Henry Marshall, the son of a farmer, was born in Robertson County, Texas, in 1909. He studied chemistry at the University of Texas before becoming the only teacher at the Nesbitt Rural School. The school was forced to close in May, 1932, a victim of the Great Depression.
Marshall managed to find work at a Franklin gin company. However, in August, 1934, Marshall became a clerk with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). He worked at the agency's Robertson County office. Marshall was a good worker and it eventually held a senior post in the agency.
In 1960 Marshall was asked to investigate the activities of Billie Sol Estes. Marshall discovered that over a two year period, Estes had purchased 3,200 acres of cotton allotments from 116 different farmers. Marshall wrote to his superiors in Washington on 31st August, 1960, that: "The regulations should be strengthened to support our disapproval of every case (of allotment transfers)".
When he heard the news, Billie Sol Estes sent his lawyer, John P. Dennison, to meet Marshall in Robertson County. At the meeting on 17th January, 1961, Marshall told Dennison that Estes was clearly involved in a "scheme or device to buy allotments, and will not be approved, and prosecution will follow if this operation is ever used."
Marshall was disturbed that as a result of sending a report of his meeting to Washington, he was offered a new post in Washington. He assumed that Bille Sol Estes had friends in high places and that they wanted him removed from the field office in Robertson County. Marshall refused what he considered to be a bribe.
A week after the meeting between Marshall and Dennison, A. B. Foster, manager of Billie Sol Enterprises, wrote to Cliff Carter, a close aide to Lyndon B. Johnson, telling him about the problems that Marshall was causing the company. Foster wrote that "we would sincerely appreciate your investigating this and seeing if anything can be done."
Over the next few months Marshall had meetings with eleven county committees in Texas. He pointed out that Billie Sol Estes scheme to buy cotton allotments were illegal. This information was then communicated to those farmers who had been sold their cotton allotments to Billie Sol Enterprises.
On 3rd June, 1961, Marshall was found dead on his farm by the side of his Chevy Fleetside pickup truck. His rifle lay beside him. He had been shot five times with his own rifle. Soon after County Sheriff Howard Stegall arrived, he decreed that Marshall had committed suicide. No pictures were taken of the crime scene, no blood samples were taken of the stains on the truck (the truck was washed and waxed the following day), no check for fingerprints were made on the rifle or pickup.
Marshall's wife (Sybil Marshall) and brother (Robert Marshall) refused to believe he had committed suicide and posted a $2,000 reward for information leading to a murder conviction. The undertaker, Manley Jones, also reported: "To me it looked like murder. I just do not believe a man could shoot himself like that." The undertaker's son, Raymond Jones, later told the journalist, Bill Adler in 1986: "Daddy said he told Judge Farmer there was no way Mr. Marshall could have killed himself. Daddy had seen suicides before. JPs depend on us and our judgments about such things. we see a lot more deaths than they do. But in this case, Daddy said, Judge Farmer told him he was going to put suicide on the death certificate because the sheriff told him to." As a result, Lee Farmer returned a suicide verdict: "death by gunshot, self-inflicted."
Sybil Marshall hired an attorney, W. S. Barron, in order to persuade the Robertson County authorities to change the ruling on Marshall's cause of death. One man who did believe that Marshall had been murdered was Texas Ranger Clint Peoples. He had reported to Colonel Homer Garrison, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, that it "would have been utterly impossible for Mr. Marshall to have taken his own life."
Peoples also interviewed Nolan Griffin, a gas station attendant in Robertson County. Griffin claimed that on the day of Marshall's death, he had been asked by a stranger for directions to Marshall's farm. A Texas Ranger artist, Thadd Johnson, drew a facial sketch based on a description given by Griffin. Peoples eventually came to the conclusion that this man was Mac Wallace, the convicted murderer of John Kinser.
In the spring of 1962, Bille Sol Estes was arrested by the FBI on fraud and conspiracy charges. Soon afterwards it was disclosed by the Secretary of Agriculture, Orville L. Freeman, that Henry Marshall had been a key figure in the investigation into the illegal activities of Billie Sol Estes. As a result, the Robertson County grand jury ordered that the body of Marshall should be exhumed and an autopsy performed. After eight hours of examination, Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk confirmed that Marshall had not committed suicide. Jachimczyk also discovered a 15 percent carbon monoxide concentration in Marshall's body. Jachimczyk calculated that it could have been as high as 30 percent at the time of death.
On 4th April, 1962, George Krutilek, Estes chief accountant, was found dead. Despite a severe bruise on Krutilek's head, the coroner decided that he had also committed suicide. The next day, Estes, and three business associates, were indicted by a federal grand jury on 57 counts of fraud. Two of these men, Harold Orr and Coleman Wade, died before the case came to court. At the time it was said they committed suicide but later Estes was to claim that both men were murdered by Mac Wallace in order to protect the political career of Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations also began to look into the case of Billie Sol Estes. Leonard C. Williams, a former assistant to Henry Marshall, testified about the evidence the department acquired against Estes. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman also admitted that Marshall was a man "who left this world under questioned circumstances."
