Sunday December 8, 2013
Retired FBI Agent in Kennedy Assassination Still Convinced Oswald Acted AloneSalem-News.com
Jim Graham says conspiracy theories may have stemmed from withheld evidence at request of Jacqueline Kennedy.
(OVERLAND PARK, Ks.) - Jim Graham, the retired FBI special agent who helped to lead the investigation of the Kennedy assassination 48 years ago, lives today at Tallgrass Creek in Overland Park and is still convinced Oswald acted alone.
Graham, who was in the FBI's office in Kansas City, Missouri, vividly remembers the day President Kennedy was killed November 22, 1963. “I was a street agent at the time and was in my car,” said Graham. “I was connected to the highway patrol’s radio, and the news came over the air.”
Two days later, Jack Ruby murdered Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Graham found himself in Dallas, along with hundreds of other law enforcement representatives, investigating the astonishing turn of events.
Graham spent a month in Dallas on special assignment where he pursued thousands of leads that might link to Oswald. The information he obtained eventually became part of the Warren Commission’s report, the 880-page investigation of the Kennedy assassination. Graham remains a firm believer there was no conspiracy to kill Kennedy.
"Oswald was a small person who always wanted to be somebody," said Graham, who lives at Tallgrass Creek with his wife Marlene. "Killing the President of the United States was his claim to fame." Graham thinks Oswald would have confessed to the Kennedy assassination had he not been killed by Ruby.
Graham said much of the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories may have stemmed from the FBI's decision to withhold evidence that indicated the fatal bullet came from Oswald's position in the Texas School Book Depository Building and from Oswald's rifle. "Mrs. Kennedy did not want this evidence released immediately because she did not want her children to see it," said Graham. "The FBI made a decision to withhold it for some time."
Graham's law enforcement career took other noteworthy paths.
Graham was the lead negotiator during Kansas City’s only airline hijacking, in 1977. The saga began in Grand Island, Nebraska, when an armed hijacker boarded a Frontier Airlines flight and demanded $3 million, release of a friend in prison, and transport to Cuba. The plane landed in Kansas City, Missouri, to refuel and Graham’s negotiations began.
“He wanted money and transport to Cuba, and we wanted all the people safely off the plane,” said Graham. “It was a very tense one-and-a- half hour standoff.”
Graham convinced the hijacker to release most of the passengers and told him he would need to change planes in Atlanta since the plane would not make it to Cuba. When the plane landed in Atlanta, the hijacker killed himself without harming the remaining passengers and crew.
Graham graduated from Notre Dame in 1952 and spent two years in the United States Air Force as the deputy financial officer for the Alaskan Air Command in Anchorage, Alaska. He became familiar with the FBI when he discovered some of his unit’s payroll missing and the Bureau sent agents to investigate.
Graham joined the FBI in 1955 and spent most of his 25-year career in the criminal division of the Kansas City office. He dealt with crimes such as car theft rings, interstate theft, and unlawful fugitive flight cases. He was in charge of the major criminal squad for the last ten years of his career.
One assignment he supervised was an eight-month sting operation that resulted in shutting down several large fencing operations. He went into business with the thieves in order to catch them. “We rented some office space and set up shop,” said Graham. “It didn’t take long before we had ‘customers’ wanting to fence everything from stolen cars to chain saws.” The transactions were taped and all those caught fencing stolen property pled guilty.
After retirement from the FBI in 1980, Graham headed up the Kansas City Crime Commission, a nonprofit organization consisting of business and community leaders. The commission, established in the ‘40s to help ensure the legitimacy of top law enforcement, is still an active organization today.
“Our city has a fine police force now,” said Graham. “But there was a time when there was quite a lot of corruption and the commission provided a watchdog.”
Kansas City’s popular TIPS hotline was established during Graham’s tenure as head of the city’s crime commission. The hotline is responsible for hundreds of solved crimes every year.
In 1984, Graham received the Officer of the Year award for his contributions to the crime commission and the FBI. The award is sponsored by the local NBC affiliate and the metropolitan police chiefs’ and sheriffs’ associations. Recipients are voted on by their peers in local, state, and federal law enforcement.
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