The death of an outrageous American fraudster raises a tantalising question… Was LBJ behind Kennedy’s assassination?

By  Tom Leonard

Editor’s Note: I found this an interesting article on the heels of a just now read book by Bill O’Reilly titled Killing Kennedy.

Forget the Soviets, the CIA or the Mafia. Of  all the extraordinary theories that have swirled around the 1963 assassination  of President John F Kennedy, surely the most outrageous — and intriguing — is  that he was killed on the orders of his own Vice President, Lyndon Baines  Johnson.

As recently as 2003, a Gallup poll found that  nearly 20 per cent of Americans believed that ‘LBJ’ had some hand in the  assassination of the man he went on to succeed in the White House.

It is an astonishing claim to make of any  U.S. President, but all the more startling given the peculiarly tragic  circumstances of Kennedy’s murder.

The snapshot of Johnson being sworn in as  President hours later on board Air Force One, with a stony-faced Jackie Kennedy  by his side, must be one of the most emotive images in U.S. political  history.

Of all the theories that have swirled around the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy, surely the most outrageous is that he was killed on the orders of his own Vice President, Lyndon Baines JohnsonOf all the theories that have swirled around the 1963  assassination of President John F Kennedy, surely the most outrageous is that he  was killed on the orders of his own Vice President, Lyndon Baines  Johnson

The snapshot of Johnson being sworn in as President, hours after JFK's assassination, on board Air Force One, with Jackie Kennedy by his side, must be one of the most emotive images in U.S. political history 

The possibility that the poignancy of the  occasion concealed a terrible deception seems too awful to  contemplate.

Texas-born LBJ was a great political  reformer. But he was also one of the most amoral statesmen of the 20th century,  a man with an all-consuming political ambition who stole votes, tampered with  ballot boxes, traduced and betrayed friends, trampled over enemies, bribed the  electorate and was determined to be President almost at any  cost.

But could he really have engineered the death  of JFK so that he could take his place?

Perhaps we will never now know the truth. For  the one associate of LBJ who has for decades insisted he was indeed involved in  the assassination died this week, taking to his grave a story of a White House  conspiracy of unimaginable ruthlessness.

Billie Sol Estes, a fast-talking Texas conman  and former business partner of LBJ, died in his sleep aged 88, while taking it  easy in a reclining chair at his home in Granbury, Texas.

He had biscuit crumbs, rather than any  last-minute confession or disclosure, on his lips — which will disappoint those  who believe that the biggest lie in U.S. history is that the assassin Lee Harvey  Oswald acted alone when he killed President Kennedy.

It was a strangely peaceful passing for a man  whose nefarious career left a trail of dead bodies and who made so many enemies  that his daughter, Pamela, admitted last week she had always thought he would  ‘meet a very violent end … we worried about him being killed for  years’.

On the one hand, he was a fire-breathing lay  preacher who considered profanity, drinking and even dancing immoral, and railed  against them every Sabbath in sermons for the Church of Christ, a denomination  which took an almost literal interpretation of the Bible.

On the other, he made exceptions for himself  when it came to these strictures — and unashamedly devoted his life to  increasing his wealth by whatever means, fair or foul.

Raised on a Texan farm, Estes was 13 when his  parents gave him a lamb. Starting by selling its wool, he quickly amassed an  entire flock and later swapped it for surplus grain.

Billie Sol Estes, a fast-talking Texas conman and former business partner of LBJ, died in his sleep aged 88, while taking it easy in a reclining chair at his home in Granbury, Texas

Within five years, he had made $38,000 and by  the age of 30, he was a millionaire and owned every business in his home town of  Pecos, West Texas.

He spent lavishly on buying political  influence, but his generosity hid a ruthless businessman who practised fraud and  deception on a vast scale, pounded his competitors into dust and even defrauded  Church of Christ schools which he was supposedly helping with financial  advice.

By the late 1950s he had made some  $150 million from an agricultural business empire that relied on sham mortgages,  secret bribes to farmers and officials — and on milking the  system.

He made millions from leasing grain silos to  the government, an enterprise in which Johnson, a fellow Texan and then a  powerful U.S. senator, became a partner.

He branched out into anhydrous ammonia used  in fertiliser, cornering the Texas market. In one of his most shameless  deceptions, he devised a scheme whereby he mortgaged fertiliser storage tanks to  farmers then leased them back — the trick being that the tanks didn’t actually  exist.

By the late 1950s, Billie Sol Estes had made some $150 million from an agricultural business empire that relied on sham mortgages, secret bribes to farmers and officials - and on milking the systemWhen justice finally caught up with him in  the early 1960s, the scams were so complicated that prosecutors had to break  them down into 57 different fraud charges.

