Welcome to the final installment of our Rev. Raymond Broshears extravaganza.
As noted in Part 00001 of this seemingly never-ending series, Broshears had been arrested (allegedly) in 1965 for threatening the life of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. According to Bernard Fensterwald’s Assassination of JFK by Coincidence or Conspiracy?, Broshears “made the threat on Johnson’s life in order to be placed under protective custody, where he would be safe from unspecified ‘harassment.’ He later escaped prosecution by basing his defense on mental illness…”
Recently, I discovered some notes by investigator Steve Jaffee regarding this supposed Broshears-LBJ death threat caper, which we’ll get to in a bit. While Jaffee’s not a name that immediately comes to mind in relation to the Jim Garrison investigation, he was nonetheless an active player on several fronts, particularly following up on West Coast leads. Jaffee falls into the category of a “Dealey Plaza Irregular,” one of the many independent researchers Garrison welcomed with open arms, even providing his Irregulars with official identification cards—which meant of course that they were totally official.
In regards to this supposed LBJ death threat, Jaffee interviewed Rev. Broshears on August 8, 1968, and according to his notes:
“While on a television program in Los Angeles, California, the Stan Bohrman Show, July 8, 1968, BROSHEARS stated that he had been arrested for threatening the life of President Johnson. He said that he had made the statement, ‘President Johnson, who was responsible directly or indirectly for the assassination of our beloved President Kennedy, should be put to death.’ BROSHEARS told us he had made these statements because of what DAVID FERRIE had told him… In approximately September 1965, BROSHEARS was arrested by Secret Service agents and Federal Marshals and taken to the Veterans Administration Hospital in New Orleans. There he was arraigned by Federal Judge Christenberry in the presence of other Secret Service agents for conspiring to assassinate President Johnson. Mark Lane asked BROSHEARS who the other co-conspirators were. BROSHEARS said that he had made statements and discussed President Johnson in a disparaging way with four others who were also arraigned…
“After being questioned at Gulfport Hospital by Secret Service agents, one of the agents returned from Washington, D.C., and told BROSHEARS, ‘You’ll get a compensation pension. You will have to report to us every time you move from one city to another. If you do not do these things, you will be put in a federal jail mental institution…’”
It occurred to me that—if indeed this alleged Broshears-LBJ death threat incident ever actually occurred—there might be some official records pertaining to the matter. That being the case, a light bulb went off in my head (as light bulbs have been occasionally known to do) that perhaps a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was in order. But before going down that road, I decided to scour the web for any Broshears FOIA files that had shaken loose in recent times and, lo and behold, came across this goldmine of Rev. Ray curiosities courtesy of Russ Kick, a whopping 500 pages of FOIA material that is indeed quite revealing, however there was nothing in there about Broshears and the supposed LBJ death threat. To this end, I suspect Reverend Ray was under some sort of delusion regarding this incident because it occurred at the same time he was incarcerated for groping a male youth as chronicled in Part 00001 of this startling series.
Anyway, enough of this LBJ death threat tangent. Let’s jump into the Broshears FOIA files and let them lead us where they may.
Our FOIA foray starts on February 5, 1969, with a letter Rev. Broshears sent to the “director of service” which found its way to J. Edgar Hoover. Apparently, Broshears had a beef with a group called the Economics Opportunities Commission who, according to the Rev., was supporting “activities that are most questionable in the eyes of many…”
On Feb 12, 1969, Hoover responded to “Dr. Broshears” informing him that the matter was not within the Bureau’s “investigative jurisdiction.”
Evidently, Hoover didn’t have a clue what Broshears was going on about, but nevertheless decided to be civil because there’s never any benefit in riling up some crank with an alleged history of threatening a sitting President. As previously noted, Broshears had a long established pattern of complaining to public officials about one thing or another, and usually not liking the responses he received from these complaints, which led to even more complaints and a never ending cycle of Broshears getting miffed at any number of officials, who themselves were probably perpetually perplexed about what all the fuss was. In addition, Broshears filed a flurry of frivolous lawsuits over the years, including one to the IRS when they refused to recognize his ministry as a non-profit.
Broshears next run-in with the Feds occurred on March 3, 1969, when he popped into the San Francisco FBI field office:
“to discuss a [Vietnam war] deserter matter. SA [Special Agent] DEAN subsequently went on a road trip to the Monterey RA from the period 3/19-26-69 and when he returned received word that Rev. BROSHEARS desired that he, SA DEAN, call him. On the following morning, 3/27/69, SA DEAN attempted to contact Rev. BROSHEARS telephonically, however, received no answer. The same occurred on 3/28/69. SA DEAN advised that Broshears called him on 3/31/69, wanted to know why his call was not returned, and when SA DEAN explained that he had been out of town and attempted to return his call to no avail, BROSHEARS was unreasonable, refused to listen to any explanation and told SA DEAN to forget about it.”
On April 4:
“The Reverend BROSHEARS contacted an Agent on complaint duty in the San Francisco Office…and inquired as to where he should address a communication to lodge a complaint against SA IRVING R. DEAN. Reverend BROSHEARS was invited to discuss this matter with the SAC, however, he stated that he did not feel this would solve anything, since Special Agents of the FBI were rude. He was furnished the address of FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he might address the complaint…”
Rev. Broshears again reached out to Director Hoover on April 9, 1969 about FBI Special Agent Irving Dean, who the good reverend accused of “lack of co-operation and rude speaking…”
Following these interactions, the FBI compiled background info on Broshears in an April 15, 1969 memoranda describing him as:
“a homosexual, hippie minister, with a history of mental illness…during the course of another investigation, in August, 1968, it was determined that BROSHEARS has received treatment at the following Veteran Administration Hospitals: St. Louis and Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi; Topeka, Kansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; Palo Alto, California and Long Beach, California. Hospitals records at Palo Alto reflected that all hospital records treating BROSHEARS had diagnosed him as a schizophrenic reaction, paranoia, incompetent. He is described as having a history of fraudulent enlistments in the military—manipulative behavior—difficulty with authority, assaultiveness, suicidal attempts, strong and poorly controlled hostility, guilty [sic] and hostility, homosexuality, chronic brain syndrome associated with compulsive disorder, probably secondary brain trauma. Agents of this office have been instructed to be extremely circumspect in any future contacts with him…”
Rev. Broshears resumed communications with Director Hoover on July 12, 1969, warning about a “proposed invasion of Alcatraz Island” that he was apparently trying to pin on Dr. Kirby Hensley of The Universal Life Church (ULC), which of course was rather odd because Broshears had received his own mail order ordination courtesy of Dr. Hensley, but now for some reason had decided that Hensley was an enemy of the state. Broshears’ beef with Hensley, I suspect, had to do with the ULC’s policy of indiscriminately issuing ordinations to anyone who desired them—including a large number of Vietnam draft dodgers trying to start their own churches to avoid the draft—and the reason Broshears was ticked off was because he had started his own church using this same shtick, but got busted for it. According to researcher Larry Hancock, “Broshears ordered himself the same mail order religious credentials that [Thomas] Beckham and [Fred] Crisman did [from the Universal Life Church] and when he moved to the west coast he apparently began selling something similar to guys wanting to avoid the draft. When he got challenged over that he apparently decided simply to become an informant and finger his customers. I did have documents on all that but putting my hands on them now would be a real challenge…”
An FBI memorandum, dated July 18, 1969, stated that:
“[Broshears] letter indicated he was concerned about a proposed invasion of Alcatraz Island by Bishop Kirby J. Hensley, Universal Life Church, and others, He indicated he had brought his concern to the attention of our San Francisco Office, but that the Agent with whom he spoke appeared to be quite unconcerned and treated him just as another ‘crank.’ His enclosures were Xerox copies of newspaper articles, from various papers, and concerned the conviction of Hensley for issuing mail order Doctor of Divinity degrees. A handprinted article indicated that Hensley would lead a group of people on an invasion of Alcatraz Island. He also furnished a leaflet from the Council of New Age Churches which denounced ‘mail order ministers’ and sets forth some of the requirements for churches belonging to this organization. It urges support of the police…”
The Council of New Age Churches (CNAC) was an entity of Broshears own creation, started around 1969 or so, and it never really attracted much of a following, as far as I can tell. Broshears eventually passed the CNAC torch to Dr. Frank Stranges, who allegedly met with Venusian space captain named Valiant Thor, as chronicled in Part 00003 of this startling series.
