Testimony of R. L. Adams

The testimony of R. L. Adams was taken at 1:55 p.m.. on April 1, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Albert E. Jenner, Jr., assistant counsel of the President's Commission. Robert T. Davis, Assistant Attorney General of Texas, was present.

Mr. JENNER - Mr. Adams, would you rise and be sworn, please?
Mr. ADAMS - Surely.
Mr. JENNER - Do you solemnly swear in the testimony which you are about to give on deposition that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Mr. ADAMS - I do.
Mr. JENNER - For the record, I am Albert E. Jenner, Jr., one of the members of the legal staff on the President's Commission, which, as I believe you know, was authorized to be created by Senate Joint Resolution 137, and President Johnson added to that legislative authority by an Executive Order 11130 appointing the Commission and fixed its powers and duties. In general its duties are directed towards investigating all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic event of November 22, 1963, the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
This has brought us as members of the staff and the Commission itself to inquire into a rather wide range of circumstances, including running down a lot of things that have arisen by way of rumor and otherwise, to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
One of the people towards whom our particular inquiries have been directed is Lee Harvey Oswald, and we have testimony from a host of people who had some contact with him during his lifetime.
The particular assignment of our division, Mr. Liebeler and I and others helping us, is of Mr. Oswald's life from the day he came on this earth until his death on the 24th of November 1963.
If I may ask you some questions--I understand you had some contact with him or in your official capacity in the Texas Employment Commission, you in turn have people under your supervision and direction at least who had contact with him?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir.
Mr. JENNER - You are Mr. R. L. Adams of the Texas Employment Commission, and is that located at 1025 Elm Street?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir.
Mr. JENNER - If you would, would you state your official position with the Texas Employment Commission, please?
Mr. ADAMS - I am employed as a placement interviewer.
Mr. JENNER - And do you have persons under your supervision and direction?
Mr. ADAMS - No; I do not.
Mr. JENNER - Tell me what is the Texas Employment Commission?
Mr. ADAMS - The Texas Employment Commission is the Texas version of the Federal-State Employment Service. As such, it is operated and jointly federal-state funded, and seeks to assist those people who are unemployed primarily through finding employment for them and in the event that we are unable to do so, to provide them with unemployment compensation for such time as they may be eligible.
Mr. JENNER - I happen to be an Illinoian myself. I practice law in Chicago--it's tied in with the Unemployment Compensation Commission?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir.
Mr. JENNER - And those who had suffered unemployment seek the assistance of the Texas Employment Commission to obtain for them new employment?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir.
Mr. JENNER - How does that operate, do you--do the employers register with you or they call you up--I would like to have you give me a normal operation so that we can compare that background on normalcy against what might have occurred with respect to Lee Harvey Oswald.
Mr. ADAMS - Normally, employers in all categories of business and industry will use many avenues to obtain suitable employees. One of them, hopefully used by most of them, is the Texas Employment Commission.
Mr. JENNER - I said to you that my impression from the depositions we have taken is that your commission does have and is held in reasonably high regard by employers and the ones I have interviewed have indicated that they may resort to the commission rather frequently.
Mr. ADAMS - I am delighted to hear it. It is a selling job--this is not your main thing, but ,because it is a State-Federal organization, it has been subjected to a lot of unpleasant publicity which was formerly known as the Texas Unemployment Commission, which did nothing to enhance it.
I worked on the street for a while calling on businesses and more often than not I ran into people who were very dissatisfied with the commission because of previous poor service, or alleged poor service, and in the time that I have been with the commission, 2 years, I think we have striven to improve the quality of service, both to employers and to applicants and so employers do call us. Some of them have standing orders with us. Some of them use us once and they don't get what they want and that's the last we hear from them, but by the same token we hope that all people unemployed would come to us in the course of their efforts to find jobs. I think many people mistakenly assume that TEC exists to find them jobs. This is not true. TEC exists to help them find jobs and in the course of their job seeking, they, I suspect 75 percent of them, will register with TEC and with other agencies.
