‘Dallas 1963’ paints grim portrait

A fascinating new book has come out that tells a chilling tale of the city where President John F. Kennedy was killed.

I don’t know that the book, “Dallas 1963,” co-authored by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis, says the city’s power structure itself was responsible for Kennedy’s shocking death. In an interview, though, with National Public Radio, Minutaglio does suggest that the city provided a “hothouse environment” that could have spawned the actions of the man believed responsible for the murder, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Here’s the link to the NPR interview. It’s about 9 minutes long, but worth every moment of the time you spend listening to it.


The fear expressed by the Kennedy team prior to his visit to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 was that “right-wing extremists” would bring harm to the president. As it turned out, Oswald — a self-proclaimed Marxist, a “left-wing extremist” — pulled the trigger on the rifle that killed the president and seriously wounded Texas Gov. John Connally, who was riding in the car with his wife, Nellie and the first couple.

Minutaglio suggests that even though Oswald came from vastly different place politically than the right-wingers who hated the president and all he stood for, he might have reacted to the same pressures to remove the president that were coming from those on the other end of the political spectrum.

“Dallas 1963” paints the city as a dark place. I have no personal knowledge of what kind of place Dallas was at the time. I was living far away, in the Pacific Northwest, when the word came out of Texas that the president was dead. At the age of 13 on that day, I barely knew where Dallas was on the map, let alone what might have spawned such a heinous act.

Minutaglio also tells an interesting story of how Sen. Lyndon Johnson — JFK’s vice-presidential running mate, and a Texan to boot — was attacked at a hotel just days prior to the 1960 election. LBJ and his wife, Lady Bird, were assaulted by some of Dallas society’s elite. The event drew extensive national publicity and, according to Minutaglio, may have spurred enough of a sympathy vote to put the Kennedy-Johnson ticket over the top on Election Day 1960.

I haven’t yet read the book. I plan to purchase it and would like to read it while the nation is commemorating this grim anniversary.

The NPR interview with Minutaglio sets up an interesting bit of reading for anyone who still is fascinated by the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime.


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