MR. EVERARD: Good morning. The city archives, I should say first of all, is the official archives for the City of New Orleans. It happens to be administered by the New Orleans Public Library. But we are a separately ordained creature.
We've been in the JFK assassination business I guess for about 20 years now, and I should say right off that our records have always been open to the public with a few procedural limitations, and have been used by a number of researchers over the years.
In 1974, we received a series of New Orleans Police Department arrest books and included in that was the volume that contained the record of Oswald's arrest on August 9, 1963 in New Orleans. Later NOPD accessions have included offense reports, such as the one for Jack Martin's complaint on November 22, '63 against Guy Banister and also the report of Ferrie's initial --David Ferrie's initial arrest on November 25, 1963.
Also in the Police Department records is a series of police crime scene photographs, including images made of Ferrie's apartment following his death in 1967.
We have also records from the New Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, including several documents involving the Ferrie autopsy report, although the original autopsy file, which included views of Ferrie's body before and after the autopsy and additional photographs of the apartment, were requested to be returned back to the Coroner's Office in 1988, and that file is still over there.
Even the library's records itself include a file on the assassination, beginning with the following day after the assassination where FBI agents went to the library to ask about Oswald's reading proclivity, since it turned out that he was a patron of the library, of our Napoleon Branch.
Since then this book has turned up. They were cleaning out the branch last year I guess to turn it into a children's library. This is actually a copy of Taylor Caldwell's, "The Arm in the Darkness," and it has a little card in the back that has written in, "Due on September 9, 1963, Checked out by Lee Harvey Oswald." Now whether this is real or somebody just added that little note later on, who knows. But it's one of our few Oswald artifacts that we have in the collection.
But our biggest and most significant assassination related record series actually didn't come to the library until 1990, and you've already heard a little bit about it this morning. I'll give you sort of a blow-by-blow description of how we got them and also some description of what is in this collection.
Early in 1990, the city librarian received a call from the File Room supervisor for the District Attorney's Office. They were interested in purging their case files from the 1950s and 1960s. Apparently, the Office was looking for ways to save money. They were storing these records in a private records warehouse and I'm sure the charges were pretty fierce.
The File Room supervisor realized that these were historically significant records and didn't just want to just destroy them and he probably had been talking with the Clerk of Criminal Court who had, just a year before that, deposited some of their older records with the Archives. So he was talking to us to see if we were interested in accepting the district attorney's records as well.
I went and made an on site inspection of the records and found out that there were a few boxes, three boxes I think actually, marked JFK Assassination, and any doubts that we had about whether we wanted to accept the entire donation were dispelled by the opportunity to collect some of these things.
On February 13, 1990, we did transfer the district attorney's records from their warehouse to the Central Library. And after some preliminary arrangement and description, I drafted a donation agreement which the Executive Assistant District Attorney signed on March 1, 1990, turning the files over to the City Archives collection.
There were only these few boxes with JFK markings. We actually hoped that as we were transferring the records other things would turn up, but nothing additional did turn up.
I should stop at this point and say that these were files that, as far as I can tell, are totally different from the files that the District Attorney's Office still has, which are locked up in a separate room over there and these things were in boxes off in a warehouse ten miles away from the District Attorney's Office. So there were probably some differences in the records, and I'll talk about that a little bit more.
As we...after we got these records and I looked at them more carefully, it turned out, indeed, they did include original materials from the Garrison investigation and for several reasons we decided very early on that we would microfilm the collection before we did anything in the way of making them available to the public.
I arranged the records and did some archival description on them and I'll read you briefly, a little bit more in detail, on a description of the records. Again, the original records were in three boxes, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of two cubic feet because of the way they were stored. They include materials apparently collected by Garrison and his staff during the investigation, also included are photocopies of portions of the court record in the case of Louisiana vs. Clay Shaw and other cases related to the investigation, correspondence files and one file of miscellaneous material.
The correspondence sub-series includes general correspondence of the District Attorney's Office during the period. The period is 1966 to 1973, as well as letters dealing specifically with the assassination investigation. Many of the letters that are relevant to the assassination are in the nature of fan mail, people are writing letters encouraging Garrison to continue the investigation, asking him to come speak to their groups and that sort of thing.