Broshears again came up on the FBI’s radar in August 1969 due to his involvement with an anti-war collective called the Bay Area Peace Action Council (BAPAC). This was during the COINTELPRO period when the FBI was monitoring anti-war activists and “subversives.” Apparently, the Feds obtained a copy of the BAPAC meeting notes, which listed participants, including Rev. Broshears, who was identified as “Ray Allen.” A related FBI memo dated May 4, 1970 stated:
“Captioned individual [Ray Allen aka Rev. Broshears]…as being an officer or leader in the organization with which he is affiliated. In accordance with current Bureau instructions a background investigation should be conducted on this person and a communication be directed to the Bureau with a recommendation as to whether or not subject warrants inclusion on the SI.”
Having nary a clue what “SI” was, I canvassed FOIA experts in my Twitterverse about what exactly this acronym stood for, and received the following response from the Black Vault’s John Greenwald: “I believe that is ‘SECURITY INDEX’ and is along the same lines as COINTELPRO. It is believed Hoover started it in 1939, and not many people were aware of it at the time. My guess is that is what your file is referring to.”
Further internet sleuthing led to this Wikipedia entry that goes in depth on the history of the “Security Index” which was basically a listing of potentially subversive individuals the Bureau decided to keep a live file on.
Broshears, bless his crazy heart, continued pestering the FBI as documented in the memorandum below dated July 8, 1970.
Later that year—according to a memo dated October 10, 1970—Broshears contacted the FBI complaining “that officers of the SFPD [San Francisco Police Department] invaded his church on 9/8/70. He requested the USA to look into the matter and asked that he be given justice, that it was one of the jobs of the USA to halt harassment by the SFPD…” The FBI memo goes on to state that Broshears “is also the subject of a close 100-file in the San Francisco Office. He appears to be the subject of BUFILE 62-112657.” This reference to a 100-page file suggests that Broshears status rose at least to a “Security Index” level.
On March 8, 1973, Broshears treated the San Francisco FBI Field Office to yet another…
“telephonic complaint… His remarks were directed toward newspaper accounts on 3/7/73 of Acting Director GRAY’S testimony, specifically concerning support of Sheriff HONGISTO (San Francisco County) by gay activists. Broshears was most uncomplimentary and abusive in his comments. He demanded a copy of this report or an official release by this office as to whether we were investigating homosexuals. He became paranoiac by insinuating that the Federal Government intended to arrest and shoot all homosexuals. He rambled on about LEE HARVEY OSWALD, SIRHAN SIRHAN, and a host of others who had been described as homosexuals. When he was repeated advised that we would have no comment, he finally asked what would coerce a release by this office, a demonstration? He promised to organize a group demonstration Monday, 3/12/73, in front of the Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco. True to his past tendencies to seek publicity, he requested that we bring cameras and lots of film. No time was specified for the demonstration….”
Our story takes another turn for the weird with an FBI document from May 1, 1975, concerning death threats made against Rev. Broshears and a number of other San Franciscans involved in the civil rights and gay rights communities, including San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. These threats came in the form of scrawling letters, one of which was sent to Benjamin Criswell, President of the NAACP. According to an FBI report:
“The letter, on page four, set out a threat, ‘I will shoot you in black – head and kill – kill – you – 10 – times shoot you in head and cut your head and burn your nigger body up and put in city dump.’ On page six of the letter concluded with, ‘Your old pal, Mr. SIDNEY FRIEDMAN, Jewish Executive Director, Golden Lodge Number 2464, 302 Silver Avenue, San Francisco, California’ Criswell said he was certain there was no truth to the name being on this for he felt he had a good rapport with the Jewish community in San Francisco.
