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Assassination Shenanigans at the Dallas State Fairgrounds

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JFK Assassination Shenanigans at the Dallas Texas State Fairgrounds

By William Kelly

For map and photos see:

JFKcountercoup: Shenanigans at the Dallas State Fairgrounds

The first time I ever heard about the State Fairgrounds in Dallas was during Larry Meyers’ Warren Commission testimony when he told about coming to Dallas a few weeks before the assassination, possibly for the grand opening of the Dallas Cabana, where he also stayed over the weekend of the assassination.

Meyers described how he was a salesman from Chicago who had met Jack Ruby sometime previous, and since Ruby was from Chicago too, they developed an affinity, so whenever he came to Dallas he would stop and visit Ruby at the Carousel Club.

This particular time, a few weeks before the assassination, Ruby took him over to the Dallas State Fairgrounds to meet some friends who had a failing carousel act – a tent where they showed a film called “How Hollywood Made Movies.”

Meyers said he wrote out a $500 check for Ruby to cash and share with his friends who ran the enterprise. Two of those involved, Joyce McDonald and Larry Crafard, went to work for Ruby in the following weeks, McDonald at the Carousel Club and Crafard as a handyman who became Ruby’s right-hand man, living at the Carousel Club, doing some of the duties Ruby usually did, and then helping to manage Ruby’s other club, which never gets as much attention as the Carousel. Unlike the Carousel, Ruby’s other club didn’t have the dancers, but featured music instead, usually a rock and roll band.

Crafard also bore a remarkable physical resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald, so much so that more than once, it was later alleged that Ruby and Oswald were seen together, when it later turned out that it was actually Ruby and Crafard who were together.

Crafard may have also intentionally impersonated Oswald in one of the many instances where the accused assassin was blatantly and intentionally impersonated by others, possibly as part of the effort to frame him.

[Larry Crafard is a living witness]

Then there’s Joyce McDonald. She worked at the Fair and then worked for Ruby. When Larry Meyers returned to Dallas over the assassination weekend, he brought a young lady with him, Jean Aase (aka West), and Jean and Joyce went shopping together.

Just as a people confused Crafard and Oswald, Ruby employed two women named McDonald, and they too are often confused. As Ian Griggs notes in his book “No Case to Answer” ( JFK Lancer, 2005, p. 224) that, “Betty McDonald (Nancy Jane Mooney) This former Ruby stripper, who often appears to be confused with others of a similar name, provided an alias for Darrell Wayne Gardner when he was accused of shooting Warren Reynolds, a witness close to the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit. This occurred on 5th February 1964. Just eight days later, she was arrested in Dallas and charged with a minor public order offence. She was locked up in the City Jail and later found dead in her cell, apparently having committed suicide by hanging herself with her toreador pants. Her name inevitably appears on the list of suspicious deaths…”

According to Griggs (p. 227), then there’s “Joy Dale (Joyce Lee Witherspoon McDonald, now Joyce Gordon), who is probably the women recruited by Ruby from the State Fair and who met Larry Meyers. Griggs describes her as “One of the ‘Five exotics’ who were due to perform on 22 November 1963, she had worked for Ruby since August 1963. She is the girl on the left in a series of five photographs taken in Ruby’s office (Armstrong Exhibit Nos. 5301-A to E). She was interviewed extensively in the video Jack Ruby on Trial.”

[Joyce McDonald Gordon is a living witness]

That Ruby would recruit two employees from the Dallas State Fair was all quite coincidental, and I took it that way until a researcher sent me some Deep Background on early organized gambling in Dallas that indicated such gambling was centered around the Fairground until the Chicago mob moved in, a move that apparently included Jack Ruby. Then the Dallas organized criminal underworld shifted to Joe Civello, the Campisis and company, who were associated with Carlos Marcello in New Orleans.

