How the 1962 Grand Jury on the Mysterious Death of Henry Marshall Was Abruptly Closed Down


A 1962 article in The Texas Observer  (copied below) brings forth the “context of the times” about the 1961 death of Henry Marshall, from five rifle shots (three of which would have rendered him either incapacitated or dead).  This article relates to the stories about the murder of Marshalland how it was absurdly “covered up” as a suicideclearly as ordered by Johnson himself described in LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination and LBJ: From Mastermind to The Colossus

The story was about how Marshall’s death was brazenly declared a “suicide” by the local sheriff, Howard Stegall (a cousin of LBJ’s aide Glynn Stegall), also a close friend of LBJ’s senior aide (in charge of his most criminal activities) Cliff Carter.  None of those connections were mentioned in the article, nor was the fact that Johnson had arranged for his sycophant, U.S. Attorney Barefoot Sanders, to be secretly put in charge of that grand jury, directing the judge’s actions throughout the process undoubtedly right up to its last day when he ordered that it be terminated.

At the time this was written, all of that was still a high-level secret, which explains why this article does not refer to the fact that Sanders was secretly in charge of the trial; Judge Barron was merely following his orders.  Although the grand jury had requested the entire 175 page USDA file that Henry Marshall had created during his criminal investigation of Billie Sol Estes (and, by extension, Lyndon Johnson) Sanders had withheld 153 pages (87%) in order to keep Johnson’s name out of the proceedings.

Throughout the article, below, I have taken the liberty to add “emphasis” to key sentences or phrases in order to highlight the inconsistent and paradoxical points, which belie how ridiculous it was to terminate an investigation riddled with contradictory evidence that begged for the “suicide” verdict to be overturned.

Had Henry Marshall’s cause of death been changed to “homicide” it is likely that Captain Peoples could have aggressively investigated the murder and proven that Lyndon Johnson was behind it.  And that would have put him in prison in 1963 and thus saved the life of John F. Kennedy.




Of the ten men and two women who made up the late Robertson County grand jury, two members were employees of the United States Department of Agriculture—a department that has come under grave suspicion in the Billie Sol Estes case—and a -third member was an in-law of the sheriff, whose help in shaping the verdict of suicide in the death of Henry M. Marshall has since been questioned by state and federal officials.

So those three jurors, caught in a conflict-of-interest bind for which they were not responsible, undoubtedly breathed easier this week when the grand jury was dismissed by Judge John M. Barron.

IT WAS SUGGESTED by Attorney General Will Wilson, who opposed Barron’s action, that many others, both in Texas and Washington, breathed easier when the jury was abruptly dismissed. There were cries of surprise when it happened and there were some grounds for surprise, for Barron cut short the investigation the day before the jury was to hear testimony from state agriculture officials and just as County Attorney Bryan Russ was talking about inviting down three key USDA officials—William E. Morris, Billie Sol’s old letter-writing buddy, Emery “Red” Jacobs, and James Ralph, both of whom have been charged with an indiscreet visit with Billie Sol to Nieman Marcus’s men’s wear department.

Why the rush to close it down just at this point? Attorney General Wilson suggested it might be that Barron wasn’t interested in digging into the comradely efforts of some department of agriculture officials in aiding Billie Sol. Wilson talked darkly of “pressure from Washington.

Actually, there isn’t anything surprising about it. It fits very consistently into the picture already delineated of Franklin’s version of boondock justice. By bringing the grand jury investigation to a halt, Barron put a stamp of approval to the year-old verdict of suicide in the Henry M. Marshall death. Marshall, you will recall, was the man who headed up the USDA division that supervised the transfer of all cotton allotments—of which Billie Sol did a great deal of shady transferring.

Last summer Marshall was found dead on his 1,500 acre farm near here—a farm appraised at $55,000 and probably worth twice that amount. He was lying near his pickup and there was a .22 rifle nearby. Franklin officials handled this death in a most unusual way. They ruled that Marshall was despondent, that he thought he had cancer; that he had lived at least five hours from the time he was shot to the time he died; that two bullets were still inside his body, but were shattered and therefore unable to be tested ballistically; that he had been shot five times in the abdomen.

LAST MONTH, as the Billie Sol case resurrected the Marshall case, a new investigation proved that none of the above claims was true. Marshall was not despondent; he did not think he had cancer; from the placement of the bullet wounds—two in the liver, one in the lung, one in the neck, one in the kidney—a Houston pathologist ruled he could not have lived more than a very few minutes; no bullets, shattered or otherwise, were found inside his body; and the bullet wounds, far from being all in the abdomen, were scattered even to his armpit.

It was also discovered that the Franklin officials, conducting the 1961 autopsy in their own style, had not tested to see if there were any significant fingerprints on Marshall’s pickup or rifle; nor had they tested to discover—as the Houston pathologist discovered this year in his autopsy—that Marshall had received an almost fatal dose of carbon monoxide just before he died. How had he breathed the fumes? Where was the placement of his body in relation to the pickup when he was found? Had the pickup engine idled until it ran out of gas, or had it been shut off?

Franklin officials could not supply investigators with the answer to any of these questions, because they had not at the time bothered to find out. And now it was too late to find out. At the time of Marshall’s death, Franklin officials ruled that three bullets had passed all the way through the body. Photographs of the body allegedly taken at the time of the 1961 autopsy clearly show four exit holes. How had Franklin officials failed to see the other hole, or was this actually a photograph of another body? State investigators just have to go on wondering.

And what happened to the bullet supposedly remaining in the body. As explained to the Observer by one bitter state investigator, “they cut such wide gashes in his body to embalm him a cannon ball could have washed out without being notified.”

Last week, while waiting for Billie Sol to make one of his mildly dramatic sweeps from the courthouse to the grand jury building and back, the Observer ducked into the county clerk’s office and went through the death certificates for the past nine years, certificates covering every death in Robertson county during those years.

What we found there might have a moral. Of the ten Negroes who died during those nine years of either gunshot or stabbing wounds, all—yes, all—were ruled homicide. Of the eleven white persons who died either from gunshot or “some physical violence” during that time, only one—yes, only one—was ruled homicide. All the others were ruled accidental death, suicide, or no verdict was given.

MUCH HAS BEEN made by outsiders over the implausibility of Marshall’s killing himself with a .22. Not so, say Franklin officials; it’s happened before. A white farmer killed himself with a .22 rifle on February 28, 1955–or so the justice of peace ruled—and in June of the same year another white farmer died under .22 rifle fire. The justice of peace didn’t rule suicide on that one, but he didn’t rule anything else either. Strangely enough, only Negroes kill each other in Robertson County. White folks who die violently practically always commit suicide. And now Judge Barron and his grand jury have helped keep the white folks’ record clean.

Last week, Judge Barron told the press: “I’ll say one thing for him” (Billie Sol), “he’s got a sense of humor.” In a grim sort of way, Franklin officials have too.

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