Friday, April 25, 2014

John Judge, Mae Brussell and Don Norton

Posted by John Judge on the Education Forum - JFK Assassination Debate - July 31 2000

Bill Kelly requested that I relate the meeting I had with a man using the name Don Norton at the University of Dayton in Ohio in the 1970’s.

I had helped to make arrangements for researcher Mae Brussell to speak on campus. Kelly was also going to school there at the time, and attended her talk. After the crowd broke, I headed home with Mae and two roommates at our off campus house. Coming out of the Student Union, I noticed a man handing back, but following us down the hallway, and into the elevator. Mae was surrounded by a small group, including Bill Kelly, who were asking her questions. The man held back while she stopped outside in the dark to finish talking to them. Then Mae, myself and my roommates began to head toward home and stepped into the light of street lamps at the edge of campus.

At this point, the man came out of the shadows from behind us and came up to Mae, saying, “Mae, don’t you know who I am?” Mae turned, looked at him for a moment and said, “You look like Lee Harvey Oswald.”

And to my amazement, he did. Add ten years to his life, some receding hairline, but the resemblance was clearly there. He looked at his feet and said, “A lot of people tell me that. I’m Don Norton.”

At this Mae became effusive. “Oh Don, I’m so glad you come. John, this is Don Norton. He wrote to me to say he was going to drive down from Columbus to hear the talk. He’s the only researcher in the country who sends me money to do my work.” Again, the man looked at his feet and said, “It’s my conscience money.” I was still flabbergasted at his resemblance to Oswald and intrigued about who he was, so I invited him to come down to the house and visit with Mae and have a cup of coffee. He followed us there.

Inside, the resemblance was even clearer to me. He looked like the round, cherubic faced Oswald who was in the Soviet Union photos and on the passport photo, but not like the Oswald killed in Dallas. I expected him to ask questions of Mae, but instead he began a long recitation about Marxism and communist ideology. Finally, Mae got up from knitting and said, “I’m going to bed.” I offered to send my research writings to the man, and he told me to write to him at “General Delivery, Columbus, Ohio.” He bid goodnight to my two roommakes and myself and left.

The next day, on the way to visit a correspondent in a state prison in Ohio, Mae turned to me in the car and said, “Don’t you think that was Oswald who visited us last night?” And I said, “Well, it sure looked like Oswald,” Mae, but Oswald is dead.”  

“Not according to his mother,” Mae responded, “she told me that the man shot in the basement of the Dallas jail was not her son.” I was astounded. “Didn’t you notice what he was doing last night?”

I said, “Well, I thought it strange that he didn’t ask any questions or really talk to us.” 

“He was reciting verbatim the speech Oswald gave on the radio in New Orleans about communism and Marxism,” she explained. I had never heard the text of the speech, so it had not run a bell for me.

“I’m going to go home and check his signature on his letters to me. I have a whole collection of Oswald signatures, and they re not all the same person.” Mae said. She was clearly excited that she had met a living Oswald.

Resemblance.

I have now repeated this story to many researchers. Jack White and others took a special interest in it and followed down leads on a Don Norton in Columbus, but the early photo they showed me of that man did not resemble the person I saw. Later, I saw a photo of a man that lived in Florida and used the name Don Norton, and it was clearly the same person. I am convinced that the man I met that night was either the Oswald who lived with Marina in the Soviet Union, or a dead ringer for him. I do not know if his real name was Don Norton, of course, that is just the name he gave us. District Attorney Jim Garrison believed that someone using that name was involved in the Kennedy assassination conspiracy.

I later was a custodian of Mae Brussell’s library and correspondence files for a period. I never found the Norton letters, but they may still exist in her collection. Mae died in 1988. Bill Kelly and my old roommates sill recall the incident, but no additional details. Bill didn’t talk to the man calling himself Norton, he had parted from us before the man really talked but, of course, I will never forget the incident.

Lee Harvey Oswald had been a key in my work to understand who killed Kennedy and who set him up to take the blame. I realized early on that there was more than one Oswald,  that a “double” operation was going on prior to the assassination. I believe the man I met was Marguritte’s son, the real Oswald, back from the Soviet Union at some point. But until that night, Oswald had been a ghost to me, a name and a set of facts, not a person. Until the specials released about Oswald in the 1990s, I had never heard Oswald’s voice, save in the few stressed moments he is interviewed in the Dallas jail, his voice is terse and angry. Finally, he is heard in one documentary on tapes preserved by an English speaking teacher in the Soviet Union who befriended Lee, laughing and dramatizing a reading, and his persona comes through in a completely different way. These two voices are not the same in my view.

I also relayed this story to the Cuban intelligence officers who COPA arranged for researchers to meet in the Bahamas a few years ago, and Felix Rodriguez was intrigued. He told me a story of his own, from the days when he was trained in the 1950s by the KGB in Moscow. He said their officers were behind a clothing store just off Red Square, and that you entered in the back room by way of a concealed elevator, Like Maxwell Smart,” he joked. He said that his key KGB trainer had told him that Lee Harvey Oswald was still living in the Soviet Union, years after the Kennedy assassination had occurred. I wondered if this was the man I me so many years ago.

