It’s been claimed, then denied, then claimed again, but never verified. The full details could fill this magazine ten times over – and are worth seeking out – but this is the short answer…
Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody, was sentenced to two life terms in 1979 for the assassination of District Judge John H. Wood. Prior to the trial, Harrelson confessed that he was involved with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but the veracity of his claim was disputed and he later withdrew the statement.
There’s no dispute, however, that Harrelson was a contract killer during the 1960s. And unlike many hitmen of that era, he used a sniper rifle rather than a handgun, which would add some weight to his claim that he was on the Grassy Knoll as one of men who shot JFK.
Harrelson claimed he was one of three men disguised as tramps and added that Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumed assassin, was too far away from the president to get a clear shot. In the book The Man on the Grassy Knoll, investigators claim that Harrelson and CIA agent Charles Rogers, were the two gunmen behind the picket fence who took the shots as the President drove past.
Others investigating the assassination have also claimed that Harrelson, Rogers and fellow CIA employee, Chauncey Holt, were the so-called “three tramps” who were found hiding in a box car near Dealey Plaza after the killing. Holt confessed to his part in the assassination in 1991 and says he had passed guns and forged documents to Harrelson and Rogers. He also told Newsweek he was ordered to Dallas and was told that “an incident was going to be created which could be laid at the door of pro-Castro Cubans.”
Rogers was a key suspect but disappeared – reportedly to South America. Private detective John Craig claims he continued to work for the CIA and was part of the Iran-Contra programme. Holt died in June, 1997. Harrelson died in prison ten years later and left a stack of papers for his three sons and a request that his memoirs be published in the hopes he would be cleared of murdering Judge Wood. The appeal failed but within these papers he allegedly confessed to “dozens” of killings. It is unknown whether there is any further mention of JFK and the part he once claimed to play in his death.
The last words go to Harrelson himself. In 1982, he told a Dallas TV station: “Do you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, alone, without any aid from a rogue agency of the U.S. Government or at least a portion of that agency? I believe you are very naïve if you do.”
For Esquire Magazine.