How Henry Wade, Dallas’ law-and-order DA, ran afoul of J. Edgar Hoover

June 30, 2013

This article approaches journalistic objectivity from the Dallas Morning News, known for an editorial policy that for decades has blamed Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin on President Kennedy and has been silent on the controversies surrounding Oswald, his intelligence background and related issues. Even though this supports the same thesis, it provides new information and raises serious questions. It would be valuable to have Lonnie Hudkins version of the source of his story since Hugh Aynesworth has played a negative role in reporting and information access in this case for many years.

How Henry Wade, Dallas’ law-and-order DA, ran afoul of J. Edgar Hoover
By SCOTT K. PARKSm Staff Writer
Dallas Morning News
30 June 2013

District Attorney Henry Wade was surrounded by newsmen covering the trial of Jack Ruby on March 12, 1964.

J. Edgar Hoover and Henry Wade had admired each other for more than 20 years by the time President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Both men looked like human bulldogs. They each carefully crafted their images as tough, no-nonsense crime fighters — Hoover as the legendary FBI director, Wade as Dallas County’s hard-charging district attorney.

It took Lee Harvey Oswald to drive a wedge between them.

In the weeks after the assassination, Hoover repeatedly denied rumors that Oswald had been a paid FBI informant. Hoover became enraged when he heard that Wade told the Warren Commission that if the allegation were true, Hoover and other FBI higher-ups in Washington might not even be aware of Oswald’s status.

Wade knew a thing or two about informants. During World War II, he’d been an undercover FBI agent in Quito, Ecuador. And he told the Warren Commission that his FBI superiors had required little if any documentation on how he handled informants, or how much he paid them.

Hoover, upon hearing these assertions, scrawled his frustration across a memo to subordinates.

“If Wade is on any of our mailing lists, remove his name. He is an absolute skunk.”

Records on Wade

The Dallas Morning News obtained 350 pages of FBI records on Wade under the federal Freedom of Information Act. He served as Dallas district attorney from 1951 to 1987. But the records date back to his successful application to join the FBI in 1939, the year after earning his law degree from the University of Texas. The files document how he ran afoul of Hoover in the chaotic weeks after the JFK assassination.

Newspapers around the world were filled with Dallas-datelined stories about JFK’s murder and the spectacular sequel two days later: A nightclub operator named Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters.

Wade was at the center of events, working closely with investigators as they prepared to put Ruby on trial for Oswald’s murder. He knew a lot about Oswald, and news-hungry Americans wanted details.

Oswald’s murky background contributed to speculation that he was more than just a lone nut who fired a lucky shot as the presidential motorcade rolled past the Texas School Book Depository.

Conspiracy theories

Oswald, who was 24 when Ruby killed him, appeared to be a dishonorably discharged ex-Marine who later sought political asylum in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War in 1960. After two years in Russia, he returned to the United States with a Russian wife, Marina. Then he took a series of menial jobs while dabbling in communist politics and publicly representing himself as a supporter of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The FBI was well aware of Oswald before the assassination because of his high-profile defection to Russia. Early in 1963, New Orleans police arrested him after a street scuffle while he was passing out pro-Castro leaflets.

Oswald asked an FBI agent to come see him in jail, and the New Orleans office accommodated his request. Later in 1963, Dallas FBI Agent James Hosty inherited the file on Oswald and went to see Marina Oswald at her home in Irving. Oswald was not there at the time.

Some conspiracy theorists believed Oswald was a Soviet agent. Others thought he might be infiltrating communist groups for the FBI. Still others, who saw him as a lone renegade, viewed his contacts with federal agents as evidence that the FBI was doing its job by tracking a known subversive.

Who was Oswald? No one could pin down the answer 50 years ago, and the argument continues to this day.

Hugh Aynesworth, author and former newspaper reporter, has researched the people and events surrounding the assassination for half a century. He believes the market is so flooded with misinformation, disinformation and half-truths that many people believe Oswald, despite any real evidence, was part of a conspiracy.

Aynesworth said Oswald was simply a loner and a misfit.

“Oswald was like a rat,” he said. “He lived sparingly, but he got what he needed.”

Code number

The Houston Post published a story on Jan. 1, 1964, that drew the world’s attention. It quoted unnamed sources who alleged that Oswald was an FBI informant operating under the code number S172 and earning $200 a month.

The story appeared under the byline of reporter Alonzo Hudkins. Parts of the story were highly questionable, according to Aynesworth, who was a Dallas Morning News reporter at the time and who knew Hudkins well.