“CRISWELL received a second letter, this one post-marked San Francisco, April 28, 1975, and showing its author to be HECTOR NAVARRO, 83 Sixth Street, San Francisco. It was determined NAVARRO had been head of a publications assembling office at this address, and it was found the office specialized in mailing homosexual literature. It was learned at 83 Sixth Street that NAVARRO is no longer in the area, and had formerly been publicly referred to as President of this publications assembling office. It also is known as the “Society for Individual Rights (SIR)”.
Rev. Broshears received a similar death threat from the same apparent psycho who threatened Benjamin Criswell, as documented in the FBI report below.
This twisted scenario played itself out again a few days letter, when Broshears received yet another letter, this time claiming to be from Benjamin Criswell himself.
The FBI spent considerable time investigating these lurid letters, including analyzing them at the Quantico lab, but could never develop any substantial leads in the case. Ultimately, the FBI decided it was probably just some harmless nut behind the prank.
A few months after all of this death threat craziness, Sara Jane Moore took her infamous pot shot at President Gerald Ford, which we touched on in the previous installment of this series.
To understand Sara Jane Moore’s assassination attempt on Gerald Ford, one must reference the February 4, 1974, kidnapping of Patricia Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).
The hostage negotiations between the SLA and newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst (for the release of his daughter Patty) resulted in Hearst providing funding for an activist collective called People In Need (PIN) to set up a food giveaway program. For a period of time, Moore was PIN’s main bookkeeper, and often the key person involved in processing food deliveries.
Due to her PIN involvement, Moore came up on the radar of the FBI, and was enlisted by the Feds to infiltrate different Bay Area activist cells, a story examined in Geri Spieler’s Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford.
An armchair psychologist might suspect that Sara Jane was radicalized through her involvement with these activist groups. Others of a more conspiratorial bent would suggest that the FBI directed Sara Jane to stage an assassination attempt of the President as a way promote what conspiracy matriarch Mae Brussel referred to as a “strategy of tension,” or what is nowadays referred by conspiracy enthusiasts as a false flag operation. This type of conspiratorial fodder was right in Rev. Broshears’ wheelhouse, as evidenced in a flyer he circulated at the time.
Broshears, as it so happens, was knee deep in the Sara Jane Moore saga. First with his role in outing of Oliver Sipple, which we talked about in our previous installment.
If that wasn’t enough, Rev. Broshears (as revealed in these FOIA files) was loosely associated with Moore.
As noted in the memo, Broshears name was discovered in Moore’s address book, which really wasn’t surprising given the circles the two ran in. (Moore’s name is whited-out in the memo.) Moore’s association with Broshears most likely was a result of interactions the two may have had related to PIN. Broshears—as previously noted—ran a free lunch program for senior citizens in the Tenderloin. According Taking Aim at the President, Moore had compiled a list for the FBI of the major players in the San Fran activist scene, and chances are that Rev. Broshears would be on just such a list.
Broshears appears to have behaved himself for awhile—at least until January 1979—when he contacted the San Fran FBI office claiming to have received a bomb threat that he, in turn, reported to the SFPD, who—according to the Rev.— refused to act on his complaint, which of course got Broshears panties in a knot and is probably as good a place as any to end our story of the one and only Reverend Raymond Broshears!
An equal opportunity troublemaker, Broshears eventually pissed off nearly everyone who entered his orbit regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. Due to a disagreement with fellow Gay Pride parade organizers, the following year (1973) Broshears staged his own gay pride event in competition with the official one, which in due course led to a mini-schism within the San Francisco gay rights community. (Hail Eris! All Hail Broshears!)
Although a polarizing figure, Broshears was a tireless advocate of the homeless, poor and elderly, operating a community center in the Tenderloin called “Helping Hands” that provided free lunches for senior citizens. Other volunteer efforts included an annual Christmas event he organized for patients at Fort Miley Hospital called the “Gay U.S.O. Show.”
To publicize his political activism, Broshears started a newsletter called The Gay Crusader and was continually firing off letters to political figures of the era—from Harvey Milk to Dianne Feinstein to George Moscone—and damn near anybody else who came into prominence during the late-60s and 70s San Francisco political scene. More often than not, these letters (found in abundance in the Broshears Archive at the GLBT library) consisted of long-winded rants not easy to track (even for someone like yours truly who is sort of a kook-whisperer). The Broshears Archive includes this letter from Harvey Milk, who seemed equally mystified by whatever Broshears may have been getting himself wrapped around the axle about.
