The story

Billie Sol Estes

Billie Sol Estes


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Billie Sol Estes, ne of six children of John and Lillian Estes, was born on a farm near Clyde, Texas, on 10th January, 1925. According to the New York Times: "He was an average student. His family was poor, but Billie Sol showed early promise as a financier. At 13, he received a lamb as a gift, sold its wool for $5, bought another lamb and went into business. At 15, he sold 100 sheep for $3,000. He borrowed $3,500 more from a bank, bought government surplus grain and sold it for a big profit. By 18, he had $38,000."

After marrying in 1946 he moved to the small town of Pecos. As a result of high irrigation costs, local farmers found it difficult to make profits from their cotton crops. Estes started up a company providing irrigation pumps that used cheap natural gas. Farmers had previously used irrigation pumps powered by electricity. Estes also sold anhydrous ammonia as a fertilizer. This was a great success and Estes soon became a wealthy businessman. In 1953 he was named one of America’s 10 outstanding young men by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Estes's business encountered problems when the Department of Agriculture began to control the production of cotton. Allotments were issued telling the cotton farmers how much they could and could not plant. In 1958 Estes made contact with Lyndon B. Johnson. Over the next couple of years Estes ran a vast scam getting federal agricultural subsidies. According to Estes he obtained $21 million a year for "growing" and "storing" non-existent crops of cotton.

In 1960 Henry Marshall was asked to investigate the activities of Billie Sol Estes. Marshall discovered that over a two year period, Estes had purchased 3,200 acres of cotton allotments from 116 different farmers. Marshall wrote to his superiors in Washington on 31st August, 1960, that: "The regulations should be strengthened to support our disapproval of every case (of allotment transfers)".

When he heard the news, Billie Sol Estes sent his lawyer, John P. Dennison, to meet Marshall in Robertson County. At the meeting on 17th January, 1961, Marshall told Dennison that Estes was clearly involved in a "scheme or device to buy allotments, and will not be approved, and prosecution will follow if this operation is ever used." Marshall was disturbed that as a result of sending a report of his meeting to Washington, he was offered a new post at headquarters. He assumed that Bille Sol Estes had friends in high places and that they wanted him removed from the field office in Robertson County. Marshall refused what he considered to be a bribe.

A week after the meeting between Marshall and Dennison, A. B. Foster, manager of Billie Sol Enterprises, wrote to Clifton C. Carter, a close aide to Lyndon B. Johnson, telling him about the problems that Marshall was causing the company. Foster wrote that "we would sincerely appreciate your investigating this and seeing if anything can be done." Over the next few months Marshall had meetings with eleven county committees in Texas. He pointed out that Billie Sol Estes scheme to buy cotton allotments were illegal. This information was then communicated to those farmers who had been sold their cotton allotments to Billie Sol Enterprises.

On 3rd June, 1961, Marshall was found dead on his farm by the side of his Chevy Fleetside pickup truck. His rifle lay beside him. He had been shot five times with his own rifle. County Sheriff Howard Stegall decreed that Marshall had committed suicide. No pictures were taken of the crime scene, no blood samples were taken of the stains on the truck (the truck was washed and waxed the following day), and no check for fingerprints were made on the rifle or pickup.

Marshall's wife (Sybil Marshall) and brother (Robert Marshall) refused to believe he had committed suicide and posted a $2,000 reward for information leading to a murder conviction. The undertaker, Manley Jones, also reported: "To me it looked like murder. I just do not believe a man could shoot himself like that." The undertaker's son, Raymond Jones, later told the journalist, Bill Adler in 1986: "Daddy said he told Judge Farmer there was no way Mr. Marshall could have killed himself. Daddy had seen suicides before. JPs depend on us and our judgments about such things. we see a lot more deaths than they do. But in this case, Daddy said, Judge Farmer told him he was going to put suicide on the death certificate because the sheriff told him to." As a result, Lee Farmer returned a suicide verdict: "death by gunshot, self-inflicted."

Sybil Marshall hired an attorney, W. S. Barron, in order to persuade the Robertson County authorities to change the ruling on Marshall's cause of death. One man who did believe that Marshall had been murdered was Texas Ranger Clint Peoples. He had reported to Colonel Homer Garrison, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, that it "would have been utterly impossible for Mr. Marshall to have taken his own life."

Peoples also interviewed Nolan Griffin, a gas station attendant in Robertson County. Griffin claimed that on the day of Marshall's death, he had been asked by a stranger for directions to Marshall's farm. A Texas Ranger artist, Thadd Johnson, drew a facial sketch based on a description given by Griffin. Peoples eventually came to the conclusion that this man was Mac Wallace, the convicted murderer of John Kinser.

In early 1962, Oscar Griffin Jr., the city editor of The Pecos Independent and Enterprise, published an article arguing that thousands of mortgages had been taking out for nonexistent fertilizer tanks. Soon afterwards Billie Sol Estes was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on fraud and conspiracy charges. Time Magazine reported that "He (Billie Sol Estes) considered dancing immoral, often delivered sermons as a Church of Christ lay preacher. But he ruthlessly ruined business competitors, practiced fraud and deceit on a massive scale, and even victimized Church of Christ schools that he was supposed to be helping as a fund raiser or financial adviser."

It was also disclosed by the Secretary of Agriculture, Orville L. Freeman, that Henry Marshall had been a key figure in the investigation into the illegal activities of Billie Sol Estes. As a result, the Robertson County grand jury ordered that the body of Marshall should be exhumed and an autopsy performed. After eight hours of examination, Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk confirmed that Marshall had not committed suicide. Jachimczyk also discovered a 15 percent carbon monoxide concentration in Marshall's body. Jachimczyk calculated that it could have been as high as 30 percent at the time of death.

On 4th April, 1962, George Krutilek, Estes chief accountant, was found dead. Despite a severe bruise on Krutilek's head, the coroner decided that he had also committed suicide. The next day, Estes, and three business associates, were indicted by a federal grand jury on 57 counts of fraud. Two of these men, Harold Orr and Coleman Wade, later died in suspicious circumstances. At the time it was said they committed suicide but later Estes was to claim that both men were murdered by Mac Wallace in order to protect the political career of Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations also began to look into the case of Billie Sol Estes. Leonard C. Williams, a former assistant to Henry Marshall, testified about the evidence the department acquired against Estes. Orville L. Freeman also admitted that Marshall was a man "who left this world under questioned circumstances."

It was eventually discovered that three officials of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration in Washington had received bribes from Billie Sol Estes. Red Jacobs, Jim Ralph and Bill Morris were eventually removed from their jobs. However, further disclosures suggested that the Secretary of Agriculture, might be involved in the scam. In September, 1961, Billie Sol Estes had been fined $42,000 for illegal cotton allotments. Two months later, Freeman appointed Estes to the National Cotton Advisory Board.

It was also revealed that Billie Sol Estes told Wilson C. Tucker, deputy director of the Agriculture Department's cotton division, on 1st August, 1961, that he threatened to "embarrass the Kennedy administration if the investigation were not halted". Tucker went onto testify: "Estes stated that this pooled cotton allotment matter had caused the death of one person and then asked me if I knew Henry Marshall". As Tucker pointed out, this was six months before questions about Marshall's death had been raised publicly.

However, the cover-up continued. Tommy G. McWilliams, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, came to the conclusion that Marshall had indeed committed suicide. He wrote: "My theory was that he shot himself and then realized he wasn't dead." He then claimed that he then tried to kill himself by inhaling carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe of his truck. McWilliams claimed that Marshall had used his shirt to make a hood over the exhaust pipe. Even J. Edgar Hoover was not impressed with this theory. He wrote on 21st May, 1962: "I just can't understand how one can fire five shots at himself."

Joseph A. Jachimczyk also disagreed with the FBI report. He believed that the bruise on Marshall's forehead had been caused by a "severe blow to the head". Jachimczyk also rejected the idea that Marshall had used his shirt as a hood. He pointed out that "if this were done, soot must have necessarily been found on the shirt; no such was found."

The Robertson County grand jury continued to investigate the death of Henry Marshall. However, some observers were disturbed by the news that grand jury member, Pryse Metcalfe, was dominating proceedings. Metcalfe was County Sheriff Howard Stegall's son-in-law. On 1st June, 1962, the Dallas Morning News reported that President John F. Kennedy had "taken a personal interest in the mysterious death of Henry Marshall." As a result, the story said, Robert Kennedy "has ordered the FBI to step up its investigation of the case."

In June, 1962, Billie Sol Estes, appeared before the grand jury. He was accompanied by John Cofer, a lawyer who represented Lyndon B. Johnson when he was accused of ballot-rigging when elected to the Senate in 1948 and Mac Wallace when he was charged with the murder of John Kinser. Billie Sol Estes spent almost two hours before the grand jury, but he invoked the Texas version of the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer most questions on grounds that he might incriminate himself.

Tommy G. McWilliams of the FBI also appeared before the grand jury and put forward the theory that Henry Wallace had committed suicide. Dr. Jachimczyk also testified that "if in fact this is a suicide, it is the most unusual one I have seen during the examination of approximately 15,000 deceased persons." McWilliams did admit that it was "hard to kill yourself with a bolt-action 22". This view was shared by John McClellan, a member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He posed for photographs with a .22 caliber rifle similar to Marshall's. McClellan pointed out: "It doesn't take many deductions to come to the irrevocable conclusion that no man committed suicide by placing the rifle in that awkward position and then (cocking) it four times more."

Despite the evidence presented by Jachimczyk, the grand jury agreed with McWilliams. It ruled that after considering all the known evidence, the jury considers it "inconclusive to substantiate a definite decision at this time, or to overrule any decision heretofore made." Later, it was disclosed that some jury members believed that Marshall had been murdered. Ralph McKinney blamed Pryse Metcalfe for this decision. "Pryse was as strong in the support of the suicide verdict as anyone I have ever seen in my life, and I think he used every influence he possibly could against the members of the grand jury to be sure it came out with a suicide verdict."

Estes trial began in October 1962. John Cofer, who was also Lyndon Johnson's lawyer, refused to put Estes on the witness stand. Estes was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to eight years in prison. Federal proceedings against Estes began in March 1963. He was eventually charged with fraud regarding mortgages of more that $24 million. Estes was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

In 1964 the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported that it could find no link between Marshall's death and his efforts to bring to an end Billie Sol Estes' cotton allotment scheme. The following year Billie Sol Estes went to prison for fraud relating to the mostly nonexistent fertilizer tanks he had put up for collateral as part of the cotton allotment scam. He was released in 1971 but he was later sent back to prison for mail fraud and non-payment of income tax.

In 1964 J. Evetts Haley published A Texan Looks at Lyndon. In the book Haley attempted to expose Johnson's corrupt political activities. This included a detailed look at the relationship between Estes and Johnson. Haley pointed out that three men who could have provided evidence in court against Estes, George Krutilek, Harold Orr and Howard Pratt, all died of carbon monoxide poisoning from car engines.

The case was taken up by the journalist Joachim Joesten. In his books, The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson (1968) and How Kennedy was Killed: The Full Appalling Story (1968), Joesten argues that Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and was as a direct result of the scandals involving Estes and Bobby Baker.

Clint Peoples retired from the Texas Rangers in 1974 but he continued to investigate the murder of Henry Marshall. In 1979 Peoples interviewed Billie Sol Estes in prison. Estes promised that "when he was released he would solve the puzzle of Henry Marshall's death".

Billie Sol Estes was released from prison in December, 1983. Three months later he appeared before the Robertson County grand jury. He confessed that Henry Marshall was murdered because it was feared he would "blow the whistle" on the cotton allotment scam. Billie Sol Estes claimed that Marshall was murdered on the orders of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was afraid that his own role in this scam would become public knowledge. According to Estes, Clifton C. Carter, Johnson's long-term aide, had ordered Marshall to approve 138 cotton allotment transfers.

Billie Sol Estes told the grand jury that he had a meeting with Johnson and Carter about Henry Marshall. Johnson suggested that Marshall be promoted out of Texas. Estes agreed and replied: "Let's transfer him, let's get him out of here. Get him a better job, make him an assistant secretary of agriculture." However, Marshall rejected the idea of being promoted in order to keep him quiet.

Estes, Johnson and Carter had another meeting on 17th January, 1961, to discuss what to do about Henry Marshall. Also at the meeting was Mac Wallace. After it was pointed out that Marshall had refused promotion to Washington, Johnson said: "It looks like we'll just have to get rid of him." Wallace, who Estes described as a hitman, was given the assignment.

Billie Sol Estes also told the grand jury that he met Clifton C. Carter and Mac Wallace at his home in Pecos after Marshall was killed. Wallace described how he waited for Marshall at his farm. He planned to kill him and make it appear as if Marshall committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, Marshall fought back and he was forced to shoot him with his own rifle. He quoted Carter as saying that Wallace "sure did botch it up." Johnson was now forced to use his influence to get the authorities in Texas to cover-up the murder. The grand jury rejected the testimony of Billie Sol Estes. Carter, Wallace and Johnson were all dead and could not confirm Billie Sol's testimony. However, the Grand Jury did change the verdict on the death of Henry Marshall from suicide to death by gunshot.

On 9th August, 1984, Estes' lawyer, Douglas Caddy, wrote to Stephen S. Trott at the U.S. Department of Justice. In the letter Caddy claimed that Estes, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mac Wallace and Clifton C. Carter had been involved in the murders of Henry Marshall, George Krutilek, Harold Orr, Ike Rogers, Coleman Wade, Josefa Johnson, John Kinser and John F. Kennedy. Caddy added: "Mr. Estes is willing to testify that LBJ ordered these killings, and that he transmitted his orders through Cliff Carter to Mac Wallace, who executed the murders."

