Marina Oswald and Ruth and Michael Paine all told the Warren Commission in no uncertain terms that Lee Harvey Oswald did not drive an automobile and did not have a driver's license. But John Armstrong has found many witnesses who said Oswald did drive, including a former employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety License Records Department who issued a signed statement to a Garrison investigator stating that she had processed Oswald's returned driver's license after he was killed. This article explores these seeming contradictions.
Marina Oswald repeatedly told the Warren Commission that her husband did not drive. For example:
Mrs. OSWALD. Never. No; this is all not true. In the first place, my husband couldn't drive, and I was never alone with him in a car. Anytime we went in a car it was with Ruth Paine, and there was never--we never went to any gun store and never had any telescopic lens mounted.
Mr. RANKIN. Did the four of you, that is, your husband, you, and your two children, ever go alone any place in Irving?
Mrs. OSWALD. In Irving the baby was only 1 month old. I never took her out anywhere.
Representative FORD. Did you ever go anytime----
Mrs. OSWALD. Just to doctor, you know.
Representative FORD. Did you ever go anytime with your husband in a car with the rifle?
Mrs. OSWALD. I was never at anytime in a car with my husband and with a rifle. Not only with the rifle, not even with a pistol. Even without anything I was never with my husband in a car under circumstances where he was driving a car. (WC V, 401)
Michael Paine also indicated several times that Lee Harvey Oswald did not drive. For example:
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you ever see Oswald drive a car?
Mr. PAINE. No; I did not. (WC II, 413)
In her Warren Commission testimony, Ruth Paine stated that as late as the weekend before the assassination of JFK, Oswald had failed to obtain a learner's permit so that he could eventually acquire a valid Texas driver's license.
Mr. JENNER. You did talk with him on the telephone?
Mrs. PAINE. That is my recollection. I am certain that I talked with him, that he was surprised that he didn't need a car. I had to tell him that he didn't need a car to take with him to take his test.
Mr. JENNER. Take his initial test?
Mrs. PAINE. Take his test, and suggested that he go from Dallas himself to take this test. Then he called us Saturday afternoon of the 16th to say he had been and tried to get his driver's permit but that he had arrived before closing time but still to late to get in because there was a long line ahead of him, the place having been closed both the previous Saturday for election day and the following Monday, the 11th, Veterans Day. There were a lot of people who wanted to get permits and he was advised that it wouldn't pay him to wait in line. He didn't have time to be tested.
Mr. JENNER. Could you help us fix, can you recall as closely as possible the day of the week, this is the weekend of the assassination, was it not?
Mrs. PAINE. The weekend before.
Mr. JENNER. The weekend before, and this conversation you are now relating that you had with him in which he said that he had gone to the driver's license station, when did that conversation with you take place?
Mrs. PAINE. That conversation was with Marina, and she told me about it.
Mr. JENNER. When did she tell you about it?
Mrs. PAINE. He called her, it must have been Saturday afternoon, soon after he had been, he went Saturday morning and they closed at noon.
Mr. JENNER. I see. This was the weekend he did not come out to Irving?
Mrs. PAINE. This was the weekend he did not come out. (WC II, 516)
From reading this testimony, you would think it was clear that Lee Harvey Oswald did not drive a car and did not have a Texas driver's license. But this is just one side of the controvery.
Following is a list of names assembled in 1997 by John Armstrong of people who either testified that Lee Oswald routinely drove a car or who knew of that ability:
PEOPLE WHO HAD KNOWLEDGE THAT LEE COULD DRIVE
|Cliff Shasteen||Joyce Bostic|
|Leonard Hutchinson||Inez Laake|
|Fred Moore||Gayle Scott|
|Malcolm Price||Peggy Smith|
|Floyd Guy Davis||Mrs. Ernie Isaacs|
|Gertrude Hunter||Margaret Budreau|
|Edith Whitworth||Clifford Wormser|
|Red Pope||FBI Agent Bob Barrett|
|Leo Sepulveda||DPD Captain Westbrook|
|Sonny Stewart||Edward Brand|
|Robert Janca||Garland Slack|
|Robert Roy||William J. Chesher|
|Al Bogard||Howard Price|
|W.M. Hannie||Sterling Wood|
|Mrs. Lee Bozarth||Dr. Homer Wood|
|Aletha Frair||Randy Sundy|
Let's look at the testimonies of a few of these people.
