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Penn Jones Jr.

John Simkin

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One of the great heroes of early JFK assassination research was Penn Jones Jr. He was one of eight children of sharecroppers (three died in infancy). Born in Annona, Texas, on 15th October, 1914, he later recalled: "when I was growing up in my home we got few things above the essentials, but my mother and father were doing the best they could."

Jones did well at school. One of his friends commented: "Penn was an old bulldog. Never quit on anything. He was determined to be first in whatever he did." Jones was a hobo during the Great Depression and then worked his way through the University of Texas at Austin by working in various unskilled occupations including picking cotton for 35 cents a day.

In 1935 he was taught by an economics teacher who was later credited by Penn Jones as "making him a liberal". The following year he began taking law classes and his classmates included John Connally and Henry Wade. He left university in June 1940 without graduating and joined the United States Army and stationed in Austin he became a lieutenant in the 36th Infantry Division. On the outbreak of the Second World War he was sent overseas and was involved in the invasion at Salerno. By the end of the war he had received the Bronze Star and eight battle stars, and held the rank of captain.

The experience of war radicalized him. Jones later recalled: "How can we have lasting peace? Unless every man has a definite answer to that question, he ought to be trying his best to find an answer... I promised the body of my best friend. I have promised bodies with no heads, bodies with no faces. I have promised every dead soldier that I'd do my best to see that their death was not in vain... I thought that with proper leadership and guidance we (United States) could be a real force for good in the world."


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In 1946 Jones purchased the local newspaper, Midlothian Mirror (circulation - 810) for $4,000. John Kelin has pointed out in his book, Praise from a Future Generation (2007): "It remained a weekly newspaper under the stewardship of Jones, and retained its small-town flavor, but Jones injected it with new vitality. He was not only its owner, but its publisher, editor and reporter as well. He was assisted by his wife, the former Louise Angrove." In one of his first editorials Jones wrote: "We intend to insult those people who fail or refuse to fulfill the obligations or responsibilities they have inherited along with their citizenship in the greatest country on earth."

In August 1956 Jones joined with a friend, the writer John Howard Griffin, in a campaign to desegregate schools in Mansfield, some twelve miles west of Midlothian. The city was the first Texas school district ordered by a Federal court to allow blacks to attend its public schools. This led to Ku Klux Klan protests and angry crowds of up to 400 people surrounded Mansfield High School for several days in order to prevent African American enrollment. Jones argued: "In Mansfield, the people were afraid of the bullies and also ashamed of the publicity they were making." Despite the efforts of Jones and Griffin the school remained segregated.

Jones also campaigned for increased spending on black schools. His liberal views resulted in him being described by conservative elements in the town as a "communist". Jones continued to argue for equal civil rights. He later commented: "You have to fight a little bit for democracy every day... If everyone were working at democracy, wouldn't the flower have beautiful blooms? But so many people won't vote, won't participate, won't argue, won't life a finger to keep freedom of their forefathers alive right here in America."

In 1962 the Midlothian School Board allowed a representative from the John Birch Society to address students. Attendance was compulsory and his oldest son told Penn Jones that the speaker, Edgar W. Seay, used the occasion to attack Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy. Jones complained to the school's principal, Roy Irvin, but he refused to allow a liberal, Sarah T. Hughes to address the students. Hughes, who lived in Dallas, was recently appointed by Kennedy to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. She was therefore the first woman to serve as a federal district judge in Texas.

Seay went to visit Jones in his office. After a short discussion the two men became involved in a fight that was broken up by the police. Three days later, at 2:30 a.m. on 30th April 1962, someone set fire to the Midlothian Mirror newspaper offices. Investigators concluded that an incendiary device had been thrown through the front-door window. Jones was convinced that it was the work of right-wing extremists. There was little sympathy for Jones in the highly conservative town of Midlothian. One of the women in the town is reported to have said: "Some mighty bad things have happened to Mr. Jones, and he deserved every one of them." The arson attack appeared on national news and several months later he was the recipient of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism.

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On 22nd November, 1963, Penn Jones went to Dallas to see President John F. Kennedy speak at the Dallas Trade Mart. While he was having lunch he heard that Kennedy had been shot in Dealey Plaza. He immediately rushed to Parkland Hospital. Penn Jones had a camera and began taking pictures of the presidential limousine and the crowds gathering outside the hospital. In his report of the assassination that appeared in his newspaper he wrote: "We think the disgrace of Dallas may well hang on its conscience for many years. This is truly a dark day for the world, for America, for Texas, and especially Dallas."

Penn Jones spent the next few months investigating the death of Kennedy and wrote about the case in Midlothian Mirror. A fellow researcher, Gary Mack, later explained: "Penn was one of the first generation of researchers who felt the government was behind the assassination - probably a conspiracy involving military intelligence... He always thought LBJ was behind it somehow."

