[This article was originally published one year ago, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, with the confidence that Mueller’s crowd was truly functioning as the proverbial emperor with no clothes on. Now that Mueller’s been exposed, it were vital to re-visit the Hoover/Mueller methods and root them out. In a sense, Dr. King has received some measure of justice over the last year; however, there is no reason to stop there, and allow such sins to be visited upon our children and grand-children.]

By David Shavin

Fifty years ago, on Thursday, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated.

On Tuesday, April 9, 1968, his mortal remains were interred.

Dr. King loved to pose the Leibnizian concept, that the moral arc of the universe may be exceedingly long, but it bends toward justice. Fifty years later, it might be an appropriate time to provide Dr. King some justice; and it might well be that the corner that today’s “Russia-gaters” have painted themselves into, provides the universe with the circumstances to end J. Edgar Hoover’s legacy.

I. The Immortal Talent of Dr. King

The United States, and the world, has suffered greatly from the events of that week, fifty years ago. What has been missing in our quality of leadership over the past fifty years? Lyndon LaRouche identified in Martin Luther King a true grasp of the Constitutional principle of the “general welfare”, as the key for competent leadership: “If you want to be a true politician, you must be committed to the general welfare. You must be committed to mankind. And to be committed to mankind, is to look at the person who’s in the worst condition, in general – and uplift them! Then, you really have proven, that you care about the general welfare. If you don’t go to those people, you’re not with the general welfare. If you don’t have your roots in a fight for the general welfare, you’re not capable of leading our nation, which is a nation constitutionally committed to the general welfare. Martin had that.” [1]

Martin Luther King had a mission that he would not betray. Though he had no wish to be a martyr, he was emphatic that one must discover what it is for which he or she is willing to give his life, in order to have a life. King recognized that the United States had been founded on a unique basis: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” King took that principled founding of the republic seriously, not fighting so much on behalf of one group or another, but that that nation might fulfill its destiny. That a section of our population had been deliberately misused and abused was both a moral problem and a very practical problem – immoral to tolerate the suppression of development of a population, and impractical to waste all that undeveloped talent. A constitutional republic simply cannot function in that fashion. As Lincoln put it, a republic could not long survive half-free and half-slave.

In the 1950’s, there was a particular edge to this matter, as the United States had emerged from the World War II mobilization as the hope of the world; and the matter of becoming fully free was central to the identity of the nation – that is, whether we would simply be the continuation of the colonialist policies of the British, French and Dutch, or whether we would actually be the key for conquering poverty and insuring development and stability. King’s voice resonated with that distinct possibility of becoming fully free.

II. MLK Today

Today, that possibility of such a transformation has come alive again with the potential of working with China and Russia on the Belt and Road projects and the elimination of war.

Not long ago, a President was to take office in January, 2017, free from the imperialism-on-steroids policy of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations – and a President that, horror of horrors, was open to working with Russia, and that did not see the sense of “regime-change” wars, nor of the development of a first-strike, nuclear war policy against Russia.

III. Comey’s “Hoover” Moment

James Comey (left) played the role of the 21st century J. Edgar Hoover (right)

The men who had found their ways to the top of our intelligence agencies , John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey, had proven most adept in their brazen “I never have to say I’m sorry” approach to lying. One risked exposing their latest lie, at the risk of them launching a bigger one tomorrow. They had more than a little to lose if their “Ponzi” scheme of lies were one day left unsupported.

On Friday, January 7, 2017, they arranged for Comey to meet privately with the President-elect for, as Comey aptly characterized it, his “J. Edgar Hoover” moment. That is, Hoover would make a President aware of what blackmail material was “out there”, with the threat conveyed that, unless the President would function on the intelligence agency’s leash, he would become the victim of a public spectacle.[2] Comey’s “Hoover” moment involved the blackmailing of the President-elect, using the selected talking point of the Steele dossier, alleging that Putin controlled Trump, due to Trump’s cavorting with prostitutes in a bizarre scene in a Moscow hotel room. Hence, our sub-title, “A Tale for Our Time”.

