Jump to content
The Education Forum

The Mary Ferrell Foundation...

Recommended Posts

From the Weatherford TX Democrat:

Town unlikely home to Kennedy assassination documents

By Steve Landwehr


IPSWICH, Mass. — It's not in Dallas, where the assassination took place.

Nor is it in the John. F. Kennedy library in the capital of his home state. And you won't find it in our nation's capital, either.

No, the largest archive of Kennedy assassination-related documents in the world is up a flight of stairs in an unremarkable office - with a business card stuck in the door frame to identify it - over the Choate Bridge Pub in downtown Ipswich. The pub's frying oil leaves a pungent scent, the smell perhaps a metaphor for what some think was left behind after what they consider the biggest cover-up in history.

The Mary Ferrell Foundation is dedicated to carrying on the work of the Dallas legal secretary whose suspicions about Kennedy's assassination began the moment Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for it. It became an obsession that lasted until her death seven years ago, by which time she had amassed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents related to Kennedy and his assassination, along with books, magazines and newspaper articles.

"She ended up being one of the hubs of research," said Rex Bradford, the foundation's archivist. She was the person writers and historians studying the assassination turned to, he said.

Bradford, a resident, is the chief reason the foundation is headquartered in Ipswich.

After Ferrell's death, an anonymous benefactor who lives in Boston bought her vast collection. Bradford was a well-known archivist in the circles of assassination buffs, so Ipswich seemed a natural choice.


The events that began in Dealey Plaza in Dallas at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, and those that followed, probably constitute the most investigated murder in history. One presidentially appointed commission and a House committee pored over every detail of the assassination, as did uncountable private investigators, amateur and professional.

The first, the Warren Commission, concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and there was no persuasive evidence of a conspiracy, as many people then and now believe. The House Select Committee on Assassinations found otherwise in 1979.

"Most people don't realize they came to the conclusion it was a probable conspiracy," Bradford said. "That's the government's last word on it."

Conspiracy theorists had long claimed four shots were fired at Kennedy, not three as the Warren Commission purported. The House Committee agreed and said the second gunman fired the bullet from the grassy knoll in the plaza. It did not, however, identify the conspirators.

So the debate goes on, and may never end.

"We don't purport to have the answer," said Lona Therrien, the foundation's executive director.

In 1992, Congress ordered all government evidence regarding the assassination be released to the public, and the foundation has a copy of every single page of it.

While the boxes stacked in the foundation's two-room office constitute a valuable paper trail, they are so voluminous that finding a single fact or set of facts would be a herculean task.

That's where the foundation's online archive comes in. There, all of its material is freely available, but searching it is still a bit haphazard and cumbersome. So the nonprofit foundation offers one-year memberships at $39.95 that give users access to advanced search tools to speed up research.

The Web site averages more than 10,000 unique hits each month. Institutional memberships are also available for colleges, universities and libraries.

The library at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., became an institutional member about a year ago. Michael Pate, associate director of library services, said the university's Political Science Department recommended the foundation, and its collection has become a useful resource for a course on assassinations the school offers.

"It expedites the work of students and faculty quite a bit," Pate said. "It saves quite a bit of time."

Therrien said this is not a "conspiracy theorist Web site."

"It's a place to fact-check and promote a conversation about this time in our history when there were a lot of questions about what the government was doing," she said.

There's been so much speculation about the Kennedy assassination, so many theories advanced to explain it, that many Americans alive at the time grew weary of the subject years ago. Bradford thinks he knows why.

"Americans have an aversion to theories that there are conspiracies to change their government," he said.

Steve Landwehr writes for the Salem News in Salem, Mass.

Edited by Jack White
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is past time for the powers that be at the Mary Ferrell Foundation to step forward and present the true story of how and why that organization was created. And by whom.

I am going to break my silence and tell what I know about the MFF in its nascent stages. My hope is that Rex Bradford will proffer the rest of the story, correct my memory if there is need, and convince the formerly anonymous benefactor to step forward and explain his motivations. I'll help with the latter task.

It was at a JFK Lancer conference -- not her last -- that Mary Ferrell announced to George Michael Evica and me that she had been approached by, in her words, a "billionaire venture capitalist" with a stunning offer. He would purchase her entire JFK archive in return for a huge initial payment plus other "considerations" (I know the number and the rest of the story, but at this point such data is not relevant to our tale). His stated reason: He was helping to develop and bring to market revolutionary computer programs designed to store, organize, and provide access to data bases of the size and complexity of Mary's holdings.

