I’ve always been fascinated by the Kennedy family. They had all that power; all that audacity.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy added even more to my fascination. It was how it happened; when it happened and where it happened… in Dallas which as a native Texan, was in my own backyard. I’ve read a great deal about that fateful day in Dallas all those years ago. The more I read, the more I’m confused. Who did it and why.
I won’t both with that aspect of the assassination in this post, but I will share what I’ve learned about some of the sadly iconic aspects of the case that hardly ever get any press.
Permit me to preface this with how I view benchmark dates on the calendar. I consider everything/anything that happened after my birthday on April 22, 1959 to be (as they say) “Modern Times”. That stands to reason; my life began that day.
But I also consider two other dates to be seminal; to be obvious points of reference in my life and that of humanity, really. I see September 11, 2001 and think everything changed after that day. I also look at November 22, 1963 and in a sense, I feel the same way. Life before and life after JFK.
I was exactly four and a half years old that day. My memories are a bit vague, but I do remember the moment the world found out that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. For me, that day began shortly after 12:30 pm. I’d eaten lunch and it was time for my afternoon nap. My mother who’d just started rocking me to get me to go to sleep, was watching her favorite soap opera, “As the World Turns”, which focused on the many trials and tribulations of the fictitious Hughes family of the fictitious, but perfectly halcyon berg of Oakdale, Any State—U.S.A.
On that day, I remember the soap and at just under age five, I really didn’t understand…or remember what the characters were talking about. With the advent of You Tube, history buffs have corrected that for me. Matriarch, Nancy Hughes and her father-in-law “Grandpa” were in the living room talking about their problematic daughter-in-law, Lisa when the TV screen suddenly went silent. A solid black screen replaced the picture at first. That was followed by a full screen shot depicting a network news bulletin. Then, a man’s voice pierced the silence. I would later learn it was that of legendary CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite. He relayed that shots had been fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas and there was a report that he’d been wounded. A few minutes later, another update confirming that Kennedy had been shot and was undergoing emergency surgery at Parkland Hospital.
My mother was upset. She was a card-carrying Democrat, as most Texans were back then. But aside from party affiliation, she respected the Kennedy family, especially their elan, their style and in-your-face Catholicism. Additionally, she and Jackie Kennedy were the same age. I remember my mother holding me and saying, “That poor woman. That poor woman!”.
A few minutes later, Cronkite appeared in full screen to announce that Kennedy had died of a gunshot wound to the head. That young man; this vital President had been shot dead in the streets of a major metropolitan city. It must have been an incredibly surreal moment for the nation,. if the mood in my house was any indication. That’s when my mother did what everyone else was doing at that very moment–she cried.
And now, 48-years later, there are still so many questions about what happened in Dealey Plaza on that day. Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist sympathizer and avowed Marxist stood accused of his murder.
Many didn’t believe it then and many still don’t believe it today. I suppose it’s because we have a tough time grappling with the fact that a sawed-off, Napoleonic narcissist and former Marine could buy a 20-year old Italian-made, Manlicher-Carcano bolt-action rifle, with a bent scope through the mail. He then supposedly positioned himself in a sniper’s nest of corrugated boxes near a window of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building.; he took his gun, aimed, somehow got off three shots in less than six seconds and killed the most powerful man in the world.
Well, maybe he did.
And maybe he didn’t.
Perhaps Oswald was the patsy he claimed he was shortly after his arrest in the Texas Theater that afternoon. Maybe he was part of some vast covert NSA/CIA to force a coup d’état or maybe it was to escalate the Vietnam War, as filmmaker Oliver Stone would have us believe. I don’t know and as I mentioned earlier, who pulled the trigger and why won’t be the crux of this post.
All I want to accomplish on this, the 48th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, is to share with you a few little known facts associated with the sad, bleak day in Dallas.
Jack and Jackie Kennedy were a good-looking couple. Young and elegant. He was charming; tanned and savvy. She knew fashion and had an uncanny sense of style. A far cry from her predecessor, Former First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower. They had veritable groupies. People flocked to them both to witness just a glimmer of their youthful exuberance. And on that fateful autumn day, onlookers in Dallas weren’t disappointed. Jackie’s now infamous two piece, Channel knock-off in vibrant raspberry pink wool with a blue velvet collar and matching pillbox hat was a huge hit. Mrs. Kennedy finished off her ensemble with white wrist length gloves and corresponding blue pumps.
