Business as usual or meet the lone gunman(UA-66627984-1)

Winston Lawson


Winston Lawson at the funeral; of JFK. Photo by Cecil Stoughton

Winston Lawson was born in 1928 (Oct. 15th) in Dunkirk, NY. He worked as a carpet salesman and sales representative at the Carnation Milk Company. Lawson joined the US Army in 1953 and joined CIC Counterintelligence School in Holabird, Maryland. Based at Lexington, during the Korean War he took part in the interviewing of prisoners. In 1959 he joined the Secret Service. And was assigned to the White House detail two years later.

Winston Lawson in the top of the photo. Oswald is being escorted to his press conference.

Lawson was in charge of planning the Dallas visit. He drove the presidential motorcade’s lead car. Went to Parkland and then drove the hearse to Love Field and then stood guard outside the plane.

In his statement from Dec 1st 1963 he states: “While waiting for the departure of AF1, FBI Agent Vincent Drain, Dallas office, told me SAC Gordon Shanklin, FBI, Dallas, Texas, had some information. I spoke with Mr. Shanklin on the phone and he told me that an individual who had been arrested for the investigation of the killing of a police officer that afternoon had worked at the Texas Book Depository Building. I asked Mr. Shanklin to relay this to an agent on duty in the Dallas Secret Service office and then requested Chief Curry, who was with me, to speak with Mr. Shanklin on the phone.”

Once AF1 had left, he made his way alongside Jesse Curry and others towards City Hall and eventually saw Sorrels talk to Oswald as per his WC testimony. This happened  just after 4 PM and was just before Oswald’s first line-up for Helen Markham that day.

Lawson at the beginning of Oswald’s press conference with Oswald entering. Marvin Hall leads, Elmer Boyd on the far right. PBS Documentary Screen grab: B.K. Click to enlarge.

Mr. STERN. When did you first observe Lee Harvey Oswald, Mr. Lawson?

Mr. LAWSON. It was early in the evening of November 22. He had been in police headquarters for a little while at least before I first saw him, and they had already interrogated him as I understand it, and various detectives, police officials, and Mr. Sorrels and a couple other agents and myself saw Lee Harvey Oswald when he was brought in for Mr. Sorrels to talk to at Mr. Sorrels’ request.

Mr. STERN. Did you interrogate him?

Mr. LAWSON. No, sir; I did not.

Mr. STERN. Did Mr. Sorrels handle the interrogation alone?

Mr. LAWSON. Yes, sir; that particular one.

Mr. STERN. What were the questions and answers as best you can recall?

Mr. LAWSON. He asked information as to name.

Mr. DULLES. Who is “he” How?

Mr. LAWSON. Mr. Sorrels in asking the questions already had some background on Mr. Oswald before he started questioning Mr. Oswald. The detectives or other individuals had told them what they knew up to this point about Oswald, his name,that he had been out of the country previous to this time to Russia, and a few other things. It was known at the particular time, perhaps 6 or 7 o’clock.

Mr. STERN. I take it you had phoned his name to your headquarters in Washington as soon as you knew Oswald’s name?

Mr. LAWSON. I didn’t. Perhaps Mr. Sorrels did.

Mr. STERN. Did your office advise you whether they knew anything about Oswald or had found out anything about Oswald?

Mr. LAWSON. Not me personally.

Mr. STERN. That you know of?

Mr. LAWSON. Not me personally.

Mr. STERN. Were any other questions asked?

Mr. LAWSON. Yes; I recall Mr. Sorrels asking if he had been out–where he had been living, where he had been employed over the last years, and other information Mr. Sorrels already knew about.

Representative FORD. What was his attitude? What was the attitude of Oswald during this period?

Mr. LAWSON. Oswald just answered the questions as asked to him. He didn’t volunteer any information. He sat there quite stoically, not much of an expression on his face.

Mr. DULLES. Quite what?

Mr. LAWSON. Stoically.

Mr. DULLES. Stoical?

Mr. LAWSON. Yes, sir.

Representative FORD. Was he belligerent?

Mr. LAWSON. No, sir; he didn’t seem to be belligerent at all.

Representative FORD. Did he resent the interrogation?

Mr. LAWSON. I didn’t get the impression that it was a great resentment. He just answered the questions as they were asked of him.

Mr. DULLES. Did he answer all the questions?

Mr. LAWSON. I believe he did.

Mr. DULLES. These were questions that Mr. Sorrels put to him?

Mr. LAWSON. Yes; of course, Mr. Sorrels, I don’t believe at that time, as I remember it, didn’t ask him everything that we knew about him.

Representative FORD. Was there a transcript kept of this interrogation?

Mr. LAWSON. I don’t know.

Mr. STERN. Do you recall any other questions that were asked?

Mr. LAWSON. I don’t. At this time they were just general-type questions.

Mr. STERN. What was his physical condition?

Mr. DULLES. Could I ask one question there? The question wasn’t asked him at this time, at least while you were present, whether he was or was not guilty of the attack on the President?

