In 1998, the late JFK researcher Jay Harrison had a brainstorm. It was simple in concept. He would secure a fingerprint impression left unidentified by the Warren Commission from one of the boxes on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. He would then secure the fingerprints of Malcolm Wallace, the man accused by ex-con Billy Sol Estes of being a hit man for Lyndon Johnson. Estes had accused Wallace of killing John Kennedy.
Once Harrison had these two fingerprint samples, he would then enlist a fingerprint analyst to examine them. If it was Wallace’s print on the box, then one could safely assume that he was on the sixth floor either during, or immediately after, the Kennedy assassination. This would indicate that somehow Johnson was involved with the JFK hit; or else why would Wallace be there?
As many have noted, it was really Estes who had drawn the crime in this manner, i.e., with Johnson as the prime mover and Malcolm Wallace as the assassin, or chief of the hit team. He had done the first part—LBJ as the prime force behind the JFK hit—in an aside to a man named Clint Peoples, a Texas lawman who had escorted him off to jail. (Joan Mellen, Faustian Bargains, p. 230) The second part—Wallace as assassin—was done years later, when Estes got out of jail and testified before a grand jury. That grand jury had been called to reopen the 1961 murder of another Texas law man, Henry Marshall. Marshall was investigating some of Billy Sol’s crimes in Texas. Right before the case was about to explode, Marshall was murdered by rifle fire. He had been shot multiple times. Incredibly, the local sheriff ruled the death a suicide. In 1984, Estes got out of prison, after his second stay there. He appeared before the Marshall grand jury. He implicated Malcolm Wallace as the killer of Henry Marshall. Wallace had done this at the behest of Vice President Lyndon Johnson. For whom he had also killed President Kennedy.
If Harrison’s concept turned out to be true, then it would give new credibility to the accusations of Billy Sol Estes, who many observers had severe doubts about. Estes had promised things like tape recordings and phone records to bolster his case, but he had never produced these exhibits, even when he was asked for them by Stephen Trott of the Justice Department.
Harrison enlisted two fingerprint analysts to confirm or deny that the prints matched. One was Nathan Darby; the other was Harold Hoffmeister. Darby went first. After examining the prints he decided they matched at 14 points of identification. Which would be good enough for a criminal legal action. Hoffmeister then said he agreed. But a day later, he recanted. He said that after doing a re-examination, he felt that since both men worked with photocopies, the identification points were not adduced in a reliable manner. (Mellen, Faustian Bargains, p. 256) As we shall see, Hoffmeister’s complaint was a legitimate one. But Harrison felt that he had recanted out of fear, since he had now found out who the print examination involved.
So Harrison went ahead. A press conference was called. Darby’s work was submitted to the homicide division of the Dallas Police Department and to the FBI. (ibid) The Bureau ended up disagreeing with Darby, but they did not submit any specific critique of his work. Harrison and his coterie therefore continued along in their mini campaign about Johnson and Wallace killing Kennedy.
And it caught on. In fact, it caught fire in 2003 for the fortieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. In that year, a man named Barr McClellan wrote a book—this reviewer would call it a novel—about the same topic. Blood, Money and Power said Johnson had organized the JFK assassination and Malcolm Wallace was the chief of the hit team. McClellan claimed inside knowledge from his work for a law firm that handled some of Johnson’s affairs in Texas. McClellan’s book sold well, and it featured an appendix with the alleged Harrison/Darby fingerprint match. In fact, Harrison had helped McClellan on his book—although, to be fair to Jay, he did not at all approve of the final draft of the volume. (ibid, p. 265)
During the fortieth anniversary media extravaganza, McClellan got more television and radio time than any other conspiracy advocate. This was topped off by the ever-gullible documentary producer Nigel Turner. The laughably uncritical Turner made McClellan the main talking head on his pretentiously entitled program The Guilty Men. Needless to say, the Austin conspiracy demagogue Alex Jones also bought into McClellan.
But that was not all. The Harrison/Darby cooperation now seemed to spawn a bevy of books that, retroactively, endorsed the Billy Sol Estes paradigm of Johnson/Wallace. Among others, these included later editions of The Men on the Sixth Floor by Glenn Sample and Mark Collom, LBJ: Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination by Philip Nelson, and Roger Stone’s The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ. These books all endorsed, to various degrees, the Harrison/Darby print analysis.