Broshears enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame when he formed a group called the Lavender Panthers in response to gay bashing incidents that occurred in San Francisco during the early-70s. This led to a feature story in the October 8, 1973 issue of TIME Magazine describing the Lavender Panthers as a “stiff-wristed team of gay vigilantes… The basic band numbers 21 homosexuals, including two lesbians who are reputedly the toughest hombres in the lot.” The Lavender Panther’s mission, Rev. Broshears informed TIME, was to strike terror in the hearts of “all those young punks who have been beating up my faggots.”
The Lavender Panthers used the same sort of agitprop that the Black Panther Party became infamous for: openly carrying fire arms and training in hand-to-hand combat tactics, such as the martial arts, although much of these activities appeared to be a PR stunt to generate a media buzz, particularly in regards to the Lavender Panthers.
Broshears resided in a hotel in the Tenderloin, and in his room he maintained a printing press for various newsletters he published over the years that included Light and Understanding; The S.F. Crusader (later called The Gay Crusader), and his last production, Focus.
According to a lengthy Broshears’ obit in the January 14, 1982 edition of the Bay Area Reporter,
“A former Golden Gate Business Association official told Bay Area Reporter that many Gay businesses felt they were being extorted by Broshears because they would not advertise in his newspaper. He revealed that in 1979 some GGBA officials and others met to share their knowledge of what they saw as Broshears’ continuing and costly harassment, but they did not know of any legal action they could take. One obstacle they faced was attorney B.J. Beckwith, who was constantly pressing cases against them for Broshears…. Beckwith helped Broshears sue numerous private parties and some businesses, including Bay Area Reporter, on a variety of charges. They were considered by many to be “nuisance” suits that involved the hiring of attorneys by those sued while Broshears enjoyed Beckwith’s services gratis…
“Local Gay businesses were regularly affected by Broshears’ behind the scenes reporting to the police and city agencies. Although he attacked city officials for crackdowns on sex-related businesses in his newspaper, he had his own continuing crusade. Gay bars, bath houses, sex clubs, adult book stores and most recently video cassette stores were constantly threatened by Broshears’ challenges to their permits and licenses. He telephoned and wrote city officials and police officials, plus appeared (often as the only complainant) at hearings to revoke or deny permits and licenses…”
“In 1978, Broshears personally and somewhat gleefully ‘exposed’ an alleged male prostitution operation in the city. Many Gay activists never forgave Broshears for this act because it resulted in the arrest of the popular Jack Campbell, an official of the Club Baths chain and a major financial supporter of Gay rights over many years…”
In January 2018, I appeared on Radio Misterioso with Greg Bishop to discuss our new book ‘A’ is for Adamski: The Golden Age of the UFO Contactees (Available now in a Black & White version or a Full Color version!).
During our conversation, we referenced Rev. Broshears and his connection to famed ufologist Dr. Frank Stranges, mentioned in Part 00003 of this startling series.
In the course of our discussion, I noted how I’d recently happened upon an episode of NPR’s Radio Lab concerning Oliver Sipple, a tragic figure who reluctantly became a national hero over night. On September 22, 1975, Sipple was standing in a crowd of spectators outside of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco—awaiting an appearance by President Gerald Ford—at which time Sara Jane Moore pulled a .44 caliber Charter Arms revolver out of her pantsuit and fired a single shot that missed the President and ricocheted off a nearby wall. When Moore attempted a second shot, Sipple grabbed her arm. As Sipple recalled: “I saw [her gun] pointed out there and I grabbed for it… I lunged and grabbed the woman’s arm and the gun went off.”
