Billie Sol Estes was a Texas businessman and one time friend of Lyndon Johnson’s. A smart entrepreneur, even as a teenager, Sol Estes found he could make money even easier by scamming the system, then by honest work. Starting with mortgages on nonexistent ammonia tanks in the late 1950s and progressing to other scams, including bribing Agriculture Department Officials for grain storage contracts, Sol Estes came under investigation by President Kennedy’s Justice Department in 1962 and was convicted for the first time in 1963. Paroled in 1971, Sol Estes was back in prison 8 years later for more fraudulent dealings that cost him another 4 years of his life behind bars.
In the 1980s Sol Estes began making up stories about former President Johnson, who was long since dead and unable to defend himself. Johnson’s family members and former associates dismissed Sol Estes as a pathological liar and no serious historians have found him to be credible, but many conspiracy true believers have latched on to his lies to prop up their false faith. According to Sol Estes, LBJ was not only involved with JKF’s assassination, but he also ordered the murder of an Agriculture Investigator who could have linked Johnson to Sol Estes’s crimes and numerous other people got in Johnson’s way.
In 2003 I interviewed many people in and around Dealey Plaza about President Kennedy’s untimely death and Sol Estes’s name came up a few times because he was going to release a book exposing the “real” LBJ. It was obvious to me that Sol Estes’s fans were not critical thinkings or a good judges of reality but that hasn’t stopped other liars from citing him as a source for their own fairy tales. Former Nixon confidant and Trump friend, Roger Stone,* has made a name for himself in the conspiracy theorist business thanks in part to repeating Sol Estes’s fabrications as if they were facts.
The idea that President Johnson was a mass murder akin to a drug lord, who routinely ordered hits on his perceived enemies is almost laughable, but most of all it is extremely insulting. To LBJ and all of his contemporaries.
Did Johnson cheat and play the, “dirty politics,” of his day? Sure, and so did the Kennedy’s, but that is a far cry from the kind of tales that conspiracy theorist tell. Even President Nixon, at the height of the Whitegate fiasco, when he learned that his people had broken into the main offices of the Democrat Party, never came anywhere near to contemplating murder. The most he did was to talk about paying off witnesses and asking if the CIA could be used to convince the FBI to back off on the investigation of the breakin. Nevertheless, conspiracy theorists would have you believe that President Johnson completely broke with all norms of American political behavior and murdered his way into the highest office in the land, and no one, not even the former President’s brother, the Attorney General Robert Kennedy, or former living Presidents like Truman and Eisenhower, said so much as, “boo.” Really?
* It should be noted that I had a couple of exchanges with Roger Stone on Twitter, when I was still using that platform. One that I mentioned in my film, Conspiracy Theorists Lie (2015), and one that took place after the film was completed, where he threatened to “punish” me for daring to expose his nonsense. Like his buddy, Donald Trump, he cares little about actual facts or good manners.
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