Updated: Mar 25
The man who launched a thousand JFK conspiracy theories in New Orleans and beyond
Jack S. Martin aka Edward Suggs 1943
If ever there was a godfather to JFK conspiracy theories it would be this man, Jack S. Martin, aka Edward Stewart Suggs. From New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison to Oliver Stone's JFK movie, this article will fill in some gaps how/why Jack S. Martin duped so many people eventually leading to the ill-fated Clay Shaw trial.
Many credible researchers have studied Jack S. Martin, so instead of rehashing their research, I suggest these online links and book for more of a background on this character.
*Dave Reitzes on Jack Martin https://www.jfk-online.com/jfk100whomar.html
*Alecia P. Long's book Cruising for Conspirators https://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Conspirators-Prosecuted-Assassination-Boundless-ebook/dp/B08YPDMP3V
The Igniting Spark
Jack S. Martin is responsible for introducing many of the colorful characters in the New Orleans JFK conspiracy saga, David Ferrie, W. Guy Banister, David Lewis, Thomas Beckham and a whole host of unsavory personalities. Well known by the New Orleans FBI and before the Garrison-Clay Shaw trial, an FBI report characterized Jack S. Martin as "a self-styled private investigator and is known at the New Orleans office to be a psychopathic personality......Martin was the cause of a great deal of unwarranted investigation." 1
Martin's rift with David Ferrie, and his claiming Ferrie's library card was in Oswald's possession, started the initial investigation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison into Ferrie in 1963. The Ferrie library card story claimed by Martin was false. 2 Later upon the urging of Louisiana Senator Russell B. Long (whose father was Huey Long and suspected a conspiracy in his father's death) Garrison would reopen his investigation into Ferrie in 1967.
In December 1966, Garrison interviewed Jack S. Martin. Researcher Fred Litwin has the audio recording of this interview, with transcript. This sparked off Garrison's new investigation into the Kennedy assassination. When David Ferrie died, Garrison's conspiracy claims got increasingly strange, eventually filing charges on Clay Shaw, an innocent man.
New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison felt Jack S. Martin had credible evidence to pursue the case. Martin did a complete snow job on Garrison with his convincing imaginary story.
The Bizarre Life of Jack S. Martin (Edward S. Suggs)
Edward Stewart Suggs was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1915.3
Details of his early life are still sketchy and still being researched by this author. Perhaps a good starting point is Suggs' FBI Rap Sheet.
Starting from 1938: 23-year-old Suggs joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was a President Roosevelt New Deal program initiated in 1933 to employ mainly young men for work in the 800+ parks scattered all over the U.S. This depression era program was highly successful in upgrading and improving the National Parks by building roads, planting trees, park facilities and general forestry projects. Often these men came from poor families on Relief or Welfare and were required to send a portion of money back home to their families, to assist government support. Suggs was assigned to Camp F176, in the Seiad Valley area near the California-Oregon border.
Credit: Seiad Valley CCC
(Suggs is on 3rd Row, to left of man with headband)
After his CCC service, Suggs went to San Diego and was employed by the Ryan Aeronautical Company building airplanes. During this time period, Ryan still constructed airplanes by hand, until automation and technology grew in the WWII period. Ryan Aeronautical built many Army Air Corps planes during this period. Suggs learned a valuable tradecraft and naturally it was then he joined the Army Air Corps in 1940 at the age of 25. After enlisting Suggs was assigned to Fort Wheeler in Honolulu, Hawaii.
With World War spreading across Europe, the United States remained neutral but assisted in the war effort to such countries as Britain. Meanwhile the U.S. was gearing up its defenses and the possibility of involvement. The turning point for America was on December 7, 1941. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor thrust Roosevelt into war and Edward Suggs himself was there.
Credit: The Dayton Herald (Ohio), February 17, 1943
In a newspaper interview with the Journal Herald newspaper (Dayton, Ohio) on December 16, 1943, Suggs tells of his experience during the Pearl Harbor attack on Wheeler Field.
"I was in the barracks and the Japs hit a PX nearby. We crouched in the stairway until the attack ended, and then I hurried to Bellows Field, my home station. I got back there in time to see the Japs hit a B-17 just taking off and then get two P-40's".