There are also letters to and from reporters and other representatives of the news media and letters from people from around the country who are offering their own assassination theories and commenting on Garrison's. Those are two of the major groups in the correspondence category.
There were a few letters dealing with complaints lodged with the State Bar Association against Garrison by attorneys who are representing witnesses in the Shaw case. There's one letter from Garrison to Marina Oswald Porter, telegram from Lee Oswald's mother, a letter from Garrison to F. Irving Dymond, who was Shaw's criminal attorney, concerning details of the case. So there's some interesting, interesting substantive material in there.
Also there's a memo from Garrison to one of his assistants concerning the David Ferrie autopsy, which you have talked about and heard a little bit about earlier from Mr. Tyler. I'll just read a very brief portion of that. Garrison to his assistant, dated December 11, 1967.
"I think we should make a thorough investigation of the possibility that Ferrie committed suicide by means of Proloid. This is particularly justified by an earlier statement of his -- I believe it was made to Perry Russo -- to the effect that he knew how to commit suicide and leave no traces.
"I would appreciate it if you" -- referring to his assistant -- "would handle this operation. Dr. Begnetto has promised to provide us with a statement saying that Ferrie had high blood pressure and should not be using Proloid. I believe that Lou Ivan" -- another of his assistants -- "has had some initial investigation done in this area. I think we should prepare, if possible, a complete case for the Proloid possibility, supported by statements from pathologists and other qualified doctors. I am sure that if we are able to develop this factually, Dr. Chetta will reconsider the initial conclusion that death was due to natural causes."
Garrison goes into this a little bit in his book, "On the Trail of the Assassin." Apparently no blood samples were saved so that didn't proceed beyond this memo or beyond the investigation that this memo led to.
Among the letters -- and again I'll just mention two of them as giving us some sort of a flavor of what is in this collection. It's a letter of August 16, 1967, from Melvin Belli to Jim Garrison. Belli was a prominent attorney who represented Jack Ruby after he was tried for the murder of Oswald.
"Dear Jim, I see the bastards are still after us, but if they weren't, then we wouldn't know who our friends were." And he goes on to say, "How are things going with you? I hope sometimes to get down your way and say hello, and whenever you get out this way, publicly or privately, be sure and let me know beforehand. If you're just John Jones, you shall remain such and I'll stash you away in the damnedest penthouse you've ever seen this side of the Cape of Good Hope."
The second letter is dated August 27, 1967. From...it's a copy of Garrison's letter to Lord Bertram Russell, who Garrison acknowledges in his book had been an early supporter of his investigation, one paragraph, Garrison identifies in the beginning of the letter a coalition of anti-Castro Latins and the Minute Men organization as the President's killers and then Garrison goes on to say, and I quote:
"Above the operative level, insulated and removed to the point of being very nearly invisible, appeared to have been individuals whose political orientation can only be described as Neo-Nazi. We regard the defendant, Clay Shaw, as being a member of this group. These individuals appear to have rather unusual international connections and it is not unlikely that they might have had earlier relations with the Gehlen Intelligence apparatus instituted in Germany.
"Elements of the Gehlen apparatus appear to have been digested by our own CIA during the course of the Cold War apparently because of their possible value in fighting communism. Even as I have described this neo-Nazi aspect, I am sure that it sounds somewhat fanciful. Because of the unbelievability of this part of the picture, I have found it necessary to refrain from mentioning it. It is bad enough that the press describes the more obvious parts of the conspiracy as unbelievable without my supplying them with new fuel.
"Nevertheless, the essentially Fascist origin of the assassination is inescapable, more about which I will be happy to tell you when I have a little more time.
Again, this is three excerpts from probably 1,000 or so pages in the collection. They give some flavor for what is included in there.
We did, after I completed this inventory, precede with our plans to microfilm the collection. We've produced 316 millimeter rolls of film and I gave Tom Samoluk a set of those films this morning, so you will have those for the collection.
We didn't really announce availability of these records again until we had finished filming them for security reasons. We didn't really seek any publicity for the records. We made announcements to the local state and regional archival newsletters, and until "Times-Picayune" article last week about this hearing, I don't think that the local press had ever carried any stories about our collection of Garrison materials.
