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Louie Steven Witt: Mafia Guy


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Those who have followed my modest contributions to this forum know that I previously raised issues concerning a couple of footnotes in Harvey and Lee that simply didn't check-out - i.e., the statement in the text wasn't supported by the document referenced in the footnote that ostensibly supported it.  No big deal, except that the statements in the text had been picked by umpteen other conspiracy enthusiasts and appeared as conspiracy gospel in their works.

Being trapped inside by the wettest October in Arizona history, I decided to engage in yet another exercise in fact-checking.  What I have found is once again somewhat unnerving.  Because I spent only 90 minutes on this project, someone might well step forward and prove me wrong.  If so - please, be my guest.  If not - well, at what point does this sort of thing start making even diehard conspiracy enthusiasts nervous about the factual bases of their conspiracy gospel?

Some of you have followed the recent Umbrella Man thread, http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/25254-are-there-any-jfk-protests-similar-to-umbrella-mans-heckling/?page=3.  According to the conventional wisdom, Umbrella Man was hapless Louie Steven Witt, a salesman for the Rio Grande National Life Insurance Company who had wandered down from his nearby office in the Rio Grande Building to heckle JFK with an umbrella that he had been told would irritate the President by bringing to mind his father's association with umbrella-toting Neville Chamberlain, who had urged that Hitler be appeased rather than opposed.

In the course of that discussion, Brian Schmidt mentioned that Witt had "worked for the Rio Grande Insurance Company, which had connections to Carlos Marcello."  I asked, "Where did this come from?"  Brian explained, "Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance was under FBI investigation for allegedly lending money to mob figure Marcello (and Trafficante and Roselli). Their assets would be spun off to Rio Grande Insurance around the time of the assassination. There are declassified FBI documents about this."  I invited Brian to document this startling fact (and perhaps he will).  I noted, "I'm not going to pretend to know anything about this, but I could find nothing (including past posts on this forum) to suggest it is true.  Perhaps it is.  But I do know that in Conspiracy Land things like this take on a life of their own.  The next phase will be that Witt was 'associated' with Marcello and 'may well have had Mafia connections.'"

I conducted every permutation of Google search I could think of to link Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance Company with Rio Grande National Life Insurance Company, Witt's employer.  I posted the history of Rio Grande from the authoritative site of the Texas Department of Insurance.  As you can see, RIO GRANDE EXISTED FROM 1900 TO 1968, WHEN IT MERGED WITH KENTUCKY CENTRAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY.

Date Event
01-11-1968 MERGED WITH KENTUCKY CENTRAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY (45700) LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY CERTIFICATE OF AUTHORITY CANCELLED
11-05-1967 MILITARY BUSINESS REINSURANCE BY BANKERS LIFE AND CASUALTY COMPANY (07900). 
12-18-1928 INCORPORATED 01/01/1929 LICENSED
01-01-1900

RIO GRANDE NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DALLAS, TEXAS

OK, what about Guarantee Reserve?  IT WAS STILL IN BUSINESS UNTIL 2004, LICENSED IN INDIANA AND DOMICILED IN ILLINOIS.  ITS ASSETS WERE NOT "SPUN OFF" TO RIO GRANDE OR ANYWHERE ELSE.  IN 2004, IT MERGED WITH REASSURE AMERICA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY. Its history and ownership are well-known and well-documented:

On October 13, 1933, Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance Company of Hammond, domiciled in Indianapolis, Indiana, was licensed as an Indiana mutual assessment company to issue life and accident and health contracts on the assessment plan.   

On December 8, 1952, the Company received its Certificate of Authority to write the business of life insurance in the State of Florida.  In 1963, the corporate name was changed to "Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance Company." 

