The Allegations of Cecil Small

Peter Whitmey
A149-1909 Salton Road,
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada V2S 5B6

The Fourth Decade, January 1993, pp. 21-24

    In the latter part of February 1992, I received a letter postmarked "New Orleans, La.," which had been mailed to me on February 14, with no return address. Inside I discovered an undated newspaper article entitled "Man said he had chance encounter with Oswald," with a note above the headline indicating that it was from the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. (I later learned that the article was from the Jan. 5, 1992, issue.) The handwriting on both the envelope and above the article appears to be that of a woman, but no letter or note was enclosed indicating who, in fact, had sent the article to me. [1]
    The news report was attributed to the Associated Press and was an edited version of a more detailed report published the day before in the Winston-Salem Journal, written by Charlie Peek of the paper's "Northwest Bureau." [2] Its headline read: "DYING WORDS: Oswald Was Innocent, N.C. Man Says." According to Peek's account, based on interviews with Mrs. Cecil Small and her niece, Betty Donoghue, the late Mr. Small had claimed for many years that he gave Lee Harvey Oswald a ride from Dealey Plaza to the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. According to the Warren Commission, of course, Oswald had taken a taxi to his rooming house, after getting off a bus that had bogged down in traffic. No reference was made to such an allegation in the 26 volumes of the Warren Report.
    According to Cecil Small's wife, Mildred, as well as a 30-minute audio tape which contained an interview with Cecil made in 1977 by an unidentified female reporter hopeful of writing a book on the assassination [3], the Smalls were on their way back to North Carolina from California when they became stranded in Dallas due to mechanical problems with their old truck. Since they were very low on money at the time, it was decided that Mrs. Small would find work in Dallas while Mr. Small attempted to repair the truck sufficiently so that they could continue their trip home, hopefully in time for Christmas in 1963 (they arrived in Dallas a few weeks prior to the assassination). They were allowed to park their truck, which had sleeping facilities in the back, on the property of a mechanic.
    On November 22, 1963, Cecil set out in his truck for Western Auto on Main Street in downtown Dallas, hopeful of obtaining both a thermostat and bearings for his 1948 or 1949 Ford, turning on to Commerce Street from the Stemmons Freeway and going under the triple overpass in Dealey Plaza as Kennedy's motorcade approached. He had a little dog in the back which began barking as he drove past President Kennedy's car in heavy traffic (as can be seen in the Zapruder film, which does appear to show a truck go by). Small recalled during his 1977 interview seeing Mrs. Kennedy stand up, although he was not aware of shots having been fired (which he later believed was the reason that his dog began barking, as he always did when he heard gunfire).
    Shortly thereafter, Small arrived at the auto shop, where he learned from television broadcasts in the store the first sketchy details of the assassination attempt. Although he was able to obtain a thermostat, he was directed to another store in Oak Cliff which stocked the bearings he needed, and the address was written down on a piece of paper which he put in his glove compartment. He retraced his route down Main Street, noticing that the traffic was backing up as he reached the corner of Main and Houston, which slowed him down somewhat. He also was uncertain if he was going the right direction to reach the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, so as he headed down Main towards the triple overpass, Small pulled over to ask directions from a young man carrying some books, who was walking down Main St. The pedestrian assured Small that he was going the right way, and at the same time, asked for a ride, introducing himself as "Lee Harvey Oswald."
    As they proceeded towards Oak Cliff, shortly before 1:00 p.m., Small mentioned the assassination attempt to Oswald, and recalled in his 1977 interview that Oswald did not seem to be aware of what had happened; he indicated having been briefly questioned by a red-headed policeman in the Texas School Book Depository, where he worked, but was allowed to leave. Since Small was unfamiliar with Dallas, he asked Oswald to assist him in locating the auto shop, directing him to the slip of paper in the glove compartment. Inside was a .38 long-barreled revolver which Oswald commented on, learning from Small that he would prefer a shorter barrel. Oswald mentioned the fact that he owned such a weapon and would be interested in the possibility of making a trade.
