This book is not the first time the CIA has been busted for its horrendous manipulations of unwitting humans. The national media wrote about it as early as 1974. H.P. Albarelli Jr.’s “A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments” was published in 2009. In fact Olson’s death launched an intensive probe.
But this book, “From Healing to Hell,” a memoir written by William Henry Wall Jr., DDS, and released in 2011, reveals the awful secrets of a family tormented and all but destroyed.
Wall, whose family roots run deep in Schley County, tells the story of his late father, Dr. William Henry Wall Sr., and his battle with drug dependency, which he overcame, only to undergo another battle, his final and most atrocious.
Wall’s deeply personal memoir is a brave undertaking in that it exposes all his family’s secrets and shame, as well as the government’s culpability.
His late father, a physician who practiced in Blakely, had been a highly respected professional as well as a community leader. He served in the Georgia State Senate and also as a mental health advocate. His little family of mom, dad, son and daughter seemed to have an idyllic life from the outside, but little did any of them know what was to come.
In the late 1940s, Wall Sr. was prescribed Demerol for pain following a dental procedure. Although he was told it was not habit-forming, he became addicted.
Still, he continued his medical practice, eventually establishing the first hospital in Blakely.
Everything began to unravel in 1953, when he was arrested on federal drug charges, convicted and sentenced to serve his time in the only prison in the United States for drug addicts.
This book is the real deal. Wall names names — CIA associates, and people in his hometown of Blakely who set out to and succeeded in destroying his father. Some of the people closest to Wall Sr. turned out to be the ones whose untruthful testimony led to his conviction. These low-lifes were manipulated by other evil-doers and were actually drug addicts themselves.
One would think this situation was bad enough: a family ruined by their father’s and husband’s incarceration, struggling financially and finding it more and more difficult to hold their heads up in their small Southwest Georgia hometown.
The worst still lie ahead.
Wall, as Albarelli before him, reveals the CIA’s MKULTRA experiments which were conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, in which prisoners, often without their permission or knowledge, were administered drugs as guinea pigs in the CIA’s Cold War machinations.
Wall was sentenced to serve time at a U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Ky., which was a prison for addicts.
Most likely given LSD, Wall Sr. would eventually become insane as his mental health, irrevocably damaged, would collapse along with his overall health. After his release from prison, Wall Sr.’s family would be witness to and victims of his psychotic episodes, often violent, and growing sense of paranoia. He was often delusional and suicidal.
Wall Jr., who lives in Duluth, still has roots in Ellaville/Schley County as this was where his father came from and still has relatives living in Schley and Sumter counties.
“In Schley County, Walls are like leaves on the trees,” Wall quotes his father’s old friend, Dr. McCall “Mac” Calhoun. Calhoun is also now deceased but had practiced medicine as a young physician in Blakely alongside Wall Sr. and related many stories to Wall Jr. about his father.
The “family seat” was Wall’s Crossing, about four miles outside the County seat and only town in Schley County.
It took Wall Sr. years to complete medical school with starts and stops due to the Depression, the death of his father and other factors. Afterward, he moved to Plains where he served a brief internship at Wise Clinic where he came to know a nurse, Lillian G. Carter, mother of President Jimmy Carter.
Wall Jr.’s late mother, the former Hallie Walker of Americus, never wanted her son to write this book, he said. She lived out her final years at Magnolia Manor in Americus and died in 2003. That’s when he decided to move forward with his book.
In a recent phone interview, Wall said his book has been met with acclaim. He’s done interviews with WSB, NPR (twice) and WALB-TV in Albany. He had a book signing in March in Blakely at the Peanut Pride exhibition. He says it was a rewarding experience.
“Many of the people who came were delivered by my dad,” he says. “When I decided to write the book, one of the reasons was so the people down in Blakely would understand what had happened to him.”
He says he has been approached about the possibility of a film adaptation of the book but hasn’t come to a decision yet. He said if it comes to fruition, his daughter, Kim Wall, an actor, will definitely be involved.
Wall was asked to offer some advice for others who find that their loved ones were victimized in this way by the CIA.
“It’s been over 60 years ago now. Most people can overcome it during that time,” he says. “But the reason this story needs to get out is that we’re not Washington’s lab rats. We need to be protected by the government, not experimented on ... Today it’s not MKULTRA, it’s (Operation) Fast and Furious. It’s the abuse of power by federal agencies and the U.S. government in general, and a cover-up. ... During the time that MKULTRA was happening, the name Central Intelligence Agency was not even known.”
Wall’s book also includes some wonderful stories about his father’s sense of humor. “Little Doc,” as Wall Jr. was known, lovingly shares many of the stories that demonstrate his dad’s wicked-good sense of humor, even amidst heartache and ruin.
He says his children have come to understand his reasoning for writing it though one of his nieces was upset that he was writing it.
“I told her I wished I didn’t have to write the book ... but I had too,” he says.
Asked how living through this experience has shaped his life and successes, Wall says, “When your world turns upside down in a very short period of time, and then your dad is in prison and all the family property is sold on the courthouse square ... and the only car you’ve got is repossessed ... you have a benchmark that you never want to get back to again. If you survive that, you can make it.”
Wall Sr. died in 1967, at the age of 64, and is buried in Ellaville.
“Over the years after Daddy’s death our long-drawn silent nightmare lay like a heavy weight on my heart,” Wall Jr. writes. “I couldn’t talk about it, because I didn’t trust others to understand — I was simply burdened with embarrassment and shame at so much of what had happened. Mother refused to discuss any of it; she wanted it swept under the rug and forgotten ... ”
It was, at best, an unhealthy family dynamic. Mother and son and daughter locked their pain inside themselves, not even sharing it with each other.
Wall Jr. did extensive research on his father’s ordeal for many years prior to writing this book. He married, had children of his own; served in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of captain; earned his medical degree and did specialty training, and built a successful oral and maxillofacial surgical practice in Norcross.
In later years, after the CIA’s secret schemes were exposed in the national media, Wall would find other people who had been through similar years of hell after their loved ones had been victimized by the drug experiments.
His quest for the truth cost him his marriage and the skepticism of many friends, yet he remains intent on seeking justice.
Wall Jr. is associated with various professional organizations as well as Rotary International. He is the recipient of a litany of honors in his profession. He has taught on the faculty of Emory University, and delivered keynote speeches for decades for events and gatherings of his colleagues. He is well published professionally as well.
He invented the angioplasty stent, and his patent is in process. He holds patents for many other devices related to the practice of dentistry and to angioplasty.
Now in his mid-seventies, Wall Jr. enjoys his four children and eight grandchildren. His legacy is certainly one of honor and accomplishment. Throughout all he suffered, Henry Wall Jr. hasn’t lost his own sense of worth and through this book, he has given the world one of the greatest of gifts: knowledge.
“Healing From Hell,” published by NewSouth Books and is available at amazon.com