Four days later, the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics ruled that there was now "clear and convincing" evidence to prove Henry Marshall was murdered and State District Judge Peter Lowry ordered that the death certificate should be changed to "homicide by gunshot wounds".

In 1984 Billie Sol Estes' daughter, Pam Estes, published Billie Sol: King of Texas Wheeler-Dealers. This was followed by JFK, the Last Standing Man (co-written with William Reymond) in France (Le Dernier Temoin). In the book Estes claims that Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in assassination of President John F. When interviewed by the American journalist, Pete Kendall, Estes said: “He (Johnson) told me if I wouldn’t talk, I would not go to jail.” Estes has had no contact with LBJ’s other long-ago associates, he said, since the book’s publication. “About all of them are dead, really. I think I’m about the last one standing.” That’s partly why, he said, he wasn’t interested in doing a book sooner. “I’ve been accused of being dumb,” he said, “but I’m not stupid.”

Douglas Caddy, Billie Sol Estes's lawyer, in reply to questions on the JFK Forum, said on 3rd March, 2012:

(1) I give great credibility to the accusations made by Billie Sol Estes in the relevant 1984 letter to the U.S. There were contemporaneous newspaper reports of the untimely deaths of almost all of the persons listed by him in the letter. In addition, Texan historian J. Evetts Haley in his 1964 book, A Texan Looks at Lyndon, wrote in great detail about Estes and the victims.

(2) I don’t think my having met Estes, which originally occurred in 1983 when I was asked to do so by Shearn Moody, Jr., of the Moody Foundation in connection with a grant request from Estes, influenced my assessment of the accusations one way or the other. This is because there already existed in the public record much evidence to support Estes’ accusations.

(3) U.S. Marshal Clint Peoples, who had closely followed Estes’ activities for 25 years, told me on several occasions that his research supported Estes’ accusations. His exact words to me: “It is about time that the truth comes out.” It was Marshal Peoples who arranged for Estes to testify in 1984 before the Robertson County grand jury. Press reports at the time disclosed that Estes reiterated his accusations in his grand jury testimony.

(4) There was no signed and notarized document of Estes dating before I met him that recorded his accusations. He had not determined to tell what he knew until while still in federal prison at Big Spring, Texas, he contacted Shearn Moody, Jr. in 1983 and indicated he was prepared to relate for the public record what he knew.

(5) Estes has maintained that he has taped recordings of conversations of the conspirators that support his accusations. I have not heard the recordings and have no knowledge of their whereabouts.

(6) He confided in U.S. Marshal Peoples of what he knew. Peoples is now deceased. However, the transcript of Estes’ testimony before the Robertson County grand jury in 1984, if it were unsealed, would clarify much.

(7) At the time of JFK assassination, LBJ was facing criminal proceedings stemming from his involvement in the Billie Sol Estes and the Bobby Baker scandals that were reaching the explosive stage. LBJ’s involvement in these two scandals certainly adds credence to what Estes has alleged.

Billie Sol Estes died at his home in Granbury, Texas, on 13th May 2013.

© John Simkin, May 2013

Estes finally said too much and went too far. He believed what he preached. Perhaps it was inevitable but the law finally caught up with him.

In 1962, he was facing federal fraud charges. The problems started during his expansion years because he used the government for enrichment. For the Democrats, and particularly for Johnson, Estes willingly contributed large sums of money. To all appearances, he was a generous man who enjoyed politics. Behind the scenes, he needed help at the Department of Agriculture with cotton allotments. That meant politics and Lyndon Johnson.

The two men had a natural attraction to each other. His relationship with Johnson was strong because he readily contributed large sums to Johnson's campaigns and because he included Johnson in some of these business dealings, all behind the scenes. By 1958, a memo from staff member Lloyd Hand to Johnson recognized Estes as someone the Senate's majority leader was interested in.

The memo is interesting. Never before disclosed, it belies Johnson's later efforts to distance himself from Estes. When criminal charges were filed in 1962, Johnson would only admit he had one personal contact with Estes, inviting him to a party at his Washington home during inaugural week in January 1961. In fact, the relationship was much deeper and involved large sums of cash and other help.

On the night of April 4, 1962, at the western end of Texas, a ranchman came upon the body of George Krutilek in the sandhills near the town of Clint, slumped in his car with a hose from his exhaust stuck in the window. He had been dead for several days, and the El Paso County pathologist, Dr. Frederick Bornstein , held that he certainly did not die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Krutilek was a forty-nine-year old certified public accountant who had undergone secret grilling by FBI agents on April 2, the day after Billie Sol Estes' arrest. Krutilek had worked for Estes and had been the recipient of his favors, but he was never seen or heard of again after the FBI grilling until his badly decomposed body was found.

The Billie Sol Estes case is more than just a scandal. It is more than a sordid picture of favoritism and fraud. It is a study in the operations and attitudes of some of the top officials of government - many of whom are still with us....

This isn't rumour; this isn't speculation. This is on the record, tying the office of the man who now lives in the White House with Billie Sol Estes.... The interim President whose office dealt with Billie Sol Estes does not press for exposure. His power is used for far different ends, and the White House has been turned into the whitewash house.

He (Billie Sol Estes) went into bankruptcy and, at the end of March, 1962, was arrested by the FBI. One year later he went on trial, in federal district court in El Paso, on multiple charges of mail fraud involving the swindling of about 100 individuals and a dozen major finance companies, in mortgage deals which involved $ 24 million. The jury found him guilty on four mail fraud counts and one conspiracy charge; he was declared innocent on nine other counts. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison and later drew additional prison sentences following other indictments in federal and state courts. He was last reported to be serving a 15 year stretch in Leavenworth federal penitentiary.

The most sensational, and probably the most vicious, of the big magazine articles was found in Look magazine dated July 31, 1962, but coming on the news stands around July 15. All copies coming to Pecos were sold out within a day or two.

The article started by picturing Pecos before, and after, the discovery of an abundant supply of water beneath the arid ground in the Pecos area, and the description was fairly accurate.

Then began a systematic, rather thorough, history of the buildup to the Estes scandal. The article did not hesitate to quote many people. One of the most interesting was that made by "Tuffy" Alley, a Pecos old-timer, to a Look reporter, in which he said "I admire Estes in a way. He's a damn thief, but he's no petty thief. If you're going to get caught stealing, don't go to stealing chickens...

Attorney General Wilson held another hearing in Amarillo, with a large number of important witnesses, and on July 28, 1962 the News came out with a banner headline saying "Estes Associate Tells Hearing Millions May Be Buried in Pecos Pauper's Casket."

Harold Orr said, according to the News, that $3.5 million received by Estes could not be traced. Another witness speculated that the $3.5 million was buried in a pauper's casket, the funeral having been held at Estes' Colonial Funeral Home. Wilson said "the biggest digging Pecos ever had is about to start."

During the first week in August, Texas Ranger Captain Clint Peoples was in Pecos continuing the investigation of the controversial circumstances of Henry Marshall's death. Colonel Homer Garrison, Director of the State Department of Public Safety, still held to the theory that Marshall was murdered. This theory came from the fact that Marshall had been shot five times with a .22 caliber, bolt action, rifle, supposedly by himself.

The next six weeks was more or less a prelude to the trial of Estes, most of the activity being in Washington with the Agriculture Department's concern with Billie Sol's cotton allotments, how he got them, who helped him get them, and were they legal or illegal. John Dennison, one of Estes' lawyers, told the Senators that Estes was innocent of any wrongdoing as far as acreage transfers were concerned...

On September 15 a former general manager of Estes' operations testified at a hearing that, a few days before his arrest, Estes had pretty well "milked" all of his various companies by checks and withdrawal of cash. Estes had given the manager two brown envelopes, sealed, to put in his safety deposit box. A few days later, on Estes' instructions, he recovered the envelopes and delivered them to Estes. The manager did not know what was in the envelopes, but presumed it was probably about $17,000 that Estes had drawn from one of his companies.

Then, on September 21, the News announced that a Federal jury at El Paso had found Orr, Alexander and McSpadden guilty of several counts of fraud and were given prison terms of from six to 35 years each. Sentencing was delayed until January 7, 1963 to allow the three to testify at the Estes trial.

A number of people had been trying to buy Estes' assets. After approval of Estes' creditors, they were finally sold September 23 to Morris Jaffe, of San Antonio, for $7 million.

The Estes trial started September 24, on time, but Estes' lawyers immediately started an attempt to further delay the trial, as was expected. Estes lawyers also demanded that there be no TV live coverage of the trial, but Judge Dunagan overruled the request...

One witness, T.J. Wilson of Pecos, said that his signature was forged to a tank mortgage. All this first day was filled with contentions and arguments, the jury spending more time out of the courtroom than in.

On Thursday, Novermber 1, a new mystery entered the case. The original of the lease made by T.J. Wilson, which he said was forged, had disappeared and only a photo copy was available. The Judge would not allow the photo copy to be introduced as evidence. Again, the defense caused delay after delay in their efforts to protect their client as much as possible.

On November 2, 1962, according to the News, Harold Orr testified that he forged the Wilson instrument, saying Billie Sol told him to do so. Orr also testified that he sent all available blank serial number identification plates to Pecos with two men to change the plates while C.I.T. was making a check.

On January 25, 1963 Judge Dunagan, of Tyler, sentenced Estes to eight years in prison. Cofer promptly announced that it would be appealed...

The selection of Federal jurors for the Estes trial in El Paso began Monday, March 11, 1963. Defense attorney Cofer immediately moved to declare a mistrial, which was promptly overruled by Judge Thomason. Testimony, which proved to be a long, drawn out affair, began on March 15 with more shouting on the part of the lawyers.

Alexander, Orr and McSpadden were never called to testify. Then on March, 20, the government suddenly rested their case, catching the defense off guard, and court was messed until the next day. Upon convening the next morning, Cofer moved for a directed verdict of acquittal, which was again denied.

On April 16, 1963 the Daily News announced that Estes had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. In sentencing Estes, Judge Thomason said "The record shows that you were the perpetrator of one of the most gigantic swindles in the history of our country." Estes was freed-on a $100,000 bond pending appeal. The bond was signed by his uncle, Dr. Sol Estes, and his brother, Dr. John Estes, both of Abilene.

After being relesed on bond, the News gave accounts of Estes' visits to a number of schools and churches in the deep South. He first went to Nashville on April 23, where he visited the Nashville Christian Institute, a negro school, where he was emotionally greeted. Estes haid befriended this school and they were in the process of taking up a collection for his benefit.

Then, on April 23, 1963, he spoke at Highland Avenue Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, a negro congregation. He spoke on race relations, saying the segregation was unchristian. He also spoke at the Gayle Streett Church of Christ (Negro) on the race issue. He spent the night at the home of Mac McLeod, pastor of the church, but was asked to leave the next morning. According to the Daily News, McLeod said "we're not interested in that kind of mess."

On the night of August 8, 1963 a 10 foot high wooden cross was burned on Estes' lawn. Then, the next night, a bullet was fired through the picture window of the Estes living room. Authorities thought both incidents were cause by thrill seekers who had no interest in the Estes case.

The final blow came on January 15, 1965 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Estes appeal and upheld the 15-year sentence imposed upon him in El Paso. Estes was arrested in Abilene, immediately following the announcement, and placed in jail without bail.

Mr. Estes was a member of a four-member group, headed by Lyndon Johnson, which committed criminal acts in Texas in the 1960's. The other two, besides Mr. Estes and LBJ, were Cliff Carter and Mac Wallace. Mr. Estes is willing to disclose his knowledge concerning the following criminal offenses:

I. Murders

1. The killing of Henry Marshall

2. The killing of George Krutilek

3. The killing of Ike Rogers and his secretary

4. The killing of Harold Orr

5. The killing of Coleman Wade

6. The killing of Josefa Johnson

7. The killing of John Kinser

8. The killing of President J. F. Kennedy.

Mr. Estes is willing to testify that LBJ ordered these killings, and that he transmitted his orders through Cliff Carter to Mac Wallace, who executed the murders. In the cases of murders nos. 1-7, Mr. Estes' knowledge of the precise details concerning the way the murders were executed stems from conversations he had shortly after each event with Cliff Carter and Mac Wallace.

In addition, a short time after Mr. Estes was released from prison in 1971, he met with Cliff Carter and they reminisced about what had occurred in the past, including the murders. During their conversation, Carter orally compiled a list of 17 murders which had been committed, some of which Mr. Estes was unfamiliar. A living witness was present at that meeting and should be willing to testify about it. He is Kyle Brown, recently of Houston and now living in Brady, Texas.

Mr. Estes, states that Mac Wallace, whom he describes as a "stone killer" with a communist background, recruited Jack Ruby, who in turn recruited Lee Harvey Oswald. Estes says that Cliff Carter told him that Mac Wallace fired a shot from the grassy knoll in Dallas, which hit JFK from the front during the assassination.

Mr. Estes declares that Cliff Carter told him the day Kennedy was killed, Fidel Castro also was supposed to be assassinated and that Robert Kennedy, awaiting word of Castro's death, instead received news of his brother's killing.