Suggs was discharged from the Army on November 17, 1943 (3 years of service). There will be more of this discharge later in the article.4
Following his military service, Suggs' life begins to take a bizarre downturn. In 1944, Suggs was arrested in Fort Smith, Arkansas as a suspect in some unknown crime. Released, he again is arrested this time in Fort Worth, Texas carrying a concealed pistol in 1945. Clearly Suggs has begun a life as a drifter, moving around.
In 1946, Suggs had moved out to California and as noted on Rap Sheet, by Los Angeles City Police as "special police". This could have referred to Suggs registering as a Private Investigator with the city. It should be noted that Suggs was indeed a private investigator in 1947 based out of San Diego, California.5
Suggs was again arrested in San Diego. This time for disturbing the peace in 1947.
As witnessed on the Rap Sheet, Suggs had some sort of interest or fascination in being in law enforcement for many years with a few applications noted before enlisting in the Army Air Corps.
Things get weird in Big D
In 1949, Suggs was in Dallas, Texas. There is some notation on the Rap Sheet of a "P/c Bond Pending" with the Sheriff's Office. I'm not sure what this refers too, possibly "Probable Cause', but it does establish he was in Dallas. And it's in Dallas where things get really strange. On March 24, 1949, a "Dr. E.S. Suggs" wrote into the Dallas Morning News complaining about Dallas drivers stopping in pedestrian crosswalks and causing unnecessary impediments. Dr. E.S. Suggs also mentioned he lived in Dallas off/on for four years. He lists his address as 6127 Tremont Street.6 That address is in East Dallas, and there are listings of other people living in rooms there. A check by this author with the Dallas Librarian on 1949-50 Polk's directories did not yield any Edward or E.S. Suggs living in Dallas. There was no Dr. E.S. Suggs listed in previous or subsequent years.
In June 1950 Suggs filed for divorce in Dallas County.
Dallas Morning News, June 23, 1950
Life was going downhill for Suggs, but his most egregious crime made him wanted by the FBI - a botched illegal abortion on a Dallas elevator operator. On November 24, 1950, a "Dr. Edward Stewart Suggs" attempted to perform an abortion on a 22-year-old married woman in South Dallas. Things went horribly wrong as the young mother of two children went into convulsions. Suggs realizing his deadly mistake, made a fast getaway by taxi. The woman was then transported to the hospital and died later. Suggs then went on the run.
Note: I do have the name of the young lady who died at the hands of Suggs, but out of respect for the surviving family I will not reveal the name here.
Curiously, it would be not until June 1951 when formal charges were filed by the Dallas Grand Jury on Suggs.
Dallas Morning News, June 26, 1951
Faced with a murder without malice charge, Suggs went on the lam. The FBI suspected him of crossing state lines to evade arrest, possibly to California and/or Mexico.
Texas Dept. of Public Safety (Highway Patrol) Wanted Record, January 1952
As in many cases, the long arm of the law finally caught up to 36-year-old Suggs. He was arrested in Houston, Texas on May 14, 1952. Suggs had been living in Houston for several months when a tip came into a Houston Constable J.W. Lambert. He was apprehended reportedly by the FBI at a residence on 2003 Mason Street, just southwest of downtown near the Montrose district of Houston and held under a $15,000 bond.7
Suggs gets a lucky break
In a strange twist of fate, Suggs got embroiled in a convoluted plot to murder Harris
County Sheriff C.V. "Buster" Kern. When Suggs was in jail in Dallas awaiting his trial for murder charges, he was called back to Houston to testify to the Harris County Grand Jury about Sheriff Kern's murder for hire conspiracy.
Constable J.W. Lamont, the same man who tipped off the FBI on Suggs' Houston arrest, was a political foe against Sheriff "Buster" Kern. He ran unsuccessfully against him for Harris County Sheriff and lost. Lamont was dragged into this alleged murder for hire plot when a private investigator, Raul Perez implicated him in a break-in robbery of a Houston night club operator's home resulting in a death of a deputy. Most likely Sheriff "Buster" had suspicions on Lamont involvement in his own "murder for hire" plot. The whole story is very convoluted with many people involved in the investigation. Apparently two convicts, J.R. Gilbreath (in jail in Hillsboro, Texas for burglary facing multiple statewide burglary charges) and Royal F. Rucker (in Huntsville State prison serving a 2-year burglary sentence) both admitted they were approached by a George Levine, representing a "big man" in Harris County to blow up Sheriff Buster's car with a nitroglycerin bomb. Levine balked at the $10,000 offer made by the convicts and the bombing never happened. Lamont was eventually charged in the foiled break-in robbery attempt. The whole affair branches off into other charges. How and why was Edward Suggs involved, is a mystery.
