By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Mayhew went back to Nashville to begin rebuilding his music career. He also says he opened a small but classy JFK museum that was eventually burglarized. In 1987, "in a moment of weakness," Mayhew says, he wrote to Conover Hunt, who was organizing the Sixth Floor Museum.
"I told her I had the window and wanted $250,000 for it," Mayhew says. "I just wanted to recoup just some of the money I felt this city owed me."
He is asked why, then, he didn't send Hunt the pictures and dimensions she requested.
Mayhew claims it wasn't that simple. He says Hunt didn't respond to his letter for some time, and that when she first contacted him, she really didn't seem interested. He felt she was just blowing him off.
And maybe she had good reason. After all, he never offered one bit of proof that he has the windows. If there's any reason at all not to dismiss Mayhew, it's the simple fact that the window on display on the Sixth Floor is not the real deal. Maybe, just maybe, Mayhew's telling the truth.
"We know there are two windows, and you've proven that one's not it," he says. "So you take it from there."
For the last decade, Mayhew has had no contact with the Sixth Floor Museum. Then, several months ago, he says he received a letter from the museum's archivist, Gary Mack, a former Dallas television station announcer and JFK researcher--and one of those who isn't sure anymore that the window on display is so authentic. Mayhew says Mack told him he was interested in his collection.
"He said things had changed, and he understood the difficulties I had in the past," Mayhew says. "He said he wanted to come to Nashville and see my collection and that maybe we could join forces."
Mayhew says he eventually responded to Mack's letter, writing that perhaps they would meet if the museum had indeed changed. Mayhew says he wants the museum to acknowledge that he once owned the building: A plaque on the outside of the building only mentions Byrd. He also wants the museum's historical information to mention him and acknowledge that he saved the building from being destroyed. Mayhew believes that had the other bidders gotten the building instead of him, they would have torn it down.
At the bottom of the letter, Mayhew added: "P.S. In case we do join forces, I get the chicken franchise"--a reference to the Esquire Dubious Achievement Award 25 years earlier. Mack never responded to Mayhew's letter.
Marian Ann Montgomery's title at the Sixth Floor Museum is--no kidding--director of interpretation. All that means is that she's the museum's chief curator, but it's still a creepy job description to put on one's resume. Maybe the conspiracy theorists are right; maybe we're not paranoid enough.
As visitors stream into the Sixth Floor Museum, looking at the window they assume is real, Montgomery must now consider that someone has interpreted this relic all wrong.
"Well, obviously there's some difference between the window and pictures of it," Montgomery says. "We're in the process, as museums always are, of checking to see if we need to change the caption."
This included Montgomery phoning Caruth Byrd a few days ago and asking him some pointed questions about the window that once hung in his father's house. Montgomery asked Byrd if he had any explanation for why there were no marks on the bottom of the window.
"Hell, maybe my father had it cleaned up," Byrd says he told her.
During our conversation, I mentioned to him that another concern was that smudge of paint and putty that appears on his window, but is not on the window photographed after the assassination.
"Maybe my dad broke the glass and it was repaired," he offers this time.
Byrd is clearly agitated by this line of inquiry. "Hell, if they don't want it at the museum, I'll take it back," he barks. "I'll sell it to someone. I'll sell it to Michael Jackson."
Montgomery also contacted Mayhew by phone. Montgomery says that Mayhew had "some relations with the museum that were less than friendly before. We have to rebuild that relationship before we can get close to him."
She told him she was coming to Nashville and wanted to see his collection and his window. He told her she couldn't come.
"They just want to use me," Mayhew says. "They don't have anything I want."
But this man from Tennessee might well have something the Sixth Floor folks want--them, and the millions who only think they've seen, and seen through, a little bit of history.