IV. Hoover’s “James Comey” Moment

This is a story on “Russia-gate” – as J. Edgar Hoover practiced it against Martin Luther King. Admittedly, the term used then was “Commie dupe”, not “Putin dupe”, and the world was a different world. However, an enemy-image is an enemy-image; and the paralysis induced in the population’s capacity to think is pretty much the same.

It is usually assumed that Hoover’s operations against King commenced with wiretaps, with a vile blackmail letter (suggesting that King’s only way out was suicide), and with the targeting of collaborators of King (Jack O’Dell, Stanley Levison, and Bayard Rustin) for links to Communist causes. But none of that occurred prior to 1962. It was at least five years earlier that Hoover initiated his “Russia-gate” operation against King.

The lead photo from the Georgia Commission Education’s pamphlet

In December, 1956, the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery had finally been won. Shortly afterwards, King had agreed to come speak at Highlander Folk Center, where Rosa Parks earlier had been trained for her Montgomery mission. After the surprising Montgomery victory, the FBI counter-attack to isolate and kill the civil rights movement was put into high gear with the “Russia-gating” of King. The creation of “King, the Communist”, a stooge of the diabolical Russians, was set afoot on that 1957 Labor Day weekend at Highlander. The photo of King at the so-called “Communist Training School” would be plastered on billboards throughout the South. A four-page, newspaper-size handout version was produced on the scandal, and distributed in millions of copies – over one million of them paid for by the state of Georgia. And when civil rights legislation finally reached the Congress in 1963, the photo was made central to the attempt to derail the discussion. It was submitted as proof of the testimony that King was run by the Russians.

The original slander described the staged photograph as follows: “PICTURED HERE (foreground) is Abner W. Berry of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. On the first row are Reverend Martin Luther King (2nd from right) of the Montgomery Boycott, Aubrey Williams (3rd from right) president of the Soutern Conference education Fund Inc. and Myles Horton (4th from Right)the director of Highlander Folk School. These ‘four horsemen’ of racial agitation have brought tension, disturbance, strife and violence in their advancement of the Communist doctrine of ‘racial nationalism’.]

I myself was at Highlander on that occasion, taken there as a boy by his parents. Highlander was run by a friend of my father, Myles Horton, in rural Monteagle, TN – about an hour’s drive from Chattanooga. It was not a large gathering. I swam in the lake that Labor Day weekend with the other black and white children – photos of which, in the four-page handout, were meant to enrage segregationists. The key piece of information, later related to me by my father, about the FBI operation is not to be found in reportage on the events, but it is critical in exposing the hand of J. Edgar Hoover.

V. MLK at the Communist Training School?

On Labor Day weekend, 1957, around 190 people gathered at Highlander Center to celebrate the Montgomery victory, and to hear Dr. King. Myles Horton had run an organizers’ training center there for the CIO since 1932/3. After World War II, the center added civil rights organizing to its labor organizing in a big way. Septima Clark was the key individual involved in the civil rights training there. Eleanor Roosevelt was on their board. [3] Rosa Parks arrived there in the summer of 1955.

Rosa Parks

In Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Clifford and Virginia Durr, along with Aubrey Williams [4], had been looking for a volunteer to challenge the segregation on the buses. Montgomery’s NAACP President Ed Nixon [5] suggested Rosa Parks, and that summer, she attended the training center at Highlander. It is often suggested that she simply got tired one day, and sat down in the “whites only” section of the bus – but that does quite an injustice to her. After her summer training session, Rosa Parks had spent four months deliberating as to whether she would be the one to take the lead in making history. It was not a decision taken lightly. So, in December 1955, when she finally did sit down, it was a courageous decision born not of rashness or exhaustion, but of deliberate leadership.

It took a year of boycott of the Montgomery public transit system, massive inconvenience amongst a broad array of otherwise not very political individuals, and a dedicated leadership capable of overcoming all the bumps in the road. When the Supreme Court intervened against the segregationist practices in Montgomery, in December 1956, victory was declared. King’s declaration that day invoked his phrase about the moral arc of the universe.