Suggs did appear at the Harris County Grand Jury on or about October 27-28, 1952, to give his testimony. Since Grand Jury testimonies are sealed, there is no telling what Suggs told them. However, one thing was for certain, Suggs did not want his picture taken by the local Houston press.
Suggs (far left) struggling with Houston Chronicle Photographer Lou Witt
Photo Credit: Houston Post, October 28, 1952
Showing up for his Grand Jury testimony, Suggs was escorted by Dallas County Sheriff Department Lt. M.F. Patton as his prisoner. While stepping off the elevator in the Harris County Criminal Courts building, Suggs caught eye of Houston Press photographer Bill Cooksey trying to take a picture. While Lt. Patton was talking to a court bailiff, Suggs grabbed Cooksey's camera and knocked it to the tile floor. Suggs was restrained by the bailiff. Ten minutes later after giving his testimony to the Grand Jury, Suggs got a glimpse of a Houston Chronicle photographer, Lou Witt, kneeling outside the Jury Room door. Suggs lunged at him, but Witt knocked the skinny Suggs down to the floor. There was a scuffle and this time the bailiff had to restrain Witt, instead of Suggs. While being escorted to the Sheriff's Identification bureau, Suggs saw another Houston Post photographer Keith Hawkins, who was just passing by on another assignment. Suggs still worked up, lunged at him, but Hawkins easily sidestepped him in the hallway. Lou Witt, who by this time grabbed a borrowed camera, followed Suggs into the ID bureau. Suggs, still agitated, grabbed a paper spike and threatened to throw it at Witt. Standing his ground, Witt warned Suggs if he threw it, he would go after him. Suggs backed down. Meanwhile after all this Suggs melee, a jailer asked Dallas Sheriff Lt. Patton what all the commotion was about with his prisoner. Patton said Suggs told him "I just did it for fun. That's the most excitement I've had in six months."8
Clearly by now, you can see Suggs had issues. But Suggs got lucky, his Dallas abortion murder without malice case was dropped. How and why it was dropped, remains to be explored and researched through Dallas County Court records, if available.
Ranger Suggs back in Houston
Those who have studied Jack S. Martin, are well aware of his drinking problems. Combined with his unstable behavior, it was a dangerous combination. On March 10, 1954, Suggs had drifted back by that time into Houston and was arrested at a local Galveston tavern at closing time, 2:00 AM. Suggs was causing a scene at the Rialto Club. Well lubricated, and waving a pair of handcuffs around, Suggs threatened the club manager with arrest because he was a "Texas Ranger". He drunkenly told the club manager that he would take him back to Austin under arrest. However, when Suggs was arrested by Galveston police, he gave them his identity using a legitimate Texas Ranger's name. The real Texas Ranger was contacted by phone and Suggs was charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer, drunk in public and vagrancy. A local man bailed him out the next day by paying his fine.9 This was just another example of Suggs assuming whacky identities while drifting around. It's crystal clear by now Suggs had mental issues.
Suggs goes to New Orleans
Sometime between 1954-1955 Suggs moved to New Orleans. The Big Easy was a perfect place for Suggs to reinvent himself to distance his past. It was here that Suggs took on another identity, Jack S. Martin.
Ever the busybody, Martin mingled in many circles around New Orleans. He began writing feature columns for a small regional newspaper, the West Bank Herald out of Algiers. In 1955 he wrote a small feature piece about local happenings. Soon after that Martin began a Police blotter or news series.