Penn Jones published his collection of Midlothian Mirror articles on the Kennedy assassination in the book, Forgive My Grief: Volume One in May 1966. He printed 7,500 copies of the small paperback. It included a preface by fellow journalist, John Howard Griffin, who described Penn Jones as a man "moved by a profound sense of responsibility toward his country, toward truth and toward evidence. The truth risks being unspeakably ugly in this instance."

The book was mainly a critique of the Warren Commission Report. He argued that the testimony of several witnesses suggested a conspiracy had taken place but this had been downplayed or ignored by the report. This included the evidence of Roger Craig, who was on duty in Dallas at the time John F. Kennedy was killed. Craig ran towards the Grassy Knoll where he interviewed witnesses to the shooting. About 15 minutes later he saw a man running from the back door of the Texas School Book Depository down the slope to Elm Street. He then got into a Nash station wagon. Craig saw the man again in the office of Captain Will Fritz. It was the recently arrested Lee Harvey Oswald. When Craig told his story about the man being picked up by the station wagon, Oswald replied: "That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine... Don't try to tie her into this. She had nothing to do with it."

Forgive My Grief: Volume One also dealt with the deaths of several witnesses and investigators. This included the deaths of Dorothy Kilgallen, Bill Hunter, Jim Koethe, Tom Howard, Florence Pritchett Smith and Karyn Kupcinet. "Now we can add to that list of strange deaths that of Miss Dorothy Kilgallen. Miss Kilgallen joins Bill Hunter, Jim Koethe, Tom Howard and others. Miss Kilgallen is the only journalist who was granted a private interview with Jack Ruby since he killed Lee Oswald. Judge Joe B. Brown granted the interview during the course of the Ruby trial in Dallas – to the intense anger of the hundreds of other news people present.... Also strangely, Miss Kilgallen's close friend, Mrs. Earl E.T. Smith, died two days after Miss Kilgallen. Mrs. Smith's autopsy read that the cause of death was unknown."

Other deaths he considered to be suspicious included that of Karyn Kupcinet: "A few days before the assassination, Karyn Kupcinet, 23, was trying to place a long distance telephone call from the Los Angeles area. According to reports, the long distance operator heard Miss Kupcinet scream into the telephone that President Kennedy was going to be killed. Two days after the assassination, Miss Kupcinet was found murdered in her apartment. The case has never been solved."

Earlene Roberts, died of a heart attack in Parkland Hospital on 9th January, 1966. Roberts, who had rented an apartment to Lee Harvey Oswald, testified before the Warren Commission that Oswald arrived home at around 1.00 p.m. on 22nd November, 1963. He stayed only a few minutes but while he was in the house a Dallas Police Department car parked in front of the house. In the car were two uniformed policemen. Roberts described how the driver sounded the horn twice before driving off. Soon afterwards Oswald left the house. Penn Jones argued: "Mrs. Roberts has joined the long list of persons who had first hand information, but are now dead." He went on to argue: "With the mounting list of these deaths, the likelihood grows that these people have been systematically and skillfully eliminated."

The book was criticised by some researchers as being "over speculative". Warren Hinckle, the editor of Ramparts Magazine, also found it difficult to believe. He wrote: "Penn Jones, Jr., of Midlothian, a small former cotton town some twenty-five miles out of Dallas. The sleuths said he had discovered at least thirteen deaths that were mysteriously related to the assassination of President Kennedy." Hinckle contacted John Howard Griffin: "Disbelieving, I had called John Howard Griffin, a neighbor, Texas style, of Jones, living only some forty miles distant. I asked if he knew this Penn Jones, and if so, what sort of a nut was he?" Griffin replied: "Penn's a good fellow. He's the scrappiest editor in Texas. If he says there's been a series of deaths, I'm sure there's substance to it." Hinckle added: "John Griffin would say something nice about a man who had just run over him, but he would never misstate a fact, or give a false impression; if he took the King Tut's curse in stride, then there had to be something to it."

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When Craig told his story about the man being picked up by the station wagon, Oswald replied: "That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine... Don't try to tie her into this. She had nothing to do with it."

Somewhat off-topic, but I sometimes wonder what sort of act of desperation it was on Oswald's part to introduce Ruth Paine and her car at this point, and then sigh, "Now everybody will know who i am" (paraphrase).

I think Oswald was smart enough to say this for a reason, and also desperate enough to say this for a reason other than exculpating Ruth Paine. I suspect he wanted Mrs. Paine re-introduced at that point,* either to incriminate her or to establish that he was an intelligence operative.

Would an assassination suspect be believed offhand on these points? He may have wanted to prompt further investigation of Ruth Paine. Another explanation might be that he wanted to throw the DPD off the scent of the actual auto used, which might have been purposely chosen to resemble Ruth Paine's wagon. But something's up here with the Ruth Paine reference.