In the meantime, a key investigator in the  case, Henry Marshall, had been found dead in Texas in 1961. He had been  bludgeoned in the head, shot five times in the chest with a single-shot rifle  and had almost lethal amounts of carbon monoxide in his  bloodstream.

Amazingly, officials ruled it a suicide, with  the chief FBI investigator writing: ‘My theory was that he shot himself and then  realised he wasn’t dead.’

Six other men involved in the case also came  to grisly ends — three in supposed accidents including a plane crash. Two more —  business associates of Estes who had also been charged with fraud — were  discovered in cars filled with carbon monoxide. Both suicides, said the  coroner.

The final casualty, Estes’s accountant, was  also found dead in a car with a rubber tube connecting its exhaust to the  interior.

It looked like suicide, too, but no carbon  monoxide was found in his body and he had a severe bruise on his head. In  another puzzling decision, his death was attributed to a heart  attack.

Estes was sentenced to 15 years in prison in  1963, but paroled in 1971. Eight years later, he was convicted of tax fraud and  served another four years.

Emerging from prison a second time, he gave  what he called a ‘voluntary statement to clear the record’ in 1984. He told a  stunned grand jury investigation that Henry Marshall, the bullet-ridden  investigator, had been killed on the orders of Lyndon Johnson, who at the time  of the murder had been U.S. Vice President.

Estes said Johnson was terrified that his  involvement in the couple’s business and agricultural frauds would emerge and so  he had an aide, Malcolm Wallace, shoot the investigator.

Estes told a stunned grand jury investigation that Henry Marshall, the bullet-ridden investigator, had been killed on the orders of Lyndon Johnson (pictured), who at the time of the murder had been U.S. Vice PresidentEstes told a stunned grand jury investigation that Henry  Marshall, the bullet-ridden investigator, had been killed on the orders of  Lyndon Johnson (pictured), who at the time of the murder had been U.S. Vice  President

Estes claimed his accountant had also been  killed by Wallace, who had been doing Johnson’s dirty work since 1950, when he  had been convicted of shooting a man who just happened to have been having an  affair with Johnson’s sister. When the Justice Department pushed him for more  information, Estes dropped his bombshell. In return for a pardon and immunity  from prosecution, he said he would detail eight killings ordered by  Johnson.

They included most of those supposed suicides  and accidental deaths that occurred during the investigation into Estes’s  business affairs — as well as the Kennedy assassination.

Estes claimed that Wallace had persuaded  nightclub owner Jack Ruby to recruit the killer Lee Harvey Oswald. Wallace had  even joined Oswald in his sniper’s nest up in the Texas School Book Depository  overlooking the motorcade route in Dallas — and had fired one of the shots that  hit the President.

Oswald, of course, was later shot by Ruby  just two days after Kennedy’s death.

Estes’ incredible allegations never went any  further as prosecutors ruled they could not be corroborated.

President Johnson had died in 1973 while  Wallace, an ex-U.S. Marine and federal  agriculture department official, was  also long gone — killed in a 1971  car crash after apparently falling asleep at  the wheel.

It's not simply that Johnson wanted to be President; he also loathed Kennedy personally. The reason is that many of the Kennedys treated the crude, surly Johnson, a farm-boy from Texas, with undisguised contemptNone of Estes’s extraordinary claims have  ever been proven, but a dozen authors have since written books which put Johnson  at the heart of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy that was bankrolled by Dallas oil  magnates and backed by local branches of the FBI, CIA and Secret  Service.

It is not simply that Johnson wanted to be  President; he also loathed Kennedy personally.

The reason is that many of the Kennedys — who  were among the grandest of American families — treated the crude, surly Johnson,  a mere farm-boy from Texas, with undisguised contempt.

Congressman Tip O’Neill recalled how the  Kennedy clan ‘actually took pride in snubbing him’, and Robert Kennedy later  described LBJ as a ‘mean, bitter, vicious . . . animal’.

Johnson also had a more pressing motive to  murder JFK, it is alleged. He strongly suspected the President was about to drop  him as his running mate in the forthcoming 1964 election.

But why would the Texan oilmen be involved?  The theory goes that the all-powerful oil magnates were in debt to Johnson. They  benefited from a lucrative tax break he’d engineered — the oil depreciation  allowance — which allegedly saved their industry $100 million.

As for the local intelligence agencies, once  Johnson had the extraordinary power of the oilmen behind him, it was not  difficult to persuade the local branches of the CIA and others to come on  board.

Johnson’s family and friends have, of course,  always strenuously denied Estes’s allegations — so have leading historians and  even a few former Presidents who have felt moved to defend their  predecessor.

But this will never satisfy the skeptics. And  now, with the death of the outrageous swindler Billie Sol Estes, the truth seems  further away than ever.

Original Post

%d bloggers like this: