The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Lloyd Cobb
CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
PARISH OF ORLEANS
STATE OF LOUISIANA
STATE OF LOUISIANA vs. CLAY L. SHAW
EXCERPT OF THE TESTIMONY TAKEN IN OPEN COURT
February 21, 1969
B E F O R E: THE HONORABLE EDWARD A. HAGGERTY, JR., JUDGE, SECTION "C" FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1969
LLOYD J. COBB, a witness for the Defense, after first being duly sworn by The Minute Clerk, was examined and testified as follows:
DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Mr. Cobb, for the record would you kindly state your full name.
A: My name is Lloyd J. Cobb.
Q: Mr. Cobb, what is your occupation?
A: I am a lawyer.
Q: Are you now or have you ever been associated with or affiliated with the International Trade Mart here in New Orleans?
Q: In what capacity, sir?
A: Well, I was original founder of the Trade Mart back in 1946 and served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee and as a Vice-President until the death of Mr. William Zetzmann, Sr. in March 1962 shortly after which I became President.
Q: That is President of the Trade Mart?
A: Of International Trade Mart.
Q: Are you still the President of the International Trade Mart?
Q: Now, Mr. Cobb, are you acquainted with Mr. Clay Shaw, the Defendant in this case?
Q: How long have you known him, sir?
A: Since about 1946 when the Trade Mart was in it original organizational stages.
Q: At that time was Mr. Shaw affiliated with the Trade Mart?
Q: When if ever, did he become affiliated with the Trade Mart and in what capacity?
A: He became affiliated with the Trade Mart about 1946 to facilitate the remodeling of the old Baldwin Building on Camp and Common Streets until it became the original Trade Mart and he participated in the original financing and organization of the Trade Mart.
Q: Now did he become affiliated with the Trade Mart after you became President or before?
A: I became President in 1962, in March 1962, and he had been affiliated with the Trade Mart since 1946, approximately.
Q: Now when you became President of the Trade Mart in what capacity was Mr. Shaw affiliated with the Trade Mart?
A: He was Managing Director.
Q: And how long did he continue in that position to your knowledge, sir?
A: Until October 1965.
Q: Did he leave this position voluntarily or if not under what circumstances?
A: He left it entirely voluntarily. I think that answers the question.
Q: Now as Managing Director of the Trade Mart in general and more particularly during the year 1963, what was the nature of his duties?
A: In 1963 he was acting as he had acted previously as Managing Director of the Trade Mart and as such he was in charge of the rental space and attention to exhibits in the Mart there and publication of the Mart's image generally.
In June of 1963 a contract was made with Blyth & Company in New York which had to do with the financing of the new Trade Mart which has been built at the head of Canal Street. After June of 1962, after June of '63 his responsibilities were directed towards handling his old job as I described and also facilitating in every way possible the creation of the new International Trade Mart complex.
Q: Now, during the months of August, September and October 1963 was there anything unusual going on in connection with the new Trade Mart Building?
A: We think it was unusual.
Q: Will you please describe that.
A: About June, about July 1963 this financing contract was entered into between the International Trade Mart and Bloomfield Building Industries, which later built the building, and Blyth & Company for the sale of bonds to finance the new 33-story structure and the contract provided that the closing date would be October 8, 1963, a period of 90 days.
During that time the Trade Mart was under the obligation when the bonds were to be issued to do many things, one of which was to get bonafide leases to support the bond issue. The bond issue was to be for $12,800,000.00 and it was necessary to inaugurate a crash campaign to get leases from tenants, which leases were to produce $1,425,000.00 as I recall it, gross annual rental to support the $12,800,000.00 bond issue, and the bond issue ultimately concluded on October 10, 1963 in New York.
Q: Now during the say three months preceding October '63, did Mr. Shaw have any duties in connection with the negotiating of these leases for the proposed Trade Mart?
A: Well, as I have described it, it was a crash operation and as President of International Trade Mart, and the man responsible for putting the deal together and bringing about the issuance of the bonds to make the Trade Mart possible, it was my responsibility to delegate work, and the work load of obtaining the leases was delegated to Mr. Shaw for many reasons. There were about 40 or 44 foreign consuls here in New Orleans and Shaw had been working with them over a long period of years so naturally he was delegated to try and obtain leases from them, which in turn meant in many instances the changing of the offices then occupied into the new building. He was also in direct charge and was responsible for obtaining other leases to make up the total the investment company and the insurance company standing by would require before they would buy the bonds.
Q: Would you or would you not term that a busy period, Mr. Cobb?
MR. ALCOCK: Object, Your Honor, as the question is --
THE COURT: I will permit the question under the circumstances. You may answer.
