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Cleburne historian Gary Shaw gives his take on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy during Thursday’s luncheon of the Cleburne Rotary Club.

Several in and around Cleburne shared connections of varying degrees to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago in Dallas, Cleburne JFK assassination historian Gary Shaw told members of the Cleburne Rotary Club on Thursday.

Shaw discussed his research into the assassination during the group’s weekly luncheon.

“I preface this as I always do by saying don’t believe a word I say, go look at the evidence yourself,” Shaw said. “And don’t believe everything the major media tells you.”

Shaw bolstered that statement by quoting a memo by former CIA Director Robert Gates in the early ’90s addressing greater CIA openness. 

Although the memo does not address the JFK assassination directly, Gates opines that the agency in the past has at times managed to turn failures into successes through media manipulation, something Gates characterized as a benefit to national security.

“In whose opinion?” Shaw said. “Any organization that talks about success through the ability to change perception of intelligence failures into successes is at its heart an anti democratic organization.”

Life magazine, national news and other media outlets spread falsehoods in the wake of Kennedy’s assassination, Shaw said.

“Any attempt to tell us what to believe about anything, especially the killing of the president, without looking at the evidence is not worth listening to,” Shaw said.

Shaw has written or co-written several books about the Nov. 22, 1963. assassination and its aftermath, including “JFK Has Been Shot,” a re-release of a 1992 book, which topped the New York Times best seller list, reissued with new material to coincide with last year’s fiftieth anniversary of the event.

Shaw argues that evidence available, evidence gone missing and discrepancies simply don’t add up to the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone that day.

“They silenced Oswald not because they were afraid he might talk,” Shaw said. “But because they were afraid to have the evidence come to light in a court of law.”

Shaw, who performed in a Doo-wop quartet during his days at Cleburne High School, met Jack Ruby, Oswald’s assassin several years before Kennedy’s assassination. Shaw first met Ruby when he and his band backed Godley rockabilly singer Johnny Carrell at the Texas Theatre in Dallas, oddly enough the site where police arrested Oswald several years later a little over an hour after Kennedy’s assassination.

Shaw called Ruby a gregarious “glad hander and back slapper” with probable mob ties. 

Ruby’s subsequent shooting of Oswald and the Warren Commission finding that Oswald acted alone rang false to Shaw and spurred his interest in researching Kennedy’s assassination.

Among those with those connected to that November 1963 days who also hold ties to Cleburne and/or Johnson County were Bobby Hargis and Beverly Oliver, Shaw said.

Hargis, a former Dallas Police Department motorcycle officer — he used to live on North Anglin Street — rode behind Kennedy’s limousine on the left rear as the motorcade passed through downtown Dallas that day.

Although Oliver hails from Garland, Shaw met and later interviewed her in 1969 when she sang at First Baptist Church in Joshua. Oliver in 1963 was a singer — not a stripper, Shaw said — at a club next door to Ruby’s Carousel Club.

She also claims to be the Babushka Lady — so named because she wore a head scarf similar to those worn by Russian women — seen in Abraham Zapruder’s infamous film of Kennedy’s assassination. 

The Babushka Lady appears to also be filming the motorcade from the opposite side of the street from Zapruder. Unlike Zapruder’s film, Oliver, or the Babushka Lady’s, film allegedly shows the grassy knoll, where some insist some of the shots originated, and the Texas School Book Depository Building, which Oswald and perhaps another shooter, fired from.

Oliver’s claim, Shaw said, is that two men in suits, possibly FBI or secret service, confiscated her film three days after the assassination and it has never been seen since.

Shaw said he believes four shots hit the president that day, two fired from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, one from the book depository building, but from a different window than the one Oswald allegedly set himself up in, and one from a building across the street from the book depository. The only way to confirm that belief at this point would be to exhume Kennedy’s body, Shaw said.

Shaw joked that it helps to have a sense of humor, and a healthy amount of skepticism.

“We’ve identified 23 of the three gunmen,” Shaw said. “That’s the way it is with these things. There have been a lot of confessions over the years. Some of them are way off the wall.”

Shaw concluded by fielding audience questions.

Shaw called claims that a secret service agent riding in the car behind JFK killed the president a “crazy theory” and pointed out that the agent, now deceased, successfully sued the author of the original article making that claim. Shaw said he believes that then Vice President Lyndon Johnson likely knew of plans to assassinate Kennedy beforehand.

Shaw said FBI agents came to see him a couple of times, after his 1992 book came out, but that he befriended several of them as well as several Dallas police officers he’s come to know through the years while researching the assassination.

One Rotarian asked Shaw if he ever feared for his life or safety given the number of people connected to Kennedy’s assassination who subsequently died under mysterious circumstances.

“Once or twice,” Shaw said. “But I tell everybody that I’m a Christian man.”

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