A little more about that iconic pink suit: It was made in 1961 by the New York dress salon of Chez Ninon. It is reportedly a Chez Ninon copy of a Chanel pink boucle wool suit that had an estimated cost (in 1963 dollars) of $1,000. In a 2010 Coco Chanel biography, it’s claimed that Chanel provided the material for the suit, and that Chez Ninon merely “assembled it.” Jackie wore the suit several times between 961 and 1963.
It was at President Kennedy’s request that she wear the outfit in Dallas. He said she looked “ravishing in it.”
November 22nd, 1963 dawned rainy in Dallas. One of Texas’ famed blue northers was due in later that day and just as the Presidential party, it would be greeted with Indian Summer’s last grasp at somewhat warmer temperatures. The mercury rose to 72 degrees in Dallas that morning. Jackie was probably a bit uncomfortable all decked out in a wool suit.
During the initial campaign three years earlier, Jackie learned to hate political stumping. But weeks earlier, she reluctantly agreed to accompany her husband to mend political fences in the Democratically fractured state of Texas. Even with Texan, Lyndon Johnson on the ticket as Vice President, Texas was undecided and could quite possibly go Republican in the presidential election in November 1964. The party needed Kennedy’s deft political touch and Jackie’s charm and grace to get it reunified and back on solid Democratic footing.
Dallas was the last leg of a three city Texas tour. Earlier in the week, Kennedy had been here in Houston and also in San Antonio. He was warmly received in both cities. Air Force One landed at Dallas’ Love Field late on the morning of Novermber 22. The President and Mrs. Kennedy were met by then Texas Governor, John Connelly and his wife, Nellie. All four boarded a new, 1964 year model Lincoln limousine convertible which would take the nine car motorcade from the airport through downtown Dallas to the Trade Mart, where Kennedy was scheduled to appear as a keynote speaker at a luncheon in his honor.
He never made it.
As the limousine carrying the Connallys and the Kennedys wound its way through the friendly crowd that had lined the streets, Texas First Lady, Nellie Connally turned to President Kennedy, who was in a seat behind her, and said, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.” A fraction of a second after she said that, at 12:30 pm (CST), gunfire erupted in Dealey Plaza.
When the proverbial smoke had cleared, President Kennedy had been shot in the throat first, then the head; Connelly was wounded in the chest and thigh, presumably, by the same “single bullet” that would ultimately kill the president. A Dallas area dry cleaner named Abraham Zapruder, filmed the entire motorcade on his new Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Camera powered by a spring-wound mechanism, hand-held camera. In doing so, he filmed history. “The Zapruder Film” has become the most viewed piece of celluloid in history. It captures the exact moment when both men were shot, including the very graphic frame 313…the now infamous fatal head shot. Zapruder stood atop the most western of the two concrete pedestals that extend from the John Neely Bryan north pergola overlooking Elm Street in Dealey Plaza. He filmed from the time the presidential limousine turned onto Elm Street about 12:30 pm (CST) until it passed out of view under a railway overpass. The sequence contains 486 frames, or 26.6 seconds of Kodachrome II 8 mm safety film, of which 343 of the frames (18.7 seconds in total ) show the president’s limousine
In the fleeting seconds after the fatal head wound, the film also shows a frantic Mrs. Kennedy climbing out onto the trunk of the limo, not to shield her husband; not to escape the line of fire and not to help the Secret Agent climb aboard the moving vehicle, but to instinctively retrieve a portion of his brain where it landed. Her actions are clear in subsequent frames of the film.
As just mentioned, Secret Service agent Clint Hill who’d been riding one car back, rushed to the limo, climbed aboard and threw his body on top of Mrs. Kennedy and her wounded husband, then shouted for driver to head to nearby Parkland Hospital, which was part of the disaster plan, something for which the Service always prepares. The President and Governor Connally were rushed into two separate Operating Rooms. Doctor’s worked frantically to save both men, but Kennedy’s head wound was mortal. A Catholic priest was called in to administer Last Rites and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States was pronounced dead.
