The Airplane Crash on LBJ’s Ranch in February 1961: Still Another Piece of LBJ’s Legacy Missed by Robert Caro

This is how the accident was described by the local newspapers and in various accounts still accessible by internet, such as this one from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image:

On the evening of February 19, 1961, the Convair CV-240 often used by Vice President Johnson crashed in the hill country, seven miles from the LBJ Ranch. The plane was being shuttled from Austin to the ranch, but due to bad weather conditions could not land. The crew opted to return to Austin, but never arrived. This silent footage, filmed by Gordon Wilkison, camera man for KTBC and the Johnsons, documents the wreckage site and the vice president talking with reporters from the local press.

This description was what was immediately reported in the news, all based upon what Lyndon Johnson told those reporters. Which explains why it is filled with untrue statements (a.k.a. bald-faced lies). First, the crew did not intend to give up and return to Austin. That’s what they should have done, had Johnson not threatened to fire them if they didn’t land. It was that action of his that forced them to attempt to land the plane which caused the airplane to crash.

Were they headed back to Austin, they would surely not have been flying through the fog at just 300 feet altitude, thus they would have not flown into the trees at the top of a hill.

The photos taken from the old film available at the website referenced above were made by Johnson’s photographer showing him explaining all of his lies directly to several reporters.

The reason for the delay in reporting the accident was because he took two days to create the cover story. That rather brazen and bizarre act was evidently caused by the need to transfer title ownership to himself and make sure the insurance paperwork was set up to ensure that he could manage it such that he would receive the payment for its value, which, according to J. Evetts Haley’s research, was actually $500,000, not the $250,000 reported in the newspapers. There is a term that applies to this transaction: it’s called “insurance fraud,” and some people have spent time in prison for committing such a crime. But for Lyndon, this was a minor distraction and worth dragging it out for a couple of days, knowing that he was “untouchable.”

The wives of the two pilots knew what had happened, as well as the flight controllers in Austin. They were undoubtedly the people from whom Mr. Haley got the truth and they, of course, were just as frightened of the dangers associated with crossing “LBJ” as most of his neighbors were. A persistent rumor has circulated ever since the “accident” that the pilots’ families received a very significant financial settlement in exchange for their promise to never repeat the information about the actual circumstances of which only they were aware.


(Excerpted from LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination)

This incident was never investigated further, given the fact that he was then the Vice President of the United States of America, and after a couple of years would become the President, after much conniving and plotting with other very important people to put him there.

For obvious reasons, every one of his prominent (as well as the not-so-prominent) biographers left it out of their books. That includes the legendary Robert Caro, who appears in numerous magazines, newspapers and press conferences to explain how he was trained from his days as a cub reporter to “turn every page” in his quest to report every substantive detail of Lyndon B. Johnson’s life. The details he did bother to report (tens of thousands of them) were carefully chosen, all arranged with towering rhetorical style, to highlight his purportedly “good” acts (e.g. the 1965 voting rights act, even though its implementation was then impeded by a lack of funding because of the expenses related to Vietnam) hide Johnson’s most egregious acts and the associates who were involved in them.

Thusly, no mention is made even of the name “Billie Sol Estes” (among numerous others, as noted in the six blogs listed at the end), with whom he conducted massive frauds against the government, earning tens of millions of dollars in the process. The Estes name appeared in practically every newspaper and TV or radio broadcast, for many months during 1962. It wasn’t that Caro couldn’t find any of them — they would have been virtually impossible for any researcher not to find, even us mere mortals who don’t “turn every page.”

Rather, the reportage of the Estes frauds was obviously “over the line” that he worked within, especially given that it wasn’t merely about that. As explained within my first book, LBJ had acquired a “hitman” in the 1950s and six of the 17 pre-1963 murders Estes claimed that Johnson had commissioned directly related to the murders of Estes’ associates. That maneuver was done to ensure that Estes would never talk, and it worked. Billie Sol kept his lips sealed until 1984, eleven years after Johnson died. Then he came forth as a “Whistleblower” but Johnson’s cronies made sure that Estes’ credibility was nearly destroyed as an “ex-con.” (Yet, as I have proven in a three-part blog, here, here and here, his legend as a God-fearing Christian telling the truth has been restored, at least for anyone wanting to understand the reasons behind that claim).

The fact that Caro did not pursue the airplane crash as a rather major event is curious, given that it was reported in thousands of newspaper pages throughout the country on February 20, 1961, not to mention radio and television news coverage. I personally heard one such report on that date, which was explained in a “PA broadcast” by the principal of the small, rural LaFontaine (Indiana) High School I attended, to all classes on that day. He assured the students that they need not worry though, the Vice President was safe, since he was not on the airplane. I don’t remember if he said anything about the pilots on board, but of course we implicitly knew their fate.