Did the “defector” Oswald stay in the Soviet Union and a double “Return” to the US? Is there still a living Oswald? Could he tell us anything about those who set him up as the patsy? Is Don Norton still alive? Others have done much more research than work on Norton than I have, and it’s worth studying. I live with this small piece of history. Ever since I began my work on the JFK assassination, it has created a web of synchronicity and serendipity for me, chance meetings with key individuals who know a piece of the puzzle.

For my purposes, the case is solved, but not yet finally proven.







I point the finger at the Joint Chiefs of Staff and at the Office of Naval Intelligence, who ran the young Marine “defector,” Lee Harvey Oswald, and those were among the last forthcoming agencies approached by the Review Board for the JFK assassination files.

In the early 1990s, before Oliver Stone’s film, Bill Kelly and I started the Committee for an Open Archives to press for the full release of the government files. We actually had found sponsors to introduce the bills and for a full and immediate release, among them Rep.  Henry Gonzales, who had been in the motorcade that day. Stone’s film created the groundswell of public outcry that led to the passage of the JFK Records Act of 1992. And the Committee for an Open Archives was one of the founding groups of the Coalition on Political Assassinations.














DONALD P. NORTON –

As summarized from interview notes taken by investigators (Charles Ward/R. Billings) for the New Orleans District Attorney (NODA) and newspaper clips, released by the NARA under the JFK Act.

Born on January 23, 1932, a native of Columbus, Georgia, Donald P. Norton was raised and educated in Georgia before entering the U.S. Air Force in October, 1949. A musician who played the organ and self-described TV personality, Norton enlisted with the understanding he would play in the Air Force Band, which he did until 1952 when he was discharged over what he described as a "personal involvement" and an "indiscretion" that led to him being sentenced to six months in a federal prison.

Returning to Georgia he continued his musical education at a conservatory where he earned a bachelor and master degrees and in 1957 a job playing at the officers club at Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia, where he performed for and met generals and other officers and officials. While there he was approached by a man who claimed to be representing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who told him "we want to know who does what to whom," which the NODA investigator surmised, "the obvious implication being that it would his duty to ferret out homosexuals in high military places."

The money, Norton said, was good, $500 a month, and Norton continued what he called his "witch hunting" assignment until 1958, when the colonel who employed him was charged with embezzlement.

Norton then moved to Atlanta where he performed on weekends at the officers club, whose secretary Norton was convinced, was also a government agent, continuing to turn over information about homosexuals, proof "based on experience."

In early 1958 he received a phone call from his contact who asked him if he would like to take a trip to Cuba.  He met "Hugh Pharris" at the Easter Airline ticket counter at the Atlanta Airport. "Pharris" gave him a case of phonograph records, saying "it is in the jackets," samples of which he was to take to Carlo Media, a Cuban television personality, who was also working for the CIA at the time. "Pharris" was described as a man who wore sun glasses and a very sloppy wig, who Norton is convinced was David Ferrie. A young lady was with him, Carlotta Roth, a dancer at the Domino Lounge in Atlanta. After traveling to Cuba, Norton returned to Georgia via Miami and New York and reported to his CIA contact in Atlanta.

Norton said his next assignment was to infiltrate the Fulton County jail, where he was placed in the same cell with Robert Bolling, accused of dynamiting a synagogue. Other assignments were more his specialty, to determine the existence of homosexuals in government jobs.

In 1960, while on a pleasure trip to New Orleans, Norton said he went to the My-O-My Club, a homosexual hangout, where he saw "Hugh Pharris" (aka David Ferrie), though he didn't break operational security and talk to him.

According to the NODA investigation report of the interview with Norton, "…it should be noted that the man's (Norton's) physical appearance and his behavior indicate at a glance his sexual nature. A man of rather delicate features, slightly overweight, he is extremely nervous, a chain smoker, which may well be explained by the fact that he is indeed frightened. On the other hand, he is a fast-talking, well rehearsed witness, although his testimony is often confusing due to his penchant for inconsequential gossip. He has a very inflated ego about his musical talents and his ability to decipher weaknesses of others. He describes himself as a passive homosexual who is really a bisexual, although the latter terminology must be considered doubtful. On observation it must be stated that it seems unlikely that a man of such homosexual tendencies would be employed by the intelligence agency, but, as he described the nature of his work, this was exactly the reason they hired him. He described the reason for going to work for the agency as two-fold. One, 'they had something on me,' he says, and two, 'the money was good.'"

Norton said he was paid on an assignment-by-assignment basis, received his orders by phone from a man who was only identified as "the Captain," and never heard the term "CIA" by the initials used to describe the agency, and the first reference was the last reference to the company. He was tightly insulated from other CIA operatives and only knows of a few others who have worked for the agency.

In September, 1962, Norton said he was given the assignment of delivering $50,000 to the Hotel Yamajel, in Monterray, Mexico. Driving in his own 1956 Buick, he registered under his own name.

According to the NODA investigator's report, "It should be noted here that Norton's knowledge of Cuban policy of this country is extremely vague. He is able to theorize as if it were some revelation that the United States or CIA was behind the overthrow of Batista, but then when Castro threw out the CIA, it in turn, and the U.S. government turned against Castro. He does however say that Carlo Media, the CIA-employed Cuban is now in a Castro prison, so he thinks. He says that after the Castro overthrow his only assignment involving Cuba was this courier trip to Monterray to turn over $50,000 to Harvey Lee…"

After registering at the Yamajel Hotel, Norton said he was met by "Harvey Lee" before he could even get to his room. They went into the bar and had a few beers. Norton described "Harvey Lee" as "a man of slight build who dressed casually, who appeared identical to Oswald except for the fact that his hair was not as thin as the hair of the man he saw in pictures identified as Lee Harvey Oswald."

Norton also noted that "Harvey Lee" refused to look him in the eye. When asked where he was from, Norton recalled the answer, he thinks, was New Orleans. In return for the case of money, in return Norton was given a case of documents in manila envelopes, "the nature of which he does not know."

From Monterray, Norton said he then drove to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he became a television personality and played at the bar of the Georgian Terrace restaurant. "There he was met by a man he can only describe as resembling Oral Roberts, the evangelist, and says this man came to him and used the code identification 'the weather is very warm in Tulsa," and Norton turned over the documents to him in the parking lot, where the man was driving a Volkswagon.

Returning to the United States, Norton was arrested at the behest of Albert Penn of Five Points, Alabama, who Norton knew as a homosexual, and from whom he received some of his instructions. Penn accused Norton of stealing checks, but he was acquitted of the charge and released.

In 1965 Norton went to Albany, Georgia, where he was contacted by "the Captain," who may be also known as "Del Merton." In Albany in 1966 he saw a man he now knows to be Clay Shaw with James A. Gray, an extreme right-wing political power, talking together at the Double Gate Country Club. Gray then offered to help establish Norton in Albany with a $6,000 loan, which was ostensibly and surreptitiously repaid by the CIA. Norton described Gary as a dangerous person and moneyman behind the Continental Room, where Gordon Leonard was the front man. Norton later crossed paths with Clay Shaw once again at the Domino Bar in Atlanta.

In Albany, Norton was told to recruit the services of an ex-Marine police officer, John Stickler, and a friend, Jack C. White, Jr., but failed to follow through on the assignment.

In late November 1966 Norton was instructed to go to Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island, where he was to get the names of the homosexuals working at the missile tracking station on Grand Bahama, his last assignment for the CIA. After a week he returned to Miami where he called his contact, a "Mr. Green," who informed him that "something was brewing in New Orleans and…he should take a long, quiet vacation."

According to the NODA report, "Norton claims he had no idea as to the nature of the New Orleans development, and that he had no idea why he was being told to take this vacation. It worried him a great deal, so he went on a long circuitous trip attempting to find out what was happening, shy he had been summarily dismissed, so to speak. He suspected that he had done something wrong but did not know the nature of the misdeed.

He first went to Key West to contact a CIA friend there, but was unsuccessful. He returned to Miami but was unable to reach Green again. He then drove to Savanna, and by this time was really frightened. He got in a plane and flew to Dallas and tried to contact a man named Stanley Walsh, who he had known in Houston, a man he describes as a former trapeze artist, a former paratrooper who had been working for the agency…"

Flying to Honolulu, Norton contacted a retired naval captain, a doctor then in private practice, who told Norton to forget the problem. Another CIA contact, Bill Rusk, came from Texas, an alcoholic with Mafia connections who ran a liquor store in the Pioneer Hotel, who told him, "Join the party or get out."

From there Norton went to Canada to hide out, but inexplicitly talked to a reporter, John Taylor of the British Columbia Vancover Sun, requesting that Taylor put him in contact with the New Orleans District Attorney's office. On August 5, 1967, the headline read: "AMERICAN, 'NOWHERE ELSE TO GO' COMES HERE TO TELL FANTASTIC TALE LINKS CIA WITH OSWALD, CLAY SHAW."

"A link between Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw, David Ferrie and the Central Intelligence Agency is claimed by a man now in Vancover. Donald P. Norton, 35, told The Sun he encountered all three while he was on the payroll of the CIA, the U.S. espionage agency."

"Norton has been interviewed here and in New Orleans by officials of the New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrision, whose investigation has been questioned by many sources, alleged a conspiracy between Shaw and Oswald in the assassination of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy."

"…Norton first came to see The Sun, July 8. Since then many details of Norton's story have been confirmed. But the authenticity of his central claims defy verification by normal newspaper investigation…"

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