November 22, 1963 | Los Angeles Public Library
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November 22, 1963

Cindy McNaughton, Senior Librarian, History & Genealogy Department,
Dignitaries unveiled the John F. Kennedy plaque on the floor of the L.A. Coliseum

I know exactly where I was the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963.  I imagine most Americans 55 or older today remember where they were that day.  At 12.30 p.m. Central Standard Time, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated, shot fatally by a sniper.  At this moment, it is said, our nation lost its collective innocence, our world view changed.

Kennedy assassination theories abound.  They make one's head spin, ranging from the plausible to the absolutely absurd.  That there was a second shooter in a building near the book depository is plausible.  That Jackie Kennedy had a pistol hidden in her lap and shot her husband (without anyone seeing her do it!) is not!  That the driver of their car turned and shot the president (also without anyone seeing him do it!) is not!  That Joe DiMaggio, so jealous and heartbroken over Marilyn Monroe's death, believing that the Kennedy's were responsible, called in a mob hit, hmm.  That Onassis was in love with Jackie and had JFK "removed" so he could marry her, hmm.  That the Secret Service agent in the car behind the president stumbled and accidentally fired his rifle (without anyone seeing the weapon fire), the bullet killing the president, hmm.  That there was a shooter on the grassy knoll (or somewhere in front of the president) is highly plausible. And, according to this recent article in the National Enquirer, author Anthony Summers has discovered who the second shooter was (the author, however, states on his blog that his words were taken out of context; scroll down to Correcting the record on Herminio Diaz.)

Kennedy had been warned not to go to Dallas.  He would be surrounded by enemies.  There had been recent violent demonstrations and it was well known that many Texans did not like him. One of those Texans, in particular, was Lyndon B. Johnson.  LBJ oversaw the Warren Commission. Did he direct them to overlook and omit critical evidence, leading them to a preordained conclusion? Even more sinister, did he have foreknowledge of the event? Did he aide in its planning? Is this even plausible?

For those of us who watched House of Cards, government corruption, conspiracy and cover-up seem a way of life, routine and mundane, endemic to the culture. But, in 1963 would our elected officials have been so brazen and immoral? Could such a monstrous conspiracy have been planned without someone leaking information beforehand?  Would everyone involved really have condoned assassinating the President of the United States?  Did Kennedy have such a long line of enemies, foreign and domestic, that what we witnessed in 1963 was a coup d'etat, and the perpetrators got away with it?  Were U.S. government officials actively involved, or did they simply look the other way, sufficiently relaxing protective measures around the president, allowing the act to be committed?

A Gallup poll taken in March 2001 showed that 81% of Americans believed that other people were involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the president:  

A similar poll was taken again in 2003 which also ranked the top conspiracy theories:

In 1976, a House Select Committee on Assassinations Report concluded:  The committee believes, on the basis of evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.  The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy.  And, even though millions of pages of government records were released in the late 1990s, we learned nothing new. (More documents held by the CIA under the clause of "national security" are due for release in 2017.)

50 years later, many still believe we've never been told the complete truth, nor ever will be.  There is no new conclusive evidence and no end in sight to the rehashed and replayed theories.  No closure.  The tragic loss of our young president, leaving us the unrealized potential of his leadership, saddens us to this day.

We continue to ask: Who benefitted from JFK's death and why? Was Oswald set up and by whom?  The CIA?  Big oil and the military-industrial complex?  LBJ? The FBI? The Soviets? Cuba? The Mafia? The Israeli's? The Illuminati? Did the Secret Service play a role?  

If you'd like to wade into the deep, murky waters of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories and haven't yet read any of the estimated 2000+ books written on the subject, here are a few titles to get you started:

Breach of trust: how the Warren Commission failed the nation and why
by Gerald McKnight
  Historian McKight offers an in-depth look into the Warren Commission's
  operations explaining how and why it arrived at the conclusions it did.
Brothers: the hidden history of the Kennedy years by David Talbot
   Examines JFK's presidency, profiles his many domestic enemies, 
   and follows RFK's investigation into his brother's assassination.
Conspiracy by Anthony Summers
   Has withstood the test of time and is is still hailed as well-researched,
   well-reasoned, articulate and comprehensive.
Crossfire: the plot that killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs
   Journalist Marrs brings together the plausible theories and examines them 
   from various angles.  Described as comprehensive, sensible and
The death of a president: November 20-November 25, 1963
 by William Manchester
  Acclaimed historian Manchester was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy
  to write a definitive accounting of Kennedy's last days and the assassination.
  In turn, he was promised interviews with family members.  Interestingly,
  Jacqueline threatened to block publication of the book unless Manchester
  made requested changes. Written four years after JFK's death, was
  well-received and captured the emotion and gestalt of the event.  
  A history rather than a conspiracy book. (Reprinted this year.) 
Destiny betrayed: JFK, Cuba and the Garrison case by James DiEugenio
  Focuses on the investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. 
Farewell America by James G. Hepburn
  Originally released in Europe in 1968, a bestseller overseas. 
JFK and the unspeakable: why he died and why it matters
by James W. Douglass
  Anchored to the premise that JFK created numerous enemies as he
 transitioned from Cold War belief and policy toward a policy of
 lasting peace, a world free from nuclear war.
Plausible denial: was the CIA involved in the assassination of JFK
 by Mark Lane
  Purports the CIA's involvement.
Rush to judgement by Mark Lane
  Specifically challenges the findings of the Warren Commission.
Six seconds in Dallas: a micro-study of the Kennedy assassination
 by Josiah Thompson
  A detailed, scientific analysis of just the six seconds between
  the first and last shots.

For the debunkers:

Case closed by Gerald Posner
   Has changed the mind of many a conspiracy believer.
Reclaiming history by Vincent Bugliosi
   A tough slog through over 1600 pages of argument from a famous prosecutor.

AND, NEW OR REVISED THIS YEAR:                                                

Crossfire by Jim Marrs (revised edition of the above, currently on order)
   A re-examination of issues never answered satisfactorily, with lastest findings.
Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (currently on order)
  An examination of the social and politcal environment in Dallas at the time of
  the assassination.
The Day Kennedy died: 50 years later LIFE remembers the man and the moment  (currently on order)
  A coffee table book in done in LIFE's inimitable and immediately recognizable
  style. Many rarely seen photos.
End of days: the assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson
  A minute-by-minute detailed account of the day of the assassination.
Five days in November by Clint Hill
  Hill, the Secret Service agent who jumped onto the car as the shots were fired,
  recounts the days before and after the assassination.
If Kennedy lived by Jeff Greenfield (currently on order)
  An alternate history examining Kennedy's presidency and imaging what might
  have happened had he not died that day.
The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald inside the Soviet Union by Peter Savodnik (currently on order)
   Biography of Oswald with emphasis on his three years in the Soviet Union.
The Kennedy half-century: the presidency, assassination, and lasting
legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry Sabato (currently on order)
   Sabato is Directory of the Center of Politics at the Univ. of Viriginia.
   A related PBS documentary is expected to follow.
Not in your lifetime: the defining book on the J.F.K. assassination by Anthony Summers (currently on order)
   An updated edition of the author's respected title Conspiracy(above) which
   includes the latest evidence.                                                                                                   

                                           photo of John F. Kennedy

Photos are courtesy of the LAPL Photo Collection.