It was eventually discovered that three officials of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in Washington had received bribes from Billie Sol Estes. Red Jacobs, Jim Ralph and Bill Morris were eventually removed from their jobs. However, further disclosures suggested that Orville L. Freeman, might be involved in the scam. In September, 1961, Billie Sol Estes had been fined $42,000 for illegal cotton allotments. Two months later, Freeman appointed Estes to the National Cotton Advisory Board.
It was also revealed that Billie Sol Estes told Wilson C. Tucker, deputy director of the Agriculture Department's cotton division, on 1st August, 1961, that he threatened to "embarrass the Kennedy administration if the investigation were not halted". Tucker went onto testify: "Estes stated that this pooled cotton allotment matter had caused the death of one person and then asked me if I knew Henry Marshall". As Tucker pointed out, this was six months before questions about Marshall's death had been raised publicly.
However, the cover-up continued. Tommy G. McWilliams, the FBI agent in charge of the Henry Marshall investigation, came to the conclusion that Marshall had indeed committed suicide. He wrote: "My theory was that he shot himself and then realized he wasn't dead." He then claimed that he then tried to kill himself by inhaling carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe of his truck. McWilliams claimed that Marshall had used his shirt to make a hood over the exhaust pipe. Even J. Edgar Hoover was not impressed with this theory. He wrote on 21st May, 1962: "I just can't understand how one can fire five shots at himself."
Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk also disagreed with the FBI report. He believed that the bruise on Marshall's forehead had been caused by a "severe blow to the head". Jachimczyk also rejected the idea that Marshall had used his shirt as a hood. He pointed out that "if this were done, soot must have necessarily been found on the shirt; no such was found."
The Robertson County grand jury continued to investigate the death of Henry Marshall. However, some observers were disturbed by the news that grand jury member, Pryse Metcalfe, was dominating proceedings. Metcalfe was County Sheriff Howard Stegall's son-in-law.
On 1st June, 1962, the Dallas News reported that President John F. Kennedy had "taken a personal interest in the mysterious death of Henry Marshall." As a result, the story said, Robert Kennedy "has ordered the FBI to step up its investigation of the case."
In June, 1962, Billie Sol Estes, appeared before the grand jury. He was accompanied by John Cofer, a lawyer who represented Lyndon B. Johnson when he was accused of ballot-rigging when elected to the Senate in 1948 and Mac Wallace when he was charged with the murder of John Kinser. Billie Sol Estes spent almost two hours before the grand jury, but he invoked the Texas version of the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer most questions on grounds that he might incriminate himself.
Tommy G. McWilliams of the FBI also appeared before the grand jury and put forward the theory that Henry Wallace had committed suicide. Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk also testified that "if in fact this is a suicide, it is the most unusual one I have seen during the examination of approximately 15,000 deceased persons."
McWilliams did admit that it was "hard to kill yourself with a bolt-action 22". This view was shared by John McClellan, a member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He posed for photographs with a .22 caliber rifle similar to Marshall's. McClellan pointed out: "It doesn't take many deductions to come to the irrevocable conclusion that no man committed suicide by placing the rifle in that awkward position and then (cocking) it four times more." (see picture below)
Despite the evidence presented by Jachimczyk, the grand jury agreed with McWilliams. It ruled that after considering all the known evidence, the jury considers it "inconclusive to substantiate a definite decision at this time, or to overrule any decision heretofore made." Later, it was disclosed that some jury members believed that Marshall had been murdered. Ralph McKinney blamed Pryse Metcalfe for this decision. "Pryse was as strong in the support of the suicide verdict as anyone I have ever seen in my life, and I think he used every influence he possibly could against the members of the grand jury to be sure it came out with a suicide verdict."
In 1964 the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported that it could find no link between Marshall's death and his efforts to bring to an end Billie Sol Estes' cotton allotment scheme. The following year Estes went to prison for fraud relating to the mostly nonexistent fertilizer tanks he had put up for collateral as part of the cotton allotment scam. He was released in 1971 but he was later sent back to prison for mail fraud and non-payment of income tax.
Clint Peoples retired from the Texas Rangers in 1974 but he continued to investigate the murder of Henry Marshall. In 1979 Peoples interviewed Billie Sol Estes in prison. Estes promised that "when he was released he would solve the puzzle of Henry Marshall's death".
Billie Sol Estes was released from prison in December, 1983. Three months later he appeared before the Robertson County grand jury. He confessed that Henry Marshall was murdered because it was feared he would "blow the whistle" on the cotton allotment scam. Billie Sol Estes claimed that Marshall was murdered on the orders of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was afraid that his own role in this scam would become public knowledge. According to Estes, Clifton C. Carter, Johnson's long-term aide, had ordered Marshall to approve 138 cotton allotment transfers.
Of course, the authorities have never re-investigated the Henry Marshall case. In fact, attempts have been made to prevent these charges entering the public domain (see the way the television documentary on LBJ was banned).
I believe that Henry Marshall's death is linked to the assassination of JFK. Remember, in 1963, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations were still investigating the Henry Marshall case. We also know that JFK and RFK were taking a close interest in the case. The Marshall murder was only one of three Senate investigations that was linking LBJ with serious crimes. Bobby Baker and the TFX contract were also being investigated in 1963. When LBJ became president he was able to control the reports that came out of these investigations.