Mr. Estes says that the Mafia did not participate in the Kennedy assassination but that its participation was discussed prior to the event, but rejected by LBJ, who believed if the Mafia were involved, he would never be out from under its blackmail....

II. The Illegal Cotton Allotments

Mr. Estes desires to discuss the infamous illegal cotton allotment schemes in great detail. He has recordings made at the time of LBJ, Cliff Carter and himself discussing the scheme. These recordings were made with Cliff Carter's knowledge as a means of Carter and Estes protecting them selves should LBJ order their deaths.

Mr. Estes believes these tape recordings and the rumors of other recordings allegedly in his possession are the reason he has not been murdered.

III. Illegal Payoffs

Mr. Estes is willing to disclose illegal payoff schemes, in which he collected and passed on to Cliff Carter and LBJ millions of dollars. Estes collected payoff money on more than one occasion from George and Herman Brown of Brown and Root, which was delivered to LBJ.

In his appearance before the grand jury last month, Estes testified that Robert Kennedy may have offered Marshall protection if he would testify against Johnson, sources said.

Sources close to the grand jury said Estes testified that Johnson, while Senate majority leader, controlled a political "slush fund" raised from some of Estes' illegal business dealings.

"He (Sanders) made, several times daily, telephone reports to Robert Kennedy as to what was happening," Wilson said. "We were aware of the tremendous emotional and personal rivalry between Robert Kennedy and LBJ. The Kennedys closely observed the proceedings and followed them by the hour Wilson said he believes Estes is telling the truth about the plot.

Among those watching the grand jury proceedings was Barefoot Sanders, then U. Attorney in Dallas and now a federal judge. Former Texas attorney General Will Wilson said Sanders, who has declined repeated requests for interviews on the Estes case, was in constant communication with Justice Department officials, particularly with Robert Kennedy, the U. Attorney General. Wilson said he believed Kennedy, who Wilson said had an intense dislike for Johnson, had sent Sanders to monitor the grand jury to see if the Vice President's name arose.

Other sources seemed to agree with this scenario. It was generally known by many, that there was a political rift between Johnson and Robert Kennedy.

A Texas Ranger, Clint Peoples, had befriended Estes and convinced him that he should come clean with the whole truth. True to his word, Estes agreed to appear before a Robertson County grand jury and clear the record concerning the cotton allotments, the death of Henry Marshall and the involvement of LBJ and others. He recounted the whole ugly picture - from the millions he had funnelled into Johnson's secret slush fund, to the illegal cotton allotment scheme, to the murder of Henry Marshall.

Estes testified that Lyndon Johnson, Cliff Carter (an aide of LBJ), Malcolm Wallace and himself met several times to discuss the issue of the "loose cannon" - Henry Marshall. Marshall had refused a LBJ-arranged promotion to Washington headquarters, and it was feared that he was about to talk. Johnson, according to Estes, finally said, "Get rid of him," and Malcolm "Mac" Wallace was given the assignment. According to testimony, Wallace followed Marshall to a remote area of his farm and beat him nearly unconscious. Then while trying to asphyxiate him with exhaust from Marshall's pickup truck, Wallace thought he heard someone approaching the scene, and hastily grabbed a rifle which customarily rested in the window rack of the truck. Quickly pumping five shots into Marshall's body, Wallace fled the scene.

Regrets? Billie Sol Estes has a few. The self-styled wheeler-dealer could have spared the nation from Vietnam, he said, if he’d spilled the beans on Lyndon Johnson prior to the 1964 presidential election.

Johnson, the larger-than-life Texas liberal, defeated conservative Barry Goldwater by a landslide. Then he escalated the war in Southeast Asia. Pre-election mud-slinging between Johnson and Goldwater captured the nation’s attention only briefly. Johnson dodged most of the dirt. It might have connected more solidly had Estes seized the opportunity to provide the Goldwater camp with proof, he said, of several of LBJ’s alleged transgressions. “If I’d made the right move, there would have been no Vietnam War,” Estes, a 78-year-old Granbury resident, said. “Goldwater already had enough on Lyndon. He offered me a million dollars to confirm it.

“If I had, Goldwater would have won the election.” Mid-20th century American politics is the backdrop for Estes’ recent book (JFK, the Last Standing Man), 408 pages, paperback - published in French by mega-publisher Flammarion of France. LBJ is a central character. Estes asserts Johnson played a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. “Without a doubt,” Estes said. “It’s tied right around his neck. Any role he had in life, he controlled it. He controlled everything.”

Johnson died in 1973. His supporters have long denied any involvement by Johnson in Kennedy’s death. Estes, in his book, alleges otherwise. His assertions were researched and verified, he said, by a team of investigators retained by his co-author. “Anything I told him, he wouldn’t have printed without investigating it,” Estes said. “I would give him a lead, and he would spend days on it. “The process took about four years. The publisher spent about a million dollars on it.”

Estes’ credibility has come under question. He’s served two prison terms. Detractors have termed him a con man. The book, he said, is undiluted truth. “I have proof of my information,” Estes said. “It’s like when I say Goldwater offered me money. I have the proof. I can give the proof for anything I say.”

Due in part to political friendships with men like Johnson, then a U.S. senator, Estes was granted lucrative government agricultural contracts in far West Texas in the 1950s. Estes was reportedly worth between $140 million and $400 million before his empire crumbled. A federal investigation revealed financial malfeasance.

Arguably, he was more a colorful product of his political times than a hardened criminal. The political times in which he rose and fell were complex. Those times produced victors and victims. Johnson was a victor. Estes was a victim. “To understand the story, you have to understand the political situation at the time,” Estes said. “You’ve got to understand the political power that group had and controlled. “I wanted to do a book to get people to realize what really went on in the history of this country and its politics and who really controlled things.”

The book’s political intrigue begins with the 1940s. “I knew Lyndon then. I made a million dollars with government contracts in the’40s,” Estes said. He and Johnson were not close friends, he said. “I don’t think Lyndon had any close friends,” Estes said. “I think he had associates, people he could use. If he couldn’t use you, he didn’t have time for you.” There was never a time, Estes said, that he and Johnson stopped associating, even as Estes was headed to prison. “He promised he was going to get me out of my trouble,” Estes said. “He told me if I wouldn’t talk, I would not go to jail.” Estes has had no contact with LBJ’s other long-ago associates, he said, since the book’s publication. “I’ve been accused of being dumb,” he said, “but I’m not stupid.”

Estes is aware of other assassination theories. He puts no stock in any. “I’ve got the facts, and I know the story, and I don’t care what anybody else says. My deal will stand up.” One particularly popular conspiracy premise involves the Mafia. “Vito Genovese told me they didn’t have anything to do with it,” Estes said. Genovese was among the most powerful Mafia chieftains of the 20th century. “He told me that in 1966 when we were in prison together,” Estes said. “I knew him real well.”

Grinning like a fat, wily old fox, Billie Sol Estes confirmed what I long suspected: His pal Crooked John tried to kill me one night on a mountain road overlooking El Paso.

"Yeah, he intended to kill you," Estes said. "He was as serious as a heart attack. He even told me the oil well where he was going to throw you."

So began another encounter with my favorite con man, now 72, a former Bible-toting, big-bucks wheeler-dealer whose circle of friends once included Lyndon Johnson.

After two federal prison stints, and a couple of near misses, Estes has quietly settled into this small town on the fringe of the Texas Hill Country.

A bit plumper, his bushy graying mane and familiar horned-rim glasses remain intact and he still fractures the King's English as his mouth races to keep up with his mind.

"I don't usually talk to reporters," he said during the first of two informal meetings, first over coffee at the Club Cafe and later over ribs at Mac's Bar-B-Q.

"The young ones don't even know World War II ended ...," he grumped. "They don't know Texas history. They don't know Texas politics. They don't know nothin'.

"They don't have no Texas roots."

Being young is not among my shortcomings, but, anyway, I'd been writing about Billie Sol for so long that we'd become, if not friends, at least mutually tolerant.

It was in 1983 that he told me he had rooted out the cause of all his problems: compulsiveness.

"If I smoke another cigarette, I'll be hooked on nicotine," he said in a prison interview. "I'm just one drink away from being an alcoholic and just one deal away from being back in prison."

I asked him now if he recalled that diagnosis.

"Exactly," he replied.

In both our recent meetings, Estes reminisced for hours about the "good old days," comparing the Washington scandals of his era with the shenanigans of the current capitol crowd.

"Those kids up there now, they don't know nothing about fund raising," he said, dismissing both the political fund raising and Whitewater intrigue as bush league.

"There ain't nothing there. There's no story. Money's never been Bill Clinton's thing. He don't fly with the other ducks. He looks like a duck and quacks like a duck but nobody knows where he's at. ... Back then, people had power and used that power. They could make a decision and they could get it done.

"They lived by their own set of rules."

People like House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas, Estes asserted, "could tell you behind closed doors what he could do and he'd do it. Now they can't get a creek built. They can't get anything done."

Back in his free wheeling political days, Estes indicated, they often got things done with suitcases stuffed with cash.

While branding himself as a "kind of Robin Hood," Estes sidestepped questions about his most recent legal misadventures and said he's working now on behalf of the "poor and underprivileged."

In 1961, State Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation official Henry Marshall was investigating a broad series of fraudulent government subsidies - amounting to figures in the seven or eight digit range - allotted to Billie Sol Estes, a close personal friend of Senate Majority Leader then Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson. Marshall had uncovered a paper trail that was leading him closer and closer to Johnson himself.

On June 3, 1961, Mac Wallace knocked Henry Marshall unconscious with a blunt object, fed the unconscious man carbon monoxide from a hose attached to Wallace's pick-up truck, then shot him five times with a bolt-action .22 caliber rifle and dumped him in a remote corner of Marshall's farm near Franklin, Texas. Justice of the Peace Lee Farmer

pronounced the death a suicide and ordered Marshall buried without an autopsy - over the protests of Marshall's widow. The verdict remained unchanged until 1984, when Billie Sol Estes, under a grant of immunity, told a grand jury that Wallace had been Marshall's killer, and that the order came from Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson through White House aide Cliff Carter. Based on Estes' testimony and supporting evidence, the grand jury changed the earlier ruling of suicide to murder. Mac Wallace could not be indicted; he died in an automobile accident in Pittsburgh, Texas, on January 7, 1971.

A Pecos doctor, John Dunn, picked up Henry Marshall's investigation. Despite filing his report on Johnson and Estes with numerous law enforcement agencies and US congressmen and senators, Dunn could not convince a single press outlet to report his findings, and no one in Washington would take any action. Out of desperation, Dunn and an associate bought their own newspaper, the Pecos Independent and Enterprise, and began running the Johnson-Estes stories on February 12, 1962. A month later, Billie Sol Estes was in jail; he would receive a light sentence with the help of Johnson's ever-helpful John Cofer. The Senate Investigations Subcommittee chaired by John McClellan conducted a brief and superficial series of hearings that swiftly exonerated Johnson of wrongdoing without any substantial investigation. John Dunn was soon disbarred from practicing medicine and charged with malpractice and claims that he had taken advantage of a patient, a young black woman, all of which Dunn vigorously denied.

Harold Eugene Orr was the president of the Superior Manufacturing Company of Amarillo, Texas when he was indicted for his role in Estes' fraudulent enterprises, and sentenced to a ten-year prison term. On February 28, 1964, just before Orr was to begin his prison term, he was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. It was ruled an accidental death. A few weeks later, Howard Pratt, the Chicago office manager of Commercial Solvents, a supplier of farm products for Billie Sol Estes, was also found dead in his car, a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. This strange series of carbon monoxide deaths was discussed in an Amarillo Globe-Times article of March 26, 1964, by reporter Clyde Walters.

Coleman Wade was a building contractor out of Altus, Oklahoma, who had contracted with Billie Sol Estes for many of Estes' storage facilities. In early 1963, Wade was flying home from Pecos, Texas, in his private plane when the craft went down in the area of Kermit, Texas, its occupants instantly killed. "Government investigators swept in and instead of expeditiously cleaning up the wreckage in their routine way, kept the area roped off for days".

On June 19, 1992, US Marshall Clint Peoples told a friend of his that he had documentary evidence that Mac Wallace was one of the shooters in Dealey Plaza. On June 23rd, Peoples, a former Texas Ranger and a onetime friend of Henry Marshall, was killed in a mysterious one-car automobile accident in Texas.

On March 12, 1998, a 1951 fingerprint of Malcolm "Mac" Wallace was positively matched with a copy of a fingerprint labeled "Unknown," a fresh print lifted on November 22, 1963, from a carton by the southeast sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. This carton was labeled "Box A," and also contained several fingerprints identified as those of Lee Harvey Oswald. The identification was made by A. Nathan Darby, a Certified Latent Print Examiner with several decades experience. Darby is a member of the International Association of Identifiers, and was chosen to help design the Eastman Kodak Miracode System of transmitting fingerprints between law enforcement agencies. Darby signed a sworn, notarized affidavit stating that he was able to affirm a 14-point match between the "Unknown" fingerprint and the "blind" print card submitted to him, which was the 1951 print of Mac Wallace's. US law requires a 12-point match for legal identification; Darby's match is more conclusive than the legal minimum. As cardboard does not retain fingerprints for long, it is certain that Malcolm E. Wallace left his fingerprint on "Box A" on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository early on November 22, 1963.

