By Charles Shiver
There is always more to the story
“I will show you fear in a handful of dust …” – T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of one of the darkest and most mysterious tragedies in American history: The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.
South Georgia holds many secrets and mysteries; some are literally buried in plain sight in the earth. The older part of Oak Hill Cemetery in Quitman, Ga., holds the grave of Joseph Adams (J.A.) Milteer.
Legend holds, and researchers believe, that Milteer had prior knowledge of the assassination of President Kennedy. Milteer died under mysterious violent circumstances. He was the Jeffrey Epstein of his time.
Mainstream news media uphold the official line that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone nut” assassin involved in shooting President Kennedy. However, my research over the years has pointed to the South Georgia suspect who at the very least appeared to have some foreknowledge of the JFK hit, and I am not alone in seeing the possible connections. Milteer’s story has appeared in a variety of books, articles, TV documentaries, podcasts, and YouTube videos, ranging from the bestselling book High Treason by Harrison Edward Livingstone and Robert J. Groden (originally published in 1989, from which I first learned about the Quitman connection over 30 years ago) to the British ITV video documentary series, “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” (later released by the A & E network in the U.S.).
In fall 2005, I was interviewed about my research by WGCL-TV Atlanta for their “Special Report: Who Shot JFK?” The text of the televised story reads:
“QUITMAN, Ga. (WGCL-TV) – 42 years ago on this day [Nov. 22, 2005], our country was stunned by the death of President John F. Kennedy. Since then, we’ve heard all kinds of conspiracy theories.
“But there’s one you may not have heard. And it involves a man from our very own state. Quitman’s the kind of place, where you’ll find cotton on the outskirts, farm equipment on the streets, and a quaint café in the heart of town. It was also home to Joseph Milteer, a man investigated by the FBI in connection with the murder of John F. Kennedy.
“ ‘Well, how in the hell do you figure would be the best way to get him?’ ” says an FBI informant [Willie Somersett]. ‘From an office building with a high-powered rifle,’ says Milteer. From an FBI recording, made … before the Kennedy assassination [Nov. 9, 1963, in Miami, Fla.], to court records on Milteer, sealed for decades, the locals have a lot to wonder about.
“ ‘He was a local character, kinda known as a kook,’ says local resident William Jordan. ‘The man I understand was very prejudiced. Did not like black people at all,’ adds Kenny Wadsworth. ‘My recollection of Mr. Milteer is he was a very nice man,’ adds Jack Harrell. And resident Dan Mitchell says, ‘He probably wore the same clothes three, four, five days you know. And most of em were ragged.’
“One thing they can agree on: Milteer’s life, and death, leave a lot of questions. This reporter for the Quitman Free Press [at the time] has written extensively on Milteer. ‘It kind of gives Quitman a black eye. It’s kind of a love/hate thing people are really interested in but kind of gives Quitman a black eye,’ says Charles Shiver.
“In a bizarre coincidence, on the day the Quitman paper reported on the death of President Kennedy, it also carried an item about Milteer. The local eccentric was running for office in one of his many, unsuccessful political campaigns.
“ ‘From my understanding, he would gripe about how the city was being run, the country was being run,’ says Shiver. That’s not all Milteer’s remembered for. Back at the Royal Café, Postman Kenny Wadsworth recalls the man’s mobility: ‘The man was moving around a lot. He was a real transient type person.’
“He’d traveled to Miami, the day the FBI taped him, talking to an informant about Kennedy:
“Informant: ‘They are really going to try to kill him?’
Milteer: ‘Oh yeah, it is in the works. … Sure, disassemble a gun. You don’t have to take a gun up there, you can take it up in pieces. All those guns come knock down. You can take them apart. … Well, we are going to have to get nasty.’
Informant: ‘Yeah, get nasty.’
Milteer: ‘We have got to be ready, we have got to be sitting on go, too.’
Informant: ‘Yeah, that is right.’
Milteer: ‘There ain’t any countdown to it, we have just got to be sitting on go. Countdown, they can move in on you, and on go they can’t. Countdown is all right for a slow prepared operation. But in an emergency operation, you have got to be sitting on go.’
Informant: “Boy, if that Kennedy gets shot, we have got to know where we are at. Because you know that will be a real shake, if they do that.’
Milteer: ‘They wouldn’t leave any stone unturned there. No way.’
Informant: ‘Oh hell, no.’
