Clifton Crawford Carter was born in Bryan, Texas, in 1918. He first became involved in politics in 1937 when he was a volunteer worker in the Lyndon B. Johnson election campaign. According to the historian, Alfred Steinberg (Sam Johnson's Boy), Carter was used to smear political rivals such as Ralph Yarborough.
During the Second World War Carter joined the 36th Infantry Division and served under Captain Edward Clark. While in France he won the Croix de Guerre, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. He also received a letter of commendation from General Dwight Eisenhower.
After the war Carter managed a 7-Up bottling plant. However, he continued to be close to Lyndon B. Johnson and ran his 1948 campaign to win a seat in the Senate. His main opponent in the Democratic primary (Texas was virtually a one party state and the most important elections were those that decided who would be the Democratic Party candidate) was Coke Stevenson. Johnson was criticized by Stevenson for supporting the Taft-Hartley Act. The American Federation of Labor was also angry with Johnson for supporting this legislation and at its June convention the AFL broke a 54 year tradition of neutrality and endorsed Stevenson.
Lyndon B. Johnson asked Tommy Corcoran to work behind the scenes at convincing union leaders that he was more pro-labor than Stevenson. This he did and on 11th August, 1948, Corcoran told Harold Ickes that he had "a terrible time straightening out labor" in the Johnson campaign but he believed he had sorted the problem out.
On 2nd September, unofficial results had Stevenson winning by 362 votes. However, by the time the results became official, Johnson was declared the winner by 17 votes. Stevenson immediately claimed that he was a victim of election fraud. On 24th September, Judge T. Whitfield Davidson, invalidated the results of the election and set a trial date.
A meeting was held that was attended by Tommy Corcoran, Francis Biddle, Abe Fortas, Joe Rauh, Jim Rowe and Ben Cohen. It was decided to take the case directly to the Supreme Court. A motion was drafted and sent to Justice Hugo Black. On 28th September, Justice Black issued an order that put Johnson's name back on the ballot. Later, it was claimed by Rauh that Black made the decision following a meeting with Corcoran.
On 2nd November, 1948, Johnson easily defeated Jack Porter, his Republican Party candidate. Coke Stevenson now appealed to the subcommittee on elections and privileges of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Corcoran enjoyed a good relationship with Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire. He was able to work behind the scenes to make sure that the ruling did not go against Johnson. Corcoran later told Johnson that he would have to repay Bridges for what he had done for him regarding the election.
Carter was rewarded by being appointed as U.S. Marshall for the Southern District in 1949. He was confirmed by the Senate in July 1949 and served for five years until 1954. He had no law enforcement experience prior to his appointment.
In January, 1957, Carter became head of Johnson's statewide political organization. According to Ralph Yarborough, Carter was Johnson's bagman: "He (Carter) was a very sharp operator, Lyndon could trust him to pick up the money and keep his mouth shut."
Carter played an important role in collecting money from Washington lobbyists for Johnson's election campaigns. He also dealt with members of the Suite 8F Group such as George Brown and Herman Brown (Brown & Root), Jesse H. Jones (Reconstruction Finance Corporation), Gus Wortham (American General Insurance Company) and James Abercrombie (Cameron Iron Works).
In his book Lyndon B. Johnson: Master of the Senate, the historian, Robert A. Caro claims that cash was collected by Carter, Bobby Baker, Edward A. Clark or Walter Jenkins in Texas and then brought to Johnson in Washington. Caro quotes Clark as saying that Johnson always wanted contributions given outside the office.
In 1960 Henry Marshall was asked by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration to investigate the activities of Billie Sol Estes. Marshall discovered that over a two year period, Estes had purchased 3,200 acres of cotton allotments from 116 different farmers. Marshall wrote to his superiors in Washington on 31st August, 1960, that: "The regulations should be strengthened to support our disapproval of every case (of allotment transfers)".
When he heard the news, Billie Sol Estes sent his lawyer, John P. Dennison, to meet Marshall in Robertson County. At the meeting on 17th January, 1961, Marshall told Dennison that Estes was clearly involved in a "scheme or device to buy allotments, and will not be approved, and prosecution will follow if this operation is ever used."
