September 26, 2018

Conflicting Conclusions Program to Feature Key Members of Warren Commission and House Select Committee on Assassinations

Logo for The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

DALLAS, TX – September 26, 2018: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is presenting an unprecedented event on Monday, October 29. Conflicting Conclusions: The Government Assassination Investigations will provide unique firsthand insights into the Warren Commission (1964) and the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations (1979) reports, the two key government investigations into the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The Museum is honored to host a conversation between Howard P. Willens, Assistant Counsel on the staff of the Warren Commission, and G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations. The October 29 program will mark the first time these two highly respected members of the legal profession will sit down together to publicly discuss the context of these investigations which were conducted 15 years apart, including their findings and why questions remain still today.

“As the intense subjects of discussion and debate that continue today, these government investigations reflect the evolution of the memory and mood of the nation, from a desire for closure in the immediate aftermath of the assassination to heightened cynicism and mistrust of the government more than a decade later,” said Nicola Longford, Chief Executive Officer of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. “It is apropos that this conversation takes place at The Sixth Floor Museum, as the Museum strives to be a haven for differing perspectives, ongoing discourse and a shared journey of scholarship and discovery. The combined hearings and exhibits of these two investigations provide invaluable resources to inspire new generations of researchers toward a continued study of the Kennedy assassination.”

One week after the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson established The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. Chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, this prestigious investigative body, commonly known as the Warren Commission, presented its Final Report to President Johnson on September 24, 1964, concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and finding no evidence of a conspiracy.

Following a wave of critical literature by independent researchers about the assassination investigation, amplified by the skepticism and social unrest of the 1960s and the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, public trust in the Warren Commission Report significantly dropped.

In 1975, the Abraham Zapruder film that captured the assassination was broadcast for the first time on network television, leading to increased interest in the circumstances surrounding the death of President Kennedy. Further fueled by revelations that government agencies had withheld information from the Warren Commission, in September 1976, the U.S. House of Representatives established the Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the deaths of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While several scientific studies commissioned by the House Select Committee corroborated some findings of the Warren Commission and they concurred that Oswald killed President Kennedy, acoustical analysis of a Dallas police dictabelt recording led the Committee to conclude in their Final Report issued in 1979 that the President “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”

Conflicting Conclusions: The Government Assassination Investigations will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 29 on the Museum’s seventh floor. Program tickets are $25, and are available for advance purchase at jfk.org.

About Howard P. Willens

An attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Justice Department in 1963, Howard P. Willens served as Assistant Counsel on the staff of the Warren Commission. He is the author of History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy (2013).

About G. Robert Blakey

A longtime law professor at Notre Dame and Cornell Law School, G. Robert Blakey was appointed Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979. He is co-author of The Plot to Kill President Kennedy (1981).

 

Contact Information

Laurie Ivy
Marketing and Communications Manager
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
lauriei@jfk.org
Direct: 214.389.3046

About the Museum

Mission Statement: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history.

Vision Statement: To be an impartial, multi-generational destination and forum for exploring the memory and effects of the events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, through sharing his legacy and its impact on an ever-changing global society.

Located at 411 Elm Street in downtown Dallas, the Museum is open Monday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Audio guides for the permanent exhibit are included with admission and available in eight languages, including ASL. For more information, visit jfk.org or call 214.747.6660.

Admission: $16 Adult, $14 Senior, $13 Youth (children aged 5 and under are free).

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May 23, 2018

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Announces Special Exhibit on Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Logo for The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

DALLAS, TX – May 23, 2018:  The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza will open a special temporary exhibit, Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The exhibition will close on Labor Day, September 3, 2018.

Over the course of five years, beginning with the 1963 death of President John F. Kennedy, three of the most important American leaders of the twentieth century were assassinated. This year marks fifty years since the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who died within two months of each other in the spring of 1968.

Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. showcases approximately 60 photographs that uncover the relationship between these historic figures, supplemented by a selection of artifacts from the Museum’s collections.

Robert F. Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968) and Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) were born worlds apart—culturally, geographically, racially, financially and politically—but by the time they were killed within months of each another in 1968, their worlds had come together. As their respective concerns expanded beyond civil rights and organized crime, their ties deepened to encompass shared interests in supporting the poor and opposing the war in Vietnam. This unprecedented exhibition explores the overlapping paths of their lives through images taken by some of the most renowned photojournalists of the era, including Bob Adelman, Danny Lyon, Henri Dauman, Jacques Lowe, Spider Martin, Steve Schapiro, Lawrence Schiller and Paul Schutzer.