THE WITNESS: It was busy to this extent. I practice law and during that period of time I worked on the project every day, I don't recall even if I took a day off during that whole period. We had a dedicated team and had a job to do and I had delegated it and everybody knew what his responsibility as and we were working under adverse conditions because many civic and public institutions in New Orleans and the press were not in favor of the project and, and it was a crash program in every sense of the word. There wasn't a moment when it was left unattended.
Q: Now, you say that you worked every day on this. How many days a week?
A: I personally worked probably around the clock except for a little time out at home on Sundays I worked around the clock.
Q: You worked on Saturdays?
A: I worked on Saturdays, on Sundays, I can't tell you how many Sundays, but Sundays, Saturdays, holidays.
Q: Mr. Cobb, in connection with the work you were were doing on the project and Mr. Shaw, was it necessary for you to contact him frequently or not?
A: Well, in the nature of things it was absolutely necessary. Shaw had the responsibility for obtaining leases from the counsels and foreign governments; had responsibility for obtaining other leases; and in addition to that we were dealing with many public agencies. For instance, we were dealing with the Board of Commissioners for the Port of New Orleans which involved the demolition of the Dock Board Headquarters at the head of Canal Street and the exchange of that property for two squares that the Trade Mart owned that now form a part of Rivergate. We were busily engaged at that time working out with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad the relocation of all railroad tracks of the Public Belt on the riverfront. We were engaged with Southern Pacific Railroad moving that railroad after 100 years clean off the riverfront. We were engaged with the Dock Board too in revamping the ferry landing at Canal Street and then we were working almost constantly with Edward Durel Stone, the architect of the Trade Mart, on the plans and specifications which had to be submitted to the investment house at the time of the closing, and Mr. Shaw was, Shaw did more of that work I think than anybody else deciding what would go into the building and where and what the cost would be and so forth.
Q: When you say "we," in your testimony, to whom are you referring?
A: In connection with the Trade Mart project?
Q: That is correct. In outlining what you had to do.
A: The whole project was put together by a good many people but the responsibility in the final analysis rested on, I would say, three people.
Q: Who were those three people?
A: It rested on Clay Shaw to obtain the leases and Mr. Jimmy Coleman and his office who worked with me on a day-to-day basis, working out all the legal details in connection with the Mart and they were considerable because when I went to New York on October 8 to conclude the issue I carried with me 44 separate legal documents and over 100 leases all of which had to be approved by counsel here, Mr. Coleman and his associate, Mr. Yuratich and myself. Others worked on the project but the great bulk of the work virtually all was done by that small team.
Q: You say you were working with Mr. James Coleman on a day-to-day basis. On what basis were you working with Clay Shaw?
A: I was working with Clay Shaw during that period almost on a constant basis. I don't mean I was with him but my office is in the Whitney Bank Building and his office was in the International Trade Mart Building and we were talking back and forth throughout the period in the negotiation of leases and I was calling on him and he was asking me for advice with respect to approaches to be made to this tenant or that tenant and more or less constantly dealing together.
Q: Do you recall any work days during that approximate three-month period that you were not in touch with Clay Shaw?
A: Well, I recall there was one day during that period when I was not in touch with him because he had requested me --
MR. ALCOCK: I'm going to object to anything Shaw said to him.
THE WITNESS: One day, then.
THE COURT: I think he could say what Mr. Cobb would do as a result of a conversation with Mr. Shaw. You may rephrase your question.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: My question was whether you remembered any days you had not been in contact with him during that three-month period.
A: I do remember one day.
Q: Do you know where he was during that one day?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: To your knowledge, was any representative of the Trade Mart able to reach him on that day?
A: To my knowledge, yes.
Q: Where was he reached?
A: In Hammond, Louisiana.
Q: Hammond, Louisiana?
Q: Do you know what day that was, Mr. Cobb?
A: The date was September 25, 1963.
Q: Mr. Cobb, you are pretty familiar with Louisiana?
Q: How far approximately is Hammond, Louisiana from Clinton, Louisiana, roughly?
A: I would say about 90 miles.
Q: Now, Mr. Cobb, in view of the nature and intensity of the work you and Mr. Shaw were performing at that time if he had been absent from work on a work day would you have noticed it?
A: I would have done more than noticed it.
Q: What would you have done?
A: Well, all of us were working as a dedicated team and there would have been a point made as he was being paid and I wasn't. We had a job to do and we were out to get it done.
Q: Now Shaw -- Mr. Cobb, in view of the length of time you have known Mr.
Shaw would you say you are familiar or not familiar with his manner of dress?
