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The Floor-Laying Crew

Alan Ford

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Friends, consider two facts:

1. The floor from which shots were fired just happened to be the one floor where renovation work was being done.

2. The floor from which shots were fired just happened to be the one in-use floor from which not a single member of the Depository building workforce chose to watch the P. Parade from.

Probative of anything in particular? Hardly! But interesting? Yes!


What if the above facts are in fact intimately related? What if these three circumstances are functionally intertwined?
----------------Renovation work on 6
----------------No spectators on 6
----------------Shots fired from 6



On 5 December 1963, Mrs. Toney (Ruby) Henderson told FBI that, at some point between the departure of the ambulance (carrying the epileptic man) and the arrival of the motorcade, she noticed two men on an upper floor of the Depository----------and could not recall seeing "anyone on a floor higher up than the one they were on".

One of these men (in a white shirt) appeared dark-complected; the other (in a dark shirt) was taller than him, but she not could speak to this man's ethnicity. 

Here was the distinct impression as to activity which Mrs. Henderson got from these two men:

"She said these men were standing back from the window and she got the impression they were working and yet looking out the window in anticipation of the motorcade passing that building."


But! How could there have been any men working on an upper floor just a few minutes before the motorcade? Had not everyone broken for lunch?

Indeed so! But that would hold only for all those manual workers in the building who were actually employees of the building.

'Leaving whom, exactly?' I hear you ask................

Well, what if there was a carpentry team--------outside contractor---------in charge of the laying of plywood on the sixth floor? And what if they did NOT take a lunch break at the normal time? What if they kept working through even after all the internal manual workers went downstairs for their break? Why? In order to disincentivize any of the internal crew from choosing the sixth floor as the place to come back to once they'd got their lunch. It would be a noisy place, not conducive to a relaxed lunch break.


'But,' I hear you cry, 'there is no evidence of any such outside team having been brought in for the plywood-laying project!'


Mr. Harold Norman* was NOT (like Messrs. Arce, Williams, Lovelady et al) a member of the floor-laying crew, so he may not have been told to shut up forever about the true number and mix of people who had been putting that new floor down.

(*Credit to Mr. G. Parker for coming upon the below information..............)

In 1991, he told the Sixth Floor Museum this:

------------"we [= Messrs. Norman, Williams & Jarman] had plans of waiting until the mororcade arrived and then going up to the 5th floor to watch"
------------An outside carpentry team had been brought in for the floor-laying project (he even remembered one of its men, a "kind of a rugged-looking guy", white, about 6'2"-6'3"/210-20 pounds, and chatty about boxing)

In 1993, Mr. Norman fleshed out his recollections on this to Mr. Glen Sample. What he has to say is truly startling. Read and you will hear the sound of a very big penny dropping.............................

“Now, you ate your lunch on the fifth floor, right?” I asked.
“Yeah, we got up there a little before twelve.”
“Why the fifth floor? Why not the sixth floor, or the seventh floor?”
“Well, at first, we were going to do it on the sixth floor, but they were working, they were putting down some flooring, some 3/8” plywood, so there was quite a bit of noise, and they were painting up there too."
“Now you were telling about the construction that was going on up on the sixth floor. Why were they laying down plywood?”
“They were putting it over the hardwood flooring. You see, some of the hardwood was rotting in places; it was in really bad shape.”
“I see. So it was noisy up there you said. What was it that was so noisy? Were there any kind of saws, or machinery, or anything like that?”
“Yeah, they had one of those saws, you know, one of those table saws, but there wasn’t any noise going on during the motorcade, everything was quiet.”
“Did you help lay down the new flooring?”
“No, we went up there sometimes to move stuff around for the floor construction guys. They didn’t work for the Book Depository, but if our work got slow, we would give them a hand.”
“So there was an outside contractor doing the work on the floors, right?”
“Right. There was a crew of about five or six, maybe up to eight men.”
“Were they only doing work on the sixth floor?”
“At that particular time, I think they were. They were planning on doing something up on the seventh floor after they were finished with the sixth floor.”


Is the floor-laying crew the great secret of how the sixth floor was requisitioned for the assassination?

If so, then we can confidently identify not just the men seen by Mrs. Henderson, but also those seen by Mr. Arnold Rowland, and those seen by Mrs. Carolyn Walthers, as members of that floor-laying (and, of course, for-another-purpose-altogether) crew that had been brought in from outside. They were not 'strangers' in the building, and so their presence would have raised no eyebrows amongst regular employees. But any of the Depository manual workers who had unsuspectingly helped them lay the floor that day will have been told afterwards to erase their presence from the collective memory of who had been up on that sixth floor that day.

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If so, then we find ourselves with a bunch of men in the Depository 11/22/63 who were legitimately working there, were not 'strangers' to the building who did not 'belong' there, yet were not on any list of Depository employees.

The implications of such a scenario are profound.

To take just two examples....................

