Vaughn L. Snipes (Marlowe) was born in 1931. After serving in the United States Army during the Korean War, Marlowe moved to the west coast and ran a left-wing bookstore in Venice (a beach suburb of Los Angeles) and by 1962 was a supporter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC).
In the spring of 1963 Richard Case Nagell made contact with Marlowe. Nagell admitted he was a former officer with Army Intelligence and had close connections with various law enforcement agencies and had access to certain files. However, he had now changed his political opinions and wanted to help Marlowe in any way he could. Marlowe tested Nagell out by asking him to check out a couple of car number plates that he suspected belonged to undercover police officers. As Marlowe later told Dick Russell: "By the next day, he had the information for me, and he fingered a 'narc' from the West Los Angeles Division of the LAPD. The guy's cover was blown. So I figured that whoever this guy was and whatever loyalty he had, it certainly wasn't to the LAPD.
Nagel agreed to write an article on the Red Squad files for Marlowe's journal, The Specter. Nagell was also interested in Marlowe's abilities as a gunman. Marlowe admitted that during US Army basic training was awarded a Sharpshooter's medal.
In 1964 Richard Case Nagell wrote to Marlowe. At the time Nagell was in prison for armed robbery. He said that if he was interviewed by the authorities Marlowe was to say that Nagell was a right-winger and that he at no time mentioned the name of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Marlowe later told Dick Russell that: "Richard (Nagell) was a charming man, and I held two opinions about him simultaneously. It was odd. I felt he was sincerely interested in what we were doing. My wife and I dined with him probably twice, and there was a lot of high-minded talk about the need for democratic socialism and political reconstruction. I had the definite feeling he was disenchanted with American foreign policy. At the same time, I suspected he was also a spook, working for one of the intelligence-gathering agencies and checking me out for some unknown reason."
In 1967 Marlowe wrote anonymously to Jim Garrison "to alert him that there was a guy out there somewhere who might really know something". He also provided information on the case to Richard H. Popkin.
(1) Vaughn Marlowe, interviewed by Dick Russell in 1986.
He began the conversation by saying he was interested in, and sympathetic to, our organizational activities in the Santa Monica-Venice area. He told me he was an ex-officer with Army Intelligence who had done some hard thinking about his role in the past. He claimed to have friends and connections with various law enforcement agencies, and access to certain files. By way of example, he brought out some information on me that came, he claimed, from the Los Angeles Police Department's Red Squad files. It was accurate, though somewhat dated, and it contained the names of a number of friends who had worked with me on various projects. That's when he offered to help in any way that he could through his 'connections,' saying he didn't want to be as 'active' as we were for 'personal reasons.'
Well, we had a few beers and I ended up asking him to prove his good intentions by tracing the license plate numbers of two cars that came regularly to the beach. We suspected they were narcotics officers. As a little test, I added in two other numbers of friends' cars that I could see in the parking lot across the street from the coffeehouse. By the next day, he had the information for me, and he fingered a 'narc' from the West Los Angeles Division of the LAPD. The guy's cover was blown. So I figured that whoever this guy was and whatever loyalty he had, it certainly wasn't to the LAPD.
Our second meeting was at a bar that I chose arbitrarily while driving around with him in my car. Here he showed me various documents and copies of news items sufficient to impress me that he was what he claimed; an ex-U.S. infantry and ex-Army intelligence officer, and a former investigator for California's Alcoholic Beverage Control. One news item was about his being shot in the chest in the summer of '62. And he mentioned this plane crash where he was severely injured, resulting in facial plastic surgery. Again he told me he had many connections that could be of help in our various organizational activities that included the FPCC, CORE, ACLU, and SWP.
"Richard was a charming man, and I held two opinions about him simultaneously. It was odd. I felt he was sincerely interested in what we were doing. My wife and I dined with him probably twice, and there was a lot of high-minded talk about the need for democratic socialism and political reconstruction. I had the definite feeling he was disenchanted with American foreign policy. At the same time, I suspected he was also a spook, working for one of the intelligence-gathering agencies and checking me out for some unknown reason. Well, hell, I had nothing to hide. I'd even entertained FBI agents for lunch in earlier years, simply because I was intrigued with all this business of trying to save America from people like me. So I accepted Richard for what he was.
(2) Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1992)
All the parallels to Oswald, Nagell, or both felt positively eerie - the pseudonyms, the militancy, the FPCC-SWP-CP affiliations, the trip to Mexico City and the Cuban embassy. Finally I said, "There's something I think you ought to see," and passed over Nagell's description of how Marlowe had once been "considered for recruitment to hit JFK."
A stunned expression crossed Marlowe's face. "This blows my mind," he said in a lowered voice, shaking his head. "Well, I didn't like the Kennedys, but I sure as hell wasn't going to shoot any of them!" We lapsed into silence as Marlowe reread the page several times. Then he said; "You know, what's really weird is, there was a little joke I had for a while. I used to talk about Nagell with the woman I later married and she said, 'What do you think that was all about?' I said, 'I think they were looking for somebody to shoot Kennedy and I was scheduled to be Oswald.' I always thought that was a pretty funny joke - until this moment."
Marlowe conceded he might have looked like an ideal candidate. He made no secret of his criticism of President Kennedy's policies. In the window of his bookstore in 1963 was a large satirical photo of JFK, depicting a distorted presidential profile railing against the Cubans. "I'd even been one of the lieutenants organizing a demonstration against Kennedy when he was supposed to speak in L.A. during the (Cuban) Missile Crisis, until his trip got canceled."
Nor did Marlowe disguise the fact that, dating back to his Korean War service years, he was a good shot with a rifle. "My bookstore was in the middle of a junkie paradise," Marlowe recalled. "The word on the beach was that I was a shooter. I put that out intentionally, because I didn't want to be knifed for my $25-a-day receipts at the end of every night. I saved myself from getting cut up one night by some lunatic, because I had a gun. I just didn't try to hide the fact that there were guns in my bookstore and in my house. It was certainly known to the cops and the FBI that I had this reputation. And Nagell knew it. We talked about it."