Creating a Bogus "Connection" Between Lee Oswald and Guy Banister
The Sinister "Stack" of Leaflets Found in Guy Banister's Files
Soon we got a new break. Guy Banister's widow unexpectedly agreed to grant us an interview. She was very cooperative, but clearly never knew much about what Guy Banister had been doing at his office. . . . However, she did recall one curious thing. After his death, in 1964, she had been removing his effects from his office when she came across a stack of leaflets that she found very peculiar. They had said either "Hands Off Cuba" or "Fair Play for Cuba" -- leftovers from Lee Oswald's performance as an agent provocateur.Sounds very sinister, right? Sinister because of the "stack" of leaflets that implies some sort of relationship between Oswald and Banister. Was Banister storing them for Oswald?
Asked about what had happened to Banister's office files, she recalled that federal government agents had arrived within an hour or two of his death--long before she reached his office--and carted off the locked file cabinets. She was told that the men had been from either the F.B.I. or the Secret Service -- she could not remember which. However, the state police, she added, did not arrive until after she had.
The state police? Apparently in a routine check, possibly because a brother of Banister 's had been connected with it, several state police officers had gone through his office. They departed with the index cards to Banister 's files, which the federal agents incomprehensibly had failed to take with them. [On the Trail. . . , pp. 40-41]
And sinister because those Federal agents descended so quickly on Banister's office. Must be that they knew of some super secret intelligence operation run by the man. But Garrison is wrong on both counts.
First, the number of leaflets. David Blackburst has noted an important change in the number of leaflets that Mrs. Banister supposedly said her husband had in his files. The earliest version is from an April 29-30, 1967 interview with Mrs. Banister by Garrison Assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra:
She said that the only thing she could say in regard to Oswald's Fair Play for Cuba Committee was that she saw some Fair Play for Cuba leaflets in Banister's office when she went there after his death. Mrs. Banister said she threw them away in the wastebasket.From Garrison's 1970 book A Heritage of Stone:
After Banister's death in the summer of 1964, his wife came down from Monroe, Louisiana, to remove his belongings from the office and found some interesting mementos from Oswald's scenes as a Communist. Among Banister's effects there remained a stack of Hands Off Cuba leaflets. (p. 112)from Garrison's On The Trail of the Assassins:
She had been removing his effects from his office when she came across a stack of leaflets that she found very peculiar. They had said either "Hands Off Cuba" or "Fair Play for Cuba."So it seems that "some" leaflets has been "enhanced" into a whole "stack" of leaflets. But what about the claim that Federal agents swooped down on Banister's office and carried off his files?
Blackburst has reconstructed the disposition of Banister's files among various agencies.
Courtesy of researcher Jerry Shinley, here are the primary source documents concerning Banister's files.
Major Willie lead the Louisiana State Police in the SCEF raids and was named, along with Jim Garrison, as a defendant in the Dombrowski v. Pfister suit -- a suit aimed at protecting Civil Rights organizations from state prosecution. In the late fifties Willie was a chauffeur for then Governor Earl K. Long.AGENCY : HSCA RECORD NUMBER : 1801007010368 AGENCY FILE NUMBER : 008269 [PT 18] - ORIGINATOR : NEW ORLEANS DISTRICT ATTORNEY FROM : SCIAMBRA, ANDREW TO : GARRISON, JIM TITLE : MRS MARY BANISTER; INTERVIEW WITH.... DATE : 05/01/67MRS. MARY BANISTER - INTERVIEW WITH
April 29th and 30th, 1967
I [SCIAMBRA] traveled to Monroe, Louisiana to talk to Mrs. MARY BANISTER in connection with the files her husband GUY BANISTER was keeping in the course of his investigative work. Mrs. BANISTER told me that after her husband died Mrs. DELPHINE ROBERTS and her daughter took some files from GUY BANISTER's apartment and also from GUY BANISTER's office and turned them over to Mr. G. WRAY GILL. She also said that she believes these files were in reference to an investigation concerning DAVID FERRIE and his case with Eastern Airlines. She stated that she later on called Mr. GILL and asked him to return these files to her and he did not do so. She said that she does not know what happened to these files. Mrs. BANISTER went on to say that she also burned some files because she felt, in her opinion, that these files should be destroyed as they might hurt some innocent people; that these files did not contain anything in regards to Communist or anti-Communist group activities. Mrs. BANISTER told me that about 1 or 2 days after her husband's death she did go to his office in an attempt to prevent anyone from taking these files and discovered that some files had already been taken. The old man [James Arthus?] who lived above BANISTER's office told her that he had seen DELPHINE ROBERTS and her daughter take some files while her daughter and a policeman was present.
She said that the only thing she could say in regard to OSWALD's Fair Play for Cuba Committee was that she saw some Fair Play for Cuba Leaflets in BANISTER's office when she went there after his death. Mrs. BANISTER said she threw them away in the wastebasket. Mrs. BANSITER told me that because she was in such financial difficulties she sold many of her husband's files to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, and she gave some to the State Sovereignty Commission, and she also gave some to the State Police. She said that she also gave a complete index card catalogue, which was a record of every investigation that her husband was involved in, to the State Police. Mrs. BANISTER said that she had never heard her husband speak of the Friends of Cuba or Voice of Cuba or SERGIO ARCACHA SMITH, BILL DALZELL, or CARLOS QUEROGA. She said that the name REGIS KENNEDY is familiar to her probably because I told her he is an F.B.I. Agent.
I looked over the books which Mrs. BANISTER had, which were in her husband's library, and these were text books on various subjects which did not pertain to any investigation. She told me that she had donated other text books to the New Orleans Public Library, Northeastern State College, and Louisiana State Univesity in New Orleans.
Mrs. BANISTER emphasized the point that she did not want to get involved in any way, and that if anyone did ask her if she had talked to anyone from the District Attorney's Office, she would say that she had not. However, Mrs. BANISTER did say that she would like to help us in any way she could but that she would like to help us on a confidential basis.
ANDREW J. SCIAMBRA [end of NODA interview]AGENCY : HSCA RECORD NUMBER : 180-10097-10397 AGENCY FILE NUMBER : 012448 - ORIGINATOR : HSCA FROM : WILSON, MARY BANNISTER [sic] DATE : 04/07/78Interview:
Mrs. Banister was contacted by Investigator L.J. Delsa by telephone and she stated that she would prefer not to have anyone come to her home. She had checked with her brother in law Ross Banister and had been informed that the Select Committee was an official organization and that information regarding her husband Guy Banister might be helpful.
She stated that her and her husband had been seperated at the time of his death. She sold some of his records to the Louisiana State Police. She could not remember the individuals name that actually picked them up but the transaction involved Mr. Russell Willie of the State Police. She gave some records to Mr. Aaron Kohn of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission. Many of the large collection of books were donated to Louisiana State University in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Mr. Sam Newman, the owner of 544 Camp St. kept the office furniture and sold it for money that he claimed was due him for back rent.
Mrs. Banister Wilson did not know any of the people from the office personally and did not keep in touch with any of then. She knew of Delphine Roberts, William Nietscke (sp), Joseph Newbrough and Jack Martin but did not stay in contact with them. She did not like to think about those times or discuss them and requested that she not be called unless it was deemed important.
[end of interview]AGENCY : HSCA RECORD NUMBER : 180-10082-10170 AGENCY FILE NUMBER : 005967 ORIGINATOR : HSCA FROM : BANISTER, ROSS DATE : 02/20/78Interview:
The above was interviewed by the undersigned [Martin J. Daly] and Inv. Buras. Subject was the brother of Guy BANISTER. Mr. BANISTER states that when Guy retired from the F.B.I. he desired to come South so Ross contacted Gus [sic] MORRISON and GUY got the job as Assistant Supt. of Police because of the P.D. scandals. He became a controversial figure and was FIRED/QUIT. He subsequently opened a Private Detective agency in New Orleans. Each time that ROSS visited GUY in New Orleans his (GUY) office appeared very busy with many people coming and going but he knew GUY was in financial trouble because on one occassion he loaned GUY $300.00. On the night of GUY's death the office was 'raided' for files. Ross thinks that Delphine ROBERTS and possibly Bill NITSCHKE took the records, while MARY [Banister?] felt that either the F.B.I. OR C.I.A. took them. ROSS states that GUY attempted to involve him in several of his deals, a diamond and emerald mine; taking Mahogany by helicopter out of either Columbia or Venezuela; but being a very cautious man he declined. Further states that GUY was at one point involved in helping the President of Columbia in setting up a National Police Force. Mentions several times that GUY was a dedicated Anti- Communist, and maintained extensive files on all sorts of subversive activity. Had his secretaries cut out newspaper articles pertaining to these activities. ROSS felt that GUY was cooperating with the F.B.I. throughout his retirement from the Bureau.
States that GUY was extremely interested in the Assassination investigation. GUY told him that he believed and was convinced that a conspiracy existed and he did not believe that OSWALD could have done it alone. ROSS states that GUY never mentioned the C.I.A. except that after the Assassination he said that 'Clay SHAW was being paid $100.00 a month by the C. I. A. because he was an informant for them.'
ROSS further stated that GUY told him that he SAW Lee Harvey OSWALD handing out F. P. C. C. literature. ROSS advances the theory that the reason OSWALD used 544 Camp Street was due to GUY mounting a public campaign via the States-Item newspaper effectively killing the sale of jeeps to CUBA and THAT is why OSWALD used the Camp Street address in an attempt to embarrass GUY. One of the people that GUY told ROSS was working for him was Bill NITSCHKE.
Just subsequent to the Assassination GUY felt that FERRIE had received a 'raw deal' but that later he cooled that feeling.
He states that Major WYLIE, former La. State Police Officer is in reality Russell WILLIE who upon his retirement from them went to work for the D. O. T. (home address and telephone number obtained). WILLIE is the one who purchased GUY's records from Mary BANISTER for the sum of $500.00.
