Lee Harvey Oswald’s Tombstone Stolen Again

This is a follow article to my original piece about Oswald’s tombstone. Tomorrow I will be posting an update on my travels to Boston and New York and my exclusive interview with Roger Wheeler’s son David. Stay tuned.

Unsolved mysteries abound….

Welcome back.   Saturday afternoon was special in many ways at Oral Roberts University’s Mabee Center and I wasn’t alone in my thoughts as 7,745 other people watched basketball with me.

Over the last thirty-five years the Mabee Center has hosted not only basketball but has also filled its 11, 300 seat auditorium with big names stars like Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and Reba McIntyre. Many people may not realize that there is also a large Conference and Banquet Center attached to the building that can accommodate everything from business conferences to elegant weddings. On this particular day, basketball had everyone’s attention and this televised game was the final home game for Dominique Morrison, a Kansas City who has come within three games of breaking the school record of 128 starts. Although I have been to the Mabee Center many times in my life this was only my second game of the season and the love shown by the fans for this young man could bring a grown man to tears.

The accomplishments of Morrison and his two high school friends who followed him to Tulsa, Roderick Pearson and Michael Craion, have filled a whole trophy cabinet at ORU.

With four straight conference titles and three straight tournament appearances, Morrison has become the seventh all time scorer in school history and even has his own bobble head doll. All of this is leading up to what I think will be great success at the Big Dance during March Madness.

This week also brought me the news that Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone has again mysteriously been stolen. Three years ago I wrote about the first theft of Oswald’s original tombstone by two local Bartlesville youths on November 23, 1967. The marker was brought back here in the trunk of their VW bug and a few days later everyone from the F.B.I .to the Secret Service was looking for them here.

Well it’s happened again. It was reported in the Dallas Morning News that apparently after the Bartlesville boys returned the tombstone to Oswald’s mother, Marguerite, she hid it under her house. When Marguerite Oswald died in 1981 the house was sold and three years later the tombstone was found under the house.  David Card’s parents bought the house and now he is claiming that he owns the tombstone because his parents are deceased and he and his step sister inherited all their property. Wayne Lensing who operates a small private museum in Roscoe, Illinois has the tombstone on display there and claims he bought it from Johnny Holly’s widow. Johnny Holly was David Card’s cousin and was supposed to be keeping the tombstone for him. Now David is determined to get the tombstone back. With the Bartlesville connection you may be interested in this odd piece of history surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald’s stolen marker.

Go to www.originalbuffalodale.com to read my original story and see the January 26th issue of the Dallas Morning News to learn more about these recent developments.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….

 

Lee Harvey Oswald’s Tombstone Revisited

With all of the interest surrounding this event I thought I would re-post my articles about the tombstone…..

I thought this was an interesting story three years ago and now that the tombstone has been stolen again its even more intriguing! Stay tuned.

Welcome back. The following interview was conducted this past week with one of the boys who took Lee Harvey Oswald’s gravestone and a friend who saw the grave marker in the trunk of their car the next day. I’ll leave their names out but many of you who were around in 1967 will know who I was talking to.

November 23, 1967 would be a day in the lives of two Bartlesville boys that they would never forget and their actions would bring Bartlesville to the attention of every law enforcement agency in the country. The two boys, one 19 and the other 20, needed a road trip. One was in the Army and headed to Vietnam and the other had just been drafted and was about to go down the same path. They planned to stopover in Dallas on their way to the Gulf coast and possibly New Orleans. Daily Plaza where President Kennedy had been assassinated was their first stop.

As the two sat on the infamous grassy knoll observing the murder site and the Texas book depository where Oswald fired from, they got the idea to visit Oswald’s grave. The pair decided to find out where he was buried which wouldn’t be easy. After some research in a local library, they found out he was in Rosehill Cemetery. The next day they walked through the cemetery for hours, going from grave to grave without finding Oswald.

Then they came up with the idea of telling an official at the cemetery that they were looking for the grave of a family friend named Oswell- and out popped Oswald’s location. Now they had the spot and after finding the grave they immediately decided to bring the marker back to Bartlesville- not as a political statement but just as a souvenir to show all their friends back at the local hangout in Comanche Plaza.

That night the boys rented a motel room near the cemetery and after seeing a movie they drove back to the area, parking close by on a city street. They took the only tool they had- a VW tire iron- and walked the short distance to the grave. The marker weighed a little more than 100 pounds but the ground was wet- they pried it out like a loose tooth wriggling it back and forth and it popped out a lot easier than they expected. The boys quickly carried the marker back to their VW bug and then returned to the motel room where they cleaned it up in the shower. Then they drank a few beers and toasted their success. The next morning they got up early and headed back to Bartlesville to show off their prize.