Parks returned to Highlander the following summer, that Labor Day weekend of 1957, where Reverend King was invited to give a presentation. These two were the heroes, fresh from the year-long struggle in Montgomery. Also of special note that weekend, it was the time and place where King was introduced to the anthem We Shall Overcome [6]. On the extended drive to the airport after the weekend activities had concluded, King would keep singing the anthem, declaring it to be most beautiful. Later, King would pronounce it, the “battle hymn of our movement”. Finally, on that same eventful weekend, four black teenagers in Little Rock, Arkansas, were working up the courage to make history the next day, when school would open.

VI. The Sanitized Version

The sanitized version of the events behind the “Commie”-photo is that the Georgia Education Commission hired an agent, one Ed Friend, to go to Highlander and take photographs and film of the attendees [7]. Friend’s most famous photograph displayed King sitting in the front row at Highlander’s auditorium, with the Communist Party member, Abner Berry, kneeling in front of him. The headline read “Martin Luther King at Communist Training School” – and, six years later, in 1963 – as President Kennedy was trying to enact historic civil rights legislation – the photo along with the headline was waved in front of the U.S. Senate, in testimony by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. His testimony was seconded by Alabama Governor George Wallace.

Gov. Barnett rallying the confederates

Barnett testified that the civil rights legislation was “a part of the world Communist conspiracy to divide and conquer our country from within.” Some years later, the unrepentant racist would recall:

“I testified before the United States Senate Commerce Committee on July 10, 1963, and I told the members of the Committee that in my humble opinion if they passed those civil rights proposals into law that were then pending in the Congress of the United States that it would bring about more turmoil and strife and bloodshed than they have ever heard of before.[8] George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, testified to the same thing the next day, but they paid no attention to our warnings. They went right ahead and passed those civil rights laws. I remember distinctly that one of the Senators of Michigan asked me: “You said something a while ago about Communism being mixed up with all these sit-ins, marches and break-ins.” I replied, “Yes sir, I said it a while ago, Senator, and I meant every word that I said.” Then I added, “I believe it.” The Senator then asked if I had any proof. He stated, “You’re making a mighty serious charge here.” I then answered, “Certainly, it’s a serious charge, but I think it is just as true as two and two are four.” He mentioned that he would like for me to offer some kind of proof. I said, “All right, Senator. Here is a picture that I am taking out of my briefcase of Martin Luther King… at Monteagle, Tennessee.” When I handed him the picture he did not say a word.”

For unreconstructed Confederates, Governor Barnett’s role was the “high-water mark” of the Russia-gating of King. It was the culmination of six years of frenzied fulminations. However, in reality, it was as pathetic as the Confederates’ “ Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg in 1863, a century prior.

VII. Hoover Escalates vs. JFK

Sen. Warren Magnuson

When Senator Warren Magnuson inquired of J. Edgar Hoover whether this testimony and photograph was correct, Hoover certainly did not report to the Senator that the FBI had control over the ex-CP member, Berry, or had stage-managed the photo. Rather, Hoover simply demurred over whether the photograph was valid or not, keeping the racist governors at arms length. As the “Commie”-charge had already done its intended damage, Hoover played the “soft cop”, choosing his words about Russian infiltration of King’s SCLC to the Senate: “In substance, the Communist Party, USA, is not able to assume a role of leadership in the racial unrest at this time. However, the Party is attempting to exploit the current racial situation through propaganda and participation in demonstrations and other activities whenever possible. Through these tactics, the party hopes ultimately to progress from its current supporting role to a position of active leadership.” Today’s so-called “intelligence” agencies would be proud of Hoover. In modern language, his sophistry would translate as: “Putin didn’t actually run Trump’s campaign; however, he is using propaganda, promoting demonstrations and such. The intelligence community has made the finding that their proven involvement means they are a step away from running our elections and subverting democracy.”

