Donald Trump may have presided over an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power, but his failed coup is not the first to happen in America. The initial attempt unfolded in full view of the American public when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, and we still have not owned up to the truth of what actually transpired that day. What follows here is my outline for a TV series that offers a different interpretation of November 22, 1963, how we got there, and who was really behind the treachery. The characters in this series are real people of historical note, and this is my analysis for a speculative Netflix-style TV series. Anybody wanna make some teevee? Also, because of the length of this document, it may not all show up in the body of your email and you will need to click on a link offered at the end to read the full proposal’s narrative.
Timeline of the Entire Show: 1950s—1964 (Starts with the rigging of the 1948 Texas U.S. Senate election by LBJ and ends a few months after John F. Kennedy is assassinated in November 1963).
The World of the Show
What if an important moment in American history, and the way it was reported and taught, isn’t just inaccurate or wrong? It’s a lie, calculated to completely fool you. To help you believe in a fantasy that is far more comforting than reality.
“American Coup” is the true story of a pivotal moment for the United States. It’s the tale of how an ambitious young man from the Hill Country of Central Texas aligned himself with economic, intelligence, and military forces to kill a president in order to replace him in the White House. The narrative of this dramatic, hour-long series is a dark tale of intrigue, betrayal, and power that offers a reinterpretation of ignored facts, and points a damning finger at Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) of Texas. This story will convince viewers that LBJ was complicit in the killing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) in Dealey Plaza and that America and most historians have been fools to believe the government’s version of events.
And every single scene of this disturbing and compelling television show will be documented with historical evidence.
“American Coup” begins in the early 1950s, a time when it was still relatively easy for political leaders to get away with great deceptions. America has just won a war to keep the world free from tyranny; business is booming; people are optimistic and want to believe there is nothing that can’t be accomplished by their country and its people. We all believe during those years that our country looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s a time when the Cold War is the only major disturbance in America’s happy landscape; and the media turns a blind eye to the indiscretions of political leaders. The American people have not yet had their faith in presidents and politicians rattled by the Vietnam War and Watergate. No one has had to live through the horror seeing great men killed on television, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., gunned down for what they believed, and tried to change.
“American Coup” is not the red, white, and blue yarn of our country we read about in history books. Instead, it is a drama about the way power really works in the United States. In the arc of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s ruthless rise to the presidency, the show depicts military contractors constantly in need of war to make big profits; an unbridled CIA determined to create politics favorable to its own power; and energy company executives who won’t let even a president stand in the way of their profits. But we also see the women of this era, the sisters, wives, and lovers cleverly navigate a landscape where true power is beyond their reach, but a certain amount of influence is within their grasp through compromise and creativity.
The complex characters that populate the world of “American Coup” are mostly anti-heroes who have secretly written American history to suit their dreams, not the nation’s vision; and this series will bring them and their unsettling accomplishments to public light for the first time. Few of the characters in the show will be fully attractive or completely desirable. But they will be human, torn by conflicting emotions and desires; they will deal with each other ruthlessly, and occasionally tenderly, to achieve arguably immoral goals. Those who aren’t constantly plotting and conniving will become victims or end up being used as pawns.
A gritty and glossy story, “American Coup” is about the collision of idealism with the unrestrained ambition for power and money. Glamour and refinement will clash with anger and evil and the outcome will not be comforting. In the same cultural fashion that “The Sopranos” transcended the “Italian mob” genre to become a treatise on the American family, “American Coup” will rise beyond the framework of “historical drama” to show the brutality, passions, and weaknesses of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the wife, lovers, sisters and cronies that made up his inner circle, and how they took control of an idealistic nation. The series will appeal to the broad audiences enthralled by “Homeland” and “Scandal,” but “American Coup” will offer even more treachery than those successful programs and will have the added intrigue of being borne up by historical fact. “American Coup” will draw the viewer into a drama that will forever change their view of the American story.
The first episode will begin with Lyndon Baines Johnson’s cronies stuffing Ballot Box 13 to ensure LBJ’s win in the Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate. The following episodes will unveil LBJ’s ruthless rise to power as Majority Leader, his scandalous and uncontrollable sex life, and his use of a personal hit man to stop any threat to his meteoric rise to power. Even LBJ’s sister Josefa is expendable to her brother when she promises to go public with what she knows. The first season will illuminate the rising enmity between LBJ and John F. Kennedy during the Democratic Presidential Nominating Convention of 1960 and foreshadow the Texan’s intent to eliminate JFK as an obstacle.
Even before the Convention, Johnson already hated Kennedy. But not yet for political reasons, only because JFK is handsome, Ivy League educated, wealthy, and not a jug-eared country boy from a cabin in Texas. When Kennedy beats out Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination, LBJ refuses to go away quietly and return to the Senate. Instead, he blackmails Kennedy with CIA files documenting JFK’s affair with Nazi spy Inga Arvad and movie starlets, forcing Kennedy to place LBJ on the presidential ticket as VP. This seals the two men’s mutual hatred and connected destinies even as it binds them together in the eyes of the voters.
By the time LBJ becomes Vice President, it’s clear he’s already accomplished at treachery and murder. But now his great ambition to be president, a dream he knows will never be realized through the election process, is thwarted only by the existence of one man: John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States. At the end of the first season, the reward for the viewer, who has been lured all this way by the well-constructed world of passion, intrigue, and murder, is something more than just the straightforward chill of seeing an evil man’s plans moving towards fruition and wondering if he can be stopped. Nor is this a Greek tragedy that allows the audience to sense a fatal flaw that will bring ruin. Instead, they are left convinced that Lyndon Baines Johnson is likely capable of killing a president and they will watch and marvel as his plan begins to unfold until that day of tragedy in Dallas, when Camelot ended, war became inevitable, and a Democratic nation lost its innocence.
Arc of Season 1:
Season 1 opens in a musty old back room of a South Texas courthouse. A handful of men, a few in suits, are standing around several dozen metal ballot boxes. It’s late at night and they are waiting for a call from LBJ. He’s already a congressman but it is election night in his race for the U.S. Senate seat from Texas against the highly popular Coke Stevenson. The phone rings, a man in a suit listens, and hangs up, quickly. He and two other men reach down and grab a ballot box, the number 13 is visible, and another man picks up a stack of ballots on a shelf. They leave the room, put the box in the back of a pickup, and drive off into the desert.
Johnson fraudulently becomes Senator by rigging the election and continues to amass political power. His ambition is not informed by ideals or public policy goals. It is naked and cold and he refuses to be stopped by anyone. Even before being elected to the senate, he was cutting deals as a congressman with Texas contractors to get kickbacks on contracts for dam and road projects in the state. A small, inexperienced Houston construction company named Brown and Root mysteriously ends up with a federal government deal to build a dam on the Colorado River and then becomes LBJ’s biggest financial and campaign benefactor in an era before true election finance reporting. LBJ is also constantly having sexual trysts with several women in a reckless manner that could threaten his career.