Dallas based Oneal’s Funeral Home was called and asked to deliver a high-end bronze casket which would be used to transport the President’s body back to Washington on board Air Force One. Lyndon Johnson, fearing foreign attack in the assassination’s aftermath, asked to be sworn in as President immediately. Texas Federal Judge, Sarah T. Hughes was called and came aboard the presidential jet to administer the Oath of Office. Johnson asked that Mrs. Kennedy be present and she was, physically anyway. She was still in her blood soaked pink wool suit. She declined several offers to change her clothing, saying she “wanted the world to see what they’d done to Jack.”
Johnson put one hand, not on a Bible, but rather on a Roman Catholic missal that belonged to JFK. It’s a book containing all the prayers and responses for celebrating mass through the year. It was found near JFK’s bed on board Air Force One. With one hand in the air and in the fleeting seconds before Air Force One took off toward the east late in the afternoon of November 22, 1963, Lyndon Baines Johnson became the 36th President of the United States. This was a perfect example of the transfer of power in a free, Democratic society.
Network TV cameras were on hand to capture Air Force One when it touched down hours later at Andrews Air Force Base. A shocked nation watched as President Kennedy’s casket was removed from the jet and taken to an awaiting hearse. Mrs. Kennedy was helped out of the plane as well. She appeared weak and ragged. The day’s trauma had been clearly etched on her face. And then there was all of that blood. The splattering on her legs and skirt was quite visible, but mercifully obscured by the darkened and grainy images of early 1960’s black and white broadcast technology.
WHAT HAPPENED TO JACKIE’S SUIT?
Once she arrived back at the White House, Mrs. Kennedy insisted that she remain in the suit as she began making arrangements for a State Funeral. There were matters of protocol to sort through, plans of all kinds she had to make. She had impromptu meetings to attend and important phone calls to make. She didn’t take off the suit until 5:00 the next morning. She handed it to her private attendant who folded it–still blood soaked–then put it in a brown cardboard box.
Several months after that terrible day in Dallas, that same box arrived at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The return address was on O Street, the Georgetown residence of Jacqueline Kennedy’s mother. Packed inside was the Jackie’s pink wool suit. At the bottom of the box, were dark-colored flecks. At first, officials thought it was rust. It was actually flecks of dried blood.
The contents of the box were in their original packaging until the early 1990’s. That’s when efforts were made to preserve the outfit. The skirt and jacket —a perfect size 6— now lie flat, with a suggestion of a human form created by acid-free tissue paper, carefully folded inside the sleeves. The dark shell blouse that Jackie wore underneath the jacket is there as well, so are her blue pumps, a matching purse and her hose. The box is kept in a windowless room. The air inside is changed six times an hour and the temperature is kept at a temperature that never dips below 65-degrees and never hovers higher than 68-degrees. Humidity is maintained at 40-percent. Officials believe that in this environment, the suit will last indefinitely.
And there it remains today. It’s stored in a custom-designed corrugated board box which rests on a gray steel shelf in a secured area of an annexed warehouse in Maryland belonging to the National Archives. It’s never been cleaned. As per Caroline Kennedy’s instructions, the suit will not be made available for public viewing until the year 3007.
No one knows what happened to the blood soaked gloves. The famous pillbox hat — removed at Parkland Hospital while Mrs. Kennedy waited for doctors to confirm what she already knew — last known to be in the hands of her personal secretary, Mary Gallagher. She was with Jackie at Parkland Hospital.
“While standing there I was handed Jackie’s pillbox hat and couldn’t help noticing the strands of her hair still beneath the hat pin. I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head.”
What happened to the hat after that is unknown.
ABOUT THE ORIGINAL CASKET
Once the bronze, silk-lined casket carrying President Kennedy’s body arrived at Bethesda Air Force Base for an autopsy, a new casket was acquired from Gawler’s, a D.C. based funeral home. This is the one in which the President would eventually be buried. And the original casket? The one obtained from Oneal’s Funeral Home in Dallas? Well, after haggling to reduce a sizable charge for the bronze model, the bill was finally paid—$4000.00— a few years later.
Gawler’s came into possession of the casket when it replaced it with one of their own; a top of the line mahogany coffin . A few days after the funeral, Gawler’s turned the Oneal box over to the National Archives, where it was kept in a secure vault in the basement.
At the Kennedy family’s insistence, the polished bronze casket used to transport the president’s body, should be dumped into the ocean. Despite concerns that the casket was government property, Robert Kennedy believed it belonged to the family and demanded that, “we can get rid of it any way we want to,” according to a memo recounting their telephone conversation.