Barber shop owner Cliff Shasteen recalled for the Warren Commission how Oswald drove up to his establishment for a haircut on perhaps a half-dozen occasions in a two-toned "blue and white or green and white" station wagon:
Mr. JENNER. You have a distinct recollection that on occasions when this man came into your shop for a haircut, he drove an automobile up to your shop?
Mr. SHASTEEN. He drove that there 1955, I think it's a 1955, I'm sure it's a 1955 Chevrolet station wagon. It's either blue and white or green and white it's two-toned--I know that. Now, why I say--why I take it for granted that Mrs. Paine was with him when he come to the grocery store--I do remember he wasn't driving when they would come to the grocery store, there would be a lady driving and I'm assuming that that was Mrs. Paine, because like I say, I have been--I have never been close enough to her and knew it, to speak to her, but she trades at the service station where I do and I saw her in there and I never did pay any attention to her and I saw her passing, met her in the road in the car and those things. (WC X, 317)
Edith Whitworth operated a used furniture store at 149 East Irving Boulevard and recalled how Oswald drove to her store in a "two-toned blue and white" automobile:
Mr. LIEBELER. You saw him drive up in the car?
Mrs. WHITWORTH. Yes; because it was all glass in front and I was sitting at the--well, it's the cash stand-- we call it there.
Mr. LIEBELER. Which direction was he driving the car at that time?
Mrs. WHITWORTH. Driving west on a one-way street--that's a one way there.
Mr. LIEBELER. Running from east to west?
Mrs. WHITWORTH. East to west.
Mr. LIEBELER. What kind of a car did he have, Mrs. Whitworth?
Mrs. WHITWORTH. Well, as far as I can remember--I wouldn't be---I wouldn't say for sure. All I can say is that I believe, you know, not paying a lot of attention to the car and the car not meaning anything at that time, that it was a two-tone blue and white. It was either a Ford or a Plymouth. Now, I wouldn't swear to that, but it was either one the car didn't mean anything to me at that time. Anyway, he came in and he stood--. (WC XI, 264)
Gertrude Hunter was a friend of Furniture Mart owner Edith Whitworth. Gertrude Hunter confirmed her friend's statement, indicating she too had seen Oswald drive a "two-tone blue Ford."
Mr. LIEBELER. It appears from information that has been provided to us by the FBI that you were in a store operated by Mrs. Whitworth sometime in 1963--that was formerly operated by Mrs. Whitworth--at which time people who you now believe to be Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife and-children came into the store, is that correct?
Mrs. HUNTER. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Would you tell us all the circumstances surrounding that event as best you can remember them?
Mrs. HUNTER. Well, it was after 2 o'clock and I had went down to talk to her--we were planning on a football trip and we were just sitting there in the store talking, discussing football games, and who was going with who and all, and this man drove up out in front of the store and he got out and he come in and he asked for a gunsmith.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you see the car drive up?
Mrs. HUNTER. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you see who was driving it?
Mrs. HUNTER. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Was this man driving it?
Mrs. HUNTER. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. How many people were in the car?
Mrs. HUNTER. Just him and a woman and two children.
Mr. LIEBELER. Nobody else?
Mrs. HUNTER. No one else.
Mr. LIEBELER. You are quite sure about that?
Mrs. HUNTER. I'm positive, because I was sitting right there I was sitting this way and the door was right here [indicating], and he drove cater-cornered up.
Mr. LIEBELER. And there are glass windows in the front of the store so that you could see right out into the street?
Mrs. HUNTER. It is a solid glass there and the door was standing open there.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you know about what kind of car it was?
Mrs. HUNTER. Now, the reason I'm definite about the car--a friend of .mine in Houston--I was looking for them up and they had a car just like this and I had left a note on my mailbox that I would be at this place--- telling them if anyone come I would be at this place and when they drove up I thought that was them and it was a two-tone-blue Ford.
Mr. LIEBELER. What year?
Mrs. HUNTER. 1957 or 1958--I won't be positive about that, but I would rather say it was about a 1957, I think. (WC XI, 254-255)
WC staffers may have been genuinely confused by the conflicting testimony, and so they arranged to have Marina Oswald, Gertrude Hunter, and Edith Whitworth appear together in an attempt to resolve the conflicts. Hunter and Whitworth both identified Marina as the woman they had seen arriving at the Furniture Mart in a car driven by Lee Harvey Oswald, but Marina denied everything. Here is one example.
Mrs. OSWALD. I have never seen Lee drive the car in my lifetime. Lee never drove a car with me or the children in it. The only time I saw him behind the wheel was when Ruth Paine taught him to drive the car, he was practicing parking the car when Ruth Paine was teaching him to drive.
Mr. LIEBELER. And that was all in front of Mr. Paine's house; wasn't it?
Mrs. OSWALD. Yes. I'm sure this lady is trying to tell the truth, but the only possible person who could have driven the car when we were in that store could have been Mrs. Ruth Paine. She knows all the stores where we went because we never went there without her. (WC XI, 280)
There are many other examples of people who knew Lee Harvey Oswald could drive an automobile, but rather than examining them all, let's just cut to the chase.
On February 14, 1968, Aletha Frair made the following signed statement to Garrison investigator Gary Sanders:
OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
STATE OF LOUISIANA
PARISH OF ORLEANS
DATE: February 14, 1968 STATEMENT OF: ALETHA FRAIR RESIDING AT: 8001 Benson
New Orleans, LA
Phone - 242-2126
S T A T E M E N T
My name is ALETHA FRAIR (MRS. JOHN FRAIR). I live at:
New Orleans, La.
Phone - 242-2126
I worked for the Department of Public Safety in Austin, Texas from the early part of October 1963, through the early part of December 1963. While I was employed at the Department of Public Safety I worked in the License Records Department. This Dept. Was responsible for the IBM computer records of all drivers licenses in the state of Texas.
My husband, JOHN, was working for the United Press International during November of 1963 and on November 22, 1963 he was in Uvalde, Texas, covering the birthday of ex-Vice President JOHN NANCE GARNER.
I did not go to work on the 22 of November, 1963, but the following event occured (sic) the week after the assassination of President KENNEDY.
During the week following the murder of LEE HARVEY OSWALD, on either Wednesday the 27th, or Tuesday the 28th of November, 1963 the Texas driver's license issued to LEE HARVEY OSWALD came into my division.
The record (IBM card) on OSWALD was pulled from the files. Several other employees (5 or 6) of the Department saw the driver's license which was dirty and worn as though it had been carried in a billfold. The license was the talk of the office that day since everyone knew who OSWALD was, and the reason his driver's license records were being pulled from the active file was the fact that he had been killed.
In October of 1966 my husband and I moved to New Orleans and in June of 1967 my husband went to work for WWL-TV, Channel 4.
I, ALETHA FRAIR, hereby affirm that all of the above statement is true to the best of my knowledge.
Signed February 14, 1968.
(Signature of Aletha Frair)
(Signature of witness Gary Sanders)
(Signature of witness Jody Duek)
In a cover memo accompanying the typed statement, Garrison investigator Gary Sanders gave the names of six women, several still employed at the Texas Department of Public Safety, who would confirm Aletha Frair's statement.
People familiar with John Armstrong's research understand how to resolve these seeming contradictions. "Harvey Oswald," the shorter Russian-speaking man, did not have a driver's license and did not drive. "Lee Oswald," the taller Southern-born American, had a valid Texas driver's license. From Mr. Armstrong's "Harvey and Lee" presentation at NID97:
Many people had knowledge of Lee Oswald's Texas driver's license or driving ability. When Marina, Robert and the Paines refused to admit Oswald could drive, they were referring to Harvey--they all knew Lee and knew he could drive."
Harvey lived at Oak Cliff, 13 miles from the Paine house, worked at the Book Depository without missing a day, was not in Irving during the week, did not have a driver's license, and could not drive. Lee Oswald had a Texas driver's license, was seen driving several different cars, and may have had an apartment in or near Irving as mentioned by James Hosty. As Shasteen observed, Lee Oswald may have lived at the Paine's during the week."
-- John Armstrong, 1997
from "Harvey and Lee"