H.L. Hunt’s Dallas of the Early 1960s: Hateful, Terrifying, and Waiting to Kill Kennedy

At the dawn of the decade of the 1960s, America was on the verge of becoming a more enlightened place. The government was legislating racial tolerance and integration; the super rich were being forced to pay their fair share of taxes. Congress, by an overwhelming vote, passed a bill granting poor schoolkids free milk in public schools (try getting that one passed in today’s Tea Party congress). In an age of frightening nuclear threats, we elected a President determined to end the Cold War instead of trying to win it. As the charismatic President’s popularity grew, he turned the country toward the left. He tried to make it a more peaceful, equitable place. But not all of America was under his spell. In fact, the pillars of one oil-drenched, commie-baiting city hated him. Dallas, the city where he died such a brutal death, was a viper’s nest of right-wing power, hate, and terror. And the scariest snake, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, just happened to be the richest man in the world.

Hunt made a fortune in oil and with his billions he turned Dallas into his own playground. Very little of importance that happened in the city did not have his stamp on it. The leading newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, was run by Ted Dealey, a Hunt lackey. The Dallas Police Department, at Hunt’s insistence, required its members to be white, male, and preferably members of the Ku Klux Klan or the John Birch Society. Hunt paid for his own right-wing hate radio show (forerunner of Rush Limbaugh, a man Hunt would have admired immensely). It was called “Facts Forum,” and it virulently lashed out at taxation, the U.N., gun control, and immigration (sound familiar). Hunt later changed the name to “Life Line,” when he incorporated conservative Christianity into the show. In private Hunt referred to African-Americans as “niggers,” and he angrily cursed the Supreme Court’s integration rulings. He abhorred the fact that blacks had the same voting rights he did, so he wrote his own novel called Alpaca, and forced Dallas libraries and bookstores to stock it on their shelves. Alpaca is Hunt’s megalomaniacal fantasy world in which a small super-wealthy class rules everything. The rich have more votes than commoners, and are able to buy as many votes as they choose. There are no public schools or government-run services of any kind. There is no Social Security or Medicaid to protect the elderly, and tax breaks for oilmen are part of the Constitution. It is more than harmless right-wing lunacy; it is a quasi-fascist state run by threat of terror, where the common person is always subservient to the few rich oligarchs. (Think it can’t happen here? Think again. This is exactly the kind of country Republicans want today.) Hunt even bought and paid for his own Congressman, Bruce Alger, the only member of the House who voted against that milk subsidy for kids.

Hunt despised President Kennedy, and once told a confidante that the only way to get him out of office was to “shoot him out.” The day before the assassination, Jack Ruby and a convicted killer named Jim Brading were seen in the Hunt Oil headquarters in Dallas. What were they doing there? No one knows for sure. But later that same evening witnesses place Ruby at the Cabana Motel with a large bag full of cash. He handed it out to CIA operatives Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt. On the day of the assassination, Brading was detained by Dallas Police in Dealey Plaza (site of the JFK murder). When asked what a convicted killer on parole from California was doing at the site of the murder of the century, Brading replied that he merely wanted to use the phone in an adjacent building. The building just happened to house a vacant office leased by the Hunt Oil Corporation.

Hunt was a racist, a bigamist, and a power-mad sociopath who once told LBJ’s mistress, “I’m the richest man in the world; I can do any damn thing I want.” And while his vision for America once seemed too crazy to contemplate, it is at our doorstep again. Don’t believe me? Vote Republican and find out for yourself.