November 22 always means one thing to me: JFK

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.”

I’ve mentioned before the fact that JFK assassination records were scheduled to be released by the National Archives by October 26, 2017. Like most people my age, the killing of JFK in 1963 is among the most recalled events in our then-young lives, maybe the first significant event external to ourselves and our families.

When the current regime announced the impending release of the last documents, I was relieved. To have suppressed them, as rumors suggested, would have only energized the conspiracy theorists.

But then they actually decided to hold back some 200 documents, thousands of pages, for another six months to allow the FBI, CIA, et al to make the case that they should remain under lock and key. The regime cited unspecified “national security concerns,” an argument Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said was “amazing… What possible national security interests are still at risk from an event that happened 54 YEARS AGO?”

I can see where there could be some embarrassment. In fact, we’ve already seen that in the material that’s been released. Lee Harvey Oswald was already on the radar of law enforcement. There had been credible threats on the life of JFK. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI head, was livid about the shooting of Oswald, who was in police custody, by Jack Ruby, as there were credible threats against him.

Pretty much since the Warren Commission Report was excerpted in my local newspaper – I STILL have the black 3-ring binder with the clippings glued to lined school paper – I have wanted to know more. What WAS Oswald doing in Mexico a few months before the shooting?

The Boston Globe noted that the 2,800 records released so far “offer insights into his death that were previously hidden from the public. They help paint a more complete picture of Lee Harvey Oswald and share previously undisclosed details about his background, and they provide color and reaction from the days following Kennedy’s death.

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination, but they begin to piece together parts of unknown history and have made some people even more anxious for the remaining documents to be released.” And that includes me.

The JFK Assassination: A Cast of Characters.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy would have been 100

I’m old enough to (barely) remember Dwight Eisenhowever as President. But I was paying attention during the 1960 Presidential campaign. I don’t recall having a strong preference between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon initially.

I became sympathetic towards JFK after he gave a speech about his Catholic faith in September 1960 in Houston, TX. It seemed unfair then, and now, that he was forced to defend his religion and his participation in it.

Photowannabe’s high school band played and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for President Kennedy’s Inauguration Parade.

I liked the Kennedys in the White House. They had a couple children, Caroline, a little older than my baby sister, and the baby, John, Jr., who was born just after the election.

I wasn’t paying attention to the disastrous Bay of Pigs incursion in Cuba in April 1961. But all of us were aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, because we had the vague feeling that because of…WHATEVER was happening, we could end up at war, perhaps in the United States.

The cliche that there was a picture of JFK, MLK Jr and Jesus in every black home was an exaggeration, but I surely saw the phenomenon many times. In terms of the 35th president, it seemed more for his POTENTIAL for aiding the civil rights movement, which, by the last year of his life, I was paying a lot of attention to.

Here’s a factoid: “After a meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens, President John F. Kennedy encouraged all Americans to pay tribute to older people across the country by designating May 1963 as Senior Citizens Month. Every president since has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May in support of older Americans.”

I do recall, with some detail, the death of Patrick Kennedy in August 1963, at less than two days old. This made me incredibly sad.

Of course, the shooting in Dallas was etched in the minds of everyone above a certain age. Some months later, the Warren Report on the assassination was released, with excerpts appearing in the local newspaper. I cut out those pages and taped them on paper which I then put in a three-ring binder. I still have that binder in the attic somewhere.

It was only later I thought, it wasn’t even supposed to be John that his father would groom to be President, it was supposed to be Joe, Jr. But he died in the war,the same one that almost took Jack’s life as well.

Of course, there are a bunch of centennial stories out there, from the Kennedy Center and Celebrate JFK at 100 by walking in his footsteps, e.g. Or Inside the Scandalous Life of JFK’s Sister, Kick Kennedy.

Jackie was right: Camelot was over on 11/22/1963. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but surely I felt it, that loss of innocence and possibility. Lyndon Johnson undoubtedly achieved more for civil rights, using the slain leader as a prod for Congress to take the right action. But things would never be the same.

I collected as many Kennedy 50-cent pieces as I could, which were – alas- stolen, because I wanted to, quite literally, hold onto that time as long as I could.

Presidents Day 2017: Nixon’s the One

JFK Calls about Furniture


George Washington’s first inaugural address (April 1789), referring to himself: “One, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

Now I Know: The Case of George Washington versus Pinocchio

John Quincy Adams: When The People Cheered

Presidents in Our Backyard – Part 1 (Martin Van Buren, Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant)

The highest-ranked President who only served one-term is James Knox Polk.

Sarah Knox Taylor, the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and the first Mrs. Jefferson Davis

This is an actual standard fantasy I’ve had over the years: I’m captured, and the Americans think I’m a spy. I name all the Presidents correctly, including the year entering the office and political party – I really CAN do that – then they shoot me, because OBVIOUSLY, I’m a Soviet/Russian/Chinese spy, since NOBODY knows Millard Fillmore (1850-1853, Whig), who was New York State Comptroller before becoming Vice-President.

Worst president ever: The ignominy of James Buchanan – On the way to the Capitol for the inauguration of his successor on March 4, 1861, Buchanan told Abraham Lincoln, “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland [his home in Pennsylvania], you are a happy man indeed.”

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861)
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln’s Great Depression

Now I Know The Vice:President (David Rice Atchison) and John Wilkes Booth’s Heroic Brother

Are You a Presidential Beard Connoisseur?

Ulysses S. Grant’s Veal & Sweet Potato Fries

The first President to ban immigrants?

Chris Churchill: A chat with President Chester A. Arthur

Now I Know: Grover Cleveland’s Pole Tax

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

Theodore Roosevelt holds that it is “unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonable to proclaim that there must be no criticism of the President.” (1918)

Who was the first president to visit Canada? I was surprised.

Quora: Which US President had the most foresight?

Listening In: JFK Calls about Furniture (July 25, 1963)

Lyndon Johnson Speech Before Congress on Voting Rights (March 15, 1965): “There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans–we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.”

Lyndon Johnson orders pants.

Nixon Aide Reportedly Admitted Drug War Was Meant To Target Black People. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” Anyone who read Michele Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow already knew this.

Nixon’s Vietnam Treachery. This was treason.
US fatalities in the Vietnam war:
1969 – 11,780
1970 – 6,173
1971 – 2,414
1972 – 759
1973 – 68
1974 – 1
1975 – 62

Now I Know: The Red Menace (Nixon in China)

Three Presidential $1 Coins were issued in 2016, the final year of the program, for Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter had the audacity of still being alive; hope he’ll get one down the line, after he passes away.

Now I Know: Reagan and Gorbachev’s Green Pact

You Must Remember This podcast – Storm Warning: Ronald Reagan, the FBI and HUAC (THE BLACKLIST EPISODE #8)

10 Books to Understand the Obama Presidency

Presidential Payroll: What Commanders in Chief Have Earned Since 1789

Mark Lane

Dick Gregory ran for President in 1968, with Mark Lane as his VP running mate.

GregoryLane I don’t know when it was, at all, though it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I was in an airport, probably on my way to Charlotte, NC, or San Diego, CA, but it was neither of those cities’ airports or in Albany.

I was reading the New York Times, maybe the Sunday paper. The cover story was about a guy named Mark Lane about to be indicted for something or other. Then who should I see but Mark Lane?

I knew who he was, mostly from his contrarian views on the John F. Kennedy assassination.mHe believed the CIA was involved in the murder, producing a thesis casting doubt on the lone-assassin theory – “and even whether Oswald had actually been involved in the crime.” When the Warren Report summaries came out in the local newspaper, I cut them out and pasted them in a three-ring binder – I may STILL Have this – so I was a JFK assassination junkie.

Mark Lane was also involved in civil rights activism. I recognized him right away, and I’m not sure I needed the picture in the paper. Somehow we got to talking.