[end of interview]AGENCY : HSCA RECORD NUMBER : 7810370 AGENCY FILE NUMBER : 009262 ORIGINATOR : HSCA FROM : WILLIE, RUSSELL DATE : 6-8-78Summary of Contact:
Investigator Robert Buras contacted Mr. Willie on the above time and date regarding his employment with the Louisiana State Sovereignty Committee which, information indicated, had received files from the late Guy Banister's Office. Mr. Willie actually was employed by the Louisiana State Police which did buy some files, that were made available to the Committee but were burned some time around 1970. Details below:
Russell Willie and Joseph Cambre, Louisiana State Police, went to the residence of Mary Banister on Argonne St. in New Orleans, La. They purchased some files, approximately one five drawer file cabinet about half full of manila folders and three by five index cards. Mr. Willie believed that these purchases were in late 1964 or early 1965. The price was five hundred dollars which the State Police paid to Mrs. Mary Banister. Mr. Willie has retired from the State Police but at that time he was a Major and in charge of the Bureau of Identification and investigation. This included about thirty men and some of the duties involved criminal investigations and some gathering of intelligence files. The State Police cooperated with all State Agencies and Committee's. In this case they were assisting the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission which was interested in the New Orleans area. The files that were kept by Mr. Banister covered many organizations and individuals that were of interest. Mr. Willie stated that he did not remember too much more about the matter but he suggested that the investigator contact Mr. Joseph Cambre, Ray Thomas, and Billy Joe Booth. These men had contact with the New Orleans Police Depart and along with him cooperated with U.S. Senator Eastland's Un American Activities Committee. Mr. Banister had some files that pertained to the Southern Conference Educational Fund. This organization was formerly the Southern Regional Communist Party U.S.A. of [sic] a title like that. [Editor's Note: Wrong. SCEF was formerly the Southern Conference on Human Welfare. The Southern Regional Committee of the Communist Party was a different group.]
Mr. Willie could not remember any files that pertained to Lee Harvey Oswald but believed that something might have been in them about the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Mr. Willie did remember that the files contained things that were not of interest, directly, to the State Police but were obviously kept by Mr. Banister because of his interest in them while he was with the F.B.I.
[end of interview]
As Jerry Shinley notes, it's deeply ironic that the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission got a large portion of Banister's files. In Louisiana in 1964, "State Sovereignty" was a euphemism for racial segregation, and the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission was a segregationist organization. Garrison had cooperated with the Commission in the legal persecution of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, a civil rights group.AGENCY : HSCA RECORD NUMBER : 1801007810371 AGENCY FILE NUMBER : 009263 ORIGINATOR : HSCA FROM : CAMBRE, JOSEPH DATE : 06/08/78
Summary of Contact:
Mr. Cambre stated that he helped Russell Willie obtain Guy Banister's records from Mary Banister and later he went thru these records and also remembers them being destroyed along with many other records due to orders attempting to comply with the Privacy Act. Mr. Cambre was assigned to the records section of investigation and intelligence within the State Police. He worked with the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission during 1970-1. Mr. Cambre went through the records of Mr. Banister and noticed that many of the index cards refered to files that were missing. Banister's files were kept seperate from the general files. Mr. Cambre stated that they were in a five drawer file cabinet but the cabinet was not full. Many of the folders that were numbered were missing. Mr. Cambre believes that Mary Banister mentioned that she had allowed the F.B.I. to take what they wanted from the files before the State Police obtained them. This seemed appropriate since Mr. Banister was a retired F.B.I. Agent. Mr. Cambre couldn't remember the names of the files but he remembered that they were of organizations and individuals that would be considered liberal, or subversive or communist. Mr. Banister had extensive records on the Southern Conference Educational Fund. Many of the files were newspaper clippings, that referred to something that Banister was interested in.
Mr. Cambre remembers reading a file on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee which was mostly news clippings. He also remembers a transcript of Lee Harvey Oswald speaking to someone on the radio about this organization. He can not remember a specific file on Oswald or any of Oswald's associates. Mr. Cambre remembered that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee had an address on Camp St. He was surprised to learn that 544 Camp St. was the same building that Mr. Banister had his office in. He couldn't [remember?] anything else about the contents of the files at this time but will call back if he thinks of anything new that might be of use.
Mr. Cambre remembered that an investigator from Jim Garrison's office came and took notes of the contents of the files and index cards. He could not remember the name of the investigator but suggested that Garrison might remember.
The files were loaded into cartoon [sic] and bags in his presence but he did not see them destroyed. He suggested that Ray W. Thomas or Billy Joe Booth might know more about the actual destroying of the files. Mr. Thomas works with a private detective agency in Baton Rouge and Mr. Booth is an instructor at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
There is no evidence that Garrison was personally a racist, or an opponent of integration. But the irony is that the man who -- according to Oliver Stone -- stood up to the power of the Federal government in going after JFK's killers was unwilling to stand up to local segregationists in Louisiana.