But the longer the parade marched on, the odder a certain aspect of this acceptance began to appear. First, no one had done an independent analysis of the print match. After all, Hoffmeister had recanted based upon the quality of the materials he and Darby had to work with. Apparently this did not mean much to the leaping exegetes ready to board the ”LBJ did it” train. Second, no one worked on a real biography of Malcolm Wallace. Was he known as a professional killer? Did he have a close association with the people Estes said he did: like LBJ’s factotum in Texas Cliff Carter, Estes himself, and Johnson? Was he politically committed to everything JFK was against? If not, was there any way to see if he had monetarily profited from all the murders that Estes said he had performed for LBJ? And perhaps the most important evidentiary point of all: Was there any evidence that Wallace was elsewhere on the days that both Marshall and Kennedy were murdered?
Incredibly, no one seriously posed these questions for well over a decade. Innocent outsiders who listened to the LBJ cacophony were, understandably, impressed: with all that noise emanating from so many bongo drums, there had to be a real signal in there somewhere; it couldn’t all be much ado about nothing. Could it?
This reviewer, among several others, always had some reservations about the Harrison/Darby identification. One being: Why would Johnson use someone who was—however tenuously—associated with him in the assassination? Another was: If Johnson and Wallace decided to go ahead and kill Kennedy anyway, would not a professional hit man use gloves to make sure he left no fingerprints behind?
Joan Mellen decided to take the issue the proverbial whole nine yards. In 2013 I heard her speaking about the subject of the LBJ/Wallace nexus at the Cyril Wecht conference in Pittsburgh. To her, there was something suspicious about the entire enterprise. Why had so many people mindlessly enlisted in the ranks without asking any of the skeptical questions mentioned above, or making any serious attempt to cross check the Harrison/Darby work? Since it appeared no one else was going to do it, she did.
The result of her years of work is a book called Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas. The book has several notable achievements. First, the portrait of Lyndon Johnson she draws is, quite simply, indelible. It is so unremitting that, by the end of the book, it had me saying to myself: enough already. For, as I will explain, I think she might have overdone it. Secondly, for the first time, we actually get a biography of Malcolm Wallace. He is not a cipher anymore. Third, in the supporting cast, we get a full look at the character of wheeler-dealer Billy Sol Estes—and to a lesser extent Bobby Baker. And finally, Mellen has enlisted a professional reassessment of the Harrison/Darby fingerprint identification. It is unfortunate that it took nearly 20 years for this to occur. But that says something about the JFK critical field, does it not?
This reviewer has read several biographies of Lyndon Johnson. But few, if any, go as far in their indictment of his character and crimes as Mellen does. Mellen begins at a familiar point: Johnson going to Washington in 1931 as secretary to congressman Dick Kleberg. (Mellen, p. 5) Kleberg was part of the King Ranch clan, so Johnson was not exactly siding with the little guy during the Great Depression. But once Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated, Johnson enlisted in the ranks of the New Deal. And he insisted that Kleberg vote for the New Deal programs he was personally against.
In 1935, Johnson left Kleberg’s office to take a position he had been offered in Roosevelt’s National Youth Administration. (ibid, p. 6) Then in 1937, Johnson ran for Congress in an open seat election. He won and maneuvered to be appointed to the House Naval Affairs Committee. It is at this point that the young Johnson began his close association with the infamous construction company Brown and Root.
Founded in Texas in 1919 by Herman Brown and Daniel Root, when the latter died, it came under the control of the Brown brothers, Herman and George. Once Johnson was in Congress, he began a quid pro quo program with the brothers. He would steer lucrative federal contracts their way, and benefit in turn from large cash contributions made to his political campaigns. By the end of World War II, Brown and Root had done over 300 million dollars worth of work for the Navy. (p. 9) In return, the brothers contributed over 100,000 dollars to Johnson’s 1941 Senate campaign, which he narrowly lost, even though he spent $750, 000 total, the equivalent of over $12 million today. And the population of the state at that time was slightly more than six million.
In 1941, Johnson purchased KTBC radio in Austin for seventeen thousand dollars, or well over a quarter of a million today. (Mellen, pp. 11-12) This was done in his wife Lady Bird’s name, and allegedly with her money. But Mellen unearthed a long buried report by Life magazine reporter Holland McCombs. His work was done during the Johnson/Goldwater campaign of 1964. McCombs went to Texas and did some on-the-ground sleuthing. According to his reports, Lady Bird did not have that kind of money back then either. The implication being that the Brown brothers facilitated the purchase as a payoff to their man LBJ. After an appeal to the FCC, the station was allowed to raise its wattage, alter its frequency, and broadcast 24 hours. This greatly increased its profit margins and it later became a CBS affiliate. That purchase was the beginning of the Johnson media kingdom.