LBJ’s promiscuous, alcoholic, and drug-addicted sister Josefa Johnson knows about her brother’s sexual foolishness, and has strong suspicions about his sudden accumulation of money. She also has contacts on his campaign that told her about the stuffing of box 13 and the several counties where Johnson had falsified voting results in South Texas. As LBJ builds political power and sets up kickback deals, his own sister becomes a threat to his plans.
Josefa is having an affair of her own with a man named John Kinser, owner of a Pitch n Putt in Austin, TX, and an LBJ crony and political operative Mac Wallace. John Kinser, unfortunately, is also having an affair with Mac Wallace’s wife. When Kinser blackmails LBJ for money based upon what he has heard from Josefa, LBJ hires Mac Wallace to murder him. Wallace shoots Kinser at the Pitch ‘n Putt in front of several witnesses. The murder goes to a jury trial. The jury convicts Mac Wallace of First Degree Murder, but the judge, an LBJ appointee, over turns the decision and gives Wallace a five year suspended sentence. LBJ’s personal attorney John Cofer defends Wallace. LBJ had been sending notes to the courthouse via a runner throughout the course of the trial. Wallace goes free and is now LBJ’s committed hit man. He had already been beholden to LBJ for a job with the U.S. Agriculture Department. Jurors later claim they had received phone calls threatening them and their families if they didn’t free Wallace.
LBJ quickly becomes the majority leader of the U.S. Senate the same year Kinser is killed and in the process realizes the even greater financial power he has at his disposal in the rewarding of government contracts. He sets up Bobby Baker, his senate page, to work as a cutout to facilitate the awarding of lucrative defense contracts to Texas companies and other businesses pursuing government projects. Baker is often seen delivering suitcases of cash to LBJ’s private residence on Capitol Hill and to his campaign offices. Even though LBJ’s neighbor is FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, he has no fear of being discovered and has become close friends with the lawman.
In Texas, a wealthy businessman offers LBJ a big campaign donation but also has a conversation about the potential for millions in a scheme involving the “storing” and “growing” of non-existent cotton and grain crops. Billy Sol Estes has already begun to get rich out of defrauding the federal government and the U.S.D.A. out of paid crop allotments with his idea, and now he wants LBJ involved for protection. Johnson accepts the offer but in a few years an inspector for the State Agriculture and Stabilization and Conservation Service gets suspicious. Henry Marshall launches an investigation that takes him closer and closer to one of the most powerful politicians in the country.
Josefa is the immediate threat that might make impossible the millions from illegal wheeling and dealing. Although publicly claiming love for only Lady Bird, LBJ has already entered into two long-term affairs in Texas. One will lead to a son. (He’ll have another illegitimate child, a daughter, with a lover in D.C.) But Josefa is talking too much. And Henry Marshall is being too determined with his investigation of Billy Sol Estes and LBJ. As LBJ appears poised for national prominence and a spot on the Democratic ticket, the Senate launches an investigation into the Bobby Baker kickback operation he is running for LBJ.
House Speaker Sam Rayburn, J. Edgar Hoover, and LBJ blackmail JFK with information about his sex life to force JFK put LBJ on the ticket as vice president. There is now too much at stake to let Josefa keep getting drunk and drugged and gossiping and Henry Marshall’s investigation must end. LBJ sends Wallace to threaten Marshall but the West Texas investigator won’t back down. He is found dead a few weeks later with six rifle shots to his head. LBJ gets a friendly coroner from two counties distant to call it a suicide without ever examining the body. Josefa is next.
After a fight with Mac Wallace, who is still her lover after the Kinser killing years earlier, LBJ’s sister begins to allude to the murders of John Kinser and Henry Marshall while drunk and in mixed company. She knows that Wallace did her brother’s dirty work in West Texas. In fact, almost everyone who did business with Estes in the scheme is dying and Josefa knows why. Fearing that his sister will be his undoing, LBJ tells Mac Wallace to get rid of Josefa.
Wallace is only slightly conflicted about killing his lover. Josefa is found dead in her bed on Christmas Eve from what appears to be blunt force trauma to her head. In the season finale, Josefa is hurriedly embalmed without an autopsy on Christmas Day and buried the next day. LBJ does not attend the funeral and shows more relief than remorse. He hangs up the phone, ending a call with Mac Wallace, and returns to chatting with two Texas oilmen in his office. They wonder what can be done about LBJ’s boss, President Kennedy, who is making plans to end the oil depletion allowance.
Election Day 1948 – LBJ campaign manager and future governor of Texas John Connally races around South Texas having last minute meetings with county judges and election officials. He is passing out envelopes of cash and finalizing the fix to make certain enough votes turn up before the count is finished. He calls LBJ from a county judge’s house and assures him everything is set.
LBJ’s sister Josefa is rolling in bed with John Kinser, married, owner of a par 3 golf course in downtown Austin. Kinser is a bisexual man known for his promiscuousness, occasional drug use, and gambling habit. Josefa is an alcoholic and increasingly addicted to drugs. She hates her brother, the ambitious politician. But Kinser sees opportunity for both of them. “You think I could ask your brother for some money?” he asks. “I don’t care,” she says. “He’s going to steal the senate election and then he’ll get even richer.” She leans over and takes a drink from a flask at bedside. “I won’t blackmail him. I’ll just let him understand I know things that you’ve told me,” Kinser explains. “Why not? He’s already gotten more money as a congressman than he could ever spend. Nobody even knows how rich the bastard is already. He’s probably the most dishonest person ever elected to Washington. I know him.”
In a dusty backroom of a South Texas court house, a group of men, a few wearing suits, are smoking and standing in the midst of a few dozen metal ballot boxes. One man is near a phone, clearly waiting for it to ring. When it does, he listens, hangs up, and looks at the others in the room. “He needs about a couple hundred,” he says. “He’s just down by a few. Doesn’t want to make it look like a landslide.” They laugh. The man bends over and picks up a ballot box with the number 13 on its side. Another man grabs a stack of ballots on a nearby shelf. They head to the door. “Might need to shuffle those up a bit. I created those names in alphabetical order. I hope they all registered Democrat before they died.” They put the ballot box in the bed of a pickup and drive off into the brush country.
In Austin, the day after the Democratic primary election against former popular governor Coke Stevenson, LBJ is having a celebratory luncheon and talking strategy with his wife Lady Bird. His sister walks into the Driskill Hotel with Mac Wallace, a PhD at the University of Texas who has been an operative of LBJ’s political ascension. Mac has done a lot of LBJ’s dirty work. LBJ doesn’t know yet that his sister is sleeping with Wallace and he assumes the only reason they are together is because Josefa knows LBJ will not turn Wallace away from the table. He does not like his sister. LBJ starts talking politics.
“They’re gonna contest last night but I’m gonna win. Nothing they can do. I’ve got the goddamned central committee for the party all set up. Those boys are taken care of.” “Lyndon, you do need to be careful,” Lady Bird says. “Like hell. Nobody gets anywhere with careful. You just have to buy the right tickets from the right people.” Wallace talks about the ongoing recount, which will last a week, and LBJ has a quizzical look wondering how Wallace ended up at the hotel with his sister.
