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The Johnnie Walker of Grand Prairie story--is this its solution and explanation?

Greg Doudna

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The Johnnie Walker of Grand Prairie story--what to make of it?

On Oct 24, 1963, Johnnie Walker without her husband's knowledge went with a girlfriend to a semi-shady house party in Grand Prairie where for two hours she remembered being in the company of a man she believed after the assassination was Lee Harvey Oswald. She gave a detailed account of that evening seven months later to the FBI. The problem is the individual she encountered can hardly actually have been Oswald, yet there is plenty of Oswald information which calls for explanation as to cause and mechanism. With thanks and credit to Greg Parker for the suggestion of the identification to be developed below (https://reopenkennedycase.forumotion.net/t2667-the-johnnie-walker-oswald-story), here is what I believe to be the true explanation or solution to the story. Here is the FBI interview of Johnnie Walker.






It can be excluded that the man Johnnie Walker remembered actually was Oswald from the tattoo. Lee Harvey Oswald had no tattoo. Instead, the individual Johnnie Walker encountered was a fellow roomer at the N. Beckley rooming house at the time of the Johnnie Walker encounter, named Herbert Leon Lee. Here is what Herbert Lee told the FBI in Dec 1963:



The Herbert Lee identification accounts for the last name "Lee", the living in Oak Cliff, and the living in a room, of the Johnnie Walker story. The chronology works, since Herbert Lee told the FBI he lived at the N. Beckley rooming house for four or five weeks until moving out about Nov. 1, which gives a two-week overlap when Herbert Lee and Oswald were roomers at the same time there, the last two weeks of October. That is compatible with the Oct. 24 date of the Johnnie Walker story. 

From the ROKC site here is a photo of Herbert Lee in 1958 when he was 19 years old and in Shreveport, Louisiana where he apparently grew up. In October 1963 Herbert Lee was 24 years old, the same age as Oswald (https://reopenkennedycase.forumotion.net/t214-herbert-leon-lee).


According to the FBI interview report, Herbert Lee told the FBI he remembered nothing about Oswald, never saw or met him even though they lived in the same house together for two weeks. That is contradicted by what Herbert Lee later told. In 1993 Gus Russo tracked down Herbert Lee and in Russo's book, Live by the Sword (1998), reports his 1993 interview of "one of Oswald's roommates at the Beckley Street house, Leon Lee" (Herbert Leon Lee), then in Florida. According to what Herbert Lee told Russo, Herbert Lee did see, remember, and know Oswald at the N. Beckley rooming house when he was there--contrary to what Herbert Lee told the FBI in Dec 1963. Quoting Herbert Lee speaking of Oswald:

"I remember that Lee used to occasionally get picked up and dropped off by someone who would park his car on the street and wait out there for Lee to join him. That wasn't all that unusual, though, because few of the tenants had cars, and we always had friends give us rides." (Live by the Sword, 264)

Note the agreement between Johnnie Walker's Mr. Lee in Grand Prairie on Oct 24, 1963, who did not have a car of his own but was picked up by someone for his drive back to Oak Cliff, and Herbert Lee who speaks of himself ("we") as included among the most of the tenants at the N. Beckley rooming house who did not have a car and "had friends give us rides". So there are two more details of correspondence: Herbert Lee did know of Oswald at the rooming house where they both lived, and Herbert Lee relied on friends to drive him places since he did not have a car, at the time of Johnnie Walker's encounter in Grand Prairie with a Mr. Lee who left in a car which came to pick him up driven by someone else. 

Greg Parker suggested Johnnie Walker's question to her Mr. Lee concerning his nationality might have been prompted by Johnnie Walker having heard an accent. While that is possible, this kind of question is also part of icebreaker or get-acquainted conversations like "how long have you lived in this city?", "What do you do?" "What is your astrological sign?", in America of diverse ancestry origins. I have been casually asked my ancestry countless times and I have no accent other than standard midwest American.

