Published in Flagpole Magazine, p. 8 (January 7, 1998).

Author: Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law.

Over 34 years have passed since most the shocking murder in the United States in this century--the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963.  There is now a gigantic amount of information available about the assassination.  Vast quantities of previously classified or withheld government documents have been or are being released to the public.  Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written about nearly every aspect of the assassination.

Despite the fact that serious researchers disagree about many of the facts surrounding JFK's death, and despite the fact that some assassination buffs are zanies touting screwball theories, there is a widespread, growing recognition in both the academic community and among the general public that the Warren Commission was wrong when it concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed the president.  The Warren Report, almost all responsible scholars agree, was the result of a hasty, incomplete, and biased investigation.

Michael R. Beschloss's Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964 (1997), is an important book that should be examined by persons interested in finding out more about the JFK assassination.  In his book, Beschloss, a distinguished historian, has transcribed and annotated a number of presidential conversations secretly recorded by JFK's successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, including conversations concerning the fatal trip to Texas, the assassination itself, and the official investigation of the assassination.

The transcripts published by Beschloss reveal:

Other interesting facts in the book, disclosed in Beschloss's annotations to the transcripts, include:

Interestingly, the Beschloss book also tends to confirm the critics who have claimed that the protection given Oswald by the Dallas police after his arrest was suspiciously inadequate.  One week after the assassination, J. Edgar Hoover told LBJ: "They [the Dallas police escorting Oswald when he was shot by Jack Ruby] never made any moves, as the picture shows, even when they saw him [Ruby] approaching [Oswald] and got right up to him and pressed his pistol against Oswald's stomach.  Neither of the police officers on either side made any move to push him away or grab him.  It wasn't until after the gun fired that they then moved ..."

The Beschloss book adds another piece to the puzzle which has obsessed Americans for over a third of a century: what are the unknown facts about the murder of America's 35th president?