CASE STUDY No. 4 - Don Norton
Around 1970 John Judge arranged for Mae Brussell of Carmel, California to visit the University of Dayton and give a lecture on her research on the assassination. After her well attended talk in the main ballroom of the John F. Kennedy Student Union, I helped carry her books to John’s car in the parking lot. As we approached the car in the dark lot a man stepped out of the darkness and said hello to Mae, startling us a little.
He said hi to Mae, and said “I’m Don Norton.”
Mae smiled and shook his hand and thanked him for the checks he had sent her to support her research – “That’s my conscience money,” he said.
While I didn’t go with Mae, John and Don back to John’s apartment, I later learned that Norton had met Oswald, and was considered one of his doubles, or impersonators. I read some records that said he was a former gay soldier who played piano in an officer’s club and was recruited by military intelligence to inform them if any military officers were gay. Norton got involved in the Garrison investigation and in Canada, gave an interview that was published about his experiences.
There are two others named Don Norton – one a fisherman also suspected of being an Oswald impersonator, and another Don Norton who wrote a book on the history of a major defense contractor.
Posted by John Judge on the Education Forum - JFK Assassination Debate - July 31 2000
Bill Kelly requested that I relate the meeting I had with a man using the name Don Norton at the University of Dayton in Ohio in the 1970’s.
I had helped to make arrangements for researcher Mae Brussell to speak on campus. Kelly was also going to school there at the time, and attended her talk. After the crowd broke, I headed home with Mae and two roommates at our off campus house. Coming out of the Student Union, I noticed a man handing back, but following us down the hallway, and into the elevator. Mae was surrounded by a small group, including Bill Kelly, who were asking her questions. The man held back while she stopped outside in the dark to finish talking to them. Then Mae, myself and my roommates began to head toward home and stepped into the light of street lamps at the edge of campus.
At this point, the man came out of the shadows from behind us and came up to Mae, saying, “Mae, don’t you know who I am?” Mae turned, looked at him for a moment and said, “You look like Lee Harvey Oswald.”
And to my amazement, he did. Add ten years to his life, some receding hairline, but the resemblance was clearly there. He looked at his feet and said, “A lot of people tell me that. I’m Don Norton.”
At this Mae became effusive. “Oh Don, I’m so glad you come. John, this is Don Norton. He wrote to me to say he was going to drive down from Columbus to hear the talk. He’s the only researcher in the country who sends me money to do my work.” Again, the man looked at his feet and said, “It’s my conscience money.” I was still flabbergasted at his resemblance to Oswald and intrigued about who he was, so I invited him to come down to the house and visit with Mae and have a cup of coffee. He followed us there.
Inside, the resemblance was even clearer to me. He looked like the round, cherubic faced Oswald who was in the Soviet Union photos and on the passport photo, but not like the Oswald killed in Dallas. I expected him to ask questions of Mae, but instead he began a long recitation about Marxism and communist ideology. Finally, Mae got up from knitting and said, “I’m going to bed.” I offered to send my research writings to the man, and he told me to write to him at “General Delivery, Columbus, Ohio.” He bid goodnight to my two roommates and myself and left.
The next day, on the way to visit a correspondent in a state prison in Ohio, Mae turned to me in the car and said, “Don’t you think that was Oswald who visited us last night?” And I said, “Well, it sure looked like Oswald,” Mae, but Oswald is dead.”
“Not according to his mother,” Mae responded, “she told me that the man shot in the basement of the Dallas jail was not her son.” I was astounded. “Didn’t you notice what he was doing last night?”
I said, “Well, I thought it strange that he didn’t ask any questions or really talk to us.”
I said, “Well, I thought it strange that he didn’t ask any questions or really talk to us.”
“He was reciting verbatim the speech Oswald gave on the radio in New Orleans about communism and Marxism,” she explained. I had never heard the text of the speech, so it had not run a bell for me.
“I’m going to go home and check his signature on his letters to me. I have a whole collection of Oswald signatures, and they re not all the same person.” Mae said. She was clearly excited that she had met a living Oswald.
I have now repeated this story to many researchers. Jack White and others took a special interest in it and followed down leads on a Don Norton in Columbus, but the early photo they showed me of that man did not resemble the person I saw. Later, I saw a photo of a man that lived in Florida and used the name Don Norton, and it was clearly the same person. I am convinced that the man I met that night was either the Oswald who lived with Marina in the Soviet Union, or a dead ringer for him. I do not know if his real name was Don Norton, of course, that is just the name he gave us. District Attorney Jim Garrison believed that someone using that name was involved in the Kennedy assassination conspiracy.
I later was a custodian of Mae Brussell’s library and correspondence files for a period. I never found the Norton letters, but they may still exist in her collection. Mae died in 1988. Bill Kelly and my old roommates sill recall the incident, but no additional details. Bill didn’t talk to the man calling himself Norton, he had parted from us before the man really talked but, of course, I will never forget the incident.
Lee Harvey Oswald had been a key in my work to understand who killed Kennedy and who set him up to take the blame. I realized early on that there was more than one Oswald, that a “double” operation was going on prior to the assassination. I believe the man I met was Marguritte’s son, the real Oswald, back from the Soviet Union at some point. But until that night, Oswald had been a ghost to me, a name and a set of facts, not a person. Until the specials released about Oswald in the 1990s, I had never heard Oswald’s voice, save in the few stressed moments he is interviewed in the Dallas jail, his voice is terse and angry. Finally, he is heard in one documentary on tapes preserved by an English speaking teacher in the Soviet Union who befriended Lee, laughing and dramatizing a reading, and his persona comes through in a completely different way. These two voices are not the same in my view.
I also relayed this story to the Cuban intelligence officers who COPA arranged for researchers to meet in the Bahamas a few years ago, and Felix Rodriguez was intrigued. He told me a story of his own, from the days when he was trained in the 1950s by the KGB in Moscow. He said their officers were behind a clothing store just off Red Square, and that you entered in the back room by way of a concealed elevator, Like Maxwell Smart,” he joked. He said that his key KGB trainer had told him that Lee Harvey Oswald was still living in the Soviet Union, years after the Kennedy assassination had occurred. I wondered if this was the man I me so many years ago.
Did the “defector” Oswald stay in the Soviet Union and a double “Return” to the US? Is there still a living Oswald? Could he tell us anything about those who set him up as the patsy? Is Don Norton still alive? Others have done much more research than work on Norton than I have, and it’s worth studying. I live with this small piece of history. Ever since I began my work on the JFK assassination, it has created a web of synchronicity and serendipity for me, chance meetings with key individuals who know a piece of the puzzle.
For my purposes, the case is solved, but not yet finally proven.
I point the finger at the Joint Chiefs of Staff and at the Office of Naval Intelligence, who ran the young Marine “defector,” Lee Harvey Oswald, and those were among the last forthcoming agencies approached by the Review Board for the JFK assassination files.
In the early 1990s, before Oliver Stone’s film, Bill Kelly and I started the Committee for an Open Archives to press for the full release of the government files. We actually had found sponsors to introduce the bills and for a full and immediate release, among them Rep. Henry Gonzales, who had been in the motorcade that day. Stone’s film created the groundswell of public outcry that led to the passage of the JFK Records Act of 1992. And the Committee for an Open Archives was one of the founding groups of the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA).
JFKCountercoup is a reader supported blog that I am going to continue for the next year or so, as I believe we are on the verge of wrapping this case up. As John Judge said, the case is virtually solved but no proven.
My largest three figure doner so far said that he gave me the money to continue my work because I wrote about Mae Brussell. And as Don Norton told Mae, it's his "conscience money."