Readers weigh in: JFK book you should read: ‘Dallas 1963’

Leslie writes; “I would recommend returning to the scene of the crime, vis a vis Dallas, and read “Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis. It is an apologia for the Warren Commission conclusion and has won awards – some of which may have been based on that rather than the detail it provides of the back drop – but regardless, read with discernment, it is an excellent resource toward understanding the dynamics and ethos of the city leading to 11.22.63 … and it names names.:

27 thoughts on “Readers weigh in: JFK book you should read: ‘Dallas 1963’”

  1. I highly recommend Sherry Fiester, CSI who authored:
    ‘Enemy of the Truth: Myths, Forensics, and the Kennedy Assassination’

    Anyone who wants to get a grasp on what the newest knowledge is on ballistics, trajectory, wound analysis, blood spatter, and overall crime scene investigation needs to read this book. It is informative and compelling, and thoroughly footnoted.

    Alan Dale interviews Ms Fiester at this link:

    BTW, all of the interviews on that page are excellent and worth the time to listen.

  2. BTW, regarding books, over on the EDU forum Jim DiEugenio has commented that David Talbot’s the Devil’s Chess Board has reached # 20 on the New York Times best seller list and # 7 on that of the L A Times.

  3. Gaeton Fonzi’s book The Last Investigation is a terrific read on the assassination of JFK. Incidentally, it also has information on the bombing in Washington D.C of Orlando Letelier in 1976, which has been in the news recently. Anthony Summers’ Not in Your Lifetime is also very good.

  4. The authors include a seldom-reported episode from July 1962 centered on the president’s controversial plan to establish a “Medicare” program ‘to ensure health care for older Americans.’

    ‘Before the Senate acts, Kennedy has a meeting with a delegation of business leaders from Dallas, led by Stanley Marcus, a man close to LBJ. The timing of Marcus’s visit is beyond inauspicious – – his city is at the forefront of the public resistance to Kennedy’s Medicare plan. . . . on the radio, H. L. Hunt’s “Life Line” fills the airwaves with dozens of assaults on Medicare, claiming that it would create government death panels . . . and ‘a neat little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts, … literally make the President of the US a medical czar with potential life or death power …. ‘

    According to the authors, thru Lyndon Johnson Stanley Marcus skillfully maneuvered a meeting with Kennedy seeking some kind of dialogue ever since [Joe] Dealey’s eruption months before – – “What was needed was a man on horseback to lead this nation, and many people in Texas and the Southwest think that you are riding Caroline’s tricycle.” Marcus was joined by Erik Jonsson, cofounder of military contractor Texas Instruments, future president of the Dallas Citizens Council and master of ceremonies for the ill-fated luncheon at the Dallas Trade Mart, future Mayor of Dallas following Earle Cabell who managed Kennedy’s ‘corpse’ to be removed from legal jurisdiction and returned to Bethesda.

    Kennedy met the Texas [Stanley Marcus] delegation with reserved politeness and listened to the argument that given eight thousand federal workers were employed in Dallas, they were leasing office space at high prices; a permanent facility could save the federal government millions in rental fees. Kennedy pointed out that those in Dallas were [among the] most vocal in demanding he slash federal spending. However he offered a face-saving gesture and picked up the phone to call the General Services Administration to set the ball rolling.

    ‘By now, the president is ready to brush the men out of the Oval Office. But before he can do it, Marcus abruptly invites Kennedy to visit Dallas [so that] he can see first hand what a fine city it really is …. Kennedy studies the men, shakes hands, and promises to consider coming to Dallas one day soon. . . .

    After Marcus leaves, Kennedy and Johnson return their attention to the dramatic Medicare fight unfolding in the US Senate. The final vote … Medicare fails by two votes. . .

    Kennedy is devastated by the loss. He holds an impromptu press conference, and is as angry as the public has ever seen him. This is his worst day on Capital Hill as president. . .

    Back in Dallas, the [Dealey family’s] “Morning News” cheers the Senate vote, declaring Kennedy’s initiative a “legislative corpse” . . .

    – – “Dallas 1963” Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davies

    1. Leslie writes:
      “The authors include a seldom-reported episode from July 1962 . . . ”

      As I understand this event, clothing retailer and civic booster Stanley Marcus and others lobbied JFK for construction of a federal building in Dallas. And Marcus invited the president to visit the city. Seems innocent enough.

      Should we add Erik Jonsson and Stanley Marcus to the endless list of conspirators, along with Ruth Paine, Governor Connally,’ Dry Hole’ Byrd and everybody else?

      1. Bill, I think you’re the one making a leap here. The authors never intimate that Stanley Marcus was a villain, and my post was intended to highlight a particular section of their book relating to the venomous attack, fuelled and financed from Dallas, on Kennedy’s Medicare proposal as an example of the ethos of the city.

        Having worked closely for both Stanley Marcus and the HL Hunt family in the 1970’s-1980’s I recognize the masterful public relations behind this book. Stanley comes across as a saint who later warned Kennedy not to visit the city; but behind his awareness we may read an informed conscience. Please don’t make the leap to conclude that I’m accusing Marcus of involvement in the assassination, rather recognize that his promotion of Dallas was self-serving above all else as was Jonsson’s. These people weren’t in Washington meeting Kennedy for the good of the nation, I can assure you. To my knowledge, Marcus’ politics stopped at the door of his private business, Dallas was his backdrop, and his clientele were not vetted for their politics of discrimination or Americanism (and understand, I am sympathetic to the discrimination he endured as a Jewish retailer). The knock on effect was that business interests determined how the city functioned including how it was policed. The failure of the DPD to ensure Kennedy’s safety, the complete botch of the investigation in the early hours following the assassination all reflect an endemic political bent of the city. It may have been obnoxious to Marcus, but he continued to benefit. As the authors state, Kennedy recognized the agenda of the Texas delegation and was skeptical.

        Madam Nhu during her stopover in Dallas enjoyed an unscheduled shopping spree at Stanley’s store – Neiman Marcus – during her infamous “Buddhist Barbecue” visit to the US when she denounced Kennedy’s approach to what we now understand was her family’s stranglehold on South Vietnam. There is no indication that Marcus insisted she be turned away.

        There is more in the book “Dallas 1963”, Bill, including the little acknowledged combined passion of Kennedy AND Johnson in their efforts to pass a Civil Rights bill, a bill that met rabid resistance in Dallas. Also, throughout the book the authors weave the rise to political fame of an unstable General Edwin Walker that might only have been achieved in Dallas; they name those who backed him including Mayor Earl Cabell – brother of fired Deputy Director of the CIA Charles Cabell – who managed the removal of Kennedy’s corpse out of Texas.

        You may want to step up your game Bill. Accusing those who bring focus back to the scene of the crime as dot connecters exposes your lack of understanding of the environment in which President Kennedy was murdered; “nut country” in his own words, and he was NOT talking about the home of a 24 yr old former Marine.

    2. Leslie,
      Muchos gracias for those pivotal excerpts from Dallas 1963. You made me dig my copy out and dust it off, but that’s okay.

      JFK’s fight for Medicare is a neglected part of the history. I must fill the ellipsis in the second to last paragraph of your post: “The final vote / is exceedingly close. And yet, in a stinging REBUKE to the president, several SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS join Republicans to oppose Kennedy, and / Medicare fails by two votes.” And I must repeat from your next to last P.: “devastated … impromptu press conference … as angry as the public [or anybody, I wager] has ever seen him … worst day as president.” Talk about unprecedented, the man NEVER lost his cool; that is, until his own party killed his pride and joy, his baby.

      And HL Hunt’s fear-mongering about “government death panels,” it seems that same phrase has been bandied about recently.

      Another good point in your excerpt — bringing up a powerful Dallasite who was good, Stanley Marcus. We forget they existed. How anyone on this site could think you, Leslie, or this book implied that SM should be “added to the endless list of conspirators” (ellipsis for cursing) — What in the world?!?! I’m so sorry, Leslie. It goes to show that some see the public, bloodiest-possible massacre of our First Citizen, and maybe democracy and sovereignty itself, as a BIG FAT JOKE.

      Back to Dallas 1963. SM’s hope and vision for his adopted hometown was beautiful, often in the face of virulent yahooism. In the book, SM is the main counterpoint to the powerful and wealthy lunatics, as if the authors are saying, “Now don’t get the wrong idea. They weren’t ALL psychos. Dallas was not COMPLETELY a lower level of Dante’s Inferno.” Another big cultural enterprise in Dallas that surprised me was the huge Cokesbury Bookstore, which brought the likes of Steinbeck and Faulkner to Dallas.