Mr. JENNER - Other like agencies or private employment agencies?
Mr. ADAMS - Private agencies and, of course, we have the continuing battle of the public versus private activities.
Mr. JENNER - The scope of employment, that is the work, is of great variety, is it, the jobs that are being served?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes; all the way from laborers up through doctors of philosophy in varying fields.
Mr. JENNER. Do you ever seek, for example, let's use a hypothetical day--you mention a doctor of philosophy--let's say he had a Ph.D. in geology, and he came to the commission. You do not have at the moment, let us say, with respect to this hypothetical Ph.D., an inquiry from a prospective employer. Do you mean that the TEC would in that kind of an incident--a man of quite high education, would you seek a position for him by calling possible employers?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes; we would do this and we refer to it either as job development or the projection of a highly qualified applicant to selected employers who might be in need of such a man.
Mr. JENNER - When did you become employed by or connected with the TEC, as you call it?
Mr. ADAMS - Well, I retired from the United States Air Force in January of 1960, and attempted to be a salesman for about a year and thereby losing my hat and shirt, and I decided I had misused the talents that I had mastered in the service and returned to Government service.
Mr. JENNER - That was when?
Mr. ADAMS - I joined TEC on March 9, 1962.
Mr. JENNER - Are you a native of this area?
Mr. ADAMS - No, I am a Chicagoan.
Mr. JENNER - You are so am I. I think I mentioned that. How old are you?
Mr. ADAMS - I am 47, sir.
Mr. JENNER - Was there an occasion when in your position with TEC you had some contact with Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes.
Mr. JENNER - Would you relate that and give all the circumstances as you now recall, in the chronology that you recall?
Mr. ADAMS - I can't, except that my memory was refreshed by my office manager subsequent to the events of November 22.
Mr. JENNER - Having refreshed your recollection, do you now have a recollection?
Mr. ADAMS - Vaguely.
Mr. JENNER - Well, give us your best recollection--your best present recollection of this event and relate it.
Mr. ADAMS - At the time that I--in September, ,beginning the second week in September of 1963, I was brought in from employment service representative duties, which is going out and calling on businesses to gain some experience on a placement desk.
After I had been there, well, when November the 22d rolled around and a couple of months--when this happened, the following Monday morning when I came to work, I said, "I'll bet that boy is in my flies."
I went to check and I couldn't find any record of it and the office manager said, "What are you looking for?" And I said, "You know what I am looking for." And he said, "I've found it."
Mr. JENNER - Who is the office manager?
Mr. ADAMS - Mr. A. K. Sayre [spelling] S-a-y-r-e.
Mr. JENNER - Is he still with the TEC?
Mr. ADAMS - He is still the office manager--yes, sir.
Mr. JENNER - By the way, then, is there a lady there by the name of Louise Lath am?
Mr. ADAMS - She resigned from the Texas Employment Commission effective yesterday, but she lives in the local area.
Mr. JENNER - That is Mrs. Louise Latham?
Mr ADAMS. Yes; but in any event, I was concerned, quite frankly, that I might have referred him on a job, Mr. Oswald, on a job with the Texas Depository and my office manager assured me that I had not, but he said, "You did talk to him several times, what do you remember about it?" "Did I make any written comments, good or bad about him?" And he said, "No, you didn't." And I said, "Then my only recollection about him was he was a nonentity, just another applicant who was neither outstanding or, I mean-- inadequate."
Mr. JENNER - He made no impression on you?
Mr. ADAMS - No.
Mr. JENNER - What kind of records are kept with respect to job applicants, those who are seeking positions, and they are placed or not placed, what kind of record would I expect to find if I looked?
