named David Ferrie.

Dancy said, “He definitely had connections to mafia and was known to fly drugs and drug runners over the border into central America so this is a person that was certainly a concern but whether he was part of the plan, a Castro led plan even, to assassinate the president is something that went with him to the grave. I don’t think we’ll ever know.”

Ferrie died of brain aneurysm not long after he was interviewed by Garrison.

The DA then turned his attention to the man who would ultimately stand trial, Clay Shaw.

Shaw lived in this Creole cottage in New Orleans, founding the International Trade Mart on Canal Street. The old building was destroyed but a new one still stands today.

Dancy said, “There’s a lot of backstory that goes into this. Garrison was actually reprimanded by Clay Shaw at Brennan’s one time because Garrison had gotten drunk and was slapping his wife around and Clay Shaw intervened and he later, when reading the Warren Commission report, he saw that there was a person named Clay Bertrund and he said ‘Oh, Clay? Clay? it must be Clay Shaw.”

50 years ago at the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Clay Shaw would be the only person to stand trial for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Garrison alleged he, along with Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie plotted to kill the president.”

Dancy said, “He wasn’t guilty of these crimes and a jury said so after only 50 mins of deliberation in a six week, circus-like trial.

Garrison had attributed a motive of homosexual thrill killing to Clay Shaw and so all that combined left an imprint on him that he couldn’t shake off and so it was a real stain on his life and he ended up dying broke and without very many friends and that’s something that usually gets lost in this story. We think about,what was garrison like, was it true what he did? He ruined a man’s life for no reason and he was wrong about him.”

Shaw died of lung cancer a few years after his not guilty verdict.

John Fitzmorris Jr. is a retired attorney who worked under Garrison a few years after the Shaw trial. He says there really was division within the district attorney’s office over it.

Fitzmorris Jr. said, “A lot of people still believe him (Garrison). There are a lot of people I still run into that say ‘He had something. He really had something’. Now I’ve read, now this is all second hand, I have read everything there is to read about that assassination and he wasn’t on to anything. I don’t know where he was going with that.”

Garrison would lose his job at the DA’s office, but didn’t ruin his career. He served out the rest of it as a judge in the 4th district.

Whether it’s in the stories tour guides share with visitors on Canal Street, or in the comment section of various YouTube videos, people still talk of conspiracy. A plot carried out in Dallas, that was birthed in New Orleans.

“The best part about a conspiracy theory is no one is ever going to agree on it so you’ll always keep talking about it,” Fitzmorris III said.

Garrison passed away in 1992. While working on this story, FOX10 News Investigates reached out to his children, but they did not respond.