This is all a prelude to the infamous Senate election of 1948, one which Johnson and his backers were determined not to lose. Johnson had previously helped George Parr, a Texas political chief from the southern end of the state, gain a pardon on a tax evasion charge. (ibid, p. 47) He also helped Parr gain revenge on Dick Kleberg who had resisted the pardon. LBJ recruited a candidate to run against Kleberg, and Johnson’s candidate won. Along with his continued illicit favors for Brown and Root, this put him in a good position for the 1948 senatorial race. When it was all over, Herman Brown had invested a half million to get Johnson elected to the Senate. (ibid, p. 53)
The problem was that his opponent, Governor Coke Stevenson, was quite formidable. Stevenson had been a long term Speaker of the Texas Assembly, then Lt. Governor, and then a two-term governor. In fact, Parr had helped Stevenson in previous elections steal hundreds, if not thousands, of votes in his tri-county area. (ibid, p. 51) But Parr was quite appreciative to LBJ about his pardon. He agreed to do all he could to help him win this election. (ibid, p. 50) Did he ever.
A lot was at stake. Whoever won the Democratic primary was pretty much guaranteed to win the seat in Washington since, at that time, the Republican party was pretty weak in Texas. When the first tallies came in, Stevenson was winning by about 20,000 votes. But when San Antonio came in, Stevenson’ s lead was cut in half. And as the Parr-controlled counties in the south came in, Stevenson’s lead was eroded further. As Mellen notes, Duval County, under Parr control, cast well over four thousand votes. Surprisingly, only forty were for Stevenson. (p. 51) LBJ went on the radio and declared himself the victor, even though, officially, Stevenson was still in the lead by over a hundred votes.
Then came Precinct 13 in Jim Wells County, also under Parr control. Officially only six hundred votes were cast. Yet in the first tally, Johnson got over seven hundred votes. Later, in an amended tally, Johnson got over nine hundred votes, wiping out Stevenson who got less than a hundred. (Mellen, p. 51) Johnson won the state primary by 87 votes.
It turned out, of course, that Parr had stacked the vote with people who had not voted. Stevenson tried to fight back. But at a later meeting of the executive committee of the Democratic Party, he narrowly—by one vote—lost a motion to file an official protest. A federal district judge then ordered Johnson’s name off the ballot pending an inquiry. But Johnson’s legal crony, Abe Fortas, got Hugo Black of the Supreme Court to void the order. (ibid, p. 55)
In the general election, Johnson crushed his GOP opponent by a margin of 2-1. In rather short order, LBJ rose to become one of the most powerful Senate majority leaders in history. It was from that position that he became a player on the national political stage.
Malcolm Everett Wallace was born in 1921 in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. He had five siblings. The family moved to Dallas in 1924. Wallace was a participant in many extracurricular activities in high school. He was the vice-president of his class and played quarterback on the football team. (ibid, p. 15)
In 1939, he joined the Marines. But he was forced to leave after ten months due to a serious back injury. (p. 17) When he tried to reenlist, he was turned down. He ended up at the University of Texas in 1941. To say he was active in college life does not do him justice. Among a few other groups, he joined the debate club and worked on the yearbook. He also was a member of the student assembly. (p. 18)
It was in Austin where he met his first, and most long lasting, romantic interest. Her name was Nora Ann Carroll. They exchanged Christmas gifts and letters. He even wrote her poems. This was the beginning of a relationship that would last, on and off, for about twenty years. (p. 23)
Wallace ended up being president of his class at Texas. He seems to have been quite liberal in his orientation. He wanted the voting age lowered to 18—many years before the Vietnam War. And he was all for using the power of the government to economically ease the lives of those in poverty. He was also friendly with Black Americans. (On his mother’s side, Wallace was one fourth Cherokee Indian.)