Marshall was disturbed that as a result of sending a report of his meeting to Washington, he was offered a new post at headquarters. He assumed that Billie Sol Estes had friends in high places and that they wanted him removed from the field office in Robertson County. Marshall refused what he considered to be a bribe.
According to Billie Sol Estes he had a meeting with Carter and Lyndon B. Johnson about Henry Marshall. Johnson suggested that Marshall be promoted out of Texas. Estes agreed and replied: "Let's transfer him, let's get him out of here. Get him a better job, make him an assistant secretary of agriculture." However, Marshall rejected the idea of being promoted in order to keep him quiet.
Estes, Johnson and Carter had another meeting on 17th January, 1961, to discuss what to do about Henry Marshall. Also at the meeting was Mac Wallace. After it was pointed out that Marshall had refused promotion to Washington, Johnson said: "It looks like we'll just have to get rid of him." Wallace, who Estes described as a hitman, was given the assignment.
On 3rd June, 1961, Marshall was found dead on his farm by the side of his Chevy Fleetside pickup truck. His rifle lay beside him. He had been shot five times with his own rifle. Soon after County Sheriff Howard Stegall arrived, he decreed that Marshall had committed suicide. No pictures were taken of the crime scene, no blood samples were taken of the stains on the truck (the truck was washed and waxed the following day), no check for fingerprints were made on the rifle or pickup.
Billie Sol Estes later told the grand jury that he met Carter and Mac Wallace at his home in Pecos after Henry Marshall was killed. Wallace described how he waited for Marshall at his farm. He planned to kill him and make it appear as if Marshall committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, Marshall fought back and he was forced to shoot him with his own rifle. He quoted Carter as saying that Wallace "sure did botch it up." Johnson was now forced to use his influence to get the authorities in Texas to cover-up the murder.
Marshall's wife (Sybil Marshall) and brother (Robert Marshall) refused to believe he had committed suicide and posted a $2,000 reward for information leading to a murder conviction. The undertaker, Manley Jones, also reported: "To me it looked like murder. I just do not believe a man could shoot himself like that." The undertaker's son, Raymond Jones, later told the journalist, Bill Adler in 1986: "Daddy said he told Judge Farmer there was no way Mr. Marshall could have killed himself. Daddy had seen suicides before. JPs depend on us and our judgments about such things. we see a lot more deaths than they do. But in this case, Daddy said, Judge Farmer told him he was going to put suicide on the death certificate because the sheriff told him to." As a result, Lee Farmer returned a suicide verdict: "death by gunshot, self-inflicted."
Sybil Marshall hired an attorney, W. S. Barron, in order to persuade the Robertson County authorities to change the ruling on Marshall's cause of death. One man who did believe that Marshall had been murdered was Texas Ranger Clint Peoples. He had reported to Colonel Homer Garrison, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, that it "would have been utterly impossible for Mr. Marshall to have taken his own life."
Peoples also interviewed Nolan Griffin, a gas station attendant in Robertson County. Griffin claimed that on the day of Marshall's death, he had been asked by a stranger for directions to Marshall's farm. A Texas Ranger artist, Thadd Johnson, drew a facial sketch based on a description given by Griffin. Peoples eventually came to the conclusion that this man was Mac Wallace, the convicted murderer of John Kinser.
In the spring of 1962, Billie Sol Estes was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on fraud and conspiracy charges. Soon afterwards it was disclosed by the Secretary of Agriculture, Orville L. Freeman, that Henry Marshall had been a key figure in the investigation into the illegal activities of Billie Sol Estes. As a result, the Robertson County grand jury ordered that the body of Marshall should be exhumed and an autopsy performed. After eight hours of examination, Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk confirmed that Marshall had not committed suicide. Jachimczyk also discovered a 15 percent carbon monoxide concentration in Marshall's body. Jachimczyk calculated that it could have been as high as 30 percent at the time of death.