Another “Miss” by Robert Caro to Add to The List

Robert Caro’s many prevarications, as documented in the noted blogs below, demonstrate that his defined mission was not to review certain parts of Lyndon Johnson’s entire life, for that would ruin the many myths about his subject that have been developed and are still being sustained. This despite the fact that many other older people probably remembered the “accident” as well, though most people did not develop the intense dislike of the man that started with me on that very date.

Except for the people who’ve read either my first “Mastermind” book, or the 1964 paperback published by J. Evetts Haley, probably only 25,000 (+or-) people might remember that story. Though both Mark North and Barr McClellan noted it perfunctorily, they missed making it noteworthy; McClellan even accepted LBJ’s lies to reporters about the date of the crash being on the morning of the 19th, when it was actually the evening of February 17, 1961; the basic “facts” were made in a few paragraphs at pp. 157-8; more words appeared at pp. 245-6 in a section he labeled as “faction” where he made up what he portrayed as Johnson’s actual words, in conversation with Ed Clark, whose comments were similarly divined.

Then James Norvell’s work, Treason, Treachery & Deceit (2014), noted it, but also repeated LBJ’s lie about the date (as the 19th)—but more stunningly—he erroneously credited Caro’s book as having been his source, thus implicitly stating that Caro had covered the story. None of that was true: the citations given did not include any reference to an airplane crash. (See Page 3 for more details on that point).

But the rest of the U.S. population (99%+) never heard of this event because — though possibly mentioned in a few other books(?) — it has not been examined closely by any other notable history or biography book or blog, news article, radio broadcast networks or the internet, with the exception of the curated website mentioned above, and that was contaminated with LBJ’s BS.

Caro’s last two books are mostly “good news” stuff—not so much the seamier side of LBJ and the Johnson administration, or many of the numerous actual events which defined him and the actual historical record of his impact on the United States and the world. Fortunately for Mr. Caro, there were no immediate murders connected to the stolen 1948 election, but they would come later (See HERE for the 1949-51 backlash of that theft, developing within his criminal pal George Parr’s mob that resulted in the murders of radio broadcaster W.H. “Bill” Mason on July 29, 1949, by Deputy Sam Smithwick).

Only within his first two books did Caro dip into some of the dirtier parts of Johnson’s career, but he had no way to avoid those because the ones he did cover were impossible to avoid. The 1948 stolen election, for example, had become one of Lyndon Johnson’s biggest legends, and essentially everyone of cognitive age then knew all about it. Caro covered it thoroughly, and created an audience that gave him his own niche that remains intact today.

By avoiding so many others (as listed below) he managed to portray Johnson as having grown wiser, and more thoughtful—always “pulling for the little guy” — as he became more worldly; Caro would have you believe he had become a doughty erudite, even calm and scrupulous.

This enabled Mr. Caro to channel his readers onto a path that leads to nice and pleasant things, people and places, like a walk in a beautiful park—in contrast to the “real” (more apt) imagery of a most foul junkyard, where bodies are dumped after midnight—as anyone could possibly imagine.

His mission appears to have been about reframing LBJ, to make him like a “normal human being”, one who possessed perhaps a few idiosyncrasies, but nothing to worry about, least of which was Johnson’s obvious narcissism, seemingly worn like a “badge of honor” on his shoulder. It is a sad legacy that Robert Caro must live with; we must pity him for how he evidently sold his own credibility merely to attain greater material wealth.

Unfortunately, only a few hundred people, perhaps 1,000 or so by the end of the year* will ever read this report, so at least he need not worry too much about the hidden truths—like those I write about.

*God willing, of course.

For a more complete synopsis of my blogs referencing Caro’s works, please check out these blogs:

5/21/2022 “Contradictions Within Robert Caro’s Works: Exposing a Legacy Built on Mythology?”

12/3/2020 “Lyndon B. Johnson’s World War II Service – and “War Experiences”

3/31/2020 “Why JFK Went to Texas”

1/20/2020 “Something’s Rotten in the State of Texas” (about the murder of Bill Mason and the “suiciding” of Mason’s murderer, Deputy Sheriff Sam Smithwick)

4/21/2019 “How Lyndon Johnson Expropriated Control Over the Pentagon and CIA Soon After the Inauguration of the Kennedy-Johnson Administration

4/30/2019 “Another Astute Reader Notices Things that Robert Caro Overlooked”

Page 2 Six pages from J. Evetts Haley “A Texan Looks at Lyndon” (The only known public record telling the full story of how Lyndon Johnson ordered the pilots to land a Convair 240 aircraft to land on his ranch runway with fog so thick that practically guaranteed it would crash).

Page 3 A look at how some purported “researchers” have attacked some of the best books (those by, for example, Peter Janney, Doug Horne, Judyth Vary Baker, Ed Haslam — and mine) in order to shepherd readers into “safe pastures” where real truths are not to be found. There can be only one explanation for why anyone would accept such a mission, and the answer can be found in the old adage: “Follow the money.”

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