Wallace was a strong president. He insisted on meeting with the university administrators about matters that concerned him and his constituents. (p. 26) And he was also interested in liberal candidates in national politics. For instance, he was quite agitated when Henry Wallace was dropped from the Democratic national ticket in 1944. But Malcolm voted for him in 1948 for president. (p. 76)
The problem Wallace had at Texas was that the controlling board of the university , the regents, was McCarthyite before the rise of Senator Joe McCarthy. They asked the university president, Homer Rainey, to remove three economics professors because they were too pro-labor. Rainey refused. They were removed anyway. (See pp. 29-30) Rainey wanted to start a school of social work. This was turned down. After two more confrontations, Rainey was asked to resign. Rainey refused. Both the faculty and class president Malcolm Wallace backed him. Wallace hitchhiked to Houston to appear before the Board of Regents. He spoke for 45 minutes. Rainey was removed anyway. Wallace then organized a mass demonstration. He led a march of 4000 students to the state capitol building. Governor Stevenson met with him while the crowd waited outside. (p. 33) But the regents refused to meet with him. Wallace then led an even larger demonstration, this time with 8,000 students—which was over 90% of the student body. This failed also. So Wallace grabbed the microphone at halftime of a Texas/SMU football game to promote his cause.
Wallace’s extraordinary efforts in the Rainey case actually got him some national exposure in the Chicago Sun. (p. 38) It also earned him an FBI investigation. But it was all for naught. Rainey did not return.
Wallace temporarily left Texas after the Rainey affair. He went to New York City and attended Columbia and the New School for Social Research. He earned a degree in economics from the latter. (Mellen, p. 71) Wallace returned to Texas to work in Rainey’s unsuccessful bid for governor. In 1947, Wallace gained a second degree from UT in business. That same year, Wallace married a woman named Mary Andre Dubose Barton. (Who will be called Andre from here on.) Nora had warned him against marrying. She felt he had done so simply because she had married someone else. (ibid, p. 74) Nora turned out to be right. To say the least, Andre caused Malcolm Wallace a lot of problems.
It turned out that Andre had an alcohol problem, and was bisexual. When Wallace went to Columbia to pursue an instructor’s position, Andre was rumored to have had a lesbian affair. So he returned to Texas and the couple had a child, named Michael. This was unfortunate for Malcolm Wallace since, by all reports, he was quite a good instructor. (p. 75)
In 1948, Wallace met Cliff Carter. In return for working in Johnson’s campaign, Carter got him a job in the Agriculture Department. Wallace moved to Arlington, Virginia where his wife joined him. Wallace published three academic papers in the early fifties. Andre decided to return to Austin. It was at this time that she took up with a former actor and nine hole golf course owner named John Kinser. (p. 87)
Wallace returned to Texas and heard about the Kinser/Andre association. This was further complicated by both men’s relationship with Josefa Johnson, the sister of Senator Johnson. Wallace had been invited to a gathering at the Johnson residence while he lived in Arlington. He briefly met the Johnsons—and presumably Josefa—but he always told his children and friends that he actually talked more with Lady Bird than he did with the senator. (See p. 237)
Horace Busby, a Johnson lackey, told several writers that Wallace had some kind of dalliance with Josefa. But as Mellen points out, Busby seems to have had it in for Wallace. During the FBI inquiry for his Agriculture Department job, Busby was the only source that gave him a negative evaluation. (p. 77) Kinser, a playboy type, was indeed having some kind of an affair with Josefa. He was trying to charm her so he could get a government loan to expand his golf course. (p. 83)
Wallace felt that Kinser had ruined his wife’s chances for her recovery from her alcohol problem. On October 22, 1951 he went to Kinser’s golf course and shot him. Witnesses identified his license plate and he was pulled over. The paraffin test determined he had fired a gun. (p. 88) Nora’s brother, Bill Carroll, recruited one Polk Shelton to defend her sister’s former boyfriend. Shelton brought in his friend and colleague John Cofer. (p. 96)
One of the most interesting parts of the book is Mellen’s explication of how Malcolm Wallace ended up walking away from the resultant murder charge. It was not through any court room pyrotechnics by Johnson’s pal Cofer. It was through the maneuvering of Shelton with a jury ringer by the name of Deckerd Johnson. To start the trial, Cofer moved for a dismissal on technical and procedural grounds. This was declined by the judge. But then Shelton moved for a suspended sentence based on the fact that Wallace had no prior criminal record. This was also declined, but it was in the record. (p. 99)
Johnson was from a small Texas town which contained a few of Mac Wallace’s relatives. During jury selection, Wallace phoned his uncle who lived in that town. The uncle called a man named Gus Lanier. Lanier was an attorney who also was Johnson’s first cousin. Lanier then went down to the court and sat at the defense table for a few days. He made sure that Johnson saw him shaking hands with Wallace. (ibid) Johnson did well for his friends and relatives. He told his fellow jurors that if it was not a unanimous verdict, Wallace would not be retried. As jury foreman this carried some weight. But it was a false statement that the jurors mistakenly believed. With the first part of his secret agenda achieved, Johnson now went along with the guilty verdict phase of determinations. But then Johnson, in agreement with Polk Shelton, demanded a suspended sentence. The others disagreed and wished to send Wallace to prison for a 10-20 year term. But Johnson threatened them by saying if they did not come back with the suspended sentence, he would change his previous vote, letting Wallace walk without a guilty verdict or any sentence at all. Johnson’s maneuverings worked. And this is why the Kinser jury did what it did. (pp. 103-04)
When Lyndon Johnson got to the Senate he continued his old vices. He developed a close working relationship with the secretary to the majority leader, Bobby Baker. Baker was, by his own admission, a professional wheeler-dealer. He had no problem manipulating votes in the Senate for future payoffs, outright bribes, and using his position to advance his private business interests. Baker and Johnson were close for several years. But when Baker’s illicit activities caught up with him, Johnson denied any such relationship.
