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How was John Franklin Elrod involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination investigation?

 January 22nd, 2011 |  Author: 

John Franklin Elrod Commercial Appeal Article:

This is an interesting article from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, about John Elrod and how he was factored in with the Kennedy Assassination Investigation

As you read the article, notice that the Sheriff’s office specifically stated that, “Elrod was sober” when he came to them, and that they were impressed enough with him to tell the FBI that he had “information of value”.

In fact, the local Sheriff was impressed enough with Elrod to bypass the local FBI office and writes directly to Hoover.

Unfortunately, the FBI took a somewhat different attitude about Elrod’s story. They falsely claimed in their report, that Elrod wasn’t even in the Dallas jail on 11/22/63, and they tried to create the impression that Elrod never mentioned Oswald’s name, only referring to an “unnamed cellmate”.

Of course, the Sheriff’s report, as well as a recently discovered internal FBI memo confirmed that they were fully aware that Elrod was talking about Oswald.

Memphis Commercial Appeal (Nov. 10, 1997)

By Bartholomew Sullivan

On Aug. 11, 1964, just after midnight, a troubled man stumbled into the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in downtown Memphis, carrying a sawed-off shotgun. He had a story to tell about Lee Harvey Oswald.

John Franklin Elrod gave his story to a sergeant on duty, A. C. Gilless. Thirty-three years later, Gilless, now sheriff can’t recall the incident but says that, under the circumstances, he’s surprised he can’t remember.

“1964? Lord have mercy. That’s 33 years ago,” he said. What Elrod told Gilless and then the FBI could go far in debunking the official explanation of Oswald’s televised murder two days after President John F. Kennedy was killed, according to a new book on the case, Oswald Talked: The New Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination.

Among the revelations: Oswald knew his own killer, Jack Ruby.

According to the book and documents now available from the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, Elrod was Oswald’s Dallas cellmate between the time the accused assassin was arrested and the time Oswald was shot to death by strip-club owner Ruby while being taken down to the garage of the Dallas County jail.

The book indicates Oswald was probably an FBI informant who’d infiltrated a Cuban exile group that was buying stolen guns in Texas. According to Elrod, Oswald said Ruby was part of the gunrunning ring, as was another man paraded before the jail cell bars for Oswald to identify, authors Mary and Ray LaFontaine say in their book.

A Dallas police report released to The Commercial Appeal under the Freedom of Information Act says Elrod was arrested Nov. 22, 1963 – the day Kennedy was killed – at 2:45 p.m. “on railroad tracks a few minutes after a radio call was dispatched that [a] man was walking along railroad carrying a rifle. This man was not carrying a rifle at time of arrest.” He was charged with “Inv. murder and Co. Vag.,” apparently investigation of murder and violation of the county vagrancy law.

He was released days later and left town. What he heard Oswald say in jail about Ruby and the gunrunners is the subject of the book that stars Gilless in a cameo role.

Gilless’s original reaction to hearing of his involvement in the controversy was to say the Elrod incident never occurred.

“None of it’s true,” he said in a telephone interview Oct. 16. “I’ve heard from several people who read that book and asked me about it but I can assure you none of that happened.”

But shown the documents from the National Archives last week, Gilless acknowledged his signature on an urgent letter to J. Edgar Hoover, then the FBI director.

“Apparently I had some contact with him (Elrod) because I wrote this letter and signed it,” he said. “But in those days I processed many, many people through this jail.”

Gilless’s letter to Hoover was itself unusual, Gilless says:

“I wrote that letter apparently directly to Hoover, and I don’t know why I did that, rather than call the local office. I don’t know why I don’t remember that.”

Gilless’s letter to Hoover reads in part: “This subject walked into our office at approximately 12:30 a.m. this date and stated he had information concerning the murder of Lee Oswalt (sic). He had with him a travel bag which contained a sawed- off shot gun. The local office of the FBI has been informed of this subject and stated they would conduct an investigation. Please wire reply collect. Yours truly, Alton C. Gilless Jr.”

Hoover did reply, in a memo dated Aug. 12 and corrected by a different typewriter to read Aug. 13. The director wrote simply that Elrod had a rap sheet with the FBI but was not wanted.

