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Garrison's father, then a teen-ager, was one of nine children who loaded onto a rickety truck in MIssouri and moved out to California. Like many migrant farmers, the Garrisons located in the Central Valley.
"I still remember living in a tent in Bakersfield," says Jesse Leonard Garrison, Jim Garrison Jr.'s 69-year-old cousin. (During a phone interview, Jesse Leonard reveals why he calls himself Len - which entails a little family secret: Garrison is a sixth cousin to Jesse James.)
By 1934, most of the Garrisons had set down roots in San Jose. Garrison's father took a stab at accounting, married San Francisco native Virginia La Rocca and then dedicated his life to the Lord's work.
"I was an inner compulsion," the Rev. Garrison says, gesticulating with his hands in a manner similar to his son. "I'd always thought about God and why we were here. Those thoughts always ran through my mind."
In 1947, Garrison moved his wife and three daughters to China. After the Communist reign of terror in Hwei Li and the birth of little Jim, the family moved to Taiwan, where they lived until Jim Garrison was 15.
Garrison Sr. says his son was always an inquisitive and highly intelligent boy. "He liked to read heavy books," Garrison Sr. says. "Never any casual books." From the time he was a young boy until he was in high school, Garrison's favorite book, one which he read over and over, was Lorainne Betner's classic theological study, The Doctrine of Predestination.
The family left Taiwan and returned to San Jose in 1965. It didn't take long for Garrison to acclimate, and he quickly became every parent's dream. In 1967 - only two years after coming to America - he was elected sophomore class president. He won again his junior year. And as a senior, he was elected student body president. His father says there was some rule at the time prohibiting someone from serving as president three consecutive years.
"But he got around that somehow," Garrison Sr. says.
Garrison played football and tennis and won statewide awards as a member of the debating team. On weekends, he counseled youth at the James Boys Ranch. His list of academic awards staggers: first-place winner in the Elks Club's youth leadership contest; winner of the George Hunter Outstanding Junior Boy Award; Optimist Club's Youth of the Year in 1969.
That same year, Garrison served as the school's delegate to the mock U.N. in San Frnacisco, where he was U.S.S.R. representative on the Security Council. Of course, he won an award: outstanding speaker. Ironically, in real life he campaigned for arch anti-communist Richard Nixon that year.
Before he graduated, Garrison faced every young man's nightmare at the time: the draft. Garrison registered for the draft but failed to ask for a student deferment. After receiving his draft notice and date to take a physical, the teen-ager, obsessed at the time with girls and similarly pressing matters, promptly forgot his appointment. After the Selective Service Administration sent a second letter, outlining the many felony charges it could bring down on the teenager's head, Garrison had some thinking to do.
"I said, 'Give me a break,'" Garrison recalls. "The idea of someone examining my body, of taking my clothes off to see if I'm healthy enough to go kill people, struck me as absurd. So I refused to go."
His parents called in counselors who preached anti-communism, but Garrison stood firm. Then an amazing thing happened. The government simply forgot about Garrison.
The same year, Garrison attended Pepperdine University before transferring to Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1973, graduating magna cum laude. He went on to Harvard, where in 1975 he earned a master's degree in theology from the divinity school. Beginning in 1975, Garrison participated in Cambridge University's doctoral program in theology. He bounced back and forth between the States and England, finally earning his Ph.D. in 1982.
At the same time, his work in the anti-nuclear movement brought him into contact with Hager and others building the Silkwood case. After the case was resolved, the core group of Silkwood litigators and hangers-on began discussing the need to infuse the left with a sense of spirituality.
"We were struck by the fact that the right had really monopolized the issue of religion," Hager says.
The group decided to found a think tank and legal defense fund. Garrison, who read the New Age Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard De Chardin ( a favorite of Jerry Brown and Jimmy Carter), pulled a neologism out of the book The Heart of Matter and named the organization the Christic Institute. (Later, under lawyer Danny Sheehan, the Christic Institute imploded beneath the weight of its legal campaign against the alleged "Secret Team" of spook Ted Shackley.)
"The term 'christic' stands for a force in the universe that is moving mankind toward positive change," Hager explains. "To put it in biblical terms, it means 'kingdom on earth.'"