Mr. LAWSON. This I do not recall. During this I recall I was called out for a phone call a couple of times. We were given information from Mr. Max Phillips, who was in our PRS section, and I believe it was during this that someone, an agent, was wanted on the phone, and I went out and answered this, and they gave us some information on people that it might have been–a case that wasn’t Oswald.

Mr. STERN. What was his physical condition?

Mr. LAWSON. He was quite, well, unkempt looking, and I recall that he had a few bruises on his face.

Mr. STERN. A few bruises?

Mr. LAWSON. I believe over an eye, a bruise or two. I can recall that he had a bruise over an eye or on a cheekbone, or someplace on his face, in looking back. And had a shirt and a pair of pants on. He wasn’t very tidy looking, a little unkempt in his appearance.

Mr. STERN. Was he handcuffed, do you recall?

Mr. LAWSON. I don’t recall. I know I saw him handcuffed around police headquarters quite a bit, but during this interrogation I don’t remember if he was handcuffed or not.

Representative FORD. How long did this interrogation go on?

Mr. LAWSON. This was not long.

Representative FORD. Five minutes?

Mr. LAWSON. Five to ten minutes at the most; yes, sir.

Mr. STERN. Then what happened? Did Mr. Sorrels finish?

Mr. DULLES. May I ask one other question there? Was there an interrogation just conducted by Mr. Sorrels, or were there others in on it, the police or the FBI?

Mr. LAWSON. I don’t know if there were FBI agents there. There were other plainclothesmen there, and a few uniformed officers.

Mr. DULLES. Mr. Sorrels conducted the investigation?

Mr. LAWSON. Mr. Sorrels was asking these particular questions, general-type questions, and when he finished, the police took him back to another area.


Winston Lawson behind Lee Oswald arriving in the room for his press conference. Behind Lawson and obscured by the camera lens is James Bookhout.

At the end of the 22nd Lawson accompanies Drain on his journey to Washington along with the Oswald evidence.

The WC creates a 9 page document about a week after Lawson’s testimony. And in a WC draft document they discuss him and his testimony as well.

Below is an interview with Lawson for the H.S.C.A. which I managed to copy at Malcolm Blunt’s archives.


Winston Lawson on the far right while Oswald is being escorted out after the press conference. Click pic. t enlarge. Screen grab – B.K.

Here is another shot from a slightly different angle. Jim Leavelle stands right next to Lawson behind Oswald passing out the room.


Winston Lawson of the US Secret Service, and Jim Leavelle next to him while Oswald is leaving the press conference. Click to enlarge.

Lawson makes mention of the press conference in his Warren Commission testimony.

Representative FORD. The last time you saw him?

Mr. LAWSON. No; he had not. That was not the last time I saw him, however. Then I later, approximately 11:30, or around midnight, it was announced that there would be a press conference again down in the showup room, and Inspector Kelley had arrived by that time, not too long before that, and Inspector Kelley and I and another agent or two went down to this press conference where it was just completely packed. Everyone couldn’t get in the room, the cameramen, reporters, broadcasters, and so forth. Upon a signal—-

Mr. DULLES. Who conducted that meeting?

Mr. LAWSON. I believe it was the assistant district attorney and Chief Curry and perhaps Captain Fritz. We were just there watching.

Mr. STERN. Tell us more about what—-

Mr. LAWSON. He was brought in through the crowd and through a side door there, through the corridors, brought in, and I believe the chief and the district attorney each gave statements, and Oswald was asked a few questions then by the press, but I don’t recall of it except that he was whisked out again fairly rapidly after that.

Mr. STERN. Do you remember what any of the questions were and his responses?

Mr. LAWSON. No, I don’t.

Mr. STERN. How many people were in this room?

Mr. LAWSON. It was overflowing. You could hardly hear because everyone was shouting questions. That is why I don’t remember what the specific questions were and what his responses were.  

Mr. STERN. Do you have any impression why this interview was conducted?

Mr. LAWSON. No; I do not.

Mr. STERN. Do you recall anything else that was said by the eyewitness that Mr. Sorrels had arranged to be brought in for the showup, anything else that he said while he was standing talking to you or Mr. Sorrels or while Oswald and others were on the—-

Mr. LAWSON. No; I don’t

Mr. STERN. Then shortly after this show up, or shortly after this interview in the showup room, you left for Washington, I take it?

Mr. LAWSON. Yes; there had been quite a bit of discussion during the evening as to what evidence they had up to this time, the rifle, clothing, et cetera, would be brought to Washington to the FBI lab to be worked on, or whether the police would keep it in their custody for a little while longer for their investigation, and there was quite a-bit of discussion by various people all evening long. And when it was finally decided it would be released by the Dallas Police, the rifle and other evidence to return to Washington, Inspector Kelley told me to return on the special plane that was flying the evidence and the accompanying FBI agent back to Washington.

Mr. DULLES. Was the evidence turned over to you or the FBI?

Mr. LAWSON. To the FBI, sir. I just returned on the plane.

Winston Lawson passed away Nov 7th 2019

Recent screen grab of Winston Lawson during an interview in 2013. Click to enlarge.