Sipple made every effort to avoid the limelight, mainly because he felt he wasn’t the hero everyone was making him out to be. However—when he arrived home that evening—Sipple was met by a gaggle of reporters who had learned he was a former Marine that had served in Vietnam. Sipple told the reporters not to mention that he was a vet, and added that he didn’t really consider himself a hero. But as much as Sipple attempted to slip into the shadows, the national media quickly latched on to his story, and the following day he was the front page headline in newspapers across the country, basically presented as a war veteran who had heroically saved the President’s life.
Initially, Sipple was hoping his new found fame would blow over in a day or two; that he’d simply be treated to a round of drinks at a local tavern and be done with all the hoo-hah, but a couple days after the story broke, prominent San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen received a message on his answering machine from none other than Harvey Milk, who informed him that Sipple was an active member of the San Francisco gay community. This was during the timeframe when Milk, with great gusto, was encouraging fellow gays to come out of their respective closets. This, it appears, was the main motivation why Milk contacted Caen, along with an agenda to place stories in the media that portrayed the gay community in a more positive light.
Sipple, it turns out, was long time pals with Harvey Milk, and actually worked on one of Milk’s political campaigns. Although Sipple was a guy who clearly wanted to stay in the closet to a certain extent, the gay activist movement of the early 1970s swept up everyone in its path, and unfortunately for Sipple, he got caught up in the shifting winds of a generational change he didn’t have the emotional tools to deal with.
Broshears, independent of Harvey Milk, also called Herb Caen to inform him that Sipple was gay. Broshears, like Milk, thought it would help break the negative stereotype of gay men as limp-wristed sissy-boys who would never raise a finger to save the life of a President. To this end, it’s in no way an understatement to suggest that Sipple most likely saved President Ford’s life. Geri Spieler’s Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot At Gerald Ford details how Sara Jane Moore’s trusty .44 caliber had been confiscated by the SFPD a day before her assassination attempt, and how the following day Moore purchased a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. Fortunately for Gerald Ford, the gun sights on the Smith & Wesson were six inches off the point-of-impact, causing Moore’s first shot to just narrowly miss Ford’s noggin. Her second shot would have been at even closer range, and Moore probably wouldn’t have missed that one, had not Sipple intervened.
The revelation of Sipple’s sexual preference soon leaked to other reporters via Caen, and once the genie was out of the bottle Sipple’s fifteen minutes of fame had been given another shot in the arm as national media outlets seized on part two of Sipple’s story, and this news eventually made its way to his parents and friends in Detroit, who were unaware of Sipple’s sexual proclivities, which was the main reason he’d been trying to keep under wraps to begin with. Afterwards, Broshears became a witness in a defamation lawsuit filed by Sipple against the San Francisco Chronicle, claiming that the newspaper had shared his private information against his wishes.
The Radio Lab episode I mentioned featured an interview with Oliver’s nephew, a fellow named George Sipple. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the very same George Sipple had contacted me in August 2016 with some Discordian-related information concerning CREEM magazine.
At the time, I really had no idea who George’s uncle, Oliver Sipple, was, nor was it relevant to our Discordian-related communiqués. After my Radio Misterioso appearance—and the mention therein of his late uncle—George Sipple contacted me to say, “Hey, I was the guy who sent you that info on CREEM magazine a couple years ago, and I happened to hear you on Radio Misterioso… and oh, btw, I was on that episode of Radio Lab you mentioned. I’m Oliver Sipple’s nephew!”
These are the sort of synchronicities that always seem to happen to me, Hail Eris!
Oliver Sipple was never really the same after the assassination attempt on Ford, not to mention when the personal revelations of his private life became a national story. These dramatic events no doubt contributed to Sipple slowly drinking himself to death by 1989.
As for Rev. Broshears’ demise, the January 14, 1982 edition of the Bay Area Reporter noted that: “The most controversial Gay personality in San Francisco was found dead in a hallway of his 990 Geary Street apartment on Sunday night [January 10]… of a cerebral stroke.” Broshears was 46 years of age.
Subsequent rumors surfaced that Broshears died of HIV, although this has never been confirmed. Broshears passing was just after the discovery of AIDS became public, so such conjecture may have certainly some substance.
In our next and final installment of this series, we’ll explore some recently discovered FOIA files pertaining to the one and only Reverend Raymond Broshears.