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.