Here we go again, into the hall of mirrors that is the JFK assassination. With the 40th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 22, the murder of the young president is the subject of intense media coverage and solemn memorials. For a select group, the remaining hardcore Kennedy assassination researchers, the anniversary brings something more: a renewed determination to find out, once and for all, who done it.
Some promising avenues of inquiry still remain, the researchers argue, and they are determined to follow them all. An example of the unresolved and potentially important tangents in the case--one that is tied to the Triangle, oddly enough--is accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's so-called "Raleigh call."
Grover Proctor, who grew up in Raleigh and today is a dean at Northwood University in Michigan, has done the most in-depth research on the matter. He wrote up his main findings back in 1980, in a two-part series for Raleigh's Spectator weekly, and has since posted them on the Web.
Here's what Proctor and other researchers have learned: Arrested within two hours after Kennedy was shot, Oswald made several phone calls from the Dallas jail in the two days before he, too, was gunned down. He called his wife, Marina Oswald, and arranged for her and his mother to visit him in jail. He called Marina's friend and benefactor, Ruth Paine, and asked her to try to contact a radical New York attorney, John Abt, while himself making fruitless attempts to reach Abt. And, late on the night of Nov. 23--Oswald's last night alive--he evidently tried to place a call to a Raleigh resident by the name of John Hurt.
A Dallas municipal switchboard employee filled out a phone slip documenting the attempted call, which was placed by one of her colleagues. Or rather, Oswald requested that the call be placed, but it appears that the switchboard operator only pretended to attempt the call, then told Oswald it would not go through. Whether she did this of her own volition, or at the urging of Secret Service or FBI agents, remains unclear.
But it does appear clear enough, based on the available records, that Oswald wanted to reach one John Hurt of Raleigh. The Dallas jail phone slip lists two numbers from the area code 919, for two different men: John W. Hurt and John D. Hurt. Evidently, Oswald or someone assisting him obtained the numbers by calling directory assistance, because they weren't in his address book.
Both John Hurts were interviewed by officials investigating the assassination, and both said they didn't know Oswald and had never spoken with him. John W., an auto mechanic, seemed a most unlikely suspect. John D., however, aroused some interest among conspiracy buffs and assassination researchers. While he worked as an insurance claims adjuster in the '50s and '60s, he had served in Army counterintelligence during World War II.
Was John D. Hurt, who died in 1981, some sort of military intelligence contact for Oswald? Or perhaps a "cut-out" to help Oswald relay a message to his "handlers"? Or maybe it was all just some weird historical coincidence. The possibilities, as Proctor outlines them in his report, are intriguing, if largely speculative.
"Is this the linchpin of the case? No," Proctor said when I called him this week to ask about the import of the Raleigh call. "But it just might shed light on some of the other things that went on." (Proctor's report, "The Raleigh Call," along with supporting documentation, is online at www.northwood.edu/~grover/jfk/jfk80.html. )