1. "The [building] manager said I know that man he works here": from Officer Baker's 11/22 affidavit account. If this incident by the rear stairway a few floors up really happened, then Mr. Truly could have truthfully said these words about EITHER an employee of the Depository OR one of the construction guys brought in to lay the new plywood floor.

2. From Officer Baker's WC testimony:

Mr. BAKER - On the first floor there were two men. As we came through the main doorway to the elevators, I remember as we tried to get on the elevators I remember two men, one was sitting on this side and another one between 20 or 30 feet away from us looking at us.
Mr. DULLES - Were they white men?
Mr. BAKER - Yes, sir.

Mr. Harold Norman's information releases us from the binary option of EITHER these two white men were Depository employees OR they were 'strangers'. 
They need have been neither. For now a third option presents itself: they were two of the construction guys belonging to the outside contractor whose true role was to be in place to requisition the sixth floor at motorcade-time 11/22.

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In his 11/22 affidavit, Mr. Williams says he went to the fifth floor with Messrs. Norman & Jarman, and the motorcade arrived just after they got there.

The following day, he tells the FBI a very different story:


So: quick, 3-minute wolfing down of his LUNCH on six, then he JOINS Hank & Junior on five. Chicken remains on six (which in the meantime have become an embarrassment for the 'investigating' authorities) duly accounted for!

Except! The timeline is ridiculous. Messrs. Norman & Jarman didn't get up to five until nearly 25 minutes after that. So Mr. Williams will have to keep elongating the time he spent up on six before joining his co-workers on five.

The reality is, he in all likelihood never went up to six after breaking for lunch, for the presence of the carpentry crew on six made him & Messrs. Norman & Jarman decide in advance to choose five to watch the P. Parade from. All his talk, in his WC testimony, of a prior agreement amongst the 6th floor crew to meet back up on six is just so much palaver, designed to offer spurious motivation for his fictitious solo sojourn on six.

And: in all likelihood it was Messrs. Norman & Jarman who joined Mr. Williams on five, rather than the other way around. (They had split up after breaking for lunch, with Mr. Williams heading out alone to the catering truck.)

Why, even in his WC testimony, Mr. Norman was not willing to let words be put in his mouth about this question:

Mr. BALL. And what did you and Junior do after you got off the elevator?
Mr. NORMAN. We walked around to the windows facing Elm Street and I can't recall if any were open or not but I remember we opened some, two or three windows ourselves.
Mr. BALL. Did somebody join you there?
Mr. NORMAN. Bonnie Ray, I can't remember if he was there when we got there or he came later. I know he was with us a period of time later.
Mr. BALL. And then did he come down before the President's motorcade came by?
Mr. NORMAN. Yes; he was with us before the motorcade came by.


I believe our picture of what the sixth floor looked like between noon and the motorcade needs a radical reconfiguration. None of the Depository employees (with the possible exception of Mr. Jack Dougherty, at a late point) were up there at all during that time, but the floor still had several men on it. Only they were not 'strangers' per se.....................

Edited by Alan Ford
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Another example of the explanatory work offered by Mr. Norman's information about the outside carpenters brought in to work on the floor-laying project:

If a stranger or strangers had come up on to the sixth floor to carry out the firing of shots, then they would have been careful not to draw attention to their presence by appearing at south-facing windows. Any Depository person down on the street might spot them and wonder about them.

But we find no such shyness from the men on the sixth floor post-noon.

Mr. Arnold Rowland's 'elderly Negro', for example, casually hangs out at the SE window. From a stranger who has clandestinely entered and is laying low for the hit, this is pure madness.

It all makes sense, however, if he is part of the outside floor-laying crew. He is perfectly entitled to be up there. His presence is not in the least bit anomalous. If he is spotted by one of the Depository manual workers down below, why they can exchange a friendly wave.

He is also (one might add) giving a public sign that the crew are still up on the sixth floor, and floor-laying work is continuing on. Not a bad way of keeping low the likelihood that any Depository man will decide to slip up to six after all, on the assumption that the outside crew have gone on their break......................

And he is also (one might further add) doing something very important at that window: looking Cuban.

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What we have, then, is an outside carpentry crew installed on the sixth floor at 12pm that serves two logistical purposes:

A. To continue working on the noisy flooring job right up to, or close to, the motorcade's arrival, thus rendering the sixth floor inhospitable to Depository men seeking a quiet vantage point for the motorcade.

B. To provide the man or men who will fire the shots.

Let us note that, in terms of manpower, B. generates a subset of A: you need X number of men to carry out A., but only Y number of men to carry out B.

Why is this important? Because it means that all but one or two of the team can have already left the sixth floor by the time shots are fired. The floor has been secured, their purpose is served. No need for a group stampede downstairs just after the shooting. Every member of the team does not need to go downstairs at the same time. The non-shooters can slip away shortly before the action is to start. And the beauty of it is that, even in the unlikely event (unlikely given the proximity to the motorcade's arrival) that a Depository employee crosses their path on the way down and out, that employee will not bat an eyelid at anyone whose face has been seen around the building for days and weeks already.

