Edwin Walker: Ruined By Oswald

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In one of those ironies history throws at us, Lee Harvey Oswald’s failed attempt on the life of the ultra-Rightist General Edwin Walker eight months before the Kennedy assassination ended Walker’s importance.

Don Delillo caught Walker’s descent into mediocrity best in his JFK assassination novel, Libra. In the novel, one of the most bizarre suspects in the Kennedy assassination, the body-hairless, ultra-Rightist David Ferrie tells Oswald to forget about continuing his assassination attempts on Walker:

“No one listens to Walker anymore. Your missed bullet finished him more surely than a clean hit. It left him hanging in the twilight. He is an embarrassment. He carries the stigma of having been shot at and missed.”

But for a while, Walker was listened to intently by enraged deep Southerners who swooned and howled at his message that the internal Communist Conspiracy was operating out of the White House, and by the Kennedys themselves.

Ironically, based on his later protests against integration, which he believed overlapped with the internal Communist conspiracy, he followed Eisenhower’s orders to guard black students who wanted to attend the newly-desegregated Central High School in Arkansas from angry white crowds. Osro Cobb, the United States Attorney General in Arkansas remembered Walker was firmly supportive of the right for black students to attend the high school:

“[Walker told Cobb] that he would do any and everything necessary to see that the black students attended Central High School as ordered by the federal court… he would arrange protection for them and their families, if necessary, and also supervise their transportation to and from the school for their safety.”

But Walker privately was against using federal troops as a means to enforce integration. Following orders, he nevertheless was radicalized into believing the Civil Rights Movement was a wing of the internal Communist conspiracy by listening to the segregationist radio preacher Billy James Hargis and the Grassy Knoll’s crowd favorite funder of the JFK Assassination, oil millionaire H.L. Hunt. All of them claimed that Communists were embedded in the White House.

Meeting Robert Welch, the John Birch Society leader completed Walker’s “education.” When Welch informed Walker that Eisenhower was a Soviet agent everything clicked into place for Walker; by following Eisenhower’s orders Walker now believed he had served the Communists.

Now in charge of 10,000 troops in Germany, Walker began attempting to indoctrinate his troops with his pro-Bircher speeches and gave them reading material from the organization (Walker later denied this).
Included in these lectures were assertions that Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt were communists.

Troops began to complain that he was trying to tell them how to vote in elections by blasting liberal Democrats.

Upon learning this, the new Secretary of Defense under JFK relieved Walker of his German command and reassigned him to Hawaii to oversee training and operations in the Pacific.

Walker, however, wanted out of the Army and, relieved of his German post, submitted his resignation, which was accepted by Kennedy.

Now out of the army, Walker went full-bore political. 1961 saw him on a nation-wide lecture tour with Hargis, where his anti-communist speeches accusing the government of harboring Communists highly resonated with the large crowds. Operating out of conservative Dallas, Walker was bankrolled by Hunt for the Texas gubernatorial race in 1962 but finished last.

His most notorious role would be directed at the issue he was most passionate about: racial integration, especially when backed by federal force. When the administration demanded that the segregated University of Misisipi admit a black military veteran named James Meredith, Walker took to the radio, encouraging segregation supporters nation-wide to converge on Mississipi:

“Mississippi: It is time to move. We have talked, listened and been pushed around far too much by the anti-Christ Supreme Court! Rise…to a stand beside Governor Ross Barnett at Jackson, Mississippi! Now is the time to be heard! Thousands strong from every State in the Union! Rally to the cause of freedom! The Battle Cry of the Republic! Barnett yes! Castro no! Bring your flag, your tent and your skillet. It’s now or never! The time is when the President of the United States commits or uses any troops, Federal or State, in Mississippi! The last time in such a situation I was on the wrong side. That was in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957-1958. This time — out of uniform — I am on the right side! I will be there!”

Because the anti-integration protesters engaged in violent protests, lasting 15-hours and resulting in two deaths, hundreds wounded along with six federal marshals, Walker was arrested on the federal charge of treason against the United States.

But the Kennedys overplayed their hand. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, considerably overrated in the intelligence department, made a civil liberties’ martyr out of Walker by putting him in an insane asylum.