*Re-introduced because memory is that her name had already been brought up

Edited by David Andrews
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When I read Black Like Me in high school, I had no idea John Howard Griffin was close friends with Penn Jones, nor that he had any interest in the JFK assassination. Certainly no one in the msm was ever going to publicize that.

Mark, your speculation about Oswald's comment regarding Ruth Paine is interesting. Although I'm skeptical about any of the accounts regarding what Oswald said in those unrecorded interrogation sessions, I trust Roger Craig more than the other witnesses to his interrogations, and certainly he would have had little motive to bring up Ruth Paine's name if he hadn't heard it. It's doubtful he would even know the name if he hadn't heard Oswald say it.

Penn Jones has dubious credibility with some researchers, but I still find him a fascinating character. He was the first to really bring attention to the mysterious deaths associated with this case, and his books are among my favorites.

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I have recently found an excellent article by Van Hetherly in The Houston Chronicle (26th July, 1964) on Penn Jones. It helps to explain what Jones had to face being a newspaper editor in Midlothian, Texas in the 1960s:

On a May night in 1962, the chaotic career of Texas' toughest country editor reached a violent climax. Someone had hurled a home made fire bomb (a can of cleansing fluid with a fuse) into the office of Jones' Midlothian Mirror, leaving it a charred shambles....

Three days later it crackled off the press just as it had every Thursday. as sassy and irrelevant as ever. Its appearance sparked mixed reactions among the 1800 souls in Midlothian, most of whom commute to jobs in Dallas, a half hour away. Jones figures two thirds of them applauded the unnamed bomber...

Why this animosity toward Jones: For one thing he is a liberal Democrat in a town where political tastes run to the far right. Secondly, he's a sworn foe of locked-door doings by public officials... The pugnacious publisher pulls no punches in his fight against what he calls the town's aristocracy, the larger landowners and old families who influence public affairs. Jones freely claims voting irregularities, ineptness and plain fraud.

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One of the last things Penn Jones wrote on the subject was in a letter to John Kelin on 7th December, 1993. "I met both John and Robert Kennedy and they were two of the finest, bravest and most honest men ever to serve in politics. They gave their all for this country and took nothing in return. We will never see the likes of them again. Men of their type don't turn up more than every few generations. The best of all is gone and we are left with the dregs... We lost our democracy on November 22nd and we have never regained it yet. I won't live long enough to see it return, but I hope you do."

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Explaining why he was not asked to appear at universities, for lectures back in the 70’s, Penn Jones said:

“I go too far to be on any college campus.. I say who did it. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, but it’s too goddamn late to be still winkin and saying ‘ ah well we don’t know .’ If I’m wrong, fine, then make an ass out of me. But somebody’s got to get off their ass and go to work on this and do it. And nobody’s done that. That’s the reason I don’t get on campuses. The colleges get too much federal money to have a little sumabitch like me on campus saying this is ike Germany in 1934, and 1935.”

A Tribute; http://spot.acorn.ne...ue/tribute.html


Mae Brussell -Penn Jones Jr. Interview- (2-24-75) - YouTube


Edited by Bernice Moore
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  • 2 weeks later...
=Penn Jones Jr

Other deaths he considered to be suspicious included that of Karyn Kupcinet: "A few days before the assassination, Karyn Kupcinet, 23, was trying to place a long distance telephone call from the Los Angeles area. According to reports, the long distance operator heard Miss Kupcinet scream into the telephone that President Kennedy was going to be killed. Two days after the assassination, Miss Kupcinet was found murdered in her apartment. The case has never been solved."

Greg Parker more or less solved the case of the Oxnard Call. I thought it's possible that, especially as the logistics were wrong, She was in West Hollywood when Kennedy was shot. She was not the woman on the phone.

To make a long story short, I feel she could have been killed to shock Chicago and wipe Jack Ruby off the headlines. Karyn was well known in Chicago. Her father was its most beloved man. A book is coming out concerning the dead witnesses after the Kennedy Assassination. She was the first one after Lee Harvey Oswald to die mysteriously.

Many years ago I consulted a psychic. I asked her who killed Karyn Kupcinet. She replied, "A tall man with black hair and he's there because of addiction. He spoke 2 languages.

At the time I was told this, I did not know the nature of the pills she was taking. Two days before her death she had Desoxyn refilled at a pharmacy.. Desoxyn is methamphetamine. Police found in her medicine chest a bottle for 100 pills, dated 2 days before and the pills were missing. The bottle was there but the pills were gone. When I spoke to this trusted psychic, for whatever it's worth, I did not know about these pills. The place looked ransacked but nothing else was taken. Richard Belzer and David Wayne are writing a book about the dead witnesses. They will acknowledge me in the book. It's called Hit List.

Kathy C

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  • 3 weeks later...

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