When I met Jim Marrs, we were both at the beginning of our newspaper careers at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Jim was a police reporter; I was on the copy desk, editing stories and writing headlines.
Years later, Jim would gain worldwide fame as a JFK assassination researcher, author and lecturer. Oliver Stone used his book "Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy," for his movie, JFK. He was equally famous for his later books on UFOs, secret societies and conspiracy theories, and became a regular on radio shows like "Coast to Coast," as well as dozens of TV appearances. I remember watching "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel and suddenly there was Jim -- with his trademark white beard and hat -- being interviewed.
Sadly, word came this week that Jim had passed away at age 73 after a brief illness.
Even in those early years, it was evident Jim had a passion for unexplained mysteries and a healthy skepticism for official explanations. When he wasn't covering the "cop shop," he investigated local lore, like the legendary Lake Worth Monster, or the alleged crash of a UFO in Aurora, Texas in 1897, including the burial of its alien pilot in a local cemetery.
I always looked forward to editing his articles. Nobody else was taking on the establishment the way Jim did, and despite the tabloid feel of his subject matter, there was solid reporting and investigating going on. That was the difference between Jim and the Weekly World News: Jim was first and foremost a journalist.
We spent many hours debating the merits of what really happend at Dealey Plaza Nov. 22, 1963. For Jim, the JFK assassination was the ultimate crime story, the proverbial "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." All the puzzle pieces were there; they just needed to be fitted together. And that became the basis of his life's work.
That work started at the Star-Telegram, where Jim devoted any spare time he had available to tracking down witnesses and revisiting the events of that dark day. I even recall one conversation, after he had written a number of stories challenging the official account, when Jim told me he had seen mysterious black cars parked at odd hours near his house. I thought, maybe he is on to something.
Besides his dogged determination and tenacity, Jim had a razor-sharp wit, a larger-than-life personality and a genuine warmth, recalled by many who visited the Wise County, Texas, farm he called home.
Ironically, his death comes a week after the National Archives released thousands of new documents related to the JFK assassination. No doubt the scores of researchers inspired by Jim's ground-breaking work will carry on his mission.
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."