On 4th April, 1962, George Krutilek, Estes chief accountant, was found dead. Despite a severe bruise on Krutilek's head, the coroner decided that he had also committed suicide. The next day, Estes, and three business associates, were indicted by a federal grand jury on 57 counts of fraud. Two of these men, Harold Orr and Coleman Wade, later died in suspicious circumstances. At the time it was said they committed suicide but later Estes was to claim that both men were murdered by Mac Wallace in order to protect the political career of Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations also began to look into the case of Billie Sol Estes. Leonard C. Williams, a former assistant to Henry Marshall, testified about the evidence the department acquired against Estes. Orville L. Freeman also admitted that Marshall was a man "who left this world under questioned circumstances." On 27th July one witness testified that Lyndon B. Johnson was getting a rake-off from the federal agricultural subsidies that Estes had been obtaining.
It was eventually discovered that three officials of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in Washington had received bribes from Billie Sol Estes. Red Jacobs, Jim Ralph and Bill Morris were eventually removed from their jobs. However, further disclosures suggested that the Secretary of Agriculture, might be involved in the scam. In September, 1961, Billie Sol Estes had been fined $42,000 for illegal cotton allotments. Two months later, Freeman appointed Estes to the National Cotton Advisory Board.
It was also revealed that Billie Sol Estes told Wilson C. Tucker, deputy director of the Agriculture Department's cotton division, on 1st August, 1961, that he threatened to "embarrass the Kennedy administration if the investigation were not halted". Tucker went onto testify: "Estes stated that this pooled cotton allotment matter had caused the death of one person and then asked me if I knew Henry Marshall". As Tucker pointed out, this was six months before questions about Marshall's death had been raised publicly.
However, the cover-up continued. Tommy G. McWilliams, the FBI agent in charge of the Henry Marshall investigation, came to the conclusion that Marshall had indeed committed suicide. He wrote: "My theory was that he shot himself and then realized he wasn't dead." He then claimed that he then tried to kill himself by inhaling carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe of his truck. McWilliams claimed that Marshall had used his shirt to make a hood over the exhaust pipe. Even J. Edgar Hoover was not impressed with this theory. He wrote on 21st May, 1962: "I just can't understand how one can fire five shots at himself."
Joseph A. Jachimczyk also disagreed with the FBI report. He believed that the bruise on Marshall's forehead had been caused by a "severe blow to the head". Jachimczyk also rejected the idea that Marshall had used his shirt as a hood. He pointed out that "if this were done, soot must have necessarily been found on the shirt; no such was found."
The Robertson County grand jury continued to investigate the death of Henry Marshall. However, some observers were disturbed by the news that grand jury member, Pryse Metcalfe, was dominating proceedings. Metcalfe was County Sheriff Howard Stegall's son-in-law.
On 1st June, 1962, the Dallas Morning News reported that President John F. Kennedy had "taken a personal interest in the mysterious death of Henry Marshall." As a result, the story said, Robert Kennedy "has ordered the FBI to step up its investigation of the case."
In June, 1962, Billie Sol Estes, appeared before the grand jury. He was accompanied by John Cofer, a lawyer who represented Lyndon B. Johnson when he was accused of ballot-rigging when elected to the Senate in 1948 and Mac Wallace when he was charged with the murder of John Kinser. Billie Sol Estes spent almost two hours before the grand jury, but he invoked the Texas version of the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer most questions on grounds that he might incriminate himself.
Tommy G. McWilliams of the FBI also appeared before the grand jury and put forward the theory that Henry Wallace had committed suicide. Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk also testified that "if in fact this is a suicide, it is the most unusual one I have seen during the examination of approximately 15,000 deceased persons."
McWilliams did admit that it was "hard to kill yourself with a bolt-action 22". This view was shared by John McClellan, a member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He posed for photographs with a .22 caliber rifle similar to Marshall's. McClellan pointed out: "It doesn't take many deductions to come to the irrevocable conclusion that no man committed suicide by placing the rifle in that awkward position and then (cocking) it four times more."
Despite the evidence presented by Jachimczyk, the grand jury agreed with McWilliams. It ruled that after considering all the known evidence, the jury considers it "inconclusive to substantiate a definite decision at this time, or to overrule any decision heretofore made." Later, it was disclosed that some jury members believed that Marshall had been murdered. Ralph McKinney blamed Pryse Metcalfe for this decision. "Pryse was as strong in the support of the suicide verdict as anyone I have ever seen in my life, and I think he used every influence he possibly could against the members of the grand jury to be sure it came out with a suicide verdict."