Publicity was given to one of the first whistleblowers to be killed, federal inspector Henry Marshall, an employee of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. He was killed in June 1961 on a farm in Texas, much to the relief of high federal officials. Marshall had evidence linking a multimillion-dollar commodity fraud to an LBJ aide, and to Lyndon Johnson himself. Alongside Marshall's body was the .22 caliber rifle that had fired the fatal bullets. Texas authorities obligingly ruled Marshall's death a suicide, even though the position of the wounds indicated it would have been physically impossible for them to have been self-inflicted.

An AP article prepared by the Dallas Times Herald reported that convicted swindler Billy Sol Estes secretly testified before a grand jury empaneled at Franklin, Texas, relating to the Marshall death. Estes testified that he was present when Lyndon Johnson and two other men discussed having Marshall killed because Marshall knew too much about illegal manipulation of cotton allotments. Johnson reportedly gave the order to have Marshall slain. Estes identified the two men as Clifton Carter and Malcolm Wallace. Carter was once Johnson's top political aide in Texas and later his White House liaison to the Democratic National Committee. Wallace was a former University of Texas student body president.

The Marshall killing and its relationship to Lyndon Johnson had been the subject of intense gossip and rumor in Texas political circles for years. Estes, who had aged considerably since Marshall was killed, agreed to testify about the Marshall killing at the urging of U.S. Marshal Clint Peoples of Dallas, who had pursued the case for more than two decades.

Other testimony in the grand jury hearings revealed that Johnson approved the killing out of fear that Marshall would give Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy evidence concerning cotton allotments incriminating LBJ. Kennedy was known to have no respect for Johnson.

The History Channel recently observed the fortieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination with a series of films, "The Men who Killed Kennedy." The most widely-viewed hour, "The Guilty Men," cast Lyndon Baines Johnson in a starring role for ordering the assassination. The film was offered without fear, and without evidence.

LBJ's family and friends heatedly protested the program. Finally, after former President Gerald Ford weighed in with his objections, the History Channel engaged several of us to evaluate the program, and provided air time to discuss our findings and conclusions. Let us hope that is not the end of the matter.

The Kennedy assassination has been fertile, enduring territory for conspiracy theories. But if such elaborate notions are your cup of tea, put no hope in the scurrilous book by Barr McClellan, a onetime associate who worked in Johnson's personal attorney's office, and British film maker Nigel Turner's farcical film rendering of McClellan's musings, which the History Channel broadcast. Their work is a parody of assassination theories and beliefs; surely, this is history as a joke the living play on the dead. Such programs reflect our desperate desire to embrace a conspiracy rather than the crucial question of truth.

McClellan's wild charges involve characters across the political spectrum, from disgruntled Texas oilmen, to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the CIA, the military, Johnson's crooked Texas cronies, and Texas Governor John Connally - forget he almost was killed himself. The Right has to be pleased with the mugging of LBJ, while the Left can pin more evil-doing on Hoover. A perfect storm. Such are our faded memories that McClellan can afford to omit a Communist plot.

McClellan's background is worth a mention. He is a convicted forger, who then resigned from the bar before disbarment proceedings ran their course. His certitude knows no bounds: "LBJ murdered John F. Kennedy"; Johnson "knew of the assassination"; and he was involved "beyond a reasonable doubt." His "evidence" rests entirely on the alleged utterances of dead people, with the sole exception of that poster child for a con artist, Billie Sol Estes. A McClellan supporter wrote to me, urging that I call Estes to "get the truth." He said "Billie Sol Estes was there when LBJ ordered the killings, 18 of them in all. This includes JFK. Don't take my word for it, get it from the man who was there at the time the killings were ordered. Call Billie Sol Estes..." The FBI has investigated Estes's accusations, and they found his credibility "non-existent." A further cover-up? Then consider how this pitiful figure admitted to his sentencing judge in 1979: "I have a problem. I live in a dream world." In a rare sensible moment, the film maker wisely did without his services - but not without his fabrications.

Assassination conspiracy theories and books expounding them proliferate. But film is special. A conjurer's sleight-of-hand and verbal misdirection are ready ingredients for manipulating a mass audience. Richard Condon, who wrote The Manchurian Candidate, and who managed to spoof every recent American president, gave his own comic twist in Winter Kills, a novel (later a film) naming the perp as Patriarch Joseph Kennedy, distressed because his son had become too liberal. A comic genius, Condon never labeled his work as anything other than fiction. But Oliver Stone, in the new tradition of "docu-dramas,"gave us JFK, which lent an aura of authenticity to Jim Garrison's outlandish, gothic tale. Sadly, many of those under 25 believed him.

The History Channel film takes historical revisionism to unimagined depths. It seems everyone wanted Kennedy dead: he was going to withdraw from Vietnam in December 1963, so the CIA and the military wanted him out of the way; Texans wanted to preserve their oil-depletion allowance; J. Edgar Hoover believed Kennedy was about to replace him; and driving it all, of course, was Lyndon Johnson's insatiable appetite for power. Increasing the improbability of the thesis, it seems, heightens its appeal.

John Simkin: I believe in the past you represented Billie Sol Estes. On 9th August, 1984, you wrote to Stephen S. In the letter you claimed that Billie Sol Estes, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mac Wallace and Cliff Carter had been involved in the murders of Henry Marshall, George Krutilek, Harold Orr, Ike Rogers, Coleman Wade, Josefa Johnson, John Kinser and John F. Kennedy. You added: "Mr. Estes is willing to testify that LBJ ordered these killings, and that he transmitted his orders through Cliff Carter to Mac Wallace, who executed the murders." Did Billie Sol Estes provide you with any evidence that suggested his story was true?

Douglass Caddy: My relationship with Billie Sol Estes began in 1983 when Shearn Moody, a trustee of the Moody Foundation of Galveston, Texas, asked me to visit Billie Sol who was incarcerated in the federal prison at Big Spring, Texas. Billie Sol had telephoned Mr. Moody at the suggestion of a fellow inmate who knew Moody from past days when that inmate had been a lobbyist in the state capital. Billie Sol told Moody that he wanted to tell the story publicly about his long and close relationship with Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) as LBJ's bagman and requested Moody's assistance in getting this done. Moody was happy to oblige.

I met with Billie Sol in prison, who related his desire to tell all. I suggested that he do so in book form and that I would be helpful in any way that I could since I already had two books published.

Moody and I heard nothing more from Billie Sol until soon after his release from prison in early January 1984. At that time he called Moody and Moody again asked me to visit Billie Sol at the latter's home in Abilene, Texas.

There Billie Sol presented me with a copy of the recently released book that his daughter, Pam Estes, had written based on my suggestion to him when he was in prison. Its title was "Billie Sol: King of the Wheeler-Dealers" and it had caused a minor sensation. Based on its limited success, Billie Sol said that he wanted to have his own story published. His daughter's book only told her personal story of the tribulations of the Estes' family in the preceding 20 years.

However, Billie Sol said that before he could tell his full story in book form that he had to get immunity from prosecution by the Texas law authorities and by the U.S. Department of Justice as there is no statute of limitations for murder. A friend of mine, Edward Miller, a former Assistant Director of the FBI, arranged for Miller and myself to meet with Stephen Trott, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, to discuss the question of granting immunity to Billie Sol.

Miller and I met with Trott several times. The Forum has already in its discussions among its members remarked upon the letters exchanged between Trott and myself. In the end the immunity effort came to an abrupt halt when Billie Sol got cold feet at the last moment and backed out of a meeting with three FBI agents sent by Trott to meet with him and myself in Abilene in September 1984.

The contents of the letters between Trott and myself speak for themselves. Billie Sol did not provide me with any evidence that his story, as detailed in the letters, was true. I never heard nor saw the clandestine tape recordings that he claimed that he had in his possession that had been made years earlier, which allegedly supported his contentions.

However, there is quite a bit of supporting evidence from other sources. This is as follows:

(1) In 1964, J. Evetts Haley, a distinguished Texas historian, wrote "A Texan Looks at Lyndon." Millions of copies of this paperback were widely distributed. Haley's book provided concrete evidence concerning most of the murders outlined in my correspondence with Trott.

(2) In attempting to get Billie Sol immunity in 1984, I worked closely with Clint Peoples, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Texas. Peoples had followed the Estes' story for many years, having been assigned to the Estes' pending criminal case in the 1960's when he was a Texas Ranger. Peoples had several large file drawers containing materials about Estes and the murders that he showed me when I visited him in the U.S. Courthouse in Dallas. He was on good terms with Estes and constantly encouraged me to do my best to get Estes' story out. When he retired he became head of the Texas Rangers Museum in Waco, Texas, and in 1992 was killed in an automobile accident. Where Peoples' extensive files on Estes and the murders are today is unknown.

(3) I arranged for Lucianne Goldberg, then a literary agent and now sponsor of http://www.lucianne.com/, to visit Billie Sol in Abilene in 1984 in an effort to get his story published. Lucianne there disclosed to us that she had once met Malcolm (Mac) Wallace, who was the stone-cold killer retained by LBJ, when she had worked in the White House in LBJ's administration.

(4) The Texas Observer, a highly respected journal of opinion, published a thoroughly researched article by Bill Adler in its November 7, 1986 issue titled, "The Killing of Henry Marshall." The article is required reading for anyone interested in the murders.

(5) In 1998, a video titled "LBJ: A Closer Look" was released, having been produced by two Californians, Lyle and Theresa Sardie. The video contains interviews with key persons who knew of the murders and of the LBJ-Billie Sol connection.

(6) In 2003, the book "Blood, Money & Power: How LBJ murdered JFK" was published. Its author is Barr McClellan, father of Bush's current press secretary in the White House, Scott McClellan. Barr McClellan was a lawyer with the law firm in Austin that handled LBJ's secret financial empire before and after he became President.

(7) Also in 2003, the History Channel showed "The Men Who Killed Kennedy: The Final Chapter." Much of this show drew on McClellan's book and my letters to Trott. After it was telecast several times, immense pressure was brought upon the History Channel to withdraw the video from being offered for sale to the public. For the first time in its own history the History Channel succumbed to this outside pressure that was orchestrated by Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Pictures Association of America and former LBJ aide, and reluctantly withdrew the video from public circulation.

(8) Both Barr McClellan and I, among others, have in our possession documents and papers, too numerous and lengthy to detail here, that help to round out the full LBJ-Billie Sol story, including letters from LBJ to Billie Sol.

Pat Speer:

1. If you were researching the Kennedy assassination, from scratch, and had never met Estes, how much credibility would you afford Estes' accusations?

2. How does your having met Estes influence your assessment?

3. Was there anything, to your knowledge, that would support Estes' accusations?

4. Did he have, for example, a signed and notarized document, dating back to before you met him, in which he recorded his allegations?

5. Had he made a recording, and placed it with someone for safe-keeping?

6. Had he confided in a friend, who would testify in support of his allegations?

7. Were you aware of anything that might convince someone of the truth of his allegations about LBJ, beyond his say-so, years after LBJ's death?

Douglas Caddy:

1) I give great credibility to the accusations made by Billie Sol Estes in the relevant 1984 letter to the U.S. Evetts Haley in his 1964 book, A Texan Looks at Lyndon, wrote in great detail about Estes and the victims.

2) I don’t think my having met Estes, which originally occurred in 1983 when I was asked to do so by Shearn Moody, Jr., of the Moody Foundation in connection with a grant request from Estes, influenced my assessment of the accusations one way or the other. This is because there already existed in the public record much evidence to support Estes’ accusations.

3) U.S. Press reports at the time disclosed that Estes reiterated his accusations in his grand jury testimony.

4) There was no signed and notarized document of Estes dating before I met him that recorded his accusations. in 1983 and indicated he was prepared to relate for the public record what he knew.

5) Estes has maintained that he has taped recordings of conversations of the conspirators that support his accusations. I have not heard the recordings and have no knowledge of their whereabouts,

6) He confided in U.S. However, the transcript of Estes’ testimony before the Robertson County grand jury in 1984, if it were unsealed, would clarify much.

7) At the time of JFK assassination, LBJ was facing criminal proceedings stemming from his involvement in the Billie Sol Estes and the Bobby Baker scandals that were reaching the explosive stage. LBJ’s involvement in these two scandals certainly adds credence to what Estes has alleged.


Pecos Enterprise

Any history of Pecos and Reeves County must
necessarily include the story of Billie Sol Estes and the
fertilizer tanks. It is a hard story to write at the present
time because so many of the principals are still living. In
this story we shall stick strictly to factual happenings,
leaving out implication, surmise, gossip, rumor,
politics, personalities and conjecture, all of which are
part of the full story. But it did happen and here is how
it happened.
dig into the magazine and newspaper files around 1962
and write the whole story, naming names and quoting
figures.)

Billie Sol's background is interesting, but not of
particular concern with this article. He was born in 1925
on a farm about 3 miles north of Clyde, Texas, a little
community near Abilene. He was the second child in a
family of six, worked hard and developed a flair for
business.

He went to school in Clyde and was elected "King"
of the junior class. Patsy Howe, who later became his
wife, was the "Queen." They had two children before
coming to Pecos and three more were born- in Pecos,
making a total of five.

Billie Sol arrived in Pecos in 1951, unheralded and
wearing his plain, country clothes. He talked to gas
station attendants, waitresses, truck drivers and anyone
else who would listen. From these contacts he got in
touch with a realtor and a member of Estes' church, and
bought 640 acres of farm land. He said he was going to
put it in cotton, which he did.