The FBI’s local office also was involved in talking to Elrod. In another National Archives document, Special Agent Joseph M. Brewi writes to an unidentified “SAC” or special agent in charge that Shelby County Sheriff’s Capt. R. G. McEllroy called him about Elrod. McEllroy died in 1982.

“(Elrod) claimed he had information re the death of Oswald and wanted to get it off his chest. McEllroy added that Elrod was sober and he, McEllroy, thought Elrod may have some information of value,” Brewi wrote.

The LaFontaines, Dallas-based journalists who found and identified the suspicious “three tramps” photographed walking in police custody shortly after the Kennedy assassination, say they, too, are surprised Gilless can’t recall the Elrod interview.

The couples say Elrod, now 64, fears for his life, doesn’t have a phone and doesn’t want to talk about the incident. They interviewed him on an island in the Mississippi River north of Memphis but won’t say whether he’s still there. By agreement, they won’t reveal his whereabouts.

This information can be found at:



How was John Franklin Elrod involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination investigation? 11 AUG 1964

Memphis, Tennessee FBI report dated 8/11/64 that describes their interview with Elrod, almost 10 months after the assassination.

August 11, 1964

JOHN FRANKLIN ELROD, an inmate of the Shelby County, Tennessee, Jail, as of August 11, 1964, furnished the following information:

ELROD currently lives at Memphis, Tennessee, and has been staying at the Harbor House, Memphis, prior to the time of his arrest for which he was placed in jail on August 11, 1964. The Harbor House, 1369 Court Avenue, Memphis, is a home for alcoholics, and ELROD stated that he, himself, is an alcoholic.

ELROD had come to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office during the early morning hours of August 11, 1964, after having consumed some beer and vodka. He was at that time in possession of a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun which had a pistol grip. He stated that he had begun to think of the possibilities of killing his wife from whom he is now separated. Inasmuch as he had the sawed-off shotgun and the desire to kill her was known to him, he decided he should come to the Sheriff’s Office and talk, which he did.

He further advised that he had been somewhat troubled by events which occurred immediately following the assassination of President JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY at Dallas, Texas, on November 11, [sic] 1963.

Shortly after the assassination of the President, ELROD, who had been about two and one half miles from the scene of the assassination at Lemon and Oaklawn Streets in Dallas, was arrested by the Dallas Police Department and placed in the City Jail. His arrest had nothing to do with the assassination of the President. At the City Jail in Dallas, he was placed in Cell 10 on the fifth floor, and at that time his cellmate was a man whose identity he could not recall. An individual, whose face was smashed up, was brought into the hallway of the jail where ELROD and his cellmate could observe him. At that time the unknown cellmate made some mention that he had known this man with the injured face as a result of meeting him at a hotel. The cellmate stated that five men had met at a motel, and they had been advanced some money under some type of contract. One of these men was reported to have received $5,000. The man with the injured face had received some money, and he was reported to have been driving a Thunderbird automobile with a large quantity of guns contained therein. ELROD advised he was confined in Dallas City Jail for a period of 72 hours, and he was confused at this time concerning the events which occurred. He stated he could not recall whether JACK RUBY’s name had been mentioned prior to the time of the killing of LEE HARVEY OSWALD, but that this cellmate at some time had told him that one of the men who had been at the motel referred to above, name and location unknown, had been JACK RUBY. This was all the information which ELROD could recall.

He stated that on several occasions he has had difficulty remembering due to his extreme use of alcohol. He knew nothing concerning the assassination of the President, the involvement of JACK RUBY in the killing of LEE HARVEY OSWALD, or of any information concerning the possibility of the receipt of money by JACK RUBY, except the hearsay information he had received from his unknown cellmate.

ELROD is described as follows:
Race white
Sex male
Date of Birth November 12, 1932
Place of Birth Bassett, Arkansas
Height 5’11 1/2″
Weight 180 lbs.
Complexion medium
Occupation cook
Wife JACKIE PAT ELROD nee Richards,
2816 Morris, Dallas, Texas
Father HOBSON ELROD, Bassett, Arkansas
Scars and marks one and one-half inch cut scar on forehead; little finger, left hand, off at first joint; left arm is undersized.

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