Baker’s career began its collapse with a lawsuit by one Ralph Hill. Hill was a business partner of Baker in a vending machine enterprise. Baker demanded high kickbacks with the promise of future defense contracts. When the contracts did not appear, Hill threatened to file a lawsuit. Baker then made some ominous remarks about Hill’s future health. In the fall of 1963, Hill filed the action anyway. (p. 158) This opened up the flood gates. Shortly thereafter, in early November, Life magazine published a cover story exploring Baker’s activities. This led Don Reynolds, an insurance salesman, to come forward. He said that through Baker, he sold LBJ and his wife two large insurance policies. But then Johnson had requested a gift of an expensive stereo system as a reward for the sale. This now brought Johnson into the Baker scandals. (p. 161) But, by this time, Baker had already stepped down from his position. This took some steam out of the Senate inquiry, which was not really zealous to begin with, since many senators were associated with Baker’s rackets.
Then there was Billy Sol Estes. Estes was a large contributor to Johnson’s Texas campaigns and the 1960 Kennedy/Johnson ticket. To say that Estes was a con man and fraudster does not really describe the nature and scope of the man’s swindles. He first specialized in cotton allotments. He convinced farmers who had their land taken away by eminent domain to purchase land for cotton from him. He would then lease it back. Once, a year later, when the first payment was due, by pre-arrangement, the farmer would default. In other words, Estes had purchased the allotment through lease fees. But since the transaction was not a genuine sale, the deal was illegal. He took the money from this fraud to build another fraud. This was in the anhydrous ammonia business—fertilizer. He sold mortgages on nonexistent fertilizer tanks by convincing farmers to buy them sight unseen. He would then lease them from the buyer for the same amount as the mortgage payment. He used these phony mortgages to get large bank loans. The aim was to corner the anhydrous ammonia business. As many have said, approximately 80% of the fertilizer warehouses were empty.
The problem with the schemes was that, in his attempt to corner the fertilizer market, Estes was underselling the product so low that he was losing millions in the process. Not even his cotton allotment scam could bail him out. (Mellen, p. 140) The lending companies grew suspicious. They began to suspect the fertilizer warehouses were non-existent. On top of that, in 1961, even though he said he was worth millions, Estes had paid no income tax in four years. (ibid, p. 141) As with Baker, an unhappy business partner, Harold Orr, was the first to expose Estes. He declared that there was no fertilizer in those warehouses.
A local agriculture official, Henry Marshall, also grew suspicious of Estes’s scams, especially the cotton allotment swindles. He theorized that Estes was paying farmers a pittance for cotton allotments he could then use to grow abundant amounts of cotton. Which tripled the value of the land. He had been persuaded by Cliff Carter to go along with over a hundred of these deals. But he now announced that he would not do it again, unless both the buyer and seller appeared before him with all the papers in place. (p. 141) Estes had bribed other Agriculture officials. But Marshall was determined. Appreciating Estes’ campaign contributions, Carter and Johnson tried to influence Marshall with a promotion. It did not take. In early June of 1961, Marshall arranged a meeting with Attorney General Robert Kennedy on June 5, 1961. He would present his evidence, and Kennedy would now indict Estes and end his scams. (p. 143) The meeting never took place as Marshall was murdered on Saturday June 3rd. Although there were indications of attempted carbon monoxide poisoning, the victim died of six gunshot wounds from his own bolt action rifle. The local sheriff, Howard Stegall, proclaimed the case a suicide. Even more surprising, he got the local coroner to go along with it.
