A Rose is a McNabb by Any Other Name: More Puzzling Evidence from the Garrison Investigation Files!

Kerry Thornley in the late-60s. Photo courtesy John F. Carr.

Aside from Jim Garrison’s On The Trail of the Assassins (Amazon), the first book to address, in any depth, Kerry Thornley’s alleged role in the JFK assassination was Joe Biles’ In History’s Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation (Amazon).

Biles’ claimed that Thornley—on account to his supposed CIA affiliations—was well looked after by intelligence agency handlers as payment for his participation with a shadowy New Orleans cabal that conspired to assassinate JFK. According to Biles:

“Garrison investigator Jim Rose would later learn that Thornley had two homes in Florida, one in Miami and one in Tampa, as well as two cars. The Tampa residence, where Thornley lived, was a large white frame house on a one acre lot. Thornley was single and supposedly had only worked as a waiter and doorman at a few apartment houses.” 1

Yours truly has reviewed hundreds of letters in the Discordian Archives dating from the mid-60s until Thornley’s death in the late-90s, and in these letters one can trace his whereabouts and activities, in particular during the Garrison investigation period. Biles’ assertion that Thornley owned two homes in Tampa has no factual basis. Kerry lived on the edge of poverty most of his life (he never owned a house), and was homeless for extended periods. At one time he even made his home in a renovated chicken coop in Tujunga, California.

The only accurate statement—in the above passage from In History’s Shadow—is that Kerry lived in Tampa, and that his employment over the years included jobs as a waiter and doorman. Among other occupations, Kerry edited a Libertarian newsletter, The Innovator, during the mid-60s, in addition to working other odd jobs, including as a dishwasher, a job he performed at a variety of restaurants in Florida and later, Georgia.

Biles maintains that Kerry was single, another glaring goof-up. For the record, Kerry married Cara Leach in Palos Verdes, California in December 1965. They separated in the early 1970s.

Biles’ claim that Kerry owned two cars is also bunk. As was the hippie fashion of the day, he and Cara owned a VW van during the period they lived in Los Angeles, which they later sold to help fund their move to Florida in the autumn of 1967. From that point forward, Kerry never owned another vehicle.

After relocating to Florida, Kerry and Cara—with their infant son, Kreg—lived in an “inexpensive place” in the Palm River District on the outskirts of Tampa, settling there in late 1967 just as the Garrison investigation started heating up. Soon afterwards, they moved to a rented cottage on Marlin Street near the Yacht Club where Kerry worked as a dishwasher. Kerry’s mode of travel at this time was a used $8 bike he purchased from Goodwill. So much for the fantasy he was some sort of well paid CIA super spook. During this period, Greg Hill and Bud Simco visited Kerry in Tampa. According to Simco:

“The only real time we had to visit was while Kerry was at work. So Greg and I went with him and washed dishes at the Yacht Club for free—just to hang out in the kitchen to visit with Kerry… and it was a lot of fun—we did that for a day or two. And the management, they were really amazed that people would do that—these three guys back there washing dishes, two of them for free—all of them, by all appearances, over qualified to be washing dishes… And they couldn’t figure out why Kerry was back there washing dishes because he was obviously a very intelligent person, and they knew he was a writer—basically that’s what Kerry said: “I just want to write—I just want to cover the basic minimum daily requirements, and be left alone to write.” 2

Kerry Thornley and family circa late-60s or early-70s.
Photo courtesy of John F. Carr.

Jim Rose’s entrée into the Garrison investigation came courtesy of former FBI guy William “Bill” Turner, who during this period was freelancing for Ramparts magazine and dabbling in JFK assassination research. At some point, Garrison passed on leads in the case to Ramparts editor Warren Hinkle, which Hinkle passed along to Turner. (Hinkle and Turner would later co-author The Fish is Red: The Story of the Secret War Against Castro (Amazon). Soon after, Turner inserted himself into Garrison’s investigation and brought with him Jim Rose, who had also freelanced at Ramparts.

Jim Rose aka Carl. E. McNab.

Although Rose used a number of aliases (Jim Rhodes, Vince Rose, Carl Davis and Steve Wilson) his real name was E. Carl McNabb (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain), but for clarity’s sake we’ll just call him “Jim Rose” because that’s how he’s most often identified in memos, letters and articles from the period. According to Warren Hinkle:

“We called him Jim Rose. At least that was the name by which he was known to everyone on the magazine, including one of the secretaries with whom he took up housekeeping between derrings-do. But he had a name for every day of the week. He was Jack Carter when he worked in Miami, until later he became too hot and decided to ‘kill off’ Carter by simulating a plane crash at sea, thus discouraging the spoilsports in the F.A.A. from inquiring further into the checkered history of Carter’s flight plans. He had several newspaper clippings reporting his own death, which he would exhibit with the eager shyness of someone showing you an appendix scar or bottled gallstone. He was also known as Dawes, also as McLeish, also as several other people, among which I was always partial to Rose, because of Gertrude Stein and all. But by any name he was, as Damon Runyan said about those types who stand out among other types of their type, the ‘genuine item.’ He loved adventure, and second only to that he loved talking about adventure.” 3

Ramparts editor Warren Hinkle.