Again from Russo's 1993 interview of Herbert Lee speaking of fellow roomer Oswald of those final two weeks of October 1963: 

"He [Oswald] rarely smiled, and always seemed preoccupied. The other tenants used to walk up the street and have an occasional dinner. Oswald only joined us once. He just stayed in his room all night while the rest of us would be in the living room watching television. I remember that he only came out to watch 'The Fugitive,' which he loved." (Live by the Sword, 256)

It is an odd coincidence that Herbert Lee's last name is the same as Oswald's first name which whether by intent (per Marina) or by accident of housekeeper Earlene Roberts' transcribing error (Oswald's explanation to Capt. Fritz in interrogation) came to be Oswald's "last name" to the landlady and housekeeper at the N. Beckley rooming house, where Oswald, with a pattern of secretiveness, did not want his personal information known too much. And yet, the Lee and Lee names coincidence is coincidence under any construction, since both of these individuals are distinct and attested by true proper names given at their birth, of no connection to each other in their childhoods. (Might as well add a third coincidence: I writing about this my middle name is Lee.) Herbert Lee used his true name, and Oswald with a known penchant for aliases and secrecy used his first name as his last, ending up in the coincidence (and that is what it was) of two distinct and real persons in that rooming house both known as "Mr. Lee", just as my middle name Lee is coincidence. 

The conclusion is that Herbert Lee was the man remembered by Johnnie Walker that night in Grand Prairie on Sept 24, 1963. This makes the best sense as the explanation of the Johnnie Walker story, the solution to this longstanding puzzle. 

To recapitulate, based on the limited information available, Johnnie Walker does not come across as a deluded person. She went to the FBI, not to reporters trying for publicity or enrichment of herself, and asked the FBI not to disclose her name if possible. The puzzle has been: if she gave what she believed was a true account of a memory from seven months ago, where did the details and information concerning Oswald in that story come from, if it wasn't Oswald? There are really only about two ways to go with that: one, she learned those details from the news media and it played games with her memory, a "manufactured memory" phenomenon. Or two, her encounter was with someone who indeed was from a rooming house in Oak Cliff who did not have a car and whose name was Mr. Lee, Herbert Lee of the N. Beckley rooming house, at the same time both Herbert Lee and Oswald were at the N. Beckley rooming house. The Oct 24 date of Johnnie Walker's encounter falls exactly within the narrow only two-weeks overlap of Herbert Lee and Oswald as fellow roomers the last two weeks of October. This is the mechanism to account for the knowledge of details of Oswald that came up in Johnnie Walker's conversation with her Mr. Lee in Grand Prairie that evening.

It is established from Herbert Lee's own later telling, in addition to common sense, that Herbert Lee would have known of Oswald in the same rooming house. There still may be some conflation and confusion in Johnnie Walker's memory of how the conversation went exactly but much less to account for from what actually happened that evening in her story, than that she got all the Oswald details hallucinated into her memory from the news media. Did Herbert Lee appropriate a few details from Oswald's much more interesting life, an exotic return from having lived in Russia and soon to be a book author, as a more impressive way to chat up the lady than a boring "I work in a carpet store"? Or did Herbert Lee tell Johnnie Walker in the course of that evening some things about Oswald not even a matter of Herbert Lee claiming that Oswald was he, with Johnnie Walker thinking little of it at the time, belatedly remembering after the assassination some of those things, not necessarily accurately connected or attributed but remembered and struggled to remember the details? However it happened, and it is not necessary to know how it happened, there is a reasonable mechanism on the table for how Oswald details could turn up in that conversation remembered by Johnnie Walker in Grand Prairie that night.

Johnnie Walker remembered the man's last name that she met as "Lee", not "Oswald", which is in agreement with Herbert Lee having originally been introduced to her by his true name, last name "Lee". Seven months later to the FBI Johnnie Walker could have remembered the name "Oswald" (which is also a first name) if the "Oswald" name detail was not itself a manufactured memory detail, and, knowing it was not her Mr. Lee's last name, added the name "Oswald" in front of "Lee" in retroactive memory of that particular detail. Notably she still does not remember "Oswald" as the man's last name but thinks it was or must have been his first name. I consider this a supporting argument in favor of Herbert Lee as the person she actually met, whose last name really would have been introduced to her as "Lee".

Herbert Lee's telling of the roomers of that N. Beckley rooming house walking in a small group in evenings after work to a nearby restaurant for dinner, with Oswald not joining in except for one time, gives a picture in which in that tiny community knowledge about any of the roomers would likely become known instantly to the others, like gossip in a small town. If it was Herbert Lee in Grand Prairie that evening with Johnnie Walker, Johnnie Walker's story ironically could become a possible echo or clue to how much of Oswald was known to the other roomers whether or not Oswald was aware of it. 

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