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U.S. Social Security Death Index for Mason Lankford
first name: Mason
birth date:14 October 1921
social security number:462-14-0308
place of issuance:Texas
last residence:Fort Worth, Tarrant,
Texaszip code of last residence:76112
death date:16 June 1997
estimated age at death:76
J. Mason Lankford, Jr. devoted much of his life to the fire service. A native of Texas, Mason served in various capacities, including Tarrant County (TX) Fire Marshal. When Congressman Curt Weldon (PA) sought congressional support for a Fire Caucus, Mason recruited the Texas delegation, including then-House Speaker Jim Wright, who was a pivotal player in its successful launch.
John Mason Lankford Jr. (1921-1997), better known as Mason Lankford, is best known as a firefighter and Fire Marshal of Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas. His dedication, service and promotion of the firefighter’s agenda are legendary. In fact, the prestigious Fire Service Leadership Award of the Congressional Fire Services Institute is named for him.
But Lankford is of interest to Kennedy assassination researchers as well, for the following reasons:
From 1948 to 1972, he was employed by either General Dynamics or its Convair Division as Director of Security, or in other security related positions. GDs security division was probably a nexus for DISC – the Defense Industrial Security Command – a central organ of the military-industrial complex.
In this capacity Lankford would certainly have been acquainted with two other GD Security officers who figure prominently in the Lee Harvey Oswald story – I B Hale and Max Clark. In fact, there is an interesting incident associating Max Clark with Lankford’s mother, Grace, and his sister, Catherine Russell:
There is also a link between Lankford and Roscoe White. In his capacity at the security office, Lankford provided verification of employment at Convair for White on his 1963 application with the Dallas Police Department. White had been employed at Convair from 8 May 1956 to 28 July 1956, and was eligible for rehire – implying a positive recommendation. For unknown reasons, White did not list this employment in his application; rather, the DPD investigator got the information from White’s stepfather, and contacted Lankford directly for the verification.
It is interesting that Robert Oswald was employed at Convair during this period in 1956 as well, suggesting the possibility that Robert and Lankford may have known each other long before their interactions of 1963. Also, although of course Convair was one of the largest employers in Fort Worth at the time, it is at least possible that Roscoe White and Robert knew each other then also. Further, there is some overlap between White’s period of employment and Lee Harvey Oswald’s presence in Fort Worth prior to his Marine Corps enlistment. Is it possible that all four – Lankford, Roscoe White, Robert Oswald and LHO – knew each other in 1956?
Lankford’s investigative and intelligence roots ran deep. In addition to his occupations of firefighter and director of security, he had a role as board chairman of the Texas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies.
The Victoria Advocate, 24 August 1972, p. 1
More importantly, in November of 1963, and likely long before that, Lankford was a Special Agent for the Office of Naval Intelligence in Dallas, reporting directly to the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rufus Taylor.
http://contentdm.baylor.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/15poage-arm&CISOPTR=13197&REC=1 (go to page 5 and following).
At approximately 1:00 PM, on November 26, 1963, J. M. LANKFORD, Special Agent, Office of Naval Intelligence, Dallas, Texas, personally appeared at the Dallas Field Division. Mr. LANKFORD advised SA John J. FLANAGAN that approximately fifteen minutes previously an informant of his had contacted him concerning JACK RUBY and LEE HARVEY OSWALD.
LANKFORD stated that his informant, ROBERT KERMIT PATTERSON, an admitted homosexual, has been furnishing information to ONI for some time. He has, in the past, furnished signed statements to the Office of Naval Intelligence setting forth his homosexual activities with young servicemen….
Patterson, a former Navy man, lived at the YMCA and an associate Donald C. Stuart and operated a TV and radio repair shop with Charles Arndt, who also lived at the YMCA. Two weeks previous Ruby and a man who appeared to be Oswald visited there shop Contract Electonics at 2533 Elm St. Stuart also worked at KLIF.
Letter to Admiral McDonald from Adml. Rufus L. Taylor also mentions Tracy Thurlo Pope, ex-Navy. P.24
Admiral McDonald 27 Nov. 1963
Rear Admiral Taylor
1.Information from our Dallas office provides names of several persons connected with Ruby and Oswald. Robert Kermit Patterson, admitted 6J (homosexual), contacted resident agent Dallas about 1330 CST yesterday and said he had information in regard assassination of President Kennedy. Patterson said he and one Donald C. Stuart operated Contract Electronics, 2533 Elm Street, Dallas. About two weeks ago, Jack Ruby/aka/Rubenstein and subject Oswald visited Contract Electronics and wanted work done on a microphones at Ruby Carousel Night Club, Dallas. On this occasion ruby told Oswald to write names of Patterson and Stuart in Carousel guest book. Contract Electronics did the requested mike work at the Carousel and were paid by Negro employee. The Senior Resident Agent at Dallas has taken Patterson to the FBI Dallas for further interrogation. Neither Stuart nor Patterson has discussed above information with anyone else, according to Patterson. The files at DIO 8ND are negative on Stuart.
