Hugh G. Aynesworth was born in Clarksburg on 2nd August, 1931. After attending Salem College, he started in 1948 as a newspaperman in West Virginia and later worked in Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado prior to joining the staff of the Dallas Morning News in 1960.
Aynesworth covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Over the next few years he investigated the links between Lee Harvey Oswald and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and reported on the trial of Jack Ruby. Aynesworth was also one of the first people to interview Marina Oswald.
When Joachim Joesten published his book, Oswald, Assassin or Fall Guy? in 1964, Aynesworth reviewed it for the Editor and Publisher: "If you would listen to this one, he would have you thinking that Lee Harvey Oswald was a polite little misunderstood youth who just got mixed up in the wrong company...Oh how terrible, says Joesten (an ex-German who became a U.S. citizen in 1948 and must wonder why), poor little Lee Harvey was the victim of a ruthless plot headed by Dallas police leaders, District Attorney Henry Wade and his staff and a few "bad guys" from the FBI. Joesten further states that Oswald was an agent of both the FBI and the CIA (how's that for a 24-year-old who couldn't spell "wrist"?). It's the same old tripe with some new flavoring."
Aynesworth was a strong supporter of the "lone assassin theory" and led the attacks on Mark Lane and his book on the Warren Commission, the pioneering Rush to Judgement (1965). He wrote that "Mark Lane is the troublemaker who spent two days in Dallas in January on his investigation and now pretends to be an expert on all aspects of the weird tragedy."
In May, 1967 Aynesworth published a critical article of Jim Garrison in Newsweek: "Garrison's tactics have been even more questionable than his case. I have evidence that one of the strapping D.A.'s investigators offered an unwilling "witness" $3,000 and a job with an airline - if only he would "fill in the facts" of the alleged meeting to plot the death of the President. I also know that when the D.A.'s office learned that this entire bribery attempt had been tape-recorded, two of Garrison's men returned to the "witness" and, he says, threatened him with physical harm."
Jim Garrison responded to this article in his book, On The Trail of the Assassins (1988). He argued that: "As for the $3,000 bribe, by the time I came across Aynesworth's revelation, the witness our office had supposedly offered it to, Alvin Babeouf, had admitted to us that it never happened. Aynesworth, of course, never explained what he did with the "evidence" allegedly in his possession. And the so-called bribery tape recording had not, in fact, ever existed."
James DiEugenio has argued: "With the work of the Assassination Records Review Board, many more pages of documents have been released showing how tightly bound Aynesworth was with the intelligence community. It has been demonstrated that Aynesworth was - at the minimum - working with the Dallas Police, Shaw's defense team, and the FBI. He was also an informant to the White House, and had once applied for work with the CIA. As I have noted elsewhere, in the annals of this case, I can think of no reporter who had such extensive contacts with those trying to cover up the facts in the JFK case. And only two come close: Edward Epstein and Gerald Posner."
As well as the Dallas Morning News Aynesworth has worked for Newsweek and the Washington Times. Books by Hugh Aynesworth include The Only Living Witness (1983), Wanted for Murder (1990), Murderers Among Us: Unsolved Homicides, Mysterious Deaths and Killers at Large (1994), The Vengeful Heart (2000), Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer (2000) and JFK: Breaking the News (2003).
Hugh Aynesworth died aged 92, on 23rd December, 2023.
If you would listen to this one, he would have you thinking that Lee Harvey Oswald was a polite little misunderstood youth who just got mixed up in the wrong company...
Oh how terrible, says Joesten (an ex-German who became a U.S. citizen in 1948 and must wonder why), poor little Lee Harvey was the victim of a ruthless plot headed by Dallas police leaders, District Attorney Henry Wade and his staff and a few "bad guys" from the FBI.
Joesten further states that Oswald was an agent of both the FBI and the CIA (how's that for a 24-year-old who couldn't spell "wrist"?).
It's the same old tripe with some new flavoring....
The tip-off is the foreword, wherein Joesten dedicates his book to "Mark Lane... the brilliant and courageous New York attorney...." Lane is the troublemaker who spent two day's in Dallas in January on his "investigation" and now pretends to be an expert on all aspects of the weird tragedy.
Relying on pitifully weak evidence to elevate a jack-leg Marxist such as Lee Harvey Oswald to membership in the supposed international communist conspiracy was precisely the sort of irresponsible straw man fabrication at which the News editorial writers excelled. No self-respecting communist would have wanted himself or his movement associated with the likes of Oswald.