But they have been used. We've had several researchers request them in house and the records, the microfilms, are out in public accessible areas. We really don't have any statistics on how many people have used them. We did, when we did the films, is make two sets of films so that one would always be available for interlibrary loan, and we have had several interlibrary loan requests since they've been available.
We did enter a catalog record for the material into the OCLC database and we also just this year added a copy of the inventory to our worldwide web site on the Internet. So we are trying to let the world know that we have these and we're willing to let everybody who wants to, use them.
At the 1993 Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists, which was here in New Orleans, I participated in a session on the assassination records. I discussed our holdings and how they were used, pretty much as I've done here this morning.
But two of the other presenters on the panel were from the National Archives and their description of the whole Assassination Records Collection Act and how they were implementing it and everything was very interesting to me and sort of inspired me after the session was over to go back and write letters to the New Orleans Police Department and to District Attorney Connick asking them to once again look and see if it were additional records and to consider making them available in the spirit of the Federal legislation.
The Police Department responded that they had no additional materials and I have no idea what they looked at in order to come to that conclusion. But that was their answer. The district attorney, however, did assign one of his chief assistants to work with me on the matter. On October 14, 1993 I met with him at the District Attorney's Office, where he did show me the collection, which again was in a separate room, locked room away from all the rest of the records. It seemed to me at the time that it was more than one file cabinet, but I didn't really have a lot of time to look at the records and just very brief impressions is all that I came away with.
We discussed the possibility of those records being added to the donation that we had already received from the District Attorney's Office, but nothing further came from that discussion.
Last month I got, did get, a letter from the District Attorney advising me that they were planning to donate additional materials to the library. Immediately thereafter I learned of this Board's interest in New Orleans records and have since learned that the District Attorney will now be turning the records over to the National Archives, rather than to us, although in discussions with Tom Samoluk this morning, it sounds like we can work out some kind of a deal where we can get copies of those records to be kept with our records at the Public Library. We would very much like to have local accessibility to those records continue.
I look forward to working with you all and the National Archives in the future and on this never ending story.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Everard. Are there questions, members of the Board?
MR. JOYCE: Mr. Everard, one of the ways that repositories are able to supplement their holdings is when their librarians and archivists encounter researchers who come to use the collection.
I'm wondering in the case of your collection, if you've encountered any researchers who have been able to provide you with additional information about the records already in your custody and the possibility that there may be other records out there somewhere that might be relevant? Do you have any information like that or any guidance that might be of use to us?
MR. EVERARD: No, I really don't. We have had people use the records, but they have very much tended to close mouthed about what they were finding and what value they found in the records and really haven't gotten into those kinds of discussions and possibly because we have microfilmed them and we don't have the usual kinds of contacts between researcher and archivist that would be necessary in the case of original records. We don't get the full sense of how and who are using the records.
But, no, I haven't really had those kinds of discussions with researchers. People have asked questions about the existence of other records, and I've tried to answer those to the best of my ability, but no leads from outside like that.
MR. JOYCE: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Go ahead, Dr. Hall.
MR. HALL: If I may, I'd like to say a word of praise on behalf of the New Orleans City Archives and New Orleans Public Library. I've had the pleasure of doing research in your library and in the archives and it's really substantive materials, really one of the best facilities in the entire south.
MR. EVERARD: Thank you.
MR. HALL: But having said that now, I'm actually trying to figure out how the New Orleans City Archives works. And I'm particularly interested in the way in which the materials came to you in 1990. This is a call initiated apparently out of the Room Supervisor of New Orleans District Attorney's Office concerning their interest in purging their files.
Now how do you do business here in New Orleans?
MR. HALL: How do you go about --
MR. EVERARD: Good question.
MR. HALL: Is there a process for systematic review, a kind of diligent oversight of records that are --
MR. EVERARD: We, again, we --
MR. HALL: To be brought to the Archives?
MR. EVERARD: We are the municipal archives. Our mandate is to collect records of the City of New Orleans and we have a -- maybe it's not all that strange, although it seems strange to me, a governmental arrangement here where although the City of New Orleans and Parish of Orleans are coterminous, there are offices within the parish level which are not part of the municipal government. Therefore, we have no mandate or legal authority to collect records from the District Attorney's Office, records from courts and records from the coroner, which are all parish, or by extension, state agencies.