Bill Scott, a furniture store operator, had built a
small house over an abandoned swimming pool in the
old Pecos Army Airfield area, using wood from packing
crates as the base for a stucco finish. Billie Sol bought
this house and moved his family into it. He gradually
improved it and, some ten years later, magazine writers
referred to it as "a mansion" the "most imposing"
house or the "largest" house in Pecos, none of which
was basically true but made good reading. It is located
at the end of Eddy Street at its intersection with
Stafford. Even today, some individuals now and then
asks to see the "Billie Sol Estes mansion."

He immediately started "wheeling and dealing" and,
in addition to his farming operations he sold pre-fab
buildings for garages, airplane hangars and housing for
Mexican labor. No one knows how much he made off of
this operation, but by 1952 he had attracted enough
attention for the Texas Jaycees to select him as one of
the five outstanding young men in Texas.

In 1953 he was selected by the National Junior
Chamber as one of ten outstanding young men in the
United States. Others in the group included Dr. Albert
Schatz of Fairlawn, New Jersey Douglas R. Stringfellow, a U.S.
representative from Ogden, Utah Frank
Clement, Governor of Tennessee, Dr. Bernard J. Miller
of Laverock, Pennsylvania Walter Horace Carter,
publisher of Taber City, New Jersey and Carl T. Rowan,
reporter for the Minneapolis Star.

Also there were Dr. Lloyd Thomas Karitz of
Rochelle, Illinois Sgt. Hiroshi Mayamura of Gallup,
New Mexico and Maynard Malcom Miller, a geologist
and explorer from Seattle, Washington.

Estes met Governor Clements of Tennessee at the
awards banquet and later his father, Judge Clement.
Estes and the Clements became partners in a
surplus-housing company, known as the Delta Homes
Investment Co. The Clements pulled out of the
partnership in 1956 but Billie Sol continued buying and
selling government surplus housing.

He sold much of the housing mortgage paper to the
Nashville Christian Institiute, a small Negro school
supported by the Church of Christ. As an act of
gratitude for this help, Billie Sol built a small church for
the Pecos black people of that faith.

The Estes enterprises continued to grow and, by
the end of 1954, his holdings included 2,340 acres of
farm land, a tourist court, eleven farm tractors, 15
apartments in Port Neches, a half interest in 60
apartments in Frederick, Oklahoma and $100,000 worth
of farm equipment. Many other investments followed,
such as Pecos Growers Gas, Equipment Service Co., the
Farmers Company, Water Well Service Co., the
Colonial Funeral Home and the Pecos Daily News.

The Estes debacle was covered by many magazines
and newspapers, including Life, Look, Time, Newsweek,
Fortune and many others. In our opinion, the story in
Fortune was the best written, the most factual and the
kindest of all the stories written. (Writer's note: This
story is not intended to cover the inner workings of Billie
Sol's system, only what happened from day to day
in Pecos. We suggest that, if you are interested in a
comprehensive, detailed account of his manipulations,
you read the July 1962 edition of Fortune magazine
which you will find in most libraries.

Fortune seemed to think that Estes' turning
point occured in mid-1961. Estes ran for trustee on the
Pecos school board and was defeated by a write-in
candidate sponsored by the Pecos Independent and
Enterprise, a semi-weekly newspaper owned by a group
of conservatives some of whom openly admitted to
being members of the John Birch Society.

Estes started a concentrated campaign against the
Independent. According to Fortune, he asked his
employees not to buy from stores that advertised in the
Independent. He also founded the Pecos Daily News as
rival to the Independent. He hired a good staff,
installed the very latest composing and printing
equipment and started operations on a big scale. Some
of this same type of equipment is now used by the Pecos
Daily Enterprise, the successor to the Pecos Daily
News.

In reference to Estes' campaign against the
Independent, Fortune said "this proved to be a crucial
mistake, for the Independent knew something about
Estes." From here we move to a recount of the actual
happenings as recorded in the Pecos newspapers.

Newspaper editor broke Estes story

The first indication of something being wrong with
the Estes setup occured on February 12, 1962 when
Oscar Griffin, Editor of the Pecos Independent, started
a series of articles on anhydrous ammonia tanks in
Reeves county. He referred to Reeves county as the
"anhydrous ammonia tank capitol of the world."

In this first article, which appeared on the front page
of the Independent, Griffin claimed that he had made a
checks of the Reeves county records and found that
15,000 of these tanks were, on paper, in Reeves county.
He went on to point out that this would be one tank for
each four acres of cotton and, if placed end to end,
would reach from Pecos to Balmorhea.

Griffin got his information from chattel mortgage
records and cited one instance of a farmer who farmed
850 acres of land and had almost 450 ammonia tanks,
with an indebtedness of over $400,000 with monthly
payments of nearly $7,000.

Griffin claimed that many farmers names were
signed to mortgages without their consent and others
had bought many more tanks than they had bargained
for. He said that the total number of farmers involved in
the tank transactions was less than 50.

In his second article, appearing February 19, 1962,
Griffin's claims were on the rather fantastic side
although they were never disputed as far as we can find
in the record. He claimed that almost $13 million was
involved in the Reeves County transactions.

Griffin said that one farmer told him that he
was approached by a business man with a proposition.
The proposition was that he was to buy a certain
number of anhydrous ammonia tanks from a certain
company, sign the chattel mortgage and, in turn, lease
the tanks to the business man.

He said further that "it was understood that the
amount of the lease to the business man would be the
same as the total monthly payments on the tanks due
the finance company. For doing this, he was to receive,
in cash, ten per cent of the total purchase price of the
tanks. All he had to do was sign the chattel mortage
after agreeing to buy the tanks." The individual said
that it was understood that his tanks were not for use
in Reeves county.

Griffin went on to say that one man in Hale county,
with nearly $2 million worth of tanks registered m
Reeves County, had over $1 million in Hale County
mortgages. Almost $3 million in tank mortgages was in
Deaf Smith county, and more in Dawson, Lamb and
Lubbock Counties.

Griffin's third article came out March 1, 1962
and was pretty much more of the same. He claimed that
by March 1 some $14.5 million in tank mortgages had
been filed in Reeves county, with one Pecos individual
having a total of $5.7 million in mortgages, $2 million
of it being in Reeves county.

His fourth article came out March l9, 1962 which was
concerned largely with the magnitude of the operations
and the amount of taxes being lost by Reeves county.
He cited the fact that none of these had been rendered
for taxation and Reeves county was losing $81,000
annually on taxes that should have been paid.

He listed many individuals holding large amounts of
tank mortgages, without naming any of them. In fact, he
never used any person's name in all of the four articles.

The allegations set forth in these four articles
precipitated a flurry of activity among the finance
companies holding the tank mortgages. On March 27,
1962 a group of officials and attorneys for the finance
companies met to discuss the unusual tank transactions.
The Independent said that "details of the talks have not
been revealed, but it is generally conceded that 32
officers and 10 attorneys for finance companies met in
secret session in Dallas to discuss the transactions."

The Independentsaid that Billie Sol Estes spent
two hours with the representatives. Finance companies
made few statements to the many reporters covering the
meeting. A spokesman for the Pacific Finance Company
said none of the mortgages were in default, but the
thing they were worried about was "the validity of the
collateral." The meeting was suspended the following
day without further comment.

Then on Friday, March 30, 1962, the Independent
came out with a banner headline saying "Federal
Charge Jails Estes." The article, written by Oscar
Griffin, said that Estes was arrested by FBI agents at
6:00 P.M., March 29, 1962, and booked into the Reeves
county jail about 10:00 P.M. because of failure to raise
a $500,000 bond. He was escorted by U.S. Deputy
Marshal Ralph Gilliland and Reeves county Deputy
Sheriff Gary Ingram.

U.S. Commissioner Richard L. Toll read the
charges to Estes, which was, in short, that Estes had
caused fraudulent securities to be transported from
Hudspeth county, Texas to Los Angeles, California, a
Federal violation.

Arrested on the same charges were Coleman
McSpadden, Harold Orr, and Ruel Alexander, all
officers or former officers of Superior Manufacturing
Company of Amarillo. Attorney John Dennison
represented Estes.

This was the beginning of a long, hectic period for
Pecos, involving many Pecos people, largely indirectly.
Pecos was plagued with representatives of all the news
media, many national magazines carried lurid stories
on Pecos, most of it being incorrect, which placed Pecos in a rather unsavory light with readers all over the nation. We will touch on some of these stories in later articles in this series.

Estes arrest split Pecos residents

Following the arrest of Estes, Pecos went into a sort
of "tail spin." There were rumors and counter rumors
and the town divided into two camps, one pro-Estes and
the other anti-Estes. Through it all was a feeling of
apprehension, indecision and frustration. Those who
were not involved felt the news media was not treating
the town fairly, there being too much inference, per-
sonal opinion and editorializing in the news stories,
although everyone agreed that the news, good or bad,
had to be published as long as it was news and not con-
jecture.

On March 31, 1962, the Pecos Independent reported
that Estes was to leave to report to federal Judge R.E.
Thomason at 11:00 a.m. in El Paso to seek a reduction
in his record breaking $500,000 bond. The other three men arrested with Estes had managed to get their bonds
reduced from S250,000 to $25,000.

The Federal grand jury in El Paso was to meet the
same day to consider charges against the four men.

In the Daily News issue of April 3, it was announced
that Judge Thomason had reduced Estes' bond to
S100,000. The bond was signed by Estes' father, John
Estes' an uncle, Dr. Sol Estes and a brother, Dr. John
Estes. Estes' lawyer, John Dennison, was assisted by
William L. Kerr and Irby Dyer in getting the bond re-
duced.

Estes, according to the news story, said that he owed
$32 million with assets of S20 million and felt he could
pay off all debts.

The Daily News reported April 4, 1962 that the
pro-Estes group, running for city offices, had been
elected by a large majority at a record breaking turnout
of voters. A few days later, some of those elected made
a statement that they had no connection with either
faction and were running on their own merits.

The News also reported that Estes was turning over
his farns, immediately, to Anderson-Clayton Co. for
supervision and control. It was not known just how
many acres were involved, but it was generally under-
stood that Estes owned about 10,000 acres in his own
name, with Agriculture, Inc., owning another 16,000
acres. We found no record of these figures ever having
been verified.

The same news release stated that Texas Agriculture
Commissioner, John White, said that a check of two
Estes' grain elevators showed that they held the correct
amount of grain. C.H. Mosely, director of the Dallas
office of the Federal Commodity Stabilization Service,
said that 20 of his investigators had found no irre-
gularities.

On April 6, 1961, the Independent reported that
Pecos was waiting for the Fedeal grand jury in El Paso
to report on indictments, and also waiting to see if a
mammoth suit would be filed by Reeves county farmers
in an attempt to recover their losses.

A total of six suits had already been filed in the
amount of approximately $9 million, two of them
seeking to have their mortgages canceled.

On the same day, the Daily News reported the death
of George Krutilek of El Paso. Krutilek had been
missing from his home since Monday, April 2, and was
found Friday about five miles north of Clint, Texas. The
badly decomposed body was found in his car with a hose
attached to the exhaust pipe.

It was first ruled a suicide, but an El Paso
pathologist later said that Krutilek did not die from
carbon monoxide poisoning. An El Paso TV station
called it murder and this caused a new flurry of excite-
ment in Pecos. It was rumored that Krutilek was an
employee of Billie Sol Estes but a later report said he
was employed by Gene Wells of Sierra Blanca.

The Daily News reported on April 7 that the pathologlst
had determined that Krutilek had died of a heart
attack, possibly from preparing for suicide. A number of
empty sleeping pill bottles were found in the car but
there was no sign of violence.

The Daily News announced Sunday, April 8, that
Federal Judge R.E. Thomason had put the Estes
Enterprise in receivership and granted Estes 30 days in
which to produce a list of assets and liabilities. The
Judge also froze present and future civil suits against
Estes.

Monday's Independent reported that Judge Thomason had
picked Harry Moore, Jr., Vice President of the
El Paso National Bank, as the receiver for the Estes
enterprises. It also reported that civil suits in the
Mount of about $10 million had been filed before Judge
Thomason's freeze of these suite, and that Texas
Attorney General Will Wilson had called courts of
inquiry at Amarillo and Plainview.

One suit, reported by the Daily News on April 10,
was by a grain dealer in Wichita Falls by the name of
I.E. Wilson. Wilson'filed a S6 million libel suit
against Pacific Finance of Los Angeles, alleging that, at various times, representatives of Pacific Finance had made derogatory remarks to individuals and newspapers reflecting on Wilson and his business enterprise.

Estes case raised charge of politics

The Pecos Independent announced April 12, 1962 that
District Judge J.H. Starley had issued a temporary
injunction enjoining several finance companies from
disposing of records and agreements connected with the
anhydrous ammonia tank transactions. Exempt from
the injunction were Billie Sol Estes and Coleman
McSpadden, Federal judges having previously issued
stay orders prohibiting civil action against the two
men.

It was also announced that Attorney General Will
Wilson was to hold a court of inquiry in Pecos on
Saturday, April 14, for the purpose of investigating
possible anti-trust violation. County Judge F.H. Ryan
was to preside at the session. At Wilson's Dallas
hearing, an official of Neiman-Marcus testified that
Estes had clothing fitted for two Department of
Agriculture officials. The officials were not named.
The Independent stated this came as "the attorney general attempted to establish that Estes curried favor with USDA officials."

On the same date, April 12, the Daily News
carried a story accusing politicians of using the Estes
case to gain newspaper publicity since this was an
election year. Roy Whittenburg, Republican candidate
for Governor, visited in Pecos "hoping to pick up a
little publicity from the hottest news town in America."