A: I am familiar with it to the extent of what I have seen in his business contacts. Q: Have you ever known him to wear a hat?
Q: Have you ever known him to wear tight pants?
Q: Would you tell us how he customarily dressed for business occasions?
A: He dressed like any ordinary businessman in all his contacts with the Trade Mart.
Q: By any ordinary businessman, how would you describe that?
A: On the conservative side.
Q: According to your definition of "conservative" style would a striped sport coat fit in that?
MR. ALCOCK: I object, Your Honor.
THE COURT: What was your question?
MR. DYMOND: According to his definition of conservative side would a striped sports coat fit in that.
THE COURT: Let him tell it to you. Let Mr. Cobb tell you.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: How would you describe the conservative businessman's dress?
A: Like these gentlemen, like you are dressed like I am dressed, there was n[othing] unusual about about his dress and [text missing] notice particularly.
Q: Now, Mr. Cobb, were you on [text missing] committee that greet[ed President Kennedy] when he visited [text missing] assassination?
A: Yes, I was.
Q: Do you know whether [Clay Shaw was also on the] committee?
A: He, he was.
Q: Did you see him at any time during the reception of President Kennedy or the festivities or proceedings that took place in connection with it?
A: Yes, I saw him.
Q: Did you notice anything unusual about his dress at that time?
Q: Could you say whether or not he was wearing tight pants at that time?
A: If he had been wearing tight pants I would have noticed it so my answer is no.
Q: Mr. Cobb, would you say that in view of your knowledge of Mr. Shaw that you were and are familiar with his political views and feelings?
A: Well, from time to time there were discussions --
MR. ALCOCK: Your Honor, any discussions with Mr. Shaw or any political views expressed by Mr. Shaw to Cobb would of necessity be hearsay.
THE COURT: You are correct.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Did Mr. Shaw ever do anything that indicated to you his political feelings were liberal or conservative?
A: Yes, he indicated on many occasions --
MR. ALCOCK: I object, Your Honor.
THE COURT: I sustain the objection.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Do you, Mr. Cobb, have any opinion as to what Mr. Shaw's political beliefs were?
MR. ALCOCK: I object again, Your Honor.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, that is something upon which an ordinary individual could have an opinion.
MR. ALCOCK: He could only have it by having conversations with him.
MR. DYMOND: It could have been gained through actions and other things. I am sure Your Honor has opinions --
THE COURT: It could have been gained in ways other than what was said by Mr. Shaw to Cobb.
MR. ALCOCK: I think that ought to be established before the area is explored.
THE COURT: See if you can find out.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Mr. Cobb, upon what do you base your opinion as to Mr. Shaw's political beliefs?
MR. ALCOCK: He hasn't expressed an opinion.
THE COURT: He asked if he had one.
THE WITNESS: I have an opinion in answer to that question and it is based on discussions and his general reputation with respect to his beliefs concerning political parties and the trend of the country.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Do you know other people that knew him?
A: Naturally, yes, of course.
Q: Among those people did you know what his reputation was about political beliefs?
MR. ALCOCK: Any political beliefs professed by the Defendants are results of conversations by him and others and is all hearsay.
MR. DYMOND: Your Honor, the witness testified it was based basically on reputation.
THE COURT: Mr. Alcock, Mr. Dymond has rephrased his question to bring it in the realm of general reputation alluding to character, and one of the traits, honesty, would be political thoughts or beliefs. It is a trait in a human being and since you laid a predicate I will permit it.
MR. ALCOCK: Your Honor, I would like to suggest to The Court that if we are going into character traits that only that character trait is what is generally known and not this man's appreciation of the character trait was.
THE COURT: Will you explore that further?
MR. DYMOND: Yes.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Mr. Cobb, did Mr. Shaw bear the reputation of being a conservative or a liberal?
A: In my judgment he very definitely bears a reputation of being a liberal.
Q: Have you ever known him to bear the reputation of a conservative?
A: No, just the opposite.
Q: Mr. Cobb, do you know whether or not Mr. Shaw ever took any active part in the Civil Rights movement?
THE COURT: This is of his own knowledge.
THE WITNESS: Of my own knowledge he did not and in his capacity of Managing Director of the Trade Mart if he had taken part it would have objected to.
MR. DYMOND: May I have those photographs of Oswald and Ferrie?
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Mr. Cobb, I show three, I show you a photograph which has been marked for identification State-40, and ask you whether you recognize that as anyone in whose company you have ever seen Clay Shaw?
A: I do not recognize it.
Q: I show you a photograph marked for identification State-1 and ask you the same question.
A: No, I do not recognize him.
Q: I show you a photograph marked State-3 and I will ask the same question.
