President Kennedy’s growth as a leader in June 1963 is a key to understanding his life and death.
As the current issue of Arms Control Today documents, JFK’s June 10 speech at American University would influenced the arms control vision all of the presidents who followed him. And as thisNew York Times column notes, his often-overlooked nationally televised address on June 11, 1963, signalled his evolution as a civil rights leader.
Kennedy announced that the two black students had been enrolled at the University of Alabama, overcoming the objections of racist Gov. George Wallace, and he announced that after more than two years in office and two years of violent segregationist backlash in the South, he was introducing comprehensive civil rights legislation. In an evening, JFK went from timid and calculating on civil rights issues to bold and visionary.
President Kennedy’s speech to the graduating class of American University in Washington DC 50 years ago represented the high point of his efforts to wind down the Cold War. His vigorous style and clear mind never had a more important goal — or more powerful enemies.
One common misconception about the JFK assassination story is that suspicions of conspiracy originated with authors who dreamed up sensational theories. In fact, the controversy over JFK’s death emerged from the circumstances of the crime before any conspiracy theories had been published.
Case in point: On December 1,1963, Richard Dudman, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who was in Dallas, wrote an unusual article about JFK’s assassination. He did not assume the truth of public statements by law enforcement agencies. Rather, he compared those statements to what he had observed, and he asked “Did Assailant Have an Accomplice?”
Dudman was no conspiracy theorist. He went on to a long career in Washington journalism in which his independent reporting later would land him on President Nixon’s so-called “enemies list.”
Ron Capshaw, a writer in Midlothian, Virginia, notes that 50 years ago this month, Lee Oswald fired a rifle shot at Gen. Edwin Walker, who had been cashiered from the Army for proselytizing to his troops with his right-wing, white supremacist politics.
Capshaw, a contributor to National Review, The Washington Times, and The New York Post, argues this incident on April 10, 1963, points toward Oswald’s sole guilt as the assassin of President Kennedy seven months later. I disagree with Capshaw’s interpretation but agree the Walker incident is important.
President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline arrive in Dallas on November 22, 1963. As captured by White House photographer Arthur Rickerby, the first couple exude a charismatic style that did not impress or deter his enemies. The handsome head, the red, white and blue palette, the exploding roses, the uniformed onlookers compose a tableau of imminent disaster. The breakdown in presidential security is almost complete, thanks in part to the CIA’s mishandling (or manipulation) of a man named Oswald. Their limousine awaits.
The press coverage of President Kennedy’s State of the Union address, on the morning of Tuesday January 15, 1963, while generally positive could not match the adulation shown his wife and family.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy arrives at the Capitol to listen to her husband’s State of the Union address on January 14, accompanied the Architect of the Capitol, J. George Stewart. The man gesturing with his had in the background is Secret Service agent Clint Hill who would be at her side when JFK was killed eleven months later. (JFK Library and Museum)
On Monday morning, January 14, President John F. Kennedy woke up prepared to give his third State of the Union address on Capitol Hill. He would never give another.
The past few days had been spent in intense preparation. JFK had shaped the address to focus on managing the Western coalition arrayed against the Soviet Union while proposing a three-year $10 billion tax cut to sweeten prospects for his liberal agenda on Capitol Hill. Read more
On Monday January 7, 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald reported to his job at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall, a graphic arts company in Dallas, where he had started working in October 1962. He would work there through April 1963.
Oswald’s time card
At the time Oswald was quarreling with his wife and corresponding with several leftist organizations. Various agencies of the U.S. government were also keeping track of him. When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wondered “What really happened?” in Dallas and doubted that U.S. security forces were so “inept,” he had a point: When it came to watching Lee Harvey Oswald, the U.S. government was not inept.
John Whitten is a rare hero of the JFK story. He was a senior CIA official who sought, behind the scenes, to conduct an honest investigation of what the agency knew about accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, before President Kennedy was killed.
But at a meeting on Christmas Eve 1963 deputy director CIA Richard Helms and counterintelligence chief Jim Angleton shut down Whitten’s efforts to investigate Oswald’s contacts among pro- and anti-Castro Cubans and relieved him of his responsibilities for investigating JFK’s assassination.
Whitten’s story, which I first reported in the Washington Monthly in 2003, illuminated the inner workings of the CIA in the days and weeks after JFK was killed. It is the story of a “good spy” whose pursuit of the truth about JFK’s death cost him his career. Read more
The site is dedicated to improving media coverage and public understanding of JFK's assassination, educating the young, and demanding the release of records still held in secret by U.S. government agencies.
Jefferson Morley, author and former Washington Post reporter, is the moderator of JFK Facts.
Morley has written about the JFK story for national publications including the Post, New York Times, New York Review of Books, Slate, Salon, TheAtlantic.com, and the Washington Monthly. He won the 2009 PEN/Oakland Censorship Award for his JFK reporting. He is author of "Our Man in Mexico; Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA" (University Press of Kansas, 2008).
Rex Bradford is the webmaster of JFK Facts, He is creator of MaryFerrell.org, the most comprehensive Web site of government records on the assassinations of JFK, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.