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Anniversary of JFK death evokes memories, conspiracy theories

Posted November 21, 2013

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— Fifty years ago Friday, shots were fired into President John F. Kennedy's motorcade as it made its way down a Dallas street. When the dust cleared, America had lost a president and, some would argue, an entire generation lost its innocence.

A half-century later, Kennedy's assassination still resonates across the U.S. Most of those who were alive on Nov. 22, 1963, remember where they were and what they were doing when they learned of his death. Many continue to believe the crime remains unsolved.

CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer was a young police reporter for the Fort Worth Star newspaper at the time and remembers a phone call cutting through the chaos in the newsroom in the wake of Kennedy's shooting.

"A woman said, 'Is there anybody there who can give me a ride to Dallas?' I said, 'Lady, we don't run a taxi, and besides, the president has been shot,'" Schieffer recalled recently. "She said, 'Yes, I heard it on the radio. I think my son is the one they've arrested.' It was Lee Harvey Oswald's mother."

After obtaining a car from the paper's automotive editor, he picked up Oswald's mother in Fort Worth and interviewed her as they drove to Dallas.

"She was totally self-centered," he said. "I really couldn't get her to talk much about him, other than to say he's been misunderstood and all that."

Schieffer said he walked her into the Dallas police station, where no one questioned the presence of a man in a fedora and jacket, and sat down with her in a squad room, where he was able to use a phone to call in updates to his editors.

Bob Schieffer Schieffer: Covering JFK assassination was intense, emotional

A short time later, Oswald's mother said she wanted to see her son, and he relayed the message to a police captain.

"I suddenly found myself being herded into this holding room off the jail with his mother – and by this time his wife had shown up. I said to myself, 'My God, I'm going to interview this man. If I don't get to interview him, at least I'll hear what he says to his mother," Schieffer said. "A guy standing over in the corner said, 'Who are you?' – the question that somebody should have asked."

When he informed the police he was a reporter, he was told to leave immediately.

"I always say it was the biggest interview I almost got and didn't, but what an adventure in the midst of that tragedy," he said. "Sometimes I think about that, and I think, 'Did that really happen?'"

Raleigh actor Ira David Wood III said he can't believe what happened in the months after the assassination, when the Warren Commission determined that Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy.

"I believe it was a conspiracy. I think it was, in many respects, a coup d'etat," Wood said recently.

Raleigh actor Ira David Wood III Actor convinced JFK assassination was conspiracy

He said he became interested in the assassination while researching material for a play he was writing about a group of people whose job it was to watch Dealey Plaza, the site where Kennedy was shot. He has written more than 1,000 pages on the assassination and is convinced the government continues a cover-up.

"The president of the United States was murdered on a public street at high noon in front of hundreds of people, and 50 years later, we still don't have all the facts and the truth about what happened on that Dallas street," he said. "Any time the government tries so hard to keep things from us or to deny people access to records, you have to look at why they're doing that."

Wood said it goes far beyond secret records. He maintains the CIA and military leaders were involved and that Oswald never fired a shot. He notes that Oswald called a phone number in Raleigh after his arrest, and Wood believes he was trying to contact his CIA handler.

"If you can prove to me that man did it," he said of Oswald, "I'll walk away happy. I'll put it to rest, but so far, I can't. They call us conspiracy theorists, but I've got to say the government has presented their conspiracy theory because that's not a fact either."

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  • jackaroe123 Nov 22, 4:53 p.m.

    "Its been said if he were in politics today he would be considered a conservative"

    Well, society tends to move forward in its thinking, so yeah, even today's conservatives agree w/ what he espoused then. Today's liberals will also be considered pretty conservative by 2040 or so.

  • sinenomine Nov 22, 4:51 p.m.

    Had Kennedy lived he most probably would have been re-elected in 1964. Had that occurred, and if his experience had been typical, his approval ratings would likely have been about the same as Obama's at any given point in his second term.

    The biggest "what if" question about Kennedy is this - would we have become irretrievably involved in Vietnam or would that debacle have been avoided? The central question of Kennedy's unfinished presidency is whether 50,000+ American lives would have been lost in combat in the years 1963 through 1973 had he lived.

  • Get your IDs Nov 22, 12:14 p.m.

    Its been said if he were in politics today he would be considered a conservative

  • Minarchist Nov 22, 9:56 a.m.

    The best "conspiracy theory" Ive heard has come from our Government. Its a cool phrase to try an demonize people for thinking for themselves though. Gullible people suck up the phrase "conspiracy theory" to automatically dismiss someone without investigation.

    "condemnation without investigation is the highest form of ignorance"

  • WASP Nov 22, 8:51 a.m.

    I know anything relating to JFK is big news, but let the man rest in peace.

  • monk Nov 21, 7:14 p.m.

    I was in high school in Arlington, VA, 9th grade religion class. I still remember watching the TV, non stop, and actually saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald. My parents took all of us kids to DC to watch the motorcade ride by. A very sad day for this country.

  • oleguy Nov 21, 6:22 p.m.

    I remember the day well, I was in High school, Kids and teachers were crying, A sad day for America,, Where did the time go,, And look at the shape our country is in. We really went down hill in the past 50 years. For those of you that can, look back to that day and compaire it to today,, Sicken

  • 20K Nov 21, 6:22 p.m.

    That was a sad day in America! I was only 11 years old but remember it very well! Things most likely would have been much better for everyone if President Kennedy had lived to serve out his term and had been reelected!