Behind the News' editorial's bluster, however, lurked a different truth. It wasn't political conservatism, but intolerance-outright knee-jerk hostility to any opposing view-that characterized the thought of Ted Dealey and his fellow believers on the right. It was this brand of extremism that was discredited in Dallas by the events of November 22nd.
Fear for their own safety gripped some of the anti-communist crusaders after the shootings, possibly for good reason. Larry Schmidt and Bernard Weissman left town, the dust of The American Fact-Finding Committee settling to earth in their wake. General Walker grabbed a plane for Shreveport, La., where he hunkered down for several days.
As soon as I walked into Gordon Shanklin's smoke-filled office, I saw the copy of the newspaper lying on his desk. I grabbed it. Staring back at me in bold, black print was the front-page headline: "FBI KNEW OSWALD CAPABLE OF ACT, REPORTS INDICATE."
"Oh God," I groaned.
I quickly scanned the first few paragraphs while Shanklin sat quietly behind his desk puffing away. The story read, "A source close to the Warren Commission told the Dallas News Thursday that the Commission has testimony from Dallas police that an FBI agent told them moments after the arrest and identification of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, that 'we knew he was capable of assassinating the president, but we didn't dream he would do it...' In a memorandum to supervisors on Nov. 22, Lt. Jack Revill, head of the Dallas police criminal intelligence squad, reported that FBI special agent James (Joe) Hosty had acknowledged awareness of Oswald in the basement of the City Hall at 2:05 PM, Nov. 22. His remark was made as five officers brought Oswald in from Oak Cliff, Revill reported.
The article ended with some enlightening comments from the police: "Dallas police officers watched several known extremists prior to the Kennedy visit and even sent representatives as far as 75 miles to interview others thought to be planning demonstrations. Police chief Jesse Curry privately has told friends, 'If we had known that a defector or a Communist was anywhere in this town, let alone on the parade route, we would have been sitting on his lap, you can bet on that.' But he refused public comment."
The police were blatantly trying to wriggle out from under a rock... I wanted to laugh. The police had a long list of well known Communists in Dallas, and not one had a police officer sitting on his lap on November 22. In fact, Detective H. M. Hart told me that the police neither picked up nor watched anyone the day of November 22. Clearly, someone from the police department had fed this story to reporter Hugh Aynesworth...
J. Edgar Hoover came out blasting. He categorically denied the story's contentions. Revill himself partially retracted some of the article's allegations; he told the Dallas Times Herald that the comment that I never dreamed Oswald would kill the president was all someone else's fabrication. But Aynesworth and the Morning News had done the damage. It would prove to be irreversible regarding my relationships with the Dallas police and the Dallas media.
Two of my fellow agents, Bob Barrett and Ike Lee, later told me about their conversation with Revill after the story broke. Revill told Barrett and Lee that he had not wanted his November 22 memo to be released to the Warren Commission or the press, but police chief Jesse Curry threatened to charge Revill with filing a false police report if Revill wouldn't swear to the truth in his memo. The police then got a memo from Detective Jackie Bryan, who had been standing near Revill and me during this brief garage conversation. Contrary to Aynesworth's assertion, Bryan supported my version of the events. He reported that he did not hear me make any kind of comment suggesting I knew Oswald was capable of killing the president.
Jack Ruby was the quintessential wanna-be but never-was. Full of big stories, bigger dreams and lusty braggadocio, the strip show operator was first and foremost a lowlife, a man who searched for class as though he understood what it was.
Often he would tell his pals that someday he'd have a club in Las Vegas. That, to him, was class. Once he told his lawyer Stanley Kauffman that when he made it big in the Nevada city, he wouldn't have to worry any more about years and years of difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service. "He said, 'They never bother the big, important guys. You don't see guys hassled once they become somebody in show business.'"
Hardly a week went by in Dallas when you wouldn't see Ruby promoting some inane product, chasing fire trucks, pushing himself into public displays or passing out his Carousel Club calling cards at the fights, in the bars, or on downtown streets.
One time it might be promoting a young black singer/dancer, another time an exercise board, or a potion "sure to make you thinner and more powerful." Once he touted a gangly Arkansas girl as a "dancer," predicting she would be a smash hit at the Carousel. "She'll be the only Jewish stripper Dallas has ever seen," he told Don Campbell, the News ad executive. The girl never graced his stage.