    After directing Small to the auto shop, they agreed to meet in 30 minutes, and Oswald got out on 10th Street not far from the rooming house where he was living. (Small did not indicate where they were to meet, but presumably arranged to do so where Oswald was dropped off, or possibly at the Western Auto store.) Of course, it was in this area where J.D. Tippit of the Dallas Police was brutally shot to death allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was seen fleeing from the scene around 1:15 p.m. with gun in hand.
    According to Small, after not locating Oswald where they planned to meet, and apparently not aware of the Tippit slaying, he drove back towards downtown Dallas, but decided to pull into Parkland Hospital. As he walked from his car towards the hospital, he saw a heavy-set Hispanic man and two female companions, whom he claimed had walked across Commerce Street in front of him as he was originally driving through Dealey Plaza, getting into a station wagon; the man had been carrying what appeared to be a rifle with a scope, partially covered by paper.
    Upon leaving Parkland, Small continued on to the mechanic's shop, and to his astonishment, learned that Lee Harvey Oswald was now under arrest for the slaying of a policeman and for possible involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. According to Mrs. Small's account, she showed her husband a photo of Oswald in the paper which he immediately recognized, but she was adamant that the young man was too calm to have committed such a horrendous act. (It should be pointed out that there was no photo of Oswald published until the following morning, but, of course, he was shown on live television numerous times.)
    Unlike many other witnesses with information related to the assassination, Small did not notify the authorities in Dallas about his experience, which conflicted with information published that weekend as to the means by which Oswald traveled to Oak Cliff. (There was also conflicting information provided by assistant sheriff Roger Craig, who claimed to have seen Oswald run out of the TSBD and get into a light-colored Nash Rambler; two other witnesses, Marvin Robinson and Richard Carr, also saw a man get into a Rambler station wagon with a luggage rack on top, consistent with Craig's story, although Robinson could not describe the man, while Carr stated it was a man with horned-rimmed glasses on, whom he had seen on the sixth floor of the TSBD.)
    In early December, the Smalls were able to complete their trip back to Charlotte, N.C., and later moved to Boone around 1965. Small did describe his experience to other members of the family, and sometime in the late sixties, two FBI agents interviewed Small, suggesting that he should get a job and stop worrying about the matter. He was in his late forties at the time of the assassination and had worked as a security guard in several states as well as in Boone to supplement a disability pension he was receiving. He also at some point began working as a private investigator, and was involved in a murder case in 1972 involving the deaths of Bryce and Virginia Durham and their son, Bobby Joe, whose bodies were discovered by Small himself and the Durhams' son-in-law, Troy Hall. The murders were never solved. [4] At the age of 63 in 1978 "Cecil Lee Small" filed as a Democratic candidate for sheriff of Watauga County against Bill Farthing, a Republican, but presumably lost.
    Obviously, Cecil Small's allegations have to be treated with suspicion, especially since he failed to report his account to the authorities. However, it is hard to believe that a man would make up such a story and yet not make any attempt to benefit financially from it over the years. It is also plausible that Small feared for his life as reports quickly came in indicating that Oswald had taken a taxi driven by William Whaley (the most senior taxi driver in his company and a Teamsters Union member, who died on duty several years later in a car accident [5]). He might have felt it was safer to simple keep the information to himself until he got back to the security of his home in North Carolina.