“At San Antonio On March 6, 1964, Reverend Wayman Whitney, age 47, 716 College Street, Belton, Texas, furnished the following information and requested that his identity as the source of the information not be disclosed. He explained that on June 30, 1942, he left Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, where he had served as a cadet and went to work for KTBC, a radio station at Austin, Texas, owned by Lady Bird JohnsonHe said he was a staff member under a Civil Service organization for this radio station. Reverend Whitney said that while connected with this radio station in Dallas about twenty years ago, he had observed a gambling syndicate situation in existence at Dallas with a local leader named Denny Pugh. Denny Pugh operated out of a small electrical shop across the street from the fair grounds. This shop was owned by Carroll Sands and was known as the Sands Electrical Shop. During that time, Mr. Hinkle was commissioner at Dallas and had his office in the same building with Denny Pugh. Reverend Whitney added that he did not know who succeeded Denny Pugh after Pugh's death, but it would seem to him, Whitney, that if this method of operation has not stopped and if there is a line of succession that would reach Ruby, then Ruby may be the man in control of the gambling syndicate at Dallas.”

That still didn’t peak my interest in the Dallas State Fairgrounds too much, but what caught my attention was another reference in Ian Griggs book “No Case to Answer” (p. 3) in which he describes the operations of the Dallas Police Department’s Special Services Bureau. Griggs: “This was the first of the specialized departments. It operated under the command of Captain W. P. (‘Pat”) Gannaway who was supported by six Lieutenants, 34 regular Detectives, 14 Patrolmen who were temporarily assigned to the Bureau and four female civilians (one stenographer an three clerk typists)….Captain Gannaway (at that time known as ‘Mr. Narcotics’) had been in charge of the notorious 1957 undercover operation and raid that culminated in stripper Candy Barr being arrested for possession of half and ounce of marijuana. For this offense, she was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, actually serving less than three years before being paroled.”

Griggs on The Special Services Bureau: “Initially, I had some difficulty in working out what the Special Services Bureau actually did….It was basically a covert surveillance and intelligence-gathering unit which, as well as the Criminal Intelligence Squad (CIS), included the Vice Squad and the Narcotics Squad, etc. Its regular officers were plain clothes detectives…The Warren Commission testimony of Lieutenant Jack Revill (who became Assistant Chief in 1982) is very revealing…He stated: ‘I am currently in charge of the criminal intelligence section…Our primary responsibility is to investigate crimes of an organized nature, subversive activities, racial matters, labor racketeering, and to do anything that the chief might desire. We work for the chief of police. I report to a captain who is in charge of the bureau – Captain Gannaway.’”

Revill was assigned to investigate how Jack Ruby had gained access to the City Hall basement when he shot Oswald.

Griggs also cites a reference to Phillip H. Melanson’s article Dallas Mosaic” published in the Third Decade (Vol. 1, no. 3, March 1985, pages 12-15), where Melanson mentions that “the spooky little unit was physically removed from the rest of the DPD and was headquartered in a building on the state fairgrounds.” (Vol. IV HSCA 597).

That the DPD SSB, who ran undercover informants, would be headquartered away from the regular Police Department makes sense, since undercover informants would not like to be seen around the Police Department and expose the fact that they were snitches.

Thanks to Robert Howard, who sent this: Dallas Morning News, page 3 September 28, 1960. “Police to Get Substation at Fair Park ....... the former South and East Dallas Chamber of Commerce Building, owned by the Park Department, is being converted for permanent use by police at the State Fair of Texas .....”

As Ian Fleming said, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times is enemy action,” so after my attention was drawn to the Dallas State Fairground for the fourth time – first by Ruby taking Larry Meyers there, second by Ruby’s recruitment of two carneys – Crafard and McDonald, third by the history of gambling at the Fairgrounds and fourth by the location of the Dallas PD SSU HQ there, I now suspect something interesting is going on there.

Then the clincher is the fact that the Dallas Civil Defense Emergency Bunker, an underground nuclear bomb proof cellar with special communications equipment, was located under the Health and Science Museum, located at the Dallas State Fairgrounds.

Was this emergency bunker in use on November 22nd, 1963? And if so, did they tape record all of the emergency radio communications? Russ Baker asks the same question and notes that Jack Crichton, who worked with some of those DPD officers in the Pilot Car in the motorcade and assisted in obtaining the interpreter for Marina Oswald on the day of the assassination, was also in charge of this shelter.

