Perf. Arts

Book on Kennedy assassination offers interesting facts



By TOM JOZWIK - Special to TimeOut 

November 21, 2013


WAUKESHA - A half-century after his death, John Fitzgerald Kennedy has become a cottage industry.

There have been television programs about America’s youngest elected president and at least one feature film (see separate story). One would have to spend his life savings to purchase all the JFK-related books and magazines available for purchase of late - and would then need a wheelbarrow to carry them all away.

On the other hand, one could do worse than limiting his cottage industry involvement to a single item - Vincent Bugliosi’s “Parkland,” a paperback condensation of his 2007 tome “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”

Bugliosi is perhaps best known for prosecuting Charles Manson and subsequently writing the book “Helter Skelter” about the notorious Manson “family” and its murderous spree of 1969.

The murderers in “Parkland,” of course, are Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. Ten lesser-known, book-based facts about them and President Kennedy follow:

  • In the 1960 presidential election, the only such election in which JFK appeared on the ballot, the winning candidate lost just one “large American city” to Richard M. Nixon: Dallas, Texas.

  • At the time of the Kennedy assassination, federal law did not prohibit the killing of a U.S. president (unless the killing was on federal property, which JFK’s was not).

  • Ironically, Kennedy’s back brace might’ve contributed to his death, hampering any prospective attempt on the president’s part to duck out of the way of the second bullet he took.

  • Lee Harvey Oswald might’ve escaped his own fate had Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry’s wife not taken their home phone off its hook the night before Oswald’s death. Another police official came up with the idea of transferring JFK’s killer from the police department to county jail secretly and considerably sooner than scheduled. Since Curry could not be reached to OK that plan, the transfer started as scheduled - in the ominous presence of Jack Ruby.

  •  When he first observed Oswald at Dallas police headquarters the day after JFK’s assassination, hanger-on Ruby thought Oswald a handsome individual who resembled the actor Paul Newman.

  • The pastor who had reluctantly agreed to preside at a funeral service for Oswald failed to show up at the cemetery in Fort Worth. A substitute minister was enlisted. Several reporters were pressed into service as pallbearers. Oswald’s funeral took place the day after his death - the same day on which his victims, Kennedy and police officer J.D. Tippit, were also buried.

  • Dressmaker Abraham Zapruder might not have made the most historically significant movie in American annals had it not been for his secretary. She persuaded Zapruder to get the camera, which he had left at home, in time to record the presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza. Zapruder subsequently sold the rights to his film for $150,000 to LIFE magazine.

  • Working in a Fort Worth newspaper office the afternoon JFK died, a 26-year-old reporter felt excluded from one of the biggest stories of the 20th century until he picked up a ringing telephone. The caller boldly asked whether someone at the paper could pick her up and drive her to Dallas. She identified herself to the newsman as Marguerite Oswald - and added that her son was suspected of murdering the president. The reporter - Bob Schieffer, now an esteemed network broadcast journalist - was only too happy to shuttle Mrs. Oswald and score an exclusive interview in the process.

  • If you recall seeing footage of law enforcement personnel wearing Stetsons in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination, you were likely observing Dallas Police Department detectives, for whom such hats were part of the uniform.

  • On the Sunday Kennedy’s body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, automobile traffic was backed up all the way to Baltimore, some 30 miles distant. People wishing to pay their respects stood in a line that as late as 11 p.m. stretched the better part of 10 miles.