About two weeks later, on February 18, 1966, an Air Force van picked up the casket at the National Archives building in downtown Washington. To make sure that it would sink, the casket was loaded with three 80-pound bags of sand. Numerous holes were drilled into the coffin and a pine box that encased it. It was bound with metal banding tape and rigged with parachutes to break the impact of hitting the water.
At 8:38 a.m., a C-130 airplane carrying the casket left Andrews Air Force Base and flew off the Maryland-Delaware coast. The plane descended to 500 feet and at 10 a.m., the tail hatch of the plane was opened and the 660-pound load was pushed out. The parachutes opened shortly before impact and the entire rigged load remained intact and sank sharply, clearly and immediately after the soft impact. The aircraft circled the drop point for some 20 minutes at 500 feet to ensure that it sank and didn’t return to the surface.
The drop point — in 9,000 feet of water beyond the continental shelf — was chosen because it was away from regularly traveled air and shipping lines and would not be disturbed by trawling and other sea-bottom activities.
I should mention that Secret Service Agent, Jim Sibert and another agent, Frances X. O’Neill, met the casket At Andrews AFB and accompanied it to Bethesda for the autopsy. They were assigned to stay with the body and, be present “to obtain bullets reportedly in the president’s body.”
When Kennedy’s body was removed from its casket, it was nude, wrapped only in white sheets. The one around his head was blood soaked. His eyes were fixed open, Sibert recalled. The suit Kennedy wore in the open-topped limousine had been cut off in the ER at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and presumably saved for evidence. His suit, pin striped button down shirt, shoes and his back brace are all in the National Archives, in the exact same condition they were in Dallas almost five decades earlier.
It should also be mentioned that Texas Governor, John Connally who was also in the limo that day in Dallas, was shot as well. Interesting though that almost immediately following the assassination, Connally’s jacket was sent to the dry cleaners, completely destroying its value as evidence. It’s believed that the family still has the jacket.
THE PRESIDENTIAL LIMOUSINE
It was modified to a convertible (probably not a great idea in retrospect) and also featured an array of high-tech gadgets including a radio link back to the White House. The car featured a variety of tops that could be popped on when needed and by the time the car was finished being modified, a 1962 grill and bumper assembly was added to keep the car up to date. At the time of the assassination, the car was a dark navy blue. In the photo above, the color is obvious.
But I always thought it was black. Guess that was due in part to the black and white TV world I lived in the early sixties. It was however, painted black following JFK’s murder.
It was also modified again when officials returned it to a closed-in sedan, but this time with bulletproof armor. For some reason, the car (and I have to admit, I find this fact incredibly morbid considering the bloody reality that happened in that backseat) continued on as a presidential limousine until 1967 and was finally retired from government service in 1978.
It’s now on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
THAT ICONIC PHOTO AND OSWALD’S LAST WORDS
Jack Ruby drive into downtown Dallas to send a money order to one of his employees. He then walked to the nearby police headquarters where Oswald was about to be transferred by armored car, to the nearby county jail. He made his way to the basement.
At 11:15 AM Oswald had a final conversation with Inspector, Thomas J. Kelley with the US Secret Service. He approached Oswald and said that as a Secret Service agent, he was anxious to talk with him as soon as he secured counsel, because Oswald was charged with the assassination of the President but had denied it. Oswald said, “I will be glad to discuss this proposition with my attorney, and that after I talk with one, we could either discuss it with him or discuss it with my attorney, if the attorney thinks it is a wise thing to do, but at the present time I have nothing more to say to you.” Oswald was then handcuffed to Dallas detective Jim Leavelle, the man in the lighter colored suit and matching Stetson and the pair walked out into the carport in the basement.
At 11:21 am, stepping out from a crowd of reporters and photographers Ruby fired a Colt Cobra .38 into Oswald’s abdomen, fatally wounding him. Millions of Americans saw it as it actually happened live on a nationally televised broadcast shown on all three TV networks.
Why Ruby killed Oswald still aren’t clear, even almost 50 years later. Some think it was all part of the massive conspiracy; to keep Oswald from talking. After all, the 24-year- old had insisted while in custody that he was ‘a patsy’. There’s also some evidence which suggests that the shooting was performed on a whim, because Ruby left his beloved Dachsund, Sheba, in the car. It’s been said that he told authorities that he did it to help the city of Dallas “redeem” itself in the eyes of the public–that Oswald’s death would spare Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of appearing at Oswald’s trial. This shooting allowed Ruby, in hos mind, to avenge Kennedy.