West Bank Herald, October 4, 1956
It's understandable why Suggs chose one of the most common names in America (Martin) to erase his past and conceal his real identity. Already using the fake name, Suggs thought it would be wise to make it legal. In 1957, he petitioned the court to legally change his name. His initial request was shot down, ironically by Judge Leon Hubert Jr., later to be a Warren Commission staff member. Then in appeals court he was granted the legal name change by Judge Stich in July 1957.
Times Picayune, July 26, 1957
Although the legal notice does not reflect the actual name change, it most likely was John or Jack S. Martin. Suggs did remarry at some point to a Paula Mae (maiden name unknown). She as well assumed the Martin name. In November 1963 the FBI interviewed Paula's employer, Capt. Neville Levy of the Equitable Equipment Company on 410 Camp Street. Levy characterized Paula as a very insignificant person who had a psychopathic look about her.10
It is apparent Paula had some sort of dysfunctional marriage with Jack Martin. For some unknown reason she posted a typical legal notice of "debts not incurred" in the same newspaper that Martin wrote feature columns in, the West Bank Herald.
West Bank Herald, May 31, 1956
Indeed, there were problems with Martin again. In December of 1956, Martin caused yet another disturbance at a Woolworth's department store in New Orleans. In some sort of argument, Martin chased and accosted a woman resulting in a scuffle. Martin was evicted from the store. The next day, Martin still angry, called the Woolworth's Department Store manager complaining and threatening to sue the store. During the telephone conversation Martin misrepresented himself once again, this time as an FBI agent. The manager reported this to the local New Orleans FBI but declined to press charges citing he couldn't positively identify the caller and his perception that Martin was evidently psychotic.
The New Orleans FBI did a check with New Orleans Charity Hospital, and it was reported Jack Martin was admitted to the Psycho Ward on December 23, 1956. Dr. Edward Long, resident psychiatrist, had Martin as his patient. Although he hadn't made his full evaluation, Dr. Long said Martin definitely suffered from some sort of "character disorder". Paula became highly concerned about her husband. On January 7, 1957, Paula contacted New Orleans Homicide Detective Ruiz and informed him that her husband's true name was Edward Stewart Suggs, and he was wanted on a murder charge in Houston. Additionally, she added that she acquired a gun permit from the New Orleans Police for a revolver for her husband, that he possessed. Following up on his case with Paula, Detective Ruiz called the Houston Police Department on outstanding warrants on Suggs, but was informed Suggs was no longer wanted.11
Martin would continue embellishing his Jack Martin name. Often, he would represent himself as Colonel Jack S. Martin. This moniker was developed when Martin became involved with the "Louisiana Patrol". The Louisiana Patrol was nothing more than a citizen's auxiliary group that performed traffic watches, guard duties, security patrols for companies and the city. In other words, wannabe cops. This organization was run by a "Col. Eugene Dooling". Evidently Martin desired the title of Colonel as well.
West Bank Herald, April 16, 1959
Jack Martin's association with W. Guy Banister
Sometime in the late 1950's, Martin met Guy Banister, most likely doing free-lance private detective work. Since Jack Martin had an association with the West Bank Herald newspaper as a feature writer, there could have been some contact with Banister through the newspaper. What is known after Banister was dismissed from the New Orleans Police, due to drunkenness public display and refusal to take another a lower job position, he took over management of the West Bank Herald newspaper on August 7, 1958. He ran the newspaper until January 31, 1959, writing various editorial pieces dealing with local politics, anti-communism, etc. He was succeeded by Tom Fox who stated that Banister was no longer associated with the West Bank Herald. By that time Banister had already opened his Banister & Associates Private Detective agency. He moved into the Balter Building off St. Charles Street. No doubt he had the support of Col. Bluford Balter, who also had a financial interest in the West Bank Herald newspaper. It was later in June 1960 when Banister moved from the Balter Building into the Newman Building on the 531 Lafayette side of the street.
It's well-known Guy Banister and his detective agency were suffering financially. Banister struggled to pay his bills and became delinquent on rent payments on his Newman building office. This could be attributed to poor management of funds and cash flow, but the underlying factor was probably alcoholism.
A well sourced article about Banister's decline is noted here on Fred Litwin's blog. https://www.onthetrailofdelusion.com/post/the-decline-of-guy-banister
Martin was no stranger to alcoholism either and most likely drank with Banister on occasions. Well-known and respected newspaper reporter Merriman Smith (known as Smitty) characterized Jack Martin in 1967.