Q: I now show you a photograph marked for identification State-16-T and ask you the same question.
A: It looks like a corpse.
Q: It is a corpse. Have you ever seen this person in the company of Clay Shaw?
Q: Mr. Cobb, I show you a photograph marked for identification State-19, and ask you if you have ever seen that man in the company of Clay Shaw?
A: I have never seen this man anywhere at any time.
Q: Now, of the people depicted in the photographs which I have just shown you, Mr. Cobb, have you ever seen any of those people in the International Trade Mart to your knowledge?
A: I have no recollection of ever having seen any one of them anywhere anytime.
Q: Have you ever known Mr. Clay Shaw to go under any aliases or any other than his true name of Clay L. Shaw?
Q: Have you ever known of him being known as Clay Bertrand?
A: Not until this case arose and these allegations of that fact were made, prior to that I never have.
Q: Have you ever known him to be known as Clem Bertrand?
A: I would give the same answer to that.
Q: Are you acquainted with an attorney named Dean Andrews?
A: No. I know who he is.
Q: Do you know him when you see him?
A: No, I don't think I would but perhaps I would from the newspaper publicity but I don't recall ever having met him or being in his presence.
Q: Have you ever seen his pictures published?
A: Yes, I have seen it in the press.
Q: Answer this question on the basis of the picture you have seen in the press. Have you ever seen him in the company of Clay Shaw or in the International Trade Mart Building?
Q: Now, Mr. Cobb, referring back to November of 1963 were you aware of any arrangements having been made by Mr. Shaw to go to the West Coast of this country?
Q: To the best of your knowledge when did you become aware of such arrangements?
A: In the early part of September, it may have been the late part of August but about that time.
Q: Do you know what was the purpose of that trip?
A: The purpose of the trip was to make an address on the West Coast having to do with the International Trade Mart of New Orleans and world trade.
Q: Did you give any permission in connection with this trip or approve this trip?
A: I approved it.
Q: What was the proposed date of the trip, approximately, Mr. Cobb?
A: I didn't know at the time I approved it. It was to be in November.
Q: Did you have any question in your mind whether you would approve it or not and if so, why?
A: Well, at that time I wasn't approving any trips at all unless they appeared to be absolutely necessary, and we had one objective and one objective alone and that was to consummate the sale of the bonds that were set for October 8 and delay extended to October 10. I during that period of time, I accepted no speaking engagements and I think I requested Shaw not to accept any, but this was going to be after the closing date and either we would have a deal or wouldn't have one, so it didn't make any difference and I approved it.
Q: Would you have approved an out of town trip for Mr. Shaw during August, or September, or October of 1963?
A: On a speaking engagement?
Q: That is correct.
A: I would not have approved it and I think I mentioned to Mr. Shaw that I did not want him to accept any speaking engagements during that period. My recollection is I told him that several times during the year because under prior administrations he accepted speaking engagements as in his discretion seemed appropriate.
Q: Was there anything unusual about Clay Shaw accepting out of town speaking engagements?
A: No, it had been going on for years.
Q: Now, Mr. Cobb, of your own knowledge do you know who paid for this trip to the West Coast by Mr. Clay Shaw?
A: Well, I have seen the correspondence and from the records of the Trade Mart the trip was paid for by the people in Portland direct to Travel Consultants.
MR. DYMOND: I tender the witness.
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR. ALCOCK:
Q: Mr. Cobb, did you have occasion, let's limit this to 1963, did you have occasion to see Clay Shaw, the Defendant in this case much after working hours?
A: I didn't hear the question.
Q: Did you have occasion to see the Defendant much after working hours during the year 1963?
A: Clay Shaw and I were never social friends and I had little or no social contact except in the performance of his duties with the Trade Mart. He had in charge visiting dignitaries or others and then I was in contact with him but I had, I may have had a drink with him or a group after office hours on occasion but other than that, no.
Q: Have you ever been to his apartment?
A: No, never.
Q: I take it then, that in the summer of 1963 that after working hours you had little or no contact with him, is that correct?
A: That is exactly what I said.
Q: Do you recall what he was wearing on the Nashville Street Wharf that day when President Kennedy spoke?
A: I don't recall what his apparel was on that occasion but it wasn't any different than what it was on other occasions or else I would have noticed it.
Q: I take it then by your answer relative to no social contact that you don't know what he wore generally when he was away from the Trade Mart?
A: No, I do not.
Q: Do you recall what time you and Shaw arrived at the Nashville Street Wharf on the day the President spoke?