“Senator Kennedy and Dr. King were instrumental in advancing the important work that was a pillar of President Kennedy’s agenda,” said Nicola Longford, chief executive officer of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. “These two American icons have had a lasting impact on the world. Fifty years ago, they helped shift the cultural mindset of the nation, and their quest to improve race relations and ensure civil rights for all is as relevant today as ever.”

Exhibition highlights include images of King and his son looking at the charred remains of a cross the Ku Klux Klan burned outside his Atlanta home in 1960, King’s mug shot after being indicted for the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott and Kennedy being swarmed by an adoring crowd during his 1968 presidential campaign.

The temporary exhibit will be located on the seventh floor of the Museum and is included with general admission.

 

Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. is based in part on the book The Promise and the Dream by David Margolick, published on April 4, 2018 by RosettaBooks.

In conjunction with Rebel Spirits, the Museum will offer a special public program at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 4, 2018, featuring a conversation with photojournalist/exhibit curator Lawrence Schiller and journalist/author David Margolick.

A limited number of interview time slots are available with Schiller and/or Margolick during the day on Monday, June 4. Advance notice is required; to request an interview, contact Laurie Ivy lauriei@jfk.org or 214-389-3046.

Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. was produced by Wiener Schiller Productions and is presented locally by The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The exhibition was curated by Lawrence Schiller with support from Getty Images.

 

About Lawrence Schiller

An accomplished journalist and photographer, Lawrence Schiller has documented major stories around the globe for Life, Look, Newsweek, Time and others. As an official photographer on the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign staff, Schiller captured iconic images of Senator Kennedy during the months prior to his assassination. Schiller also photographed Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in November 1963 and collaborated with Norman Mailer for nearly 35 years.

About David Margolick

A longtime contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former editor at the New York Times, David Margolick writes about culture, the media and politics. Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired in part by Margolick’s newest book The Promise and the Dream, which was released on April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The book is available in the Museum’s bookstore and online at jfk.org.

Contact Information

Laurie Ivy
Marketing and Communications Manager
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
lauriei@jfk.org
Direct: 214.389.3046

 

About the Museum

Mission Statement: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history.

Vision Statement: To be an impartial, multi-generational destination and forum for exploring the memory and effects of the events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, through sharing his legacy and its impact on an ever-changing global society.

Located at 411 Elm Street in downtown Dallas, the Museum is open Monday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Audio guides for the permanent exhibit are included with admission and available in eight languages, including ASL. For more information, visit jfk.org or call 214.747.6660.

Admission: $16 Adult, $14 Senior, $13 Youth (children aged 5 and under are free). Entrance to Rebel Spirits is included with Museum admission.

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March 14, 2018

The Pressure of the Press: Media Coverage of the Jack Ruby Trial

by Stephen Fagin, Curator

In the days following the Kennedy assassination, more than 300 members of the world press crowded the corridors of Dallas police headquarters, shouting questions at suspect Lee Harvey Oswald and pressing law enforcement for opinions on the case. The Warren Commission in 1964 criticized the media for their part in a frenzied, largely unchecked situation that climaxed with Jack Ruby’s shooting of Oswald. City leaders, fully aware of Dallas’s tainted reputation following the events of that fateful weekend in November 1963, hoped that Ruby’s 1964 murder trial would be handled with far more decorum and security.

Recognizing that hundreds of journalists would cover the trial, Sam Bloom, president of a prominent Dallas advertising agency, offered his services to Judge Joe B. Brown of Criminal District Court No. 3. It was unprecedented for a PR firm to represent a judge, and Bloom faced direct criticism when he testified at a change-of-venue hearing prior to the trial. With more than 300 requests for only forty-eight seats reserved for media, Defense attorney Joe Tonahill accused Bloom of favoring reporters “sympathetic to Dallas.” Bloom denied this, noting that his firm merely handled logistics and credentials, though Bloom employee Helen Holmes did advise Judge Brown and draft his public statements. Media pressure ultimately led Brown to use a larger courtroom for the trial where at least 150 reporters could be seated.

This photograph, taken through the window of the courtroom door, shows defense attorney
Melvin Belli questioning PR executive Sam Bloom on the witness stand.

This photograph, taken through the window of the courtroom door, shows defense attorney Melvin Belli questioning PR executive Sam Bloom on the witness stand. The Dallas Morning News Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Donated by The Dallas Morning News in the interest of preserving history
The Dallas Morning News Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Donated by The Dallas Morning News in the interest of preserving history

The day press credentials were issued, Helen Holmes recalled, “there was a stampede.” For added security, journalists were required to wear photographic identification badges, though only the largest news organizations could quickly produce small ID photos for their reporters. The courthouse arranged a checkpoint where everyone, including press, was searched before entry. Though commonplace today, this type of security was new in 1964; some, including syndicated columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, found the whole process comical. Early in the trial, deputy sheriffs confiscated a pocketknife from KRLD-TV sketch artist Ken Hansen, which he needed to sharpen his art pencils. He began pre-sharpening both ends of every pencil to avoid future problems.

Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen smiles as she is searched prior to entering the courtroom.

Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen smiles as she is searched prior to entering the courtroom. Bill Winfrey Collection, The Dallas Morning News/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Bill Winfrey Collection, The Dallas Morning News/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

A probate courtroom was transformed into an international press room with typewriters, twenty Western Union teletype machines and thirty telephones, some with new direct-dialing (non-operator) service. Experienced teletype operators were always on hand, promising an average of sixty words per minute, though few were prepared for the numerous foreign language requests. One operator grew familiar with the word “geschworenenkandidat,” which is “prospective juror” in German.

Some of the thirty telephones installed in the Ruby trial press room.

Some of the thirty telephones installed in the Ruby trial press room. The Dallas Morning News Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Donated by The Dallas Morning News in the interest of preserving history
The Dallas Morning News Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Donated by The Dallas Morning News in the interest of preserving history

The Dallas Morning News reported that the courthouse had “an international flavor,” with Swiss, French, Swedish, British, Polish, German, Australian, Bulgarian, Mexican and Canadian press mingling with local and national journalists in the press room. CBS commentator Eric Sevareid noted at the time that the “camaraderie [of local reporters] both beguiles and astounds the European journalists covering the trial.”  There was a definite distinction between the relaxed informality of Dallas reporters accustomed to covering the courthouse and those who flew in specifically to cover the Ruby trial, sometimes arriving with negative preconceived notions about the city. Helen Holmes remembered having a reporter from French weekly magazine L’Express physically removed from her PR office. “He was screaming at me,” she recalled in an oral history. “He was yelling at me that he was going to ruin me in Europe because I wasn’t being cooperative enough.”

Some national and international reporters pushed the boundaries of professionalism during the trial. Defense attorney Phil Burleson often received phone calls in the middle of the night from reporters needing to confirm information for pressing deadlines. Defense investigator Bob Denson abandoned his Dallas office to work out of his home because reporters consistently stopped by with questions. Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander was vocally critical of what he considered “unfair, sloppy” news stories. In a talk given two weeks after the verdict, he lamented, “they reported what they wanted to see and what they wanted to hear rather than the events that happened.”  Echoing some of the sentiments expressed by Dallas D.A. Henry Wade, Alexander went on to say that the press “came late, left early and wrote their reports from what they heard at the Press Club.”

Always jockeying for position, there was occasional friction between print, radio and television journalists. Carrying only a portable tape recorder, Gary DeLaune, police reporter for Dallas radio station KLIF, grew frustrated by television technicians wielding large boom microphones. He used the wooden slats of an orange crate to rig a homemade boom mic. “Every day when the network guys would gather around,” he recalled, “I got a chair and I’d start putting that slat over so I could get the audio, and these guys would swear at me.”  News photographers also got creative since no cameras were allowed in the courtroom. To get good overhead shots without reporters in the way, a few cameramen taped flashes and remote-operated cameras to hallway walls. In a rare moment of solidarity, network television crews worked together to properly light the main hallway for their bulky cameras. “We had one master switch,” recalled ABC broadcaster Murphy Martin. “Didn’t have to wait for proper lighting or worry about anything like that, and that was the first time that I had been in a situation like that.”

Cameramen gather in the courthouse hallway. Note the lights and camera taped to the wall.

