The Don Reynolds Testimony and LBJ
John Delane Williams and Debra Conway
November 22, 1963: The Senate Rules Committee Hearing
Hearings were held on 11/22/63, beginning at 10 AM EST, that have been variously characterized as likely leading to Vice-President Johnson being dropped from the 1964 ticket  or being removed from office.  Steinberg interprets that LBJ was convinced that he would not be retained on the Democratic ticket as Vice-President in the next go-round.  "Reynolds was still being questioned at 2:30 PM when a secretary burst into the hearing room with the news from Dallas." [4, p. 446]
Burkett Van Kirk, minority (Republican) counsel, was convinced that Reynolds' testimony would lead to Johnson's loss of the Vice-Presidency, "There is no doubt in my mind that Reynold's testimony would have gotten Johnson out of the vice presidency." [5, p. 447]. Evelyn Lincoln held a discussion with the President, on 11/19/63. She says she was told that JFK's 1964 running mate would not be Lyndon Johnson.  Bobby Kennedy was said to be working secretly with Van Burkett for weeks, through intermediaries, to accumulate evidence of payola against Johnson and Bobby Baker, Johnson's former Senate aide. 
What Was Purportedly Revealed at the 11/22/63 Hearing?
Reynolds purportedly told what little he knew about Ellen Rometsch and her association with Bobby Baker's Quorum Club, a private club on Capitol Hill, catering to the libidinal delights of congressmen and lobbyists. As a "good will gesture", Reynolds bought $1208 worth of unnessary advertising on Johnson's Austin television station as a compensation for his having sold a life insurance policy to LBJ. A stereo record player was given to the Johnsons (an unreported gift). 
Reynolds supposedly told of a sex party for lobbyists in New York.  Reynolds was shown a suitcase full of $100,000
payoff for Johnson in Johnson's role in securing the TFX contract.  Also, Johnson had a stopover in Hong Kong while in the Senate. There, congressman could draw on "counterpart" dollars. Counterpart dollars were equivalent amounts in local currency. Johnson drew, and spent, $100,000 in 12 to 14 hours, buying gifts for his wealthy friends. 
Other Purported Transgressions
A person privy to LBJ's dealing in Texas was Jack H. Halfen. Halfen provided a deputy U.S. Marshall, J. Neal Mathews, with 40 names, mainly of Texans, that Halfen had bribed. Deliberately missing from the list was Lyndon Johnson, whom Halfen would protect. Halfen was sentenced to federal prison for his chicanery. Halfen was later pardoned by Johnson in 1966.  There was the murky relationship of LBJ to Billy Sol Estes; Estes had a variety of entanglements with the Agricultural Department. Estes would later depose under immunity in 1984 that Henry Marshall was one of several people killed by Mac Wallace, a reputed hitman of LBJ.  Indeed, Estes would finger LBJ through Mac Wallace in at least 17 murders, including the assassination of JFK.  Wallace's fingerprint was identified in 1998 as being on Box "A" on the sixth floor of the School Book Depository in Dallas.  Johnson's longtime relationship with Madeleine Brown, which produced an illegitimate son in 1950, probably would not have sat well with the electorate. 
Were the Kennedys Trying to get LBJ removed either from the Vice-Presidency, or off the 1964 Ticket?
The possibility of LBJ being dropped from the ticket was discussed in the press.  In fact, the headline of The Dallas Morning News on November 22, 1963 proclaimed,"NIXON PREDICTS JFK MAY DROP JOHNSON."  Hubert Humphrey said that he had heard reports that Bobby Kennedy was plotting Johnson's ouster. 
On the other hand, there are reasons to give that would suggest that JFK would not try to rid himself of Johnson. Johnson was aware of the JFK's propensity toward "problems" with involvement with women. The Ellen Rometsch affair was threatening to both JFK and LBJ. Rometsch frolicked at pool parties at JFK's White House.  But she also came from Bobby Baker's Quorum Club, a club where senators and lobbyists could be "bad" boys. As a protege of LBJ, Baker's excesses would likely be linked to Lyndon.
