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For Mary

SPEECH FOR JFK LANCER – NOV. 17TH 2007

Bob Dorff at the JFK Lancer Conference 2007

Debra Conway, Larry Hancock, members of the staff of JFK LANCER – ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for bestowing this special honor on me. It is greatly appreciated.

In 1975 I read Robert Sam Anson’s book “THE’VE KILLED THE PRESIDENT.” In it, he pointed to a long list of President Kennedy’s enemies. I was so naïve I didn’t know he had any enemies. Until then, I swallowed the findings of THE WARREN COMMISSION, believed in the FBI, the CIA, Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Then, in 1978, I saw or listened to the public hearings of the HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ASSASSINATIONS. The revelations of the Committee, plus Anthony Summers 1980 watershed book CONSPIRACY turned me into a non-believer and later propelled me into the field to research things that hadn’t seen the light of day, most especially the activities of an arcane CIA assassin, named David Sanchez Morales. Those efforts were memorialized in Gaeton Fonzi fine book, THE LAST INVESTIGATION. A couple of months ago, I published my own book, 22 DAYS HATH NOVEMBER which takes the Morales investigation even further.

In the summer of 1989 Gary Shaw and I were involved in organizing a small, private JFK conference in San Francisco, to be held the first week in July. This was to be a select group of JFK researchers who would focus on events in Mexico City, especially those between September 27th and October 6th 1963. Six former staff members of the HOUSE ASSASSINATIONS COMMITTEE including Cliff Fenton, Jack Moriarity, Gaeton Fonzi, Al Gonzales, Edwin Lopez, and Leslie Weisselman attended, plus eleven prominent researchers, some of whom had published significant books on the case including Anthony Summers, Peter Dale Scott, Paul Hoch, Bud Fensterwald and John Davis.

Mary Ferrell with Bob Dorff

Mary Ferrell with Bob Dorff

I asked Gary about inviting the legendary Mary Ferrell, whom I’d never met or even talked with on the telephone. Gary told me Mary wouldn’t come— “she can barely walk and wouldn’t be able to make it.” The next week my telephone rang: “Is this Bob Dorff?” a woman with a pronounced Tennessee accent asked. “This is Bob,” I replied. “Well this is Mary Ferrell and I want to know why you didn’t invite me to your conference?”

When I explained, she said: “You tell Gary Shaw to mind his own business. I’m comin’ —now where should I send my money and where do I make reservations?” Then she launched into an amazingly accurate dossier on my mother’s side of the family who’d lived in Dallas for seventy five years.

“Your Uncle Gerald was a Lieutenant of Detectives on the Dallas Police force—your Uncle James was the Purchasing Agent for the City of Dallas for thirty years. Their stepfather was the manager of the Western Union office, your mother won Paramount’s annual screenwriting contest in 1926 when she worked on the Dallas Times Herald” —Mary wanted to make sure she knew who she was speaking to.

During the conference in San Francisco she and I didn’t have much time to talk. During a brief break she mentioned she had been a member of the “Women’s Auxiliary of The Minutemen.” And that her husband Buck belonged to “The Minutemen.” That quickened my pulse a few beats. They were Republican’s who didn’t vote for or like John Kennedy. They were patriots who felt that shooting the president was un-patriotic.

That was the beginning of my fifteen year friendship with a person I became very close to and loved very much.

Her memory was beyond phenomenal—often quoting obscure information about this one or that one—reciting their social security numbers—and if they were still on the planet their address and telephone number.

Mary could see through everything and everybody. After interrogating Chauncey Holt for two days she announced the man who claimed he was one of the “three tramps” was a fake. Others were sure he was the genuine article—but as always, Mary proved to be right.

She and Marina Oswald became very close. When they first met Mary demanded: “Why did you tell the Warren Commission so many lies?” “I afraid they deport me,” Marina replied.

When G. Robert Blakey took over as Chief Counsel for the HSCA, his first stop was Mary’s house. He left with stacks of documents. Later he called and explained that she would have to sign a secrecy oath with the House Committee. “I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sign a secrecy oath over a bunch of documents that came from my living room,” she told Blakey.

Intimidating Mary was just not possible.

In 1992 she was asked to give the keynote address at the annual “A.S.K.” conference in Dallas. She refused. I talked to her for over an hour trying to get her to change her mind. Finally she said: “Well Bob, if you’ll write the damned speech—I’ll do it.” She got a standing ovation —before the speech—a much longer one when she finished.

John Newman showed up the next day with a copy of a Washington Post article quoting passages from Mary’s speech. That really tickled her. “Hell, she said, “President’s have speechwriters’ —why can’t I?”

Mary’s main concern before she left us was for people—especially young people, to have access to her work. The hope for JFK research is always the future—which is the province of the young.

With JFK LANCER and other research organizations continually moving forward, plus Mary’s foundation and all of the fond memories we have of this truly original human being—her work and spirit will survive forever. And for that, we should count ourselves very lucky.

Thank you.

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