Joe Cooper

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The tragic career of William H. "Joe" Cooper

Compiled by Claude B. Slaton

5 July 1996; updated 16 Dec 1996

I first knew of Joe Cooper when Jeff Caufield sent me a memorandum from the files of Jim Garrison during the summer of 1995.[1] At the time, the mention in the memo about the two men who had been offered $25,000 to fly two mysterious passengers on a " flight to Mexico City..." two days before the assassination did not ring a bell with me because the names of the parties mentioned were not familiar to me. One of the pilots was not named by name. When I received a Tattler article (written by John Moulder just after the death of Joe Cooper) that was sent to me by Jeff Caufield on July 3, 1996, the significance of combining the documents was apparent.

First, some background on Joe Cooper himself. He was born in Robertsdale, Ala., on May 2, 1924. His actions in the Pacific in WWII earned him a Presidential Citation when his ship, the USS Smith, was hit by a kamikaze pilot in 1942, killing 58 men. He served as a Baton Rouge City Police officer from 1945-47, was a Ft. Walton, Fla. Marshal in 1947-48, and served again on the
Baton Rouge force 1955-59. He had received the "Outstanding Officer of 1956, Traffic Division" award from the B.R.P.D.[2] I know a retired La. State Policeman who worked on the Baton Rouge force in 1956, and when I asked him about Joe Cooper he replied, "Strange guy. But I wouldn't want anyone else beside me going into a tough situation. He was a good cop." He requested his name not be used.[3]

Cooper made news in 1960 when he charged publicly that there were at least two ways of rigging state voting machines_a charge vehemently denied by public officials like Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr.

He ran for mayor-president of Baton Rouge in the election of 1960, and finished last in a seven-man Democratic election. In 1963 and again in 1971, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish.[4]

A Tattler article written by John Moulder a year after Cooper's death (1975)[5] credits Cooper with infiltrating the "Feliciana Klan" for the FBI from 1963 to 1965. Moulder, a Tattler staff writer, wrote in an article dated June 8, 1975:

"I first met Cooper last summer when we tracked down and interviewed two men who said they had been offered a bundle of money (and had turned it down) to fly two men from Dallas to Latin America on Nov. 22, 1963, the day John Kennedy was killed...Cooper, working for government intelligence himself, headed off a plot to assassinate Vice President Hubert Humphrey."

During the time Cooper was undercover, he foiled an assassination plot against Vice President Hubert Humphrey, when Humphrey was invited to speak in Baton Rouge by Victor Bussie, friend of Humphrey and head of the La. AFL/CIO Unions. The date set for the speech was April 9, 1965, at the Jack Tar Capitol House Hotel in Baton Rouge. Cooper served in the Klan's KBI_The
"Klan Bureau of Investigation". The article continues:

"One day a fellow Klan member came to him and told Cooper of the plan to assassinate Humphrey. The man asked Cooper if he could use his intelligence contacts with the police to find out how much security would be used for Humphrey's visit."

Contacting his FBI people, Cooper received the instruction to tell them that Humphrey's security would be heavy "...along the route of the Vice President's motorcade..." but to suggest it might not be as tight at the Capitol House.

"Based on Cooper's information, the Secret Service_directly responsible for the Vice President's safety_urged him to cancel his trip to Baton Rouge."

Humphrey, citing that La. Gov. John J. McKeithen would be with him during the entire trip, refused to cancel.

"Cooper had been able to supply the FBI with the names of only two men to be involved in the attempt on Humphrey's life.

Agents, using miniature cameras, obtained pictures of the two men, but didn't arrest them before Humphrey's visit.

Cooper said the Secret Service obviously feared that others would be sent in their place.

On the night of the Humphrey appearance at the hotel, the ballroom was filled with FBI-Secret Service undercover spies and trusted union men serving as sergeants at arms.

The entrance to the ballroom was arranged so all visitors could be observed [and photographed?_CBS]. Therefore, the would-be-triggerman was spotted immediately. He was a union member and had a ticket to get into the ballroom.

Undercover men serving as sergeants-at-arms escorted the man to
a seat at the rear of the ballroom. Two FBI agents sat down in front of him. Secret Service men sat on both sides. Two others sat down behind the man.