During its existence, the Company has acquired the business of the following companies: 

Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance Company, Hammond, Indiana (1949) Arcadia National Life Insurance Company, Chicago, Illinois (1949) Progressive Life Insurance Company, Indianapolis, Indiana (1951) National Protective Insurance Company, Kansas City, Missouri (1953) Safety Drivers Insurance Company, Kansas City, Missouri (1959) Life Insurance Company of America, Wilmington, Delaware (1962) Old Liberty Insurance Company, Chicago, Illinois (1962) Commerce Insurance Company, Chicago, Illinois (1962) Stockman's Reserve Life Insurance Company, Bismark, North Dakota (1963) National Protective Life Insurance Company, Hammond, Indiana (1964).

The Company was purchased by Reassure America Life Insurance Company effective June 30, 2003, and subsequently merged into Reassure America Life Insurance Company effective December 31, 2003.

Source:  https://www.insurance.pa.gov/Regulations/Regulatory Actions/Documents/Archived Market Conduct Actions/D-F/Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance Company - 11-04.pdf (a 2004 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance).  Conspicuously absent from the above listing of Guarantee Reserve's affiliations is any affiliation with Rio Grande or any other Texas insurer.

For those with an insatiable curiosity about Guarantee Reserve, it was a family-owned company.  The history and ownership through 1957 are set forth in excruciating and somewhat unflattering detail here, a decision in an income tax case:  https://www.leagle.com/decision/1967113626hotcm11101914.

Nevertheless, the principal of the company was honored by Purdue University with an honorary degree in 2002, https://www.purdue.edu/uns/html3month/02.Jaffe.PNC.bio.html ("After serving in World War II as part of the Merchant Marines, Mr. Jaffe, with financial help from his father, rescued a nearly bankrupt Indiana corporation, Guarantee Reserve Life Insurance Company in Hammond, Ind. By preserving this business through savvy mail-order marketing techniques, he created opportunities for thousands of northwest Indiana citizens to build their careers and be productive.  Mr. Jaffe created a business environment that incorporated many firsts for employees, such as a 401(k) plan, flexible work time, open door policies and company celebrations. His firm received honors from the Indiana Department of Insurance as a 'best run' Indiana company.")

IN A NUTSHELL, THE SUPPOSED CONNECTION BETWEEN GUARANTEE RESERVE AND RIO GRANDE APPEARS TO BE ENTIRELY BOGUS.

But what about Carlos Marcello of Mafia fame?  Google Guy was unable to document ANY connection between Marcello and Rio Grande except - wait for it - ON CONSPIRACY WEBSITES, INCLUDING THIS FORUM!  For giggles, review this thread:  http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/6339-shearn-moody-jr/. 

The documented connection in the foregoing thread was that Ron Ecker had found a post somewhere from a woman who said "my mother just asked me to check into old life insurance policies she purchased and ‘paid up’ on me and my three siblings.... she first purchased them under a company called Guarantee Reserve that became Rio Grande National Life that became Kentucky Central....”  By the bottom of the same page of the thread, Mark Stapleton had concluded "I think you've discovered a possible link there between the mob and Louie Witt."

Bingo, we're down the rabbit hole!  Henceforth, hapless Louie will be Mafia Guy, Carlos Marcello's stooge.  (I should mention that there may well have been some contractual connections between Guarantee Reserve and Rio Grande.  I didn't find any evidence of this, but all sorts of such connections exist within the insurance industry - umbrella coverage, reinsurance, coinsurance, assignment of policies.  As you can see from the Texas information above, Rio Grande's military business was reinsured by Bankers Life in 1967.  It may appear to an unsophisticated policyholder that the original issuer "became" a different company, but this generally isn't the case.  It certainly wasn't the case with Guarantee Reserve and Rio Grande.)

But let's be honest, Mr. Payette:  There is some "connection" between Marcello and Guarantee Reserve.  The legal decision that I cite above doesn't mention Marcello, but it does document Guarantee Reserve's history of unusually large and dubious loans for the development of Las Vegas casinos.  I've seen no suggestion that Guarantee Reserve was in bed with the Mafia; rather, it appears that the company took some unusual risks and failed to properly document them in hopes of a big-time payoff.