“Lonnie was a hell of a nice guy,” Aynesworth recalled. “But he sometimes wrote stuff he shouldn’t have.”

Aynesworth said Hudkins was a nuisance who called him often after the assassination to trade information. During one phone call, Aynesworth said Hudkins pressed him to confirm details that he planned to publish in The Houston Post.

The conversation turned to how the FBI identified Oswald in its files.

“I didn’t know anything about a number,” Aynesworth said. “I just made that S172 number up and gave it to him. I wanted him to stop calling and wasting my time. I was busy. I never dreamed that he would write that story, because there was no way they could confirm that number.”

Within days of the Houston Post story, rumors of Oswald’s FBI connections swirled around Congress. Senate staffers reported to their bosses that confidential sources in the CIA, Secret Service and State Department were confirming that the FBI paid Oswald $200 a month and assigned him ID No. S172.

Whether those supposed confidential sources actually knew anything is unclear. They may have simply been recycling the questionable information in Hudkins’ story.

In an effort to tamp down the rumors, an agitated Hoover deployed Cartha DeLoach, one of his top assistants, to meet with powerful U.S. Sen. James Eastland, the Mississippi Democrat who was chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

DeLoach laid responsibility for the Oswald-as-informant rumors directly at Wade’s feet.

“I mentioned [to the senator] that Wade had made false statements before the Warren Commission and that we were prepared to prove those statements were false,” DeLoach reported to Hoover.

Hoover’s ire

As January 1964 wore on, pressure mounted on the Warren Commission to track down information about Oswald’s alleged FBI connections. But J. Lee Rankin, the commission’s general counsel, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, the commission’s chairman, did not want to be seen as conducting an investigation of Hoover’s FBI.

So they tried to move quietly.

Records show that Rankin and Warren summoned Wade to Washington to get an update on the assassination investigation in Dallas. Their meeting Jan. 24 was informal, and no notes were taken.

Wade, repeating the assertions from the Houston Post story three weeks earlier, told Warren and Rankin that a reporter claimed Oswald was a paid informant making $200 a month, under the bureau ID No. S172.

But that wasn’t what made Hoover angry.

Wade went on to tell Rankin and Warren that when he was an undercover FBI agent in South America during World War II, he didn’t have to keep receipts or identify his paid informants.

The implication was clear: FBI headquarters — meaning J. Edgar Hoover — might not even know if Oswald had been a bureau informant, because field agents might not have shared that information with their Washington superiors.

Hoover was livid. He reacted by ordering an internal investigation of Wade’s wartime service in the FBI.

“I told Mr. Rankin that I most certainly could state that at least for the last 20 years, I know Mr. Wade’s statements would not hold water,” Hoover wrote to his subordinates. “I would like to now have a further analysis of exactly how Wade operated and how monies were paid to him as well as a listing of the funds supplied to him and what disposition he made of them.”

Wartime service

Hoover assigned J. Gordon Shanklin, head of the FBI’s Dallas office, to confront Wade with the bureau’s records on his wartime service in Ecuador. After the meeting, Shanklin reported back to Hoover that Wade had refreshed his memory — and backtracked on his story.

“He [Wade] now realizes he did take receipts from informants and these expenditures were reported to the bureau in detail,” Shanklin wrote. “He did not handle any informants without the full knowledge of the bureau.”

This was, of course, exactly what Hoover wanted to hear. But he still excoriated Wade as “an absolute skunk.”

Kim Wade, a Dallas attorney and Henry Wade’s son, reviewed his father’s FBI file at the request of The News. Afterward, he said: “If my dad were alive and looking back on this incident, I think he would be wryly amused. He may have adjusted his story to maintain good relations with the FBI. But the big picture is that the FBI wanted it to appear that it had nothing to do with Oswald.”

The note

Hoover died in 1972.

Wade died in 2001. He went to his grave believing that Oswald was the only person who shot JFK.

“The only way there could have been a conspiracy, in my opinion, is that at the time Oswald was planning this, he had some co-conspirators who never showed up at the assassination,” Wade told an assassination researcher in 1995.

Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, also reviewed Wade’s FBI file for The News and said it confirmed what he already knew.

“The FBI was trying to cover its butt and deny that it had bungled the case ahead of the assassination,” he said.

When asked his opinion of Oswald’s relationship with the FBI, Mack said he’s not sure.

One thing gives him pause, he said.

Several days before the assassination, Oswald dropped off a note at the FBI’s Dallas office and asked a secretary to give it to Hosty. To this day, Mack said, no one is sure what the note said.