Attorney General Wilson, Democratic candidate for
Governor, whose Eses hearings had been getting front
page coverage, was expecting the same at the Pecos
hearing. Wilson had two assistants in Pecos on
Thursday to make arrangements to set up his court of
inquiry on Saturday.

Wilson came to Pecos and held a rather short inquiry.
Pecosites testifying Included Estes' receptionist, six
farmers, Estes' business manager and manager of the
Farmers Company. After the inquiry, Wilson said "we
already have enough evidence to go to the grand jury.
We hope do so as soon as we get our testinony
transcribed and have a chance to study it." He did not
say what charges he would make or against whom.

Harry Moore, Jr., returnedto Pecos on Monday,
April 16, continuaing his efforts to untangle the
financial affairs of Estes. According to the Independent, Moore said "we are going to hold the status quo until we can get the figures on all the operations. Right now we are attempting to get the business operating." The Commercial Credit Corporation had demanded a $10 million bond before allowing the grain elevators to resume operations. Moore was hopeful of getting this bond.

The Daily News headline of April 17, 1962 read
"Estes Case Becomes Political Case in both National
and Texas campaigns." The article said that the
Department of Agriculture had fired Wm. E. Morris and
Thomas R. Hughes, Executive Secretary to Secretary of
Agriculture Orville Freeman, said Morris
was fired because he failed to make himself available to
department investigators regarding his relations with
Estes." Hughes further said that the department's
investigations had, so far, uncovered no evidence that
Estes had received any favors whatsoever.

The article also said that the Republican
National Committee said it hoped to connect the White
House with the activities of Eates, and that two
Republican house members, in separate action, had
asked congressional investigation of the Agriculture
Department'a Agriculture and Conservation Stabilization Committee.

According to the newspaper, request for investigations
had stemmed from reported relations of Emory Jacobs and Estes. Jacobs had resigned the week before after his name was brought up in the Texas hearings. Testimony tended to link Jacobs and Morris to the Estes case.

The Daily News headline of April 18, 1962 read
"Capitol Continues Political Turmoil Over Este Case."
This was certainly not an overstatement because the
Washington newspapers were carrying front page
stories on the Estes case, some one was constantly
wanting to start a new investigation, and the senators
and Congressmen were in pretty much of a turmoil.

In addition to developments covered in the April
17 paper, Representative Edmundson of Oklahoma said
that Mrs. Alice Morris, wife of Wm. E. Morris and
Edmundson's part time secretary, had resigned. It was
rumored that she had been writing a question and
answer news column from Washington for a newspaper
in Pecos said to be owned by Estes.

The Daily News of April l9 carried an Associated
Press dispatch from Lubbock that said "despite all
political deadlines, uproar, bombast and malicious
mud-slinging, nothing derogatory hag been proven
about Billie Sol Estes' grain storage operations." This
dispatch had nothing to do with the tank operations.

The AP dispatch also said that "Attorney General
Will Wilson is making a transparent effort to show that
Estes influenced Agriculture Department officials to
store grain in his elevators." Then the article said
"C.H. Mosely says elevators known to be owned by
Estes contained about 53 percent of capacity which is
more and probably less, than the other elevators in the area. Mosely had said repeatedly that field investigators showed that Estes elevators hold all the government grain they should.

On the same day, April l9, the Independent
carried a story to the effect that Attorney General Will
Wilson got an inquiry underway at 10:00 a.m. in Lubbock delving into the rapid expansion of grain storage facilities by Estes. About a dozen witnesses testified, pro and con, and not much conclusive evidence was gained. The Independent also said the previously referred to Washington news column, written by Alice Morris, was written in February and March of 1962.

The information on the various investigations of
Estes' grain elevators was about the same in both
papers, with the News articles being slanted a little
toward Estes and the Independent articles in the
opposite direction. The Independent said the federal
General Accounting Office had begun looking into the
Estes operation and the house Government Operations
Committee said it would take a close look at all
Department of Agriculture grain storage activities.

Billie Sol Estes is furloughed from Big Spring federal prison camp in 1983 for publisher's release of a book about him, written by daughter Pam from more than 20 years' notes and collected information. (9.6KB)

Billie Sol Estes, in checkered coat, is interviewed at the Big Spring federal prison camp in late October, 1983, shortly before his parole. He began a 15-year sentence in 1965 after conviction for federal mail fraud and conspiracy. Creditors claimed Estes owed them $38 million. (AP Laserphoto, 26.6 KB)

Leaving federal prison in Big Spring in mid-November, 1983, Billie Sol Estes kisses his wife, Patsy. (AP laserphoto, 22.4KB)

Former con-man and wheeler-dealer, Billie Sol Estes, whose circle of friends once included Lyndon Johnson, sits in a Brady,Tex. restaurant Sept. 3, 1997. After two federal prison stints, Estes has quietly settled into Brady on the fringe of the Texas Hill Country. (AP Photo by Ron Heflin, 18KB).


AFTER 24 YEARS, CASE TIED TO LBJ IS LABELED MURDER

In a case linked to former President Lyndon B. Johnson and con man Billie Sol Estes, a state judge Tuesday ordered the official cause of death 24 years ago of an Agriculture Department employee changed from suicide to homicide.

District Judge Peter Lowry issued the order after hearing two days of testimony, including that of a Texas Ranger who investigated the death in 1961 of Henry Marshall.

At the time of his death, Marshall was investigating the business dealings of Estes, who was later convicted and sentenced to prison for fraud.

When he was released from prison last year, Estes told a Robertson County grand jury that Marshall had been killed on orders from then-Vice President Johnson.

Marshall's body was found June 3, 1961, on the family farm north of Bryan. He had been shot five times and had inhaled carbon monoxide.

A grand jury in 1962 ruled Marshall's death a suicide, but a 1984 grand jury reopened the case on Estes' testimony and ruled the death a homicide. The grand jury issued no indictments, saying only that those responsible for the slaying were dead.

Marshall's son, Don Marshall, and mother, Sybil Marshall, asked that the cause listed on the death certificate be changed from "gunshot wounds -- self inflicted" to "gunshot wounds -- homicide."

Court clerk Robert Phelps said Lowry's ruling will permit the Bureau of Vital Statistics to make the change on Marshall's death certificate.

"It (ruling) does not open up any other questions or anything," said Phelps.

Clint Peoples, a Texas Ranger who investigated Marshall's death, said there was no doubt Marshall was murdered.

"My opinion from the investigation prior and after is that someone went out there to make it look like a suicide," he said.


[News Clip: Billie Sol Estes]

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Billie Sol Estes

Billie Sol Estes (January 10, 1925 – May, 2013) was an American businessman a former financier best known for a business scandal that sent him to jail for fraud multiple times and complicated by his ties to friend and future U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. Estes was living in Granbury, Texas at the time of his death. His body was discovered on May 14, 2013 at his home in deCordova.

Estes was born January 10, 1925 to John and Lillian Estes on a farm near Clyde, Texas. He was one of six children.

In the late 1950s, Estes was heavily involved in the Texas anhydrous ammonia business. He produced mortgages on nonexistent ammonia tanks by convincing local farmers to purchase them on credit, sight unseen, and leasing them from the farmers for the same amount as the mortgage payment, paying them a convenience fee as well. He used the fraudulent mortgage holdings to obtain loans from banks outside Texas who were unable to easily check on the tanks.

At the same time, United States Department of Agriculture began controlling the price of cotton, specifying quotas to farmers. The program included an acreage allotment that normally was not transferable from the land it was associated with, but which could be transferred if the original land was taken by eminent domain.

Estes worked out a method to purchase large numbers of cotton allotments, by dealing with farmers who had been dispossessed of land through eminent domain. He convinced the farmers to purchase land from him in Texas and transfer their allotments there, with a mortgage agreement delaying the first payment for a year. Then he would lease the land and allotments back from the farmer for $50 per acre. Once the first payment came due, the farmer would intentionally default and the land would revert to Estes in effect, Estes had purchased the cotton allotments with the lease fees. However, because the original sale and mortgage were a pretext rather than a genuine sale, it was illegal to transfer the cotton allotments this way. Estes, however, a smooth talker revered by many of his fellow members of the Churches of Christ, asserted the allegations as politics.

Eventually, Estes' schemes collapsed, and in 1963 he was tried and convicted on charges related to the fraudulent ammonia tank mortgages on both federal and state charges and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. His state conviction was later overturned by the United States Supreme Court in Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965). His appeal hinged upon the alleged impossibility of a fair trial due to the presence of television cameras and broadcast journalists in the courtroom. He prevailed by a 5-4 vote. Estes was paroled in 1971. Eight years later, he was convicted of other fraud charges and served four more years.

Oscar Griffin, Jr., the journalist who uncovered the scandal, later received the 1963 Pulitzer Prize. His articles for a weekly newspaper in Pecos, Texas outlined how the businessman masterminded a Byzantine scheme to borrow money using nonexistent fertilizer storage tanks as collateral, leading to the FBI's investigation. When Griffin died in 2011, Estes remarked, "It’s a good riddance that he left this world."

In 1962, after information came to light that Estes had paid off four Agriculture officials for grain storage contracts, President John F. Kennedy ordered FBI agents be assigned to investigate Estes and the Justice Department also conducted an investigation which concluded that Orville L. Freeman, then Secretary of Agriculture, was "untainted". Thereafter, Congress held hearings into this matter and other Estes activities including some that led to Vice President Johnson, who had been a business associate of Estes. Some historians say the vice president tried to help Estes with questionable dealings with the Agriculture Department after the storage tank fraud had been exposed. Others noted that Kennedy may have considered dropping Johnson from his ticket in 1964, partly because of the Johnson-Estes connection. Attorney General Robert Kennedy did have FBI director J. Edgar Hoover assign agents to investigate Estes in relation to the ties to Johnson. Hoover reported that they were unable to find any hard evidence as to the allegations against Johnson in his dealings with Estes.

Kennedy assassination allegations

Estes also alleged in the 1980s that he had inside knowledge that Johnson was involved in the assassination of Kennedy. In 1984, he provided a voluntary statement to a Grand Jury in Texas alleging that the homicide of a key investigator in the Department of Agriculture case was perpetrated by an aide to Johnson, Malcolm Wallace, upon orders from the then-Vice President. When the Department of Justice asked for more information, Estes responded that he would provide information on eight other murders ordered by Johnson, including the assassination of Kennedy, in exchange for immunity from prosecution and a pardon. According to Estes, Johnson set up the assassination in order to become president. They refused.

Estes reiterated the claim in a book he co-wrote with a French writer in 2003. He said that he was not interested in writing the book – published only in France – but that he was offered "a few hundred thousand dollars" to contribute to it. According to the Associated Press, the allegation was "rejected by prominent historians, Johnson aides and family members."

JFK – autopsie d'un crime d'État. William Reymond & Billie Sol Estes Paris: Flammarion


Billie Sol Estes: The Last Campbellite

Billie Sol Estes died in a recliner last week at 88 with cookie crumbs on his lips. He was asleep when he shuffled off this mortal coil. His end came as it should have. There was enough drama and violence around him when he was alive. When the tornado came through Granbury, Texas after his passing it was as if God was trying to clean up the mess and as with so many things in Estes' life it simply did not work. In an ironic twist the storm destroyed a blue-collar subdivision built by Habitat for Humanity. Billie Sol always seemed to leave more questions than answers.

Estes grew up in the Church of Christ, a communion that is part of a larger movement that roiled religious waters in the new nation during the early years of the 19th century. Led by Alexander Campbell, hence Campbellites to their opponents, and Barton Stone, the Restoration Movement became a fast growing segment of the American religious scene until the Mormons came along and took away the energy, leaving the Campbellites to fracture into warring camps during the early years of the 20th century.

To call someone a Campbellite was a calculated insult. They followed no man, went the mantra, but the Bible and the Bible only. Practioners of the movement often were defined by their extremes. The leaders of the Disciples of Christ became early supporters of the ecumenical movement as it developed toward the middle of the 20th century. The Churches of Christ were known for a Biblicism that verged on bibliolatry. Both segments took noble ends to ignoble extremes. As the Disciples became an ecumenical denomination, mainstream denominationalism began a precipitous decline. The Churches of Christ were a non-denomination that acted like a denomination, enforcing an orthodoxy that killed the spirit of a Bible-centered faith.

Billie Sol illustrated the best traits of the Churches of Christ and was viewed as the personification of the can do rationalism that marked the movement. He knew his Bible and practiced a personal ethic that was consistent with many of his peers in far West Texas. I first heard of him when my college roommate returned from a choir trip to tell me of staying in a guesthouse where the bathroom fixtures were gold plated.

They always said that Billie Sol knew his Bible as if that was a primary virtue. The problem with treating the Bible like a mine to be exploited, a puzzle to be teased apart, is that with no contextual training it can become fodder for silver tongued con men. Elmer Gantry comes to mind. I grew up in the Churches of Christ and they are by and large good folk, but they have a weakness for success and for time Billie Sol was very successful. And they have a weakness for words and Billie Sol could talk.

The 1950s and 1960s saw lots of fortunes made by members of the Churches of Christ who perfected swamp coolers, built mobile homes, discovered oil or farmed cotton on the high plains of West Texas. I knew a man, a churchman, who thought air-conditioning was a plot hatched by the Russians to break our resolve. He never told me what he thought about trailer parks or fertilizer tanks.

