Thursday, November 06, 2008
Few structures remain in Doddsville, Miss., plantation home of Sen. James O. Eastland.
On Friday November 22, 1963, news bulletins hit the airwaves as rifle shots interrupted President John F. Kennedy's Dallas motorcade. The resulting three-day news marathon concluded only after the young president was buried.
Reporters moved on to the investigative phase of JFK's assassination but finally left the topic for fresh news. Yet conspiracy theorists and others have kept the debate alive over what happened forty-two years ago, who was involved, and why.
Interestingly, there are numerous asides to Mississippi's civil rights story but perhaps none quite so compelling (and less known) as this: Seven years before JFK was assassinated, the magnolia state's Sen. James O. Eastland met for the first time with Guy Banister, a controversial CIA operative and retired FBI agent in charge of the Chicago bureau.
Banister -- remember him as the man who "pistol-whipped" David Ferrie in Oliver Stone's film "JFK" -- was later linked to Lee Harvey Oswald and Mississippi's senator through Eastland's Senate Internal Security Subcommittee or SISS (sometimes called "SISSY").
The New Orleans Times-Picayune on March 23, 1956, reported that Robert Morrison, a former chief counsel for Sen. Joseph McCarthy's House Unamerican Activities Committee or HUAC, and Banister traveled to Greenwood, Mississippi, to confer personally with Senator Eastland for more than three hours. Describing the conference as "completely satisfactory," Morrison told the reporter that "Mr. Banister has complete liaison with the committee's staff which was the main object of our trip."
Apparently cozying up to Eastland and "SISSY" was Banister's goal. And it worked.
Known as a notorious political extremist who was later described as the impetus for James Garrison’s 1967-1970 Kennedy assassination probe, Banister earlier became a brief focus of Mississippi's secret spy agency, the Sovereignty Commission, when it was suggested Banister should be hired to set up an "even tighter" domestic spying system throughout the state.
A second Eastland operative, private investigator John D. Sullivan of Vicksburg, made this suggestion to the commission just months after the JFK assasination, according to released Sovereignty Commission records.
Former FBI agent Sullivan had worked under Banister (both inside the FBI and privately) and as a private self-employed investigator who often did work for hire for the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission; the private white Citizens Councils, of which he was an active member; and for SISS, as had Banister and Lee Harvey Oswald.
When Sullivan reportedly committed suicide following the assassination, Sovereignty Commission investigators tried to acquire his library and files, but most of his confidential files were either reportedly burned by his widow or they had been lent out, and she "could not remember" who had them, Sovereignty Commission files disclose.
Then some twenty-nine years later, in testimony before the Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board during a Dallas hearing on November 18, 1994, the late Senator Eastland was directly implicated in the president’s assassination by one of the author/theorists invited to testify.
“Lee Harvey Oswald was quite possibly an agent of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and he was doing the bidding of [Sen. Thomas J.] Dodd and Eastland and Morrison,” author John McLaughlin swore.
Documentation that could support or even discredit such assertions could perhaps be present in the Eastland archives at the University of Mississippi, but no objective scholar has been allowed to search these archives since the day they arrived on campus. Instead, Eastland's records were managed for years by a former associate and devoté who followed the papers from Washington, D.C. to Oxford.
Finally in 2005, after an unsuccessful Freedom of Information Act or FOIA request by this author, a historian was hired to organize the archives based in the James O. Eastland School of Law at Ole Miss. But there would still be a waiting period before any of the files could be viewed, according to the school's dean.
The plan was to release first all press releases, according to the historian who also confirmed that"many important files" were probably missing -- that the files looked “cleaned out.”
(The Dean of the law school, when presented a FOIA for access to Eastland archives, asked while laughing if he could “just show the rejection letter written to the last person who asked for this information." Later it came back to this author that “people at Ole Miss were really angry” over the FOIA request.)
 “Banister, FBI Chief Since February, to Leave Post Nov. 30,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov 19, 1954, Part 2, Page 12.
 Citation for this newspaper article (“NOTP, March 23, 1956, p. 1”) comes from the online Jerry P. Shinley Archive “Re: Jim Garrison and the SCEF Raids.”
 William Davy, “Let Justice Be Done,” (Jordan Publication, May 12, 1999), 1. On the weekend of the assassination, Banister pistol-whipped his employee Jack Martin, after Martin accused him of killing Kennedy. Martin eventually spoke to authorities.
 Sovereignty Commission documents SCR ID # 7-0-8-89-1-1-1 and SCR ID # 2-56-1-20-1-1-1.
 Sovereignty Commission documents SCR ID # 99-36-0-2-1-1-1 SCR ID # 1-16-1-21-1-1-1, SCR ID # 1-26-0-5-2-1-1, SCR ID # 2-2-0-19-1-1-1, SCR ID # 1-24-0-11-1-1-1
 After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, A. J. Weberman, a “Dylanologist,” “garbologist” and Kennedy conspiracist wrote that he received this communication from Sullivan's grandson, Jeremy Sullivan: "I was told that he commited suicide but my dad didn't think so. He told me there was an investigation and the FBI was involved. They deemed it suicide. The story I heard had changed depending on who told it, I believe that they had been out fishing all day and John Daniel had been drinking. After they got home, he was alone in his room and there was a gunshot and he was found dead." Also, Weberman stated that Jim Garrison had an undisclosed case against Sullivan in 1961. Per a “Memo for the Director” by Betsy Palmer on April 19, 1978, regarding the “HSCA.” From A.J. ajweberman and Michael Canfield, “Coup D'Etat in America, The CIA and the Assassination of John Kennedy,” (New York City, The Third Press, 1975) Nodule II.
 Online minutes of testimony before the Assassination Records Review Board, November 18, 1994. Dallas, Texas. Testimony of John McLaughlin aka John Bevilaqua, Harvard University graduate and systems analyst, also a Kennedy assassination theorist. McLaughlin was testifying why he needed to see documents from HUAC and SISS. He had also requested military records of Wycliff P. Draper, head of the Draper Committees and Pioneer Fund. Mississippi had been the benefactor of Draper money in its fight against the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and in funding of private white academies per Sovereignty Commission reports.
 Eastland’s name has also been associated with the murder of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, U. S. Senator Robert Kennedy and with the mass murder at a U. S. Army base located in Mississippi of potentially 1,000 black soldiers during World War II.
 The former Eastland aid has since retired.