Published in The Athens Observer, p. 2A (February 5, 1987).
Author: Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law.
Almost a quarter century ago, on Nov. 22, 1963, while riding in an open limousine in a motorcade, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. At least two and possibly as many as six rifle shots were fired at his automobile in less than 10 seconds beginning around 12:30 p.m. The famous Abraham Zapruder film, which captures the horrible murder in color and motion, plainly shows both Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally, while seated in the open car, being struck and injured by bullets. The wounded president, slumped over his wife's lap, his pupils dilated and deviated, bleeding from a head shot and at least one additional shot to the body, was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he arrived within 10 minutes. He died a few minutes later in Emergency Room No. 1 after valiant medical efforts failed to revive him, and his death was announced at 1 p.m. Gov. Connally suffered severe and painful injuries, but survived.
The gruesome and sickening facts of President's tragic death, which so shocked the nation, are known by most of us. What is far less known is that there might have been a Georgia connection to the Kennedy assassination. To be precise, there are two possible connections. The first--admittedly a tenuous one--involves a mysterious car in Dallas with a Georgia license plate reported speeding away shortly after the assassination. The second--which is far more substantial--involves a deceased south Georgian, Joseph Milteer, who on Nov. 9, 1963, 13 days before the assassination, was recorded on tape telling a police informer that JFK's killing was "in the working," that it could be carried out by means of a rifle fired from a building, and that "[t]hey will pick up somebody within hours afterwards ... just to throw the public off."
The Mysterious Fleeing Chevrolet
In 1978 and 1979 the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U. S. House of Representatives, reflecting the widespread dissatisfaction with the Warren Commission's inadequate investigation and its conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone killed President Kennedy, reinvestigated the JFK assassination. At the conclusion of its work, in 1979, the Committee published 13 volumes of materials--a Final Report, and 12 volumes of hearings, testimony, exhibits, and staff reports. Vol. 12 contains a staff report with a remarkable title--"Conspiracy Witnesses in Dealey Plaza." This staff report provides evidence of the first possible Georgia connection to the assassination--the mysterious fleeing Chevrolet with a Georgia license tag.
The House Committee report stated: "The Dallas County Sheriff's Department ... received [a] report of a car seen speeding from the direction of Dealey Plaza on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963. In a report dated Nov. 22, Deputy Sheriff Jack Watson reported that he had received information through the sheriff's office about the car. Watson reported that the Carrollton, Texas, Police Department called in that they had received a citizen's report that a car had been parked near the Harry Hines Circle for several days before Nov. 22. According to the information from the Carrollton police, 'very shortly after the shooting' that car was seen traveling north on Harry Hines Boulevard 'at a high rate of speed.' The Carrollton police described the car as a red 1963 Chevrolet Impala with Georgia license plate 52J1033. Watson's report stated that the information on that car was broadcast to all stations north."
The information concerning the fleeing car was given to the Warren Commission by Dallas police officials, and is mentioned in one of the volumes published by the Warren Commission in 1964.
The FBI also investigated the matter of the reported fleeing Chevrolet. The House Committee's report explained:
"According to an FBI report on the car with the Georgia license plate, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office had received the call on the radio between 1:54 and 2:11 p.m., and it reflected that a car had been spotted speeding along Harry Hines Boulevard just prior to that. The FBI was advised on March 27, 1964 by its Atlanta office that the 1963 Georgia license 52J1033 was listed to J. C. Bradley of Twin City, Ga. That license was for a four-door 1960 Chevrolet.
"The owner of the car and license, James Cecil Bradley, was interviewed by special agents of the FBI on May 14, 1964. At that time Bradley informed the FBI that he owned a 1960 Belair Chevrolet. The color of the car was not given, but Bradley stated that he had never owned a red 1963 Chevrolet Impala. Bradley said that in August or September 1963 his 1963 license plate was stolen from he car as it was parked overnight with a flat tire on Highway 80 between Swainsboro and Twin City, Ga. Bradley stated that he reported the theft to law officers in Twin City and Swainsboro."
The Assassinations Committee report also found: (1) Bradley's statement that his car tag had been stolen was confirmed in an FBI interview by a friend who helped to repair the flat tire; (2) official records confirmed that Bradley had reported his tag as stolen; and (3) the tag later stolen was originally issued to Bradley on Mar. 28, 1963. The Committee was unable to determine who stole the tag or who was in the fleeing Chevrolet.
What conclusions, then, can be drawn from this evidence?
First, we have positive, undeniable proof of at least a possible Georgia
connection to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We
have a prompt and specific citizen's report of a suspicious red Chevrolet
with a Georgia tag that had been parked for several days and later was
seen speeding away from the assassination vicinity shortly after the shooting;
and upon examination the reported vehicle's tag was shown to have been
stolen. (There were, it should be noted, other reports of other suspicious
fleeing or parked automobiles.) Although the citizen's report of
the red Chevrolet might be erroneous, misreported, or hoax, or a plant,
and although there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for the speeding
car if the report was correct, the fact remains that the report is also
circumstantial evidence that some of the assassins might have escaped in
a car with a Georgia tag stolen in Georgia by the assassins themselves,
or by others.
Second, this Georgia link to the assassination does not involve any specific known individual. It certainly does not involve Mr. Bradley, who appears to have been a perfectly innocent victim. The link instead involves (1) the stolen plate 52J1033, (2) the theft of the plate, which apparently occurred at dead of night on a south Georgia roadside approximately two months before the assassination, and (3) a mysterious red Chevrolet to which the tag apparently was affixed on Nov. 22, 1963, when the car was spotted under suspicious circumstances in the city where President Kennedy died. Thus far no evidence has been found connecting the stolen plate or the fleeing car with the late Joseph Milteer, of Valdosta and Quitman, Ga., who is discussed in the second and third parts of his article. Milteer was a second possible Georgia connection to the assassination. Thus, the two possible Georgia connections appear to be wholly independent and unrelated.
Third, the citizen's report seems quite credible, assuming it is accurately reported. It was made less than two hours after the assassination. It was specific, and the fact that the plates turned out to be stolen appears to corroborate the citizen who made the report to the police. The car's reported parking and movements are suspicious. The fact that the occupants of the car never stepped forward and that the identity of the vehicle has never been determined also is noteworthy. If the report is correct, and the auto contained one or more assassins, the it would appear that at least some of the killers of President Kennedy escaped in a car bearing a stolen Georgia tag! Furthermore, if an assassin was in the Chevrolet, any lingering doubt whatever about the existence of a conspiracy must evaporate, since no one will claim that Oswald was in the car.
Finally, it is obvious that the information put together
by the House Committee warrants further official investigations to clear
up important questions concerning this possible Georgia connection to the
Kennedy assassination. Of course, the passage of time make the job
impossible, but in the interest of truth a thorough reinvestigation should
at least be attempted. What questions need further investigation?
First, who stole the license plate, and what were the circumstances?
Second, what was the red Chevrolet reported fleeing the assassination?
Third, who was in that automobile? Fourth, can the citizen who have
the original report about the mysterious car be located and his present
story heard? Finally, do the police or FBI have more information
which might be helpful?