Hollywood often gets history wrong and, thus, adds to the confusion and misperceptions of an American populace already ignorant of their own history. But Selma, thankfully, is an exception. The film about civil rights movement of the 1960s protrays Lyndon Johnson as a major impediment to African Americans obtaining equality prior to his ascension to the Presidency on November 22,1963.
In fact, it can be reasonably argued that Johnson, more than any other person in the country, was responsible for maintaining the Jim Crow system in the South prior to 1964. As Senate majority leader, Johnson was the most powerful Democrat in Washington in the 1950s, and he regularly stripped any and all civil rights bills of their “legal teeth” when they came up for votes in Congress.
Phillip Nelson, author of “LBJ: From Mastermind To Colossus,” writes, “On at least twelve occasions during his time in Congress (1937-1960) he voted against acts that would have prohibited the use of literacy tests and poll taxes, the devices that had been designed for the very purpose of prohibiting blacks from voting. His history on this issue was such a sore subject by the time he became president that he took actions to hide it, by attempting to keep certain records of his public speeches ‘off the record.’”
Selma, though, stops short of accusing Johnson of being involved in the assassinations of the 1960s, but we now know that his suspicious behavior and nefarious connections surrounding the events of Dallas, Memphis and Los Angeles all but insure that he had prior knowledge of these political murders and worked hard to block any real investigations after the fact.
Any serious and honest examination of LBJ’s career reveals a long history of corruption, backstabbing, theft, and murder connected to his rise to power. In 1984 Billie Sol Estes, one of LBJ’s long-time bagman for payoffs and kickbacks, had his attorney file the letter below as a legal affidavit for prosecutors:
August 9, 1984
Mr. Stephen S. Trott
Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D. C. 20530
RE: Mr. Billie Sol Estes
Dear Mr. Trott:
My client, Mr. Estes, has authorized me to make this reply to your letter of May 29, 1984. Mr. Estes was a member of a four-member group, headed by Lyndon Johnson, which committed criminal acts in Texas in the 1960’s. The other two, besides Mr. Estes and LBJ, were Cliff Carter and Mac Wallace. Mr. Estes is willing to disclose his knowledge concerning the following criminal offenses:
1. The killing of Henry Marshall
2. The killing of George Krutilek
3. The killing of Ike Rogers and his secretary
4. The killing of Harold Orr
5. The killing of Coleman Wade
6. The killing of Josefa Johnson
7. The killing of John Kinser
8. The killing of President J. F. Kennedy.
Mr. Estes is willing to testify that LBJ ordered these killings, and that he transmitted his orders through Cliff Carter to Mac Wallace, who executed the murders. In the cases of murders nos. 1-7, Mr. Estes’ knowledge of the precise details concerning the way the murders were executed stems from conversations he had shortly after each event with Cliff Carter and Mac Wallace.
This letter is never mentioned by mainstream LBJ historians like Robert Caro, who incredibly turn a blind eye to the worst of LBJ’s misdeeds. They are aided, of course, by the establishment media who are deeply invested in the myth of LBJ and the lone gunman lie in the murder of JFK.
Back to Selma though…it is a worthy film that dares to tell the truth about an important time in American history. Nelson sums up its treatment of LBJ this way:
“Selma shows the LBJ persona and his complete history, as he and it was, at first as the leading impediment to civil rights reform, then, on becoming president, his 180 degree flip-flop to become its leading proponent. In 1964-65, the arcs of the two of them coincided, but after that their orbits shifted again, and took completely different directions by 1966-67. Johnson’s dogged pursuit of a faraway, completely staged and unnecessary war, for which he exploited the patriotism of credulous young men — a war fought essentially for his own personal, political and pecuniary gain, in his deluded mind — caused a fundamental split between these men that festered until MLK’s assassination on April 4, 1968. Nearly thirty years later The New York Times, on June 20, 1997, reported that Dexter Scott King, MLK’s son speaking for the King family, announced their finding that LBJ and the FBI were behind the assassination, which was carried out by the military and intelligence apparatus of the United States government.”