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.
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.
Robert Wilsonsky of the Dallas Observer was taking a walk through yesteryear, and found an old, wrinkled memo to employees at Parkland Hospital in the aftermath of the JFK tragedy. (read his article here). Parkland is having tough times today, but they certainly had to face a tougher time that one weekend.
In the memo is a snapshot of the challenge facing companies and their employees in difficult times. Which, I think, applies to this era pretty much across the board. The praise given to Parkland employees does a terrific job at setting the agenda in any difficult time.
Here’s the key except from the memo:
What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events. Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgment is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.
These certainly seem like difficult days, and a whole lot of companies, and their employees, are in a pretty deep morale slump. I suggest that we all focus on this – when times are tough, this is precisely the time to rise to the occasion and all do our very best work. For the sake of our own company. For the sake of our own sanity and mental health. And for the future health of our entire nation.
Thanks for sharing this, Mr. Wilonsky. (Here’s the full memo):