Proof of LBJ's Genius in the Art of People Manipulation

President Lyndon B. Johnson was famous for how he groomed certain subordinates for specially-created positions that enabled him to use them for his future advantage.  As an example, when he was a congressman, one of his assistants, Horace Busby, stated that Johnson had once sulked for days about something and finally his top aide, John Connally, asked him what was “eating on him.”  Johnson responded that he had observed that the most effective congressmen:

” . . . always have some little fellow in their office who sits back in a corner. He doesn’t have to have any personality, doesn’t have to know how to dress, usually they don’t have their tie tied right, a button off their shirt–typical Johnson, running on at this–nicotine stains on their fingers, no coat, all like that. But they sit back in the corner, they don’t meet any of the people that come in the office. They read and they think and they come up with new ideas, and they make the fellow smart. I’ve never had one of those, and I want one.” [i]

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By the time he became president, Johnson filled a similar position with a man who he referred to as his “in-house intellectual,” John P. Roche.  There were many other such examples, one of which produced manifold benefits for over four decades, occurred in 1966, when he arranged with Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman to appoint Jack Valenti as the “Guardian at the Gate” to ensure that no movies (or any other future form of electronic media) would ever be produced that might reveal Lyndon Johnson’s most innermost secrets.

The First “Pay-back” Incident: Valenti Swings Into Action

In 1968-69 an incident occurred which was one of the first (but not nearly the last) major instances of the dividend “pay-back” for this ingenious maneuver to keep his future “legacy” intact. There would be many more in the following decades, leading up to the monumental effort in 2003-04 when Valenti — joined by Lady Bird Johnson, Bill Moyers, ex-Presidents Jerry Ford, and Jimmy Carter — forced the History Channel to suspend broadcasts of the extended series of “The Men Who Killed Kennedy,” including:

  • Episode 7: “The Smoking Guns,”
  • Episode 8: “The Love Affair” and
  • Episode 9: “The Guilty Men.”

But that first example was one that Johnson evidently personally invoked during his last year in office, in 1968.  It started when his second cousin, Jay Bert Peck, did some things that, apparently, greatly embarrassed Johnson.  As often happened when someone did something to embarrass LBJ, Mr. Peck died shortly after this, in his case by being shot in his own house by an intruder.

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According to LBJ’s partner-in-crime, Billie Sol Estes (who was considered credible by the impeccably credentialed Texas Ranger — later U.S. Marshal — Clint Peoples), Johnson had Peck “stand in” for him on several occasions, including the evening of November 21, 1963, so he could go to Clint Murchison’s party at which the final “go” nod for the assassination would be given by LBJ.  He knew that Peck would only make a brief appearance at the hotel in Fort Worth to throw off reporters as to his whereabouts. The reports that Johnson was seen that evening in the main dining room and lobby of the hotel could be explained by this device, considering that there were no indications that he spoke to any group or even to anyone in particular that evening.   The following article, which validates the point about J. Bert Peck’s known role as an “LBJ Stand-in,” appeared in the “People” section of Time magazine, in the edition dated August 2, 1968:

Dean Martin and Elke Sommer have locked up star billing . . . in Columbia’s new Matt Helm thriller. Yet one supporting role is sure to set the audience buzzing. That’s when an aide informs the President that thieves have made off with $1 billion in gold bullion. And there’s old L.B.J. listening to the bad news. Old who? Well, it’s not quite the boss himself, folks. It’s his cousin. To play the President, Central Casting tapped J. B. Peck, 66, retired  [ Dallas County deputy] sheriff of Garland, Texas, and L.B.J.’s somewhat look-alike first cousin (Sic – Second Cousin). It’s just a flash of his pan, and J.B. got a kick out of it all.

And the following excerpt came from an article in “Newsweek” magazine dated August 5, 1968:

“It was a tossup as to who revealed the more fascinating profile when they posed together – actress Elke Sommer or a tall Texan who is making his movie debut with Elke and Dean Martin in ‘The Wrecking Crew’. The neophyte looks uncannily like LYNDON JOHNSON and is cast in a brief $1,000 role as an unnamed President of the United States.  He plays just one scene, swiveling from back to front in a Presidential chair to jolt the audience with his seemingly familiar features.  Who is he? A Dallas night watchman and sometime songwriter (“Pedernales River”) named J. B. Peck, 66, that’s who.  “My mother was a Johnson and I’m Lyndon’s second cousin,” he said, but the relationship was news to the White House.”(emphasis added).

Before the movie was released, a revision was made so that only the rear of his head was shown (i.e. the part of the sentence from this magazine article, “swiveling from back to front” is no longer true).  You can view this video (what remains of it anyway) for yourself on the internet at “www.DailyMotion.com.”

Billie Sol Estes stated that Johnson had become paranoid about Peck’s ability to keep quiet as a result of this publicity, and that was what caused him to order his murder.  All of which begs the questions, “Who would have had the power to delete that footage, and change the movie description to delete all references to the ‘presidential’ scenes and change the credits to list only ‘J. B. Pick’ (instead of ‘Peck’) and, instead of listing his character name (LBJ), it is only listed as “uncredited.”  One must carefully ponder this question and consider the implications, as part of this exercise in deductive reasoning:  Is it possible that LBJ picked up the telephone and called Jack Valenti one day in August 1968 and asked (or, more likely, ordered) him to have those changes made to the movie?  If not, how then did these obviously telling yet otherwise innocuous set of changes get made, and by whose order?

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To better understand the implications of all of this, one need only ponder these points: “WHY did all of this make LBJ so nervous?  Was he afraid that knowledge of his cousin’s sideline of acting as Johnson’s double might cause future researchers-cum-historians (i.e. those who endeavor to report real history instead of repeating LBJ-planted myths) to discover more of his secrets that might unravel the real truths of JFK’s assassination?”  And then ask yourself this question: Who else, other than Jack Valenti, LBJ’s appointed Hollywood watchdog, might have had the power to do these things?   The only realistic answer to that question is:  “No one.”

The 1969 Murder of Lyndon Johnson’s Cousin Jay Bert Peck

A few months later, his cousin J. B. Peck was murdered (according to researchers who have studied the numerous anomalies related to his death).  I have presented compelling circumstantial evidence that this is one of several such crimes committed by the murderous mortician John Liggett  (though Liggett was never charged because Peck’s death was ruled a “suicide”).  But it is not speculative whatsoever that, three years after that, Liggett returned to the same house and tried to kill Peck’s wife; unfortunately for him, she survived and reported the attack, and the attacker, to police.  After he was arrested, Liggett was given the keys to his handcuffs while being transferred to a court for a hearing and of course he attempted to escape; as if “on queue” he was quickly shot in the back and killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

Much, much more detailed information about this and other related stories are contained in my book “LBJ: From Mastermind to The Colossus“.  To order a signed copy of this book  send an email to: LBJ.Colossus@Outlook.com.

[i] Busby, Horace, Oral History Interview I, April 23, 1981, by Michael L. Gillette [Transcript], Internet copy, LBJ

Library. http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/oralhistory.hom/BusbyH/Busby1.pdf