Conservatives and liberals rallied to Walker’s cause, with the ACLU accusing the administration of using psychiatry as a partisan political tactic. Walker was released from the asylum in five days.

A federal grand jury dropped the sedition charges against him.
Walker returned to Dallas in 1963, and his anti-communist speech tour, “Operation Midnight Ride,” with it calls on the military to “liquidate” Castro brought Walker into a high school dropout/former Marine turned Soviet defector/Castro partisan’s radar. In response to Walker’s “liquidate” speech, Lee Harvey Oswald mail-ordered the infamous Carcano rifle.

Oswald, according to his wife Marina’s testimony before the Warren Commission, followed Walker, photographed his house, and began practicing with the Carcano. On the night he shot at Walker, he left a note telling his wife Marina what to do if he was apprehended (this note was later found ten days after the Kennedy assassination).

Always a failure, Oswald fired at Walker on April 10, 1963, hitting the window frame and only hitting Walker in the forearm with fragments. This attempt was confirmed by his wife Marina to the Warren Commission, with Oswald telling her about it afterward. She added that Oswald considered Walker a budding Hitler.

(For some bizarre reason some of the Grassy Knoll crowd, in their zeal to affirm Oswald as a fall guy for the Kennedy assassination, have argued that he didn’t shoot at Walker. But Oswald missing an easy shot at Walker from a flat low trajectory and the target sitting in front of a window would bolster claims that he wasn’t marksman enough to hit Kennedy.)

Unscathed, Walker continued his activism, organizing a hostile reception in the auditorium where UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson gave a speech. The planted crowd was so vocally hostile that Stevenson left in the middle of the speech. En route to his limousine, Stevenson was spat on and hit in the head by a placard-wielding female. Since he was not present, Walker was not charged.

Oswald’s arrest for the Kennedy administration and the uncovering of proof that he shot at Walker forever tied Walker to the JFK conspiracy theories, but he never was considered in the top tier of the plotters; merely a pawn to create the impression of Oswald as an angry lone assassin.

After that, Walker retreated into quiet, focusing on getting his army pension reinstated (he was successful in 1982).

His last moment in the sun was embarrassing for his followers. In 1976, the lifelong bachelor was charged with fondling a male undercover police officer in a public restroom. So ended Edwin Walker, who did not achieve victim status from Oswald.

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

  • Linda JJ

    It’s worth noting that the only person to serve two terms in Eisenhower’s cabinet, Ezra Taft Benson, believed Welch was correct and urged everyone to join the John Birch Society. They were right then, and they are right today.

    • ernie1241

      Linda is fond of non-sequitur “logic”. Serving two terms in any Administration has absolutely NO connection to having knowledge about internal security matters. Nobody goes to the Secretary of Agriculture for info about security matters which is why (for example) the Ag Secy does NOT attend Situation Room briefings.

      One should also recall that when Ezra Taft Benson started communicating his pro-Birch Society views to the FBI, senior officials of the Bureau (including Director Hoover) concluded that Benson was seduced by right-wing extremist propaganda. As Hoover declared during his Warren Commission testimony:

      “I think the extreme right is just as much a danger to the freedom of this country as the extreme left. There are groups, organizations, and individuals on the extreme right who make these very violent statements, allegations that General Eisenhower was a Communist, disparaging references to the Chief Justice and at the other end of the spectrum you have these leftists who make wild statements charging almost anybody with being a Fascist or belonging to some of these so-called extreme right societies.”

      “Now, I have felt, and I have said publicly in speeches, that they are just as much a danger, at either end of the spectrum. They don’t deal with facts. Anybody who will allege that General Eisenhower was a Communist agent, has something wrong with him. A lot of people read such allegations because I get some of the weirdest letters wanting to know whether we have inquired to find out whether that is true. I have known General Eisenhower quite well myself and I have found him to be a sound, level-headed man.” (Warren Commission, Volume 5, page 101)

      AND, a year later, Hoover was even more explicit:

      “Personally, I have little respect for the head of the John Birch Society since he linked the names of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the late John Foster Dulles, and former CIA Director Allen Dulles with communism.” [FBI HQ file 62-104401, #2381, 11/20/64 and HQ 100-114578-152, October 22, 1965 and 62-104401, #3865, 3/24/72.]