When a reporter privately asked RFK about the investigation, Bobby said that though there was a lot of stuff on Baker, he didn't think that it tied into Johnson at all. When asked privately whether Lyndon would be removed, JFK argued against it, saying that it would make it that much harder to win in the South, and that the Baker scandal could be a problem for Kennedy. 
On yet another hand, discussions between the two top Kennedys may have likely surfaced regarding Lyndon's removal, if only as a contingent plan. What if LBJ got sucked in by the Baker investigation? An additional heart attack could have changed the equation. Discussions sometimes help clarify issues. JFK's denial of dropping Johnson not only made good politics, it also increased the liklihood that Johnson would again be Kennedy's running mate. 
What Did Bobby say about having Lyndon Johnson Removed from the Ticket?
Robert F. Kennedy participated in the Oral History Program associated with his late brother John. Three different interviewers, John Barlow Martin, Anthony Lewis and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. interviewd Bobby several different times in 1964, 1965, and 1967. Bobby recalled that JFK didn't have much respect for Johnson; even though he presummed that Johnson would seek the nomination in 1968, JFK saw Bob McNamara as the sort of person JFK would like to succeed him. JFK was said to have told his wife Jackie on the night of November 21, 1963 that Lyndon Johnson was incapable of telling the truth.  There was however, no intention of dropping Johnson from the ticket.  As to the allegation that Bobby was using the Bobby Baker case as a means of removing Johnson, Bobby had this to say: "...there were a lot of stories.. that my brother and I were interested in dumping Lyndon Johnson and that I'd started the Bobby Baker case in order to give us a handle to dump Lyndon Johnson; it didn't make any sense. Number two, I hadn't gotten really involved with the Bobby Baker
case until after a good number of newspaper stories had appeared about it, and where there really wasn't any choice but to look into some of the allegations which were allegations of violations of law." [25, pp. 310-311]
Did LBJ Think JFK was Trying to get Him Removed from the Ticket?
Johnson believed that Robert Kennedy instigated the Baker/Reynolds investigation in order to get Johnson off the ticket in 1964. Johnson believed that RFK had his phone tapped in 1961 (no tap was ever found). 
Johnson got reports of Bobby saying , "As soon as we get rid of that oaf from Texas." [27, p. 42] In the Fall of 1963, as the press mentioned the possibility of Johnson being dumped, it confirmed what LBJ had been convinced of for over two years. He confided to journalist Helen Thomas, "President Kennedy worked so hard for making a place for me, always saying nice things, giving me dignity and standing. But...in the back room they were quoting Bobby, saying I would be taken off the ticket." [28, p.42]
Just prior to Johnson's return to Washington, at 2PM, he called Abe Fortas, who had represented Bobby Baker at the closed hearing, about the Reynold's testimony earlier that day. 
It would seem that Johnson miscalculated on two issues. With regard to President Kennedy, Johnson apparently mistook kindness and courtesy for dignity and respect. In regard to Robert Kennedy, he apparently mistook contempt for an attempt to have him removed from office. While the Kennedy's differed in their styles of communication, they seemingly did not differ regarding Johnson; they saw him as ineffective, but did actively consider replacing him on the ticket.
What Happened to the Record of the 11/22/63 Hearing?
Only a bowdlerized version of the testimony reached the public and the press.  In a communication from Steven F. Daniel, Senior Director, Congresional Information Service (CIS), it was noted that Volumes 5-8 of the hearings of the Senate Rules Committee have not been made available to CIS. The hearing on 11/22/63 would have occurred at the time Volumes 5-8 would have been recorded. If these volumes still exist, they have not been made available. "Investigatory materials, if a committee wishes, can be kept closed for up to 50 years. Sometimes, though, committee records of materials never printed are sometimes incomplete and it's possible that there is nothing in the files to release." 
What was Johnson's State of Mind in Dallas?