Humphrey arrived in Baton Rouge and rode with the governor in a limousine to the governor's mansion. Later they rode together to the hotel. Security forces were everywhere on the routes, covering the motorcade with high-powered rifles from the roofs of buildings. Humphrey and McKeithen arrived at the hotel, entered the ballroom and walked onto the speaker's platform.

The gunman then stood and reached for the pistol stuck in his belt under his coat. The federal agents grabbed him and pulled him out a kitchen door.

The second man on the assassination team was also grabbed and pulled from the room. He had no gun on him, but there was a gun in his car parked outside.

From the men, federal agents learned the name of a third that was in on the scheme. He had been in the convention hall, but backed out and left before Humphrey arrived.

The men were questioned, but were never charged. Cooper said the FBI told him there was not sufficient evidence.

`I know this guy would have killed Humphrey,' Cooper said. `He was a crack shot. He could part your hair without touching your scalp.'

Cooper said the men had wanted to assassinate Humphrey because he was an intergrationist. Feelings about desegregation were still high in the Deep South in 1965."

Word about the attempt on Humphrey's life was not allowed to leak out until two years later, when the New Orleans States-Item printed part of the story. They described an attempt on Humphrey's life by a "right-wing organization" but did not mention the Klan by name.

Within a few years, all three of the men picked up in the assassination plot were dead. One was shot to death by his wife. Another was killed when a metal door fell on him. The third, a young man, died of a heart attack.

"`There is absolutely no question in my mind that Joe saved
Hubert Humphrey's life,' Emile W. Weber, Cooper's attorney, told me [Moulder] after Cooper's death."

By 1966, Joe Cooper was off on his own Kennedy investigation, focusing on Naval Intelligence, not necessarily the Far Right civilian groups. From 1966 to 1975, the detective put together bits and pieces of strange coincidences that he felt pointed to U.S. Naval Intelligence being involved in the Kennedy assassination.

An intensely patriotic man, Cooper felt he had to do whatever he could to help find the truth. "I love my country, but this was not the way to change it_by killing a president," he said.

Cooper was convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald was a Naval Intellegence agent, and was certain that nine mysterious passengers on a cruise on the aircraft carrier Shangra-La
sponsored by Secretary of the Navy Fred Korth in August of 1963 had something to do with the assassination. While a policeman in
Florida, he made written inquiries to the Navy Department to find out their identities. He first received nine names, but two of them wound up aliases. The seven identified by the Navy Department were all business or political leaders in the New Orleans-Baton Rouge area. One had worked for the same insurance company as Lee's father, and another was a close friend of Dallas law enforcement officials who investigated the Kennedy assassination, and another had family connections with a local Nazi Party leader. The two names on the list Cooper couldn't identify were Adolph Vermont, Jr., and William Craver, Jr. This is the theory Cooper was working on when he contacted Jim Garrison's office offering "...definitely new evidence..." concerning at least three people "¬in the Orleans area." [7]

Apparently, Cooper had come across the Billy Kemp story while working as an infiltrator in the Klan for the FBI. The story from Cooper's viewpoint went like this: Two days before the assassination of President Kennedy, Kent Whatley of Garland,
Tex., offered Leroy Wheat and "his pilot" Billy Kemp $25,000 to pilot a small aircraft with two passengers to South America on Nov. 22nd, no questions asked. Both men, in separate interviews, confirmed the story and added that they had been suspicious of the offer and declined it.[8] The Tattler article said that Whatley, Wheat, and Kemp were working at the Ling-Temco-Vought "...defense plant..." in Dallas [another document says the men were "working in Louisiana" when the offer was made.][9]

The astonishing thing about this is that William "Billy" Kemp, the pilot mentioned above, was from Jackson, La., [the home city
of barber, later Voter Registrar, Edwin Lea McGehee, and State Representative Reeves Morgan, two of Garrison's "Clinton Witnesses"] and was married to Maxine Kemp in 1963. Mrs. Kemp worked in the records department at East Louisiana State Hospital and supplied information to Garrison investigators about the application for employment supposedly filled out by Lee H. Oswald during his visit in the first week of September, 1963, in company with persons identified by Jim Garrison as David Ferrie and Clay Shaw.[10]

Imagine that! Maxine Kemp of the East Louisiana State Hospital supplies information to Garrison's investigators pertaining to Oswald's job-hunting visit to the hospital, while her husband is informing Joe Cooper and other Garrison investigators about a suspicious offer to them for their flying talents. Is it just coincidence? Or could it be that the Kemps had both been instructed by someone to provide misleading information to the investigators?

