Barr McClellan’s Blood, Money, and Power

Please read what follows carefully, as I write it with the deepest of regret. But what you read herein MUST be stated to clear the air.

On September 30, I mailed out the October, 2003 issue of the JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, which contained positive, “endorsement” references to Barr McClellan’s “upcoming” work, Blood, Money, and Power: How L.B.J. Killed JFK. (That work also contains a jacket “blurb,” by me, which is valid in the sense that it reflected my opinions on the“to be corrected” “galley proofs” of the book that I read in July.) Several days later, I received the publisher’s edition of the book, and I have been deeply troubled by inconsistencies between what I read (and editorially corrected) in the page proofs and that which appears in the publisher’s edition, available for sale.

To readers of the journal, as well as to readers of my own works, I must issue an apology in that I would not have so eagerly endorsed this work had I known what the publisher’s edition would look like. I have known Barr McClellan for almost six years, and although we’ve never actually met, we have spent many hours together in the search for truth in the events of November 22, 1963. I have no reason to think that his work is in any way an attempt at deceit, but at the same time, I have no answers to the “why?” of how it went from a solid, stand-on-its-own-legs work in July to an almost fictionalized account in October. If anyone reading this found as much disappointment in the book as I did, I apologize if you made this reading selection based on my endorsement. For those who have read the JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly at any time in the past nine years, you know that when I review a published work, I tend to be critical, not laudatory. Had I not known Barr (from the proverbial “Adam”), and this book crossed my desk, I would have had no choice BUT TO BE CRITICAL of it, as it contains egregious errors of a factual nature and it takes literary license beyond bounds in its attempts to “factionalize” events not actually known, but highly suspected, by the author. I should also add that if the premise of this book was “Oswald only,” and it had such errors and “faction,” any reviewer who has had material published in the journal would have had a field day.

Chronology: Barr McClellan initially sent me his manuscript in 1998. It was an interesting read with respect to what he called “Bubba Justice,” a parochial nickname for the ol’ boy legal network in Texas. The vast majority of that manuscript dealt with that topic and devoted very little space to McClellan’s close working ties with Ed Clark, portrayed as LBJ’s “cover-up” lawyer in matters dealing with the JFK assassination.

There the matter rested until I became aware that the book was to be published, with the original publication date set for late 2002, and then moved to early 2003. Since I had not been privy to that process, I assumed the author was moving ahead, on his own, and I wished him well.

He sent me the “new” manuscript early in 2003, and I edited it thoroughly, both for mechanics (grammar, usage, spelling), and, more importantly to me, for factual accuracy. I rewrote parts of it for greater clarity in matters pertaining to events in Dealey Plaza. The edited manuscript was then Fed-Ex’d back to Mississippi in the depths of winter.

In June, I was asked to “take a peek at the galleys,” and another researcher, who had also worked extensively with Barr, was asked to do likewise. When the galleys arrived, in page-proof form, it was immediately obvious that the manuscript I had returned in February had been massively altered, and, in particular, there were glaring errors of fact in the galleys that had been added following the February edit. One case in point was a notation regarding Will Fritz, cited as the Dallas Police Chief. I was wholly at a loss to explain how that, and other, similarly obvious errors had made their way into the manuscript, but I had to remind myself that I had only been the editor, not the author.

I faxed the first 154 galley pages back to Barr in early July, but then literally hit a wall as I found error after error in the part(s) covering events from Love Field to Bethesda. These concerns were ALL directly addressed in a lengthy conference call held on July 11, 2003, involving Barr, the Texas-based researcher who also had great input into the work, and me. At the end of that phone call, both “editors” were assured that the provable corrections of fact that had to be made would ALL be made.

With that in mind, and with the long-held belief that John Kennedy’s murder could not have been accomplished without LBJ, and mindful that it had been LBJ who had created the Warren Commission, I wrote the blurb (along with the “rectangle” below it) for attribution on the back dust flap of a book that, as of July 11, I believed to be factually accurate, although it was always understood that I was taking Barr’s knowledge of the inner workings of the legal system as truth.

I still believe that Barr’s knowledge of the Clark-LBJ tie is accurate. Beyond that, however, both editors BEGGED Barr not to use “faction,” the name he gave to the blending of fact and fiction as a way of connecting the dots. I wrote “source?” so many times in the margin I grew weary of the task. If Barr could not be dissuaded from leaving out his educated guesses, both editors again implored him to italicize them, so the reader would know where documented material parted company with “faction.”

We were told it would be done that way, but were then told that editorially (i.e., at the publisher’s end), it could not be done that way. At that point, a few weeks after the July 11 call, I became apprehensive.

In subsequent conversations with Barr, I was promised that ALL factual errors had been corrected. I had no reason NOT to believe him, as I’ve told anyone who would listen that NOT to correct such errors was to invite disaster. And publishers are in the business of making money, not mistakes. I also failed to take into account the possibility that where errors where removed, “faction” would fill in.

At that point, the materials published in the October, 2003, JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly were written, printed and mailed. Just as those journals were arriving in mailboxes, I received my copy of the book. Upon opening it, I realized immediately that errors -- both of the mechanical stripe and of factual content -- still existed in an unhealthy quantity. As I read further, I began to see that errors that were “fixed” in the July 11 call were not, in fact, changed in any way. In addition, there was “faction” so totally interwoven into the text as to make it waver, extremely tenuously, over the editorial pit entitled “credibility.”

I have received a great deal of mail, phone calls, and e-mails regarding my thoughts on the book, and peace of mind and academic honesty forced me to write the words you have read. I can’t say “what went wrong,” simply because I don’t know, but I’m troubled -- and I’ve told Barr this -- that whenever I ask why the corrections were not made, I’ve gotten no answer whatsoever.

I still believe, and will not likely ever change the belief, that the murder of John F. Kennedy, and its attribution to a demented loner, could not have happened with such ease had not Lyndon Johnson been a pivotal player in the tragedy. For that part of the story, where fact can be separated from fiction, the work has value. However, both the “remaining” errors of fact and the undocumented “faction” have made me realize that the book is not going to be the “blockbuster” I had hoped for, and also made me realize that the time to issue a “blurb” or an attribution for a book is when the work is wholly completed.

In the same vein, although many of us believe the Warren Report to be fictional, they at least made some slick attempts to prove what they were saying. I cannot, in good conscience, castigate the Warren Commission’s work, on one hand, and widely endorse a mistake-laden, “factionalized” account on the other. It would be hypocrisy, and despite my LBJ beliefs, I cannot do it.

I extend this apology to my dear friend in Texas (the other editor), as I know he shares my most abiding questions: What went wrong in the editing process here? And, of course, “Who Killed JFK?” Finally, I apologize to Barr. Writing this was no easy feat, but it had to be done. Perhaps if I had been less his friend and more his editorial shadow, things would have been different.

Let us all continue our search FOR the truth. There are many places where the book fits into the axiom that “many people have answers, but they just don’t know the question to which the answer fits.” There are answers in this book, and they may be the answers to your questions, or may create a link for others to come forward. To the extent that there is documentable material in Blood, Money, and Power that add pieces to the puzzle, it is a work that will always be on my bookshelf. My biggest regret is that you, the reader, could not have read the July 11 corrected version.

November 1, 2003; Walt Brown