On the night of November 21, 1963, a party was held at Clint Murchison's house in honor of J. Edgar Hoover, who had secretly flown in for the occasion. Among those in attendance were Madeleine Brown, a consort of LBJ's since 1948 (who had born him an illegitimate son on December 27, 1950); also there was Clyde Tolson, Richard Nixon, John McCloy (who would serve on the Warren Commission), George Brown (of Brown & Root), R.L. Thornton, H.L. Hunt, and several other oilmen. Although Madeleine had no advance notice of LBJ's arrival, it signaled a meeting behind closed doors.  Soon after the meeting, LBJ whispered to Madeleine that the Kennedys would no longer be a burden after the next day.  It would appear that LBJ was delivering information that was fresh for him. 
LBJ called Madeleine the following morning, and repeated his warning in more vivid language. Madeleine tried to channel LBJ's wrath, only to be told, "I've got a minute to get to the parking lot to hear the bastard." 
The January 9, 1964 Hearing
To say that circumstances had changed since the previously aborted session would be an understatement. Johnson had been languishing in the Vice-Presidency, seemingly on the verge of being cast off the ticket, or worse, possibly being impeached. He now held the presidency. Presidents are (were) given considerably more latitude than other office holders. In hindsight, "blowing Johnson out of the water" would've seemed remote.
The only witness testifying on January 9, 1964 before the Senate Rules and Administration Committe was Donald B. Reynolds . Whatever the content of the aborted November 22, 1963 meeting, the focus on January 9, was not on the then President, Lyndon Johnson, but on Bobby Baker, LBJ's former Senate aide. Reynolds was brought into aspects of the Washington scene by Baker. A personal payoff for Reynolds was to meet well known persons through Baker. He met former President Truman through Baker. He met LBJ in 1957 to sell a life insurance policy. He met Jimmy Hoffa; a group in Florida associated with Reynolds was securing a loan from the Teamsters through Hoffa. Reynolds more likely stood to lose than gain from the transaction. He was, to his surprise, listed as an indemnitor on the mortgage.
In regard to the life insurance policy, it would appear that Reynolds would receive 55% of the premium for the first two years, and 5% thereafter. Because Johnson was considered a hazardous risk because of his 1955 heart attack, the first year commission included $5000 of hazardous premium, reducing the commission available to Reynolds. A second policy for $50,000 was taken out shortly thereafter. In 1961, a third policy was taken out, in the amount of $100,000. Reynolds thought that this would bring in $5000 a year for the first two years of the policies. It was suggested by Herbert Jenkins, an aide to then Vice President Johnson, that Reynolds buy advertising on a Johnson television station in Austin, TX at a cost of $1208. Reynolds had no use for the time, so he sold the time for $160 to a stainless steel company sellng pots and pans. The other matter relevant to Johnson discussed on 1/9/64 regarded a stereo set.
Reynolds admitted buying both Baker and LBJ stereo sets. The Johnson set, purchased by Reynolds from the Magnavox Corporation, cost $585 for delivery and installation. The delivery invoice to the Johnsons indicated that Reynolds was the payer. Excerpts from the hearing follows:
Senator Byrd: So there is no question in your mind that it was at Mr. Baker's suggestion that you sent the hi-fi set to Senator Johnson?
Mr. Reynolds: Yes, and I can not tell you what impelled him or caused him to ask me to do it because I do not know, sir.
Senator Byrd: He made no explanation as to why you should send a hi-fi set to Senator Johnson?
Mr. Reynolds: I am trying to remember so as to not take it out of context. To the best of my belief and recollection that I had been drawing renewals on the contract and I hadn't been producing any return to the company.
Senator Byrd: Would you state again about what you said about sending a catalog to Mrs. Johnson?
Mr. Reynolds: Yes. Bobby called me and said that the then Senator would like to have a stereo set, and he asked what kind I could obtain to the best advantage, that is, cost to me, and I told him the only manufacturer I knew, sir, that I could depend upon of top quality would be Magnavox, and I sent, or took to Bobby's office a Magnavox illustrated catalog.
Senator Byrd: You never had any communication from Senator Johnson before or after the delivery of the hi-fi set?