John F. Kennedy August 1963

Within days – on July 17, 1963 – President Kennedy weighed in with a press conference, where he announced: “We have no evidence that any of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States are Communists. We have no evidence that the demonstrations are Communist-inspired. There may be occasions when a Communist takes part in a demonstration. We can’t prevent that. But I think it is a convenient scapegoat to suggest that all of the difficulties are Communist and that if the Communist movement would only disappear that we would end this.” Perhaps in our more enlightened day, we now are able to determine that the President was probably involved in an obstruction of justice; but in 1963, that was considered leadership.

Kennedy’s announcement did not sit well with Hoover, who had been busy on his mission to destroy King. Hoover had been badgering the Kennedy brothers with his allegations that Russia’s KGB had their hooks into the SCLC, King’s civil rights organization. Throughout that summer of 1963, as the famous March on Washington was building towards its climax on August 28, 1963, the occasion of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Hoover increased his submissions of reports and memos to President Kennedy and the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. Hoover reported on King’s communist connections, on King’s private life, and, just so the message was clear, also on Kennedy’s private life [9].

Earlier that summer, on June 22, 1963, the only direct meeting between President Kennedy and King had occurred. The President, not trusting a conversation in his own Oval Office, took King on a private stroll through the Rose Garden. Later, King reported to close friends that it was a rather curious conversation with the President. Kennedy was not shocked that intelligence agencies compiled blackmail material on public figures. However, he was, evidently, quite taken aback that such blackmail would be used, beyond extracting political favors, to actually bring down governments. He asked King whether he was familiar with the then current “Profumo Affair”, the sex affair that was being used to bring down the Harold Macmillan government in Britain. It seems clear that Kennedy was concerned about out-of-control intelligence agencies – that they were intent on bringing down King, which, as he put it, would also bring down his Presidency. Kennedy pressed King to distance himself from two of his collaborators (Stanley Levison and Jack O’Dell), lest King and Kennedy would both be brought down.

The March on Washington was a tremendous success. The “Profumo Affair” did bring down Macmillan’s government that October. By November, President Kennedy was no more.

VIII. The Staging of the “Commie” Photo

The unsanitized reality of the operation is that J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI ran the operation of the reactionary Southern governors. It was not a coincidence that the photographer just happened upon Dr. King cozying up to Abner Berry at Highlander in 1957. Myles Horton told Seamour Shavin, my father that:

a) Abner Berry and Ed Friend arrived at Highlander either together, or at the same time.

b) They had both lied as to whom they were.

c) They were the only two individuals at Highlander that weekend unknown to Horton.

d) They seemed to know each other, and that, during the weekend, they coordinated their actions with each other – in particular, the quick insertion of Berry into the photo op.

Racist Southern governors did not control or deploy members of the CPUSA; the FBI did. In 1957, FBI agents and/or informers were a decent percentage of the shrunken membership of the CPUSA. The co-ordination of Friend and Berry on the infamous “photo op” has the paw print of J. Edgar Hoover all over it.

Afterwards, Abner Berry wanted his fellow CP-ers to believe that he had been tricked into the staged photograph; however his resignation from the CP two months after the photograph suggests otherwise. It is exactly what an FBI-contaminated individual says and does after exposing himself in such an operation. His usefulness as an undercover agent in the CP was over.

VIII. Hoover’s Premeditation

Earlier, in October, 1956, two months before the end of the Montgomery bus strike, Hoover sent President Eisenhower the FBI’s “Secret Report: The Communist Party and the Negro – 1953-1956.” Hoover wanted the President to know that the CP was exploiting “the enforcement of desegregation in every possible way…”. (They were also exploiting, according to Hoover, the 1955 murder and desecration of the black teenager, Emmett Till – or what Hoover termed, “the alleged murder”.) Further, according to Hoover’s report, the CP’s “Daily Worker” praised the then ongoing Montgomery bus boycott, where the CP had claimed that the Federal Government was “…duty bound, under law, to act against officials who, under cover of law, deprive citizens of their basic and federally guaranteed rights…”; and it called for “pressing the President and federal agencies to act against those who illegally deny Negroes their rights as American citizens.”

