“The Curious Case of the American Bakeries Pay Voucher”

By: Trish Fleming and Zach Jendro 

Much can be said about the importance of having a fresh set of eyes reviewing the evidence regarding any cold case; this is especially true when reviewing the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Over the years, two distinct sides have emerged from the “case of the century” and the ability to find an unbiased opinion is rare. The next generation has “received the torch” that JFK eloquently spoke of and is now the generation that is intrigued with the attempts to solve this case that has lingered for half a century.

Rule of thumb with any murder investigation is that the first 48 hours are the most crucial for gathering information- which is interesting, considering that accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was also killed within that time period. The evidence, interviews, media reports, and witness statements concerning the Kennedy assassination gathered during this time are of the highest importance, sometimes requiring study and clarification.  One such piece of evidence is the American Bakeries pay voucher, dated August 22, 1960, that was found on Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of his arrest on November 22, 1963. [1]

Background information

The official claim is that Lee Harvey Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, and renounced his American citizenship on October 31. That day, the FBI began their file on this US defector and information pertaining to his defection appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Twelve additional articles were published regarding Lee Harvey Oswald’s defection by the FWST as of January 6, 1960. [2]  His mother, Marguerite Oswald, became alarmed about his personal welfare and whereabouts after three of her letters that she had mailed to him while in Soviet Union (starting on January 22, 1960) had been returned to her unopened. In addition, she received a letter from Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland, confirming Oswald’s enrollment (application is dated March 4, 1959 and funds received April that same year).[3] She explained that when her son left, he took his birth certificate with him.[4] The FBI went to the extent of contacting the school on three separate occasions (June 3, 1960- request for Swiss authorities to conduct an investigation; August 12, 1960 and September 22, 1960 FBI discussed Oswald with Swiss authorities) to confirm any information regarding the attendance of Oswald. It seems unusual for the FBI to contact them on three separate occasions to confirm whether or not he was, in fact, attending school there.

After receiving multiple letters from the State Department with no relevant information on the location of her son, Mrs. Oswald went to the extent of travelling to Washington DC in 1961 to have a conference with three officials from the State Department. Not only was she there to confirm her son’s location; but, she had also taken the liberty of disputing his dishonorable discharge after receiving a letter stating the change from a previously honorable discharge had taken place. The Marines sent a confirmation letter addressed to her address, knowing full well Lee Oswald was not at her address.[5] She went as far as writing to Premier Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, regarding her concerns of Lee Harvey Oswald’s whereabouts in Russia. This letter was intercepted by the FBI. [6]

J. Edgar Hoover was notified on June 3, 1960 regarding information that someone within the United States was potentially using Lee Harvey Oswald’s identity.[7] The fact that Oswald had taken his birth certificate with him overseas, and, therefore, unaccounted-for, made this potential deception a possibility. This issue had been confirmed when an invoice for the purchase of trucks for an organization called “Friends of Democratic Cuba” on January 20, 1961 with Oswald’s name on a contact was discussed by the Warren Commission.[8] Despite this document, the US government assured that Oswald was, in fact, in the Soviet Union and was requesting that, not only his passport (apparently never revoked due to paperwork not filed) and that his citizenship be reinstated, but also to make arrangements for his new Russian bride and their infant daughter to accompany him back into the United States. Astonishingly, his requests were met and the State Department loaned him the money for travel (he repaid in full).[9] This is highly unusual considering he was unable to maintain steady employment once back on US soil and was, more or less, considered a “free loader” to those who knew him within the White Russian Community of Dallas.  This is reflected in the opinions of this tight knit group, especially when the Oswalds discussed details about their exit from Russia and entrance into the United States. In particular, Lydia Dymitruk, a White Russian who knew the Oswalds, felt that he was not a Soviet spy, but did feel he was some sort of intelligence official. From her personal experiences of leaving the USSR, she believed it would never have been that easy for a newlywed couple to leave with their newborn child, let alone, have the State Department fund these travels.[10]

Upon his return to the United States, he was interrogated by the FBI who then continuously kept track of the Oswalds,[11] right to the very day that Kennedy was assassinated. Jack Revell, Captain of Intelligence for the Dallas Police Department (DPD), was appalled that the FBI withheld information or concerns regarding Lee Oswald until after the death of the President.  He (Revell) knew that the FBI had no legal obligation to share what was on file; despite sharing all information in the past regarding any other cases of questionable individuals.  For this observation, Revell was transferred for voicing his opinion, which was not well received. [12]

