Dr. Thomas P. Lowry Responds

It’s been exactly a month since the National Archives announced that Thomas P. Lowry had confessed to altering the date on a Lincoln document so as to make it appear that the president signed the document on April 14, 1865, hours before John Wilkes Booth shot him at Ford’s Theater.  You’ll remember that Lowry recanted his confession.  The story would have gone away had it not been for a certain historian’s commentary on the piece in the New York Times.  There were people who were astonished by the report of Lowry’s behavior, and there were some people who stood up for him.

I came away from the events of that week thinking that there remained some unfinished business, and that we had not heard the last of the story.  For all the attention directed at Lowry, and all the gnashing of teeth and pointing of fingers that followed, questions remained in my mind about the role of the National Archives in the story.  Every once in a while I’d conduct a search to see if something else had appeared.  I had reason to believe the story had not gone completely cold.

Now, thanks to Daniel Sauerwein’s blog (he picked it up from Brett Schulte on TOCWOC), I have learned that Dr. Lowry has issued his own statement, offering far more detail than before, on a single entry blog (at least it is single entry to date).  People who carefully follow the comments section on this blog know that he posted here once in relation to one of the other April 14, 1865 pardons (and now, if one clicks his name, one comes to what comes next).

Now we have his own story of what happened.

Another link on his blog leads to this website as well as this one.

19 thoughts on “Dr. Thomas P. Lowry Responds

  1. James F. Epperson February 25, 2011 / 5:48 am

    Interesting. I am surprised that someone as smart as Lowry would sign a false confession, but it does show the power of official bullying.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 25, 2011 / 7:24 am

      I would advise one to compare this statement with the account of Lowry’s recanting that came out last month.

  2. David Rhoads February 25, 2011 / 6:59 am

    I don’t know Mr. Lowry, but this lengthy statement of his does not seem to me to shed any real light on the case. He focuses much of his attention on things that are irrelevant to the immediate question, alleges a Federal conspiracy of some kind and speculates as to possible motives the Archives might have had to railroad him. None of it makes much sense, though, and to believe it we have to take Mr. Lowry’s word that he is an “honorable” man but that many of the people at the Archives are not. That may be the case, but this statement does not even begin to demonstrate that it is so. What is clear is that if the confession is indeed false, Mr. Lowry ought not to have signed it no matter what he was promised by the investigators.

    On the whole, this episode has been an embarrassment for both Mr. Lowry and for the Archives. Nevertheless, it does appear that the date on the document was altered at some point. I have not been able to determine from reading the various newspaper stories just how and by whom the alteration was actually noticed, and those are things I’d be interested in knowing. Yet all the reporting seems to start with the confession. It’s all very odd.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 25, 2011 / 7:26 am

      The accounts last month credit NARA’s Trevor Plante with discovering the alteration.

      • David Rhoads February 25, 2011 / 7:56 am

        So that’s the who. Have you seen any explanation of how Mr. Plante happened to discover the alteration?

      • Brooks D. Simpson February 25, 2011 / 8:05 am

        Last month’s newspaper reports detail Plante’s growing skepticism and at last his decision to check Basler. I confess that the account sounded like a bad episode of “History Detectives,” because checking Basler would normally have been done early in the process … but then again no one did it in 1998.

  3. David Rhoads February 25, 2011 / 8:03 am

    Never mind. I see from the previous article about Mr. Lowry’s recanting of the confession that Mr. Plante just began to wonder over time about the 5 being darker than the rest of the date and then checked it against Basler. I’d missed this part of the story, but it sounds reasonable to me.

  4. David Rhoads February 25, 2011 / 8:16 am

    In the earlier article in the Washington Post about Mr. Lowry’s recanting his confession it says: “Investigators said they began corresponding with Lowry about the pardon about a year ago and asked for his help in identifying who might have tampered with it. During the course of the e-mail correspondence, Lowry became more reticent, and they became more suspicious.”

    In Mr. Lowry’s new statement, he offers a different story: “They claim that they tried to reach me and that I was “evasive.” That is simply a falsehood, a fabrication. We have been at the same address for thirteen years, with the same phone number and same e-mail address for those same thirteen years. We rarely travel. We have voice mail. Neither of us would forget a query from the National Archives. The first we knew of this “discovery” was the unannounced knock on our front door. And the two grim men standing there.”