But the stench was too strong. Estes was ready to fall anyway. In 1962, a local biweekly newspaper, the Pecos Independent, now began a series of reports on Estes. These exposed both the cotton allotment and fertilizer scandals. Johnson was upset since he understood that Bobby Kennedy could use this and the Baker scandal to have his brother remove him from the ticket in 1964. (p. 147) LBJ had J. Edgar Hoover intervene to have the author of the articles removed from the story. But the owner of the newspaper persisted in his efforts. He forwarded this information about the fertilizer scam to the FBI through the Justice Department. Bobby Kennedy now descended on Estes with 75 agents, including 16 auditors and IRS agents. It was the beginning of the end for Billy Sol. (ibid)
Estes was convicted in both state and federal courts. He exhausted his appeals in 1965. He then went to prison and was paroled in 1971. In 1979, he was convicted of tax fraud and went to prison for four more years. As many authors have noted, including Mellen, Estes always blamed Johnson for his legal problems. He somehow expected LBJ to help save him, though it is difficult to see how that could have happened after the newspaper series was published and then sent to Washington. To put it mildly, Johnson had very little, if any, influence with Bobby Kennedy. Once the publisher sent the article to Washington, Estes was doomed—and LBJ could not save him. Yet, irrationally, Estes seemed to think that he could. He became obsessed with this idea, and as Mellen shows in an interview, Estes became quite embittered toward Johnson. It was a bitterness that never left him. (See pp. 242-43)
And this is how the lives of Mac Wallace and Estes intersected—posthumously. After the Kinser trial, Wallace sued for divorce from Andre, specifically citing her alcoholism. (p. 107) The judge must have believed him since he got custody of the two children, Michael and Meredithe. He then went to work as a personnel manager in 1952 for Jonco Aircraft in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Evidently, Wallace did not want his kids to grow up without a mother. He and Andre remarried and lived together in Oklahoma.
Two years later, the family moved back to Texas and Wallace went to work for another defense plant called TEMCO. This company was founded by D. H Byrd, a longtime friend and backer of Johnson. Mellen notes that there is no direct evidence that Johnson intervened to get Wallace his position there. But there is circumstantial evidence, since Johnson appears to have secured his secretary’s father a job with TEMCO.
In 1960, Andre filed for divorce again. This time, she accused her husband of molesting their daughter. (p. 132 . ONI, which did Wallace’s security clearances, never bought into this; see p. 171) Wallace now decided to leave TEMCO and Texas for a job in California with an acquisition of TEMCO called Ling Electronics. He left his two children with Andre and moved to Orange County.
Wallace spent most of the rest of his life in California working as a control supervisor for Ling. He married a young woman named Virginia Ledgerwood. (p. 169).
Later on, ONI lowered his clearance from SECRET to CONFIDENTIAL. This may have been due to a DUI charge Wallace had gotten. It resulted in a demotion at work. Wallace reacted poorly to this. He got depressed and began drinking even more. In 1969 he and Virginia divorced and sold their house. (p. 218) He used the money to take out insurance policies on his three children—he had a third child with Virginia. He decided to return to Texas.
Wallace was dealing with severe health problems at this time. On the ride back to Texas, he passed out in a diabetic coma and sustained a concussion. A hitchhiker he picked up saved him from even worse injuries. (p. 219) Because of this, Wallace made out a will in April of 1970. In the last months of his life, he taught part-time at Texas A&M, and worked part-time at his brother’s insurance office.
On the evening of January 7, 1971 Wallace died in a single car accident. He had driven off the road and into a concrete bridge abutment. The policeman who wrote out the accident report felt that Wallace was dead at the scene. And, in fact, he was pronounced DOA at the hospital. (p. 221) Jay Harrison questioned whether or not Wallace died that night. But Mellen documents the fact that several of his family members saw the body at the funeral parlor in an open casket. It was Malcolm Wallace. To further this idea, Harrison had also stated that Wallace visited his first wife in 1980. Also not true. This was their son Michael, who resembled his father. (p. 251)
In 1979, as he was being carted off to prison the second time, Billy Sol Estes began to carve out the foundation for the LBJ/Wallace murder of Henry Marshall construct. Estes told his escort, former Texas Ranger Clint Peoples, that Marshall had not killed himself. The authorities should be looking in another direction. Peoples assumed this to mean Washington DC. When Estes got out of jail, he appeared before a grand jury called on the Marshall murder. Estes would now be represented by attorney Douglas Caddy. Caddy had been trying to get Estes’s story out even while he was in prison—through the auspices of Galveston rightwing millionaire Shearn Moody. (p. 232) Estes now told Peoples that Mac Wallace killed Henry Marshall. Peoples contacted John Paschall, DA of Roberson County, where Marshall had been killed. Peoples convinced Paschall to reopen the Marshall case by calling a grand jury.