      For good, not-rich or -powerful, folk in the book, there were several touching stories:
      — Civil rights’ heroes Juanita Craft and minister Rhett James were honored guests at the Kennedy White House lunch-gala, honoring Lincoln’s birthday and the 100-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
      — Jack Oran, liberated from Auschwitz by the Rooskies; tried NYC, but yearned for the frontier, went to Dallas, and since he was a master mechanic, opened a bicycle shop. (Weep for joy, Herbert George Wells.) Oran saw a familiar hysteria breaking out in his new hometown, and spoke out in meetings. Only to come home one night to a giant, roaring, blazing KKK cross in his yard. The proud culprit, Jimmy Robinson, boasted about it when caught, paid a $10 fine, and was promptly released. No charges.
      (Next: the bad and the hideously ugly)

      Less than 9 hours until the 53rd year of the American Coup begins.

      1. What does any of that have to do with a disaffected Marxist shooting JFK?
        What does any of that to do with the physical and forensic evidence in this case?

        1. as for your “disaffected Marxist” comment, Photon, if he shot JFK, others did as well. I know you’ll ask me to prove this, but I haven’t seen any proof from you that LHO was the actual killer.

        2. “What does any of that to do with the physical and forensic evidence in this case?” – – photon

          Photon rarely makes grammatical or typographical errors, but when he/she does I pay attention.

        3. The backstory of Dallas as the crime scene is relevant only to those who know there was a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy, and who wonder how the cover up could have been so effective in the earliest hours. The local authorities and luminaries were sitting the cat bird seat — “an American English idiomatic phrase used to describe an enviable position, often in terms of having the upper hand or greater advantage in all types of dealings among parties” — as the first official Coup d’Etat unfolded in America.

    3. (conc. part 1) “Dallas 1963” — the bad, the worse and the hideous
      I. The rich and powerful nogoodniks
      — rich (from his daddy’s money) oilman H L HUNT, Jr., a grasping, stingy, gambling-addicted, Bircher-fascist clown for the ages, who’s certain that he’s the world’s leading intellectual. He pushed books by others like ‘Hitler Was a Liberal’ and by himself, ‘Alpaca’, a utopia par excrescence where the number of a citizen’s votes is determined by wealth. Then it gets stupider. But Hunt feels his genius lies most in his radio broadcasting skills, ‘Life Line’ the final permutation circa ’63. For the program’s writers, he has a penchant for devoted uber-righties who ‘worked’ for the federal government they all despise, e. g. FBI Dan Smoot and CIA Warren Carroll.
      Hunt is a magnet for every not-see Nazi in the area who wants to make a fast buck doing what he loves.
      N.B. Other rich robbing fascists Sid Richardson and Clint Murchison are notably absent from this mostly worthless book. Maybe they’re not colorful (i.e. ridiculous) enough.

      — the rich grasping stingy religious freaks WA CRISWELL and BJ HARGIS, who should get historic credit for the Religious Right and televangelism, the Church of the Golden Altar. Clair Conner’s ‘Wrapped in the Flag’ is a much more accurate, honest portrait of these hucksters. Also, CC’s picture of John Birch Society criminality is much more valuable than this sad effort by Minutaglio and Davis.

      — the politically powerful: disgraced crackpots General E A Walker and US Representative Bruce Alger. That BA served ten years in the House is an insult to this nation. Smarmy and worthless doesn’t cover it, though he might have given Texas to the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in 1960 when he led Big D’s mink-coat mob against Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson a few days before the election. News coverage shocked the state and the nation. Maybe the best quotation in the book, from politically astute Richard Nixon, “We lost Texas because of that asshole congressman, you know.”
      — Ted “Caroline’s tricycle” Dealey, Dallas Morning News, of the full-page 11-22 advert “Welcome Mr. Kennedy” which prompted JFK to quip to his wife, “We’re heading into nut country today.” Funny story not in ‘D 1963’: Dallas Times Herald sent JFK an apology for DMN and Dealey’s behavior Oct. ’61 (cartoonish John Wayne horseback vs. tricycle). Kennedy replied: “I’m sure the people of Dallas are glad when afternoon comes.”(cont.)

