In 1976, more than a decade after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a letter arrived at the CIA, addressed to its director, the Hon. George Bush. The letter was from a desperate-sounding man in Dallas, who spoke regretfully of having been indiscreet in talking about Lee Harvey Oswald and begged Poppy for help:
Maybe you will be able to bring a solution into the hopeless situation I find myself in. My wife and I find ourselves surrounded by some vigilantes; our phone bugged; and we are being followed everywhere. Either FBI is involved in this or they do not want to accept my complaints. We are driven to insanity by this situation … tried to write, stupidly and unsuccessfully, about Lee H. Oswald and must have angered a lot of people … Could you do something to remove this net around us? This will be my last request for help and I will not annoy you anymore.
The writer signed himself “G. de Mohrenschildt.”
The CIA staff assumed the letter writer to be a crank. Just to be sure, however, they asked their boss: Did he by any chance know a man named de Mohrenschildt? Bush responded by memo, seemingly self-typed:
I do know this man DeMohrenschildt. I first men [sic] him in the early 40’3 [sic]. He was an uncle to my Andover roommate. Later he surfaced in Dallas (50’s maybe) … Then he surfaced when Oswald shot to prominence. He knew Oswald before the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. I don’t recall his role in all this.
Not recall? Once again, Poppy Bush was having memory problems. And not about trivial matters. George de Mohrenschildt was not just the uncle of a roommate, but a longtime personal associate. Yet Poppy could not recall — or more precisely, claimed not to recall — the nature of de Mohrenschildt’s relationship with the man believed to have assassinated the thirty-fifth president.
This would have been an unusual lapse on anyone’s part. But for the head of an American spy agency to exhibit such a blasé attitude, in such an important matter, was over the edge. At that very moment, several federal investigations were looking into CIA abuses — including the agency’s role in assassinations of foreign leaders. These investigations were heading toward what would become a reopened inquiry into Kennedy’s death. Could it be that the lapse was not casual, and the acknowledgment of a distant relationship was a way to forestall inquiry into a closer one?
Writing back to his old friend, Poppy assured the Mohrenschildt that his fears were entirely unfounded. Yet half a year later, de Mohrenschildt was dead. The cause was officially determined to be suicide with a shotgun. Investigators combing through de Mohrenschildt’s effects came upon his tattered address book, largely full of entries made in the 1950’s. Among them, though apparently eliciting no further inquiries on the part of the police, was an old entry for the current CIA director, with the Midland address where he had lived in the early days of Zapata:
BUSH, GEORGE H.W. (POPPY), 1412 W. OHIO ALSO ZAPATA PETROLEUM MIDLAND.