Jim Garrison


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Jim Garrison

Jim Garrison stubbornly maintained that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK.

Three days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison arrested David Ferrie as a possible associate of the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Word had reached Garrison that the FBI had found Ferrie’s library card in Oswald’s wallet. Law-enforcement officers in New Orleans were quite familiar with the mysterious Ferrie and suspected him of having several links to the city’s crime scene. Garrison turned the case over to the FBI, and on December 6, 1963, two weeks after the assassination, Director J. Edgar Hoover abruptly closed the investigation of David Ferrie.

Born Earling Carothers Garrison in Denison, Iowa, in 1921, Jim was still a child when his family moved to New Orleans. He joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the field artillery in 1942. He received tactical flight training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and served during World War II as a pilot in France and Germany. After the war, Garrison earned bachelor of laws and master of civil laws degrees at Tulane Law School. Shortly after graduation he joined the FBI as a special agent, serving in the Seattle and Tacoma region. Soon dissatisfied with his assignment of investigating the loyalties and associations of applicants for defense plant employment, Garrison returned to New Orleans and accepted the post of assistant district attorney in 1954. After working as a trial lawyer from 1958 to 1961, he won the office of district attorney of New Orleans in a runoff in 1962.

Some time after the findings of the Warren Commission were released in September 1964, Louisiana senator Russell Long confided in Garrison that he could not accept the commission’s findings that Oswald had acted alone, that there was no connection between Jack Ruby and Oswald, and that there was no conspiracy of any kind. In the fall of 1966 Garrison began an independent inquiry based on the assumption that the assassination of Kennedy had been the result of a conspiracy.

When Garrison announced in February 1967 that one of his chief suspects was David Ferrie, he placed Ferrie in protective custody. Soon thereafter Garrison made the connections among Ferrie, Oswald, former FBI agent Guy Banister, and Clay Shaw, the director of the New Orleans International Trade Mart, who allegedly had links to the CIA. On February 22 Ferrie was found dead in his apartment with two strange typed messages that appeared to be suicide notes. The New Orleans coroner officially ruled Ferrie’s death due to cerebral hemorrhage.

In March 1967 Garrison arrested and charged Clay Shaw with complicity in the assassination of President Kennedy. It took exactly two years for Garrison to shepherd the case against Shaw through an exhausting legal marathon of motions, continuances, and appeals—but it took a jury less than an hour to acquit Shaw of all charges.

Garrison retained the office of district attorney of New Orleans until 1973. He wrote a number of books, including A Heritage of Stone, The Star-Spangled Contract, and On the Trail of the Assassins, which was used as the basis for the Oliver Stone motion picture JFK. From 1978 to 1988, Garrison was judge of the Court of Appeals in New Orleans. He died on October 21, 1992.