In my view, were it not for the pervasive influence of a handful of individuals, there would be no plague of conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination.
The first of these regrettable characters was Jack Ruby, who by stealing the executioner's role, created generations of doubters, and not unreasonably so. It was an audacious, desperate act that would seem to make sense only if Jack Ruby had a very powerful, rational motive for killing Lee Harvey Oswald...
The second key character was Mark Lane, for whose predations I must shoulder some blame. Had I not foolishly given Lane a packet of then-secret witness statements in December of 1963, believing him when he said his single motive was to act as devil's advocate for Oswald ("I want to represent this boy," Lane told me. "I don't think he did it."), I wonder if people such as Lane, and later Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone, would be viewed today as brave souls who fought to bring the light of "truth" to the assassination story.
Lane, an attorney and one-term New York Democratic state assemblyman from the JFK wing of the party, in early December wrote a lengthy piece in The National Guardian laying out a litany of reasons that made him conclude Oswald could not have killed Kennedy. The story was published well before Lane ever visited Dallas, spoke to any witnesses or investigators or contacted me. It was riddled with inaccuracies and unsupported suppositions.
His book, Rush to Judgment, was a mishmash of unproven and unlikely allegations and off-the-wall speculations. Fifteen publishing houses turned it down, because they were too far behind Lane on the manufactured-controversy learning curve.
Only Holt, Rinehart and Winston guessed the true potential for profits in Rush to Judgment. They issued the book as a $5.95 hardback in 1966 and sold 30,000 copies in just two weeks. It was a publishing home run, and it showed the way for legions of other buffs to get rich and famous.
Jim Garrison is right. There has been a conspiracy in New Orleans - but it is a plot of Garrison's own making. It is a scheme to concoct a fantastic "solution" to the death of John F. Kennedy, and to make it stick; in this case, the district attorney and his staff have been indirect parties to the death of one man and have humiliated, harassed and financially gutted several others. Indeed, Garrison's tactics have been even more questionable than his case. I have evidence that one of the strapping D.A.'s investigators offered an unwilling "witness" $3,000 and a job with an airline - if only he would "fill in the facts" of the alleged meeting to plot the death of the President. I also know that when the D.A.'s office learned that this entire bribery attempt had been tape-recorded, two of Garrison's men returned to the "witness" and, he says, threatened him with physical harm.
Aynesworth, who seemed a gentle and fair enough man when he interviewed me for several hours in my home, never did get around to revealing whose life our office had shortened. As for the $3,000 bribe, by the time I came across Aynesworth's revelation, the witness our office had supposedly offered it to, Alvin Babeouf, had admitted to us that it never happened. Aynesworth, of course, never explained what he did with the "evidence" allegedly in his possession. And the so-called bribery tape recording had not, in fact, ever existed.
If this article was a typical Aynesworth product, one could hardly help but wonder how a newsman with so rampant an imagination continued to find a market for his stories. Yet, in fairness to Aynesworth, I must say that this "news" story was all too typical of what my office staff found itself reading in newspaper and magazine articles by writers from distant cities who had not the remotest awareness of what my office had been attempting to accomplish.
About a week after the assassination, Aynesworth, along with Bill Alexander, an assistant district attorney in Dallas, decided to find out if Lee Oswald had been an informant of the Dallas FBI, and of mine in particular. To this end, they concocted a totally false story about how Lee Oswald was a regularly paid informant of the Dallas FBI. At the time, I had no idea what information the Houston Post was relying on; it wasn't until February 1976, in Esquire magazine, that Aynesworth finally admitted he and Alexander had lied and made up the entire story in an effort to draw the FBI out on this issue. They said Oswald was paid $200 a month and even made up an imaginary informant number for Oswald, S172 - which was not in any way how the FBI classified their informants. Aynesworth then fed this story to Lonnie Hudkins of the Post, who ran it on January 1, 1964. Hudkins cited confidential but reliable sources for his story's allegations. The FBI issued a flat denial of the Post story. I was once again prohibited by Bureau procedure from commenting. It was clear that they were pointing a finger at me, since I was known to be the agent in charge of the Oswald file.