Mr. ADAMS - Well, there are several--one a Lindex strip is at the receptionist which purportedly has a listing of all of the applicants who are currently registered. with our office. Then, for each applicant there are one or more application cards covering a primary code, an occupational code which is that code in which we feel he is best qualified, the additional cards being for secondary codes for other jobs for which he might be qualified for or which he may have performed in the past, so that there would be one or more application cards, a Lindex strip, and the counselling records if the individual had been counseled.
Mr. JENNER - Now, assuming Mrs. Latham assisted Lee Oswald in obtaining a position, a record of some kind--some kind of a recordation of that fact would be made?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, on the application---on the individual's application card, the face gives essential information as to names, address, telephone number, birthdate, height, weight, education, the job code to which he has been assigned, the high school from which he graduated, the college which he attended and/or which he graduated, special skills which he may possess in the use of business machines, and any hobbies which might be job oriented, such as skin diving and things of that sort, and the back side shows the jobs the individual has held, beginning with the most recent and going back to the most significant job he has held.
Inside the folded card, one-half of the upper half is for comments concerning availability of public or private transportation, the minimum salary the individual is willing to accept, any restrictions or qualifications the individual may place on employment.
The other half of the upper portion indicates whether or not the individual has been counseled. It may include pertinent information such as the individual has been under psychiatric care, has a police record, anything which might be necessary in discussing this individual intelligently with an employer.
The bottom haft lists the referrals-or attempted referrals of this individual for employment.
Each time an attempt is made to contact the individual, an entry will be made indicating the date when the contact is attempted, the method, that is, whether by telephone, by telephone message or by mail, the date on which he was referred, if he was referred, or if he was not referred, whether he refused the job or whether he was found not qualified; if he was referred, whether or not he was hired; if he was a claimant, whether or not--if he rejected the job--that information was sent to the claims office indicating that he had rejected employment or rejected an offer of employment, anything pertaining to this particular job offer is shown on a given line or lines, as it might be.
Mr. JENNER - And are they now in the possession of TEC, records of that character relating to Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. ADAMS - I don't know from my own knowledge, sir.
Mr. JENNER - Would Mr. Sayre know that?
Mr. ADAMS - It is my belief that these records are in the hands of the FBI or Secret Service, but he would know.
Mr. JENNER - Were photostatic copies made, do you know?
Mr. ADAMS - That, I don't know, sir. Apparently, I did talk to him on the phone several times, because the card indicates that I had done so and I do not recall.
Mr. JENNER - Well, do you recall when you were interviewed by Mr. Odum of the FBI on the 27th of November 1963?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir.
Mr. JENNER - At that time you appeared to have a recollection of a telephone call from Oswald on October 8, in response to a message of your own of October 7, 1963. Do you recall that incident?
Mr. ADAMS - No, sir; I couldn't say that I positively do. If the record says I did, I did.
Mr. JENNER - Then, I take it, that a record of the transaction was made?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes.
Mr. JENNER - If it occurred?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes.
Mr. JENNER. And you have no recollection independent of that record?
Mr. ADAMS - No, sir--if I might clarify that, sir, by saying that in the case of an applicant with whom one has repeated dealings,. whether good or bad, these would stick. Otherwise, one talks to anywhere to 10 to 30 applicants a day, day in and day out, personally and by telephone and with the exception of those' applicants with whom I have had extensive dealings either because they are problem cases or because they are really outstanding good applicants, I don't remember that. If confronted by one, I could be able to say, "Yes; I have talked to that man," but otherwise I couldn't.
Mr. JENNER - You apparently indicated to Mr. Odum, a reference on your part on October 8, to Solid State Electronics Co. of Texas, do you recall referring him to the Solid State Electronics Co. on or about the 8th of October 1963?
Mr. ADAMS - I can recall having had that order because it was unusual in the sense. that I had not dealt with an order of that type before from a company engaged in the sale of electronics parts who wanted an individual who had had some knowledge of electronics or electronics parts. Presumably, if I referred to--Mr. Oswald, it was because his military or civilian background indicated he had had training in this field.
Mr. JENNER - Do you recall any more about that incident?