2.In this office we have a file on Patterson and another person not mentioned in the above message by the name of Tracy Thurio Pope. Pope is the one that first pointed out Patterson. Patterson was in the Navy and is now out. Pope was in the Navy and is out, Service No. 599 29 44, AA, USN. There is no Navy record on Stuart. This morning we had a meeting here to make sure that everybody is informed and that the FBI is getting everything it needs.
3.The above information certainly raises questions as to Ruby’s real motives in killing Oswald. We have all been interested in what seemed to us to be a look of recognition on Oswald’s fact when he spotted Ruby.
4.BuPers is being kept currently informed of information of the sort contained in paragraph 1 and 2 above.
Very respectfully, Rufus L. Taylor
Copy to: REVIWED BY NCIS (ONI) JFK TASK FORCE
RELEASE IN FULL
Furthermore, Lankford had an association with the Secret Service. He was on “old acquaintance” of Texas-based SS agent Mike Howard. In fact, Lankford assisted Howard in securing Fort Worth for JFKs November 21-22 visit. Other SS-ONI cooperation might have been effected through William Greer and Forrest Sorrels.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram – November 23, 1993 – 15
Guarding the OSWALDS An ex-security supervisor recalls preparing for Kenendy’s visit to Fort Worth – then having to watch over the family of his assassin,…
Lankford’s actions following the assassination, detailed in the above article, are interesting. “Frustrated and worn out, heartsick and physically ill, Lankford tumbled into bed that Friday night. For two days he refused to even get up to eat.”
Several interpretations come to mind. First, maybe Lankford was just overworked. Second, maybe he was overwhelmed by grief. Third, perhaps he was just sick. Or fourth, maybe he was very, very worried.
At any rate, by Sunday morning, November 24th, Lankford seems to have recovered. Mike Howard called him to request that he accompany him along with the security team protecting Marina and Marguerite Oswald. The site of their seclusion, the Inn of the Six Flags at Arlington, was chosen by Lankford (implying, perhaps, that Lankford was more in control than the official story relates?).
Also present at the time, or shortly thereafter, was Robert Oswald. Interestingly, in his notes dealing with this period, Robert refers to Lankford familiarly as “Mason”, suggesting that maybe the two had, indeed, known each other in the past (although Robert misspells Mason’s last name as “Langford”).
Lankford was also involved with LHOs funeral and burial. He seems to have been a “prime mover” in an attempt to have LHOs body cremated, rather than buried. This is reported by morticians Paul Groody and Allen Baumgardner, as well as by Robert Oswald. In fact, the process went so far that cremation forms were actually typed up, although the family members finally decided against it. Why, it must be asked, was Lankford so eager for cremation?
One way to interpret Lankford’s role is that he was a mid-level ONI operative, responsible for implementing and coordinating directives from above, and handling lesser operatives below. It is not unreasonable to infer that he may have been a true ONI handler for both Roscoe White and LHO – as opposed to caretakers like DeMohrenschildt or the Paines – for whom Lankford may also have been a handler or at least a coordinator. Thus his concern while LHO was still alive, and seeming relief when he died. But even in death, LHO was dangerous.
That is it insofar as the assassination is concerned. But a couple of other associations might be of significance.
First of all, Mason Lankford’s father, John Mason Lankford Sr., was an employee of Temco in the early 1950s, suggesting a possible relationship with David Harold Byrd.
Dallas Morning News, 20 November 1953, p 14. Available at genealogybank.com
Also, there is an association with Amon Carter, whose wife at one point employed Marguerite Oswald.
Finally, it should be noted, whether a coincidence or not, that according to the1947 Fort Worth city directory, the Ekdahl/Oswald/Pic family was … well… nearly a neighbor of the Lankford family. At any rate they lived about a half-mile apart: theEkdahl/ Oswalds at 1505 8th Avenue, and Mason Lankford at 2211 West Magnolia.
Even closer was Oswald’s school. Had he been so inclined, Lankford would have needed to walk only 3 or 4 blocks to see first-grader Lee Harvey Oswald playing at the Lily B. Clayton Elementary School yard.