Two months later, the Supreme Court did actually rule against those officials, and in favor of King and his battle against segregation in Montgomery. In Hoover’s world, this meant that the Supreme Court had become dupes of the Commies. Hoover had the intention, the motivation and the means to stage, a few months later, the “Commie-photo”.

To overlook Hoover’s role in the “Commie photo-op” of Martin Luther King, and in the manipulation of racist fears, would be akin to ignoring the role of the British Empire in the financial underpinnings of the Confederacy. In both cases, one is not so much being fooled; rather, it is more a case of volunteering to drink the Kool-Aid.

IX. The Underlings

The Georgia Education Commission went on to distribute over a million of the four-page handouts of Ed Friend’s work. More copies were reproduced and distributed by the John Birch Society, the White Citizens’ Councils, and the like. Meanwhile, more establishment papers, such as the “Birmingham News” would explain to their readers that Highlander Center had been proven to be conducting a Russian-inspired master plan to sow racial unrest in the United States [10]. The photo of black and white children swimming in the same lake was calculated to disturb sensibilities. However, the photo of a black man and a white woman in physical contact in a square dance was calculated to trigger outrage. This was only two years after the savage butchery of Emmett Till, a young black male who had never even touched the white woman he was said to have offended.

The Georgia Education Commission was the work of Senator Herman Tallmadge’s political operative, Roy V. Harris. He was a founder of the White Citizens’ Councils. In March, 1956, Harris had declared to the New Orleans Citizens’ Council: “Patience and moderation on the subject of the Supreme Court decisions destroying segregation in the public school systems means integration… To resist and set aside the Supreme Court decision is our only salvation…”

Harris had relied upon the “intelligence” of an FBI “counterspy”, Karl Prussian, asserting that King belonged to sixty Communist front groups. The list of the “CP-affiliated” organizations printed by Harris’s group – that is, a list of organizations that, at some point, had the same position on a given issue as the CP – was very much the list that the FBI’s Karl Prussian had previously prepared for the 1954 HUAC hearings in New Orleans [11]. For example, one of Governor Barnett’s Communist devils that he singled out was Aubrey Williams, the Highlander Board member sitting in the front row of the photo with King. Williams was Franklin Roosevelt’s Assistant Relief Administrator under Harry Hopkins; and, presumably, the CP had at least once taken a position in favor of relief for the poor. Ergo, “CP-affiliated”. But don’t make the mistake of laughing at some never-to-be-repeated, alien moment in history – just open your morning paper or turn on your nightly “news” broadcast.

X. The Wrong Assassination

A competent investigation of the assassination of Martin Luther King is not the subject of this article [12]. However, this author will proffer one more account from my father, as it bears upon the professionalism of the FBI in the week after King’s murder. In 1969, a wild, red-bearded Baptist preacher, named Baxton Bryant, showed up at our door in Chattanooga, demanding that my father get in the car and accompany him around the state. (Since Seamour was to succeed Bryant as the next head of the Tennessee Council on Human Relations, there was a little bit of rationale behind Bryant’s pre-emptive actions.) As they drove to the Somerville, Tennessee residence of John McFerren, Bryant related his story.

On Sunday, April 7, 1968, three days after the assassination, Bryant, at home in Nashville, had received a nervous phone call from McFerren, telling Bryant that he had to drive to Somerville that day – that what McFerren had to say could not be said over the phone. McFerren told Bryant that, while picking up his weekly supplies from the Liberto Brothers Produce warehouse in Memphis on the preceding Thursday afternoon, McFerren had overheard a loud outburst from a phone conversation in the backroom, regarding an upcoming assassination. (The Liberto brothers were known as the heads of the Memphis branch of the New Orleans-based Carlos Marcello gang; and they were, to say the least, involved in the logistics of the assassination plan.) Frank Liberto had angrily shouted, “I told you not to call me here. Shoot the son of a bitch when he comes on the balcony.” McFerren had no idea that King was being targeted that day, until, upon arriving back in Somerville, his wife broke the news to him of King’s murder – and he realized what he had overheard.