Mr. ADAMS - No; I can't say I do, sir.
Mr. JENNER - Do you recall what the nature of the job was?
Mr. ADAMS - As best I can recall, it was where it was loosely what we called a parts counterman.
Mr. JENNER - Parts counterman?
Mr. ADAMS - A sales clerk.
Mr. JENNER - A sales clerk?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes; in sales.
Mr. JENNER - Do you recall what the salary was?
Mr. ADAMS - It seems to me it was quite good for the Dallas area. I would guess it was in the neighborhood of in excess of $75 a week, it seems.
Mr. JENNER - I take it that that reference was made to Oswald then by telephone rather than his coming into your office?
Mr. ADAMS - My policy as a placement interviewer, sir, is this: If I have once met an applicant and then there is not a long lapse until such time as I have an opening to discuss with him, or on which to refer him, I will refer him by telephone if I think he is otherwise qualified.
Mr. JENNER - Do you recall his coming into the office the 8th or the 9th of October?
Mr. ADAMS - I couldn't honestly say that I do; no, sir.
Mr. JENNER - Would this registration card have some entry in that respect, if he came in?
Mr. ADAMS - Well, possibly. The policy in our office is that each month an individual should be contacted either by phone or in person. If a person is contacted more than once, either by phone or in person, only the initial date for that month is shown. It is repetitive and takes up a lot of unnecessary space.
Mr. JENNER - Does Burton-Dixie Co. awaken or refresh your recollection in this connection?
Mr. ADAMS - Only to the extent that they are one of the employers with whom I have dealt.
Mr. JENNER - Yes?
Mr. ADAMS - And, in making these referrals, I have found in my short time with the Commission that it is not too wise to be bound entirely by the employer's stated requirements. I can best explain this by saying that as recently as yesterday I referred a young man on an order which I had had for a week and on which I had made prior referrals of individuals who, in my opinion, were at least as well-qualified and certainly made a better appearance and yet this last individual was the man who was hired. So, when I first determined this, I decided that I would not certainly make wholesale referrals without regard to the employer's requirements, but on the other hand, in any case where I thought the individual was such that the employer might see in him something that I did not see, I wouldn't take a chance. I would refer him if I felt he met any or many of the employer's basic requirements.
Mr. JENNER - Do you recall any incidents of any others in the agency who sought to assist Oswald, of which you have any knowledge?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir; subsequent to these incidents, I am aware that other people in the Commission had talked to Mr. Oswald prior to November 22d.
Mr. JENNER - But what you have stated is the extent of your contact with him?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir; to the best of my knowledge.
Mr. JENNER - I take it, and am I correct, that he was not employed or hired by the Solid State Electronics Co. of Texas on your reference?
Mr. ADAMS - To the best of my knowledge he was not hired on any of the jobs to which I referred him.
Mr. JENNER - And does the name Trans-Texas stimulate your recollection as to any possible reference?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir; about--in late October or early November, Trans-Texas Airways called Mr. Roy----
Mr. JENNER - Who is Mr. Roy?
Mr. ADAMS - He is not the station manager, he is the. I really don't know what his title is, but anyway, he deals with the people who are more concerned with servicing the aircraft than with passengers. Anyway, he advised me that the company was contemplating expansion and he would need possibly as many as 12 or 14 ramp agents and--as they are called by the airline industry- -we call them baggage, cargo handlers, and he gave me qualifications, minimum qualifications, to send out those who met the qualifications.
Mr. JENNER - Was Lee Harvey Oswald one of those you sent out?
Mr. ADAMS - If the record indicates, he was.
Mr. JENNER - But here again you have no recollection beyond what' the record shows?
Mr. ADAMS - No, sir.
Mr. JENNER - Do you have any recollection as to salary, for example, as compared with that that you mentioned--you mentioned some kind of a figure, with respect to Solid State Electronics Co?
Mr. ADAMS - I think that the going rate of Trans-Texas then was $210 a month plus overtime.