Marcello was apparently one of the favored borrowers.  This is from an article entitled "The JFK Assassination & the NJ Connection" by Lee Forman, https://www.lewrockwell.com/2011/12/russ-baker/jfk-umbrella-man-more-doubts/:

Eleven years later, ex-Senator of Indiana, Raymond Maxwell Baker, brought the Cole investigation to the fore with the FBI, presenting it with a copy of a letter he had written to Phil White of the Department of Justice on October 17, 1974 [REF: HSCA, 180-10074-10400]. Baker had the unlucky pleasure of having worked for Guarantee Reserve Life insurance of Hammond, Indiana, before and during his tenure as a Senator. He had begun an ongoing investigation into large sums of money lent to individuals like Ben Jaffee, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli and Carlos Marcello. The loans made were extensive, required little or no interest and, as per Baker, had the effect of impeding the company’s ability to pay insured claims while building out the large casinos and hotels that became Las Vegas. Baker had taken this investigation directly to the attention of the Attorney General at that time, Robert F. Kennedy. Robert had informed Baker of his intention to begin an investigation into these claims with the Justice Department. Following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Baker suspected foul play and began his own investigation into the murder, convinced that organized crime [something that FBI Director Hoover continually denied even existed] had played a role.

I was unable to pull up HSCA record number 180-10074-10400, but you may be able to do so.

OK, let's say for the sake of argument that Guarantee Reserve's principals weren't entirely on the up-and-up and were in bed with Mafia devils like Marcello.  (Considering that the insurance industry is one of the most heavily regulated and audited industries on the planet, it seems odd that Guarantee Reserve was apparently never sanctioned for such activities and was feted as one of the "best run" companies in Indiana.)  WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH RIO GRANDE OR HAPLESS LOUIE STEVEN WITT?

WHERE'S THE BEEF?  Show me the beef and I'll say, "Oh, THERE it is!"  Is this anything other than absolutely typical Conspiracy Thinking and blithe character assassination of someone who appears to be completely innocent of the dark speculation?

Yes, this is a small issue and a small matter.  But how come every time I spend an hour or two diving into these small matters they don't check out?  To what extent is Conspiracy Thinking built upon a foundation of non-facts such as this and the dark but completely unwarranted speculation that flows from them?

But let's be honest, Mr. Payette:  According to Russ Baker, https://www.lewrockwell.com/2011/12/russ-baker/jfk-umbrella-man-more-doubts/:

Witt, the self-proclaimed "Umbrella Man," worked for Rio Grande National Life Insurance in the Rio Grande building. I mentioned that the same building housed the Immigration office frequented by Lee Harvey Oswald, and the local office of the highly negligent Secret Service. I mentioned that Rio Grande wrote a lot of insurance for the military. And, separately, I noted the strong military intelligence connections to key figures connected with 11/22/63.  One thing I did not mention, but should have, was that Military Intelligence itself had offices in that Rio Grande building.

So there ya go, we don't need no stinkin' Carlos Marcello:  Witt was HAVING LUNCH, probably on a regular basis, with Lee Harvey Oswald, highly negligent Secret Service agents and Military Intelligence figures connected with the assassination!  Frankly, I'm surprised Louie was allowed to live to the age of 90.

FYI, here's the Rio Grande Building.  It was demolished in 1971 because, the demolition foreman stated, "It's my understanding that it just holds too many clues to the JFK assassination conspiracy.  I mean, did you know that LOUIE STEVEN WITT used to park his fanny here???"

 

Edited by Guest
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1 hour ago, Lance Payette said:

 

Yes, this is a small issue and a small matter.  But how come every time I spend an hour or two diving into these small matters they don't check out?  To what extent is Conspiracy Thinking built upon a foundation of non-facts such as this and the dark but completely unwarranted speculation that flows from them?

 

Weird. That's the exact feeling I get every time I glance at the Warren Commission Report.

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1 hour ago, Lance Payette said:

Yes, this is a small issue and a small matter.  But how come every time I spend an hour or two diving into these small matters they don't check out?  To what extent is Conspiracy Thinking built upon a foundation of non-facts such as this and the dark but completely unwarranted speculation that flows from them?