Cameramen gather in the courthouse hallway. Note the lights and camera taped to the wall. Bill Winfrey Collection, The Dallas Morning News/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Bill Winfrey Collection, The Dallas Morning News/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

The one occasion when cameras were permitted inside the courtroom was on March 14, 1964, for the trial verdict. Martin, a longtime friend of the judge, was the one who finally convinced Brown to televise that significant moment. Martin and Brown established “some ground rules as to how [the press] would conduct themselves.”  Unfortunately, before an audience of millions, all decorum broke down as soon as the guilty verdict was read. Martin recalled that cameramen “just jumped up on the furniture.”  PR advisor Helen Holmes had recommended that the verdict not be televised, fearing that the jurors would be overwhelmed by reporters. Instead, she was shocked when live cameras caught lead defense attorney Melvin Belli deliver an impromptu and unhinged rant against Dallas, which he declared “a city of shame forevermore.”  Holmes remembered, “He had all these bright lights on him, and his face was just sweating. You could practically see the spittle.”

Analysis of the trial’s unprecedented media coverage was swift in the aftermath. Journalism professor J. Edward Gerald at the University of Minnesota suggested that such “publicity [was] altering the jury system, making it unnecessarily expensive, cumbersome to administer and less trustworthy than justice requires.”  The American Bar Association suggested “an urgent need for voluntary restraints” without advocating press censorship or restrictions. The American Civil Liberties Union simply stated “that court proceedings should not be broadcast, televised or photographed.”

Just as the Kennedy assassination altered the way in which breaking news stories are covered, the Jack Ruby trial impacted the way in which the media reports on high-profile court cases, right up to the present day. For those who lived through that hectic, historic experience fifty-four years ago, it was, if nothing else, unforgettable. Helen Holmes concluded, “I think almost everybody connected with the Ruby trial, at one time or another, felt the pressure of the press.”

Note: This blog quotes interviews from the Oral History Project at The Sixth Floor Museum as well as contemporary newspaper accounts. Access to these and other Museum collections is available by scheduling a research appointment in our Reading Room.

November 2, 2017

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Announces Special Exhibit on Kennedy Funeral

DALLAS, TX – November 2, 2017: On Friday, November 17, 2017, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza will open a special temporary exhibit, Mourning a President. The exhibition will close on Presidents Day, February 19, 2018.

Mourning a President presents a compelling chronology of the funeral of President John F. Kennedy and his burial in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, November 25, 1963, in Washington, D.C.

The funeral of President Kennedy was our nation’s most elaborate presidential funeral since the burial of Abraham Lincoln almost a century earlier in April 1865. Over the course of eighteen hours on November 24 and November 25, 1963, approximately 250,000 mourners honored President Kennedy, who lay in state inside the Capitol Rotunda. Foreign leaders came from around the globe to pay their respects and to participate in the funeral procession.

This exhibit will feature many significant historical objects from the Museum’s collections that include hand-written notes from Mrs. Kennedy addressing the intricate planning for the funeral, a funeral program from St. Matthew’s Cathedral, mass cards, eulogies and special editions of newspapers and magazines.

“It is staggering to imagine the meticulous planning and intricate coordination required to ensure all aspects of the funeral came together in less than three days, especially in the midst of such overwhelming national shock and grief,” said Nicola Longford, executive director of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

As a featured highlight of the exhibit, the Museum will display for the first time fully unfurled, the 15-foot-long flag that flew at half-staff above the Senate Wing of the U.S. Capitol during the 30-day national mourning period.

A powerful video that incorporates moving personal accounts from the Museum’s oral history collection, news footage and never-before-seen home movies will provide an intimate and emotionally powerful retrospective of the president’s funeral.

In conjunction with Mourning a President, on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, at 11 a.m., the Museum will offer a special public program featuring Major William F. Lee. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1963, Major Lee commanded the Silent Drill Platoon at the historic 8th & I Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Lee served sentry duty around President John F. Kennedy’s casket in the East Room of the White House and in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Author of The Boys in Blue White Dress, Lee will sign copies following the program. The program is free with Museum admission or $10 for program-only admission.

Mourning a President is presented with support from the Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District.

 

Contact Information
Laurie Ivy
Marketing and Communications Manager
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
lauriei@jfk.org
Direct: 214.389.3046

 

About the Museum
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history.

Located at 411 Elm Street in downtown Dallas, the Museum is open Monday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Audio guides for the permanent exhibit are included with admission and available in eight languages, including ASL. For more information, visit jfk.org or call 214.747.6660.

Admission: $16 Adult, $14 Senior, $13 Youth (children aged 5 and under are free). Entrance to Mourning a President is included with Museum admission.

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