Mary Ferrell’s life changed forever on the day that John F. Kennedy died.

The 41-year-old mother of four, who was working as a secretary for a Dallas law firm, was standing a few blocks from Dealey Plaza where the 35th president was shot dead on November 22, 1963.

Listening to the radio moments after the assassination, Ferrell heard a description of the suspect, who was first characterized as a white male in his 30s and more than six feet tall, wearing a white shirt and khakis. A short time later, she was surprised when a 24-year-old wearing a brown shirt and brown trousers was arrested.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a US Marine veteran who had visited the Soviet Union, was apprehended less than two hours after the shooting.

“I remember my mother saying, ‘Something’s off here,’” Carolanne Burtchaell, Ferrell’s daughter, told The Post Wednesday from her home in Austin, Texas. “She instantly noticed discrepancies in the reporting. She never believed the stories, and her interest sort of snowballed from there.”

Mary Ferrell devoted her life to an archive of thousands of documents, clippings and books related to the assassination.
Mary Ferrell devoted her life to an archive of thousands of documents, clippings and books related to the assassination.
Facebook

Ferrell, who died in 2004, devoted the rest of her life to assembling an archive of thousands of documents, newspaper clippings and books related to the assassination. Visits to Ferrell’s modest Dallas home became de rigueur for investigators and amateur sleuths who shared her view that “something was off” with the death of the young president.

For her daughter and other students of Kennedy, the National Archives’ release of nearly 13,000 documents related to the assassination on Thursday is testament to the dogged persistence of Ferrell, who befriended some of those close to the tragedy.

Marina Oswald, the Russian-born widow of the assassin, was a regular visitor to the Ferrell home after the assassination, said Burtchaell. George Mohrenschildt, a geologist and CIA informant who had befriended Lee Harvey Oswald and gave the lengthiest witness statement to the Warren Commission, was another guest, she said.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a US Marine veteran who had visited the Soviet Union, was apprehended less than two hours after the shooting.
Lee Harvey Oswald, a US Marine veteran who had visited the Soviet Union, was apprehended less than two hours after the shooting.
ZUMAPRESS.com

Ferrell became so influential in the community of JFK historians that two years before her death in 2004, a Boston-based financier started a non-profit to digitize her trove of documents.

Now based in Ipswich, Mass., the Mary Ferrell Foundation Inc has sued the federal government to obtain classified documents related to Kennedy’s death. In October, it obtained documents to a still-classified CIA operation that suggested the spy agency used Oswald for intelligence purposes three months before Kennedy’s death, according to a report.

“This is an extraordinarily serious claim, and it has profound implications for the official story,” author and JFK assassination expert Jefferson Morley told reporters in Washington earlier this month. “The CIA knew far more about the lone gunman than they are admitting even today. So this story deserves the closest possible scrutiny.” Morley is a board member of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, according to the nonprofit’s tax filings.

Ferrell holds up a photo transparency purporting to show Lee Harvey Oswald with both a pistol and a rifle.
Ferrell holds up a photo transparency purporting to show Lee Harvey Oswald with both a pistol and a rifle.
AP

“I knew about Mary because she was thanked in the acknowledgments of all the books I read about the assassination,” said Oliver Curme, who started the foundation in 2002. “When I met her she was living in a one-story shot-gun house packed to the ceiling with books and papers at a time when an arsonist had been lighting fires in her neighborhood. So it was really important that we do something to protect her documents.”

Curme, who teaches a course on the Kennedy assassination at Brandeis University, told The Post he helped Ferrell’s family pay for an assisted living facility for her in exchange for the archive. When he met Ferrell, she was in her late 70s and in very frail health, he said.

But she was still seeking answers to the assassination, although she was never able to find “the smoking gun” evidence of who Oswald might have working for, or why the US government might have been covering up the assassination, Curme said.

Marina Oswald, the killer’s widow, visited Ferrell at home.
Marina Oswald, the killer’s widow, visited Ferrell at home.
Bettmann Archive

He said that Farrell showed him several versions of one particular document relating to testimony Marina Oswald gave the Warren Commission about the rifle her husband used to shoot Kennedy.

“Mary showed me several copies of a particular document that had been requested by three different researchers that had Marina’s testimony about the rifle,” said Curme. “That same document at the three different times had slightly different wording and this was very problematic if you believed that there was a conspiracy involving powerful people who had access to the National Archives.”