He also promised to create what we know today as the MFF.

By the time the Lancer banquet was being served, Mary had informed others of her good fortune. She, George Michael, and I dined together that night with the benefactor. And so we met one Oliver Curme, a general partner of funds related to Battery Ventures, a venture capital firm located in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Curme earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from Brown University, and holds an M.B.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

Among his business interests are IBEX Process Technology and OutlookSoft.

I encourage you all to GOOGLE away.

Over dinner, Call Me Ollie didn't try to hide the fact the he had little if any knowledge of or interest in the JFK assassination. At least that was his cover story. More than once, Mary dissolved into tears as she related how Ollie would take care of her, her family, and her materials.

I won't characterize George Michael's reactions to the plan. I was simultaneously happy for Mary, who seemed so genuinely relieved to have been rescued -- my word -- by this good sir knight, and concerned that the alarm bells that should have been going off in response to what appeared to be a world-class dangle were being smothered by the sheer weight of Curme's cash.

The deal was done. Mary's library was -- what shall I write ... transferred ... looted ... Curme kept his part of the bargain. Life went on ... longer for some of us than for others.

After the passage of a few years, the Mary Ferrell Foundation emerged. And who can fault Rex Bradford, to my mind a world-class historian ("researcher" doesn't do him justice) for the manner in which he runs this world-class archive.

Except ...

Where are Mary's original holdings? Beyond the obvious informational value of this material, we must acknowledge that original and one-of-a-kind documents carry with them added significance. And in its totality, the Ferrell archive stood as a counter-National Archive (as do the collections of Harold Weisberg, for instance).

Where are Mary's original holdings? I'll keep asking, and so should you. Are they intact? Have they been sanitized? What of the symbolic power of their sheer mass to inspire and energize us?

Why the secrecy, Mr. Curme?

Why so shy, Ollie?

Have all of us learned nothing in our study of how intelligence operations are mounted? Am I alone in my suspicions of Curme's motives and masters?

Why the secrecy, Rex?

I last phoned Mary not long before she passed. From her hospital bed she spoke with the consummate eloquence and vaulting intelligence that all who knew her had come to expect. She was alternately curious about ongoing research projects, generous in her suggestions for avenues of investigation, and kind and loving in the extreme. Topics ranged from Delk Simpson to John Coltrane, from hospital food to family and friends.

I miss Mary every day.

Her furious, uncompromised search for the truth is Mary Ferrell's greatest legacy. I would submit to Rex Bradford that he, more than most, is expected to live up to such a standard. He can begin by writing and sharing the history of the Mary Ferrell Foundation as he knows it.

Charles Drago

Edited by Charles Drago
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am more than familiar with the "Housewives Underground," which is IMO the ultimate personifaction of a "grass-roots" organization. The members were three women who did arguably as much to get to the bottom of 11-22-63 as any "governmental body" ever dreamed about doing; no apologies to Messrs Warren, Rockefeller or Blakey.

The Housewives Underground consisted of Mary Ferrell, (TX) Mae Brussell (CA) and Shirley Martin (OK). I have no idea about the financing issues re Mary Ferrell but it is a well known fact, that Hemming for one visited with Mary Ferrell, and that should not be held against her any more than it would be to illustrate the same dynamic with regards to the latter's visits to the late Jim Garrison....What is important is separate facts from the realm of mythos. Which is why I decided to post the above information in the first place....No criticism towards Jack or Charles is to be implied or inferred from what I have written. We all want the truth, it is unfortunately, akin to David fighting Goliath with regards to "true researchers" versus the apparatus of government. Anthony Sutton once elucidated about this very same issue........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I might add for the record that, in sharing what I know of what it's safe to characterize as the origins of the MFF, I am not violating any confidences whatsoever.

During the referenced Lancer conference and for a period of months thereafter, I did keep my word to Mary by refraining from any mention of Curme, his offer, and her response.

Only later, after the deal was done and the archives removed from the "temple" built by Buck Ferrell to house them, was I released from the pledge of confidentiality.

It also should be noted that the final arrangement between Mary and Curme is not known to me; for all I'm able to gather, Curme may have bowed out. Though I have good reason to doubt it.

I am aware of the earliest discussed terms, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that whatever deal ultimately was cut differs significantly therefrom.

