On the Sunday morning following the assassination, Kennedy’s body lay in state at the Capitol rotunda, for mourning visitors to see.
Meanwhile in Dallas, a handcuffed Lee Harvey Oswald was led into the basement of the Dallas city jail for transfer to the county jail. Suddenly, on live national television, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd of reporters and fired one fatal gunshot into Oswald’s abdomen.
This stunning deed shocked and baffled the nation–and eliminated a key witness to the events that led to JFK’s murder. Not known for his sense of humor, FBI Director Hoover informed the White House in a memo that began: “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”
Hoover moved with dispatch. He proposed that the government should blame the killing of the president on the dead suspect–and no one else. Hoover said there was a need to have “something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”
Hoover wanted that the FBI to handle the investigation. Deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach preferred a presidential commission for the job of convincing the public that Oswald was “the real asssassin.”
One version of the story holds that the creation of the Warren Commission was all the work of Katzenbach, while his boss Robert Kennedy was too grief-stricken to do anything. This version is incomplete. Other prominent Americans were already pushing the same idea, as shown by this phone callfrom Yale Law School Dean Eugene Rostow shows.
Influential columnist Stewart Alsop also pressed the idea vigorously in a call with President Johnson the following morning. Alsop repeatedly invoked the support of Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State and member of the ExComm Cuban Missile Crisis team.
On Nov. 24th and 25th, President Johnson was still resisting the Presidential Commission idea.
Play the Rostow-Moyers call:
Play the Alsop-Johnson call: