Friday, April 17, 2020

John Judge - Six Years Gone

John Patrick Judge

December 14, 1947 – April 15, 2014

Stirring the Plot

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. 

I guess it was just an ironic coincidence that I came across an academic tribute to my longtime college mate, friend and associate John Judge on the eve of the sixth anniversary of his death. It is a beautiful and heart felt tribute that was written by former Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney (D..Ga.) while John was still alive. It captures his basic background, traces much of the journey he made – some of which we made together, and most clearly defines his vision of what he wanted in the future and what  he was striving for. It made me sad, and then mad. Sad that John is no longer here to keep up the good fight to see that vision realized, and mad because those he entrusted with his archives and legacy have hijacked it and trashed it.

To read John Judge – Transformational Servant Leader – an Academic Tribute by Cynthia McKinney see:

According to Amir Levy, “transformational leadership” is ‘capable of providing new vision, aligning members with its vision, and mobilizing energy and commitment to the realization of this vision.”

I met John Judge in the fall of 1969 in the hall in front of the University of Dayton JFK Student Union, which is named after President Kennedy and there’s a lifesized statue of him out front on the steps. There were tables lining the hall in front of the basement cafeteria, some recruiting frats, one manned by two Army recruiters, and next to them was John Judge’s table, advocating conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam and full of leaflets promoting those ideals. I said hello to John, and he handed me a copy of Playboy magazine, of all things, the one that contained an interview New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. I took it home and read it and returned it to John the next day, and began helping him man the table, as the previous summer I had been a student volunteer coordinator for Gene McCarthy for President, the anti-war candidate, and was radicalized by the Chicago riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

While I was a freshman John had graduated the year before, but stuck around the campus just to irritate the administration, who he had previously fought successfully to eleminate manditory ROTC for incoming male freshman.

Although I have many stories to tell about John, as we remained friends and associates over the years, I will only add my thoughts and my humble two cents to the ones Cynthia McKinney mentions in her paper.

I stuck around campus after most of the students left in the spring of 1972 and was with John in a nearly deserted cafeteria over breakfast, drinking coffee and reading the Dayton Daily News when I noticed a small, one column two or three inch story announcing the Watergate break –in and showed it to John.

As Cynthia quotes John:  “In 1972, the day after the Watergate break-in, I saw the five names of those arrested on site and they were all known to me because they had been part of the Bay of Pigs and the history of the assassination of President Kennedy….”

Leaving the JFK Student Union John and I walked over to the new UD Library and went straight to the Research section where we found copies of Who’s Who in Washington and found Hunt, Liddy and maybe McCord. And we avidly followed the Watergate caper in the news and on TV, which led John to Mae Brussell.

When John lived in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s, working for the Quakers, I would give him rides to his home, a large mansion near Germantown that was owned by two of John’s University of Dayton friends, who were never there when I was, but I remembered them from Dayton. We would go into a side sun room and John would play cassette tape recordings of Mae Brussell’s radio show for hours.  

Around that time John took me to one of the first conferences on the JFK assassination at NYU Law School in New York City, where I sat in on a class on covert operational procdures taught by Col. Fletcher Prouty, and John introduced me to the irrascable Penn Jones and Mae Brussell. Both John and Mae always had a big pouch full of books and papers they always carried around.

I drove a huge U-Haul Truck full of books and papers from John’s apartment in Washington D.C. to Santa Cruz, drove the whole way with John ridding shotgun, and we unloaded it all in a three bedroom rancher a block from the beach. You could hear the sea lions bark from the front door. We added Mae’s collection that filled up the house with books and the garage with filing cabinets full of news clips.

In regards to the late, great Mae Brussell John said, “Mae wanted me to continue her work at a Research Center in Santa Cruz, but others prevented me from realizing that wish and forced me to abandon her collection of 6,000 books, 42 clip filing cabinets and hundreds of folders and tapes.”

Yes, Mae’s daughter decided she wanted her mother’s collection so she forced John “to abandon” the collection, much to our dismay, as we had envisioned the Mae Brussell Research Center to be a permanent institution. The collection remains stored in a warehouse today.