In another instance, researchers were able to track down a transcript of the conversation that Kennedy’s vice president Lyndon Johnson had with J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the CIA, the day after the assassination. The call had been recorded, but when researchers tried to access the audio recording at the LBJ Library in Austin, they found that the 18-minute tape had been erased, Curme said.

George Mohrenschildt, a CIA informant who had befriended Lee Harvey Oswald, also visited Ferrell.
George Mohrenschildt, a CIA informant who had befriended Lee Harvey Oswald, also visited Ferrell.
Bettmann Archive

For years, some historians believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was working for Russian intelligence, Curme said. Oswald was able to “miraculously” obtain a visa to visit the Soviet Union within 48 hours through the Russian embassy in Helsinki where the CIA allegedly had a deal with the KGB in the early 1960s, he said.

“There was a lot of concern that if any news came out that Oswald could have killed JFK on behalf of the Russians, it could have led to nuclear war,” Curme said.

Burtchaell, who was 21, divorced and raising two infants at the time of the assassination, said that her mother never believed the wild theories about the assassination, but she did suspect the US government was involved in some sort of cover-up and that Oswald did not act alone, her daughter said.

The National Archives released nearly 13,000 documents related to the Kennedy assassination on Thursday.
The National Archives released nearly 13,000 documents related to the Kennedy assassination on Thursday.
Getty Images

“It was never political for her,” Burtchaell, 81, told The Post. “She was a Republican, and she never believed many of the crazier conspiracies. She didn’t believe Lyndon Johnson ordered the assassination, for instance.”

Born in Nashville in 1922, Ferrell worked as a legal secretary into her late 60s. In the 1970s, she also worked in the administration of Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe in Houston. She had a photographic memory, said Curme, and could recall with uncanny precision the names of everyone connected to the case and even the place on the page of a book where people and events were mentioned. A timeline of everything Oswald did before the assassination was chronicled by Ferrell, he said.

Bill Ferrell, Burtchaell’s younger brother, said that his mother became obsessed and could be overbearing after the assassination.

Moment of JFK assassination
Carolanne Burtchaell, Ferrell’s daughter,
says her mom instantly noticed discrepancies in reporting about the Kennedy assassination.
AP

“I didn’t get along with her very well,” said Bill Ferrell, a retired aircraft mechanic who now lives in Oklahoma. “I found my mother to be grandiose.”

Years after the assassination, Ferrell often traveled with her car salesman husband to conferences about the late president, her daughter said. “She was certainly the dominant character,” Burtchaell said of her mother. “My father wasn’t really an active participant in her research.”

Instead, Ferrell relied on Burtchaell’s younger brother James who lived with her in Dallas and managed a local restaurant. It was James who was dispatched to buy each edition of the daily newspapers after the assassination so that Ferrell could track the differences in the stories they printed about the event, Burtchaell said. On that first day, she began to compile every name ever mentioned. Her collection soon grew to more than 40,000 index cards. James died ten years ago, said Burtchaell.

Mary Ferrell never found the "smoking gun" on who Oswald could have been working for.
Mary Ferrell never found the “smoking gun” on who Oswald could have been working for.
REUTERS

And in an odd twist of fate, a grandson of CIA informant Mohrenschildt ended up meeting Burtchaell’s daughter at a community college in Dallas and marrying her. “It was such a freak accident, I could barely believe it at first,” she said, adding that Mohrenschildt knew the Bouviers, the former fist lady’s family.

“George knew Marina, he knew the Bouviers and he certainly knew Lee before the assassination,” said Burtchaell. “He spoke many languages, including Russian, and he encountered Marina while teaching English to Russians.”

Burtchaell herself said she was acquainted with Oswald’s mother. Before the assassination, she was a regular customer at the pharmacy where she worked in Dallas.

“My mother met with lots of different people,” said Burtchaell, who went on to work for IBM in Manhattan. “Her reputation was everything from being a complete nut to being brilliant. She just wouldn’t let the assassination go.”

In one of her last public speeches, Ferrell called on the federal government to be more transparent while urging her fellow researchers to continue digging.

“The answers to the questions that remain lie in the strength of our resolve to continue demanding the truth,” she said. 



Source link

Author

Comments are closed.