Mr. JENNER - Did Oswald report on that reference?
Mr. ADAMS - I don't know, sir.
Mr. JENNER - Would it refresh your recollection if I told you that he did not, and that he became employed by the Texas State Book Depository on the 16th of October 1963?
Mr. ADAMS - No, sir.
Mr. JENNER - The incident to which you refer occurred the latter part of October or the first part of November, that is with Trans-Texas?
Mr. ADAMS - As best I recall it; yes.
Mr. JENNER - I would like to talk to Mr. Sayre what is the telephone number over there?
Mr. ADAMS - It is Riverside 7-2071.
The unfortunate thing about it, as I said, about being a placement interviewer is that unless there is something outstanding about the individual or something appears in the record it is just another applicant.
Mr. JENNER - You interview a good many people every day, day after day, and unless something strikes you out of the ordinary with respect to a particular job applicant or unemployed person, that makes it stand out in your mind, you are unable to sort out or recall specifically?
Mr. ADAMS - Right. I could rattle off the names of half a dozen applicants who are ex-convicts, alcoholics, or either recovered from psychiatric treatment or who are presently undergoing psychiatric treatment, or when I look at their record I see, consistent "No hire" or "Failed to accept employment," but these people will stick with me, but if I recall, Mr. Oswald had not been registered too long or, beginning with my contact--my contact with him renewed his relationship with our placement office. In other words, as I try to visualize his card, I don't see a whole card full of entries--just a few up at the top.
Mr. JENNER - There is one card for each job applicant?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes, sir; at least.
Mr. JENNER - And if he has been back and forth a couple, of times there might be more than one card?
Mr. ADAMS - If he was coded. For instance,-suppose he said, "I have been a truck driver for 2 years." I will say, "Fine, you get an additional code for truck driving," which is a 7 code, and this card, we would either send with him to the industrial office for placing in their files, or we would send it--he might say, "I will accept labor work," and we would say, "Fine, we will send a card up to Forrest Avenue or to Irving," whichever is the closest to where he lives or to Dallas West.
Or, he might say, "I have a degree in Economics," and we would say, "Good, we will give you an "0" code and send it upstairs to the professional office." So, conceivably, depending on the individual, he could have a haft a dozen cards.
In addition, if he had been job counseled, they would have a counseling record.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the employment commission, the Texas Employment Commission, and presumably, the other 49 states, is not in position to do any checking on people. The only way we get any information, derogatory information, is either through the individual's disclosing it voluntarily, or through an employer saying, "I sent this man down for a .truth verification test, and he busted it," and then we would say, "Would you mind telling us what the information was, so that we may not use this against the individual and try to find out what his problem is and see if we can't help him with it." He might say, "No; I don't care to do that," and then we would say, "Does it involve felony or is it a matter of personality, or what?" And they might say, "There is something odd about his personality," and we would say, "Thank you."
This is the only way we get any information and, of course, it sometimes backfires unfortunately. Employers will assume mistakenly that anybody we send is as pure as the driven snow, and they may or may not be.
Mr. JENNER - Do you think of anything else at this time that might be helpful to the Commission in this connection--what I am anxious to get is the history of this man at the Texas Employment Commission.
Mr. ADAMS - Yes; I believe Mrs. Helen Cunningham counseled him. I believed she counseled Mr. Oswald.
Mr. JENNER - Is she still employed by the Commission?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes. Mr. Sayre is also her boss.
Mr. JENNER - Maybe I can get both of them over here this afternoon and take their deposition.
Mr. ADAMS - It is my personal opinion that Mrs. Marguerite Oswald is more to be pitied than censored, because if she had only taken the kid to the psychiatrist when they asked her to of course, this might still have happened, but then again it might not.
Mr. JENNER - And, of course, in a situation like this, Mr. Adams, there are all kinds of "ifs": if somebody had done this, if only this had been done.