After hearing McFerren’s story, Bryant drove him to Memphis that Sunday evening, where FBI agent O. B. Johnson tape-recorded McFerren’s account. Later, when Bryant pressed the FBI for their followup, he obtained their response: “Oh, we checked that out. It turns out that that particular conversation must have been about a different planned hit.” [13] And, evidently, on a different balcony.

XI. Conclusion: The Moral Arc of the Universe

The hypocrisy of J. Edgar Hoover, or of the modern-day “Russia-is-the-devil” ideologues, is not that hard to identify or to ridicule. The question is, why would our universe have been created so as to allow matters to get to such a low point?

Martin Luther King’s Mountaintop speech on April 3, 1968 (one day before his assassination)

That the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice, does not mean that the assassination of Dr. King will be automatically provided justice. Leibniz’s conception, and that of Dr. King’s, involves the idea that the Creator did a good thing in creating the universe, and also in creating a being in his image. However, that being made in his image participates in the work of re-creation, and has the capacity to make appropriate or deficient choices. Appropriate choices – as in successful scientific breakthroughs – will find a universe that rewards such choices; deficient choices – as in an obsession for money, sex, gluttony and, in general, short-term pleasures – will leave such a society discarded by history. Similarly with Lincoln’s “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Should you succeed, hypothetically, in fooling all the people all the time, you no longer exist.

Our culture must tackle the difficult work involved in confronting the pain that arises from considering the unjust treatment of Dr. King, and to solve the question as to whether our Creator really intended for such evil to prevail. Such preparation is necessary to summon the strength to change who we are for the better. Only then might the completely obvious and happy alternative – that of the United States joining honestly and meaningfully with the great projects of the Belt and Road – be actually seen with open eyes for what it is.

Dr. King was not wrong to have climbed to the mountaintop. In fact, he would be very happy to have company on that mountaintop!


[1] “The Immortal Talent of Dr. King”. Lyndon LaRouche to the MLK Prayer Breakfast of the Talladega County (Alabama) Democratic Conference. January 19, 2014.https://www.schillerinstitute.org/…/jan…/lar_mlk_speech.html

[2] Comey’s testimony to Congress months later, after the blackmail attempt was rebuffed, was revelatory: “I was worried very much of being in kind of a J. Edgar Hoover-type situation. I don’t want him thinking I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way.” Perhaps Comey was worried, yet, nothing he did was any different than what Hoover did. If it walks, talks, and quacks like blackmail, it probably is blackmail.

[3] In 1958, when Eleanor Roosevelt was scheduled to speak at Highlander, Hoover advised her to stay away, as there were possibilities of violence. Eleanor ignored Hoover’s instruction. (While there, she took some delight in seeing the black and white children playing together at Highlander, commenting as much to my sister.)

[4] In 1933, Clifford Durr became the legal counsel for Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Organization. Virginia Durr was a founding member of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, an interracial group founded in 1938 – responding to President Roosevelt’s identification of the South as the key economic problem of the nation. Aubrey Williams was Roosevelt’s Assistant Federal Relief Administrator, reporting directly to Harry Hopkins.

[5] Edgar D. Nixon was a union organizer for – and for many years, the President of – the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Rosa Parks had been working in his NAACP office.

[6] In brief: Myles Horton’s wife, Zilphia, heard “We Will Overcome” from an attendee at Highlander, Lucille Simmons, the leader of the October, 1945 tobacco workers strike in Charleston, South Carolina. (Simmons’ source had been the Gullah community of Johns Island, SC, next to Charleston.) Zilphia, who ran the music program at Highlander, taught Pete Seeger, who published it in 1947. It was reprinted in September, 1948 for the Henry Wallace presidential campaign. Either Zilphia or Seeger changed it to “We Shall Overcome”, finding it more assertive. In the early 1950’s, Zilphia taught Guy Carawan the song, who, in 1960, taught it to the youth of SNCC at their founding convention.

[7] Ten minutes of Ed Friend’s silent film footage of the attendees at Highlander: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Qzq2tEEtc (Seamour Shavin appears at the 7:59 – 8:00 minute point.)