As I reported in the News five months later, under the two-column headline "FBI Knew Oswald Capable of Act, Reports Indicate," Hosty arrived at City Hall about 2:05 and rode up in an elevator with Lt. Jack Revill, head of the DPD Criminal Intelligence Squad, and Officer V. J. "Jackie" Bryan. According to Revill's written account of the episode, typed up 45 minutes later and delivered to Chief Curry that afternoon, in the basement Hosty "stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of the Subject [Oswald] and that they had information that this Subject was capable of committing the assassination of President Kennedy."
Hosty denied making the statement to Revill. Over the years he has refused my interview requests.
A few months after the assassination, I asked Gordon Shanklin why the bureau didn't at least tell the Dallas police about Oswald, and where he worked. I observed that the cops surely would have wanted to babysit such a character.
"We didn't want him to lose his job," Shanklin explained.
"Well, Mr. Kennedy lost his," I said quickly, appalled at what I'd just heard.
Though Shanklin never deliberately-to my knowledge anyway-caused me any difficulty, I was told by some of his agents that I was not his favorite person.
Agent Hosty testified that he was fully aware of the pending Presidential visit to Dallas. He recalled that the special agent in charge of the Dallas office of the FBI, J. Gordon Shanklin, had discussed the President's visit on several occasions, including the regular biweekly conference on the morning of November 22.
In fact, Hosty participated in transmitting to the Secret Service two pieces of information pertaining to the visit. Hosty testified that he did not know until me evening of Thursday November 21, that there was to be a motorcade, however, and never realized that the motorcade would pass the Texas School Book Depository Building. He testified that he did not read the newspaper story describing the motorcade route in detail since he was interested only in the fact that the motorcade was coming up Main Street, "where maybe I could watch it if I had a chance."
Even if he had recalled that Oswald's place of employment was on the President's route, Hosty testified that he would not have cited him to the Secret Service as a potential threat to the President. Hosty interpreted his instructions as requiring "some indication that the person planned to take some action against the safety of the President of the United States or the Vice President." In his opinion, none of the information in the FBI files - Oswald's defection, his Fair Play for Cuba activities in New Orleans, his lies to Agent Quigley, his recent visit to Mexico City - indicated that Oswald was capable of violence. Hosty's initial reaction on hearing that Oswald was a suspect in the assassination, was "shock, complete surprise," because he had no reason to believe that Oswald "was capable or potentially an assassin of the President of the United States."
Shortly after Oswald was apprehended and identified, Hosty's superior sent him to observe the interrogation of Oswald. Hosty parked his car in the basement of police headquarters and there met an acquaintance, Lt. Jack Revill of the Dallas police force. The two men disagree about the conversation which took place between them. They agree that Hosty told Revill that the FBI had known about, Oswald and, in particular, of his presence in Dallas and his employment at the Texas School Book Depository Building. Revill testified that Hosty said also that the FBI had information that Oswald was "capable of committing this assassination." According to Revill, Hosty indicated that he was going to tell this to Lieutenant Wells of the homicide and robbery bureau. Revill promptly made a memorandum of this conversation in which the quoted statement appears. His secretary testified that she prepared such a report for him that afternoon and Chief of Police - Jesse E. Curry and District Attorney Henry M. Wade both testified that they saw it later that day.
Hosty has unequivocally denied, first by affidavit and then in his testimony before the Commission, that he ever said that Oswald was capable of violence, or that he had any information suggesting this. The only witness to the conversation was Dallas Police Detective V. J. Brian, who was accompanying Revill. Brian did not hear Hosty make any statement concerning Oswald's capacity to be an assassin but he did not hear the entire conversation because of the commotion at police headquarters and because he was not within hearing distance at all times.
If you thought you knew everything interesting about the Kennedy assassination, then think again. Storied investigative reporter Hugh Aynesworth has finally weighed in with the book his colleagues have been asking him to write for decades. JFK: Breaking the News is the definitive story of the assassination and its aftermath.
Eager to appear on top of the JFK story, which Dallas newspaper fooled its readers with a bogus interview with J. Edgar Hoover? How did defense attorney Melvin Belli concoct the famous epilepsy defense for Jack Ruby? Why didn’t the FBI tell the Dallas police that Lee Harvey Oswald worked in a building directly in the path of JFK’s motorcade?
What was New Orleans DA Jim Garrison’s secret code and how did his investigators bribe a witness? The first print reporter to interview Marina Oswald and first to establish her husband’s escape route, Aynesworth also uncovered Oswald’s Russian diary and was involved in first reporting how the high-profile defector paid a threatening visit to the FBI office in Dallas only days before the assassination.