Josefa brings up money. “Lyndon, I need a loan for my friend John Kinser. You know his little golf course is in trouble.” “No, I don’t. What I know is he’s a drunken little piss ant who doesn’t know if he likes boys or girls, that’s what I know.” “Well, you should help him out. Just for me,” she says, her tone implying she might tell some of the things she knows about her brother. LBJ looks at Wallace and implies these are Wallace’s problems and need to be fixed. Wallace looks troubled. He doesn’t know how LBJ will react when he finds out that just like Kinser, Wallace is also sleeping with LBJ’s sister. It’s even more complicated because Kinser is also having an affair with Wallace’s wife.
In the ladies’ room, Ladybird and Josefa powder their noses. A tipsy Josefa downs a couple prescription pills. Josefa alludes to the fact that not only does she sleep with John Kinser and Mac Wallace, John Kinser also sleeps with Mac Wallace’s wife. Ladybird discretely lets it drop that she knew the men needed to talk business without the women around. She plans on telling Lyndon that Mac is sleeping with Josefa even though she knows her husband will come unhinged and scream about people threatening his career with their stupidity.
A few days later, the Democratic Central Committee is still dealing with the primary recount in Austin that Johnson appears to have won by a very narrow margin. Stevenson’s people demand the results be tossed out because Johnson’s operatives stuffed Box 13. The winning votes were all names of dead people and they had voted in alphabetical order. “This is a crime against the voters of the Texas Democratic Party,” one of the committee members yells. “These are the results. If you are calling it a game, then Lyndon played it better than Coke,” another responds. “Doesn’t matter, either way, we’ve got a tie and can’t certify a winner.” Johnson leans over to Connally. Find Walter Maydon in Nashville. Send a goddamned plane up there to get him. He’ll get back here and break the tie.” The Waco publisher, a friend of LBJ’s, shows up the next day and breaks the tie and Johnson wins the nomination certification by a single vote in spite of overwhelming evidence of election fraud. His 87-vote margin of victory in the primary earns him the derisive nickname “Landslide Lyndon.”
Josefa and John Kinser are in bed in their underwear, obviously post-coitus. They are either drunk or stoned. “What did your brother say about the money?” he asks. “He said you’re a piss ant,” Josefa answers. Kinser laughs. “So, what he’s a fuckin’ liar and a thief. Is he gonna give me any money?” “I doubt it. But he didn’t say no, so I’ll ask him again. Maybe.” “I’ve gotta have that money. I’ve got bookies and Vegas boys on me now. They’re not interested in my golf course and if I sold it, it wouldn’t cover my debts.” “Hope they don’t kill you before I get tired of screwin’ you,” Josefa says. “I don’t think Mac’s too happy about you screwin’ his wife, either.” Kinser sits up in bed. “He doesn’t know. No way.” “I’m not sure,” Josefa answers.
Inside his campaign office, LBJ is yelling at Mac Wallace. “Goddamnit, Mac, of all the stupid-ass things to do, go and stick it in my crazy fukkin’ sister. You’re out of your mind. How in the hell am I supposed to trust you with the important stuff?” Lady Bird has, obviously, told LBJ what Josefa said in the ladies’ room. “I’m sorry, boss. But I got the whole thing set up for Connally in South Texas. That got us here, ya know? And every other job you wanted me to get done.” “Well, you screwin’ Josefa ain’t gettin’ us anywhere.” “That Kinser guy is gettin’ it all even. He’s sleepin’ with Lucy.” “Your wife, Mac?” “Yeah.” “Goddamnit, you need to fix this. Get some justice for yourself. Be a man. Make that blood-suckin’ little bastard go away. Solve all our problems.” “What do you mean, boss?” “You know what the hell I mean. Take care of it and don’t worry about anything. I’ll take care of you.”
Mac Wallace takes a shot of whiskey. He grimaces, not much of a drinker. He knows LBJ is worried that his sister has been talking about the rigged votes in South Texas. If Kinser knows, he’s likely to go public or up his blackmail for money. Mac pulls a revolver out of his pocket and spins the chamber to see all six bullets are loaded. He gets in his car and drives to Butler Park Pitch ‘n Putt on the Colorado River. Wallace walks into the pro shop where John Kinser is waiting on four golfers. He pulls out the pistol and shoots Kinser six times, turns and slowly walks away from the horrified witnesses. An onlooker in the parking lot hears the gunshots and sees Wallace walk out with the pistol hanging from his hand. As he drives away, the onlooker writes down his license plate number.
Lawyer Ed Clark punches a flashing phone line and says, “Hello.” He hears LBJ’s voice. “Get ‘im outta jail, goddamnit, Ed. Find some money, get the bail fixed, and get ‘im released. You hear me?” “Yes, sir, senator.” Ed Clark is one of the most powerful attorneys in Austin. He has done a great deal of work putting together LBJ’s business enterprises, connecting him to oil money men like H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchison, and managing the senator’s investments. Charged with first-degree murder, Mac Wallace should not be eligible for bail. But Clark convinces Judge Charles Betts to release the suspect on $10,000 personal recognizance bond. LBJ campaign donors provide the money. While he is waiting to be let out of the jail, Wallace tells officers he has to get back to Washington because he “works for LBJ.”
Wallace seems unfazed by his predicament. He finds a pay phone and calls Josefa Johnson and arranges to meet her at a hotel. He doesn’t bother contacting his estranged wife. Josefa is drinking but they have sex. Afterwards, she accuses Mac of doing her brother’s bidding by killing her other lover. “You weren’t just jealous, were you?” she asks. “I was jealous. I don’t know why I did it.” “Yes you do. Lyndon asked you to. He’s worried about me talking to John but not you.” “You need to watch what you’re saying. You could get all of us in trouble.” “You’re already in trouble. You’re going to prison for murder.” “I don’t think so. I might go to Dallas, though, for a new job.”
LBJ has another one of his lawyers up in his suite at the Brown Building in downtown Austin. John Cofer is getting pre-trial instructions along with various threats. “Now goddamnit, John, when Stevenson and his crowd took me to court over the election, you won that case when they had all the evidence. It’s the same thing here. I need Mac out of that court house.” “It’s a hard situation, Lyndon. He had the gun, Kinser’s blood on him and his car, and there are witnesses.” “I don’t give a good goddamn. You get him off. I’ll take care of Betts and we’ll get someone else on the jury.” “What are you talking about?” “Don’t you worry about it.”
A year later Wallace goes on trial for murder. In the interim, he had to resign his job at USDA to distance himself from LBJ, who had gotten him the position. The trial seems perfunctory, almost pro forma of the judicial process. Wallace does not testify and never formally denies the charges. John Cofer argues it as a crime of passion because Kinser had been sleeping with Wallace’s wife. He talks about character. Wallace is a former Marine and a past president of the University of Texas student body, a public servant, and government employee. During the course of the trial, LBJ sends a runner to the courthouse several times a day with messages for Judge Charles Betts.