 

Lance,

 

It's possible that the poster confused the Rio Grande National Life Insurance Company with the Republic Investment Company.

https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=77654&relPageId=20&search=Rio_Grande Building

The owners of the Republic Investment Company, located at 848 Rio Grande Building were suspected of bookmaking operations in Dallas with close ties to Campisi and Vincent Marcello of New Orleans.


See also https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=83307&relPageId=6&search=Rio_Grande%20Building

concerning an investigation of Raymond Cosmo Terranella and James Henry Dolan.

 

I agree. The poster should have been more careful. No matter where you fall on the conspiracy vs. lone assassin argument, there is no excuse for poor scholarship.

 

Steve Thomas

 


 

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37 minutes ago, Andrew Prutsok said:

Weird. That's the exact feeling I get every time I glance at the Warren Commission Report.

In the world of logic and common sense, you cannot avoid THIS issue by saying you get the same feeling every time you look at the WCR.  That is a non-response.  What about THIS issue?  Spend a couple of hours and prove me wrong.

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33 minutes ago, Steve Thomas said:

Lance,

It's possible that the poster confused the Rio Grande National Life Insurance Company with the Republic Investment Company.

https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=77654&relPageId=20&search=Rio_Grande Building

The owners of the Republic Investment Company, located at 848 Rio Grande Building were suspected of bookmaking operations in Dallas with close ties to Campisi and Vincent Marcello of New Orleans.

See also https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=83307&relPageId=6&search=Rio_Grande%20Building

concerning an investigation of Raymond Cosmo Terranella and James Henry Dolan.

I agree. The poster should have been more careful. No matter where you fall on the conspiracy vs. lone assassin argument, there is no excuse for poor scholarship.

Steve Thomas

 

Sure, that's entirely possible, and I wasn't aiming my post at Brian.  Far more prominent researchers have done the same thing in published works.  One researcher states as "fact" something that is either just flat wrong or is in reality rank speculation.  Next thing you know, this "fact" pops up in 25 other places as gospel.  To expose any one of these "facts" takes an ungodly amount of work, which most people aren't willing to undertake.  Voila, the "fact" lives forever.  Some poor cluck like Witt finds himself branded as having Mafia ties, which I suspect would be disturbing to him and his family.  I don't doubt that some of this goes on in the Lone Nut community (IS THERE a Lone Nut community???), but the conspiracy community seems to me to be especially prone to it.

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6 hours ago, Lance Payette said:

In the world of logic and common sense, you cannot avoid THIS issue by saying you get the same feeling every time you look at the WCR.  That is a non-response.  What about THIS issue?  Spend a couple of hours and prove me wrong.

Lance,

     If you're sincerely interested in common sense and logic, my suggestion is to stop wasting your time on these straw man arguments.

     Try studying Newton's laws of motion as they pertain to the Zapruder film.  That is all you need in the way of "common sense and logic" to thoroughly debunk the Warren Commission's "Lone Nut" in the TSBD with the Carcano fiction.

    People can endlessly debate about the many complex, forensic details of JFK's murder, but the "Lone Nut" in the TSBD with the Carcano narrative is, obviously, nonsense. 

     Frankly, I'm amazed that any rational, informed person would still believe that it is a scientifically viable theory.  It isn't.

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6 hours ago, Lance Payette said:

In the world of logic and common sense, you cannot avoid THIS issue by saying you get the same feeling every time you look at the WCR.  That is a non-response.  What about THIS issue?  Spend a couple of hours and prove me wrong.

I don’t dispute that there is stupid, crazy xxxx out there. Nonetheless it does not validate the official story, which appears to be your position. My sarcasm aside. I’ve yet to come across a single conspiracy theory as outrageous as the WCR.

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The more I think on this, the more Lance’s thread reminds me of the early days of Fox News. Every night, it seemed, Bill O’Reilly would be facing down some pervert from NAMBLA claiming he represented all liberals to discredit the entire progressive cause in the eyes of the gullible and not-too-bright people who watched it regularly. That’s what Lance is attempting to do: pick one, obscure,  bizarre theory to try to discredit what polls have shown for 50 years what everyone knows to be true. It’s intellectually dishonest.