Martin, an episodic drunk and no stranger to jails and mental wards has a pattern of talking and recanting. He told the Secret Service the lurid story about Ferrie being the get-away pilot, then took it all back as being nothing but a fantasy.12
Jack S. Martin (Suggs) courtesy of Pinterest
One of the best evaluations of Martin comes from Rosemary James, noted journalist in New Orleans. In her book, Plot or Politics, co-authored with Jack Wardlaw before the Clay Shaw trial, she sums up Martin's character traits.
He is full of that well known waste as a yule hen. On the other hand, he is many times a competent investigator who has the confidence of well-placed individuals. He drinks often to excess but bears no evidence of being an alcoholic. He desperately wants to be loved and this is his downfall. Often, he wants to please everyone, everywhere so much that he ends up hurting the people he befriended him. He must be taken with a grain of salt leavened by a grain of confidence. If you listen to him for two hours, often you will receive two minutes of useful information. I suppose to sum him up, he is like a muddy river. You have to use a very fine filter! It's more than possible that Garrison's staff were using that fine filter on Martin who knew all of the principals who have been mentioned in the case thus far and names of others Garrison is trying to piece together.
And there lies the dilemma of Jack S. Martin, who told many stories and at times could be believable. Jim Garrison took him seriously to a certain extent. The various false claims by Martin of David Ferrie and Guy Banister have led many researchers down a path to nowhere.
Why was Suggs so volatile and erratic throughout his life?
There's a good case to be made for Suggs' behaviors and actions which were not of his own making. Let's rewind the clock back to Suggs' war time experience.
In the previous newspaper interview mentioned earlier of Edward Suggs by the Journal Herald (Dayton, Ohio) on December 16, 1943, it mentions the following.
Adjusting himself to civilian routine has proved to be an impossible task for Corp. Edward Suggs, 732 Huffman Avenue, who served three years in the Army Air Force and saw action at Pearl Harbor and Midway Island. He was discharged from the Army Nov. 17 because of intermittent headaches resulting from a head injury suffered in a plane crash.
Suggs has noticed he is too nervous to handle a regular civilian job.
He explained: "I want to be on the move, but because of my headaches I can't be sure I'll be able to work every day".
The newspaper article goes onto explain Suggs' war experiences as a radio operator (verified by other articles) and a waist gunner aboard a B-17 aircraft. Finally, the article concludes with this information.
Coming through those aerial battles unscathed, Suggs finally "got his" when his plane crashed at Hawaii. Since then--early last March (1943) --he has been in eight hospitals, the last one the Kennedy General Hospital at Memphis, Tenn.
"It's tough to get back into the grind of a civilian life again", Suggs declared. "I can't build planes as I did before I went into the Army. I don't know what I'm going to do".
Suggs most likely suffered brain injury because of his wartime plane crash. It is sadly reminiscent of another personality in the JFK assassination literature, Richard Case Nagell. This would explain his lifelong problems trying to fit into society, erratic and reckless behavior exasperated by alcohol fueled episodes.
1-FBI Internal Memo, August 29, 1966, https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=129905#relPageId=2&search=%22Jack_S.%20Martin%22
2-FBI 302 Interview of David Ferrie, November 26, 1963, https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=10116#relPageId=88&search=Ferrie_library%20card
3-Some reports mention his birthplace as Florence, Arizona
4-The Journal Herald, December 16, 1943, "Civilian Routine Tough, Midway Veteran Finds"
5-The San Diego Union, May 25, 1952, "Once S.D. Private Eye Faces Trial"
6-Dallas Morning News, March 24, 1949, Letters from Readers column, "Through Route" by Dr. E.S. Suggs
7-Houston Post, May 15, 1952, "Fugitive Held"
8-Houston Post, October 28, 1952, "Grand Jurors Quiz Lambert"
9-Galveston Daily News, March 11, 1954, "Man Plays Ranger, Lands in Jail Cell
10-FBI Internal Airtel Memo, December 3, 1963 https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=129902#relPageId=2&search=%22Paula_Mae%22
12-The Tyler Courier Times, March 5, 1967