The all white male jury leaves the room to begin deliberations. There was little doubt about guilt but an argument ensued between jurors over death and life imprisonment. After the guilty verdict is read, Betts issues a “jury verdict notwithstanding” ruling and orders Wallace released on a five year suspended sentence. Betts sends the jury back to deliberations to approve the directed verdict. Most of them are angry and disagree with the judge. The day is nearly over and jurors are sent home when they cannot agree. They all get phone calls that night threatening their families if they do not approve Betts’ ruling. Although Wallace and the man he killed had both been sleeping with Josefa Johnson, neither her name nor her brother’s are ever mentioned during the trial. The next day Mac Wallace walks out of the courtroom a free man.
In less than 24 hours, the phone starts ringing in the home of Elaine and Robert Kinser. They are taking calls from the twelve jurors that had convicted Mac Wallace. Each juror offers a personal and profound apology for approving Judge Betts’ decision to suspend the sentence. Without exception, they claim to have received threatening calls at their homes from unnamed people who promised to harm them and their families if they chose to send Wallace to jail for any period of time. Several of them describe men coming to their door with guns and threatening their lives if Wallace is not exonerated.
Johnson meets with Ed Clark after the verdict. “Ed, I’ve gotta do something with that sonofabitch. Now I need you to get him a job.” “Lyndon, he’s a convicted killer. Neither one of us should be associated with him.” “We aren’t. But you just make a phone call to one of your oil boys or defense contractors and get him a job up in Dallas.” “I don’t understand, Lyndon. Why are you doing this?” “Because I may need a man like him sometime in the future.” Clark understands what this means and agrees to make the arrangements for Wallace.
In South Texas, a former Alice County deputy sheriff writes a letter for former Gov. Coke Stevenson. Sam Smithwick is doing life in prison for murder after killing a radio announcer who was attacking him politically during broadcasts. Smithwick’s jailhouse letter to Stevenson claims that two Mexican nationals delivered to him the contents of the missing Box 13 from the 1948 election that had been stolen by LBJ. Smithwick offers to turn them up along with the ballot box if Stevenson will get him leniency. Stevenson leaves two days later to travel to the prison to meet with Smithwick but he is found hanged in his cell and it is immediately ruled a suicide.
A few weeks later Mac Wallace tells Josefa Johnson he is leaving Austin for a job with a defense company in Dallas. He vows to continue their relationship but tells her they will have to keep it a secret from Lyndon. Wallace gets quickly promoted to purchasing director for a firm that will eventually become LTV, a major armaments maker. But his phone frequently rings from Cliff Carter, LBJ’s personal political aide, and Wallace disappears from work for days and weeks at a time with no questions asked by his employer. LTV has received numerous defense contracts arranged by LBJ and he has received millions in illicit kickbacks from the company. Mac Wallace is perfectly placed for future assignments.
Back in Washington as a senator, LBJ moves quickly to accumulate more power. A number of colleagues tell him about an ambitious and connected young page from Pickens, South Carolina. “He knows where all the bodies are,” LBJ is told. Baker recognizes in Johnson a willingness to bend the rules, which will make them both wealthy and powerful. Baker treats LBJ almost reverentially over time and is described by observers as a “boot licker.” But as LBJ’s power increases, and he becomes majority leader of the senate, he sets Baker to work on kickback schemes.
In his office, they discuss their first big deal. “Now Bobby, the Air Force is gonna award a contract for a new fighter jet. They call it the TFX or some goddamned bunch of letters. I want my Texas boys to get that contract. But I ain’t just givin’ it to ‘em. You follow me?” “Sure, senator. I understand.” “I want you to go to Texas. There’s a bank in Dallas and it’s runnin’ money for the secretary of the Navy and this company General Dynamics. You go there. You’re gonna get some suitcases. You take those down to Austin to a man named Ed Clark. He’s who I want you to call to get all your instructions.” “Of course, senator. I’ll leave for Texas right away.”
LBJ also travels to Texas a few days later. He orders Mac Wallace to come to the ranch in Johnson City for a meeting. Johnson had gotten Wallace a job with the USDA in Texas and he knew how government programs operated. They go for a walk along the Pedernales River. “Mac, I want you to get hooked in with this Billy Sol Estes fella out in West Texas.” “Is there something I need to fix, senator? Like before?” “No, no. He sent me some money for my election and what all. But he’s doing something out there that doesn’t sound right. But my people over at ag tell me he’s getting paid millions. Well, he goddamned sure ain’t gonna keep doing it unless he includes us.” “Of course, senator. I’ll go have a visit with Mr. Estes.”
In West Texas, USDA inspector Henry Marshall is already beginning to smell a scam. He’s started a one-man audit of cotton gins and grain elevators. He pulls up to an operation in Amarillo and announces a surprise inspection to the business owners. They look a bit nervous. Marshall begins to pore over their books. He points at a line on a page. “Is this your last delivery from Mr. Estes’ company?” he asks. The manager looks over at the page. “I reckon, if it’s the last one on the ledger.” “You have no indication of sales on here. Did you sell that cotton?” “I’m not sure. We aren’t that good with our books out here.” “You’re gonna need to get better, sir. I’ll be back and I’ll need an explanation of where that crop has gone, if it ever was here.” As Marshall walks out the door the manager picks up the phone and desperately dials Estes.
LBJ and Lady Bird are formally dressed and walking through a casino. She is a bit perturbed. “You know, Lyndon, I would never try to restrain you. But I am not going to sit back and let my life get ruined by your, your appetites.” “Goddamnit, Bird, can’t you just enjoy the night? We’ve got some important people watching us. Now calm down.” They are in the Dominican Republic. Bobby Baker worked with Johnson and Intercontinental Hotels to establish gambling in DR. Mob bosses Meyer Lansky and Sam Giancana guaranteed the senator and his protégé a piece of the “rake” if they’d facilitate the hotels. Baker sees it as a replacement for mob interests in Cuba if the politics there keep getting unstable. Lansky and Giancana are present for this grand opening and Baker steers LBJ back for a private meeting. LBJ likes the idea of having mob contacts that he may one day want to utilize. On the way to the back of the casino, Baker talks to the majority leader about a company that exists on paper only but he has set up to get defense department contracts for vending machines all over the world. Lady Bird is left standing alone as her husband and Baker head to a VIP suite.
Back in Washington, LBJ invites a senator to Baker’s Quorum Club. It was established for food, drink, and socializing, often with call girls. LBJ gets the senator drunk and Baker sees that the senator is taken care of by a young woman for the night. LBJ does not mention that he needs the senator’s vote for approval of the TFX deal for the Texas contractor General Dynamics. But before the committee vote he walks up to the senator and says, “Oh by the way, some of the press boys are sniffing around Bobby Baker’s Quorum Club doin’s. I told then there wasn’t nothin’ to see there. Just a social club. They had a list of names and all and I think yours was on there but I sent them off down another rabbit trail. And George, I’m hoping I can count on your vote today for this TFX thing. It’s gonna be good for America and good for Texas.”