Little did the boys know that this particular night was the fourth anniversary of Oswald’s death or what lay ahead of them over the next few days.

Next week the story continues as the boys drive around town with Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone in the trunk of  a VW bug, their plans to drop it off the Caney River bridge to hide the evidence, how the cops got the marker back and the boys conversation with Oswald’s mother after its return.

 

 

Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie

I’m 3,170 columns and five books away from equaling Will Rogers’ output. Once again this is my column from last week.

Welcome back.  Writing about a man who had a leading role in the Ziegfeld Follies, starred in 71 movies, wrote 4,000 syndicated columns and six books is easy. Of course I’m talking about Will Rogers whose life from birth to death is chronicled in The Will Rogers Follies which I first saw in Bartlesville on December 7, 1995.  The show opened on Broadway a few years earlier in 1991 and played to sold out audiences for months, eventually winning six Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Costumes and Best Choreography. The show also won a Grammy award for Best Musical Show and a double handful of other honors.

I’ve written about Rogers many times and now you can all see his story onstage when the Jenks, Oklahoma High School Vocal Music Department presents their production of The Will Rogers Follies on February 24th, 25th and 26th in the Jenks High School Performing Arts Center.  Allen Pettigrove not only portrays Will but also has a direct connection with Will’s adventures in aviation because his grandfather built one of the first landing strips in Oklahoma between Bartlesville and Dewey along old highway 123. Of course Bartlesville can also claim Doris “Coke” Myers who recently moved back there and whose grandmother was Will’s mother’s sister. This show is a must see for all you Will Rogers buffs and with a $10 ticket price you’d better call (918) 299-4415 ext. 2371 now!

This past week while in Tulsa I got a sneak preview of “Different Shades of Red: Woody Guthrie and the Oklahoma Experience at 100” a new exhibit that just opened at Gilcrease Museum on February 5th. The history of Gilgrease is a story in itself and the artwork that Thomas Gilgrease collected around the world from 1922 through the early 1950s offers a snapshot of our past. Today the collections are worth millions of dollars and they are owned by the citizens of Tulsa. The University of Tulsa manages the museum and I must say they are doing a great job.

Here’s some news about another historic place I’ve written about lately and your chance to walk on the same ground. On June 15th, 16th and 17th three of the area’s premier photographers will be offering a photography workshop at the UU Bar Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. Jerry Poppenhouse, Clay Allen and Kelly Kerr will be taking people to places that few have seen on the 200,000 acre ranch that Waite Phillips called home. Participants will also have an opportunity to tour Waite’s mansion, Philmont, and see thousands of scouts as they set off for two weeks of hiking and camping. If photography’s not your thing its still worth the trip because Taos and the historic Pueblo are only fifty miles away where Pueblo Indians still live as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. The Royal Gorge is also there as well as a large arts and crafts market. The town of Cimarron is also home to the St. James Hotel which is said to be haunted and is certainly worth touring along with Angel Fire and Red River which are nearby as well.

At night you and the instructors will stay on the ranch at the wonderful UU Bar Lodge, waking up to the sounds of elk bugling. During the day you will follow in the footsteps of Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, the gunfighter Clay Allison and many other famous figures of the Wild West. As the date comes closer I’ll mention this trip again but if you are interested you’d better call now.

At $100 per night including three gourmet meals each day prepared by Executive Chef Ralph Knighton (former chef at the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion for Frank and Cathy Keating) and only twenty available slots I think this trip will sell out quickly. Call Sue at the ranch (575) 376-2035. I’m already signed up and hope to see you there.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….

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2010 Article about Chub Anderson by Susan Albert

I recently came across this article which ran in September 2010 shortly before Chub’s death and I found it very interesting to look back in time from my current perspective. There were two photos that accompanied the article, one of me shaking hands with Chub which is on this website (Chub Anderson Photo Galleries) and one of the bullet holes in the sliding glass doors at E.C.’s Mullendore’s house which is on file at the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.

Today (Sept. 26, 2010) marks the 40th anniversary of the night that prominent rancher E.C. Mullendore III was murdered at his home northwest of Copan.  As yet, the killing is unsolved, but renewed interest in the case this year may lead to an arrest or arrests.
In January, a multi-county grand jury in Oklahoma City convened and is investigating the 40-year-old murder. In addition, the Osage County Sheriff’s department launched their own investigation this year.