      J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI asked the American Legion’s National Americanism Commission to assist the Bureau with combating the false accusations and statements made by right-wing extremist organizations like the Birch Society and the Legion did agree to do so.

      Furthermore, virtually the entire conservative movement in the U.S. rejected and denounced the JBS during the 1960’s. Later, even very prominent members of the JBS (including Mrs. Robert Welch) withdrew their support from the new leadership of the JBS (after Robert Welch died in 1985).

      As often happens within highly ideological organizations, major schisms occur among their membership because they are incapable of compromising in order to build coalitions AND (like the JBS), these folks never are prepared to acknowledge when they have made grave errors in judgments or acknowledge false statements/accusations — even when they lose defamation lawsuits and have to pay the plaintiff $400,000 (as the JBS did in one famous libel lawsuit). That $400,000 is roughly equivalent to $2.4 million in 2016 dollars.

  • ernie1241

    It should be recognized that Edwin Walker was a white supremacist. In fact, Walker was the featured speaker at dozens of White Citizens Councils events.

    In a 8/4/63 speech before the Fifth Annual National Convention of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma City, Walker declared that the Communists were behind “all racial disorder, all racial riots…” and he added: “The best thing for niggers for their own good, is to be separated.”

    In October 1965, Walker met with United Klans of America Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton in Shreveport LA at which time Shelton “offered General Walker the position of Grand Dragon of the UKA for the State of Texas.” [HQ 157-370-2, #345; also: 157-370-4, #328, 340X, 341, 377, 383].

    The FBI serial which summarizes this meeting points out that:

    “Later General Walker mentioned to someone that he was interested in the Klan position…” [HQ 157-370-4, #341, 11/1/65 SAC Birmingham to JEH re: United Klans of America, Inc., Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, page 1.]

    On October 4, 1965, Walker spoke to the Pasco County (FL) Federation For Constitutional Government – a front for the United Florida Ku Klux Klan of Dade County FL. [HQ 116-165494, #109]

    In 1965 Walker wrote a letter published by the anti-semitic/racist newspaper, Common Sense, in which he stated:

    “I’ll bet you will find more good Americans in the Ku Klux Klan than in the Americans For Democratic Action.”

    Walker also wrote that: “I think I can match three good Americans in the KKK for every one in the Americans For Democratic Action or the Anti-Defamation League.”

    J. Edgar Hoover hand-wrote the following comment on one FBI memo which discussed Walker:

    “Walker is nuts!” At this time, the KKK was on the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations!

    None of this bothered Robert Welch or the JBS because the JBS position regarding our civil rights movement was essentially identical to that of Walker.

    THE JBS POSITION: “…the civil rights movement was not only planned by the Communists, but was begun, is staffed, and is conducted by the Communists and has only one real purpose: the destruction and communization of America.”

    In the June 1965 JBS Bulletin, Robert Welch observed:
    “Our task must be simply to make clear that the movement known as ‘civil rights’ is Communist-plotted, Communist-controlled, and in fact…serves only Communist purposes.”

    In August 1965, the JBS ran a full-page ad in many U.S. newspapers entitled “What’s Wrong With Civil Rights?” One of the answers provided by the JBS was:

    “For the civil rights movement in the United States with all of its growing agitation and riots and bitterness, and insidious steps toward the appearance of civil war, has not been infiltrated by the Communists, as you now frequently hear. It has been deliberately and almost wholly created by the Communists patiently building up to this present stage for more than thirty years.” [JBS ad from Sunday 8/29/65 Birmingham AL News.]

    BY CONTRAST: The FBI position about our civil rights movement was stated by J. Edgar Hoover:

    “Let me emphasize that the American civil rights movement is not, and has never been dominated by the communists–because the overwhelming majority of civil rights leaders in this country, both Negro and white, have recognized and rejected communism as a menace to the freedoms of all.”
    [J. Edgar Hoover speech, 12/12/64, Our Heritage of Greatness, pg 7 – Hoover speech before Pennsylvania Society and the Society of Pennsylvania Women; bold emphasis on words “not” and “never” in the original document].

    Just another example of how “Linda JJ” totally ignores ALL factual evidence which contradicts what she prefers to believe. The JBS was NOT “right then” nor “right today”.