Billie Sol Estes trial began in October 1962. John Cofer, who was also Lyndon Johnson's lawyer, refused to put Estes on the witness stand. Estes was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to eight years in prison. Federal proceedings against Estes began in March 1963. He was eventually charged with fraud regarding mortgages of more that $24 million. Estes was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
In 1964 J. Evetts Haley published A Texan Looks at Lyndon. In the book Haley attempted to expose Johnson's corrupt political activities. This included a detailed look at the relationship between Estes and Johnson. Haley pointed out that three men who could have provided evidence in court against Estes, George Krutilek, Harold Orr and Howard Pratt, all died of carbon monoxide poisoning from car engines.
The case was taken up by the journalist Joachim Joesten. In his books, The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson (1968) and How Kennedy was Killed: The Full Appalling Story (1968), Joesten argues that Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and was as a direct result of the scandals involving Billie Sol Estes and Bobby Baker.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Carter became Johnson's chief fundraiser. He was officially executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Johnson sold $1,000 memberships to the Johnson Club with the pitch: "Members are assured of a direct relationship with President Johnson".
In 1966 Carter was forced to resign as executive director of the Democratic National Committee after questions were raised about his fundraising techniques.
Clifton Carter died on 22nd September, 1971.
The automobile in which I rode was driven by a Dallas policeman. I sat in the middle of the front seat and held some radio equipment on my lap. Special Agent Jerry D. Kivett sat on my right and Special Agent Len Johns and someone else were in the rear seat. This was an unmarked Dallas police car.
Nothing unusual occurred on the motorcade route from Love Field to the downtown Dallas area. The crowds were very large and very friendly, except for two or three signs which contained derogatory comments about President Kennedy. I would estimate that the crowds were twice as big as they were in September of 1960 when Mr. Kennedy campaigned in Dallas. The motorcade slowed down at times, but I do not believe that it stopped.
The motorcade proceeded west on Main Street, made a righthand turn onto Houston and then swung around to the left on Elm, proceeding slowly at about 5 to 10 miles per hour. At approximately 12:30 p.m., our car had just made the lefthand turn off Houston onto Elm Street and was right along side of the Texas School Book Depository Building when I heard a noise which sounded like a firecracker. Special Agent Youngblood, who was seated on the righthand side of the front seat of Vice President Johnson's car immediately turned and pushed Vice President Johnson down and in the same motion vaulted over the seat and covered the Vice President with his body. At that instant Mrs. Johnson and Senator Yarborough, who were riding in the back seat along with the Vice President, bent forward. Special Agent Youngblood's action came immediately after the first shot and before the succeeding shots.
I distinctly remember three shots. There was an interval of approximately 5 to 6 seconds from the first to the last shot, and the three shots were evenly spaced. The motorcade promptly accelerated and traveled at high speeds up to 75 to 80 miles an hour to Parkland Memorial Hospital. The President's automobile, the President's follow-up car, the Vice President's automobile, and the Vice President's follow-up car pulled into the emergency entrance at Parkland. Attendants from the hospital with two stretchers carried President Kennedy and Governor Connally into the hospital. At one point I briefly helped remove Governor Connally from the car onto the stretcher. After President Kennedy and Governor Connally had been taken into the hospital, Vice President Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, Special Agent Youngblood and I entered the emergency area and were taken to a small room where we waited. I went out on a couple of occasions to secure coffee. Congressmen Henry Gonzalez, Jack Brooks, Homer Thornberry and Albert Thomas ca me into the room where Vice President Johnson waited. About 1 o'clock Mrs. Johnson left the room, stating that she wanted to visit with Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally.
At 1:12 p.m. Special Agent Emery Roberts brought the news that President Kennedy was dead. At that moment the only people present were Vice President Johnson, Congressman Thornberry, Special Agent Len Johns, and I. Special Agent Roberts advised Vice President Johnson to return to the White House forthwith because of the concern of the Secret Service that there might be a widespread plot to assassinate Vice President Johnson as well as President Kennedy.