He was eventually convicted of Oswald’s murder.
During the six months following the assassination, Ruby repeatedly asked to speak to the members of the Warren Commission, which initially showed no interest in having any conversations whatsoever. Only after Ruby’s sister Eileen wrote letters to the commission, did members agree to talk to him. In June 1964, Chief Justice Earl Warren and then n-Representative Gerald Ford and other commission members went to Dallas to see Ruby. He asked Warren several times to transfer him for facilities in Washington, DC, insisting that his life was in danger in Dallas, plus he wanted an opportunity to make additional statements, something he felt he couldn’t do in Texas. Warren told Ruby that a transfer was virtually impossible due to so many legal barriers and intense public interest.
Ruby’s cell was isolated from the rest of the prisoners, near the chief’s office, with full-time security. He liked special attention. He particularly enjoyed his daily shipment of fan mail, over 50 letters a day congratulating him, calling him a hero. But eventually, the fan mail stopped arriving and Ruby lapsed into depression.
He later developed a severe case of pnuemonia and tests revealed he had lumch cancer. He was taken to Parkland Hospital, the same location where both Kennedy and his alleged assassin died their gunshot wounds, almost four years earlier. He only added to the hospital’s historical significance when he also died there on January 3, 1967. He was 55 years-old. Considering the relatively short time period between the time of the assassination and his death, some suspected that Ruby knew of his terminal cancer at the time of the assassination, which may have contributed to his motives. When asked by the House Select committee on Assassinations if Ruby could have known about his cancer, Dallas County medical examiner Dr. Earl Rose, who performed the autopsy on Ruby, replied, “no”.
Ruby stated publicly that he was convinced he’d been injected with cancer cells. He was buried in Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago beside the graves of his parents.
Shortly before his death, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his death sentence for Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder and granted him a new trial. The new trial was scheduled to be held in Wichita Falls, Texas however no date had been set when Ruby died.
SIDE NOTE: The above photograph is one we’ve all seen over the years. It’s become fairly representative of those five days in November, 1963. It was shot by a local news photographer on a Sunday morning, less than 48 hours after Kennedy was killed, in the basement of the Dallas Police Department , just a few blocks from where the assassination had occurred. The man behind the lens that morning was Dallas Times-Herald reporter, Robert H. Jackson who won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for Photography for the photo, which Pulitzer judges say showed “the hunched determination of the assassin, the painful gasp of the handcuffed victim, and the shock of helplessness on the face of a policeman”.
PERIPHERAL ASSASSINATION TIDBITS
Oswald’s grave is in Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park in Fort Worth. The original tombstone, which included Oswald’s full name and dates of birth and death, was stolen; today, the grave is marked by a stone which reads simply, Oswald. He was killed before standing trial for the murder of President Kennedy under due process. As a result, he’s still presumed innocent by the law.
The rifle Oswald used, 1940’s era Italian bolt-action, Mannlicher Carcano with a bent scope…was purchased in March of 1963. An investigation of his possessions revealed a receipt , for the money order he allegedly used to purchase the rifle (no receipts were ever found for the .38 pistol in his belongings.. He allegedly used the rifle to shoot Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit). The purchase amount totalled $21.45. This was for one rifle and scope, but no clip or bullets. Both the rifle and gun are in the National Archives.
In 1994, Oswald’s morgue toe tag and a lock of his hair fetched $8,800 at a Dallas auction. In 2009, a gray fedora worn by Jack Ruby when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald has sold for $53,775 at an auction of items linked to Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The shackles he Ruby wore when he lay dying at Parkland Memorial Hospital sold for $11,054 and an X-ray of Ruby’s head garnered $776. At this same auction, a front page of The Dallas Morning News that Kennedy had signed for a maid at a Fort Worth hotel on the morning of his death sold for $38,837. The paper was worth a nickel when it came off the presses in 1963.
THE STRANGE DEATHS OF ALL THOSE WITNESSES
I’ve heard about this for years—that an inordinately large number of witnesses to the assassination in Dallas have died under strange and mysterious circumstances. In the late 60’s, The London Sunday Times reported that the odds of these witnesses dying in such unusual ways be February of 1967 was something like a one hundred thousand trillion to one. That number almost sounds like a Bushism. The author admitted before the Select Committee on Assassinations a few years later that by including that number, he had made a “careless journalistic mistake.”.