A: I went out to the airport with, in a car I think our car was fourth or fifth and Mr. Nicholas Trist of St. Bernard Parish was in the car. It was an open sports car and my guess, and I'm only guessing, is that we arrived at the Nashville Street Wharf around 11:30 or so, but I don't remember particularly what time it was. I know the parade was a little delayed.
Q: Were you with Mr. Trist?
A: I was with Nicholas Trist and one or two other people but I don't recall who they were.
Q: You stayed there the entire time the President spoke?
A: Yes. I think I was on the platform and nobody left the platform until the President left for security purposes.
Q: Do you know, Mr. Cobb, or did you know, Mr. Cobb, whether or not the Defendant had relatives in Clinton, Louisiana?
A: Relatives in what?
Q: Clinton, Louisiana.
A: I don't know.
Q: Have you ever made any trips outside the City of New Orleans with the Defendant by automobile?
A: You are going back over a long period of years.
Q: Let's limit it to 1963.
A: I am sure I did not.
Q: I take it you knew he was from Hammond, is that correct?
A: I knew he lived in Hammond but I didn't know his family and never met his mother or father.
Q: Do you know Mr. Jeff Biddison?
Q: Where did you know him from?
A: I am a poodle lover.
Q: A poodle?
A: Yes. I have poodles and we had a poodle that was giving trouble around the house because we were trying to raise two male poodles in the same house and that didn't work, so my wife decided to get rid of one of them and we tried to pawn it off on many people and somehow or another we found out Jeff Biddison liked poodles and we maneuvered to get him to take it.
Q: Is that the only occasion you met him on?
A: I saw Jeff Biddison for a moment a couple of nights ago just to say hello and I don't think I've seen him in years.
Q: Do you know whether or not the Defendant, Clay Shaw, was friendly with Jeff Biddison?
A: I do not of my own knowledge, no, sir.
Q: Do you know of your own knowledge what type of automobile Jeff Biddison drives?
A: No, I have never seen his automobile -- You said Biddison?
A: I have never seen him in an automobile.
Q: Now did the Defendant come to you and request of you that he be allowed to make this speaking engagement on the West Coast?
A: There was a discussion between him and me in the latter part of August or September and these people from Portland had previously contacted the Trade Mart and they wanted Shaw, as I understood it at the time, and he said he would like to go about that time and there was to be some celebration out there, and I said "All right."
Q: This was unusual because I think you testified you were against speaking engagements at that time?
A: I was against speaking engagements while the Trade Mart financing was taking place but this was to take place in November. The Trade Mart processing had a deadline of October 8 and as I said before it didn't make any difference one way or the other whether he went, that is, from the Trade Mart viewpoint.
Q: Do you know a gentleman by the name of Gordon Novel?
Q: Do you ever recall his negotiating for a concession at the International Trade Mart?
A: I don't know Novel. I have never been in contact with him and I have absolutely no knowledge that he ever approached the Trade Mart for any kind of concession.
Q: Did you know a Mr. Mario Bermudez in the summer of '63 and fall of '63?
Q: What was his position?
A: In the fall of '63?
Q: In the fall of '63, correct.
A: In the fall of '63 I think Mr. Bermudez was -- at first he was Executive Director or Executive Vice-President of the Cordell Hull Foundation and he was -- He may have been Secretary of the International Relations Committee of the City of New Orleans, but if he was not then he had been appointed Secretary General of the Inter-American Municipal Organization. I would have to look in the records to tell you precisely what his position was at that time.
Q: Do you know whether or not he knew the Defendant at that time, during that time?
A: Whether he was aware?
Q: Whether or not he knew the Defendant Shaw during that time period.
A: I am sure he did know Shaw. They worked together.
MR. ALCOCK: No further questions.
RE-DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: One thing. You have testified you didn't have any contact with Mr. Shaw after working hours. What were your normal working hours during August, September and early October '63?
A: Mr. Dymond, I don't have any normal working hours and if I have work to do I do it and when I don't have work to do I do something else.
Q: Well, was your contact with Mr. Shaw confined to the hours say between 8:00 and 5:00 o'clock, 8:00 in the morning and 5:00 in the evening?
A: Not during that period. During that period I suppose I got down to my office innumerable times before 7:00 o'clock and maybe I didn't get home until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. We were working right on through and I am not saying Shaw was there all the time, but he was always available to me, I could reach him, I knew where he was during the regular day and we were talking back and forth and agreements were coming over to me and I was either approving or sending them to Mr. Coleman's office for revamping and something was happening almost every minute of the day during that period. It was perhaps the busiest period during my entire life.
MR. DYMOND: Thank you.
THE COURT: Is Mr. Shaw released from the obligations of the subpoena -- I mean Mr. Cobb?
MR. DYMOND: Yes, Mr. Cobb is.