The 1969 Murder of Lyndon Johnson’s Double — His Cousin, Jay Bert Peck

LBJs cousin J. Bert Peck

Lyndon’s second-cousin, J. Bert Peck, had a close resemblance to Johnson and a voice that sounded like him.  Peck’s primary employment was as a deputy sheriff in Garland, Texas outside of Dallas and as part-time security for the Dallas Cowboys. But in his spare time, he was also employed by Lyndon Johnson in a, mostly still-secret, role as Lyndon Johnson’s double. Unfortunately, in Johnson’s last year as president, Peck did some things that apparently greatly embarrassed Johnson.  As often happened when someone did something to seriously upset LBJ, Mr. Peck died shortly afterward, in his case by being shot in his own house by an intruder.

It all started when a news item appeared in two national magazines announcing that Lyndon Johnson had a “double,” a man who was known to have “stood-in” for Johnson on a number of occasions when Johnson wanted his presence known to have “existed,” even though he needed to be someplace else at that point in time.

Peck made the mistake of making his role “public” when he appeared on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” show to talk about his experiences as LBJ’s “double,” and again when he appeared in the 1968 movie “The Wrecking Crew” starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, and Sharon Tate.  Peck appeared in two scenes playing “the president.”  One of them was taken from the back and right side as he, playing LBJ, was told about some stolen gold bullion; the second scene showed him dancing with Elke Sommer. The fact that these scenes were originally in the movie, as noted by the news articles and Peck’s obituary (described below), but were mostly deleted at some later point, suggests that Johnson did not want it known to the public that he had a “double”, at least in such a record that might become permanent, like a movie.

According to LBJ’s partner-in-crime, Billie Sol Estes (who had restored his credibility after his release from prison when he began cooperating with the impeccably credentialed Texas Ranger — later U.S. Marshal — Clint Peoples), Johnson had Peck “stand in” for him on several occasions, including the evening of November 21, 1963, so he could go to Clint Murchison’s party at which the final “go” nod for the assassination would be given by LBJ.  He knew that Peck would only make a brief appearance at the hotel in Fort Worth to throw off reporters as to his whereabouts. The reports that Johnson was seen that evening in the main dining room and lobby of the hotel could be explained by this device, considering that there were no indications that he spoke to any group or even to anyone, in particular, that evening.

The following article, which validates the point about J. Bert Peck’s known role as an “LBJ Stand-in,” appeared in the “People” section of Time magazine, in the edition dated August 2, 1968:

Dean Martin and Elke Sommer have locked up star billing . . . in Columbia’s new Matt Helm thriller. Yet one supporting role is sure to set the audience buzzing. That’s when an aide informs the President that thieves have made off with $1 billion in gold bullion. And there’s old L.B.J. listening to the bad news. Old who? Well, it’s not quite the boss himself, folks. It’s his cousin. To play the President, Central Casting tapped J. B. Peck, 66, retired [ Dallas County deputy] sheriff of Garland, Texas, and L.B.J.’s somewhat look-alike first cousin (Sic – Second Cousin). It’s just a flash in his pan, and J.B. got a kick out of it all.

Movie The Wrecking Crew Photo - CROP

And the same week, the following excerpt came from an article in “Newsweek” magazine dated August 5, 1968:

“It was a tossup as to who revealed a fascinating profile when they posed together – actress Elke Sommer or a tall Texan who is making his movie debut with Elke and Dean Martin in ‘The Wrecking Crew’. The neophyte looks uncannily like LYNDON JOHNSON and is cast in a brief $1,000 role as an unnamed President of the United States.  He plays just one scene, swiveling from back to front in a Presidential chair to jolt the audience with his seemingly familiar features.  Who is he? A Dallas night watchman and sometime songwriter (“Pedernales River”) named J. B. Peck, 66, that’s who.  “My mother was a Johnson and I’m Lyndon’s second cousin,” he said, but the relationship was news to the White House.”(emphasis added).

These news articles in widely-read national magazines about something so embarrassing to LBJ would have made him furious, and to him, it was the “last straw” for Mr. Peck.  Billie Sol Estes stated that Johnson had become paranoid about Peck’s ability to keep quiet as a result of this publicity, and that caused him to order Peck’s murder. (From “Billie Sol Estes: A Texas Legend” p. 164).

Between these August, 1968 news articles and the release of the movie four months later, a cut was made in the key scenes to remove images of Peck’s face, so that only the rear of his head was shown (i.e. the part of the sentence from this magazine article, “swiveling from back to front” is no longer true.  You can view this video [what remains of it anyway] for yourself on the internet at http://www.DailyMotion.com).

But that was only one of the changes made, all of which beg a number of questions. Who would have the power:

  • To delete the footage of Peck dancing with Elke Sommer and the frontal shot of him swiveling around, only leaving the shot of the back of his head;
  • and change the movie description to delete all references to the ‘presidential’ scenes;
  • and change the credits to list only ‘J. B. Pick’ (instead of ‘Peck’);
  • and, instead of listing his character name (LBJ), the “president” was only listed as “uncredited.”

One must carefully ponder these questions and consider the implications, as part of this exercise in deductive reasoning:  Is the most likely explanation that LBJ picked up the telephone and called Jack Valenti one day in August 1968 and asked (or, more likely, ordered) him to have those changes made to the movie?  After all, it was precisely for this kind of purpose that Johnson had gotten his Hollywood friend Lew Wasserman to appoint Valenti to his position as head of the Motion Picture Association of America. How else could these obviously telling, yet otherwise innocuous, set of changes get made, and by whose order?

To better understand the implications of all of this, one need only ponder these points: “WHY did all of this make LBJ so nervous? Was he afraid that knowledge of his cousin’s sideline of acting as Johnson’s double might cause future researchers-cum-historians (i.e. those who endeavor to report real history instead of repeating the many LBJ-planted myths) to discover more of his secrets that might unravel the real truths of JFK’s assassination?”

Ask yourself this question: Who else, other than Jack Valenti, LBJ’s appointed Hollywood watchdog, might have had the power to do these things?  The only realistic answer to that question is: “No one” (other than Wasserman himself, who would do anything to accommodate his friend the president, knowing that back-scratching is a two-person exercise).

A few months later, J. B. Peck was murdered (according to researchers who have studied the numerous anomalies related to his death). I have presented compelling circumstantial evidence that this is one of several such crimes committed by the murderous mortician John Liggett (though Liggett was never charged because Peck’s death was ruled a “suicide”).  But it is not speculative whatsoever that, a few years after that, Liggett returned to the same house and tried to kill Peck’s widow; unfortunately for him, she survived and reported the attack, and the attacker, to police.  After he was arrested, Liggett was given the keys to his handcuffs while being transferred to a court for a hearing and of course he attempted to escape; as if “on queue” he was quickly shot in the back and killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

This truncated article summarizes the more detailed information about this and other related stories which are contained in my book “LBJ: From Mastermind to The Colossus.”

 

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