Edited by Andrew Prutsok
To remove offensive, beer-inspired language.
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I don't think Witt was a Marcello affiliate who waited 14 years to make an absurd statement before the HSCA when one was essential.  Wasn't Marcello in prison loosing his mind by 1977?  I wonder more along the lines of did Witt know George Joannides or one of his associates?

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19 hours ago, W. Niederhut said:

Lance,

     If you're sincerely interested in common sense and logic, my suggestion is to stop wasting your time on these straw man arguments.

 

17 hours ago, Andrew Prutsok said:

The more I think on this, the more Lance’s thread reminds me of the early days of Fox News. Every night, it seemed, Bill O’Reilly would be facing down some pervert from NAMBLA claiming he represented all liberals to discredit the entire progressive cause in the eyes of the gullible and not-too-bright people who watched it regularly. That’s what Lance is attempting to do: pick one, obscure,  bizarre theory to try to discredit what polls have shown for 50 years what everyone knows to be true. It’s intellectually dishonest.

You both miss the point.  The claim that Witt was affiliated with Marcello isn't, in and of itself, bizarre.  The point of my thread wasn't to attack that claim per se or to suggest that anyone making that claim was dishonest or a "conspiracy loon."  The claim would not be bizarre IF IN FACT THERE WERE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT.

The point was that again and again (in my experience) "facts" asserted to bolster conspiracy claims turn out not to be facts at all - the assertion has NO FACTUAL BASIS.  Secondarily, and this is perhaps more significant, these bogus "facts" end up being REPEATED AND EXPANDED UPON THROUGHOUT THE CONSPIRACY LITERATURE.  They take on a life of their own.  The Witt example is more significant than some because a deceased individual who almost surely had no connection to the JFK assassination beyond what he described is being slandered by false assertions that he was associated with Marcello.

Noted UFO researcher Kevin Randle (he has both a military background and a doctorate) emphasizes the need for what he calls "footnote hunting."  His points are exactly the ones I am making.  No one ever goes back to the original sources to check whether they really substantiate what is being stated in a text and footnotes.  Instead, they simply assume that what is stated in the text must be true if it is footnoted.  Next thing you know, the statement in the text, which is in fact not true, is repeated and expanded upon throughout the literature as though it were gospel.

See https://kevinrandle.blogspot.com/2018/10/chasing-more-footnotes.html.

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Lance,

I never said the two merged.  Both companies were still in existence decades after the assassination. I’ll have to find the documents I referenced, but what I said is true. In any event, I never made the claim that Witt and Marcello were connected. Rather that FBI documents connect Marcello to the Rio Grande Insurance Company.

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But to a larger point, how come you’re not taking issue with some of the more benign things I found out about Witt? It seems to me you’re the one with the preconceived ideas. I said I was agnostic about Witt. Obviously you’re not.

I made the comment that Rio Grande had connections to Marcello via Gaurantee Life (which Rio Grande later took on some assets). But it isn’t certain that these assets were even connected to the loans to Marcello in any way. And even if they were, Witt simply working for the company doesn’t make him guilty of anything, or even suspicious. By saying that I wasn’t implying Witt was mob connected. I was laying out everything I knew about Witt and potential connections to anyone and everything JFK assassination related, because well....this is a JFK assassination message board. I never said for sure Witt was connected to anything (If I was more sure I would have said so. The intent of this message board is to lay out even subtle and remote connections that other experts can research and build upon. It’s been fruitful to the research community about other things over the years. It’s the point of a message board.