Here’s the letter in which the author recanted. It was read before the Committee:
Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times‘ editorial staff after the first edition — the one which goes to the United States and which I believe you have — had gone out, and later editions were amended.
There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong. It was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time to which he replied — correctly — that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter — hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize.
None of the editorial staff involved in this story can remember the name of the actuary we consulted, but in view of what happened you will, I imagine, agree that his identity is hardly material.
The letter admitting the ‘mistake’ was signed by the newspaper’s lawyer.
Interesting. In his book, Crossfire, Jim Marrs included a list of 103 witnesses who he claim died in strange, mysterious circumstances between 1963 and 1976. They’re too many to mention here, so please go to this link later to read about the deaths. It is interesting indeed.
THE DOROTHY KILGALLEN CONNECTION
(The bulk, but not all of the following was taken from DemocraticUnderground.com).
Dorothy Kilgallen was a journalist and to an ever greater degree, a television game show panelist on What’s My Line?
She was the only reporter to interview Jack Ruby. Not only that, but she found fault with what the Warren Commission gave as the official story regarding who killed Kennedy…how and why.
She had a good contact within the Dallas Police Department, who gave her a copy of the original police log that chronicled the minute-by-minute activities of the department on the day of the assassination, as shown in the radio communications. This allowed her to report that the first reaction of Chief Jesse Curry to the shots in Dealey Plaza was: “Get a man on top of the overpass and see what happened up there.” Kilgallen noted that he lied when he told reporters the next day that he initially thought the shots were fired from the Texas School Book Depository.
Dorothy challenged the credibility of Howard Brennan (who supposedly gave police a description of the shooter). She wrote articles about how important witnesses had been intimidated by the Dallas police or FBI.
On September 25, 1964, Kilgallen ran an interview with one of the witnesses to the shooting of Officer Tippit whom the Warren Commission never questioned. Clemons told Kilgallen that she saw two men running from the scene, neither of whom fit Oswald’s description. Dorothy also approached one of Jack Ruby’s lawyers, Joe Tonahill. Surprisingly, Ruby agreed to talk with her. Some have speculated that Ruby wouldn’t have told her anything important, but Tonahill strongly disagrees. “This interview with her was a very significant point in his classless life,” Tonahill asserts. He affirmed that Ruby “cooperated with her in every way that he could, and told her the truth as he understood it. It was just a very agreeable conversation between them. I just can’t understand people doubting the sincerity of that interview.”
The attorney, who observed the two in conversation, said that “I don’t think there was any doubt about it, Jack was highly impressed with Dorothy Kilgallen. Of all the writers that were down there during the Ruby trial — about 400 from all over the world — she probably was the one that to him, was the most significant.”
Kilgallen never published any information she obtained from her private talk with Jack Ruby, but some feel sure that was because she was “saving it for a book.” She was under contract to Random House, which was owned by her What’s My Line? co-panelist, Bennett Cerf. The intention was to produce a tome that was supposedly going to be a collection of stories about the famous murder trials she had covered.
One of the biggest scoops of Kilgallen’s career came when she obtained the 102-page transcript of Ruby’s testimony to the Warren Commission. Readers were shocked at the hopelessly inept questioning of Ruby by Chief Justice Warren, and by Warren’s failure to follow-up on the leads Ruby was feeding him. Attorney Melvin Belli called Dorothy’s scoop “the ruin of the Warren Commission.”
Kilgallen claimed to have extremely relevant information gleaned from her private interview with Jack Ruby that could stop the presses. She told no one, save for her husband, and kept notes with her at all times. As stated earlier, everyone believed she was saving the news for an upcoming book, bound to be a blockbuster.
But that never happened.
On November 8, 1965, Kilgallen was found dead on the third floor of her five-story townhouse, just 12 hours after she appeared, live, on “What’s My Line”. Her hairdresser, Marc Sinclaire, found her body when he arrived the next morning. Her death was attributed to a fatal drug overdose. What’s interesting here is that no one knows for sure whether her death was considered a suicide or an accidental death.
By the way, the notes on the Jack Ruby interview, the ones she never allowed out of her sight, were nowhere to be found after her death. It’s also been reported that several threats on her life had been made, but none were ever investigated.