The Billy Kemp story was known to some other East Feliciana Parish residents, such as Tom Williams, who voluntarily furnished information to Garrison's office concerning the Billy Kemp money offer, in addition to a very strange, tangled story involving a Jackson, La., resident named Gladys Palmer, the wife of Matthew Palmer. Williams called Garrison's office and talked to C. J. Navarre. The same day, Navarre wrote a memo to Louis Ivon giving the following information:

"Mr. Williams telephoned from his residence on March 17, 1966, at 1:55 P.M. and was received by C. J. Navarre. Mr. Williams stated that one Matt Palmer of Jackson, Louisiana, told him that Palmer's ex-wife, name unknown [found from newspaper accounts to have been Gladys Fletcher Palmer], was employed for [sic] Jack Ruby in his nightclub in Dallas. Two weeks before the assassination, his ex-wife arrived in Jackson, Louisiana, driving a black Lincoln Continental. She was placed in the Jackson Sanitarium [East Louisiana State Hospital at Jackson, La.] for treatment of alcoholism. Two hours before the assassination she stated `this is the day of the president's assassination'. Mr. Williams states that he could show anyone the residence of Matt Palmer, Jr., in Jackson, Louisiana. Mr. Palmer is remarried.

Mr. Williams states that a Billy Kemp of Clinton, Louisiana, is a pilot and friend of his. Billy Kemp told Williams that a congressman approached him (Kemp) and asked if he would be willing to fly a secret mission. This took place just before the assassination."

Readers knowledgeable about the details of the Jim Garrison investigation will readily notice that the details of Mrs. Palmer's story have apparently been interlaced with the Rose Ceramie (predicting the assassination beforehand, a patient at the hospital) and Oswald visit details (driving a big, black Lincoln). My independent research uncovered no substantiation for the notion that Mrs. Palmer was in any way connected with Jack Ruby or predicted Kennedy's assassination, unless, of course, the locals knew her as Gladys, the wife of Matt Palmer,
and others knew her as ...Rose Cheramie! During my interviews with local residents over the past two years, several people have
mentioned the Gladys Palmer story, with varying details.

During the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's race of 1971, Cooper's home sustained damage from a bomb. In August, 1972, Cooper was arrested (by deputies of the Sheriff to whom he had lost the election) for aggravated arson, criminal mischief, and possession of explosives with intent to commit a crime. Newly-elected Sherrif Al Amiss said that the first two charges were from the explosion at Cooper's home the year before, while the last allegation was the result of a "...tip..." to the Sheriff's Department that Cooper planned to assassinate Sheriff Amiss.[11]

In September, 1974, Joe Cooper was indicted by a U.S. Grand Jury in Baton Rouge for "...possessing an explosive device and possession of an unregistered explosive device without a serial number." Cooper's wife, Lillian, and their 19-year-old daughter were also indicted by the same grand jury for "alleged conspiracy to make a false bomb threat." Later, the two women were additionally charged with "...conspiring and conveying false information...", supposedly telling authorities first, that Cooper possessed a bomb and held them hostage, then changing their stories to say the statements were made because they were mad at Cooper. At the time of his death, these charges were still pending.[12]

What became of Joe Cooper? At about 7:30 on the morning of Wednesday, October 16, 1974, Cooper and his wife Lillian were just getting out of bed in their apartment.[13] Joe got up and put the coffee on and came back to bed. Lillian then got up to see about the coffee in the kitchen. Living with them was their 19-year-old daughter and the daughter's 18-month-old child, and a younger teenage daughter, who were still asleep. Mrs. Cooper
was in the kitchen when she heard a shot from the bedroom, dashed in and found her husband's body with a bullet wound in the head. The shot from the .38-calibre pistol entered his right cheek and angled upward to the top of the head. Investigators said there were heavy powder burns on the right cheek near the entry wound.

Some materials for cleaning the pistol were found nearby, leading to the speculation that he might have died from an accidental discharge of the pistol during cleaning. But, the ultimate ruling by the Sheriff's department and coroner was suicide.[14]

Suicide seems most probable in this case unless, of course, someone who was in the apartment when he died actually committed the murder, which seems unlikely.

Despite the claim by Moulder, which said Cooper "...was asked to testify..." at the Garrison New Orleans Grand Jury hearing, the Baton Rouge newspaper reported at the time that "He [Cooper] said he sent a telegram to Garrison this morning informing him of his wish to testify before the grand jury in connection with the assassination case, but that he had not yet received an answer at noon."[15]

It seems likely that Cooper contacted Garrison's office, but they apparently didn't get around to talking with him until October 14, 1968.[16] Five days after Cooper offered to testify, on July 14, 1968, he and his wife were seriously injured in a wreck in which it was claimed that the "steering post came loose". A photo of the wrecked car is shown in the Tattler article.[17] I could find no evidence in the Baton Rouge newspapers that Cooper ever testified at the grand jury. In fact, Garrison was very busy with gathering information from European intelligence sources at this time and probably didn't take time to answer Cooper until after the car accident.

See Memo 1 for other claims Cooper made to the Garrison investigators.

Memorandum: October 14, 1968

From: Andrew J. Sciambra, Assistant D.A.

To: Jim Garrison, District Attorney

Re: Interview of Joseph Cooper, Baton Rouge, La. Relative to Lee
Harvey Oswald

I interviewed Cooper who informed me that he and Marguerite Oswald communicate with each other by telephone from time to time. He said the last time he talked to Marguerite Oswald was about a month ago after he got out of the hospital.

Marguerite Oswald's private telephone number in Dallas, Texas is: A/C 817-732-6839.

Cooper said that he has established a fine relationship with Marguerite and would be glad to go to Dallas and talk to her for us.

In addition to some of the information which he has given us in the past, Cooper said that Marguerite told him that she called Clem Sehrt after the assassination and asked him to help her son. Sehrt informed her that he no longer practiced law. She said she had known Sehrt and Victor Schiro when she was living in New Orleans.

Marguerite told Cooper that she is very suspicious of Fred Korth and told him that Lee's discharge from the Marine Corps was handled by Fred Korth. [Written in the margin in Garrison's distinctive pen is: "Great Job! General Dynamics_thru bank"]

Cooper said he found out that the house Marguerite was living in at the time of the assassination belonged to a close friend of Fred Korth, a Mrs. Mary E. McCarthy, Jr. Cooper said Marguerite also told him that Fred Korth played a part in Lee's life but did not explain any further.

Marguerite also told Cooper that Lee also assisted with the Civil Rights movement from time to time.

Marguerite heard there was a hired killer out of Garland, Texas, who was involved in the assassination.

Cooper said the person who could give us a lot of information about Van Buskirk is Seargent Pitcher.

Cooper told me that a man named Leroy Wheat told him that Kent Whatley of Garland, Texas, offered Wheat and his pilot $25,000 to make a one-day flight to Mexico City two days before the

He also said there was a man trying to contact Russell Long to give him some information about the assassination. This man was killed before he could contact Long.

Cooper said Marguerite also asked him some questions about Lee's CAP outfit that he was unable to answer. [Emphasis added by the author]

Additional information added after the above article was written (6/5/97):

Research done 6/5/97 @ EBRP Clerk of Court Office by Claude B. Slaton.

Notes from the following suits:

East Baton Rouge Parish Civil Suits

Joseph A. Gladney v. William H. or Joe Cooper

Computer number: 7910706794

Suit number: 81948

Date filed: May 8, 1961

East Baton Rouge Parish Civil Suits

Joseph A. Gladney v. William H. or Joe Cooper

Computer number: 7910707043

Suit number: 82035

Date filed: May 12, 1961

(supplimental papers to above suit)

Joseph A. Gladney, 130 St. Louis St., Baton Rouge, and his wife, Melva McCormick Gladney, sued Cooper for possession of Cooper's home on Alaska St. Gladney is owed money from Cooper dating back to the fall of 1959, when Cooper resigned from the Baton Rouge City Police Deptartment to run for Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish. BRCPD refused to allow Cooper to return to work after losing the election. Cooper became very desperate for money. He could not make payments on a Nash Rambler station wagon he had purchased.

With a loan from Gladney, Cooper formed an investigative agency called "CONFIDENTIAL INVESTIGATORS". Some of his clients included:

Mrs. Audrey Robertson

Mrs. L. B. Smith, Aubin-Lane (investigation and photos)

Mrs. H. L. Adams

Cooper's wife's maiden name was LILLIAN BROXSON. They are said in the suit papers to have had four children. On July 30, 1960, Gladney assisted Cooper in the purchase of a 1960 Fiat automobile (previous owner Mrs. Thornton).The annual City Directory for Baton Rouge was searched for William H. "Joe" Cooper, with the following results:


1948 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. Stockrm Clk General Gas Corp. 3750 Dalton

1949 Cooper not listed; 3750 Dalton resident: C. Edgar Mikronis

1950 Cooper not listed

1951 Cooper not listed

1952-53* Cooper not listed

1953 Cooper not listed

1954 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian city police 1150 Boyd Ave.

1955 Cooper, Wm H. J. Lillian E. city police 856 Iris Rd.

1956 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian A. parolman police dept. 3176 Alaska

1957 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. city police 3176 Alaska

1958 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. city police 3176 Alaska

1959 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian city police 3176 Alaska

1960 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. private investigator 3176 Alaska

1961 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. private investigator 3176 Alaska

1962 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. supervisor Gulf Janitorial Service 3176 Alaska

1963 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. supervisor Gulf Janitorial Service 3176 Alaska

1964 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian E. private investigator 955 Aberdeen Ave.

1965 no copy in library

1966 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian B. salesman Raymond Auto Sales 939 Camilia Ave.

1967 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian B. parts mgr. Rogers Auto Parts 620 Wiltz

1968 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian salesman Polk Chevrolet 576 Rapides St.

1969 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian B. salesman Polk Chevrolet 4622 Hyacinth Ave.

1970 Cooper, Wm H. Lillian salesman Polk Chevrolet 4622 Hyacinth Ave.

1971 not listed

1972 not listed

1973 not listed

1974 not listed

* In this year, the 52-53 editions were combined into one, issued 1953


[1] Memorandum from Andrew J. Sciambra, Asst. District Attorney for Orleans Parish, La., to Jim Garrison, D.A. of Orleans Parish dated 14 Oct 1968, "Re: Interview of Joseph Cooper, Baton Rouge, La., Relative to Lee Harvey Oswald". Photocopy in possession of
the author. Referred to as "Memo 1" and reproduced at the end of this article.

[2] Baton Rouge Morning Advocate newspaper, Thurs., Oct. 17, 1974. Article: "Ex-Lawman, Candidate Found Dead", p. 1-A, cont. 8-A. Photocopy in possession of the writer. Referred to as "Article 1".

[3] Author's interivew with {name deleted on request}, Sept., 1996.

[4] Article 1, p. 8-A

[5] Article by John Moulder "Joe Cooper Saved Vice President From Assassination But Wound Up Dead After Investigating JFK's Murder" National Tattler, June 8, 1975; photocopy in possession of the author. Referred to as "Article 2".

[6] Ibid

[7] State Times (Baton Rouge newspaper, July 9, 1968, p. 1 "BR Man Claims New Evidence in JFK Death Probe"). Photocopy in possession of the author. Referred to as "Article 3".

[8] Article 2

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid; Other persons at the hospital that identifed Lee Oswald as the man who applied for a job there in the summer of 1963
were: Bobbie Dedon, who gave him directions on how to get to the personnel office, and Aline Woodside, who told Reeves Morgan (State Representative) that she had seen the application at the hospital but didn't know what had become of it. (Memorandum from Andrew Sciamba to Jim Garrison, Jan. 29, 1968, Interview with Bobbie Dedon, East Louisiana State Hospital, August 4, 1967; Memorandum of interview with Mrs. Aline Woodside by Robert Buras, HSCA (RG 233); Memorandum of interview with Mrs. Meryal
Hudson by Robert Buras, HSCA document)

[11] Ibid

[12] Article 1

[13] Elms Apartments, 12254 Lamargie, Baton Rouge, #146; State
Times, Oct. 16, 1974.

[14] Article 3

[15] Ibid

[16] Memo 1

[17] Article 2

E-mail any questions of comments to the author

Copyright Claude B. Slaton, 1997

Reprinted with permission of the author.

The Truth is Redacted Website
© 1997
Bill Adams
The page last updated 10/05/97

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