One version is that Oswald’s note asked Hosty not to bother his wife again and to speak to him instead if he had questions. The other version is that Oswald, who could be hotheaded, accused Hosty of harassing him and threatened to blow up the FBI office.

After the assassination, Hoover ordered Shanklin, the agent in charge of the Dallas office, to destroy the note. Shanklin didn’t want to do the job. So, Hosty tore it up and flushed it down a toilet.

“That tells me that the FBI had a secret, and I would like to know what it is,” Mack said.

Henry Wade
Born: Nov. 11, 1914
Career: FBI agent, 1939-42; U.S. Navy during World War II, taking part in invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa; Dallas County district attorney, 1951-87.
Died: March 1, 2001
J. Edgar Hoover
Born: Jan. 1, 1895
Career: FBI director, 1935-72; served under six presidents
Died: May 2, 1972

3 Responses to How Henry Wade, Dallas’ law-and-order DA, ran afoul of J. Edgar Hoover

  1. Phillip Dodge
    July 1, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    The soon to be released book by Roger Stone “The Man Who Killed Kennedy” has many of these juicy details outlined within. The book previews have already leaked that Gerald Ford was pressured by Hoover to make alterations to the medical examiner’s report which helped fortify the findings of the Warren Commission. Meanwhile, Stone’s book outlines LBJ’s role in the assassination and supports it all with names and dates. I pre-ordered my copy and am very eager to read it when it is released on November 6th.

  2. July 2, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Key point: Lee Harvey Oswald was U.S. intelligence and he shot NO ONE on 11/22/63.

    1) “Oswald and the CIA” book by John Newman
    2) “Spy Saga: Lee Harvey Oswald and US Intelligence” book by Philip Melanson
    3) “History Will Not Absolve Us” by Martin Schotz (Chapter 5 “Oswald and U.S. Intelligence” by Christopher Sharrett)
    4) “Me and Lee” book by Judyth Vary Baker (Oswald’s mistress in New Orleans, summer 1963)
    5) “Destiny Betrayed” by Jim DiEugenio, Chapter 7 “On Instructions from His Government” (2012 edition)
    6) “A Certain Arrogance: U.S. Intelligence’s Manipulation of Religious Groups and Individuals in Two World Wars and the Cold War – and the Sacrificing of Lee Harvey Oswald” book by George Michael Evica
    7) “Accessories After the Fact” by Sylvia Meagher, Chapter 19 “Oswald and the State Department’”
    9) “Coup D’Etat in America: The CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by Alan Weberman & Michael Canfield, Chapter 3 “Was Oswald a CIA Agent?”
    10) “Oswald in New Orleans: Case for Conspiracy with the CIA” by Harold Weisberg
    12) “Oswald: The Truth” by Joachim Joesten (1967)
    13) Chapter 9 “Fingerprints of Intelligence” in “Reasonable Doubt” by Henry Hurt
    14) Chapter 14 “Oswald and the CIA” in “Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy” by Joachim Joesten
    15) Chapter 12 ” Was Oswald a Government Agent” in “Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why” by Gerald McKnight
    16) Chapter 13 “Spies” in “Farewell America” by James Hepburn
    17) Google “Lee Harvey Oswald’s reading habits summer 1963” by Judyth Vary Baker
    18) Google ” Lee Harvey Oswald—a U.S. Intelligence Agent: The Evidence by Hal Verb”
    19) Google “The Death of a President by Eric Norden in The Minority of One, Jan, 1964”
    20) “The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald” by Robert Groden
    21) “I am a Patsy! I am a Patsy!” by George De Mohrenschildt
    22) Google “Oswald and the FBI” by Harold Feldman, The Nation January, 1964, pp 86-89

  3. July 4, 2013 at 6:59 am

    The only way a conspiracy is possible is “…if at the time OSWALD WAS PLANNING THIS he had some co-conspirators who never showed up…”???

    What? Who ever said Oswald planned it? That’s the whole point. Wade obviously failed to understand that Oswald was a pawn who might or might not have fired a shot at JFK (or at Connally). The fatal shot, as proved graphically by the Zapruder film, was fired from the grassy knoll area; it’s the only way JFK could have been struck on the RIGHT-FRONT of his head. For that shot to have originated from the Book Depository, the projectile would have had to reverse course in mid-air. Jackie Kennedy, who was seated to JFK’s left and slightly behind him, was covered with his brain matter and blood. That’s consistent with a path from the right front, exactly where the grassy knoll shooter was.

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