David Ferrie: Fulfilling The Seedy Side of the JFK “Assassins”

Whenever the Grassy Knoll crowd needs a figure to represent the repellent seediness of JFK’s “actual” killers, they trot out David Ferrie. Dead for fifty years, the wigged, eyebrow glued macho homosexual has lived on in Kennedy conspiracy lore, memorably portrayed by a hyper-manic Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone’s laughable JFK, and is the pivotal figure that finally convinces Oswald to fire from the Texas School Book Depository at a president Oswald cannot muster up any feelings of hate toward in Don Delillo’s more sober Libra.

Called in typically bombastic style by the headline grabbing, paranoid Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans who brought the case to court, “the most important man in history,” Ferrie was in point of fact a rather pathetic figure, who, without Castro, and Oswald would have been only a locally important figure in the New Orleans Mafia and the city’s homosexual underworld.

For the climate of the day toward homosexuals, plus his self-destructive inability to keep his hands off young boys, was always wrecking his ambitions and rendering him unemployed

When seminary priests discovered his homosexuality he was denied his greatest ambition to become a Catholic priest. Suffering from alopecia areata, a rare skin disorder that causes body hair to fall off, Ferrie painted on a wig and eyebrows and tried to become an insurance inspector. Before his participation in the anti-Castro movement (where unconfirmed reports stated he flew missions into Cuba), and whatever links he had with Oswald (Ferrie and Oswald appear in a picture–although several feet away from each other—taken at a Civil Air Patrol (which Ferrie headed) cookout in the mid-50s), his greatest claim to fame was as a pilot for Eastern Air Lines.

But his relentless homosexuality cruising lost him his job. Despite, or because of his predilections, Ferrie became a militant anticommunist, whose attacks on JFK’s so-called appeasement of Castro were so extreme that even among war veterans in the audience he was asked to leave the podium during his speech to the New Orlean’s branch of the Military Order of World Wars in 1961. The most damning part of the speech in light of what was to come in the form of Jim Garrison was Ferrie declaring that Kennedy “should be shot.”

Ferrie’s rabid anti-communism found a kindred spirit in former FBI agent Guy Bannister, whose private detective office directed much of the anti-Castro activity in the city. Bannister and Ferrie may have also worked for the Mafia in the form of Carlos Marcello who was relentlessly pursued by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Ferrie entered Kennedy Assassination lore when Bannister’s employee Jack Martin, after being pistol-whipped by Bannister on the day Kennedy was shot, accused Bannister and Ferrie of killing Kennedy. To reporters, he specified Ferrie’s role in the plot as the getaway pilot for the assassins and as the one who trained Oswald as a sniper. Martin also asserted that Ferrie knew Oswald from their days in the Civil Air Patrol Unit and reported that there was a picture of them both together.

According to witnesses, Ferrie feverishly looked for any such photos. Martin also said, later invalidated, that Oswald had Ferrie’s library card in his wallet.

With the photo decades away from being found, what may have been the most damning matter for Ferrie was his trip to Houston hours after Oswald had been brought into custody. Ferrie told the FBI that he went to consider buying a skating rink, but the manager of the Houston skating rink said he never spoke to Ferrie about that.

Garrison did bring in Ferrie for questioning and, unconvinced by his story, turned Ferrie over to the FBI. Claiming they were unable to find any credible proof against Ferrie’s involvement in the assassination, the Bureau released him.

But Bannister’s far-right secretary, Delphine Roberts, said she saw Ferrie and Oswald frequently together in Bannister’s office:

“Many times when he {Ferrie} came into the office he used the private office behind Banister’s, and I was told he was doing private work. I believed his work was somehow connected with the CIA rather than the FBI.”

But Roberts later claimed she made up the story in order to get paid by a conspiracy-minded reporter. Years later, the House Select Committee on Assassinations could not confirm Robert’s statements because they were rife with “contradictions.”

Ferrie might have settled into a merely rumored participation, and faded back into the far-right and homosexual underworld of New Orleans if not for the wildly conspiratorial Jim Garrison, who charged him along with New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw in a plot that killed Kennedy.

But, like Oswald, Ferrie added grist to the assassination mill by the timing of his death. A week after Garrison’s investigation hit the newspapers, Ferrie was found dead in his apartment with two typed suicide notes. Predictably, Garrison declared Ferrie’s death a murder by his cohorts in the assassination. The autopsy, however, by a New Orleans’ coroner (unaffiliated with the supposed assassins) ruled death by heart attack.

Ferrie has lived on, achieving fame that, unlike his other endeavors, cannot be ruined by any homosexual groping. As with much of the Grassy Knoll theories, whatever one source says is canceled out by another. In the realm of whether Ferrie belonged to the CIA (which, if true, would somehow, however circuitously, supposedly give the conspiracy crowd the “proof ” that since Ferrie knew Oswald and was in the CIA this proved the Agency killed JFK), Victor Marchetti, former Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director of The CIA claimed Ferrie was an agent..

But this is canceled out by the much stronger proof in the form of internal CIA documents revealing that Ferrie wasn’t connected to the Agency

No matter how much proof has come forward in recent years that Oswald acted alone, Ferrie will always be used in what is a better, although unconfirmed, story.

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

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