On March 20, 1984, over 20 years after Marshall’s murder, Estes testified that Johnson had ordered the murder of Henry Marshall at a meeting in Washington with Carter, Estes and Wallace. Caddy then brought these charges to the attention of the Justice Department. But later, in addition to Marshall, Estes and Caddy now listed eight other people who had been killed by Wallace at the behest of LBJ. This included Josefa Johnson, Kinser, and John Kennedy. Like Joe McCarthy and communists in the State Department, the Caddy/Estes number was later raised up to 17. (Ibid, p. 236)
Just on the material we have gone over already, let us raise some questions about the Estes’ allegations about Marshall, and JFK.
- Why would Estes be so angry with Johnson if LBJ had ordered the death of Marshall? How much more could LBJ do than kill someone for Estes?
- There is no evidence that Wallace was a sharpshooter. So why would Johnson and Carter use him to kill JFK?
- If Wallace pulled off all of these murders, why did he die with such a tiny estate? Did Wallace commit all these killings, repeatedly putting his life and family at risk, for nothing?
- If these were not performed for money, then what was the political angle? Wallace was more liberal than Johnson.
But Mellen goes beyond these points. For instance, she establishes a solid alibi for Wallace for the dates on and about the murder of Marshall. Marshall was killed on Saturday June 3, 1961. On that Friday, Wallace had filled out and signed a security clearance form at work. On that weekend, his brother had brought both his children, and Wallace’s son Michael, out to see Malcolm. The party arrived Friday evening. That weekend they went to the beach and then Disneyland. (pp. 235-36) There are two other points to be made in this regard. The inquiry into Henry Marshall’s death concluded that he was killed somewhere in the middle of his farm, meaning that the person or persons who killed him knew how to get to him after they came in the gate. There is no evidence that Wallace knew Marshall. (ibid) Finally, when Estes began to broadcast his story, he described the scene where Johnson and his co-conspirators had made the decision to kill Marshall. Unfortunately, Johnson had not moved into that home, called The Elms, at that time. (ibid)
Concerning the death of Josefa Johnson, she was married to a man named James Moss at the time of her death in 1961. The evening before, she had been at a Christmas Eve gathering at Johnson’s ranch. The only other guests were John and Nellie Connally. The cause of death was first announced as a heart attack, but was changed to a cerebral hemorrhage, or stroke. (pp. 144-45) Again, Wallace was living in California at the time. And further, are we to assume that he took a quickie course in inducing cerebral hemorrhages and making them look like natural deaths?
As per the assassination of John F. Kennedy, again Wallace was in California at the time, working for Ling Electronics. And in 1963, his son Michael had moved in with him. Michael recalls his father being home for dinner and trying to console him about Kennedy’s murder, which occurred in his home state of Texas. (p. 257)
Then there is Billy Sol’s and Caddy’s relationship with the Justice Department. Caddy tried to get an interview with Stephen Trott, a prosecutor in the Justice Department, after Estes had testified before the grand jury in 1984. (p. 238) According to Caddy, Estes now said that Wallace recruited Jack Ruby, and Ruby then recruited Oswald. During the actual assassination, Wallace was on the grassy knoll. Recall, even though the list kept on growing, Estes and Caddy could produce no real evidence for any of the killings. And Caddy had never seemed to seek out what the exculpatory evidence was. As New York City prosecutor Bob Tanenbaum said to this author, as a DA, this is something you always allow for since you do not want to be blindsided at trial.