This neutralizes the problem of how a TEAM of men could have gotten downstairs unseen and unheard just after the shooting. There was no TEAM by that stage. Just one or two men.

And, if Officer Baker's affidavit is telling us the truth, the man he caught walking away from the rear stairway several floors up was at least one of those who stayed up on six until the bitter end. In fact, he was likely the man who had just fired from the SN window.

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Here's Mr. Jack Dougherty dodging (only just) an interrogatory bullet..........................

Mr. BALL - Did you see [Oswald] again that morning?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - Yes; just one more time.
Mr. BALL - Where was that?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - That was on the sixth floor.
Mr. BALL - On the sixth floor?
Mr. BALL - About what time of day?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - It was about 11 o'clock-that was the last time I saw him.
Mr. BALL - What was he doing up there?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - Well, as far as I could tell, he was getting some stock---as far as I could tell.
Mr. BALL - What were you doing there?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - I was getting some stock also.
Mr. BALL - And were there some other workmen up there at the time?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - Not that I know of.

Mr. BALL - Well, do you remember Shelley, Dan Arce, Bonnie Williams, Bill Lovelady, and Charlie Givens who were working up there that morning---laying floor on the sixth floor?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - Oh, yes; they were laying floor---yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - And were they there at the time you were there?
Mr. DOUGHERTY - Oh, yes, sir; they were there---yes, sir.

He first misunderstands what Mr. Ball means by "other workmen", and disclaims all knowledge of such up on the sixth floor that morning. Then, when Mr. Ball clarifies that he is speaking of Depository employees, he is relieved to find that the question was not taking him on to dangerous territory: Ah, you mean THOSE floor-laying guys...

Edited by Alan Ford
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The plan was brilliant because it was simple.

---------Get the men and weapon(s) in place without raising suspicions (it's just 'floor-laying equipment').

---------Requisition the sixth floor for the lead-up to the motorcade's arrival without raising suspicion.

---------Any man caught coming down the stairs can say he had a legitimate reason to be up there. All he has to do is get out of the building--------and then disappear. No Depository employee would have this freedom, for his name is on the books.

---------Make sure some Depository manual workers are helping out with the floor-laying project, so they can take full credit for the still-in-progress job that will be in evidence to investigators on the scene afterwards.

Of course, Officer Marrion Baker's dash into the building puts a wrinkle in things. Funnily enough, however, he ends up visiting every single floor in the building-------except for the sixth. Did the kindhearted building manager (who would have been responsible for hiring the outside contractors for the floor-laying job) improvise a way of keeping the pesky motorcycle policeman off the 'floor-laying' floor?

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Now! There are two rather curious aspects of Messrs. Norman & Jarman's fifth floor visit:

1. Why did Messrs. Norman & Jarman leave it so late to change their location for the parade? Mr. Norman's testimony timestamps their arrival up there as late as ~12:28pm!

2. Why did they choose to go to the fifth rather than the sixth floor?

Mr. Norman's information--------as furnished in his interviews with the Sixth Floor Museum and with Mr. Glen Sample---------answers both of these questions at a stroke. Going up to five, and at the last minute, reflected no impulsive change of mind: it was the pre-agreed plan. Who wants to spend most of their lunch break to a soundtrack of banging, sawing, etc. from just one floor above?

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From Mr. Charles Givens' 11/22 affidavit:


There is no word of a lie in Mr. Givens' statement here. And that is the key point: every one of the men up on the sixth floor working on the floor-laying project, both internal crew and outside crew, was supposed to be there. There were no 'strangers' in the building. These men's everyday presence in the building going back quite a few days had fully normalized them as part of the TSBD furniture. Unbeknownst (we presume) to the Depository employees helping out up on six, these members of the floor-laying were just using that as cover for the 11/22 event. 

After the assassination, when police said the fatal shots had been fired from the sixth floor, those manual workers who had been out of the loop must have gotten a terrible shock: Those guys we've been helping out all this time were there to shoot the President!

Mr. Truly was evidently most worried about what Mr. Bonnie Ray Williams might blab. He told the WC in so many words that Mr Williams was a very dangerous witness:

Mr. McCLOY. From what you know of these young men who testified before you today, are they trustworthy?
Mr. TRULY. Yes, sir; I think they are. They are good men. They have been with me, most of them, for some time. I have no reason to doubt their word. I do know that they have been rather, as the expression goes, shook up about this thing, especially this tall one, Bonnie Williams. He is pretty superstitious, I would say. For 2 or 3 weeks the work was not normal, or a month. The boys did not put out their normal amount of work. Their hearts were not in it. But after that, they have picked up very well. They are doing their work well.
Mr. BELIN. If we can go off the record for just a moment.
(Discussion off the record.)
The CHAIRMAN. Back on the record.

Mr. TRULY. I thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, sir. You have helped us a good deal. We will recess at this time until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.

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