One of the things we discussed was how I tried to talk to my parents, especially my father, NOT to vote for Dick Gregory for President, who had Lane as his VP running mate, in 1968. My father was keen on voting for a black man, the comedian-activist Gregory. I insisted that Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, was too dangerous and that they should vote for Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat, instead of throwing away his vote. For sure, I STILL have the button pictured.

(How my folks actually voted, I’ll never know, of course. I’ve “thrown away” my vote once or twice subsequent to that year when I was not yet eligible to cast a ballot. That topic is extremely hot in 2016.)

Mark Lane was very generous in hearing about my politicking against him. I’m sure we at least mentioned JFK, but not his then-current legal troubles. Nor did we talk about his peripheral involvement in the Jonestown massacre, since I was unaware of it until much later.

Mark Lane died on May 11 at the age of 89. I was going to write about him, then it slipped my mind, but Shooting Parrots reminded me.

JFK.Mark Lane

JiFKa: the 50th anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, in real time.

A few years back, I asked What was the first public trauma – as opposed to a personal trauma, such as a death or divorce in the family – that you recall? And while not my first event, the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, when I was ten years old and didn’t understand what happened next – I was not yet seeped in Presidential succession law – was terrifying. The death itself was already scary enough.

It certainly didn’t help that Miss Oberlik, our fifth-grade teacher, told us the news, LEFT THE ROOM, for some reason, which got us talking among ourselves about the meaning of it all, and then she comes back and SCREAMS at us for not being quiet, like everyone else in the school (who, I suspect, hadn’t been ABANDONED by their teacher). I wondered later if she had gone off to compose herself after dropping that bombshell on us.

Like much of the nation, I was glued to the television that weekend. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, in real time. Of course, I viewed the funeral, and John-John’s salute of his daddy.

Such a strange time, now that I look back on it. A lot of households I visited, especially after the shootings, had pictures on the walls, and the only ones that weren’t family members were of JFK and Jesus Christ. It was not my grief that I remember; it was the tears, seemingly out of nowhere, of many of the adults around me. And if not tears, then an overwhelming sadness that came like unexpected tidal waves.

The 50 cent piece, starting in 1964, bore Kennedy’s image, which I find, in retrospect, to be an amazing feat, changing coinage so quickly. Idlewild Airport in New York City – famous from the Car 54 Where Are You TV theme – was renamed for the slain leader, as was Cape Canaveral, though the latter was eventually switched back.

In 1964, the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, generally referred to as the Warren Commission Report was released. It claimed that Oswald was the lone gunman, not involved in a conspiracy; and that the bullet that killed the President also wounded Governor John Connolly of Texas. One of the local newspapers had excerpts of the Warren Commission report, and I not only read them, I clipped them out of the newspaper, and put it in a three-ring binder, something I believe I STILL have somewhere in the attic.

Over the years, there are those who dismissed the report as a coverup, or at least as a lazy effort of accepting the FBI’s analysis as fact, rather than doing an independent investigation. The Oliver Stone movie JFK (1991), which my girlfriend at the time and I referred to as JiFKa, was about New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s belief that there was “more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.” Conversely, at the end of his novel 11/22/63, Stephen King says he’s over 95% sure Oswald was the lone shooter, though his wife Tabitha believes otherwise.

The one time I got to meet Earl Warren, along with a number of my classmates in the early 1970s, I really wanted to ask the by-then retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court about this topic; instead, I asked him some arcane question about corporations as people, which was an issue back in the 1870s as well as the 21st century.

I still wonder, if only a little, what the whole truth of the matter was.
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CBSNews.com to stream 1963 broadcast coverage of JFK assassination, and/or one can buy the coverage on Amazon. I think not for me, thank you.

Five quotes from JFK’s 1963 Civil Rights address that still resonate today

How JFK’s Assassination Changed Media and the SIXTIES Generation.

Lee Harvey Was a Friend of Mine by Laura Cantrell [LISTEN]

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