Tag Archives: history

Camelot’s Protector: Book Review of Jacqueline Kennedy’s interviews with Arthur Schlesinger.

For those that lived during the early 1960’s, Jacqueline Kennedy had become more than just the First Lady of the United States, she had become a star. The star of the show that was played out before the nation, with the young president at her side, and a nation that wanted to copy everything that she was doing. Jacqueline Kennedy only wanted a few things in life, and none of it included becoming this type of figure. However, on November 22nd, 1963, fate would take over and put her in a place only a few First Ladies before her had to endure, that of becoming a widow. Every move that she would make in those moments after the gunshots took the life of her husband, would be etched into the minds of millions of Americans for decades to come. The stained pink dress, watching her husband’s successor take the oath of office, finding the right burial spot, and ensuring the nation would never forget this time in history.

It is with history in mind that Jacqueline Kennedy sat down with famed historian and Kennedy advisor, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. for a series of interviews just months after the events in Dallas. The interviews were recorded by Schlesinger and the agreement would be that they would be sealed for 50 years. According to her daughter Caroline Kennedy, the interviews were unlocked just weeks after her mother’s death so that the family could decide if it was time for them to be released. Caroline had decided that it was not the right time, and it would be another 17 years before the public could hear the voice that had been so strong during such a tragic time.

Over the course of the next seven conversations that spanned months during 1964, Jackie Kennedy shed light on many topics regarding her husband. Some of those topics included his presidential aspirations, what he liked to read, his relationship with his brother Bobby, and his plans for after the presidency. The book features a written form of the interviews and it also includes the recordings themselves. I have found myself listening to these conversations on my way to work, and actually hearing her voice, gives the conversation some life. Mr. Schlesinger is careful to avoid many of the controversial topics that have been printed in the years after. Instead, in these early months after JFK’s death, Jackie is painting the image of JFK that she thought he deserved. Asked at one point in the conversation as to how her husband would have described himself, she states, “An idealist without illusions”. A true statement for a man that had so many visions for the country, but were left unfinished by a life cut short.

Some of the other interesting topics that are brought up by Schlesinger, is the relationship that JFK had with the FBI, and the CIA. When asked about the situation, Jackie states, “I know he was going to get rid of J. Edgar Hoover and he always said that those were the two things he did first- you know, Hoover and Allen Dulles, which I guess he had to do at the time”. There are those that believe that individuals such as Hoover and Dulles had something to do with the assassination, and this statement by JFK’s wife, shows the indifference he had with these two men.

Another person of interest in the interviews that came up, was the name Lyndon Johnson. Jackie felt that her husband tried many times over the course of his administration to involve Johnson with decisions, but that Johnson simply just agreed with everything that was being said. So instead of having a “yes” man, he would send him on trips around the world. One notable statement that Jackie makes about this, is something that happened in our current events today. As a new Air Force One was needed, Johnson pushed for JFK to order four more Air Force Ones, and that Moscow’s planes were much faster. In turn Jackie stated, “Jack wasn’t going to spend that much money for four new planes, and Lyndon kept pushing him to do it”. JFK did not give in to Johnson’s demands, and the rift between the two was growing to a point in which Johnson might be dropped from the ticket. Jackie explains that she did not think that JFK would drop Lyndon in 1964, but that JFK had stated to her, “Oh God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?” Well the nation did get to see what would happen, and the effects of his presidency left a scar on the presidency that was felt for decades.

The book is a must have for any Kennedy collector, and the recordings are the most valued portion of the book. Within those CD’s, the voices of history are heard, and the protector of Camelot sheds light on the events before JFK’s presidency, during it, and what could have been after it. Jackie Kennedy believed that her husband would have gone around the world, written a book, or even done something with his library. Instead it was left to her to form the image and history surrounding her husband, and she was able to give the country that brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.

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Assistant President RFK

The assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963 set forth in motion a chain of events in the history of the United States that would reshape it in the years that followed. For those who lived during this time, the events in Dallas changed the lives of many Americans, some too young to understand, and some old enough to realize the damage it had done to our country. The motives behind the assassination have been speculated by many, and the outcome of the research takes the culprits in the assassination to the forefront. One of the theories that has been mentioned was the involvement of Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. Having once been the powerful majority leader of the Senate, the now Vice-President would find his role diminished by the Kennedy administration. In this book review you are going to learn about a book that I had found at a local flea market a few years back. The book, “Robert F. Kennedy: Assistant President”, shows you the possible motivation that Johnson could have had in wanting to ascend to the presidency.

The book written by Gary Gordon in 1962, highlights the many life accomplishments of RFK as he made his way to the position of Attorney General. Within the first few pages the author describes the book as, “The dramatic life story of the second most powerful man in Washington”. Interesting to note about this book since it was written in 1962, was the fact that many polls taken by Newsweek, and U.S News, and other news outlets, put RFK ahead of Lyndon Johnson in terms of their power and influence over the country. The main theme of the book is to bring RFK into the national spotlight and in hopes of showing the American people that he was more than just the President of the United States brother. In many parts of the book, the author paints RFK as the man who not only got JFK elected through his hard work as campaign manager, but that he was not willing to take on a cabinet spot within the administration.

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The many chapters in the book show the reader that RFK may not have been qualified to become Attorney General, but he was able to use his position within the White House to change the role that Attorney Generals had. If those outside of the White House were seeing the way RFK was having influence over the decisions that his brother was making, then you know LBJ saw it as well. As the book starts off showing the Presidential campaign of 1960, it backtracks to highlight the life of RFK. Having no lawyer experience, he did not want the position of Attorney General at first. Trying to not show favoritism to his own family, JFK knew he wanted RFK by his side in those critical decision making times, and that he needed to be a cabinet member to achieve that. According to the author, JFK was quoted as saying, “I’ll take Bobby’s word over almost anybody’s”. The idea of having a family member within the cabinet had not been done before, and RFK was afraid of the political backlash that it would have in a future re-election campaign.

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Something of interest in the book was the trip around the world that RFK took in the early stages of 1962. The trip would be unprecedented by a United States Attorney General, and it had the feel of something more. The trip usually meant for Vice-Presidents, and one that LBJ took himself, was meant for RFK to get a feel of foreign affairs. The trip enabled RFK to see the issues at hand, and he would be able to have a better decision making process on these situations once back in Washington with his brother. It is hard to imagine the LBJ did not take great offense to this, and felt the lack of support from both Kennedy brothers. At the end of the book, the author makes a statement that is eerie to read as it has a statement that looks into the future. The author states, “In 1968, with JFK prevented by the Constitution from running again, the speculation is that Bobby could go before the voters with eight years of experience as an Assistant President”. Was this the motivation that was needed for LBJ, to end the Kennedy presidency? Did he himself want the presidency after JFK, and having read the many magazines and books proclaiming RFK as the second man in Washington, finally get to him? It is just one of the many theories that have been claimed over the years, and books such as these spark the mind into thinking. This book was an interesting find, and I recommend to always be on the lookout for books such as these, as they could hold the motives that others had in assassinating the President of the United States.

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Never Let it Be Forgot

With the passage of the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission Act in July 2016, the memory of JFK’s life will be remembered throughout the country in 2017. With the 100th anniversary of his birth being remembered by so many who were not alive during his presidency, shows the impact that JFK had on the United States. The memory of John F. Kennedy has not left the mind frame of the American people because of the countless amounts of books, movies, and documentaries about his life. Having been the first television president, JFK left his stamp on the country in which he sought a New Frontier for. It is the vision of the New Frontier, that has had the lasting impact of his life on so many Americans, and it was his death has continued the myth of “what could have been”.

During my two years of grad school, I had set up my thesis about the myth of JFK and how he controlled both image and myth about himself. It was after his death that others around him sought to carry on the legacy and thus Camelot was born. It was not born during the Kennedy years, as JFK would have preferred to be remembered more as a simple man. A man whose love of history was obvious, and he knew that the things he did in the office would be a reflection of his image in the years that followed. Having researched this assignment for a long period of time, the term Camelot became a symbol of the JFK years, and that came directly from his wife Jackie. It was Jackie that sent men such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr, and others to the Library of Congress to seek information about the funeral for President Abraham Lincoln. She wanted to replicate that funeral because she felt that her husband should be remembered as one of the greats.

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Over time the image of JFK has remained intact even though in the years since his death, many allegations of affairs and bad health tried to reshape the image into something different. The image that JFK had built for himself during his run for Congress and the image his wife created in the aftermath of his death has had a stronghold on the American people. Last month I was lucky enough to visit Washington D.C on a research visit. During the first day of the trip, I went to Arlington Cemetery to pay my respects and to also get a feel of the visitors to the site. I noticed many different types of people that went to the gravesite, some old, some young, some from other countries, but all, with a deep respect of the fallen president. If you have never made a trip, I would highly recommend it because you get a feel of “what could have been”. Along with Jackie on the decision to pick a site, was Robert Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The breathtaking view of Washington D.C from the burial site, shows a viewpoint in which JFK is always overlooking the city and nation he had a future for.

It was during this trip that I was able to go to the Library of Congress to research my topic and use the books and online resources that is available there. Having never been, I was intimidated by the fact that I would be sitting in such a historical place. Once inside, I requested books that I had found online, and before you knew it, I was sitting at a desk among other historians and researchers. I have been following the life and death of JFK since I was 8 years old, and not until that moment sitting in that seat, did I ever feel so close to him. History was all around me and I was able to find the things I was looking for within those walls. For any lover of history, going to the Library of Congress should be on the bucket list of things to do.

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With my thesis complete, my main goal for going to graduate school was to be able to write a book that represented everything that I have learned about JFK. His death has overshadowed many of the things in his life, as he has been remembered more in death then in life. By next year, I hope to be able to turn my thesis into my first book, and showcase how he was able to go from a young Jack Kennedy, to John F. Kennedy, then to the persona of JFK. All of which was created by the man himself, and left to those close to him to pass on to a new generation of Americans seeking hope. We have not had a president since him who has captivated the imagination of the country, and whose ideas would still resonate today. If you have visited either Arlington Cemetery, or even the JFK Library in Boston, share your visit with others below. The memory of his life and his death resides in those who choose to continue to share it with others. In the coming months I will be going back to looking into the details surrounding his death, but I will also be showcasing on this site the image and myth that he created.

 

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Lyndon Johnson’s role in William Manchester’s “The Death of a President”

The story has been told many times over the past 52 years and yet we are still able to find bits and pieces that we may have missed. When I was 8 years old, my grandmother had a collection of JFK material stored in a metal container. One day when the interest of JFK was beginning to spark, I found myself going through this container. Inside of this container was a vast amount of newspaper clippings, notes that she had written down about this time in history and one book. That book was “The Death of a President” written by William Manchester. It was my grandmother that told me that this should be the first book I read about this time in history and should be my last. I guess to her, this was the true story about what happened during those dark days in November. Although to some, the story of those days may be different then what Mr. Manchester wrote about, he does the job of a historian in bringing the reader to that exact time and giving you a sense that you were there. I have read this book several times over the years and recently as I have been trying myself trying to be a better researcher, have looked a little deeper into the writing of William Manchester’s signature work. In this post I will not go into the entire story that Manchester was trying to give the reader, instead I will showcase some points that stick out the most to me.
One of the main parts of the book that sticks out to me is the lack of cooperation that Lyndon Johnson had in the interview process. As William Manchester was gaining information from many of the key figures that were there that day, including that of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, it was Lyndon Johnson that showed the most resistance. During the course of the interview process, on two occasions President Johnson accepted the invite, then it would be canceled at the last minute. Eventually the two men would come to an agreement that President Johnson would only answer written questions and his responses would be done the same way. As Manchester states, “Some of the replies were detailed; to other inquiries he had no comment.” During the course of this reading, it appears that Manchester had become annoyed by the fact that Johnson was unwilling to recollect his memories of that day, and Manchester states that “It should be added that he has not seen the book in any form”. The frustration with Johnson was evident, but as the reader continues on in the book, it seems rather odd that the first 6 pages of Manchester’s recollection of the days leading up to the assassination and the days following it, involved talking about the Vice-President’s role in the administration and frustrations during his time as Vice-President.
Within the first paragraph in the definitive recollection of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the topic was not about the days leading up to the assassination, instead it was the role of the Vice-President and his frustration with the administration. It would almost seem to the reader that the agreement that Manchester and Johnson formed in order for him to be interviewed must have contained some form of understanding of how this book was going to begin. The political situation in Texas during the fall of 1963 was in ruins as the Democrats were coming apart at the seams. But as Manchester states in that first page, “Johnson would guardedly recall that there had been some discussion of the Texas political situation”. How is it that the main reason for the Kennedy trip to Texas was to restore faith in the party, and Johnson only recalls some discussion? The picture of resentment that Manchester was portraying of Johnson was coming clearer as the writing continued on. As Manchester states, “Johnson had found that he was a stand-by without a script”. Although he may not had the script he wanted, he did find himself thrust into a role that he want. On November 19th, 1963, Lyndon Johnson would take a trip to Dallas to speak with the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages. Only 3 days before the President was to arrive in Dallas, and at the same convention that former Vice-President Richard Nixon was at during his stay in Dallas during this time . An interesting side note to a story that has not been fully told.

The Vice-President did not have many of the luxuries that were enjoyed by the President, and simple things like having a number not in the public directory was one of them. If Johnson was to go on a flight using a military plane it would have to be assigned to him and he would have to ask permission for that plane. An indication that Johnson was feeling left out of the circle was evident, and as Manchester states “Lyndon Johnson was, in short, a prisoner of his office.” The book that would be able to tell the story of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was beginning with the frustration of his Vice-President. However we want to take this we can look at a quote that William Manchester says in the introduction of this book, “In time I myself shall merely become a source for future historians as yet unborn”. This book was the beginning of my understanding of those days in Dallas, and 48 years after its publication, this book is a reminder that we need to continue to research and look for those clues that might help us better understand what happened that Friday in November.

http://www.lbjlibrary.net/collections/daily-diary.html

References

Manchester, William. The Death of a President, November 20-November 25, 1963, New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Peppard, Alan. “Kennedy Rival Nixon Left Dallas as JFK Arrived in November 1963.” Dallas Morning News. November 2, 2013. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/jfk50/explore/20131102-kennedy-rival-richard-nixon-left-dallas-as-jfk-arrived-in-november-1963.ece.

Happy Birthday Mr. President!!!!

Today marks the 97th Birthday of President John F. Kennedy. Today is a day to remember a person who meant so much to so many people around the world. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out the real assassins in his murder and it is sometimes overlooked on the impact that he had on people then and still does to this day. This site is dedicated to some new and old research into his assassination and I think that on this particular day there should be no talk about that and more about the legacy of JFK. As the years have past since 1963, the world seems to forget about certain days like this and the next time the media will pay attention to remembering JFK, will be around the time of his 100th birthday. To the many researchers and admirers of John F. Kennedy this day is a day that we would like to see become a National Holiday.

The story of John F. Kennedy has been told many times over the years in the countless amounts of books and a variety of movies. What I would like to talk about today is the impact that he still has on the many Americans who lived during that time and to the young Americans who inspire to like him. We have searched for a President like him and have looked for his characteristics in all of them ever since his assassination. Almost every democrat that runs for President of The United States feels the need to plug in some sort of JFK characteristic into their campaign. For instance, the last two democrats that ran for President have tried this tactic, John Kerry and his ties to the Kennedy family, and his initials being JFK, and President Obama using his Presidential campaign and his endorsement by Caroline Kennedy to show America that Camelot would be back. To the people that remember President Kennedy in office, they remember a President that was fearless and when it came down to making a decision he would take the advise of his best advisors and make the best decision for the country. To the many Americans today who only were able to read about JFK in history books, the thing that sticks out is his inauguration speech. As students we learn the phrase “Ask not what our country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. My children are just now learning about JFK in school and they asked me what that saying meant. My response is that JFK wanted us to take pride in our country and not let the country always be the one to take care of you, but as people what we can do for each other throughout the country.

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The idea of Camelot is something that was started 50 years ago and it is something that will carry on for another 50 years and beyond. The time of John F. Kennedy was one of hope and passion, and the country believed in our government. If you are to watch some of the press conferences and television debates of the 1960 Presidential Campaign, you will see some of the same problems we had then are the same today. But there was a belief and a hope of change, and that a President who had the passion and willingness to make the right decisions will get it right. President Kennedy was not the perfect President nor was he the perfect man. We all have our faults and weaknesses, but it is how we react in tough situations that make us who we are. We saw that in President Kennedy, and we want that today in our leaders. Sometimes we look for leaders that need to be perfect in every which way. They need to have the perfect education, perfect marriage, excellent health, in order to be a great leader, and yet JFK lacked in many of these areas and we never knew it. We saw his actions in the battlefield both in World War II and in the Oval Office and that’s what makes him one of the most beloved Presidents of all time.

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Sources:

Kelley, K. (2013, January 23). Obama and the Legacy of Camelot. .

Mimi Alford

Warren Commission likes to leave out witnesses..

It has become an almost everyday occurrence to find witnesses that the Warren Commission wanted to ignore. There are many individuals who were in Dealey Plaza on November 22nd, 1963, yet they choose to pick the ones that made their story fit. From the start, the Commission had to find a way to put Oswald in the building and at that window at the time of the assassination.  So they needed to place Oswald in the building at the time, and find a way for him to leave the building. When someone told a different story then the one they had predetermined, they would deem this individual as being mistaken. Today, I want to bring about the statements given by Roger Craig.

In the early afternoon of November 22nd, 1963, Dallas Deputy Roger Craig was standing on Main Street close to Dealey Plaza. As the shots rang out, Craig followed the crowd that was heading up the grassy knoll. He had seen an officer heading into that direction and decided to follow suit. When they arrived they searched the area and were unable to find anything up there. As he was walking  back he encountered Arnold Rowland who was a witness that claimed he saw a man with a rifle on the sixth floor. Not only did he see a man with a rifle at the southwest corner ( Oswald was supposedly at the southeast), he saw another man on the sixth floor as well. Mr. Rowland pointed this out to his wife, and he constantly looked in that direction before the motorcade arrived in Dealey Plaza.. More on the Rowland story in another post, because there is much more to that story then I can fit.

So Officer Craig, listens to the man give his account of the scene and directs him to other officers that are in the area.  About 15 minutes after the shooting, Craig hears someone whistle. At this time he sees a man, that is slender in build, looks to be in his early 20’s running towards a station wagon. Officer Craig gets a good look at this man that is running down the grassy knoll and tries to get the license plate number of the vehicle. His initial reaction at the time was that,why would anyone be running away, when it seemed everyone was running towards the situation. As the scene is unfolding in Dealey Plaza, Officer Craig is told to head into the Texas School Book Depository.  While on the sixth floor, it was him and another officer named Seymour Weitzman along with another officer that find the alleged rifle that was used in the shooting. When the weapon was found, they were told to leave it alone until the identification team could have a look at it. Upon looking at the weapon Weitzman described the weapon as a 7.65 Mauser rifle, and Officer Craig thought the same thing at the time. It wasn’t until pressure from the Warren Commission that Weitzman changed his story. His initial statement to Dallas investigators was that it was a Mauser and he knew weapons from being in the Sporting Goods business.

It was not until later in the evening of November 22nd, that Officer Craig is able to figure out who that man was running down the grassy knoll. He identified him as Lee Harvey Oswald. According to Craig, he went into Police Headquarters to talk to Captain Fritz about what he saw in Dealey Plaza. When told, Fritz and Craig went into the room where Oswald was staying and Fritz asked Oswald about the station wagon. Oswald was quoted as saying ” leave Mrs. Paine out of this, she had nothing to do with it”. A little side note, Ruth Paine was the woman who Oswald’s wife was staying with, and where his rifle was located. At the time, she drove a light green station wagon like the one Officer Craig had seen that day.