On November 22, 1963, Lee  Harvey Oswald was arrested at approximately 1:45 PM in the Texas Theatre after Julia Postal, an employee of theatre, stated that a man snuck into the theatre without paying (despite having $13.87 in his pocket upon his arrest) and was located on the balcony of the theatre.[13] Other reports stated that he was found in the orchestra, or ground-level seating. Butch Burroughs was working in the concession stand. He stated that after this gentleman purchased popcorn, he went to the balcony to watch the film . This was just after 1 PM.[14] These times contradict the assassination of police officer J.D. Tippit which  took place, according to the Warren Report, between 1:11 and 1:14 PM. Jack Davis , a Dallas evangelist, was seated beside Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald apparently changed seats. He also claims that he saw another man identical to Oswald being removed from the theatre out the back door.[15]  His claims were confirmed by Bernard J. Haire, who owned a business (Bernie’s Hobby Shop) located two stores down the street from the theater, with access to the alley way where this unidentified individual was placed in a police car. Haire was apparently shocked, years later, to discover that Lee Harvey Oswald had been removed from the front of the theatre. [16]

Oswald was transported to the police station after his arrest, where he was finally searched, two hours later, at approximately 4:10 PM. Among the items he was carrying (including bullets and a bus transfer), was a pay stub voucher, which was found in his pocket, for the Cushing’s Bakeries division of American Bakeries (located in Dallas), dated Monday, August 22, 1960.[17]  In the life of Lee Oswald, employment with the bakeries at that time would have been impossible; for, according to the official account, he was reported to be in the Soviet Union during this period.  When listed in the police inventory, the name on the stub was not recorded, leaving one to assume that it may have had Oswald’s name on it or possibly no name at all. According to protocol, that identification information would have been recorded due to the possibility of fraud, especially considering it was taken from the apparent assassin of the President. This stub was either given or Xeroxed and forwarded to the FBI for review. Confusion became the norm, as the date on the stub was noted as either being on the 22 or the 27 of August (Saturday) and no name was disclosed.  As recorded by the FBI, the tax and Social Security deductions were noted; however the name, once again, was completely overlooked.  This was also a concern of the Warren Commission, when Rankin wrote a letter stating that this information had to be clarified.[18]  Whether this concern had been addressed or not has never been determined. Further adding to the mystery, the paystub was not listed among the possessions Oswald had on his person when he was arrested in New Orleans on August 9, 1963, confirming that this was, evidently, not an item that he had been carrying in his pockets since his occupancy of the Neely Street address earlier that year. Simply put, there has never been a reasonable explanation as to why Oswald was holding this document when he was arrested. If he was not carrying the paystub, no reasonable explanation as to why it was catalogued as such has been offered, either.

American Bakeries was contacted and was asked to locate information regarding this stub, based off otherwise-confidential payroll data, apparently with no name and a confused date. The likelihood of this stub not having this basic information clearly stated is extremely bizarre. However, American Bakeries did review their master payroll, which was located at the head office in Chicago. Only one employee was issued a cheque in that amount on August 27, 1960,[19] keeping in mind that the date on the cheque stub was recorded by DPD as being August 22.  The employee’s name was James Arthur Jackson, and he had been hired, according to company records, as a part time employee on August 14, 1960, which was a Sunday. (Jackson himself recalled being hired on Wednesday, August 17.)[20] . Jackson, a laborer who worked at the bakery, was evidently completely unrelated to Lee Oswald, other than the fact that he, seemingly, lived in the same apartment as Oswald (214 West Neely Street) some months prior to Oswald. In an FBI statement, it is noted that the agency also received a copy of all part time employees for the years 1958-1959 (obviously not the year in question) and a list of full time employees for 1960.[21] Jackson appeared on the latter list, as he was hired as a full time employee on October 15, 1960.  Ultimately, a list of the part time employees for the year 1960 would have been necessary to have a complete overview of this time period. Not gathering this information was, obviously, a crucial oversight.

When Jackson was asked about how his stub got in Oswald’s hands, he was unsure.  He did not recall losing it and assumed that maybe he had left this stub at a previous residence (Neely Street). Jackson’s residency at this location was approximately a year prior to the Oswalds moving there in March of 1963, although the exact dates are uncertain.[22] In fact, a man named James Stevens had lived in the apartment in the period of time between Jackson’s and Oswald’s respective residencies.[23] Neely Street was the location of the infamous “backyard photos,” which had been taken of Oswald holding the rifle he reportedly used to kill Kennedy and the revolver that he used to shoot Officer Tippit.  Later, Jackson changed his story, and claimed that it was possible he lost it somewhere on a street and it may have been picked up by Oswald.

To add more confusion to this, Special Agent William G. Brookheart of the FBI reported that the stub had been located at the Neely Street apartment when authorities searched the residence on November 24, 1963 (after the assassination), seven months after the Oswalds had moved out. [24] A report made after the search of the apartment made no mention of a stub recovered on November 24. Waldo George, the man who, according to the Warren Commission, owned the apartment, thoroughly cleaned the residence after Oswald left, although he had suspicions that someone was breaking into the padlocked apartment. George also stated that he searched the apartment the night of November 22 for potential evidence, but came away empty handed.[25]

The items in the DPD report, dated November 30, claimed that all evidence was tagged on November 23, which raises doubts about the statement of its discovery on November 24.[26]  The question, then, became: were there two of Jackson’s stubs potentially in Oswald’s possession (one at Neely, one on his person), or, rather, an error in regards to where the stub was originally found by both the DPD and the FBI?

American Bakeries pay cheques

Through the cooperation of the American Bakeries head office in Chicago,  the FBI was able to locate two cheques (one being the cheque of note) issued to Jackson, which is questionable, considering it is policy for American Bakeries to discard all cancelled cheques after two years.[27] The cheque that apparently matched this voucher (Number 82-19356), was dated August 22, 1960 (Monday), totalling $56.78, and a second cheque offered for comparison, dated September 2, 1960 (Saturday) (Number 82-19406), totalling $70.53, showing that both had been cashed as a third party cheque.[28] The cheque dated August 22, evidently cashed by Jackson at a Dallas-area A&P grocery store (Store 113), was stamped as being paid by the First National Bank of Dallas on August 25 (Thursday).[29] This in theory would confirm that the cheque’s date was in fact on the 22nd- which was not in sync with the pay periods for American Bakeries. Indeed, Norman Beaton, who was employed at American Bakeries as a tax accountant, stated that temporary employees were sometimes issued cheques at any point of the week, however the amount of the cheque does not coincide with the amount of hours Jackson could possibly have worked within such a short period of time. Potentially, it could have been a pay advance; however, one has to question why a company would issue a pay advance of a full week’s wages to a new part time employee of just days, especially when there was no guarantee that he would work enough hours by the next pay period to reimburse this “loan”.  This is curious, considering the next pay cheque would have been the Sept 2 cheque (if the loan reflected the pay period ending on August 27) that was also admitted as evidence (for comparison only), and appears to be a pay cheque, based off full time hours. According to an FBI investigation, Jackson earned $1.66 per hour. Their breakdown gives hours as worked from August 20 through August 27; however, as demonstrated by the reverse of the cheque, the funds were paid on August 25, an anomaly that has never been explained. In short, the timing and amounts of the cheques raises some issues, issues that were never followed up on.

Beaton stated that all payroll hours for all locations throughout the country were submitted to the main office in Chicago weekly on Saturday.[30] He also took the liberty of reviewing all employee records (open and closed files) from 1956 to the present date (unclear if it was 1963 or 64); specifically looking for the names Lee Harvey Oswald, O.H. Lee and, Alec James Hidell.[31] This is extremely important because it seemingly confirms that the authorities were unclear to whom the cheque stub belonged to and were using the pay amount and private tax information to locate the individual.  In the very least, authorities were concerned that Oswald may have been an employee and could have possibly been using an alias. Interestingly, personnel files were maintained on regular employees (full time) at the main office; and each company plant was responsible for forwarding any temporary or part time employee’s information to the head office in Chicago on a monthly basis.[32] Therefore, is it possible that he would have not located any information on temporary employees in the full time employee records?

The format of the dates on the cheques is also unusual. The August 22 cheque uses slashes to separate the date, month, and year.  If this cheque was produced as a standard pay cheque off a printing reel, the September cheque should have the same slashes in the date; but instead, they are separated by dashes. This would indicate that the cheque was created not by the home office in Chicago, (also the Dallas bank information located on the cheque) which would confirm that the cheque had been printed at the location that Jackson worked at (as per the procedure with part time/ temporary employees pay).  These differences in the format of the date may indicate that different employees at the Dallas location prepared them. Typically, if the same person were typing these cheques weekly, the individual would have a preferred and accepted format, and not made such an obvious change. The issuing account numbers are the same on both cheques, again indicating that they were both written from the same cheque book and only 50 cheques between the two pay periods; which would indicate that 25 employees received cheques for part time work over the course of two pay periods (August 26 and September 2). The endorsement of the signator on both cheques is the same, indicating that these were handled by the same authorized payroll employee.

Another intriguing issue is the endorsements on the back of the cheques.  The cheque cashed on August 25 has been clearly endorsed by Jackson with his name and address, whereas the second cheque is only endorsed by a signature.  This is highly unusual because if it was a “bad cheque” the third party (Hodges Grocery #408) would have wanted contact information for him.  (It has been noted that Jackson did not have a telephone.)[33]  One could argue that possibly the store knew him personally and it was not required- but why wouldn’t Jackson have cashed them both at the same location, if he knew it would be a hassle free transaction?

The processing stamps from the banks on both cheques have also been recorded and described, however there are some curious details that appear to be overlooked.  Both cheques have been issued using American Bakeries’ account, which is located at the Republic National Bank of Dallas; the cheque in question has been stamped “paid” by this home bank on August 25, 1960.  It has been endorsed by James Jackson, who wrote his address of 1204 McKee, Dallas 15, Texas.  It also bears a rubber stamp endorsement  “For Deposit Only, The GRT A&P Tea Company Store #113” and the First National Bank of Dallas, August 25 1960”. This raises the question as to how two separate banks were able to process a third party cheque on the same day, especially if the cheque is noted within FBI reports as being for the pay period ending on August 27 1960. (Other documents indicate that is was for the week ending August 20; however, he hadn’t been working there long enough to receive a full pay cheque.)  When reviewing the back of the cheque and the stamps, the endorsement stamp from “The Grt. A&P Tea Company” is present; and, beneath it, there is another stamp with only the date with the numbers “01130”. Potentially this is the “paid” stamp from The Republic National Bank of Dallas, however, it is not clearly indicated that it is, nor does it indicate that the cheque has been “paid“.  Another interesting note is that this stamp, does not reflect the comparison stamp on the cheque dated September 1960, in which the stamp is large and square; giving the Republic National Bank information, although the notations are difficult to read. The First National Bank stamp is visible; and it reads “pay order to the of any bank, banker, or trust company, First National Bank of Dallas August 25 1960.”  Unfortunately, the rest of this stamp is illegible. This appears not to be the case in regards to the August 27 date that has been indicated as a possible pay period.  There are also what appears to be perforations on the cheque in question; which appears to read “6528 35”. These punch holes are not described in the overview of the cheque; it does appear on the other cheque as well, but unclear to what numbers have been punched or why this occurred.

(A curious notation concerning the paystub within the research notes of John Armstrong, author of Harvey and Lee, lists the address of the American Bakeries facility in New Orleans, along with the names of two managers who evidently worked there; however, it is unclear how this relates to the pay stub. Some sources have indicated it was from the pay period ending on the August 20, 1960.  This would fall within the company’s policy of having all employees’ hours sent to the main office in Chicago on Saturday; and the cheque would have been issued on the appropriate pay date of the August 26.)

Further adding to the mystery, is the confusion surrounding James A. Jackson’s Social Security number.  While working at American Bakeries, he was assigned Social Security number 465-50-6916.  He was advised not to use that number by a Social Security administrator due to it being assigned to another individual. This “mix up” occurred either while Jackson was serving in the Armed Forces or when he started his employment at American Bakeries.  He had been issued another Social Security number (465-54-6916). There was a question as to whether his employee number while at American Bakeries (#757T) had also been issued to another employee within the company (an African-American man named Mr. James Johnson).  This information is unclear- however, should be addressed.

Conclusion

Lee Rankin, general counsel of the Warren Commission, made some interesting connections when questioning Marguerite Oswald during her testimony.  He was in the process of asking her of any names she may recognize as Oswald’s personal friends, one of the names he mentioned was James Arthur Jackson.  What followed is nothing less than astonishing.  Her response is “No, you know, a few of those names sound to me like they might be on the back of both these pictures. I am not sure.”  Mr. Rankin continues by saying, “They are supposed to be associated or friends of people that Mr. Ruby knew and associated with closely.”  If this is, in fact, true and the commission knew about it, it would appear that Mr. Jackson gave false information when he claimed he had no knowledge of either Jack Ruby or Lee Harvey Oswald in his witnessed statement to authorities.  Under normal circumstances, this could be considered obstruction of justice. Perhaps, this was a misstatement on Rankin’s part, but it clearly demonstrates that Rankin was fully aware of the paystub. If his statement was accurate, this would add a much deeper (and potentially sinister) dimension to the case of this paystub.

What is clear, however, is that the complete contents of the paystub have been hidden away from public view. In an interview with researcher Ed LeDoux, Jackson claimed that when he was questioned about the paystub by the FBI, he was not shown the document. Internal memos suggest that even the Warren Commission was not shown the stub. If there was, indeed, an innocent explanation as to how Oswald got Jackson’s pay document and if the stub did have Jackson’s proper information on it, why the secrecy? Other items found on Oswald at the time of his arrest have been made public, including his wallet, ID cards, bus transfer, and bullets. So, why was this paystub, which could have provided evidence that Oswald was potentially stealing other people’s pay cheques (adding credibility to the argument that he was, indeed, a criminal), scrubbed from the public record? What is also clear is that when one compares the officially recorded dates of Jackson’s earnings to the actual date the cheque was cashed, the FBI (or American Bakeries, the source of Jackson’s employment information) was, evidently, forced to fabricate a backstory for this cheque to fit someone’s new version of “the facts.” What researchers are left with, then, in regards to the pay stub, is secrecy and dishonesty. The fact that the records for temporary employees of 1960 (the year of the cheque) were completely ignored, was an oversight that was both incompetent and inexcusable. The fact that crucial dates were made confusing or seemingly changed (the date of the discovery of the stub, the dates of the pay periods) should have caused honest investigators to ask some serious questions. If the investigation into the President’s assassination had been open, transparent, and just, such apparent actions should not have occurred. Is it possible that the pay stub contains information that links directly to Oswald? If so, what information was being obstructed? The possibility, however seemingly remote, exists that this cheque stub may have shown that Oswald was not in the Soviet Union, or that there was some sort of Oswald imposter actively in the United States. In short, that would have poked an enormous hole in the official story of Oswald’s activities and the investigation would have taken on a whole new angle, an angle that would have been very troublesome to Warren Commission investigators. However, until this information is rediscovered, the mystery of the pay stub will remain just that: a mystery; one of many mysteries surrounding the tragic death of John F. Kennedy.

 

[1] City of Dallas, “Property Clerk’s Invoice or Receipt” for Lee Oswald, dated 11/30/63.

[2] Armstrong, “Description of Report” (Research notes for book “Harvey and Lee”)

[3] Ibid.

[4] J. Edgar Hoover (FBI correspondence, 6/3/1960).

[5] Warren Commission testimony of Marguerite Oswald, pp. 218- 220.

[6] CIA internal memo, June 22, 1962.

[7] J. Edgar Hoover (FBI correspondence, 6/3/1960).

[8] Warren Commission Document 75, p. 677.

[9] Warren Commission, Appendix 15, p. 773.

[10] Warren Commission testimony of Lydia Dymitruk, pp.71-72.

[11] Armstrong.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Armstrong.

[14] James Douglas, JFK & The Unspeakable – Why He Died & Why It Matters,  p. 292-294.

[15] Armstrong.

[16] James Douglas, JFK & The Unspeakable – Why He Died & Why It Matters,  p. 292-294.

[17] Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, p.132.

[18] Burt W. Griffin (FBI Memorandum, March 12, 1964)

[19] Charles Price, et al. (FBI Memorandum, December 19, 1963).

[20] William G. Brookheart (FBI Memorandum, no date).

[21] FBI document, December 19, 1963.

[22] William G. Brookheart (FBI Memorandum, no date).

[23] Dallas City Directory, 1961.

[24] Ibid.

[25] James V. Anderton (FBI Memorandum, November 29, 1963).

[26] Arthur E. Carter (FBI Memorandum, December 21, 1963).

[27] Charles Price, et al. (FBI Memorandum, December 19, 1963).

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Charles Price, et al. (FBI Memorandum, December 19, 1963).

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

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