Milteer: ‘Hell, they will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen, just to throw the public off.’
“ ‘As far as him [Milteer] being actually there in Dallas, or being directly involved in the assassination, I’m not as certain about that,’ says Shiver.
“Joe Milteer died [on Feb. 28, 1974, at the age of 72] with his mystery intact, from what his death certificate describes, as severe burns from [a Coleman heating stove] explosion in his home.
“Afterward, Betty Horton went into the house with her father, who was a probate judge. … ‘We found some windows that looked like they’d been booby trapped or rigged. There were some boxes of ammunition,’ says Horton.
“Shiver wonders if something other than an accidental explosion killed Milteer. ‘He liked to brag about his importance, and that may be what eventually brought him to his end,’ he says.
“The death certificate says Milteer was divorced from an unknown woman. We found no relatives in the Quitman area. Only curious residents, wondering if a local eccentric was something much more sinister.
‘‘ ‘There was a whole lot of people with axes to grind and I’m sure Joe was recruitable,’ says William Jordan.
‘The FBI took him seriously enough to interview him in Valdosta,’ says Shiver. ‘I would not be surprised. I just did not think he had the connections,’ says Betty Horton.
“We mentioned some documents on Milteer that are still sealed. CBS 46 has filed a motion to open them. We don’t know if they contain anything that would shed new light on Milteer or the Kennedy assassination. But we’ll let you know as soon as we find out.”
The “documents” that the TV news referred to were boxes of Milteer’s property left behind at the Brooks County Courthouse after an investigation in the late 1970s by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations, which later concluded that a probable conspiracy was involved in the killing of President Kennedy based upon a police Dictabelt recording of an apparent fourth gunshot from the legendary “grassy knoll” in Dallas. Researchers and skeptics have gone back and forth over the years on whether the “fourth gunshot” was authentic or should be discredited.
Some people in Quitman call Milteer “just a kook” to this day, but the United States Congress, like the FBI, took him seriously enough to investigate his possible ties to the JFK murder! Marion Maxwell, a former Brooks County official with good knowledge of the federal probes and executor of Milteer’s estate, told me that he had also been personally contacted by investigators for United States Sen. Richard Schweiker. In the 1970s, the Hart-Schweiker and Church Committee hearings revealed CIA ties to other assassinations and assassination attempts and illegal actions from the federal administration (FBI and IRS). The Deep State has been around for a long time!
The Congressional committee also looked into the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1979, the committee’s findings stated that there was 95 percent probability that conspiracies to kill John F. Kennedy and Dr. King had existed. However, my understanding is that some investigative files from the House Assassinations Committee are sealed and won’t be opened to the public until at least the year 2029. Both former President Trump and President Joe Biden have not declassified all of the JFK-related documents in the custody of federal agencies and the National Archives.
Marion Maxwell once told me that the boxes of property stored at the Brooks County Courthouse were just “junk.” Congressional investigators had taken all the interesting materials to Washington, D.C., where they apparently ended up buried somewhere in the National Archives.
WGCL-TV Atlanta obtained an order from former Southern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge H. Arthur McLane to unseal the boxes, which had the words “Property of the U.S. House of Representatives” stenciled on the outside. Upon opening the boxes, apparently all that was found inside were old newspapers, copies of the mimeographed “yellow sheets” that Milteer used to hand out around town to support his unsuccessful campaigns for office and racist beliefs (I have a tattered copy of one of those yellow sheets given to me by former Quitman Free Press Editor Bonnell Holmes), tape recordings of political meetings that had no incriminating testimony, and so forth. …
However, before you dismiss the Milteer story as just another local legend, consider the claim by some researchers like Robert J. Groden that Milteer was in Dallas on the morning of the JFK assassination. This view was supported by at least one federal law enforcement officer who actually took Milteer in custody and directly questioned him about the plots to kill the President, as I will show you in my next column.
Milteer telephoned the FBI informant in Miami and told him, in effect, “I don’t think you will ever see your boy Kennedy in Miami again.” Groden states, “Two hours after that telephone call, the President, with Joseph Milteer watching in Dealey Plaza, was assassinated.”
The House Select Committee on Assassinations even examined a photograph of a man resembling Milteer standing in the crowd near the Presidential motorcade as it passed down Houston Street, just prior to the shooting of JFK in Dealey Plaza. They subjected the iconic photo to the rigors of scientific analysis by photography experts.
TO BE CONTINUED