Don's Blog

Clay Shaw/Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw/Dueling Voices/I Lost It at the Beginning/101 Reasons Not To Murder The Entire Saudi Royal Family/He Knew Where He Was Going (?)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Change of Thinking on Clay Shaw Case

 A few people have written over the last few weeks, and indeed over the years, to ask if I had changed my thinking on the Clay Shaw criminal case over my long years of research.

The answer is Yes, but perhaps not in as dramatic a way as some experience the longer they take a look at it.

 My biography of Shaw, Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, was written in as objective a manner as was humanly possible, both about Shaw's life as a whole, and about his involvement, or lack thereof, in the conspiracy that New Orleans DA Jim Garrison charged him with.

I began actual independent research in 1994, but I had read numerous books about the case. I know the prosecution had failed in court, but I also knew there were gray areas all around, and many unanswered questions. Some of those remain to this day, but the release of many of the records during the 1990s clarified many of those things for the first time (although it required actually going through those voluminous records).

I would some it up by saying that I had a majority view in my mind before beginning research, but also a potent, if smaller, minority view. The years of research moved the needle in the direction of the majority view (I'm using "majority" and "minority" not in terms of a poll of the general public, or even the body of Jim Garrison/Clay Shaw researchers, but as bodies of though in my own thinking.).

The book as a finished product represents the culmination of that evolution, which doesn't really qualify as a sea change (some would say), but rather a years-long clarification.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Clay Shaw and Dr. Alton Ochsner

Dr. Alton Ochsner was a very prominent citizen in New Orleans during the 1940s through the 1970s. He was a world-renowned surgeon, known for his surgical skills and his opposition to cigarette smoking.

In my biography of Clay Shaw, Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, I go into Shaw's interactions with Dr. Ochsner over the years when both men were public figures.

Dr. Ochsner was involved in various conservative, mainly anti-Communist, activities during this period, and sometimes pops up on leftist conspiracy theory radars.

From going through Dr. Ochsner's records at libraries, I recall certain things related to the practice of medicine in the 1950s and 1960s, including:

1. His opposition to cigarette smoking was not shared by many doctors in the early going. One medical colleague of Ochsner compared the increase in lung cancer cases at a time of increased cigarette consumption to a similar rise in the use of nylon hosiery during the same time period! many doctors smoked at the time, and were not open to the linkage between cigarettes and lung cancer.

2. Doctors during the era often charged patients vastly different fees for services based upon the patients' incomes. It was not uncommon for surgeons to charge 3-5 times the fee for a surgery to a wealthy patient compared to a patient of more modest means. Prominent New Orleans lawyer Edgar Stern, planning for an operation needed for his son, pre-emptively sent a letter to Dr. Ochsner sounding a note of concern about the fee he would be charged. Ochsner responded assuring him his fee would be reasonable, and Stern later agreed that it was.

3. In the 1970s, a writer worked on a proposed biography of Dr. Ochsner. One of Dr. Ochsner's colleagues, in a 2-page letter to the writer, recalled how, as a young intern, he had witnessed Dr. Ochsner and Dr. Michael DeBakey, the prominent Houston surgeon under whom Dr. Ochsner had trained, performing a surgery on a patient. The letter writer recalled how relaxed the two surgeons were during the surgery, and how they got into the steam shower together later to celebrate; the writer recalled how meaningful the event had been to him, to witness such a successful surgery. On the second page of the letter, however, the writer indicated how, unfortunately, the patient had died that same day.

4. The issue of malpractice suits was already a contentious issue. Around 1959-60, Dr. Ochsner's own grandchild had died as a result of a defective polio vaccine. The parents (Dr. Ochsner's daughter and son-in-law) filed suit against the drug maker. At a board meeting of the Ochsner medical group held around that time, there was discussion of firing Dr. Ochsner's son-in-law, who was the group's public affairs director. At a later board meeting, it was discussed that the lawsuit had been dropped, but no reason was given.

Clay Shaw was a prominent smoker among figures of that era, and his father underwent a surgery in the mid-1960s performed by Dr. Ochsner, so these issues likely arose. Shaw also underwent several yearly lung scans in the early 1960s, somewhat unusual for that era. Based upon my review, it seemed that Shaw and Ochsner had a mutual respect for each other. Shaw served as interim Managing Director for International House during a year when Dr. Ochsner was the group's president (after Charles Nutter had left the group and before Paul Fabry replaced him). Later, Ochsner was supportive, behind the scenes, at least in written correspondence, of Shaw during Shaw's ordeal at the hands of Jim Garrison.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Nashville: The Mood Sales PIcking up Steam

 I have noticed an uptick in sales of one or more portions of Nashville: The Mood (Parts 1-10) during 2020. The sordid version of life in Nashville weaves its way through a landscape of semi-corrupt, non-ideological politicians, mediocre hospitals and physicians, thoughtful prostitutes, tormented preachers, prejudices and biases, both sound and emotional. The city is marred by both vicious gossip and unhealthy white flour to a point that its unrecognizability as a modern city is within its grasp.

Let's see what 2021 brings!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

How Much Did Clay Shaw's Attorneys Know About HIs CIA Connections?

 In my biography of Shaw, Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, I discuss this issue in some detail, but without ever finding the complete answer(s). Irvin Dymond's paralegal received a call from a mysterious caller in September 1967, shortly before Shaw's trial was initially supposed to begin (it was subsequently delay until January 1969). The caller indicated that he and Shaw had been recruited to work for the CIA in 1948-49. It was all rather vague and mysterious, including the name of the CIA person by whom they were contacted (a Mr. Bertram, interestingly enough, given that the name Clay Bertrand had been in the news for over six months). I know that William McFadden Duffy, the publicity man with International House, is also mentioned in a 1954 CIA document as being a contact in the same mention with Shaw, but I don't know if Shaw or Duffy knew that the other man was a contact.

Anyone have any thoughts on this, other than speculation?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

New Interest in Clay Shaw

 I sense a new interest in Clay Shaw, beyond just his prosecution. I felt I made a very good attempt to answer as many questions as I could, but as with any person's life, there were still unanswered questions at the end of my exhaustive search.

As time rolls by, I'll be curious if someone is able to discover some letter, telegram, diary, etc., that sheds some light on the remaining mysteries.

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