[8] Barnett knew of what he threatened. The year before, the governor famously agitated for a riot on the campus of the University of Mississippi, on the occasion of the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith. As militant segregationists converged on Oxford, MS – such as General Edwin Walker, Oren Potito of the National State’s Rights Party, and Richard Lauchli of the Minuteman’s training camp north of Lake Pontchartrain – the Governor whipped up 41,000 fanatics at the 9/29/1962 football game, replete with Confederate flags, with his emotional half-time speech: “I love Mississippi! I love her people, our customs. I love and I respect our heritage.” Two died and many were injured in the next day’s rioting.

[9] Hoover alleged that a woman Kennedy might have had a liaison with was actually a communist spy from East Germany. Though it was never the case, Hoover thought Kennedy should know what might become public.

[10] A rare example of integrity in the public media at the time, in regards to the workings of Highlander Center, was the coverage by John Popham, editor of the “Chattanooga Times” newspaper. (Of some note, later, Popham would recognize in Lyndon LaRouche and his movement the sort of qualities of leadership that LaRouche had found in King.)

[11] During the “Joseph McCarthy” period, the House Un-American Committee hearings held an investigation in New Orleans in 1954, targeting Highlander’s founder, Myles Horton; Montgomery activist, Virginia Durr; FDR’s Aubrey Williams; and James Dombrowski of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW). They found, amongst other things, that Dombrowski’s SCHW “has further revealed itself as a Communist-front organization by its cooperation with other Communist-dominated front groups…”! (Modern translation: Have you listened to RT or have you co-operated with someone who did listen to RT?)

[12] Dr. William Pepper’s investigation, reported in his {The Plot to Kill King}, certainly should be central to any such research.

[13] McFerren did relate, on that 1969 visit, that there had been multiple attempts to set him up since his visit to the FBI in Memphis. He ironically noted that he had suddenly become more handsome, as the last year had witnessed a curious upsurge of white women coming by his combination gas station/produce stand, and trying to strike up a relationship with him.


I. A “Smoking Pistol”

The above story relied upon the report by Myles Horton to Seamour Shavin regarding the apparent collaboration between Friend and Berry – making the ‘commie’ photo operation an FBI matter, and only secondarily a matter of the Georgia Education Commission. There was also the circumstantial evidence that Berry’s behavior two months later – quitting the CP after decades of involvement – cohered with Horton’s story.

However, a closer examination of Friend’s images may yet provide a “smoking pistol”. Of all the photos in the four-page slander, the ‘commie’ photo was the ‘money shot’ and the ‘black man dancing with white woman’ was the inflammatory shot. However, it appears that those were also the only two staged images. In the first, CP member Abner Berry is clearly identified, while in the second, it is merely an anonymous black man. However, an examination of all the individuals at Highlander, found in the 9-10 minute video, shows that the black man dancing looks like no one else other than Abner Berry! This would mean that Friend and Berry staged the two most important images, and that Berry’s cover story to his CP’s friends – that he was ‘tricked’ into the ‘commie’ photo – becomes even more threadbare.

Further, an examination of the other images of the square dancing makes clear that no one, black or white, was dancing very close to anyone else – except for the one very non-square-dancing image staged. Must one assume that Berry was confused as to how square-dancing went?

II. And as supplementary to the staged ‘square-dance’ photo, note Edwin Hugo Friend’s testimony at the Highlander Trial, March 4, 1959

It is also the case that Friend considered the dancing photo to be particularly important, as displayed in his peculiar blathering on his theory of square-dancing:

Committee questioner: “Mr. Friend, was that a subversive meeting there at that time?”
EHF: “It was subversive, sir, to the way that I have been taught to live in America.”
“Explain that to the committee.”
“I have been taught by southern tradition to keep the races separate.”
What of anyone that promotes integration?
“I can guarantee you he is not what I would call a good American, Sir..”
And what of the photo of the couple square-dancing?
“This is a square dance held at night… The approach to this square dance seemed to be very harmless, in that the Negro boy will wind up dancing with the white girl… This was called [that is, by the one calling out the square-dance instructions] and invariably he always would up with one of the Negro boys dancing with one of the white girls in order to get them familiar, and these doctrines were teached [sic] in this school, and in order to break down the resistance to integration in that you had to do it anyway that a person really wouldn’t be conscious of it…”

It turns out that, famous jokes aside, dancing might possibly lead to blathering. But, regardless, the second staged photo was of no little importance to Friend. And the caller who was manipulating the situation was no one but the photographer Edwin Hugo Friend, Sr, aided by his collaborator, Abner Berry.