While many people speculate on the circumstances of that fateful night, a lot of fingers point to Damon “Chub” Anderson, who was with Mullendore that evening. Anderson, who is still alive but gravely ill in a Kansas nursing home, worked at the Mullendore ranch and also was Mullendore’s bodyguard. Since the murder, Anderson has maintained that two unknown assailants killed Mullendore and shot Anderson in the back. According to news reports, Anderson said he shot at the men as they fled through glass doors. No evidence of the two men has been reported.  After an investigation following the Sept. 26, 1970 beating and shooting, no arrests were made.

Just over four years ago, local Examiner-Enterprise columnist Dale Lewis contacted Anderson for a story about his run from the law on an unrelated case.  Anderson and Lewis became fast friends and Anderson agreed to tell Lewis the story of his life, including the events of the Mullendore case.  Lewis said he has video and audio documentation of pertinent facts that occurred that night, along with many other facets of Anderson’s storied life. Lewis was subpoenaed to testify before the multi-county grand jury earlier this year and is still under a gag order.

Lewis spent the last few years researching the information Anderson told him, talking with law enforcement and others that were involved in the Mullendore investigation. Lewis even visited Montana where Anderson spent 17 years as a fugitive, part of the time working for Ted Turner building bison pens on his ranch. Lewis compiled all his research into a manuscript called, Footprints in the Dew, which is as yet unpublished. To help publicize his impending book, Lewis created a website, www.originalbuffalodale.com.

“I started the website because Chub wants his story told “said Lewis. “His life has been so colorful and he has done so many things and its been such a big story in this part of the country.””It got my interest when I went up to see him when he was captured four years ago. I visited him every week for three months while he was in Lansing Prison. He said he wanted me to do this and he would cooperate with me for a book.”  The title of the book refers to the footprints that could be seen in the dew the morning after the murder. The only footprints found were Chub’s showing his path to Dale Kuhrt’s house for help.

Kuhrt worked as ranch manager for two years for the Mullendores. On the night of the murder, Kuhrt, who now is retired and living in Arkansas, said in a phone interview that he opened the door and Anderson was holding onto his bleeding right arm while sobbing. He said E.C. had been shot and needed help.

Kuhrt, reluctant to leave his wife and new baby alone with a shooter on the loose, handed his wife a gun and told her to shoot anyone who came to the door.  They ran back to E.C.’s house, and Kuhrt said he was shocked at the amount of blood at the grisly scene. Mullendore had  been bludgeoned on top of his head and shot between the eyes.  He said Anderson wanted to take Mullendore to the hospital, but Kuhrt convinced him not to move the body.

The phone had been pulled out of the wall so Kuhrt left to find a working phone and Anderson headed to the hospital to get patched up.  “The county sheriff really screwed that up,”said Kuhrt. “They took E.C. to the hospital and cleaned him up. That just ruined the whole case right away. The body shouldn’t have been moved that night.”

According to Kuhrt there had been a lot of moneyfinders around the ranch in the months leading up to the murder. “A bunch of scum is what they were” he said. Kuhrt said he never thought Anderson did it. He attributed the murderer(s) to those involved with a $15 million insurance policy that E.C. carried.

Another ranch employee at that time was Paul Kelly, who now lives outside of Pawhuska, running cattle. In September 1970, Kelly worked as farm manager for the Mullendores in charge of the crop farming on the different ranches in Fairfax, Pawhuska, Hulah, Caney and near Copan.

He said during a phone interview last week that he was playing cards the night of the murder and got a call about midnight or 1 a.m. saying Mullendore had been killed. They came home but he said he didn’t go near the house till the next morning.  The police were there and escorted he and others to Pawhuska to go through an affidavit process.

“There was a lot of things going on about money and a lot of questionable people dealing with E.C.” said Kelly.” To this day I think they are the culprits that had him killed. Everyone thinks something different. A lot of people think Chub did it. I run around with Chub and E.C. too many hours to think something like that happened. In spite of everything, Chub is a pretty good kind of a fellow.” However, he thinks Anderson could identify who did commit the murder. Kelly also said the police work was the most unprofessional handling of any murder case in the world. He said a couple months ago, he spoke to the Osage County Sheriff’s Department who were reinvestigating the case.  “And I indicated my opinions,” said Kelly. “They said they were going to solve it and I said, “You weren’t even born then. It will never be solved completely. Too many people are dead. When Chub dies, it will be over,” said Kelly.

Lewis said he will periodically update his website with more tidbits from his book, although he’d really like to see a movie made of the story. He recently attended the Telluride film festival in Colorado to rub elbows with those in the business.

Lewis isn’t the first one to write a book about the murder. Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny also penned the story in 1974, detailing the lifestyle of Mullendore and his whole family in The Mullendore Murder Case. Osage County District Attorney Larry Stuart and Osage County Sheriff Ty Koch did not return calls by press time.

Susan Albert
Features Editor
Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise