Thursday, September 19, 2013


I've always been pretty fascinated with the JFK assassination and, really, the U.S. as a whole during the 1950's and 60's.

James Ellroy wrote a couple of books about that era that I count as some of my favorites (L.A. Confidential, American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, etc.). Lately there have been a few really good long-form articles popping up that become a bit of an obsession for a few days.

Earlier this year, The Memphis Commercial Appeal published a story called Six : 01 - The Last 32 Hours of Martin Luther King, Jr. and it was just fantastic. It was the 45th anniversary of his assassination and it's just a really well written, well-researched article.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Chris Jones - a writer that I've always admired and loved - has a great story in this month's Esquire. It's about the 6 hours inside Air Force One from the time the shooting happened to when the plane touched down in Washington, D.C. with Lyndon B. Johnson as the new President.

I hadn't really paid much attention to LBJ, so I didn't really understand how much the Kennedy inner circle disliked him. It's pretty much consumed my entire morning. I'm beginning to understand how there are so many people still obsessed with this story 50 years later. There was a lot going on back then and a lot of it seemed pretty shady.

But those are the things that make a great story, which is why it's still a prime candidate for use across all different forms of media.

Anyway, Chris Jones does a great job connecting a lot of what's been collected before into a single narrative. I didn't know that Jackie refused to change her clothes or clean herself up because she wanted the world "to see what they did" and no idea how desperate LBJ was to be sworn in before he left Dallas so that no one could change their mind about how it should go.

Also, LBJ was so powerless in the Kennedy administration that he and his wife lived in a house that only had a commercial phone line. That was replaced with something more secure as the plane was in the air bound for Washington. Johnson didn't want to sleep in the White House that night because it would seem disrespectful.

You should read it. It's online now, but Esquire sometimes only makes things available to look at for a certain amount of time before they put it behind a pay wall. Read it online now, or pick up the new issue when it hits stands.

Here's a little snippet:

2:34 P.M.

Marie Fehmer palms the typewritten oath to Judge Hughes. But they still need a Bible. Larry O'Brien, excusing himself to Jackie, finds a Catholic missal in the bedroom's nightstand drawer. It is in a small box, still wrapped in cellophane. It is possibly a gift, something that somebody, somewhere, had thrust into Kennedy's hands, perhaps even on this last trip to Texas. Now O'Brien tears open the box and hands the book to Judge Hughes.

Ken O'Donnell follows O'Brien into the stateroom. Johnson sees him: "Would you ask Mrs. Kennedy to come stand here?" He wants her to stand beside him.

"You can't do that!" O'Donnell shouts. "The poor little kid has had enough for one day, to sit here and hear that oath that she heard a few years ago! You just can't do that, Mr. President!"

"Well," Johnson says, "she said she wanted to do it."

"I just don't believe that," O'Donnell says, even as he heads toward the bedroom. He paces in the hallway, his hands on his head—hysterical is the word he later uses to describe himself. Finally he walks into the bedroom. Jackie is combing her hair.

"Do you want to go out there?" O'Donnell asks.

"Yes," Jackie says. "I think I ought to. At least I owe that much to the country."

2:37 P.M.

Jackie Kennedy comes out of the bedroom. The room falls silent. She has taken off her single bloody glove, but she has not changed her clothes or made use of the blue towels.

Read the rest at

No comments:

Post a Comment