After that happened John often talked about other such collections. He said that Jochem Joestein’s widow sold off his collection piecemeal, while Penn Jones’ ex-wife sold his collection at a garage sale, breaking up his 24 volumes of Warren Commission books, selling them separately for a few dollars each, thus relegating the collection useless as a research tool. He said he was determined not to let that happen to his collection, but it has.

John continues: “I had co-founded the Committee for an Open Archives (COA) in the 1980s to push for the release of classified records in the JFK case. At the final JFK ASK conference, I organized a panel to call for the creation of a national coalition of groups and researchers who wanted to work for a solution to the case and to combine our efforts to push for both media and government responses.”

When he says co-founded, I was the other co-founder for COA and COPA. At the ASK conference we held our first meeting at the now defunct West End Café around the corner from Dealey Plaza, with about a dozen people present, including former FBI Agent Bill Turner, who would be a major player in our activities.

We agreed to regroup in Washington, where we did over a two day weekend at the Quaker Meeting House on Capitol Hill, deciding on the name Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), and uniting three organizations with similar goals – COA, Jim DiEugenio’s California organization (Now Kennedys and King), and Jim Lesar’s Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC). Peter Dale Scott and Dr. Cyril West were also significant players, and attorney Dan Alcorn drew up the COPA non-profit papers.

John continues: “In 1994, I co-founded the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) to facilitate the search for and release of Warren Report, HSCA and other records, combining the efforts of hundreds of independent researches, medical and forensic experts, historians and academics and the Assassination Archives and Research Center and Citizens for Truth About the Kennedy Assassinations. COPA is a 501-© 4 non-profit, which allows us to lobby and endorse candidates, but does not allow tax-deductible donations.”

John Judge: “Prior to the release of the film ‘JFK’ I had co-founded the Committee for an Open Archives to effect the release of the Warren Commission files locked up by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 for 75 years. We got legislation proposed by several members of Congress, but they did not move in Congress. Once the Stone film came out and ended with a note about the records still being classified, a huge wave of letters and calls came into Congress calling for full release. This led to the JFK Assassinations Records Act of 1992, finally implemented between 1994 and 1998 by the Assassinations Records Review Board. (ARRB)”

COPA played a major role in monitoring the activities of the ARRB and is mentioned in their Final Report.

As Cynthia McKinney outlined John’s vision for the future: “John has done that through his selfless work with COPA…John’s next project is a Museum of Hidden History to house all of the volumes of government documents, books, manuscripts, and historic collections that the researchers have compiled over these last 40 years. He envisions the Museum would act as a library, a tourist attraction, a place for students to intern and learn about an alternative historical analysis, and a place for the community to gather to discuss strategies for policy change. He is currently working with other libraries and archives to digitilize COPA’s holdings so that information can be more easily disseminated. Once again, John’s future plans involve giving truth to the interested community – service in the truest sense of the word.”

Unfortunately, with the death of John in April 2014, those who inherited John’s personal belongings, disbanded COPA, without consulting the chairman or Advisory Board, wrongfully co-mingled the funds with the Hidden History Museum, obtained John’s five figure life insurance and took it all to York, Pennsylvania, where the collection is housed in a strip mall storefront that a local newspaper reporter called “The Boondocks.” 

Now it’s really Hidden History.

While some of the former COPA members reformed under the Citizens Against Political Assassination (CAPA) banner, with Dr. Cyril Wecht as our chairman, and there is a new movement to have John Judge’s COPA Archives digitalized and placed on line, that should and may happen.

But I want to see John Judge’s original vision established: a permanent institute based in the District of Columbia not owned by any one person but one that will continue on after we are gone. As John described it, “the Museum would act as a library, a tourist attraction, a place for students to intern and learn about an alternative historical analysis, and a place for the community to gather to discuss strategies for policy change.”

And that’s what makes me sad, and mad.

 “The tragedy of it is that I can’t do a damn thing about it. The only thing we can do is to keep hammering and pounding at the door. It’s not going to happen in my lifetime.” – Dr. Cyril Wecht 

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