Mr. ADAMS - Well, even the little contact that I had with him, I thought--was there something there I should have noticed and if I start letting this get on my back, I will start examining every applicant who comes in--he may be a potential fiend, "I'll have to watch you," and pretty soon I'll be talking to myself.
Mr. JENNER - Yes; you are always subject to the accusation of being a meddler. It is pretty hard to say just where the scope of your probing should go--a reasonable amount of probing should go and where you have to hold down the gate.
Mr. ADAMS - The first I knew about it was when it came out in the paper that he had been a claimant.
Mr. JENNER - Yes; for unemployment compensation?
Mr. ADAMS - Right, from this district or Fort Worth, I don't know which one exactly.
Mr. JENNER - By the way, do you have an office over in Fort Worth?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes.
Mr. JENNER - Do you have an office similar to this one, that is, that aids persons to obtain employment?
Mr. ADAMS - Yes; the State is divided into districts. The Dallas district is unique in that it encompasses only Dallas County. Out in West Texas, I guess, the districts encompass maybe 20 or 30 counties.
Mr. JENNER - But Fort Worth's district--who is the general manager there?
Mr. ADAMS - I don't know, sir. I have heard his name, but I can't recall it.
Mr. JENNER - Do you recall the telephone number?
Mr. ADAMS - No, sir; I sure don't. Whenever we have dealings with them at my level it is simply paperwork. You send a notice to them that we have these jobs available and employers ask us to start signing out from Dallas to find--to try to find someone, we'll say, in a 50-mile radius, or in a 100-mile radius, as the case may be it's all done by paper, you see. I'm sure Mr. Sayre would know the people to contact with them.
Whenever we do uncover any derogatory information, well, anything which leads us to believe that the applicant is not--does not appear to be the type of person that we should refer, we have no way--we are precluded from making any written comment. I would just say, "See Adams before it is turned over."
Mr. JENNER - And that means if an occasion arises to refer this man or he makes an inquiry subsequently, then anybody reading the card realizes that there might be something derogatory or at least something special, and they should come to you and talk to you about it?
Mr. ADAMS - That's right; for instance, an employer will report that he thinks an individual is a sex deviate or something of that sort. Now, in the naivete of the Texas Employment Commission, I have made an entry, "Employer reports that this individual appears to have undesirable traits of character," and they say, "Oh, you can't put that in."
Mr. JENNER - Off the record.
(At this point Counsel Jenner conversed by telephone to Mr. Sayre of the Texas Employment office.)
Mr. JENNER - He said he turned over those records to the district office and he is going to run them down for me this afternoon and call me back.
Mr. ADAMS - I remember reading the paper that on account of his having applied for unemployment compensation, he made a trip to Corpus and then to Mexico and came back--it was none of my business and I never did pursue it with the Commission, but if he had nothing to draw on, he would certainly have applied for his unemployment compensation and it would have been recorded, whether here, Corpus Christi, or Fort Worth or where--the Lord only knows--I don't know.
Mr. JENNER - That's all that occurs to me, sir, and I appreciate your coming in and your help.
Mr. ADAMS - I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful.
Mr. JENNER - Well, sometimes you people think you are not more helpful, to use your expression, when, as a fact you are.
Mr. ADAMS - I hope so.
Mr. JENNER - It's hard to tell from your vantage point whether you are or aren't, but the fact you appear here and tell us what you know is always helpful. I appreciate it very much.
Mr. ADAMS - I know it is like the intelligence business in the service, you take all the little pieces and piece them together, and you make a picture.
Mr. JENNER - You have a right to read your deposition and to sign it, if you see fit, and you also have the right to waive that privilege if you wish.
Mr. ADAMS - I would like to see it and I will sign it.
Mr. JENNER - We will have it ready toward the end of this week or early next week, and if you will call the U.S. attorney, Barefoot Sanders, he will know whether it is ready for you to read and sign. Thank you very much, sir.
Mr. ADAMS - Thank you.

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