Two hundred friends and admirers of the late civic activist and historical researcher John P. Judge fostered his legacy during a memorial service May 31 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D), a next door neighbor and close friend, described Judge as an extraordinary truth-seeker in the spirit of the ancient Diogenes. Kucinich continued, “What better place for it than Washington, DC — the capital of smoke and mirrors?”
Kucinich, 67, was a longtime member of the House until 2013 who said he often benefited from Judge’s insights about why American democracy and the economy have deteriorated in recent decades. Kucinich said he intends to keep hundreds of emails from Judge on current and historic events. “One day, they’ll be put to good use.”
Other eloquent tributes followed. Judge died April 15 at age 66 following a stroke two months previously.
Speakers portrayed, sometimes using music or photos, how the Washington-reared only son of two doting Department of Defense employees embarked on a lifelong quest to explore the nation’s “hidden history.” The search began during his days as a student at University of Dayton beginning in 1965, just as the Vietnam War was ratcheting up.
Judge’s late mother had been a Pentagon specialist in planning to fulfill the nation’s personnel needs via the draft. One of Judge’s disclosures was that his mother, Mary Cooley Judge, was instructed just three days after Kennedy assassination to revise upward the Pentagon’s personnel needs for the Vietnam War-era draft under incoming President Lyndon Johnson.
In a 1992 speech at American University cable cast on C-SPAN’s “JFK: Cinema as History,” Judge recalled, “They [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] told her on Nov. 25, 1963 that the war in Vietnam would last for 10 years and that 57,000 Americans would die, and to figure that in.”
Judge’s major effort of recent years was leading the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), which showcased serious alternatives to official accounts of the JFK assassination and such other notable deaths during the 1960s as those of Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Judge presided at COPA’s 20th annual conference last November in Dallas, which I attended for three days along with 300 other researchers. The focus was on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. The program’s title was “50 Years is Enough! Free the Files, Find the Truth.”
The conference featured medical, security, investigative and other experts challenging various aspects of the 1964 Warren Commission Report. In its 1964 report that closely tracked immediate announcements after the death, the commissioners blamed the killing on Lee Harvey Oswald. The report claimed that Oswald acted alone and fired all shots from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository Building.
The book building is the one at left of my photo of Dealey Plaza, shot during the conference. The Warren Commission stated that Oswald was in the square window at the building’s far right, second from the top. The light-colored car in the middle lane is in the approximate location of the JFK limo when the president was fatally hit.
Other experts and witnesses believe shots were fired from at least one other location, and perhaps several others that include the locale from behind a picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll in the photo at left.
The fence is still in place, as indicated in the other photo. As indicated, an unknown person or persons has repeatedly and surreptitiously painted a cross on the street to mark the limo’s locale when the fatal bullet struck. In the spirit of the “Out damned spot” scene in MacBeth, Dallas authorities have kept obliterating the mark.
Judge’s best estimate, he has told interviewers, was the Joint Chiefs of Staff played a role in organizing the JFK killing and a cover-up. “I don’t think this is an insoluble parlor mystery,” he once told the Dallas Morning News.
Speakers at the memorial included David Ratcliffe, who authored a book on special operations during the Vietnam War. It drew on the insights of retired Air Force Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, Defense Department Chief of Special Operations and liaison to the CIA during the Kennedy administration.
Before his death in 2001, Prouty provided his views in two books, The Secret Team (1973) and JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy (1996). In the latter, Prouty provided many specifics in arguing that the CIA was instrumental in planning the JFK assassination and a cover-up on behalf of elite figures who benefited from $6 trillion in war spending between 1945 and the subsequent half century. Prouty wrote that Kennedy had intended to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam, smash the CIA “into a thousand pieces” in actions that the military-industrial complex would not tolerate. Prouty argued that Oswald was a “patsy” framed in advance to avoid investigation of the real killers, and that all presidents after JFK have learned, just like the Warren Commission and the media, to go along with the agenda’s of what Prouty called the nation’s elite, also known as a “High Cabal” or “Secret Team.”
As described by Ratcliffe, Judge’s work ranged across many cutting-edge issues. In 1985, he co-founded CHOICES, a group countering military recruitment in DC-area high schools. He and his colleagues counseled students on their options in the military and elsewhere.
As an aide to Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, he helped her prepare articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush for, among other things, initiating war against Iraq under the false claim that Iraq had been developing weapons of mass destruction. She introduced the articles in December 2006.
“A conversation with John,” his friend Joseph Green recalled, “was like talking to the best and most entertaining professor you ever had.” Others described Judge as optimistic and joyful even in seeking to illuminate dark deeds with slender finances because “he rarely sought or received” compensation for his public interest work.
At the time of his death, John Judge was working to create a Hidden History Library and Research Center. He intended to preserve his collection of thousands of books and documents and to educate a new generation. According to his bio, “He hoped to support the work of investigative researchers looking into the National Security State, the rise of secrecy, threats to civil liberties, government plans for extra-Constitutional jurisdiction during emergencies, and the ever-increasing power of the military industrial complex.”
His companion and other friends are currently sorting through their best options to achieve those results.
The spirit of the memorial was captured by Judge’s friend Patrick Elder, a longtime colleague in the peace movement.
“We’ve lost John Judge!” Elder said he heard last April.
In reflecting on a powerful life’s work and an inspirational memorial, Elder told the audience a better view is, “We haven’t lost him. We’re just finding him. Have you ever felt John more alive?!”