Taking all this into account, its remarkable what Estes and Caddy wanted in return for a deposition. Estes demanded a pardon for his past crimes, immunity from prosecution, relief from his parole restrictions, and his tax liens removed. (p. 240) Very sensibly, Trott countered that he would agree to immunity if Estes would forward any evidence he had in advance, name his sources, and agree to a polygraph. Trott actually sent three FBI agents to Texas for a preliminary interview. When Estes saw them arrive in the lobby of the hotel, he walked out. (ibid)
But there was the Darby/Harrison fingerprint, which both men swore by, but which no one had ever cross checked. Mellen got a copy of Harrison’s fingerprint file from author Walt Brown, who maintained Harrison’s collection. She then got Wallace’s Navy prints from the days he was in the Marines. She secured the services of one Robert Garrett as her analyst. She approached Garrett in the summer of 2013. He had been the supervisor of the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office crime scene unit. He had been trained in fingerprint analysis by the FBI headquarters in Washington and then at their lab in Quantico, Virginia. In 2013 he was in charge of the certification programs for the International Association for Identification (IAI), which still certifies fingerprint examiners and is the one accrediting agency. (p. 258)
An important matter that Garrett discovered was that neither Darby nor Hoffmeister was accredited by the IAI at the time they did their work for Jay Harrison in 1998. One must renew one’s license every five years. This is done by taking education credits, continued work experience, and by passing a test. According to Garrett, who had been in charge of the IAI certification programs, Darby’s certification had expired in 1984, fourteen years before Harrison recruited him. Hoffmeister’s expired in 1996. (p. 261) Why Harrison did not check on this issue in advance is extremely puzzling, especially since Harrison had been a policeman for a number of years, and had to have known what the IAI was, and how its trademark—or lack of—impacted the credibility of the work done by Darby and Hoffmeister.
Another problem that Garrett had with the Harrison/Darby file was the same issue that Hoffmeister raised: the quality of the reproductions that Darby had worked with. Garrett actually told Mellen that he would not have proceeded if this is what he had had to base his judgment on. (p. 258) First, the quality of the copy of the unidentified box print from the Warren Commission was simply inferior, to the point that it was unreliable. So Mellen got an actual first generation photograph of this print from the National Archives. And in her book she shows the difference between the two, which is quite considerable. (See the last photo in photo section.)
But further, Garrett did not want to utilize the Wallace print from the Kinser case, which Harrison had secured from the Texas authorities. These had been smudged since “the roller used to make the inked print had not been thoroughly cleaned off after its use with the previous subject.” (p. 259) So Mellen attained Wallace’s Navy fingerprints.
Using high technology, including a 256 shade gray scale that Darby did not have, Garrett now went to work. He concluded that the unidentified box print was not a match with the Wallace print. First he noted eight points of discrepancy between the two—that is, specific mismatches. And he described these in detail. (p. 259) Beyond that, he brought up problems with all fourteen of the alleged matches that Darby had made. Some of these were due to the poor copies he had to work with. But also part of it was the black and white methodology employed. Garrett indicated where the “plotting” was off due to incorrect alignments. (p. 260) Garrett therefore concluded that there was no doubt that the unidentified Warren Commission box print did not belong to Wallace.
It’s discouraging that we had to wait 15 years to correct this historic misjudgment. Meanwhile, people like Roger Stone, Barr McClellan, Philip Nelson and Nigel Turner used this evidence in their books and films. But due to the better original quality, the higher technology, and Garrett’s certification, the Darby/Harrison identification must stand corrected.
The remarkable part of Mellen’s book is this: I have not touched on everything yet. I have rarely read a book of less than three hundred pages that contains so much interesting content. The last instance I can recall is with Larry Hancock’s Nexus back in 2011. Most of what I have left out deals with other aspects of Johnson’s career and life. But I should add, as others have pointed out, what Johnson did in Texas in 1948 was not at all unprecedented. As some have argued, Johnson and Parr stole the 1948 election because LBJ felt he had his previous run for Senate stolen from him. And, as mentioned, Parr had stolen votes for Coke Stevenson’s races. Further, as she notes, Billy Sol Estes was also backed by the liberal Senator Ralph Yarborough. And finally, although she notes instances of Johnson using the word “nigger”, this was all too common in the South at the time Johnson was growing up. It should not impact Johnson’s work on the issue of civil rights, which, in my opinion, he deserves credit for. But on the plus side, the book includes a quite informative chapter on the USS Liberty and Johnson’s part in that horrific tragedy.
To this reviewer Faustian Bargains seems to me a unique, almost singular book in the field. And although I have noted some reservations about parts of the volume, most of it seems exceptional to me, and I would recommend the book to the reader.
Addendum: Note from the Author
Joan Mellen informs us that she attained Wallace's Navy fingerprints through his NARA military file, not through the Navy.