Russ Baker wrote:

“It was in 1956 that the bayou-bred Crichton started up his own spy unit, the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment. He would serve as the intelligence unit’s only commander through November 22, 1963, continuing until he retired from the 488th in 1967, at which time he was awarded the Legion of Merit and cited for ‘exceptionally outstanding service.”

“Besides his oil work and his spy work, the disarmingly folksy Crichton wore a third hat. He was an early and central figure in an important Dallas institution that is virtually forgotten today: the city’s Civil Defense organization. Launched in the early 1950s as cold war hysteria grew, it was a centerpiece of a kind of officially sanctioned panic response that, like the response to September 11, 2001, had a potential to serve other agendas….”

“On April 1, 1962, Dallas Civil Defense, with Crichton heading its intelligence component, opened an elaborate underground command post under the patio of the Dallas Health and ScienceMuseum. 5 Because it was intended for ‘continuity-of-government’ operations during an attack, it was fully equipped with communications equipment. With this shelter in operation on November 22, 1963, it was possible for someone based there to communicate with police and other emergency services. There is no indication that the Warren Commission or any other investigative body or even JFK assassination researchers looked into this facility or the police and Army Intelligence figures associated with it.”


Dallas Morning News 03-17-1960 Dallas Center Approved by Civil Defense


The Office of Civil Defense Mobilization announced Wednesday the approval of a $120,000 emergency underground operating center for the Dallas City-County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission. Under Plans formulated last year, OCDM and Dallas County will match contributions of $60,000 for the center. The building will be constructed at Fair Park adjacent to the Health and Science Museum.

John W. Mayo, commission chairman, said final plans for the thickly-walled structure will be completed soon and construction is expected to begin within a year. Largely a communications center it will be tied to state, regional and national civil defense headquarters. It will contain enough food and air conditioning to maintain the 20 persons working there for two weeks without outside supplies. After the center is completed, it will be open to the public as a display of an operating disaster control office.

Dallas Morning News Staff Photo caption: Officials of the Dallas City-County Civil Defense Disaster Commission look at a model of an underground shelter as they announce government approval of a $120,000 underground communications center for Fair Park. (See Photo) From left, front row, H.F. Boss of the Health and Science Museum, Country Judge Lew Sterrett and John W. Mayo, commission head.

Shelter History

The old Dallas Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is located under the playground in front of the Science Place Planetarium Building at Fair Park in Dallas Tx. This EOC was to function as a relocation shelter for Dallas govt. officials in the event of a nuclear attack. It was from this shelter that officials would have tried to coordinate recovery efforts involving community shelters, radiological monitors, police, fire, sanitation and other services. Construction of the EOC lasted from 1960 to 1961 at a cost of $120,000. The City of Dallas paid $60,000 and the Federal govt. paid the additional $60,000. This shelter is a blast shelter in the true sense of the term. It is equipped with large concrete and steel blast doors which bolt shut when closed for sealing purposes. The exterior blast door is plainly visible next to the sidewalk on the southeast side of the building. The EOC also is equipped with air ventilators containing "anti-blast valves" which would close to prevent blast pressure from entering the shelter. The air circulation system was built with a separate air filtration room complete with a wall of air filters to remove fallout contaminants from the incoming air. According to a March 27, 1962 Dallas Times Herald article the shelter was officially opened on April 1st, 1962 at 3pm. The shelter is now closed to any public access and is only used for storage purposes by the Science Place.

In 2003 some people were allowed to tour and take photos of the shelter and reported that, “The Operations Room was the central operations area of the EOC. This is the largest room in the shelter. During my last trip in 2003 the walls still had all of the maps and chalk boards that were originally installed when the shelter was built. The city maps were so old they didn't have neighborhoods built after the early 60's…”

It appears that they left many things intact, including the Emergancy Log board.There were still entries written on it from a practice excercise. Some of the entries are "Naval Air Station Dallas, Carswell Air Force Base, General Dynamics, Texas Instruments and Power Plant."

Naval Air Station Dallas – Grand Prarie – from where Z-film was flown to DC by jet

Carswell Air Force Base – Fort Worth from where AF1 departed on 11/22/63 to Dallas

General Dynamics – Major Ft. Worth defense contractor

Texas Instruments – Major Dallas industry connected to H. Byrd, owner of TSBD

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