Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas-Joan Mellen
On January 7, 1971 law enforcement personnel responded to the scene of a single car accident on U.S. Route 271 near Pittsburg, Texas. The deceased is identified as Malcolm “Mac” Wallace. His death marks the end of a life replete murder, sex, alcohol and suspicion. Wallace was a known associate of several powerful figures in the State of Texas, most notably, Billie Sol Estes and Lyndon Baines Johnson. His association with Johnson earned him the title of a conspirator in the murder of President John F. Kennedy. An unidentified finger print at the Texas School Depository discovered in the wake of Kennedy’s murder, puzzled investigators and researchers for years. In 1998, Nathan Darby, a career fingerprint analyst, identified the print as belonging to Wallace giving rise to the belief of many conspiracy theorists that Wallace had been on the sixth floor either right before or during the assassination. Wallace’s death was cloaked in conspiracy theories about how and why he died. But just who was Mac Wallace? Was it really his print at the book depository? And was he LBJ’s hitman for hire as has been alleged? Joan Mellen, a noted scholar and author of several books related to JFK’s murder explores the relationship between Wallace and Johnson in this phenomenal account of the lives of both of these Texas natives.
Drawing upon the words of Wallace’s children, interviews with former associates, some of whom are now deceased, official documents from the LBJ Presidential Library and other public records, Mellen retraces the origins of the mysterious figure. JFK assassination researchers might be tempted to believe that the book might contain a “smoking gun”. This is not the case and the book is not another look at the assassination. It is purely about the relationship between Wallace and Johnson and the climate of corruption and murder in Texas. Because Texas is also the location of JFK’s murder, the book does contain a section about the assassination, but not what the reader may be tempted to think. While the focus of the book is not of JFK’s murder, where it truly shines is the information about Wallace and the true nature of his relationships and troubled life that included more than one marriage, several divorces, alcoholism and deadly sexual triangles.
What is abundantly clear from Mellen’s work is that a deadly climate of suspicion and fraud existed engulfed Texas, then a stronghold of right-wing extremist groups and politicians determined to operated a completely different system of government and culture. In the middle of this climate is Lyndon Johnson, the native of Stonewall, Texas and former U.S. President. His close-knit group of associates formed an impenetrable circle of deceit suspected in the deaths of a number of individuals including Henry Marshall, a former investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John Douglas Kinser and even LBJ’s sister, Josefa. Billie Sol Estes, Bobby Baker, Herman Brown and George Parr all make an appearance in the book showing the reader how Texas politics were controlled during the first half of the 20th century.
Johnson has been portrayed in textbooks as the champion of civil rights, voting rights and the leading force behind the “Great Society” program. The reality as shown by Mellen is that a very dark side to LBJ was carefully hidden from public light but did show itself from time to time. Beginning with the controversial election in 1948 against Coke Stevenson, Johnson’s career would be dogged by controversial events that often had tragic and catastrophic results. JFK’s murder in Dallas and the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 remain some of the darkest moments in U.S. history and two of the biggest crimes for which those involved have never been brought to justice. The truth about the Liberty presented here in its entirety, reveals the very grim reality of the U.S. government’s faulty foreign policy that claimed the lives of 34 sailors and injured nearly 200 more. And had it not been for JFK’s death, perhaps the story of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson would be told far differently today.
Many years have passed since the events in this book have taken place. A majority of the figures in the book are now deceased and their secrets having been lost to history. But for students of history, the JFK assassination and those curious about the true nature of both Lyndon Johnson and Malcolm Wallace this is the book that sets the record straight and finally puts to rest rumors, misinformation and uncertainty about November 22, 1963 and the lives of many that ended tragically in South Texas.