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from mother of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald found
Published: Monday, December 13, 2010, 7:00 AM Updated: Monday, December
13, 2010, 7:26 AM
John Pope, The Times-Picayune
Byron Meyer and his mother were going through papers and pictures at
their Chalmette home about a year ago to see what
floodwaters had spared, they came upon a tattered assortment in a
dresser drawer in her bedroom.
of the Meyer familyLora Lee Meyer of Chalmette and her son, Byron Meyer,
recently found 1960s mementoes fromt the friendship between Lora Lee
Meyer and Marguerite Oswald, shown here, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald,
the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
held yellowed newspaper clippings, fading Christmas cards and a few
letters and pictures. In a February 1969 note to Lora Lee Meyer, when
she was six months pregnant, the writer says: "I would be so honored to
act as 'Godmother' for the new baby" -- the child who would turn out to
be Byron Meyer.
makes this letter more than a routine note is the identity of the
writer: Marguerite Oswald, the New Orleans-born mother of Lee Harvey
Oswald, the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy in November
1963 and was shot dead two days later.
weird, it's bizarre, it's freaky," Byron Meyer said a few days ago as he
was leafing through the trove. "She was going to be my godmother -- the
mother of the assassin of one of the best presidents in the history of
America. It was so close."
Seeking legal help
didn't happen, his mother said, because Oswald told her she felt
authorities wouldn't let her leave Texas, even though more than five
years had elapsed since the assassination and she had not been charged
with a crime.
Marguerite Oswald never met either Meyer in person, but she and Lora Lee
Meyer exchanged letters and spoke frequently on the phone.
Oswald, who was living in Fort Worth, Texas, found Lora Lee Meyer
because her husband, John Meyer, was a lawyer in Jefferson Parish who
had planned to represent her in litigation in Texas in which Oswald was
fighting back against attacks on her and her son.
that came to naught, Lora Lee Meyer said, because her husband would have
had to work with a Texas lawyer, and no one was willing to represent
hoping he could help her," Meyer said, "but he couldn't because the
lawyers wouldn't do a thing to help him."
died in 1981, and John Meyer died in 1998. Meyer's name "didn't ring a
bell," said Robert Oswald, Marguerite Oswald's surviving son, in a
telephone interview from his home in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Because John Meyer didn't tell his wife much about his work, Lora Lee
Meyer said she had no idea how he knew Marguerite Oswald, with whom he
met several times on trips to Texas.
that didn't stop the women from launching into a long-distance
Marguerite Oswald was a lonely woman, Meyer said. "She'd cry over the
phone, and I'd cry back."
letter to Meyer, Oswald said, "I do have my moments of sadness,
frustration and tears."
these conversations, both women said they felt Kennedy's assassination
was the result of a conspiracy, even though the Warren Commission
concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Lora Lee Meyer said, "she was sure he had something to do with it."
as can be'
Marguerite Oswald befriended reporters in her part of Texas, said Gary
Mack, who was one of them.
was "a nice lady, and I enjoyed talking to her and answering questions
for her, but she was really different," said Mack, who described her as
"weird as can be."
the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which occupies the part
of the building on Dealey Plaza from which Oswald shot Kennedy.
would call any hour of the day or night," Mack said. "Sometimes she was
able to gain (reporters') sympathy. They'd buy her a meal. She was good
at telling tales of woe."
Meyer said his mother frequently sent Oswald money to help her make ends
meet. A cashed Whitney National Bank check from 1978 for $5 --
equivalent to slightly more than $16 today -- is part of the Meyers'
McCusker, The Times-PicayuneCorrespondence from Marguerite Oswald,
mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, was found by Byron Meyer when he was going
through the family's Chalmette home after Hurricane Katrina.
a signed photograph of Marguerite Oswald; a copy of "Aftermath of an
Execution," a booklet in which she wrote about her son's arrest, death
and burial; and a copy of "The American Heritage Book of Presidents and
Famous Americans." It is the volume devoted to Kennedy and Lyndon B.
Johnson, Kennedy's successor. Marguerite Oswald inscribed the book to
John and Lora Lee Meyer and their children just above a picture of the
pretty ironic that the papers are here," Lora Lee Meyer said, "because
the house was burglarized after the storm."
have little worth
Neither Meyer has decided what to do with the documents.
Marguerite Oswald's papers, which had filled 30 cartons, are at Texas
Christian University, where she wanted them to go, said Roger Rainwater,
head of special collections at the Fort Worth school.
Because material pertaining to Lee Harvey Oswald had been sold, TCU's
holdings have "very little of substance" about the assassination, he
said, and seldom attract much attention.
occasionally, somebody with an interest in the assassination or a
conspiracy will contact us, but that's about all," Rainwater said.
"People know they're here. I send out a finding aid (to the collection)
fairly regularly, but people rarely follow up on it."
Hample, who handles signed documents at Argosy Book Store in New York
City, said the Meyers' papers probably wouldn't fetch much from
autograph collectors unless they mentioned Marguerite Oswald's son.
was a very peripheral person," Hample said.
Pope can be reached at
email@example.com or 504.826.3317.