Finally, it is my fervant wish that Curme is on the level, the physical archives in their entirety are intact and guarded, and that Rex Bradford will impress upon his benefactor the very legitimate need for full disclosure.

It all boils down to a matter of trust. At least it always did with Mary.


Edited by Charles Drago
Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks for your thoughts on what we agree is an issue of immense significance -- to our work, and to history.

For what it's worth, it did occur to me that any "anonymous benefactor" of the MFF -- especially one from the very middle of the mainstream, so to say -- by definition would have grave reservations about being identified with the lunatic fringe. But Oliver Curme came to the Lancer conference freely and openly, without benefit of CIA make-up and voice alteration devices.

It didn't require a great deal of thought to conclude that Ollie's cover was self-blown.

As for Rex Bradford: I share your high opinion of his work, and yes, he may be constrained from telling us more by confidentiality agreements. Here's hoping that this thread will sever such tethers.

For me, the second most distressing element of this story is how the seizure of Mary's archives failed to set off alarm bells within a community of experts (self-styled and, in a few cases, genuine) in the ways of the secret world. Know that I take myself to task for waiting so long to voice my own major concerns.

In terms of the physical Ferrell archives, I fear that we'll never be able to ascertain just how much damage, if any, has been done. It is my understanding that Mary kept more than a few documents and other materials very close to her vest; they do not appear, I'm led to believe, on any publicly available inventory of her holdings. But this may be nothing more than a twice-told tale.

Finally, there's this: Prior to last year's Lancer conference, I suggested to George Michael Evica that we convene a panel to question, publicly and as part of the conference program, Bradford, Curme, and other principals of the MFF. We shared a sense of the need for and value of such a forum, and we agreed that our approach would be adversarial but collegial in all ways.

No interest. At least not yet. Perhaps we can start one of those groundswells we hear so much about???

I eagerly await Rex Bradford's response.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, Bud ...

Let's address the pachyderm in our shared living room: Anyone who claims to know Mary Ferrell's most deeply held motivations and other secrets is a fool or worse.

I've never encountered a mind as facile, broad, and deep as was Mary's. On more than once occasion I witnessed the most celebrated intellects of the research community sit in awe of her recall, her access, her experiences.

Mary reveled in these times, holding court in her hotel suite during just about every JFK conference convened in her lifetime, surrounded by a small, hand-picked audience. I'll share some of my recollections of one of many such evenings -- and believe me, I missed the best ones, including those with Fensterwald in camera.

The assembly on that night in question included Peter Dale Scott, David Mantik, Jerry Rose, George Michael and Alycia Evica, Robert Chapman (Mary's cherished caregiver for so many years), "Grassy" Noel Twyman, and myself. I had been volunteered to be bartender, so everyone was being extra nice to me.

"David, I really enjoyed you this afternoon," Mary said to the good doctor, who earlier in the day had delivered a typically brilliant presentation to the Lancer group.

I couldn't help myself. "Okay, Mantik," I asked, "when was the last time a woman said those words to you?"

"It's been so long, it's not even in the memory banks," he confessed as everyone in the room -- including Professor Scott -- erupted into laughter.

Mary remained poker-faced, masterfully conducting the proceedings.

As the crowd settled down, Mary abruptly changed the tone as she launched into one of her most compelling stories, involving a personal, not altogether relaxing interlude with Mitch WerBel and other unsavory types who waylayed her on the eve of a Caribbean cruise out of Florida to discuss their plans to invade a sovereign state.

Her audience was spellbound -- to say the least. Some, I seem to recall, even took notes.

Palpable during the entire evening -- indeed, in all such gatherings to which I was honored to be invited -- was spectral presence of Mary's secret life, the parts of her stories that she chose not to tell.

I cannot overstate her kindness to me or the affection and respect I'll always offer in return. I'll cherish and protect Mary's memory to the bitter end.

I have no doubt that she was as powerfully connected to the secret world as anyone you might be able to mention. And I just know that she approves of this outing.


Edited by Charles Drago
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I hope that I'm not alone in my disappointment that neither Rex Bradford nor any other player at the Mary Ferrell Foundation has seen fit to address the issues raised within this thread.

Perhaps multiple inquiries from members of this forum addressed to Mr. Bradford and containing requests for a full and verifiable accounting of the hidden history of the MFF and the current condition and whereabouts of Mary's physical archives might prove sufficiently stimulating.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...