A man living in Crystal in 1965 was repeatedly named as an FBI informant in the trove of documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy released Thursday by the National Archives.
In an FBI memorandum dated March 29, 1965, James A. Kraker of Crystal is named as "a Cuban source of information who was active" in an anti-Castro Cuban exile group known as Movimiento Recuperacion Revolucionario, or MRR, "prior to its inactivity in the Twin Cities area."
A second memo dated Oct. 14, 1965, noted Kraker was the source of information about an MRR member, Abel Thomas Mesa, who moved to Chicago from Minneapolis.
It is not clear from the documents what additional information Kraker may have provided to the FBI or how he came to be a source on Cuban exile groups.
Some researchers have speculated that Cuban exiles, organized crime figures and disgruntled CIA hard-liners angry about Kennedy's failure to depose Cuban President Fidel Castro in the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion may have played a role in the assassination.
The declassified documents reveal that Cubans, both inside the communist government and dissidents in the United States, featured prominently in the investigation of Kennedy's assassination.
Kraker was born in 1920, in the Iron Range town of Gilbert. He skipped two grades in school, attended Virginia (Minn.) Junior College and joined the Navy at age 20. He served in World War II and eventually rose to lieutenant commander before retiring in the mid-1950s. With his wife, Mildred, Kraker raised six children, four boys and two girls.
His son David, a retired postal worker in Smyrna, Ga., said he was not surprised that his father was named as an FBI source. He said James helped Cuban refugees move to the United States.
"I knew he was involved with the Cubans, trying to help them resettle safely," Kraker said. "They were fighting against Castro, so he was in the middle trying to help those people who were trying to get out of Cuba and come to America."
Kraker said it was a friend from his church choir, Armand Pilon, himself a Cuban exile, who got his father involved with the Cubans. Kraker helped organize sponsors for the exiles so they could settle permanently in America.
"Mr. Pilon asked him to help," Kraker said. "They were very close friends. He said, 'How would you like to help me help these people?' My dad said, 'Sure.' He was that kind of guy, so that's what he did."
More than three dozen Cuban exiles moved to the Twin Cities in early 1963, according to news reports.
Kraker said his father did not talk about it much. "He told us what he could," Kraker said. "I never heard a word about the assassination."
After his military service, Kraker moved back to Minnesota by 1956 and eventually settled in Crystal, where he lived until his death in 2002 at age 82. He is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.