Billie Sol told lots of stories about LBJ. LBJ simply told stories. Around him there was always a sense compromise and of deals struck. Lyndon backed his words with arm twisting that was world class. Despite the rumors he avoided legal troubles. He too was a Campbellite, but he was on the other end of the socio-economic scale. A member of the Disciples of Christ, he was part of the rich wing of the movement if you believed those who worshipped with Billie Sol.

Truth was that both of them began far from wealthy but they shared in common the notion that hard work was the key to everything. They both were concerned with racial minorities and Estes was known to support blacks training for ministry right up to his last days. He also was said to have damaged the finances of organizations supporting black aspirations when he failed to come through with his promises.

LBJ left a legacy that is burnished by the gridlock that afflicts Washington today. His Disciples ancestor James Garfield came to the presidency riding on a wave of hope based on his ability to get things done. Garfield died the victim of a gunman and incompetent medical care. LBJ came to the office because of a gunman and he delivered.

Billie Sol and LBJ teach us that politicians and preachers who depend on the persuasive arts and are ultimately accountable to no one, can lead us into the valley of the shadow of death. Estes spent two terms in prison and he is remembered as a con man. LBJ tried to save Vietnam and is judged by history. Today we could use his brand of arm twisting and compromise. The Campbellite label is out of fashion, used only as a placeholder for another time in American history. Both Estes and Johnson remind of us of the danger of those who can talk the paint off a trailer hitch.

With Johnson in the White House the Disciples got a good bit of attention. Many for the first time learned that Isaiah's words in 1:18, often quoted by Johnson, were at the heart of the Restoration Movement and called for thoughtful reasoning about religious matters. But by then the Restoration Movement itself had disintegrated and the Church of Christ Billie Sol Estes grew up in had traded thoughtful reasoning for the bullying tactics of debaters who believed in winning rather than learning. LBJ's political tactics had been baptized. When Billie Sol died a door closed in a religious tradition that nurtured many and promised more than it could deliver.


Flamboyant Texas swindler Billie Sol Estes dies

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Billie Sol Estes’ name was synonymous with Texas-sized schemes, greed and corruption.

The flamboyant swindler became one of the most notorious men in America in 1962, when he was accused of looting a federal crop subsidy program. But he reigned as the state’s king of con men for nearly 50 years, even getting immortalized in songs and on Time magazine’s cover as “a welfare-state Ponzi.”

Estes, who died in his sleep Tuesday at the age of 88, was best known for the scandal that broke out during President John F. Kennedy’s administration involving phony financial statements and non-existent fertilizer tanks. Several lower-level agriculture officials resigned, and Estes wound up spending several years in prison.

“I thought he would meet a very violent end. We worried about him being killed for years,” said his daughter, Pamela Estes Padget. She said her father died peacefully in his recliner, with chocolate chip cookie crumbs on his lips, at his home in DeCordova Bend, a city about 60 miles southwest of Dallas.

At the height of his infamy, Estes was the subject of songs by Allan Sherman (in “Schticks of One and Half a Dozen of the Other”) and the Chad Mitchell Trio (in “The Ides of Texas”). Time magazine called him “a bundle of contradictions and paradoxes who makes Dr. Jekyll seem almost wholesome.”

“He considered dancing immoral, often delivered sermons as a Church of Christ lay preacher,” the magazine wrote. “But he ruthlessly ruined business competitors, practiced fraud and deceit on a massive scale, and even victimized Church of Christ schools that he was supposed to be helping as a fund raiser or financial adviser.”

Estes’ name was often linked with that of fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson, whose associates said their relationship was never as close or as sinister as the wheeler-dealer implied. Johnson, then the vice president, and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman came under fire during the scandal in the 1960s, though the scheme had its roots in earlier years as Estes edged into national politics from his West Texas power base in Pecos.

After an earlier conviction was thrown out, Estes was convicted in 1965 of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud. Sentenced to 15 years in prison, Estes was freed in 1971 after serving six years. But new charges were brought in 1979, and later that year he was convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy to conceal assets from the Internal Revenue Service. He was sentenced to 10 years but freed a second time in 1983.

Former Associated Press correspondent Mike Cochran, who covered Estes throughout the 1970s and ’80s, recalled writing about how Estes made millions of dollars in phony fertilizer tanks — and noting, “how many city slickers from New York or Chicago can make a fortune selling phantom cow manure?”

“Billie Sol was a character’s character,” Cochran said Tuesday. “I spent literally years chasing him in and out of prison and around the state as he pulled off all kinds of memorable shenanigans.”

Former reporter Marj Carpenter witnessed the damage that Estes’ huckster schemes wreaked on people in West Texas as she worked alongside Oscar Griffin Jr., the late editor at the Pecos Independent and Enterprise who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for his investigation of Estes.

Griffin nailed down the story about Estes — who was showing investors the same fertilizer tanks over and over — by talking to investors, digging through bank documents and looking for the tanks, which didn’t exist.

“Even though it’s been a long time and a lot of people have forgiven him and a lot people thought he was mistreated in the first place, he still did a lot of bad things and hurt a lot of people,” said Carpenter, who found a snake and threatening note in her car while covering Estes.

“Money was way too important to him and he didn’t seem to care how he got it,” she said Tuesday.

Griffin eventually learned that Estes got someone to change the numbers on the tanks while he drove investors around, approaching the same tanks from different directions and leading investors to believe they were seeing different ones. He also discovered that bank documents listed the same few tank numbers for all transactions.

A go-getter since he was a boy, Estes became a millionaire before he was 30. Many of his deals involved agriculture products and services, including irrigation and the fertilizer products that later led to his downfall.

While he admitted to being a swindler, Estes also portrayed himself as a “kind of Robin Hood” and hoped to be remembered for using his money to feed and educate the poor. He was an advocate of school integration in Texas long before it was fashionable.

Before his release from federal prison in 1983, Estes claimed he’d uncovered the root of his problems: compulsiveness. “If I smoke another cigarette, I’ll be hooked on nicotine,” he said. “I’m just one drink away from being an alcoholic and just one deal away from being back in prison.”

One of the strangest episodes in his life involved the death of a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was investigating Estes just before he was accused in the fertilizer tank case.

Henry Marshall’s 1961 death was initially ruled a suicide even though he had five bullet wounds. In 1984, Estes told a grand jury that Johnson had ordered the official killed to prevent him from exposing Estes’ fraudulent business dealings and ties with the vice president. The prosecutor conducting the grand jury investigation said there was no corroboration of Estes’ allegations, but a judge ruled it was “clear and convincing” that the death was not self-inflicted.

In 2003, he co-wrote a book published in France that linked Johnson to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, an allegation rejected by prominent historians, Johnson aides and family members.

A 2007 search for correspondence between Johnson and Estes found a 1953 form letter and only sporadic correspondence during Johnson’s Senate years, according to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin. In a 1962 memo prepared by longtime Johnson aide Walter Jenkins, Johnson recalled meeting Estes once and said he had never talked to him on the phone.

Estes’ wife Patsy died in 2000. He later moved to Granbury, southwest of Fort Worth, and remarried. He is survived by his wife, Dorris Estes four daughters and one son.


Billie Sol Estes

He was pursued by Texas Ranger Clint Peoples during a murder investigation. After Estes was convicted of fraud and sent to prison, Peoples befriended him and convinced him to testify before a grand jury regarding the murder. The testimony was noteworthy because Billie Sol told the grand jury that Lyndon Johnson had ordered the murder of Henry Marshall, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector.

Estes may not have committed the murder, but he was a con-man extraordinaire. His financial schemes were so complicated that it is difficult to follow the trail of deception. Before he was exposed, he was chosen by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of America's 10 outstanding young men in 1953. After the scandal broke, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine and in a not so flattering article.

He was involved in the anhydrous ammonia business, or at least in non-existent ammonia tanks which were fraudulently mortgaged. He was also engaged in the illegal transfer of cotton allotments from farmers whose land had been foreclosed. First convicted in 1963 and sentenced to 24 years in prison that conviction was eventually overturned. He was then convicted for a second set of offenses and served four more years in prison.

Billie Sol Estes, ‘notorious’ Texas financier and church member, dies at 88

“Notorious,” “flamboyant” and “swindler” are among the terms appearing in headlines across the nation, reporting the May 14 death of Billie Sol Estes.

Billie Sol Estes, circa 1983 (Photo provided)

The 88-year-old West Texas businessman and financier — a longtime member of Churches of Christ — made headlines throughout his adult life. Most of them were negative, due to fraud charges that sent him to jail three times.
The first sentence was for a scheme involving phantom anhydrous ammonia fertilizer tanks that he used as collateral to obtain millions of dollars in loans. In all, he spent 11 years of his life behind bars in Leavenworth, Kan., the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. May 17 at the Acton United Methodist Church in Granbury, Texas. The funeral is at 2 p.m. May 18 at the church.
The Star-Telegram referred to Estes as “king of Texas wheeler-dealers” in its headline. The newspaper interviewed Mike Cochran, a longtime reporter for The Associated Press who wrote about Estes for more than three decades. The two eventually became friends.
The newspaper reports:

Mr. Estes was born Jan. 10, 1925, in Abilene and grew up on the family farm near Clyde. As a young man, he made a fortune selling surplus military barracks and surplus wheat. He claimed he was a millionaire by age 21. But he later embarked on the fertilizer tank caper in the early 1960s, which landed him in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan.
Cochran said Mr. Estes also drew a lot of interest because while he was “very much a scoundrel,” people believed he was genuinely committed to the Church of Christ.

Read the full story. (The newspaper also has an extensive online gallery of photos, some from the 1960s.)

Time magazine, May 25, 1962 (via www.time.com)

Time magazine featured Estes on its May 25, 1962, cover. The Associated Press quoted from the magazine in its report:


Pecos Enterprise

The most sensational, and probably the most vicious,
of the big magazine articles was found in Look magazine
dated July 31, 1962, but coming on the news stands
around July 15. All copies coming to Pecos were sold out
within a day or two.

The article started by picturing Pecos before, and
after, the discovery of an abundant supply of water
beneath the arid ground in the Pecos area, and the
description was fairly accurate.

Then began a systematic, rather thorough, history of
the buildup to the Estes scandal. The article did not
hesitate to quote many people. One of the most
interesting was that made by "Tuffy" Alley, a Pecos
old-timer, to a Look reporter, in which he said "I
admire Estes in a way. He's a damn thief, but he's no
petty thief. If you're going to get caught stealing,
don't go to stealing chickens.

Look made many statements that were not true, but
upsetting to many Pecos people who had no leaning
toward either of the factions involved in the struggle.
One statement was that "Pecos was ruled by a small,
entrenched economic-political oligarchy, which played
rough with its foes and often winked at the trespasses
and errors of its friends. Billie So1 Estes, with his
million-dollar deals and $150,000 home, was one of the
friends."

Some of the statements made concerns the police
department upheaval in 1961 were incorrect and
mainly incomplete. Look said the upheaval was caused
because some police actions "aroused the ire of the
ruling clique." Most Pecos people knew that the article
did not tell the whole story.

The article then falsely accused W.H. Holcombe,
President of the Security State Bank, of
notifying his employees that their health insurance
would not apply if they patronized either of the two
doctors who were co-owners of the Pecos Independent,
because the Independent had published stories Holcombe
did not like.

It then went into a description of the 1961 case
involving the Pecos Police Chief, a doctor accused of
sodomy, two other doctor newsmen, the Pecos and
Texas Medical Association, and the county hospital
staff.

This was a nasty affair that most people would like to
forget - most of them have. It had no place in the
affairs of Estes and Pecos people resented the
inferences made.

All this led up to the Independent investigation of
Estes' activities and the subsequent expose. Most of
this was factual, but it did refer to Mayor Cecil Cothrun
as "a kingpin of the old Pecos machine," which didn't
set well with Cothrun.

The article ended with a paragraph rather complimentary
to Pecos. It said, among other things that "Pecos

has
much to build on," "few cities have done better at race
relations" "it is a prosperous city," and "it is a city
built by sturdy pioneers who worked, sweated and saved,
and could be a city with a future.

The publication of this article provoked later
action by certain Pecos people involved in the story.

Attorney General Wilson held another hearing
in Amarillo, with a large number of important
witnesses, and on July 28, 1962 the News came out
with a banner headline saying "Estes Associate
Tells Hearing Millions May Be Buried in Pecos
Pauper's Casket."

Harold Orr said, according to the News, that
$3.5 million received by Estes could not be traced.
Another witness speculated that the $3.5 million
was buried in a pauper's casket, the funeral having
been held at Estes' Colonial Funeral Home. Wilson
said "the biggest digging Pecos ever had is about to
start."

Harold Orr told of C.I.T. asking to see certain
papers. Orr, according to the News, told Wilson "of
course we couldn't show the Superior books because
of all the fictitious paper. Ruel (Alexander) and I
stayed there all night at the office making up a cash
book. We'd walk on it and throw it against the wall
to make it look old. Their auditor came in next day
and it checked perfectly."

Orr and McSpadden told the whole story of
faked mortgages and how they worked, and a
former private pilot for Estes told of flying Jack
Cox, Republican candidate for governor, and Tennessee Governor Frank Clement, all over the country in Estes' private plane.

This was really the only Wilson hearing that brought out much concrete, or worthwhile, information, but the "lid came off" at this one.

