Where were you on November 22, 1963 when you heard the news of the assassination of President Kennedy? For those of us who are “that old” … there is no doubt we all can readily recall just where we were when we first received the news of this life shattering and life changing event. The news and the events that unfolded before our very eyes over that time fifty years ago are forever etched in our collective psyche!
Not that it matters to anyone but myself — I was sitting in Mr. Livingston’s Grade 11 History class when the Principal’s voice came over the ancient intercom relaying the dreaded deed in Dallas. The next few days were a blur of hauntingly fuzzy yet vivid black and white images over my television screen:
Walter Conkrite taking off his sixties style glasses and wiping his eyes as he announced that the vital and youthful President had “died at 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time”.
Lyndon Baines Johnson being sworn in as the new President with a grief stricken Jackie at his side wedged within the confines of the aisle on Air Force One.
The grieving widow hand in hand with a grieving brother descending from the cargohold along with the coffin.
The release of a photograph of a Lee Harvey Oswald (taken by his Russian born wife) posing in his backyard proudly holding “the rifle”.
The open window of the Texas Book Depository with the boxes stacked up in front to aid “the shooter”
A battered Oswald being interviewed live by a mob of reporters in the corridor of the Dallas city jail — (can you imagine the suspect just out there surrounded by the media without any security? ) Fast forward to Sunday noon when my TV screen image captures Oswald now being escorted from the jail by a stetsoned detective through a parking garage to an awaiting van, again surrounded by the media, and THEN live on my Philco black and white 24″ screen a fedored squat stranger wielding a pistol darts out of the swarm of reporters, the detective reacts, Oswald grimaces and holds his abdomen, a skirmish ensues and the stranger is subdued, an ambulance arrives and transports the dying Oswald to the same hospital where Kennedy had died two days earlier. * I had just witnessed my first and last murder live!!!
The theatre continued over the next few days … recalled images are now coloured … magazines and newspapers show Jackie stylishly dressed in a pink suit and matching pillbox hat, but the suit is now streaked with the red blood of her husband, who earlier is shown beside her wearing a grey suit and blue striped shirt and tie with a shock of chestnut coloured hair. Colourful frames of Abraham Zapruder’s home movie show a waving President and then a road sign blocks our view. As the car emerges from behind the sign the President is no longer waving but slumped over against his wife.
Images continue — lines of mourners passing by the flag draped coffin, the veiled widow, the salute by 3 yr. old John John ( it’s his birthday!), the riderless horse, the lighting of the eternal flame and “so it goes” …
Life was never the same for most of us after that long ago week. Our innocence and to a degree our idealism, as that of society in general, were unconsciously taken away. Our personal history, as well as the history of the world over the last 50 years, was altered.
November 22, 1963 certainly an event not to celebrated, but to be recognized and acknowledged. According to the New York Times Book Review the event alone has precipitated 40,000 + titles over the last 50 years, with a rush of new books coming out surrounding the anniversary. WPL presently holds over 100 titles on its shelves in various formats, with a number of newly published titles on order. A list of books is available on our webpage @ http://woodstock.bibliocommons.com/list/show/73851796_woodstocklibrary/213916565_50th_anniversary_of_assassination_of_jfk
These titles cover every aspect of the event and the major players in the theatre that took place in Dallas and Washington over those historic days. They are written by family and friends, historians and political pundits, secret service agents and mistresses — from various perspectives historical, political and personal. The listing also includes Books on CD, CDs, DVDs in addition to printed material. Most are nonfiction works found in the history, politics or true crime sections of the library with a few fictional “what ifs” novels thrown in.
According to a recent Associated Press survey, 71% believe in a conspiracy theory behind the assassination, leaving only 29% who accept the official Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The literature supports this controversy. There are a number of conspiratorial titles and a few that support the official conclusion. At the same time there are some titles that celebrate “the bright and shining moment” of JFK’s presidency and some that portray a darker side of Camelot. All the titles are fascinating in their own way and give the readership a range of choice.
It is a long list but I just want to highlight a few titles, some being older ones of merit and some newer ones of interest — some approaching the dispute over Camelot and Conspiracy from opposing sides.
“President Kennedy Has Been Shot” allows you to experience the moment-to-moment account of the “Four Days That Changed America” with transcripts, actual broadcasts and interviews with eyewitnesses — with an accompanying audio CD of live TV broadcasts, and conversations from the White House and Air Force One.
A classic Kennedy book is “The Death of a President” by William Manchester, an author handpicked by the Kennedys and given unprecedented access to sources. However after viewing the manuscript, Jackie and Bobby sought to stop its publication. Although published in 1965, it was allowed to go out of print shortly thereafter — but the anniversary has seen a reprint in both paperback and eReader format.
Another classic is the 1965 “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House” ,a look at the Kennedy Presidency through the eyes of Arthur Schlesinger JR, court historian and architect of the Camelot myth. On the other end of the spectrum is Seymour H. Hersh’s “The Dark side of Camelot”, which portrays a more sinister court replete with mobsters connections and sexual escapades.
According to recent article by Jill Abramson in the NYT Book Review, JFK remains an elusive and enigmatic figure not yet captured in a worthy biographical work. The best attempt to date, according to Abramson, is Robert Dalleck’s “An Unfinished Life” which provides fresh material on JFK’s very serious and persistent health problems and the resulting cover up of his condition, which somehow adds to his heroic characterization.
Turning our attention away from JFK to Lee Harvey Oswald, “the shooter” or “the patsy” — have a look at Norman Mailer’s “Oswald’s Tale” or Priscilla Johnson McMillan’s “Marina and Lee”.
Primary sources of interest are the recent release of Jacqueline Kennedy’s long ago interview with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. on the assassination of her husband. Another source is the release of the Kennedy White House tapes (memorably of the October 1962 missile crisis), as well as the Letters of JFK. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Profiles in Courage”, is another titles of interest.
A number of conspiratorial titles have been written throughout the years by Mark Lane, Jim Garrison, Oliver Stone to mention just a few. There is a new one out by Philip Stenon, “A Cruel and Shocking Deed : the secret history of the Kennedy Assassination” which is the first insider’s look at the Warren Commission and reveals information withheld from the commission by the FBI, CIA and other Washington sources. *On order at WPL
Of course there is Bill O’Reilly’s bestseller, “Killing Kennedy : the end of Camelot, which holds the official account of the Warren Commission. A very readable, if believable, account of the event.
Speaking of readable, have a look at the nonfiction and fiction “what ifs”… Jeff Greenfield’s new “If Kennedy had Lived” or Stephen King’s “9/11” or the newly published “Top Down : a novel of the Kennedy Assassination” by Jim Lehrer to name just a few…
There are books and media of interest for everyone, depending on your frame of reference — so check it out!!!
Recall, Inform, Investigate this very significant event in our history.