Because of her open criticism of the Warren Commission and other US government entities, and her association with Jack Ruby and that “explosive” 1964 private interview with him, some speculate that she was murdered by members of the same alleged conspiratorial cabal that murdered JFK. Her claims that she was under surveillance by the FBI led to a theory that some people had a motive for killing her. This is partially based on the fact that throughout her career she consistently refused to identify any of her sources
Her death certificate cites the cause of death as “undetermined”.
Incredibly, information from the Freedom of Information Act, accessed by reporters in the years following her death indicate that the CIA had 53 field offices around the world watching her on her foreign travels. Given this context, it is hard to see her untimely death as a mere accident.
There is no statute of limitations on murder, and there are enough people still alive who know full-well what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963, but will that ever happen? Will we ever know the complete truth regarding the Kennedy assassination and what’s considered to be its vast “cover up”?
I’ve heard about this for years. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but it’s been said that on May 19, 2044, the 50th anniversary of the death of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, providing Caroline, her last surviving child as died and considering she was born in 1957, I feel its extremely safe to assume she will be, the Kennedy Library has been instructed to release to the public a 500-page transcript of an oral history about John F. Kennedy given by Mrs. Kennedy before her death in 1994. It supposedly involves some aspect of disclosure regarding the assassination. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it would be lovely to think that my great nieces and nephews might someday know what I never will. Something tells me that if this revelation should ever come to fruition, the list of names and the entities involved would be astonishing and much larger than we ever thought possible.
Dorothy Kilgallen once wrote, “Justice is a big rug. When you pull it out from under one person, a lot of others fall, too.”
A PERSONAL NOTE/
I was working as a Reporter in Houston in 1993 and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination I was granted the unique opportunity to interview the very gracious, Dr. Marian “Pepper” Jenkins, the anesthesiologist on duty in the Emergency Room at Parkland Hospital on November 22nd, 1963.
Once the President arrived in the ER, Jenkins began manual intubation with a breathing bag his fellow doctors tried frantically to save Kennedy’ life. Dr. Jenkins and I talked at great length about all the things regarding his role as a person peripherally involved in one of the biggest murder mysteries of all time. He told me his opinion was that of the Warren Commission and the subject was changed. What he told me next was story that’s never really been publicized.
For reasons Jenkins couldn’t recall, Mrs. Kennedy was allowed to remain in the ER that day. He remembers looking up at her once as she stood in the corner of the room, motionless. Her eyes were fixed upon her husband’s body. She was cupping her hands by her upper chest. Her once white gloves, now crimson. Efforts to revive the President were futile. As doctors prepared to call the time of death , Mrs. Kennedy slowly walked over to Dr. Jenkins. She looked at him and silently, extended her arms, her hands still cupped. He asked quietly, “Yes, Mrs. Kennedy?” And with that, he held out his hand and in it, she placed a small, two-inch portion of the president’s brain that she’d been holding since the shooting, almost two hours earlier.
Dr. Jenkins said she just stood there looking at him. Shock had removed all traces of life in her eyes. He remembers them being big, brown and vacant. She turned, walked away and was escorted out of the ER by several Secret Service agents.
I also asked Dr. Jenkins what his thoughts were on that day. He’d seen the president’s wounds up close and personal. He said at time, he didn’t concern himself with anything other than trying to save a man’s life; that was his sole focus. He never admitted any regrets about not being able to do that, but there was a discernible wistfulness in his voice when he spoke. Obviously, the doctors did all they could. President Kennedy had been shot through the head with what the subsequent Warren Commission claimed was a combined entry and exit wound. He was virtually dead on arrival.
Since no doctor wants to lose a patient–any patient, I wondered if this incredibly accomplished man of science had ever been bothered by the fact that he couldn’t save the life of the President of the United States. I wondered, but never asked if what happened in the ER at Parkland Hospital that day made him question his skills or the validity of his Hippocratic Oath? I wondered if thoughts like this plagued him in the quiet of night or in the rush of dawn.
I didn’t ask him these questions; sometimes a reporter knows when not to pose questions, but I got the distinct feeling this man probably thought about November 22, 1963 quite a bit. He was a brilliant physician, but still human, after all.
Ironically, Dr. Marion “Pepper” Jenkins died a year later; on November 21st 1994, just one day before the 31st anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.
May the good doctor rest in peace.
I certainly hope he is.