    The most significant aspect of Small's account is the discussion he allegedly had with Oswald related to possibly exchanging guns. If this really occurred, it would provide an innocent explanation for Oswald having picked up his .38 revolver at the rooming house. It is possible that Oswald was on his way to rendezvous with Small when he was questioned by Tippit, who might have noticed the gun, causing Oswald to panic. It is also possible that Oswald and Small had already met and were in the process of making a trade when Tippit showed up, especially if Small happened to be short, heavy-set with black, curly hair. Such a description was given by several witnesses to the Tippit murder, and Acquilla Clemons, who was ignored by the Warren Commission, told Mark Lane that this man had shot Tippit, gesturing to a man fitting Oswald's description to leave the scene. [6] If, in fact, Cecil Small shot Tippit with his long-barreled .38, that would explain why he did not contact the Dallas Police about having picked up Oswald. Since there was no written record of Oswald's interrogation, we have no idea whether Oswald himself indicated how he got to Oak Cliff on Nov. 22. In fact, there is no clarification made that I can find as to how Oswald traveled to and from Oak Cliff prior to Nov. 22, but given his limited income, it's unlikely he took a taxi but instead relied on the bus. Of course, if he could get a free ride, he'd probably jump at the opportunity to save some money and at the same time enjoy someone else's company. Given Roger Craig's testimony, it is possible that Oswald hopped into the Rambler only long enough to receive further instructions, and then got on a bus, but in frustration got off and headed down Commerce St. where Small asked him for directions.
    Having listened to the interview with Cecil Small sent to me by Betty Donoghue, his niece, I have no reason to disbelieve the man, despite evidence to the contrary developed by the Dallas police, except for his reluctance to come forward until years later. It certainly would be helpful to learn more about his background beyond the few sketchy pieces of information I have been able to obtain, especially his political views and whether he had ever belonged to any right-wing organizations such as the Minutemen, John Birch Society, or Ku Klux Klan. It is conceivable that Small has fabricated a hoax, is telling the truth, or has created a "cover story" for possible involvement in not only the killing of J.D. Tippit, but maybe the assassination itself.

    1. Several years ago, I made contact with a woman in New Orleans names "Lewellen" who I hoped might be related to David Ferrie's former roommate, who was interviewed by Garrison's staff. She wasn't, but after speaking to her as well as writing, I discovered shortly thereafter that her phone number was no longer in service. It could be that she decided to mail me this article. I have also been in contact for two years, with Perry Russo who answered a series of questions on audio tape with the help of a girl friend who read the questions; possibly she sent the article. (Note: my three-part interview with Russo is available from Ulric Shannon in Hull, Quebec, who has a large audio collection, for a reasonable charge.)
    2. I wrote to Charlie Peek but did not receive a reply, and learned from the W-S paper that he no longer was working for them; also, his phone number in Purlear, NC, given to me by both the paper and the operator, was no longer in service.
    3. Betty and Chuck Donoghue sent me a copy of the 1977 interview, but a portion of it has been edited out involving the discussion of a gun described in this article. They assured me that it was merely an accident made by someone else who had copied it for me. I'm not so sure it was an accident. They also sent me a copy of the "Bill Cooper" presentation of the Zapruder film that Robert Groden commented on at the Chicago conference. As I pointed out in a letter to the Donoghues, Groden makes it abundantly clear in his slide presentation that Bill Greer is not holding a pistol in his hand and firing at the President; it is merely reflection of light from Kellerman's forehead. The washed-out print used by Cooper gives the impression it might be a gun. (In 1987, I learned from a right-wing nut here in Abbotsford that a writer and preacher named Lindsay Williams, who lives in northern Oregon, was also giving a similar presentation.)
    4. "Investigator Files For Watauga Sheriff," Winston-Salem Journal, Jan. 31, 1978.
    5. The reference to Whaley's position in terms of seniority referred to by Aynesworth and Grove in the Dallas Morning News, Nov. 28, 1963, "Oswald Planned to Ride by Scene"; they also indicate that Oswald was still stuck in traffic a half-hour after the assassination.
    6. Rush to Judgment (Penguin Books: Middlesex, England), 1966, p. 181; also see interview in Crossfire: The Plot to Kill JFK (Carroll & Graf) by Jim Marrs, pp. 340350 for a thorough account of the shooting of Tippit and the questionable evidence linking the bullets and shells to Oswald's gun; also, see Reasonable Doubt by Henry Hurt dealing with the suspicious behavior of Tippit.
    7. Mrs. Donoghue told me in answer to a question about Cecil's political views that he was nothing more than a "good old Southern boy" but what does that imply?