    4. (end ‘Dallas 1963’ by BM and SLD)
      II. three struggling nogoodniks, and one guy to feel sorry for:
      — enlisted man Larrie Schmidt, twice mustered out of the Army, had a deep aversion to honest labor. He saw himself as the head of an army of ‘right-thinking genuine conservatives,’ which would save America from Negroes and the United Nations. LS was always hitting up the bigshot Nazis for funding, from Robert Surrey to Ted Walker to HL Hunt himself. Larrie constantly recruited his last brothers-in-arms in Germany to “come on down” to the fascist paradise in Big Doofus, TX. When they arrived, they were invariably disappointed, even his brother Bob, though he was granted the high honor of being Ted Walker’s chauffer. Bill Burley was another Army-buddy who came. The boys basically hung out in bars, waiting for the next handout. (Guys, check out Kay Griggs on the web RE military and ex-military who love crime-for-hire ‘jobs’. It’s still going on.)

      — Feel sorry for ex-Army Bernard Weissman, of the full-page anti-Kennedy ad in DMN. He put his name at the bottom and delivered the money for it, which was from the Hunts and Bircher Joe Grinnan. They probably gave poor Bernie a few bucks for ‘the job.’ BW had just arrived in Dallas 11-4-63. He was mighty ashamed and hurt to be in any way involved with the events. He should have listened to his Jewish intuition.

      The authors were on C-Span when their book came out. Before they took questions, they emphasized that the purview of the book ended with the shots in Dealey, that they had no opinion, etc. They became indignant when people asked anyway, “Do you honestly think Lee Oswald…?” Their bibliography is a who’s who of the garbage on the assassination. My question to them is, “How could you possibly be involved for so long in this and have NO OPINION?”

      Especially objectionable about this book is their idiotic, one-dimensional, spoon-fed picture of Lee Oswald. It’s eerily, suspiciously similar to the LHO portrait in Stephen King’s ’11-22-63.’

    5. To leslie’s original assessment of “Dallas 1963”, I would only change the “excellent” to it’s a “PRETTY GOOD resource toward understanding the dynamics and ethos of the city leading to 11.22.63”

      1. I would add that this book goes to show that any authors questioning the party (War Con) line on the assassination are costing themselves ALL book reviews in major publications and about half the copies they will sell. Which goes to show the continuing fear and cowardice of the American state.
        Though thanks, Leslie, for starting this topic. “Dallas 1963” IS a good and very unique resource, though much of the info found here, to me, was unintended by the authors.

        1. “. .. much of the info found here … was unintended by the authors” — Roy Kornbluth.

          As I intimated, that was one reason for highlighting the book as a resource. I argue that new students should be aware of subtext and learn to discern.

          There were a number of personalities in Dallas through whom this same material could have been exposed yet the authors selected Stanley Marcus, the quintessential marketeer, as a foil to argue Oswald’s guilt.

          It’s all about the cover up, the crime becomes secondary.

          1. My last comment on ‘Dallas 1963’ by BM and STD, I promise. This book is very unique; I haven’t seen another like it on the subject. A good, accurate resource about “the dynamic and ethos” of Dallas leading up to The Coup. Written all in the present tense gives it an immediate sense.

            I realize that, ever since I read it when it came out, it’s been like a tumor waiting to be excised. Leslie, I owe you for medical services rendered.

      2. On page 199 of ‘Dallas 1963’, the first full paragraph shows America in general and Dallas in particular to be a place made for conspiracy. Larrie Schmidt, recruiting his Army buddies to Dallas for the atmosphere hospitable to far-righties, gives them several heads-up about how to act when they arrive:

        “The enforced segregation in Dallas was something he [LS grew up in Nebraska] had never witnessed before. [LS in a letter (to Bernard Weissman?):] ‘Down here a negro is n****r. No one — and I mean no one — is ever to say one kind word about n****rs. Only liberals do that… On the other hand, the KKK is passe. Don’t praise it. Don’t preach race hatred. Don’t say anything good about n****rs — but don’t talk about harming them either. The conservative isn’t “agin the nigras,” he just wants to keep him in his place for his own good.'”

        A society where a powerful majority can harm and suppress a substantial minority without ONE WORD being said in public, is a double conspiracy. The concerted, hidden crime is agreed upon, and the cover-up is set up in advance. The 1963 Dallas racist/thief/murderer figures he out-smarted those smarty-pants liberals: the criminals have a tacit agreement about what’s to be done AND they have murderous threats to prevent anyone from revealing their crimes.