So here we have an Officer who sees a man he believes his Oswald about 15 minutes after the shooting, get into a car and take off. The final determination by the Warren Commission was that Oswald left the Texas School Book Depository after the shooting, got on a bus, but when the bus got caught in traffic he took a cab into Oak Cliff. When Oswald was arrested, he had on him a transfer ticket from the bus he was supposedly on. Before November 22nd, 1963, Officer Roger Dean Craig was an outstanding and decorated police officer for the city of Dallas. He was awarded the Man of the year award in 1960 for his work in a jewelry thief arrest. But once word gets out about his talk of Oswald being on the grassy knoll after the shooting, he is quickly ridiculed by his fellow officers. They simple do not believe his story, and he is eventually forced out of the police department by 1967. There were many threats made against his life in the following years, and following being shot at and injured, and driven off the road in an automobile accident, Mr. Craig decided to end his life in 1975. Until the moment of his passing, he believed that the man he saw that day was Oswald.

I am not going to say whether or not I believe this story, but it would be hard pressed not to believe a decorated police officer, who from day one stated he saw Oswald after the shooting. His observations and that of other witnesses fell on deaf ears to the Warren Commission and although he was called in as a witness, Officer Craig’s statements never made it to the final report. The final report will never be final in the eyes of many, and it is stories like this and witness statements from that day which keep this flame burning. I along with everyone else just want to know everything that transpired that day.

Sources:

John F. Kennedy assassination homepage. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jfk-assassination.de/warren/wch/vol6/page260.php

Simkin, J. (1997, 09). Roger dean craig. Retrieved from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKcraigR.htm

Looking For Answers

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So this past weekend I was able to finally make it to Dallas, Texas. As I was walking around Dealey Plaza it was incredible to realize just how close everyone was to the assassination. When looking at pictures it is hard to visualize it, but when you are there you are taken back in time. The plaza looks just as it did 50 years ago, except that some of the trees have gotten larger. I was able to walk around and inspect the area to see the different angles that the spectators were able to see that day.

I did what any typical tourist would do, I walked the grassy knoll, went behind the picket fence and stood on top of the triple underpass. All of these could have been good vantage points for any potential assassin, but the probability that it happened in one of these locations with the people in the area are unlikely. The main spot that I wanted to visit was the snipers nest on the sixth floor. Going into the building makes you think about the aftermath of the shooting and the route Oswald took inside of the building. Although the building has been modernized, there are still elements of what it looked like in 1963.

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Some of the things that were interesting when I was on the sixth floor, was the fact that I could hear the footsteps of the people in the floor above me. The wood floors make it easy to hear what is going on, and it just so happened that people were moving things around on the seventh floor. This is interesting because on Nov. 22 1963 three workers were on the 5th floor of the depository eating there lunch. They claim to have heard things being moved and the shell casings from the gun hitting the floor. The testimony of Bonnie Ray Williams states that he heard the shots come from the building and that he ran to the other side of the floor thinking they came from there. By being in the building and hearing the things above makes it certain that they could have heard these things. The problem is that there was two other men with Bonnie Ray and the number of shots that they heard differ.

The trip to Dallas was something I will never forget, and I know that I will be back at some point. Going into the museum and doing research inside of the Reading Room, makes me want to go back even more. There are so many unanswered questions regarding the death of the President and Dallas is the main source of the many of the answers.

Bucket List…

At some point in life we learn about death and loss. As hard it is to talk about it is a hard line fact that it will happen to all of us. My grandmother told me a story when I was 8 years old about a young president who died way too young and left so much behind. I just could not understand why someone would do this and I wonder that to this day.

Learning about the life and death of John F. Kennedy became something that was a part of me and it helped me become a better student. When your 8 years old, learning about autopsy’s and bullet fragments is not something that typically happens. As I grew older the interest never faded it only became more expensive because of the material I was buying. I always dreamed as a kid that one day I would be able to go to Dallas to see where he got shot and see the sixth floor museum.

I was too young to go to the 30th anniversary and I promised myself that the 40th anniversary would be the year I go. My youngest daughter was born in October of that year and I was unable to attend that year as well. So here we are, the 50th anniversary is a few weeks away and I was unable to obtain tickets to the memorial. However, my wife pushed me to not give up and that we would still go.

I have always said that going to Dallas would be the top thing on my bucket list of things to do. It’s not often that people get to say that they have done the one thing they have always wanted to do. Dallas means more than seeing the museum or the grassy knoll. It takes me back to my grandmother telling me those stories about him and how it all ended on that sunny day in November.