So to jump the gun and pretend this is a court room is silly. So is using this to try to discredit the whole JFK research community and their research bona fides. And FWIW, not everything can be known by an hour’s worth of Google searching. I suggest reading up on some things before instantly attacking everything in a blanket way. When you said The Umbrella Man is a “highly fictionalized” film...yeah, it IS fiction. It doesn’t even pretend to be about The Umbrella Man. It’s about a conspiracy theorist who becomes obsessed with JFK lore and is a critical look at the conspiracy community. Check it out. You might like it😉

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Lance,

      I agree, entirely, that it is important for all of us to get the facts straight, and to eschew the propagation of disinformation.

     As a matter of philosophical logic, however, I would point out that disproving a particular alleged "fact" -- or theory based on that fact -- does not constitute proof of a different theory, like the Warren Commision's "Lone Nut" theory.  (A so-called "straw man" rhetorical trick.)

    So, for example, as JFK assassination researchers work to assemble facts and organize explanatory theories about the details of JFK's murder -- like assembling a jigsaw puzzle with some missing pieces -- their occasional mistakes don't prove, by any stretch, that the Warren Commission Report was a true representation of reality, the true "picture."

    It wasn't.

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17 hours ago, Brian Schmidt said:

Lance,

I never said the two merged.  Both companies were still in existence decades after the assassination. I’ll have to find the documents I referenced, but what I said is true. In any event, I never made the claim that Witt and Marcello were connected. Rather that FBI documents connect Marcello to the Rio Grande Insurance Company.

You stated that the assets of Guarantee Reserve were spun off to Rio Grande at about the time of the assassination.  I found absolutely no evidence that this is true.  What sense does it even make?  Guarantee Reserve remained in business until 2004.  How does an insurance company spin off its assets (a de facto merger) yet remain in business?

16 hours ago, Brian Schmidt said:

But to a larger point, how come you’re not taking issue with some of the more benign things I found out about Witt? It seems to me you’re the one with the preconceived ideas. I said I was agnostic about Witt. Obviously you’re not.

I'm agnostic about almost everything.  Come forward with EVIDENCE showing Marcello had a connection to Witt's employer Rio Grande, or Witt had a connection to Marcello or any other mob figure, and my interest will be piqued.  I'm not picking on you - I believe you probably picked this stuff up in good faith from other conspiracy-oriented sources that picked it up from other conspiracy-oriented sources, and so on and so forth, which is typically what happens.  If I'm wrong, I'll acknowledge it.  Clearly, you made the assertion about Marcello and Rio Grande because you believed it should be relevant to our consideration of Witt.  My point is simply that even I, whose involvement with the assassination community is minimal, have now checked out about five facts that are part of conspiracy gospel - and none of them checked out.

14 hours ago, W. Niederhut said:

Lance,

      I agree, entirely, that it is important for all of us to get the facts straight, and to eschew the propagation of disinformation.

     As a matter of philosophical logic, however, I would point out that disproving a particular alleged "fact" -- or theory based on that fact -- does not constitute proof of a different theory, like the Warren Commision's "Lone Nut" theory.  (A so-called "straw man" rhetorical trick.)

Certainly, and I wasn't suggesting that my original post somehow supported the Lone Nut position.  As Steve recognized, the point I am making applies to either side of the debate.  If Witt's employer had connections to a company that had connections to Marcello, this would tell us precisely nothing about Witt - another logical trick (fallacy).  I do think that conspiracy enthusiasts lean on this sort of thing more than do Lone Nutters:  Witt's employer had unspecified "connections" to a company that had unspecified "connections" to Marcello [which isn't true as far as I can tell], AND THEREFORE Witt was probably not the innocent Umbrella Man he purported to be.

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Just to show I'm perfectly willing to be proved wrong:  It occurred to me that perhaps Guarantee Reserve might have spun off just its Texas business to Rio Grande around the time of the assassination.  Alas, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, Guarantee Reserve wasn't even licensed to do business in Texas until October 9, 1969 and had no relationship with Rio Grande:  https://apps.tdi.state.tx.us/pcci/pcci_show_profile.jsp?tdiNum=37000.

My guess is that, as Steve suggested, there is some confusion about the companies involved.  But unless Rio Grande can specifically be brought into the mix, none of this has any bearing on Witt.

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