There has been I'd say over the years a failure on the part of those parish/state agencies to provide their own archival mechanisms. Also efforts by the state archives to collect those have met with resistance on the local level.
MR. HALL: I think this was a particularly important and worthy note because we could, I think, readily become confused here about the process of finding records in Louisiana.
MR. EVERARD: Right. A lot of the things that happened early on were before my time, but I can give you a little bit of knowledge about how some of these things work. For example, the criminal--the civil court records in New Orleans were in the custody of the Civil District Court, which is one of these parish/state agencies. In the early '70s, my understanding is that they were just going to throw away all of their old records because they didn't have any way to take care of them any more.
Members of the local history community found out about this and approached the head of the archives, Collum Hammer, my boss, about a possibility of taking these records, and he did that. He agreed and signed a deposit agreement with the judges and we have all the civil court records for New Orleans in our collection, although they are not technically part of the City Archives collection.
Similar kinds of arrangements were made with the coroner over the years and we have large expanses of files at the Coroner's Office.
In the late '80s, we made a similar arrangement with Criminal Court to take their early records, from 1831 to 1931, and immediately thereafter -- and this was what lead me to think that maybe the reason the District Attorney's people approached us is because they had been discussing with the Clerk of Court, who is right across the street from them, about how to take care of records they no longer felt a need to maintain themselves. Out of that discussion, came the approach to the city librarian and ultimately the records coming to us.
The records that we did take on donation at the time, probably something in the neighborhood of 165 cubic feet, case files from approximately 1955 to 1960, already the capital cases and other first class cases had been removed. So these are the less important cases. But included in that were these three boxes that were marked JFK.
As you know, they were not trying to keep these from me. The file clerk alerted me to the fact that these records were included and we probably would have taken them anyway, but this certainly made an easier decision for us to go ahead and do this.
MR. HALL: Can I just, one other question to go along with this. As a matter of course in Louisiana, where are grand jury materials archived?
MR. EVERARD: My understanding is with the District Attorney's Office. But this is, I have no direct knowledge of that.
MR. HALL: Well, let me then, if I could, spin the question around the other way. Do you have any grand jury materials in the City Archives?
MR. EVERARD: There are some very old 19th century records that came to us with the Criminal Court accession that we made in 1989 and there are things like maybe witness books and such. I don't think there are any actual, you know, testimony case files or anything like that. We do have reports that the grand jury made of their inspections of the criminal justice system. But those were published reports which I'm sure were widely distributed.
We do -- there are -- and this maybe will give you a little bit more indication of some of the confused state of records over at the courthouse. In one of our accessions of records from the Coroner's Office, there were maybe five or six boxes of records from the District Attorney's Office that came in, probably because they were sharing temporary storage space over in the courthouse. And there were maybe two or three grand jury reports included in that file, which I have -- will not release because it is my understanding that grand jury testimony is confidential and not public record.
MR. HALL: Right. It is an interesting situation though when the District Attorney comes and testifies and says that at least when he came into office the records that would be especially pertinent to us were in a state of disarray and some confusion, that there may have, in fact, been public materials that were put into private hands. I think he used the word "thievery" to describe that activity.
And then to realize as well that the legal authority by which those records are maintained in Louisiana seems to be at least confused as to where they are ultimately to be located, and that we could, in fact, be in the position where a fair amount of materials, some of which turned out to be pertinent to understanding the assassination, were potentially going to be destroyed save for the good judgment of some of the staff in your office.
MR. EVERARD: I think you might want to, if you haven't already talked to the State Archives, just talk to them about these matters of jurisdiction and also about the possibility that they may have some records that would be --
MR. HALL: And, well, that's clearly the direction that I'm headed in. I think that's something worth being explored because the criminal records or court records, as I understand it, in Louisiana are in an anomalous archival position.
MR. EVERARD: You'll also recall -- and I don't have an exact cite here -- but somewhere in Garrison's book he refers to the fact that when he went back to do research in his records he discovered that they had been stolen.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you very much.
MS. NELSON: We might defend Louisiana a little bit by saying that's true of other states, too.
MR. EVERARD: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Any other questions for Mr. Everard?
[No audible response.]
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Everard. We appreciate your testimony today and look forward to working with you. Thank you.