Although Hinkle considered Rose a real deal soldier of fortune with intelligence agency connections up the wazoo, others connected to the Garrison investigation were less enthralled with the seemingly self created legends swirling around the enigmatic Mr. Rose. Rose claimed he’d worked as a CIA contract pilot, and had flown missions—at one time or another—with one of Garrison’s key suspects, the notorious David Ferrie of red wig fame. However, Rose said many things to many people that more often than not never really panned out. Just the same, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Rose was involved in paramilitary activities linked to the CIA.

Jim Rose with P-51 Mustang, Santa Barbara, 1967

Strange bedfellows such as Jim Rose suggest that Garrison showed little hesitation about recruiting into his investigation former intelligence agents or assets from the very same agencies that he theorized were behind JFK’s assassination—such “former” agents or assets that could potentially serve as moles and undermine his own investigation. And that’s exactly what Garrison later claimed: that his investigation had been infiltrated by former CIA spies and ultimately sabotaged. In particular, a character named Bill Boxley (aka William Wood), a former CIA spook who—prior to hooking up with Garrison—had apparently been booted from the agency due to frequent bouts with the bottle. Boxley and Garrison eventually had a falling out and Boxley jumped ship and ended up working on Clay Shaw’s defense team.

Bill Boxley aka William Wood.

Even though Garrison was knee deep in his belief that the FBI and/or CIA were attempting to sabotaged his case, he nonetheless possessed an almost fan boy fascination with former spooks. The first time Rose met with Garrison at the D.A.’s office, he was frisked by staffer Lou Ivon, who apparently overlooked a deadly ballpoint pen Rose was carrying. “It’s napalm,” Rose explained. “If I shot you, your face would go up in flames.” 4 Garrison endearingly dubbed Rose, “Winston Smith,” then later “Winnie the Pooh,” and “Rosalie.”

Too sexy for his shirt? Jim Rose on assignment.

Although Rose wasn’t officially on Garrison’s payroll, he was compensated through a slush fund called “Truth or Consequences” that set up by a group of wealthy right wing Garrison supporters. Among his many activities, Rose was paid a thousand dollars upfront to travel to Tacoma, Washington, to investigate Fred Crisman, another among the many colorful alleged JFK assassination conspirators targeted by Garrison.

Fred Crisman

On a trip in the Northwest in 1968, Fred Newcomb (a JFK assassination researcher and graphic artist commissioned by Harold Weisberg to touch up Kerry Thornley’s photo), spent a couple of days in Tacoma, following up leads on Crisman. While there, Newcomb learned that Rose had been snooping around town earlier that year and making claims that “Chrisman [sic] had been known to transport large sums of money to several cities in the country and that he had no visible means of support.” Rose later claimed that he had been shot at while in Tacoma and barely got out of town alive. 5

As for Crisman’s alleged role in Garrison investigation bingo, he was accused of being one of the three mystery tramps (presumably up to no good in Dealey Plaza) that had been picked up by Dallas cops in the aftermath of the assassination. This was a theory originally promoted by Garrison’s “photographic expert,” Richard Sprague, based on information developed by Jim Rose’s mentor, Bill Turner, and then subsequently “investigated” by Rose.

These allegations against Crisman were later debunked in 1977 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations who determined that—on November 22nd, 1963—Crisman had been filling in as a substitute teacher at Rainer Union High School in Rainer, Oregon, his whereabouts corroborated in affidavits provided by three teachers in attendance that day: Marva Harris, Norma Chase, and Stanley Peerloom. 6

In On the Trail of the Assassins, Garrison spoke glowingly of Rose:

“…an urbane, very bright young man who had grown up in Latin America and spoke Spanish like a native; he was useful in interviews with Cuban exiles… [Rose] was accepted after a strong recommendation from Boxley, who had known him back in his agency days. Rose had a number of photographs showing himself instructing anti-Castro guerrilla trainees at the no name key training camp in Florida back in the early-60s.”

Garrison’s puffery aside, there’s no evidence that Rose actually served with the CIA. According to Big Jim’s glowing prose, Rose had been involved with training anti-Castro exiles, something that Fred Newcomb discovered after coming across a series of photos taken of these training exercises. Newcomb passed the photos along to his circle of assassination researchers that included Penn Jones, Jr., who was able to verify that Rose was indeed the mystery man in the photos identified as “Steve Wilson.” These associations cast a cloud of suspicion over Rose that he had infiltrated the Garrison investigation for dubious reasons.

Arrest photo of Jim Rose (red circle around his head) with
Cuban exiles involved in paramilitary training exercises in Florida, 1963.




 
1) Biles, Joe G. 2002 In History’s Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation. Writers Club Press. (Pages 66-67).

 
2) Author’s interview with Bud Simco, Feb 17, 2003.

 
3) Hinkle, Warren, April 1973, Esquire Magazine, “The Mystery of the Black Books”.

 
4) Mellen, Joan. 2005. A Farewell To Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, And The Case that Should Have Changed History. Potomoc Books.

 
5) “Memo on Jim Rose/Jim Rhodes/Vince/E. Carl McNabb with sidelights on Turner/Jaffee/Crissman/Sprague” by Fred Newcomb (Harold Weisberg archives).

 
6) Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives. 1979. (Page 607).

This entry was posted in book, greg hill, interview, jfk, jim garrison, kerry thornley, lee harvey oswald, photo, writings. Bookmark the permalink.

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