Testimony of David Murrah

Dallas, Texas -- November 18, 1994 Hearing
MR. MARWELL: Is Dr. Murrah here?

MR. MURRAH: My name is David Murrah. I am an Associate Director of Libraries and Director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Good morning, Dr. Murrah.

MR. MURRAH: Mr. Chairman and others, I appreciate the opportunity to tell you about the Kennedy assassination materials housed at the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University. The Southwest Collection is a major historical repository for the American Southwest, and within that capacity the repository has received over a number of years donations of personal papers and other materials from former Texas Attorney General and Texas Tech Alumnus Waggoner Carr.

As you probably know, Mr. Carr served as Attorney General of Texas from 1963 to 1967. Shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy Mr. Carr began his own investigation but subsequently acquiesced to Federal authorities as well as the Warren Commission and became liaison to the Warren Commission. In that capacity, Mr. Carr acquired copies of relevant documents from a number of sources, including the Dallas Police files and Dallas County Sheriff Bill Decker's report.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Commission's work, in June of 1967, Mr. Carr sent copies of this material, which comprised about 2,500 items, to the Southwest Collection for inclusion with other papers and material that he had already donated. This material was inventoried by staff within months of its receipt, and consequently was made available to the public and has been available to the public for nearly three decades. I have furnished to you a copy of that inventory from our files as Attachment A to my prepared remarks.

However, to the best of my knowledge, the collection received very little use until the release of the Oliver Stone move JFK in late 1991. It is also my understanding that Mr. Carr furnished the same set of materials to other universities in the State, but I cannot confirm that other than through hearsay know that the University of Texas and perhaps Texas A&M and another university or two received the same set of materials.

In 1988, Mr. Carr made another large donation of his personal and political papers which also included another set of the Kennedy assassination materials, also photocopies as was the first donation. Much of this donation duplicated the 1967 material, and I have furnished to you a portion of that inventory as well.

Other items in this particular donation were original materials and included letters written to Carr during his involvement in the investigation as well as notes taken by Carr and his assistant Robert Davis during witness interrogations and news clippings dating from the 1960s through the late 1970s.

In July 1991, the Southwest Collection listed the Carr papers online through the OCLC bibliographic utility which links 13,000 libraries around the world. This listing carried computer searchable subject headings such as the John F. Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and J.D. Tippit. Yet to the best of my knowledge this wide dissemination to the scholarly community produced no inquiries from the public at large.

Extensive use of the Carr papers by assassination researchers did not occur until the release of the movie JFK and the publication of a story in the February 6, 1992, issue of the Dallas Observer which called attention to Texas Tech's possession of the Waggoner Carr papers. Southwest Collection was soon besieged by assassination researchers as well as the curious general public.

In the interest of security and conservation, the Southwest Collection then microfilmed every document from the Carr papers pertaining to the assassination. Great care was taken to compare the two sets of assassination materials in order to eliminate duplication and to create as complete a set as possible and I furnish to you Attachment D which is an inventory of the microfilm set. It is our policy to sell copies of that microfilm on request. To date we have had no requests for the film.

I have also attached representative pages from the Carr papers which are examples of the various kinds of materials that are included there. The Southwest Collection also holds material which pertains to the assassination in the papers of the late former Congressman George H. Mahan, and in the papers of Dallas broadcaster Gordon McClendon. I might add, Mr. Mahan was in, I believe, the fourth car behind the President's vehicle during the parade, and he promptly recorded his memories of that and we have those original comments within his papers. In the McClendon papers are the broadcast of radio station KLIF as they were recorded as the radio station covered the events at that time.

In addition, the Southwest Collection has done extensive oral history interviews with Waggoner Carr pertaining to the assassination.

After the initial flurry of interest shortly after the release of the movie, user interest has declined sharply. But one researcher did call me from out-of-state to inquire about the materials, and in the conversation he had mentioned that he had written six books on the Kennedy assassination. I responded, that's great, and I proceeded to tell them that we had put on microfilm the papers that we had in case that he wanted to acquire the reels. His response was as follows, that is good to know but I hate to ask a dumb question, but what is microfilm. Well, in summary, the Kennedy assassination materials housed at Texas Tech have been available to the public for at least 26 years and yet until the JFK movie was released little use was made of them.

I would suggest to you that careful and meticulous scholars would have and should have utilized this material years ago. Careful and meticulous scholars do not have to be told the definition of microfilm.

I would also add that Texas Tech University would be pleased to furnish to this Board the microfilm copy of this assassination material that we hold and will do so upon your request.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share with you about what we have.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Dr. Murrah.

Are there questions?

Mr. Joyce?

MR. JOYCE: David, are any of the collections in your repository closed in any way and unavailable for research?

MR. MURRAH: None of these materials are closed. We do have restricted collections but none pertain at all to the assassination.

MR. JOYCE: And are you aware of any additional material that might be related to these collections that is still in private hands?

MR. MURRAH: I am not personally, no.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you.

DR. NELSON: What percentage of your documents are originals? That is, there is only one copy and it is in your collection, would you say? You mentioned some correspondence in here. Are there a lot of original documentation?

MR. MURRAH: Well, of the -- most of the material is photocopied and is not original to us. The only things that are original are the things that were created as part of the personal papers of Waggoner Carr, including his diary, relative correspondence, and the inquiries, and so forth, and as well as his own notes within the Waggoner Carr papers.

Within the Mahan papers, it is all original material, yes, ma'am.

DR. NELSON: If some of his personal papers are there and they are original, obviously that is valuable. I was just curious to know how much of it was.

MR. MURRAH: In regards to the whole of what we have, only a small percent is original. Yes, ma'am.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Dr. Murrah, I have just a couple of points. What is the total volume of documents or pages that the university has that are relevant to the assassination?

MR. MURRAH: I would refer you to Item B2 in the material I have, if you have that before you, the attachments to my remarks. I am sorry, let me back up and refer you to Item A2 -- A1, the inventory for the 1967 donation, 2,479 items which are listed there, and then the 1988 donation, there are 6,190 items. So we received about two-thirds more material there within the second donation that was not within the first, that is material pertaining directly to the Kennedy assassination, out of a total donation of 55,000 items which represent other Waggoner Carr personal papers.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: I noticed in the materials, the Carr papers, a reference to autopsy reports. The autopsy records related to President Kennedy are exempt from the Act. They are in the collection of the National Archives that is closed. What kinds of materials are included in this referenced autopsy reports, do you recall?

MR. MURRAH: It has been a while since I looked at that. The one item that I do remember is the medical report that was filled out at the time of the autopsy. It is only a guess on my part, but this very well may be copies of material that otherwise has been restricted at other places.

DR. HALL: But it is material that is open in your --

MR. MURRAH: But it has always been open in our place. We received no instructions whatsoever at the time of donation that it was to be restricted at all.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: We may follow-up with you on that.

MR. MURRAH: Any further questions?

DR. GRAFF: I would just like to inquire, you said the interest picked up after the movie JFK.

MR. MURRAH: Yes, sir.

DR. GRAFF: Has that continued steady or has there been some decline, can you tell us?

MR. MURRAH: It was very steady for about three months. I examined our use records, and we had approximately 90 individuals who made use of that collection shortly after the release of the movie. No, after about three months it fell off quite rapidly, and I would say over the last year-and-a-half or so we have had no more than two or three inquiries to use the collection.

DR. GRAFF: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Dr. Murrah. This type of information is exactly what we are looking for and we appreciate you being with us today.

DR. MURRAH: Thank you.

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