Mac Wallace is in a hotel room with a drunken Josefa Johnson. He has divorced his wife and is desperately in love with an alcoholic and drug-addicted woman whose brother is likely to have him killed if he learns of their continuing relationship. Johnson thought it had ended after the Kinser trial. Josefa is drinking and threatening her brother. “He doesn’t fucking own me, Mac! I’m not his goddamned property! I can do whatever the hell I want!” “I know, baby. But we just have to be careful for a while. We’ve got some big things happening. Really big.” “Like what? Are you gonna be taken care of?” “I think so. I just came back from Abilene. Met with this guy who’s just moving around contracts and making $20 million a year from the government. Lyndon is gonna give me some of the action if I run the operation and make sure this guy doesn’t run away from us. Lyndon’s got control of the government ag contracts out there now.” “You’re crazy if you trust Lyndon, Mac. You oughta know. You’ve seen what he’s willing to do. You get in his way he’ll get rid of you. He’ll get rid of me. He doesn’t care about anything but money. Money and power. My brother’s a bastard.”
Ed Clark opens the door to a secure room in his office in Austin. He walks in and looks at a large suitcase and opens it and stares at the stacks of hundred dollar bills. He shakes his head and mumbles. “Two million goddamned dollars. I hope he gets away with this. If this country boy bastard ever becomes president, I better get to be the ambassador to Australia. That’s all the hell I want. And to not go to jail.”
LBJ and his lackey Baker are sharing drinks and watching the 6 p.m. news in his office. An attractive young secretary recently introduced to Johnson by Baker is sitting across the room, starry-eyed at the proximity to power. The newscaster reads a story about a new jet plane. “Dallas based defense contractor General Dynamics announced today that it has won a seven billion dollar contract to build the next generation fighter jet known as the TFX.” As the story continues, Johnson and Baker turn to each other and tap their glasses, smile, and drink.
- Henry Marshall continues his investigation of Billy Sol Estes in West Texas. But he is way behind the con man operator. He does discover, however, that over a two-year period Estes had purchased 3200 acres of cotton allotments from 116 different farmers. Marshall writes Washington and asks they all be disapproved. LBJ is tipped and sends his closest political aide, Cliff Carter to meet with Marshall. The inspector is offered a promotion to Washington and turns it down. He considers it a bribe. LBJ, Carter, and Mac Wallace meet in Dallas to talk about Marshall’s investigation. LBJ knows that the millions can be traced to him. He tells Mac Wallace, “We’re just going to have to get rid of him.”
- Bobby Baker’s Quorum Club continues to attract beautiful young women looking to connect with powerful politicians in Washington. Senator John F. Kennedy refuses to be seen at the club but looks at pictures of the women and sometimes has one sent to his residence while his wife is traveling. LBJ’s neighbor and increasingly good friend J. Edgar Hoover has agents following Kennedy because his name is already being mentioned as a future presidential candidate. Hoover wants to remain director for life and needs blackmail material. Kennedy has already made the mistake of having an affair with a Norwegian beauty queen who was thought to be a spy and was Hitler’s escort at the 1936 Olympics. Hoover has photos of Kennedy and Inga Arvad in Europe. The future president falls for a Baker call girl named Ellen Rometsch, who was also a spy that had brought down a British prime minister. LBJ continues to use the Quorum Club to get information he can use to leverage his power and votes.
- LBJ business manager lawyer Ed Clark in Austin is getting worried. They can’t stop the Billy Sol Estes investigation. John Connally is still gathering large suitcases of money for LBJ from oil and defense contractor companies. H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchison of Dallas meet with LBJ to talk about protecting the 27.5 percent oil depletion allowance, which is worth about $100 million a year to oil companies. They want him to pass legislation as a senator. LBJ, though, is already talking about becoming president but he won’t even stay in the senate if investigator Marshall isn’t stopped. Clark is told about tentative plans to have Wallace get rid of Marshall and he fears the crime can be connected back to LBJ. Johnson says they have no choice because he’s got a plan that will get him on the VP ticket with JFK, if the Massachusetts senator runs as everyone is now speculating. LBJ uses his position as a committee chairman to inexpensively purchase TV and radio broadcast licenses under his wife’s name for Austin and gets the FCC to make it impossible to issue any other VHF TV permits.
- Mac Wallace shows up in Robertson County, Texas. He asks for directions to the Marshall Ranch. Henry Marshall is later found dead on a remote section of his land. There is blunt force trauma to his head and five rifle bullets in his head and chest and the bolt-action weapon lies at his feet. Wallace returns to his job at the Dallas defense contractor. LBJ aide Cliff Carter contacts a judge two counties distant and asks him to rule the death a suicide without ever seeing the body. The coroner agrees and Wallace is quickly buried against his family’s protests. A police sketch drawn by a Texas Ranger looks exactly like Wallace but he is never arrested. The investigation into Estes stops and LBJ keeps raking in his kickbacks to Ed Clark’s office in Austin.
- Wallace continues to see Josefa Johnson and confides in her about what he has been doing for her brother. She knew anyway, he realizes, but he needs to talk. She gets drunk and angry and lets LBJ know in a phone call that she is aware he is a stone cold killer and that he needs to take care of her or one day it will all blow up. LBJ comes to Austin to try to talk sense to her but knows it is hopeless because of her drug and alcohol problems. He goes to San Antonio for a tryst with his Texas mistress Madeline Brown, who makes the mistake of having her maid Dale Turner drop her off at the Menger Hotel. LBJ notices the woman and that she has spotted the two of them together and he tells Brown that when she gets home she will need to say good-bye to Dale. Brown doesn’t understand but 48 hours later Mac Wallace has gotten rid of Brown. No body is ever recovered. Brown simply disappeared.
- JFK and LBJ begin campaigning against each other in the primary. LBJ knows he has no chance but wants to raise his profile. He is eviscerated at a debate by JFK, and gets angry. He thinks his stature will get JFK to choose him as VP but as the convention approaches the name Fife Symington of Missouri is leaked and the job is offered to him at the convention. LBJ and Hoover contact JFK and RFK and ask for a private meeting at the convention in Los Angeles. Hoover presents the Kennedy brothers with a file on their sexual escapades and promises trouble if Johnson is not picked. RFK is livid. They have no choice. H.L. Hunt is angry but when the offer is announced Clint Murchison sends LBJ a telegram telling him to take the job.
- After several months in office, LBJ has a Christmas Eve party for his family at the ranch. He’s planning his route to the White House with even more care and detail. Nothing can threaten his goal. Josefa attends but is drunk and threatening. As the night wears on, she gets louder and starts to make vague references to Mac Wallace. Johnson tells her to go home. She returns to her home in nearby Fredericksburg. LBJ picks up the phone and calls Mac Wallace screaming at him because he’s figured out they are still seeing each other. He tells Wallace, “You got another job to do, boy, and you need to get it done right now!” He slams the phone down and goes back out to the lingering partiers with a smile. Josefa Johnson is found dead in her bed from what is described as a “brain hemorrhage” but it was likely a blunt force blow. A doctor who never even sees the body signs her death certificate and she is embalmed on Christmas Day and buried the next morning. Dead and buried in less than just over 48 hours. In the next few months, every one of the Billy Sol Estes’ business associates from his accountant to several of his largest customers will also die under mysterious circumstances.
First Season Characters:
- LBJ – Ruthless, ambitious, duplicitous, he has wanted to be president since he was a boy. He resents his country background, public school education, and the unrefined features of his face. But he knows that he has one thing no other politician possesses and that is a determination to do whatever it takes to reach his goals. He is sexually prolific, profane, and has no real concern about anyone he might harm. Money and power are his only concerns.
- Lady Bird – She begins as demure and almost in the background of her husband’s life but she comes to understand and accept him for what he is. In many ways, she is his equal when it comes to scheming. She knows LBJ is a philanderer but he has also taken her from the backwoods of East Texas to a place of prominence and she is willing to make compromises. They are easy to rationalize as her husband’s decisions and not hers, until she urges him to jump into the plot to assassinate JFK.
- JFK – Suave, Harvard educated from a wealthy New England family, war hero, destined for politics. Sexually as unhinged as LBJ, simply cannot resist beautiful women. Beds movie stars and co-eds and call girls and thinks that his stature in government and money will keep him protected from scandal. Marries an ingénue early in his career but it is no more meaningful of a relationship than LBJ’s to Lady Bird. He has plans for his brother and himself to be a presidential dynasty. Despises LBJ because he knows he is conniving, involved in kickbacks and kissing up to wealthy oil tycoons. When he becomes a blackmail victim of LBJ, he is determined to exact political revenge. But he waits too long, thinking he is protected in the White House.
- Mac Wallace – Athletic, energetic, handsome, and brilliant. He has a PhD from Columbia and has taught at Ivy League universities. Wallace is also a former Marine and a crack shot. He got interested in politics as the student body president of the University of Texas. LBJ met him through Ed Clark, his Austin lawyer, and saw immediately that Wallace might be a useful accomplice during his career. He got him a job with the USDA in DC and moved him to Texas to do his dirty work. Wallace has never shown remorse at anything LBJ has had him do.
- Madeleine Brown – An attractive brunette that LBJ gets introduced to at the Driskill Hotel during a political reception. Brown admits that she was immediately drawn to his sexual energy and didn’t care much about his morality or politics. She just wanted to be in bed with him and his political power was part of the intrigue. Brown quickly becomes a kept woman and sacrifices her own life to be ready for LBJ whenever he comes to Austin or Dallas and, eventually, she bears him a son. Before she dies, Brown tells the world what LBJ told her about his involvement in the assassination.
- Bobby Baker – Another LBJ sycophant, Baker is as ambitious and greedy as his boss. He is also a country boy from Pickens, South Carolina, diminutive and handsome, always hurrying everywhere in the halls of the capitol. He is convinced the law is irrelevant as long as you are careful and you have someone like LBJ at your back. Baker sets up phony companies to get huge government contracts, and establishes the Quorum Club to provide liquor and women to politicians to curry their favor. Johnson sees himself in Baker and calls him the son he never had. The two of them defraud taxpayers out of millions with various scams.
- Ed Clark – Austin lawyer and LBJ business manager. Pale and dowdy, but well dressed and intelligent. He is unemotional and soulless to his clients. But he is smart. Clark sees an opportunity in LBJ to get something more out of life than being a small town lawyer in Texas. He understands how ruthless LBJ is and knows that if he manages the future president’s business properly, and without question, he will have both influence and opportunity. Clark is later one of those involved with LBJ in the planning of the assassination and manages the back and forth with the oilmen and triggermen.
- Mary Margaret Wiley – As LBJ acquires more power, Baker introduces him to a fetching blonde who has been drawn to DC like countless other beautiful young women. She works in his office, first as a secretary, and, eventually, manages much of its operations. They fall in love. Wiley is LBJ’s true love. Lady Bird is a political appendage. Wiley eventually becomes pregnant with her first child and it is a daughter by LBJ. He cannot divorce Bird because it would ruin his career but he refuses to let Wiley and their new daughter Courtenay out of his life. He convinces Jack Valenti to marry her and take her to Hollywood with the condition that LBJ can see her and his daughter whenever he wants.
- Billy Sol Estes – Classic con man, comes up with an idea to create a pyramid scheme using federal government crop allotments. It’s lucrative but he knows it has a short term fuse so he wants to get somebody in on it to protect him. Estes is also a bit of a frumpy country boy but he is a smooth talker and makes things happen with his false confidence. He’s got no interest in the city and thinks it’s easier to work his rackets with country folk because he knows how they think and act. He’s willing to go along with LBJ and giving him money as long as he’s protected but he knows there may come a time when he’ll need to spill his guts.
- Henry Marshall – An honest, bespectacled public servant who loves living in West Texas. His job is uninteresting and pedestrian until he crosses paths with Billy Sol Estes. Marshall begins to investigate and thinks he’s only dealing with a clever country robber. He has no idea how high the corruption reaches but he isn’t about to surrender his principles to stop seeking the truth or to accept a bribe. He lives quietly on a ranch with his wife and daughter outside of Franklin, Texas, and could have never expected his small world to collide with historical forces.
- RFK – The president’s brother, as handsome, educated, and sophisticated as his sibling JFK. He is protective of JFK and despises LBJ. He has suspected the Texan of nefarious behavior from the time he first encountered him in DC. Eventually, RFK meets with reporters to tell them about all of the corrupt things going on with LBJ but Johnson wins the first round because the Kennedy brothers have to accept him onto the presidential ticket. RFK becomes LBJ’s enemy for life at that point and may have also sealed his own fate with that choice.
- John Connally – Tall, handsome, and intuitively smart, but still a bit Texas country, he wants to get into politics and thinks LBJ will be able to teach him much. At first, he sees it all as a game, running around South Texas and rigging votes, but as LBJ’s dirty dealing and kickbacks of money get thrown into Connally’s face by forced involvement, he begins to pull back and plan a career in state politics. Still, he is often the bagman for bribe and kickback payments and gets close enough that he becomes aware of LBJ’s involvement in planning and executing the assassination.
- Josefa Johnson – LBJ’s sister, as un-tethered as he is focused, she smokes, drinks compulsively, and is a frequent user of pot and heroin. She is lanky like her brother with a smaller nose and delicate features surrounded by thick, dark hair. She hates her brother and life in general and seeks solace in various sexual adventures. When she ends up in an affair with John Kinser, she can no longer evade the circumstances of her life. She can barely keep a job as a clerk and now she is having sex with a man who is having sex with the wife of the man she is beginning to fall in love with. To make it worse, the man she is falling for works for her brother, but she’s not quite sure what he does. Josefa has mostly given up on everything by the time her lover Kinser is murdered by her lover Mac Wallace, and she decides to drink and drug and threaten and do whatever she wants until it destroys her.
Future Seasons: (The show’s creator offers here substantial material to indicate a possible long term run for “American Coup.” The development of the assassination plot, the characters and execution of the plan, and the cover up, offer the potential for many, many episodes. There is further intrigue connected to the MLK and RFK assassinations.)