Vice President Johnson then asked that Kenny (O'Donnell) and Larry (O'Brien) be consulted to determine what their views were on returning promptly to Washington. Kenny and Larry came down and told Vice President Johnson that they agreed he should return to Washington immediately. Vice President Johnson then asked me to try to alert some of the members of his staff to go to the airport for the return trip to Washington. I then proceeded to look for those members of the staff, and I was later driven to Love Field by a young Dallas policeman. By the time I returned to the Presidential plane (AF-1), Vice President and Mrs. Johnson had already boarded the plane and arrangements had already been made to have Vice President Johnson sworn-in as the President. I do not have any personal knowledge of Vice President Johnson's conversation with Attorney General Kennedy concerning the advisability of a prompt swearing-in or of the arrangements to have Judge Sara Hughes participate in that ceremony. I was present at the swearing-in and shortly thereafter the President's plane took off for the Washington area.
The original conversations concerning President Kennedy's trip to Texas occurred on June 5, 1963 at the Cortez Hotel in El Paso, Texas. President Kennedy had spoken earlier that day at the Air Force Academy and Vice President Johnson had spoken at Annapolis. The President and Vice President met with Governor Connally at the Cortez Hotel to discuss a number of matters, including a trip by the President to Texas. Fred Korth and I were present when the three men assembled, but Fred Korth and I left during their discussion of the President's proposed trip. The first tentative date was to have the trip coincide with Vice-President Johnson's birthday on August 27th, but that was rejected because it was too close to Labor Day. President Kennedy's other commitments prevented him from coming to Texas any sooner than November 21st, which was the date finally set.
Who were these men Billie Sol named as co-conspirators? From his beginnings as a soft-drink bottler in Bryan. Clifton Crawford Carter rose to become the quintessential political operative, running Lyndon Johnson's 1948 senatorial campaign in the sixth congressional district, and working again for Johnson's re-election in 1954. In January of 1957 Carter became head of Johnson's statewide political organization, a position he held until January of 1961 when the vice-president summoned him to Washington. Carter had built up a wealth of contacts through canvassing the state for Johnson, names he carried at all times in a little address book stuffed into his coat pocket. Carter's loyalty to Johnson was unquestioned. "He was a very sharp operator," said Ralph Yarborough. "Lyndon could trust him to pick up the money and keep his mouth shut."
"Picking up the money" became an important part of Carter's job, and his contacts began to reach higher and higher. During the Johnson presidency Carter was executive director of the Democratic National Committee and chief fundraiser for the President's Club, a DNC offshoot. Carter sold $1000 memberships to the Club with a simple and powerful pitch: "Members are assured of a direct relationship with President Johnson."
Carter resigned from the DNC in 1966, after ethical questions were raised about his fundraising techniques. He died in 1971 at the age of 53. Said Edna Moelhman, Carter's long-time secretary in Bryan, "He just worked himself to death for Lyndon Johnson."
Cliff Carter was as bound up with Johnson's political fortunes as anyone in the early 1960s. That he knew Billie Sol Estes - and knew of his wheelings and dealings - is a matter of record. But who besides Billie Sol Estes can say what Carter knew about the death of Henry Marshall?
If there was any arm-twisting, however, it was to recruit new members of the President's club. One and all, their $1,000 membership fee gave them something in common - access to the presidential closet. As Cliff Carter once put it in a glowing sales pitch, members "are assured of a direct relationship with President Johnson." Some newsmen and congressmen continued to be skeptical of the motives behind the contributors. For some reason they did not believe that the executives of the Ling- Temco- Vought electronics corporation in Dallas - a corporation doing splendidly with government contracts since Lyndon became president - who contributed $25,000 to the President's Club under the name Citizens for Good Government were, really and truly, just out for good government.