    Here, at least, it ought to be possible to establish an actual fact, i.e., whether or not there was email correspondence between the Archives and Mr. Lowry about the alteration of the date on the document prior to the visit by the investigators. Doing so might speak to the relative credibility of the parties involved.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 25, 2011 / 8:31 am

      That’s one problem, which is why I advise people to look at that Post article. That piece also says that Beverly Lowry accused a former NARA staffer … unnamed … of altering the document, a claim that Thomas Lowry does not mention in his recent statement.

  5. Roger E Watson February 25, 2011 / 3:06 pm

    Nobody reads you your rights. Nobody says you are under arrest. You didn’t do it but you confess to doing it. At your advanced age, you still have complete faith in everything your government does. Etc., etc. Does the phrase, “The lady doth protest too much” come to mind ?

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 25, 2011 / 4:01 pm

      It seemed to me that perhaps Dr. Lowry is a little fuzzy on those sorts of things. Guess what has to happen for one to be read their rights?

      Unless he sues, he’s left simply asserting his innocence, with character witnesses who will have to explain his actions and comments.

      On the other hand, if you’re the NARA, it behooves you to discredit this story as soon as possible, and, if the NARA’s version of events is correct, would you not immediately release the e-mail exchanges (or take other steps to verify their existence)?

      • Kristilyn Baldwin February 26, 2011 / 1:07 am

        Thank you for clearing up the issue of Miranda Rights for people. I was a little shocked to see a man with such an education so confused.

  6. John Koster February 28, 2011 / 8:26 am

    Let’s not forget that Dr. Lowry has an excellent reputation with people who actually know him, took a polygraph test which confirmed his truthfulness and has offered a bounty to anyone who can produce recorded e-mail attempts of the NARA to contact him. Let’s see what turns up. If there’s no paper trail, we know who’s lying and some federal firings are in order.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 28, 2011 / 8:37 am

      I believe Dr. Lowry would do well to focus on his interaction with the NARA and forego speculation or other commentary. Given recent congressional scrutiny concerning NARA procedures, he might contact the committee charged with reviewing those procedures. Simply recrafting a single-entry blog page in the hopes someone will pick up what he says won’t get him very far.

      That said, neither Dr. Lowry nor the NARA seem especially eager to answer the questions posed in this blog. I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions as to why this is.

  7. John Koster February 28, 2011 / 4:59 pm

    The fact that Dr. Lowry has offered a bounty for any correspondence in which the NARA attempted to contact him before the investigators called in person suggests that he’s being pro-active in his own defence. If the NARA produces a dated paper trail of NARA requests that he stop in and talk things over, we know he’s lying. If they don’t, it suggests that they’re lying. Since he’s already been sustained by a polygraph and is known by friends as a man of integrity, that NARA paper trail — if it exists — is very important. The spectacle of honest men framed on the whim of federal officials, if proved, is more than significant — it’s terrifying. Anybody remember Stalin? We don’t want his kind in America.

    • Brooks D. Simpson February 28, 2011 / 5:08 pm

      John, you do a wonderful job as Dr. Lowry’s spokesperson. Generally speaking, one does not offer a bounty to government officials to produce documents. In fact, that might lead to another investigation if someone responded to the offer. I’ll simply note that I see no signs of taking meaningful action on his part. If we take him at his word, he’s been a victim of abuse of power, and that, I’d suggest, deserves more of a response than offering a bounty. Nor has he answered my question about the conflict between his statement and the statement his wife gave to the reporter about knowledge of the tampering. Maybe you can explain why he won’t answer. We both know he reads the blog, since he’s posted on it, right?

  8. John Koster March 4, 2011 / 5:04 am

    My imagination may be limited, but I think asking the NARA or anybody else to produce some kind of paper trail that proves their alleged attempts to contact Dr. Lowry for a year before they visited him at home is actually a pretty good idea. Most academics get where they are by cringing fear of authority. I come from a family where virtually every male is a veteran, some killed or crippled in combat, and I don’t particularly respect blind allegiance to federal falsification. Some years ago, the man in the White House framed the entire Japanese-American population as traitors because his own underlings had instigated Pearl Harbor behind his back while he was asleep at the switch and the damage was worse than anybody expected it would be. The FBI had already arrested about 2,600 potential Japanese-born agents and spies, some of whom were quite dangerous, but FDR jugged the whole 110,000 Japanese-American population of the West Coast as a cover-up. Trust me — government officials are not especially moral or honest when they’re covering up for their own blunders.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 4, 2011 / 7:24 am

      It would be in the best interests of each party to answer the questions posed of it. As neither party sees fit to do so, one is free to draw one’s own conclusions about why that is the case.

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