III. Hoover’s Game

In May, 1961, J. Edgar Hoover told the new Attorney General Robert Kennedy that Martin Luther King was tainted for attending a Communist party training school. Hoover knew better. In the 1940’s, the FBI had investigated charges against Highlander for being communist and had closed the file after finding the charges baseless.

Hoover had provided Kennedy that May a summary memorandum prepared by his “Name Check Section” of the FBI; however, he was bothered that, though the report had the bogus ‘commie school’ charge in it, there had been no follow up with a security investigation of King. The Supervisor of the Name Check Unit, one George H. Scatterday, failed to back up Hoover, explaining that Highlander didn’t teach communism and was not controlled by communists – though the Georgia Education Commission had charged King with attending a communist school.

Hoover was incensed at Scatterday for not having opened up a security investigation of King and for not going the next step with the ‘commie school’ story. Hoover scribbled on Scatterday’s memo, “This is astounding. Upon what the first memo said, I orally advised A.G. [Robert Kennedy] that King had been associated with Communists and had been at a Communist meeting.” Hoover protesteth overly much. He instructed that a letter of censure be entered into Scatterday’s personnel file.

IV. Hoover’s Man on the Highlander Case

In 1957, the man that Hoover had on the Highlander case was Louis B. Nichols, #3 man at the FBI, just under Clyde Tolson and Hoover. This author has not located any order from Nichols to deploy the Friend/Berry team to Highlander. However, Nichols warned Tolson three days before the ‘commie’ photo, that Highlander was gearing up their civil rights activity. Again, on September 4th, two days after the photo, Nichols wrote that Highlander was the center for teaching civil disobedience. This prompted Hoover to write the Tennessee FBI office, indicating his concern about Highlander.

Then, on October 4, 1957, Georgia Governor Griffin gave a press conference, praising the wiles of his undercover investigator, Friend, and announcing that an initial run of 250,000 copies of the four-page ‘King at the Commie School’ slander sheet was going out. Nichols was the man at the FBI who kept on top of the effectiveness of the slander sheet. Below is an example of Nichols forwarding one of the slander sheets to Clyde Tolson.

Nichols was clearly involved, but it is not clear who at the FBI deployed Abner Berry to Highlander to work with Friend. It were likely that Nichols was working with someone in the FBI’s CP team. Meanwhile, Ed Friend went on to become the photographer for the Ku Klux Klan, and, in the 1970’s, for the white racists of Rhodesia. One can be assured that both groups practiced safe square-dancing.

In November, 1957, shortly after the Friend/Berry operation ended, Nichols cashed in with a $100,000 per year post with Lewis S. Rosenstiel’s Schenley liquors. Nichols’ main job was to assure investigators that Rosenstiel was not really involved with the mob. (It was Rosenstiel’s wife who later testified that, in 1958 and 1959, Hoover was seen cross-dressing at the Plaza Hotel, and performing homosexual acts that included Roy Cohn and Louis Rosenstiel.) In 1965, Rosenstiel provided Nichols with $1,000,000 to set up the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, to promote J. Edgar Hoover as a model for America’s youth.

Nichols ill-gotten gains allowed him to purchase a home in Leesburg, Virginia, and an extensive black-walnut tree operation near Winchester, Virginia. Hoover was godfather to Nichols’ first-born, John Edgar Nichols – named after his boss back in 1939! (Nichols waited for his second son to convey his own name, Louis.)

And to my invaluable primary source for key components of this story, I thank my dear father, Seamour Shavin.