Jenkins wrote Warren Woodward on January 11, "Ed Clark tells me that he has received some assistance from H. E. Butt. I wonder if you could go by and pick it up and put it with the other (we) put away before I left Texas Clark says that Brown's money was for the presidential run for which Johnson was gearing up that January, and that Butt's was for Johnson to contribute to the campaigns of other senators, but that often he and the other men providing Johnson with funds weren't even sure which of these two purposes the funding were for. "How could you know?" Ed Clark was to say. "If Johnson wanted to give some senator money for some campaign, Johnson would pass the word to give money to me or Jesse Kellam or Cliff Carter, and it would find its way into Johnson's hands. And it would be the same if he wanted money for his own campaign. And a lot of the money that was given to Johnson both for other candidates and for himself was in cash." "All we knew was that Lyndon asked for it, and we gave it," Tommy Corcoran was to say.
This atmosphere would pervade Lyndon Johnson's fundraising all during his years in the Senate. He would "pass the word" - often by telephoning, sometimes by having Jenkins telephone - to Brown or dark or Connally, and the cash would be collected down in Texas and flown to Washington, or, a Johnson was in Austin, would be delivered to him there. When word was received that some was available, John Connally recalls, he would board a plane in Fort Worth or Dallas, and "I'd go get it. Or Walter would get it. Woody would go get it. We had a lot of people who would go get it, and deliver it. The idea that Walter or Woody or Wilton Woods would skim some is ridiculous. We had couriers." Or, dark says, "If George or me were going up anyway, we'd take it ourselves." And Tommy Corcoran was often bringing Johnson cash from New York unions, mostly as contributions to liberal senators whom the unions wanted to support. Asked how he knew that the money "found its way" into Johnson's hands, Clark laughed and said, "Because sometimes I gave it to him. It would be in an envelope." Both Clark and Wild said that Johnson wanted the contributions given, outside the office, to either Jenkins or Bobby Baker, or to another Johnson aide. Cliff Carter, but neither Wild nor Clark trusted either Baker or Carter.
He called his old army buddy and longtime friend, Clifton "Beau" Carter, and asked about the Secret Service. In the course of the conversation, he also arranged to get badges. Carter informed him the members wore lapel pins with a certain color-coding that changed every day. The system provided instant identification that would be hard to duplicate. Clark was promised the badges. He would get them. He also decided that, in the terror following the shooting, "pocket credentials" would do the job. They would do without the lapel pins.
In this and other subtle ways, the Secret Service was injected into the plan and would play a key role in the assassination. The false credentials would provide the necessary protection before and after the shooting. In one of those strange twists of fate, the Secret Service did not do their job for President Kennedy, but their imposters did provide the cover needed for Vice President Johnson to become president.
Three months after Mac Wallace walked out of the Travis County Courthouse. he went to work for Temco, Inc., in its electronics and missiles plant in Garland. Except for a short spell, he remained with the company until February of 1961. It was in January of that year, claims Billie Sol Estes, that Wallace, Billie Sol, Cliff Carter and Lyndon Johnson met at Johnson's house in Washington to discuss killing Henry Marshall. Little is known about Wallace's whereabouts that month, other than at some point he was arrested in Dallas for public drunkenness; it cannot be confirmed that Wallace was in Washington around the time of the inauguration - when the meeting supposedly took place.
But Wallace knew Cliff Carter. The two were in Washington together the previous summer, when Johnson was making a run for the 1960 presidential nomination. Wallace was seen at least three times at campaign functions, always accompanied by Cliff Carter, according to Lucianne Goldberg, who worked in the campaign press office. Goldberg recalled that Carter introduced her to Wallace in a hospitality suite at the Mayflower Hotel. "I just knew him and remember him because that was sort of what we were all about remembering everybody you meet, because you never knew where they were going to end up," said Goldberg, who was 23 and known as Lucy Cummings back then. "We were all on the make, as young people around politicians are."
Goldberg, now a literary agent in New York, told the Observer she noticed Wallace "a couple of times" at Johnson campaign headquarters at the Ambassador Hotel. "I'd be sitting at my desk and there'd be a lot of people milling around and I'd see him with his thumbs hooked into his belt the way those (Texas) guys do. " Goldberg could not recall any conversation she had with Wallace, "other than, 'wanna go have a drink,' that kind of thing, which I never did."