As I listened to Jim Leavelle at the Dallas Park City Club yesterday, I was thinking about some of my favorite books written about the JFK assassination.
Leavelle was the Dallas policeman who escorted Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters on Sunday, November 24, 1963. Oswald was being transferred to another jail, and he was killed by Jack Ruby. He is on the left side of the photograph, wearing a hat.
Unfortunately, Leavelle has never written a book. It is my great hope that he will at least publish an “as told to” book, sharing his experiences, in the remaining years of his life.
In no particular sequence, here are my favorite books about the events surrounding November 22, 1963, in Dallas:
Five Days in November by Clint Hill (Gallery, 2013) – Hill was the secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy, and he jumped on the president’s limousine to shield her as she attempted to crawl out the back of the car
Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi (W.W. Norton, 2007) – despite its 1,648 pages and more than 900 additional pages of footnotes on a CD, this book by the Charles Manson prosecutor is highly readable
Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1966) – this critique of the Warren Commission Report should be entitled “rush to press,” as it contains so many inaccuracies they are laughable
Crossfire by Jim Marrs (Basic Books, 1993) – the best of the conspiracy theory books – I do not believe any of these, as I am firm in my conviction that Oswald acted alone – I saw Marrs speak in person in Fort Worth about this book
Mortal Error: The Shot that Killed JFK (Hunter’s Moon, 1992)- by Bonar Menninger – the most plausible alternative explanation outside of a conspiracy theory to account for the assassination; it was largely ignored by the media and public
Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt, 2012) – I cannot stand this guy, but this book is readable and contains material that I have never seen anyplace else, and that I doubt is even factual; as with all of his books in this series, Martin Dugard is a co-author
What about you? What are your favorites about this historical event? Click on “add a comment” below and share it with others.
I am reading Clint Hill‘s wonderful new best-seller, Five Presidents (Gallery, 2016), in which he details his seventeen years experience in the U.S. Secret Service, when he served under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.
Hill, you may recall, wrote two other best-sellers, Mrs. Kennedy and Me (Gallery, 2012), and Five Days in November (Atria, 2013). He was the agent who ran and jumped on the back of the limousine to shield Jackie, seconds after her husband, JFK, was fatally wounded in Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
Since this is Father’s Day, I wanted to share what his father, Chris, told him about how to live:
“Always be respectful of others, no matter who they are; live within your means and save for the future; strive to do the best job at whatever you do; and never, ever be late.” (p. 7).
Later, Hill tells a story about what happened when he came home eight minutes late from his father’s self-imposed curfew. It was not pleasant.
I think this is pretty good advice. How about you?
Over the years, I have read several of Bart Ehrman‘s books. If you are not familiar with him, Ehrman is a New Testament scholar, and now holds the chair as the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written 25 books, three of which are collegiate texts, and five of which became New York Times best-sellers. There are three topics he focuses upon in his writing: the Historical Jesus, the development of early Christianity, and textual authenticity of the Bible.
Ehrman is agnostic. He didn’t start that way. He went through seminary, but could not reconcile the contradictions and inconsistencies in translations of the Bible. However, that is not why he left the faith. He is an agnostic because he could not handle suffering. He could not answer how a loving God could allow evil and suffering. That became the subject of God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer (New York: Harper One, 2009). It is quite a book!
His newest is entitled How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York: Harper One, 2014). From his own web site, Ehrman describes this book:
Ehrman sketches Jesus’s transformation from a human prophet to the Son of God exalted to divine status at his resurrection. Only when some of Jesus’s followers had visions of him after his death—alive again—did anyone come to think that he, the prophet from Galilee, had become God. And what they meant by that was not at all what people mean today.
As a historian—not a believer—Ehrman answers the questions: How did this transformation of Jesus occur? How did he move from being a Jewish prophet to being God? The dramatic shifts throughout history reveal not only why Jesus’s followers began to claim he was God, but also how they came to understand this claim in so many different ways.
Ehrman’s career as a writer is distinguished. You may be interested in this one if you believe that we got the Bible from divinely sent bolts of lightning carving words on rock or paper – Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (New York: Harper One, 2011).
Others include Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them), and Misquoting Jesus. All of his books are still in print and readily available.
I am not an agnostic. I am a believer. So, why am I reading these books? Because I believe that you strengthen your faith by questioning it. Why do I want to read books that just reinforce what I already think? I grow, as you do, by reading books and exposing myself to presentations and information that differ from what I already believe or know. That is true of a lot of things in life. I read the conspiracy theories on the JFK assassination because they are different from what we know from the Warren Report, Case Closed, and other books. I read Marcus Buckingham’s views on “leaders are born” because that is different from experts who tell us that “leaders are made.” And, Ehrman’s books are different. These are not what most Sunday School leaflets and lessons contain. In fact, do you know that I have NEVER heard a sermon or sat through a lesson on how we got the Bible? It is the greatest secret that churches keep from their congregations. Even reflecting on his ministerial days, Randy Mayeux said he would never have touched it in a class or service. and he did not do so for his twenty-plus years of preaching.
I think our fuel is questions, not answers. For everyone who has it all figured out, I am very happy for you. But, by exposing yourself to contradictory information, you grow. I like to leave events with more questions than when I entered. That’s what inspired one of my keynote presentations: “When the Best Answer is the Next Question.”
It doesn’t matter what you think about these topics. And, you can enter them open-minded or closed-minded. But, why not read them. And these books will get you thinking. Ask questions. Leave with more questions. Learn. Grow.
I am thrilled to read that David McCullough will be the featured speaker for the JFK Memorial Anniversary ceremony on November 22, 2013. This event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fatal shooting in downtown Dallas.
McCullough has positioned himself as the premier biographer in contemporary literature. You are aware of his prolific work on John Adams and Harry Truman, but I thought that 1776 and The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris were simply over the top.
To read more about his selection as the keynote speaker, go to this link:
I have studied the JFK assassination for many years. I was 9 years old when he came to Dallas. My mother let me stay home to watch his speech on television, which, of course, he never gave. The conspiracy theories are interesting, but when you look at what we know, not what we can speculate about, there was only one killer in Dealey Plaza on November 22. The best resource for this is the amazing and comprehensive work by Vincent Bugliosi entitled Reclaiming America.
The 50th anniversary of this event will bring about many more books. Right now, at the top of the non-fiction list is Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Kennedy. How many more will we see? How many more do we need?
I don’t know the answer to those questions. But I do know this – the anniversary is not a VIP-event, but it does require a ticket. There will be only a few available. You can bet your bottom dollar that I will have one. I will be there – it will be a memory of a lifetime.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon!
Over the last few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard the publicity surrounding the newsest revealed mistress during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
Her name is Mimi Alford, and over the past three weeks, she has appeared on practically every news and talk program that you can access.
I read her book this weekend. It is entitled Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath (Random House, 2012). You can read one of many reviews of the book here, published in the Wall Street Journal on February 13, 2012.
I found the book to be very personal, reflective, and insightful. If you are looking for a “kiss-and-tell” book, it has those elements. You will read the details of her first sexual encounter with JFK in Jackie’s bedroom, and how months later, he pressured her to perform oral sex on his key aide, Dave Powers. But that is not what this book is about, nor does it focus on sex.
Instead, you will find a revealing narrative about key elements and events in the Kennedy administration through a different set of eyes. Those are the eyes of a naive, but bright 19-year old White House intern. I have read many books about Kennedy and his thousand days in office, and can honestly tell you that I read things here that I had not known before. This book covers 18 months, from 1962-1963, and then, shifts to the rest of her life through two marriages.
She is now 68. Her back cover picture makes her appear more attractive than what you see on talk shows. You can find many of those interviews on YouTube if you want to see them, including her appearance on ABC’s The View, with its illustrative panel.
Is this worth buying and reading? I think so. It is overpriced at $25, in that it is less than 200 pages long. But, I read enough. I finished satisfied that my time was well-spent.
Maybe we have finally met the last JFK mistress. At least, there are no other remaining footnotes or cryptically identified characters such as produced Mimi Alford. Maybe not. That’s not the point.
Her book gives us insight into an unsettling yet exciting time. And, this book makes it clear she found both.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon.