Was there a plot to kill JFK in Chicago, just weeks before his assassination?

Was there a plot to kill JFK in Chicago, just weeks before his assassination on November 22, 1963? And did the unraveling of that scheme force the plotters to move on to a secondary plan, in Dallas?

There is so much fascinating — and often mind-boggling — information in James W. Douglass’ meticulously researched, extensively footnoted book “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.” (“The 2013 edition of the book was endorsed by Kennedy’s nephew Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who said it had moved him to visit Dealey Plaza for the first time.”)

Douglass relates that several days before Kennedy’s planned visit to the city on November 2, “an informant” alerted Secret Service agents in Chicago of a plot to kill Kennedy by a four-man sniper team, probably from one of the overpasses of the Northwest Expressway (now called the Kennedy Expressway). Two men were seized on October 31, soon after a landlady had independently called the FBI about men with rifles and telescopic sights in their rooms, along with a sketch of Kennedy’s route into the city from the airport. They were said to be “right-wing fanatics.”

jfk-bookAlso in Chicago, and of interest to the Secret Service, was Thomas Arthur Vallee, an ex-Marine described as a John Birch Society member and paranoid schizophrenic.

As Douglass relates it, Vallee’s story twins oddly with Oswald’s; Vallee, like Oswald, had worked with the CIA while in the Marines. A few months before Kennedy’s planned visit, Vallee had taken a job at a warehouse with a direct view of the president’s route along the expressway.

A few days before the president’s planned arrival, a police lieutenant named Berkeley Moyland met Vallee at a cafeteria, where he had been heard to make loud and violent statements against Kennedy. Moyland saw Vallee, who had suffered a serious concussion in the Korean War, as unstable and suggested he keep his thoughts to himself.

After meeting Vallee, Moyland alerted the Secret Service office in Chicago, and Vallee was picked up by Chicago police officers on the day Kennedy was set to arrive. (One of the police officers who picked up Vallee was Sargent Daniel Groth, who in 1969 led the attack on the apartment where Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated.) Vallee, it turns out, was driving a car with a license plate whose registration information was classified; that is, “restricted to U.S. intelligence agencies.”

The events in Chicago took place just as a U.S.-supported military coup was unrolling in South Vietnam, which ended with the murder of President Diem. As a result, Kennedy’s Chicago trip was cancelled at the last moment.

Lieutenant Berkeley Moyland was soon contacted by federal officials about his encounter with Vallee and ordered, “Don’t tell anyone about it. Just forget about it.” Which he did, until near the end of his life.

And the two alleged snipers seized by Secret Service? They disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

Douglass sees Vallee as a character who could have perfectly filled the role of the “lone wolf” assassin that Lee Harvey Oswald performed in Dallas a few weeks later.

Who tipped off the FBI in Chicago of the plot to kill the president?

An informant named “Lee.”

JFK addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963. (Photo by federal employee Abbie Rowe.)

JFK addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963. (Photo by federal employee Abbie Rowe.)

Much of the information of the Chicago plot related by Douglass comes from Anthony Bolden, a Chicago-based agent who in 1961 had been tapped by Kennedy himself to become the first black Secret Service agent to serve at the White House. While there, he questioned the actions and allegiances of agents charged to protect the president, most of whom seemed to loathe Kennedy. He also heard gross racial epithets.

Disgusted, Bolden decided to leave Washington and return to Chicago. There, he witnessed much that disturbed him before and after Kennedy’s assassination, including odd actions by superiors.

Soon thereafter, Bolden was found guilty of seemingly trumped-up charges that sent him to a federal prison, where he was eventually placed in a psychiatric unit and heavily medicated. His home on the South Side was repeatedly vandalized. After New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s JFK) visited Bolden in prison, Bolden was placed in solitary confinement.

He was released in 1969.


Arlene Lee is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous national publications, including the Economist, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago Tribune. She has covered national and international topics for over 20 years.

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  • Maynard

    According to the book “Lee and Me” there was and it was Lee who foiled it.

  • The_Fixer

    Perhaps finesse was the wrong word. You’re right, corruption has become assumed. Outrage, when the offender is caught, is feigned or tempered by the fact that we expected it.

    I guess maybe I was trying to say something like “more sophisticated”, or “more complicated.” Look at the Credit Default Options scam – now, that was a work of art level of sophistication. The concept was rather basic – gambling – but the machinations of it all were impressive. I am sure that there are things like that going on in board rooms and congressional offices every day.

    And yes, politicians, if they do rail against corruption, only do so in order to usher in a new regime with its own special brand of corruption. “It’s the American Way™”

  • I don’t think it’s finesse at all. Corruption has just become the norm instead of the exception, so somehow we think that’s how it has always been done, and thus should be done. When was the last time you heard of a politician running on an anti-corruption platform?

  • The_Fixer

    I don’t think I said or implied that. This was a reflection on the environment in Chicago at the time of Kennedy’s death.

    You’ll get no disagreement from me that things are as corrupt as they ever were. The only difference is that nowadays, they have a little bit more finesse than they did in Daley’s time, and more clever ways to screw the voter.

  • UncleBucky

    Hmph. Birchers. And what is the connection? Kochs. Who owns the GOP/Bircher/TPer/Libertarian party? Kochs.

  • mamasaid1

    There are nine videos posted on YouTube under the title “The Men Who Killed Kennedy”. They were recently posted on Democratic Underground Nov 22, 2014. Each video is several minutes long, and there are several witnesses interviewed. The information that has been gathered will blow you away. They point to three men who actually carried out the assination, who placed the contract, and who ordered the contract and and who carried out the cover-up. Need to view all 9 videos to get the whole picture.

  • Duke Woolworth

    Daley’s Chicago at that time was as corrupt a place as you’d find in this country, with substandard concrete poured on the roads to a story told to me by a gent who sold rowboats (or was it canoes) to the park district. Winning bidder was the company that presented the biggest power boat to the purchasing agent.
    This continues today, by published reports.

  • caphillprof

    But are our governments any less corrupt today? When we contract out most traditional government services and the contracts always go to those with campaign cash? And didn’t governments nevertheless work better then than now. At least the potholes were fixed.

  • The_Fixer

    Mayor Daley and Chicago – “The City That Works.”

    It worked best, however, if you brought untraceable money or favors when you wanted that work done. There’s a reason they called the Chicago Democratic Party “The Machine.” Machines run on something, and everyone from the ward boss through the local alderman to the city inspector got something in exchange for “favors.”

    A friend of mine who is a retired real estate lawyer told me in the early 90s that building code violations could magically go away for about $10,000 – more if it was a high-profile project. I would not be surprised to learn that they still can, albeit at a higher price, I’m sure. Inflation hits the corrupt, too.

    The old Chicago joke about “Election Day – the day that the dead in Chicago rise up to do their civic duty and vote” originated under Daley’s reign, and it specifically refers to the election of JFK. The voting shenanigans in that election were probably the last truly extensive voting fraud that this country has seen. Daley was an ultra-loyal Democrat, and he viewed it as his solemn duty to deliver Chicago to the Democrats – no matter the method or cost.

    Daley came off as a regular, working class guy (part of his appeal) and talked the talk. He sounded more like a loading dock worker than a mayor. He outwardly lived modestly in a smaller bungalow within a working-class neighborhood on the city’s south side. Although he was clever, cunning and ambitious, he never lived like a king. I think he actually convinced himself that his mission excused the corruption present in his administration and in the city council.

    Mike Royko, late reporter and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote a book about Daley called “Boss”. It’s rather detailed in its look at corrupt Chicago politics during Daley’s reign. For those of us alive and aware at the time, or those interested in history of the 1950s and 1960s in Chicago, it is a fascinating read.

  • K_L_Carten

    I grew up hearing things like this when I was a kid, my grandma’s cousin was an alderman in the old neighborhood in Chicago, so this stuff was always hashed one way or another at family do’s. Don’t know if it was because they were Irish, or loved the old gossip, or just b.s… My grandma swore Old Mayor Daley wouldn’t allow something like that to happen in HIS city. Then again, I remember when Daley was put to rest and couldn’t figure out what was going on, my dad and grandma explained it. Daley was Chicago, he walked around even in the worst neighborhoods, making sure things where done. A person didn’t have to go downtown to complain, you walked up and told Daley, the pot holes are too damn big, gotta get them fixed. The next day, they were patched or work was beginning. Nothing was done unless the old man knew about it, esp. in the early 60’s.

    This is a story my mom told me of growing up in Chicago during the time. The very trip that Kennedy made to Chicago, as a matter of fact, the schools where closed and plans were made to watch Kennedy during the parade. Mom said about 50 foot in front of the motorcade Kennedy and Daley, they had city workers, throwing plotted trees and wielding very high iron sheets to hide the ghettos, as soon as the motorcade passed they were picking the potted trees and throwing back on city trucks, and yanking the metal they were spot welding, funny thing is I really could picture it happening. The way they talked about Old man Daley, there would be NO way something like that would have been allowed. One, he was friendly with Joe Kennedy, another thing always spoken about how Daley was supposedly told Joe Kennedy, I can guaranteed Chicago to John.

  • Sparafucile

    The author finally outed herself ;-)

  • Demosthenes

    Fascinating story. It is astounding that it comes to light so many years later!

  • The CIA definitely killed Kennedy. No question.

  • nicho

    Careful. If you don’t buy the official government story, you will be hooted down as a “truther” or a “CT nut.”

  • Sherman Skolnick tried to get this information out in 1970, when he filed a lawsuit to void the Warren Commission, and everyone – especially the press – dismissed him as a crazy zealot on a fishing expedition, and essentially ignored everything he had to say.

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