Mr. Reynolds: He, himself, no, sir.
Senator Byrd: Did Bobby Baker indicate to you that the Senator was appreciative of the gift?
Mr. Reynolds: As a matter of fact, it wasn't satisfactory, sir.
Senator Byrd: Why was it not satisfactory?
Mr. Reynolds: I believe the set did not fit Mrs. Johnson's specification for the space she had allocated. It was too large.
The Chairman: Would you yield for just a second?
Senator Byrd: Yes.
The Chairman: I heard this from somewhere. I don't know where I got this, probably from you from some of the testimony or something, that you said that Bobby asked for the set, that the Senator thought it was a gift from Bobby, anyway. It never occured to Senator Johnson that you were the giver of the set.
Mr. Reynolds: No, sir, I did not say that. I did not.
The Chairman: But you said that Bobby asked for it.
Mr. Reynolds: Bobby asked for it for the then Senator, sir.
Senator Byrd: I was just going to ask whether or not Senator Johnson knew at the time the hi-fi set was installed that it was contributed by you?
Mr. Reynolds: I don't think there would have been any question about it, sir, because this set, the invoice was billed from Magnavox Co. directly to Senator Johnson.
Senator Byrd: But that would not connect you directly with the transaction.
Mr. Reynolds: It showed that the charges were to be sent directly to Don Reynolds, sir. [37, pp. 83-85]
Other Reynolds-Baker ventures were addressed at this hearing, notably Baker's indebtedness through "loans" that did not require repayment, and also the bidding on the construction of the D.C. stadium, but these ventures seemingly were not closely related to LBJ. Or, at least the relationship had not been revealed at the January hearings.
The Herbert Jenkins Memo of 1/11/64 Regarding an Interview on 12/16/63
The Herbert Jenkins memo was incorporated into the the published hearings for January 17, 1964.  Jenkins confirmed the sequence of the sale of the life insurance, which was not in question nor illegal by itself. He omitted any reference to the purchase of TV airtime by Reynolds. Nor does the memo indicate Jenkins' part in securing the advertising time. "With respect to the alledged gift of a record player to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, that he is informed it was a present from Bobby Baker. Mr. Jenkins is positive that he had never heard from any source that there was a business connection between Robert G. Baker and Don Reynolds in the insurance agency operated by Mr. Reynolds or that Reynolds had any connection whatever with the record player gift." [39, p. 95]
Presumably the rationale for the memo was to dispel the value of Donald Reynolds testimony of 11/22/63, or any future testimony. The memo is actually dated January 11, 1964 and refers to the interview between Jenkins, Lennox B. McClendon, Chief Counsel to the committee, and Ellis Meehan, the committee's chief investigator. The reason for the original session with Jenkins likely dealt with some of the testimony of Donald Reynolds on 11/22/1963.
The January 17, 1963 Hearing
The testimony of Don Reynolds was essentially a rehash of materials addressed in the Jenkins memo. As to the particulars of the testimony, the committee had solid evidence that Johnson got kickbacks on his life insurance payments. Cancelled checks were available for each aspect of the transactions. The invoice on the stereo set clearly stated that Reynolds was the payer; a copy of the invoice would have been delivered to Johnson when the original set was delivered.  It was probably clear that Johnson would deny the charges if he desired to answer any questions at all regarding the impropriety of his actions. If this wasn't clear, it would be made clear shortly.
The January 23, 1964 Presidential Press Conference
A press conference (not televised live) was held in the White House Fish Room, with President Johnson appearing at 5:04 PM. The expected topic was a policy statement on the situation in Panama. Instead, he addressed the gift of the stereo set. He gave his own spin on things, saying that Bobby Baker gave him the set; Baker was an employee of the Senate, and not his personal employee.  Just before LBJ left the room, he said, "I hope this covers it rather fully. That is all I have to say about it and all I know about it." [42, pp. 510-511] This press conference was LBJ's "solution" to the Reynold's problem. Abe Fortas and Clark Clifford advised LBJ to answer Reynold's charges, but not let Walter Jenkins testify. They felt allowing Jenkin to testify could lead to a full scale crisis. The President said nothing at all about the purchase by Reynolds of air time at a cost of $1208. 
On January 25, 1964, LBJ tried to give another spin on the Reynolds' testimony. Johnson clumsily attempted to equate the gift of the stereo set, attributed to Bobby Baker (but from Reynolds) to a miniature TV received by Barry Goldwater from his office staff. Derogatory information, taken from confidential Air Force files, was leaked to the press, exposing Johnson to serious criticism. 
The Dec 1, 1964 Reynolds Testimony
By December 1, 1964, the die was cast. We had committed to a more extensive war in Vietnam, and LBJ had just won the 1964 election in a landslide of historic proportions. Johnson's vulnerability had seemingly passed. The committee had adjoined their work in July. Information given by Reynolds to Senator John Williams would lead to the resumption of the hearings.
The hearing was proceeded by Don Reynolds writing a statement (August 18, 1964) about the disposition of funds from the money received from Matt McCloskey for the bond in relationship to the building of the D.C. Stadium. McCloskey was also the Treasurer of the National Democratic Party at the time (1960). McCloskey was subsequently appointed as the Ambassador to Ireland by President Kennedy. As Reynolds would point out in his December 1 testimony, the reason he made a statement on August 18, 1964 to Senator John Williams of Delaware, "Was to let Senator Williams know after I obtained a check which I had mentioned previously, sir, of an overpayment, that I at least wanted to get something in writing to the best of my knowledge at the moment, what was there in case something should happen to me unfortunately along the route, that he would have it on record, sir." [45, p. 147]
The cost of the bond was $73,631.28, of which Reynolds would get $10,031.56. From his $10,031.56, he would pay Bobby Baker $4,000 and William McLeod, a lawyer, $1500. However, the invoice to Mr. McCloskey, as instructed by Bobby Baker, was for $109,209.60. The difference, $35,578.32, would be cut up, according to Bobby Baker's instructions, into three $5,000 amounts (for a total of $15,000), to be paid in $100 bills, to Bobby Baker to put money into Johnson's election funds. This process allowed McCloskey to skirt the election laws that limited contributions to $5,000 per person, and also allowed McCloskey to take the contribution as a business deduction. Bobby Baker would get an additional $10,000 in cash and Reynolds would get $10,578.32 for being the bagman. Reynolds said that he hadn't mentioned the arrangement regarding the dispersal of this money earlier because he didn't have the documentation of the check at that time. Senator Williams was able to acquire copies of the front and back of the check; at that time, Reynolds was then willing to testify about the transactions.
The hearings held on December 1, 1964 showed the animosity toward Reynolds. An example of that can be seen in the interchange between Senator Curtis and General Counsel McClendon:
Senator Curtis: I think we would proceed further if we attempted to get information rather than attempting to impeach the witness, but you are harrassing him.
Mr. McClendon: I am trying to ascertain the truth, and whatever it takes to ascertain the truth-
Senator Curtis: No, sir. A great deal of effort has been put forth to discredit this witness; it is quite evident to anybody watching.
[46, p. 150]
Indeed, there was animosity between committee members on basis of party. The Democrats were in control 6-3 and often voted on party lines. Republican senators continued to point out that General Counsel McClendon harrased Don Reynolds. Toward the end of the session, impugning remarks were made to Senator Williams, who was not even on the committee. This led Senator Curtis to make the following remark:
Senator Curtis: Mr. Chairman, I have sat here all day and heard the general counsel sandbag the witness, and now a Senator is on trial, and he isn't even a member of this committee and not charged with investigating, and you are. [47, p.223]
December 1, 1964 Testimony by Don Reynolds on the November 22, 1963 Testimony
In Don Reynolds' testimony on December 1, 1964, General Counsel McClendon moved the discussion back to November 22, 1963.
Mr. McClendon: You were interviewed here in this building the very day that President Kennedy was was shot, were you not?
Mr. Reynolds: And I was questioned in the same manner as you are doing now, sir.
Mr. McClendon: You mean by that you were asked to tell the truth?
Mr. Reynolds: No, sir.
Mr. McClendon: And you would't tell it?
Mr. Reynolds: With a hostile intent manner, sir.
Mr McClendon: All right; because you were examined in a hostile atmosphere, that justified you in not telling the truth?
Mr. Reynolds: No, sir, but may I give you a statement?
Mr. McClendon: No, I don't want any statements.
Mr. Reynolds: I know you don't.
Mr. McClendon: I am trying to get at the facts. You were interviewed practically the whole day of November 22, weren't you?
Mr. Reynolds: No, sir.
Mr. McClendon: Well, a large part of the day?
Mr. Reynolds: No, sir.
Mr. McClenon: Well, how long?
Mr. Reynolds: Until about 1 O'Clock, about 10 to 1.
Mr. McClendon: By Mr. Drennan?
Mr. Reynolds: I don't remember who it was.
Mr. McClendon:It was nobody who is with the staff now, was it?
Mr. Reynolds: I don't know, sir.
Mr. McClendon: And you know that he made a written report of the interview?
Mr. Reynolds: No, I didn't.
Mr. McClendon: Your counsel was present?
Mr. Reynolds: But I did not know about a written report. [48, p. 192]
What, Then Was Gone Over by Reynolds on 11/22/63?
A little thought might eliminate several on the list of Johnson's transgressions from actual testimony by Reynolds; his only knowledge of several items were through Reynolds being told by Bobby Baker, thus rendering Reynolds testimony as hearsay, and inadmissable. There were several other areas of vulnerability for Johnson that Reynolds wasn't privy to. The myriad of dealings with Bobby Baker and influence peddling are but one such area. And once LBJ became president, he had the power of pardon. Baker would have good reason to stonewall the Senate committee. Yet another reason was that Abe Fortas, a good friend of LBJ's, and who would be appointed to the Supreme Court by LBJ, was Bobby Baker's attorney at the hearings.
From Reynolds testimony on 12/1/64 about his testimony of 11/22/63, it can be seen that he testified for only three hours, and if he finished at 1:00 PM Eastern time, he would have finished at noon Central time. His testimony would have long been finished before the first reports of the shooting of President Kennedy; then surely Reynolds testimony was not cut short by the report of Kennedy's assassination. Given the hostile atmosphere within the committee room to Donald Reynolds, it seems unlikly that the whole litany of charges purported to have been addressed on November 22, 1963 were addressed. 
The Jenkins memo of 1/11/64 regarding his interview on December 16, 1963 addressed the sale of the life insurance policies. This "damage control" memo would suggest far fewer topics were actually addressed on 11/22/63 by Donald Reynolds. Given the 6-3 majority of the Democrats on the Committee, and the questioning being done by majority counsel, it seems unlikely that Reynolds would be allowed full rein to address Johnson's transgressions. It would appear that some sort of report was circulated regarding Reynolds' 11/22/63 testimony. However, no retrievable record seems to exist; Reynolds never saw any written report, "bowlderized" or not. It seems likly that the actual testimony of 11/22/63 was no more extensive (and probably less so) than the testimony of January 9, 1964. Likely to have been addressed were the sale of the insurance, the buying of stereo sets, perhaps the sale of TV advertising time, and to some degree, the writing of insurance for the construction of DC Stadium.
However, Johnson seemed convinced that Reynolds could have been a severe blow to his political future, as indicated by his call to
Abe Fortas about Don Reynolds testimony before leaving Dallas that tragic Friday afternoon. Perhaps Johnson had underestimated to the lengths his party's Senate committee members might go to protect "one of their own." What is important, as it might relate to Johnson's possible involvement in a conspiracy, was his state of mind and his subjective evaluation of the liklihood of his being reduced in status through either possible removal from office or replacement on the national ticket in 1964.
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From Assassination Chronicles,7, 1,19-28.