        More than 80 black churches were fire-bombed in the South in the early civil rights era. Not one indictment.

        One last thing about ‘Dallas 1963’ that bleeds through on every page: Big D is exceedingly jealous of its reputation. Like a gangster who is exceedingly offended by slights against his character. Picture those hostile “Don’t Mess with Texas” T-shirts on a billboard. But it works. We’re all scared.

  5. Born in Fort Worth, where JFK spent his last night and gave his last two speeches, raised in Tarrant County, having worked in Dallas for many years… I’d already concluded my next book purchase would be this book based on Leslie’s description and recommendation.
    I’m currently waiting on the revised edition of In the Eye of History by William Matson Law as I’ve read it’s the best thing out there on the medical evidence other than Douglas Horne’s collection which as a working man I can’t find the time to read nor have the funds for all of it.
    For insight into Dallas in 63 and the years preceding I’d like to recommend another book I think not particularly well received by the research community, Betrayal in Dallas by Mark North. In particular it’s Exhibits pgs. 163-249. Letters to-from LBJ and Dallas DA Henry Wade (“my friend”, ” If I can ever help you with anything please command me”), Hoover, and Connally for starters.
    In addition it details the Dallas mafia, Civello (1st to visit Ruby in jail) and the Campisi’s whom I believe passed on the order to Ruby to Hit Oswald, or else. Much more interesting information.

    1. I’d like to qualify my recommendation of Betrayal in Dallas,
      after reading some of the negative reviews, esp. William Davey’s harsh one on CTKA. I do not and did not when I read it agree with the books assertion that LBJ & the mafia “did” the assassination. I still think it is valuable in illustrating the corruption of the Dallas legal system by the mafia which in turn made Dallas an ideal place for the assassination. The reprinted letters, in particular between LBJ and Wade show the DA was willing to do anything for the then VP. Including whatever it took to make sure the cover up worked. Right down to making sure Oswald was allowed to be silenced.

      1. Ronnie Dear Chap

        , I believe you meant when LBJ was President, or has your classification authorized you clearance for who was actually President on 11-23-1963.

        Willy Bova

      2. I agree, Ronnie…North’s ‘Betrayal” is certainly a flawed work, but it vividly depicts Henry Wade as a devoted LBJ acolyte. North also paints a disturbing portrait of the East Texas power elite, including the Sicilian element as epitomized by the Dallas-based Zuroma Club which hosted a variety of mainstream leaders as guests and speakers, guys such as DA Wade and Mayor Earle Cabell…good chance Jack Ruby was also an occasional Zuroma guest…
        I think Wm. Davey was rather harsh in his criticism of “Betrayal” based mainly on North’s frequent use of newspaper sources. I also enjoyed North’s book on J. Edgar Hoover, which pretty well proved that the FBI knew a murder plot was in process and simply did nothing to stop it.

        1. Thank you for your response Russ. I started to post more but it seemed no one was interested. The weekly Zuroma/later Anonymous club poker games and dinners sponsored by the “Italian community” are intriguing. With as you mention Wade and Cabbell as well as Sheriff Decker as guests it made me wonder if they might no be on the take, so to speak.
          North’s 23 (unanswered of course) questions to Wade in the 90’s are also interesting.
          E.G. # 18.
          …”11/22/63, you told the Dallas media that the evidence indicated more than one person was involved in the JFK assassination…”

  6. For the absolute neophyte, I always recommend Anthony Summers’, “Not iIn Your Lifetime,” originally “Conspiracy,” but the most recent edition has valuable new info. When I was 16 (1966) I read Mark Lane’s, “Rush to Judgement” and it changed my life. The latest generation of books by Douglass, DiEugenio, Hancock, Horne, etc are really for the experienced students of the crime. So many books, so much junk, but so many great works by dedicated researchers and historians.

    1. To further clarify your post I’d like to say the works of Douglas, DiEugenio, Hancock, Horne etc are not the junk if any readers might so infer. That would be Posner, Bugliosi and others.

      1. Absolutely agree. Thanks for clarifying any confusion inferred by my post. There are some really terrible books, the works of those two hacks included. Of course, there are also some horrendous works among the CT’ers as well. In fact, too many to cite here.

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