The degree of LBJ’s ruthlessness and political ambition was just being unveiled when he stole the Texas U.S. Senate election by having his henchmen stuff ballot box thirteen at the last minute after he learned how many votes he needed to win. Early in his career as he made his rise through congress to become the powerful Senate majority leader, the Texan made friendships with killers and con men who would facilitate his increasing power.
When the moment came to kill the president and assume the office, LBJ was already accustomed to using murder as a political tool. (Dallas police found only one fingerprint in the School Book Depository that Lee Harvey Oswald was said to have used as his sniper’s perch. The print was not submitted to forensics until 1998, thirty-five years later, and was found to be an exact match to Mac Wallace, LBJ’s personal hit man.)
These were numerous machinations by LBJ that led him to get involved in a plot to kill the president along with the CIA, military contractors, and Texas oilmen who were angry about the JFK plans to end the oil depletion allowance. The narrative is timely as it could be promoted during the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Controversy will arrive without much publicity. When the “History Channel” broadcast 10 episodes of “The Men Who Killed Kennedy,” the final hour, which explored some of LBJ’s connections to the assassination conspiracy, was never aired because of political and financial pressures on the network.
JFK discovered the more troubling realities about America almost as soon as he took the oath of office. General Curtis LeMay, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), approached Kennedy about a nuclear strike on Moscow and hitting the Russians with a “Sunday punch” before invading Cuba and knocking out Castro. The president’s response was, “And we call ourselves the human race.” When General Ed Lansdale of the CIA put together “Operation Northwoods” to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and assassinate Castro, the agency was dumbfounded when the Cuban expatriated insurgents were pinned down on the shore and JFK refused to offer them U.S. military support. As a consequence, top operatives of the CIA did not believe JFK could be a capable president and turn up the heat on the Cold War so they made the Kennedy assassination an element of “Operation Northwoods.” One of the planners of the Bay of Pigs, who was angered by Kennedy, was CIA operative George Herbert Walker Bush.
LeMay and the JCS wanted a shooting war in Southeast Asia and an invasion of Cuba. When they learned JFK was talking peace with both Kruschev and Castro using back-channel communications, the plot to kill Kennedy was quietly launched and compartmentalized. (According to Kruschev’s son, when JFK was slaughtered in Texas, Kruschev wept. He feared global nuclear war. By 1965, the KGB had concluded LBJ was the lead conspirator in Kennedy’s death.) The president’s fate was sealed by the time he gave a speech at American University calling for a “global era of peace for all mankind.” Texas oilmen, who had funded LBJ’s political rise, provided resources to assist the plotters because JFK was determined to end their greatest tax break, the oil depletion allowance. Unlike Kruschev, in the home of oilman Clint Murchison after Kennedy was killed, there was joy. The family’s long time housekeeper May Newman said, “The mood in the Murchison family home was very joyous and happy. For a whole week after like champagne and caviar flowed, every day of the week. But I was the only one in that household at that time that felt any grief for his assassination."
When LBJ was brought into the plot, he was more than just driven to become president; he was in serious political and legal trouble. First, he knew that a “cornpone” Texan was not likely to win the White House in his lifetime. But more importantly, his former colleagues in the U.S. Senate had launched an investigation into his kickback schemes. In addition to his secret deal with agri-business conniver Billy Sol Estes, LBJ had set up an assistant named Bobby Baker to run scams with military contractors and big businesses seeking government favor in rewarding contracts. Johnson had told friends he viewed Baker as the son he never had but as the scandal broke he publicly denied ever knowing him, even though Baker had named his two sons after LBJ.
RFK knew about this, wanted LBJ replaced on the reelection ticket, and was leaking information from the senate committee to “Life” magazine. (“Life” was scheduled to publish an expose’ on Johnson four days after JFK was killed. The story was spiked and never printed after LBJ became president.) But Johnson knew his political career was ended and, worse, he would end up in prison if the investigation were allowed to proceed. If he had any reluctance about getting involved in the Kennedy plot, the senate probe made it all dissipate. During testimony, LBJ friend and operative Don Reynolds quoted Bobby Baker as saying, “JFK will never live to serve out his term,” the clear implication being that he knew Johnson would find a way to have him killed and succeed Kennedy as president.
JFK, meanwhile, was busy firing leaders of the CIA like Richard Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell, and Charles Cabell, whose brother Earl Cabell, was the former mayor of Dallas. JFK thought they were leaking unfavorable stories about him because of their anger related to the Bay of Pigs but they were up to much more sinister endeavors. They set the plan in motion to kill the president. LBJ, by then, was so desperate to be president, he had made it a habit of having his driver drop him off at the White House and he would hang out near the entrance to the Oval Office every morning before heading over to his desk at the Executive Office Building. He knew the president was unlikely to ask his counsel because RFK was working to have him tossed from the ticket but LBJ hoped he would be seen in proximity to presidential power. It didn’t work; JFK, according to his secretary Evelyn Lincoln, gave LBJ only two hours of face time their first year together in office.
Sexually, both JFK and LBJ were careening out of control. The president’s greatest risk was a love affair with Inga Arvad, a former international beauty queen from Norway. JFK slept with her on trips to Europe even though she had been Hitler’s escort at the 1936 Olympics and was reputed to be a Nazi spy. Regardless, his dalliances with Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, mobster wives like Mary Meyer and college co-eds during drug and swim parties at the White House put him at continual risk of political blackmail. (Two college girls, in particular, JFK favored, were such frequent White House guests the secret service gave them code names, “Fiddle” and “Faddle.”) Even 90 minutes before his famous televised debate with Richard Nixon, JFK was having sex with a call girl. He later told his brother that he wanted to make sure he had sex with a beautiful woman right before every speech and debate because he had done so well against Nixon.
Johnson was equally unrestrained. By the time he was VP, LBJ had sired two children by separate mistresses. The love of his life was Mary Margaret Wiley, a beautiful blonde who worked in his office and was the mother of his daughter, Courtenay. In Texas, LBJ’s mistress Madeline Brown had given birth to a son whose lineage was betrayed by his LBJ-like countenance. Brown finally came forward as she neared death to tell the story of meeting with LBJ the night before the assassination and he told her, “That son-of-a-bitch crazy (Sen. Ralph) Yarborough and that goddamn fucking Irish mafia bastard, Kennedy, will never embarrass me again!” The VP was constantly drinking and raging against the Kennedys when he would call up female reporters from Air Force 2 and try to get dates or he would have Secret Service bring him attractive women that he had spotted in the crowds at his public appearances.
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, which Gen. Curtis LeMay called the “greatest defeat ever in American history,” Kennedy’s fate was sealed. By the time his trip to Texas was announced, LBJ had let slip a quote to a Dallas reporter who was writing an acidic takedown of the president, “Just wait until November until you shoot him,” which was likely a reference to the city of Dallas killing the president. The CIA, however, had planned for three possible killing zones on trips to Miami, Chicago, and Dallas. LBJ knew, because of the hatred of JFK in Dallas, there would be a cooperative police to work with and, when a tipster foiled the Chicago plot, Dallas was finalized as the location for the murder. (The Chicago tipster was found dead a few months later and no suspect was ever arrested.) In Dallas, however, the publisher of the “Dallas Morning News,” Ted Dealey had told JFK to his face that, “The nation needs a strong man on a horse. In Texas, we see you as riding Carolyn’s tricycle.” LBJ’s motivation for the assassination, meanwhile, was increased when JFK let it get back to his VP that he was going to be replaced on the fall ticket the next year by Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina.
By the time JFK’s motorcade rolled into Dealey Plaza, LBJ had managed to get his car to slow down and keep a great distance as he stayed ducked below his seat, a fact recorded in numerous photographs. Secret Service agents not involved in the plot, running along side of the presidential limo, were ordered to drop back. One of them can be seen on film protesting and asking why. Gen. Ed Lansdale, who created “Operation Northwoods,” was photographed in Dealey Plaza. He was the agency’s expert on coups and assassinations. As witnesses ran up the Grassy Knoll toward the sound of gunfire, two men in suits presenting Secret Service credentials stopped them. The gunman, who may have been Mac Wallace, easily drove off in a car.
The main shooter might have also been a mob hit man. Mafia head Johnny Roselli and Carlos Marcello hated the Kennedy’s because they refused to attack Cuba and get back the casino business from Castro. They also despised RFK for his crackdown on organized crime during his tenure as attorney general. Roselli was a frequent visitor to Jack Ruby’s bar in Dallas. The mob appeared to have put up Ruby to killing Oswald to thwart an investigation of the conspiracy.
At Parkland Hospital, the emergency room was filled with CIA and Secret Service demanding the president’s body be released without autopsy. Several witnesses saw the shattered windshield on the limo, which was later flown to the Ford plant outside Dearborn, Michigan to have the glass replaced before being returned to Washington, (confirmed by the technician who did the work.) It was proof the shots came from the front, and not the rear. After Dr. Malcolm Perry concluded his attempts to save the president, he took phone calls from LBJ and others to change his opinion that the neck suffered front entry wounds. Connie Kritzberg, a reporter for the “Dallas Times Herald,” woke up the next day to see that her newspaper copy had been edited because she reported the front entry wounds. Her supervisor told her the decision had been made after a call from the FBI to the paper’s executives.
The president’s body, according to radio transmission transcripts, was not in the casket shown in the famous photo of Jackie Kennedy coming off the plane. It had been placed in a bag and was loaded onto the front of Air Force One so that it could be discretely offloaded away from cameras in Washington and rushed to Walter Reed Hospital for reconstructive work. Dr. David Hume, who performed the official autopsy on JFK, destroyed his notes and never spoke about that day but witnesses in the room claim Gen. Curtis LeMay stood quietly in a corner chomping on a cigar as the president’s corpse was reconstructed to make it look like the shots came from the rear.
LBJ had been discovered on AF1 hiding in the bathroom after the assassination. He was said to be muttering, “It’s a conspiracy, it’s a conspiracy, oh god, they’re going to kill us all.” Although there was no need for him to take the oath of office, he claimed RFK urged him to do so in a very public fashion. RFK called this a lie. Even before the plane had landed, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy was on the phone telling people within the government there was no conspiracy and the lone assassin had been caught. LBJ made calls of his own, including one to his broker only hours after the assassination to “sell my goddamned Halliburton stock.” He was worried the market would collapse in the wake of the assassination, not that a killer of a president was on the loose or that the Russians or Cubans were about to attack. Because he knew who the killers were.
He also didn’t stop calling people when he got to Washington. He personally called Will Fritz, head of Dallas detectives, and told him to stop interrogating suspects, “You have your man,” he said. LBJ aide Cliff Carter contacted Dallas DA Henry Wade and told him not to charge Oswald with a conspiracy. When Oswald was murdered, Fritz was nearby. The new president personally called the emergency room physician who was treating Oswald. Dr. Charles Crenshaw said he was told by LBJ to “get Oswald’s confession before he dies.” He also spoke with J. Edgar Hoover the next day to talk about the assassination but ten minutes of that recorded conversation are missing. Regardless, Hoover and the FBI quickly issued a report, leaked to newspapers, that called Oswald a lone assassin, and LBJ empanelled the Warren Commission to rubber stamp the conclusion. When even cursory investigation began to show troubling signs of a plot, LBJ told former justice Earl Warren on the phone, “We can’t be investigating every little scrape around the country.”
Because LBJ knew the truth would destroy the country, and him.
Less than a month later, he told his mistress Madeline Brown, during a tryst at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, “It was the damned CIA pissed off about Cuba and the military boys and the oilmen who killed Kennedy.” Eleven days after JFK was killed, on December 3, 1963, LBJ was recorded in a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting telling the generals, “You sons-a-bitches see that I’m elected next fall and I’ll get you your goddamned war in Vietnam.” The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which formally launched the war in Southeast Asia, was based upon a false flag event put together by the generals to give LBJ a cause for war. He later admitted it by saying, “Hell, those boys were just firing at nothing and they knew it.”
The first four years covered by the show are likely to end after election with a scene aboard Air Force One when Johnson wins his only election. He is drunk and standing in front of his staff and cabinet and lists off the names of fallen world leaders that are dead or defeated and then beats his chest and shouts, “But I am the king!”
If so, he wore a stolen crown. Even John Connally, who had been in the motorcade and was wounded that day, knew that Oswald was not the killer. When a family friend asked him over dinner many years later if he thought Oswald had shot the president, Connally said, “Absolutely not. I do not believe for one second the conclusions of the Warren Commission.” He was asked why he didn’t speak out and Connally said, “Because I love this country and we need closure at this time. I will never speak publicly about what I believe happened that day.”
This is the story Oliver Stone did not tell, possibly because it was the ultimate, “riddle wrapped in a mystery and boxed in a puzzle” and was just too complicated for a single movie plot line. Or maybe even Stone had trouble believing this version of history. But the development of these characters and the unfolding plot are perfect for a recurrent TV series about the 60s. Although the story encompasses the time period between 1960-64, significant developments in LBJ’s earlier life as he begins his ascent can addressed with flashbacks and even separate episodes. At the conclusion of this time period, the viewer will understand the bitter rivalry that exists between LBJ and RFK and the foreshadowing will hint that the anger will also lead to RFK’s death in Los Angeles. RFK knew immediately after the assassination what had occurred and was quoted telling Jackie a few days later, “If the American people knew what really happened in Dallas there would be blood in the streets.”
He was likely to have the same policies promulgated by his brother and the powers that had taken over the U.S. government by killing JFK were not likely to give up their control to another Kennedy. RFK, who ends up having an affair with his brother’s widow Jackie, schemes to get Johnson to put him on the presidential ticket as his VP but is rejected and begins his plan to campaign for president in the next primary against LBJ. Although Johnson refuses to run again, RFK is still a threat to the men who pulled off the first “American Coup.”
On June 3, 1968, Robert Kennedy told a reporter, “I now fully realize that only the powers of the presidency will reveal the secrets of my brother’s death.” After he won the California Democratic Presidential Primary just three days later and was certain to be nominated for president, he was assassinated.
And the untold American story is still unfolding.