Marshall death tabbed murder

On August 1, 1962 District Judge Otis Dunagan
set the Estes trial for September 24 at Tyler. Then,
on August 7, the Estes anti-trust trial was set for
October 29 in Amarillo. Maynard Wheeler and Bob
Clements were also involved in the trial and
Wheeler said his indictment was "a shocking piece
of politics."

On August 9, 1962 the Look magazine article
came back into prominence when Look, along with
Drs. Dunn and Avery, were sued for $1.5 million by
W. H. Holcombe and Cecil Cothrun, accusing the
defendants of "false, scandalous and defamatory
libel." The suit was filed in both District and
Federal court but was finally dropped.

During the first week in August, Texas Ranger
Captain Clint Peoples was in Pecos continuing the
investigation of the controversial circumstances of
Henry Marshall's death. Col. Homer Garrison,
Director of the State Department of Public Safety,
still held to the theory that Marshall was murdered.
This theory came from the fact that Marshall had
been shot five times with a .22 caliber, bolt action,
rifle, supposedly by himself.

The next six weeks was more or less a prelude
to the trial of Estes, most of the activity being in
Washington with the Agriculture Department's
concern with Billie Sol's cotton allotments, how he
got them, who helped him get them, and were they
legal or illegal. John Dennison, one of Estes'
lawyers, told the Senators that Estes was innocent
of any wrongdoing as far as acreage transfers were
concerned.

On September 12, 1962, Reeves County farmers
re-elected Bill Mattox to the county ASC committee,
which was a sort of slap in the face to the
Agriculture Department. The next day, Mattox
resigned, by telegram to the State Chairman, from
the office, explaining that he had no desire to
embarrass the state committee. His resignation was
accepted with thanks.

On September 15 a former general manager of
Estes' operations testified at a hearing that, a few
days before his arrest, Estes had pretty well
"milked" all of his various companies by checks
and withdrawal of cash. Estes had given the
manager two brown envelopes, sealed, to put in his
safety deposit box. A few days later, on Estes'
instructions, he recovered the envelopes and de-
livered them to Estes. The manager did not know
what was in the envelopes, but presumed it was
probably about $17,000 that Estes had drawn from
one of his companies.

The News announced September 20 that 111
witnesses had been subpoenaed for Estes' trial at
Tyler, including many from Pecos and the Pecos
area.

Then, on September 21, the News announced
that a Federal jury at El Paso had found Orr,
Alexander and McSpadden guilty of several counts
of fraud and were given prison terms of from six to
35 years each. Sentencing was delayed until January
7, 1963 to allow the three to testify at the Estes
trial.

A number of people had been trying to buy
Estes' assets. After approval of Estes' creditors,
they were finally sold September 23 to Morris Jaffe,
of San Antonio, for $7 million.

The Estes trial started September 24, on time,
but Estes' lawyers immediately started an attempt
to further delay the trial, as was expected. Estes
lawyers also demanded that there be no TV live
coverage of the trial, but Judge Dunagan overruled
the request.

The News announced on September 26 that the
trial had been postponed until October 22 because
some key witnesses had failed to appear. District
Attorney R. B. McGowen tried every way he could
to keep the trial from being delayed, but failed in
his efforts.

On October 4 the Judge reversed his original
ruling and said there would be no live TV or radio
coverage of the trial.

The trial opened again on October 24 with
fireworks. Tension had increased and, at one point,
John Cofer and Assistant Attorney General Frank
Maloney indulged in a table pounding, shouting
episode, all over the questioning of jurors. By the
end of the day, five tentative jurors had been
selected. TV coverage was allowed.

(Writer's note: The bound copies of the Pecos
Independent from October 21, 1961 to January 1,
1962, and from June 29, 1962 to July 1, 1963, have
been removed from their place in the newspaper
storage room at the West of the the Pecos Museum
by some unknown, unauthorized, person. For that
reason we have had to rely solely on the News and
Enterprise for those periods. The basic news would
be the same, but each paper would treat it a little
different, especially the accent on certain features.)

Efforts made to delay Estes trial

(Eleventh in a series of 12)

The News said on October 26, 1962 that 18
prospective jurors had been named to the Estes case.
Fourteen more would complete the required panel of 32,
after which the lawyers would have the right to
challenge jurors until the panel was reduced to 12.

On October 30 it was announced that Estes' lawyers
were using every excuse they could bring to bear to get
the trial delayed, all without success, so the trial
started.

The first witness was B.W. Stokey, of Dallas,
assistant operating head of the C.I.T. There was more
shouting and arguments over admitting his testimony.

One witness, T.J. Wilson of Pecos, said that his
signature was forged to a tank mortgage. All this first
day was filled with contentions and arguments, the jury
spending more time out of the courtroom than in.

On Thursday, Novermber 1, a new mystery entered
the case. The original of the lease made by T.J. Wilson,
which he said was forged, had disappeared and only a
photo copy was available. The Judge would not allow
the photo copy to be introduced as evidence. Again, the
defense caused delay after delay in their efforts to
protect their client as much as possible.

On November 2, 1962, according to the News,
Harold Orr testified that he forged the Wilson
instrument, saying Billie Sol told him to do so. Orr
also testified that he sent all available blank serial number identification plates to Pecos with two men to change the plates while C.I.T. was making a check.

The State finished the prosecution testimony on
Novermber 2. The defense immediately started a legal
war to get delay, postponement or dismissal of the case,
all to no avail. When it came time to present the case
for the defense, no witnesses were called, which was
somewhat of a surprise.

Judge Dunagan spent the weekend readying his
charge to the jury. He announced Monday that the case
would be given to the jury at 9:00 A.M. Wednesday,
November 7. The jury was given the case at the time
announced, Estes was found guilty of swindling and
assessed a penalty of eight years imprisonment. Cofer
immediately filed notice of appeal.

Estes was hailed into Judge Sarah Hughes'
Court in Dallas, December 1, 1962, on the charge of
making false statements to Commodity Credit Corporation,
to which he pled "not guilty."

The Daily News of December 8 announced that Estes'
Federal trial had been set in El Paso for December 10.

Estes was to answer 29 counts of mail fraud, interstate
transportation of securities taken by fraud, and
conspiracy. Estes' lawyers were to ask for a dismissal or
change of venue to Pecos.

(On December 11 Judge Thomason set March 11 as
the beginning date of the trial. He split the indictment
and ordered half to be tried in Pecos because the
alleged violations occurred in the Pecos Division. No
date was set for the Pecos trial)

The News announced January 3, 1963 that Glenn
Lester had sued Estes and Commercial Solvents for
$975,000, alleging that they had forced him to sell his
stock in Lester-Stern fertilizer company for $25,000, it
being worth $150,000.

The whole "mess" was confused January 8
when the Pecos "hospital hassle" entered the picture.

It was an affair involving the hospital board, the hospital

staff and one doctor in particular. We do not care to go
into the particulars of this most explosive case, but it
separated neighbors and friends into two separate
camps and, for many weeks, Pecos was in quite a
turmoil.

This affair was not directly connected with the Estes
case, but the Daily News correctly stated that "Had
there been no Billie Sol Estes affair preceding present
events, no newspaper outside Pecos would be
interested." The whole story may be read in the files of
the Pecos Daily News beginning with the issue of
January 8, 1963.

On January 25, 1963 Judge Dunagan, of Tyler,
sentenced Estes to eight years in prison. Cofer promptly
announced that it would be appealed.

The reader will note that we are covering only the
pertinent highlights of the Estes trials. In the skips,
there was much legal maneuvering, investigations,
charges and counter charges taking place, which makes
interesting but tedious reading.

The selection of Federal jurors for the Estes
trial in El Paso began Monday, March 11, 1963. Defense
attorney Cofer immediately moved to declare a mistrial,
which was promptly overruled by Judge Thomason.
Testimony, which proved to be a long, drawn out affair,
began on March 15 with more shouting on the part of
the lawyers.

Alexander, Orr and McSpadden were never called to
testify. Then on March, 20, the government suddenly
rested their case, catching the defense off guard, and
court was messed until the next day. Upon convening
the next morning, Cofer moved for a directed verdict of
acquittal, which was again denied.

Newspaper announced verdict

Arguments in the El Paso trial were presented and
concluded March 25, after which Judge Thomason
announced he would present his charge to the jury the
morning of March 26.

Then came one of very few "EXTRAS" that have ever
been issued by a Pecos newspaper. This paper came out
March 28, 1963 with oversize headlines reading
"ESTES IS GUILTY!" The jury had found him guilty of
mail fraud. His sentencing was delayed but Judge
Thomason did not announce the date for sentencing.

On April 16, 1963 the Daily News announced that
Estes had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. In
sentencing Estes, Judge Thomason said "The record
shows that you were the perpetrator of one of the most
gigantic swindles in the history of our country." Estes
was freed-on a $100,000 bond pending appeal. The bond
was signed by his uncle, Dr. Sol Estes, and his brother,
Dr. John Estes, both of Abilene.

After being relesed on bond, the News gave
accounts of Estes' visits to a number of schools and
churches in the deep South. He first went to Nashville
on April 23, where he visited the Nashville Christian
Institute, a negro school, where he was emotionally
greeted. Estes haid befriended this school and they were
in the process of taking up a collection for his benefit.

Then, on April 23, 1963, he spoke at Highland
Avenue Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, a
negro congregation. He spoke on race relations, saying
the segregation was unchristian. He also spoke at
the Gayle Streett Church of Christ (Negro) on the race
issue. He spent the night at the home of Mac McLeod,
pastor of the church, but was asked to leave the next
morning. According to the Daily News, McLeod said
"we're not interested in that kind of mess."

On June 2, 1963 the Pecos Furniture Co. and Pecos
Funeral Home bought Estes' Colonial Funeral Home.
This was one assset that Pecos gained from the Estes
debacle.

At a hearing in Amarillo on June 26, Harold Orr
testified that Bob.Clements, former owner of Superior
Manufacturing Co., suggested to him a plan to sell
fictitious tank mortgages.

On the night of August 8, 1963 a 10 foot high
wooden cross was burned on Estes' lawn. Then, the
next night, a bullet was fired through the picture
window of the Estes living room. Authorities thought
both incidents were cause by thrill seekers who had no
interest in the Estes case.

The Estes home had been opened to guided tours at
$5 to $20 per trip, according to the Independent. On
August 15, 1963 the City of Pecos notified Estes that
there was an ordinance preventing him from conducting
such an operation in a residential area and the tours
were stopped. It was a rather lucrative business for a
time because every visitor that came to Pecos during
that period wanted to see the Billie Sol Estes
"mansion," and were willing to pay the price.

It had been rumored for some time that Estes was
going to move to Abilene. During the night of August
28, moving vans came in quietly and removed the
furniture from the house. Estes then moved into a new
home in Abilene (not a new house but a new home for
Estes).

On September 20 the Independent reported that

Estes was to be questioned at El Paso concerning "his
Pecos home, his new swank home in Abilene, and the
newly formed International Love and Good Will
Corporation."

The News announced January 16, 1964 that the State
Court of Criminal Appeals had upheld the eight year
sentence Estes had received at the Tyler trial.

The Independent of January 20 carried a story saying
that the I.R.S. said that Estes owed $18.2 million in
back taxes and penalties. For the next 10 months very little of any consequence happened. Of course, there was much legal maneuvering, civil suits, hearings and rehearings, but nothing that had any particular bearing on the main case.

Then, on November 24, 1964, the Independent said
that Estes had spent about two hours in the Dallas jail
before facing Judge Sarah Hughes for violation of travel
restrictions on his bond. After some arguing, Estes was
placed under a new $10,000 bond with travel limited to
the state of Texas.

The final blow came on January 15, 1965 when
the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Estes appeal
and upheld the 15-year sentence imposed upon him in El
Paso. Estes was arrested in Abilene, immediately
following the announcement, and placed in jail without
bail.

Estes' trial on charges of making false statements in
regards to his debts came up in Dailps and, on March
15, 1965, he was acquitted of this charge. Some time
later he was committed to the Federal penitentiary at
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and started serving his 15
year term.

His conviction at Tyler was still under appeal and, on
June 8, 1965, it was reversed by the U.S. Supreme
Court because of TV and radio live coverage of the trial.

And that ends the story of news coverage of one of the
nation's most complicated, massive swindles, in which
many people were involved and much money lost. It
should be to the never ending credit of Pecos that, in
spite of two major scandals, the people got back
together, let by-gones be by-gones and continued with
the job of building a community in which anyone would
be proud to live.
PHOTOS:

Billie Sol Estes is furloughed from Big Spring federal prison camp in 1983 for publisher's release of a book about him, written by daughter Pam from more than 20 years' notes and collected information. (9.6KB)

Billie Sol Estes, in checkered coat, is interviewed at the Big Spring federal prison camp in late October, 1983, shortly before his parole. He began a 15-year sentence in 1965 after conviction for federal mail fraud and conspiracy. Creditors claimed Estes owed them $38 million. (AP Laserphoto, 26.6 KB)

Leaving federal prison in Big Spring in mid-November, 1983, Billie Sol Estes kisses his wife, Patsy. (AP laserphoto, 22.4KB)

Former con-man and wheeler-dealer, Billie Sol Estes, whose circle of friends once included Lyndon Johnson, sits in a Brady,Tex. restaurant Sept. 3, 1997. After two federal prison stints, Estes has quietly settled into Brady on the fringe of the Texas Hill Country. (AP Photo by Ron Heflin, 18KB).


Watch the video: 1962 Billy Sol Estes on Trial in Texas (July 2022).