By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Part one covering the mystery and intrigue surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was presented by Gainesville resident and JFK theorist Robin Brown Tuesday at the Little Theater on the North Central Texas College campus. The theme of the presentation was “Remembering JFK” on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Brown’s daughter Kendal Balda was the executive producer of the electronic data presentation which helped support Brown’s lecture.
Brown stated that he was nine years old in 1963 when the JFK assassination occurred and that he remembered the impact that event had on his parents and other adults.
“Being so young, of course, I did not understand the entire parameters of the event but when your parents cry and are distraught, it affects a child,” he said. “When I was older, I began to study everything I could find out about the events leading up to the JFK assassination and was amazed at what I found.”
“I became convinced that many details had not been brought to light by the Warren Commission which was a congressional committee investigating JFK’s death, and I came to believe that a rush to judgment might have occurred.”
In the years prior to 1963, Brown discussed national and world events which helped shape the short term of the 35th president and could have played a part in JFK’s shortened life.
Prior to Kennedy taking office and in his farewell speech in January of 1961, out-going president Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation regarding the influences that could affect the future of the nation perhaps unknown to previous presidents. Outside influences Eisenhower spoke of included the military industrial complex and the arms industry, the branches of the government, manufacturing, the investigative agency known as the CIA, the Pentagon and financial organizations. His prophecies were soon to be tested by JFK’s presidency.
JFK called the common enemies of man: “Tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.” In Brown’s presentation he advised that JFK made many personal and powerful enemies including anti-Castro exiles, right-wing activists, the Mafia, the teamsters union led by Jimmy Hoffa and some of JFK’s own government agencies.
In the previous six months prior to JFK’s death, Brown said, the Secret Service had reviewed over 400 threats to JFK’s life. Because of these threats, security routines had to be changed several times.
In JFK’s election of 1960, the Democrats won the election away from the Republican candidate Richard Nixon by the narrowest of margins of electoral votes. This was a surprise to many who previously had planned on a Nixon presidency.
Early in his presidency, JFK and his brother Robert Kennedy established the Justice Department which was aimed at getting rid of organized crime in America thereby antagonizing the Mafia organization.
The 1960 Bay of Pigs event occurred when anti-Communist Cuban exiles sought to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba. This attempted coup was supported by the Mafia and other big business aficionados who had suffered great financial losses when Castro took over and kicked out the gambling houses and Vegas like hotels in Havana, Brown said.
The CIA advised JFK that it was best to support those who wanted to overthrow the Cuban government.
The anti-Castro militia failed in their mission and JFK was furious at the misinformation he had received from the CIA stating that most Cubans did not like Castro. JFK took action by removing several high ranking CIA officials thus embittering him to not only CIA but also all others who supported the attempt.
“The Bay of Pigs fiasco not only heightened the animosity between JFK, the Mafia and big business antagonists, but it also caused much bitterness in the CIA and other government agencies,” Brown continued.
The “Cuban Missile Crisis” was another major event occurring in 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) brought the world to the brink of nuclear war during thirteen days in October as USSR began to build nuclear bases in Cuba with missiles pointed directly at the United States, only 90 miles away at the closest point.
Kennedy and Nikita Kruschev, leader of the USSR, worked behind the scenes despite warmongering advisors who recommended to JFK to take the bases out militarily.
“Kennedy did not want war and made direct calls to Kruschev. Together they worked out a peaceful solution” Brown continued. “The bases were not built and war was avoided which could have been a nuclear catastrophe to both nations. For thirteen days, our nation literally held its breath.”
Brown said that JFK also mentioned several times that he was going to cut losses and pull out of Vietnam because the south Vietnam’s government was so unpopular and that a U.S. victory was impossible without a large commitment of resources.
“In the fall of 1963, just prior to his death, President Kennedy was told by trusted advisor General David Shoup that Vietnam would require one million soldiers to win,” Brown continued. “Kennedy thought that was too great a cost and was planning to pull out the 1000 plus troops acting as advisors in Vietnam prior to his assassination.”
Many critics of this also became anti-Kennedy.
Another group was also opposed to Kennedy’s support of the civil rights movement that was beginning to gain strength.
Leading up to the final days prior to the assassination, Brown told of documented connections between the so-called lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald , the CIA and Dallas night club owner and former Chicago mobster Jack Ruby. Ruby ultimately killed Oswald two days after Oswald supposedly assassinated the 35th president with a high power rifle shot while the president was traveling in a motorcade in downtown Dallas.
Several Gainesville residents were on hand at the historic event in downtown Dallas in November of 1963.
Gainesville resident Mary Ann Moorman Krahmer attended the Tuesday lecture and told the gathering that she and friend Jean Hill were standing directly across from the presidential limousine at the time of the fatal shooting. Abraham Zabruder who filmed the Kennedy assassination by chance was standing across from Krahmer and the two women show up in various frames of his video documenting the actual moments of the assassination.
“I heard three shots and they sounded like fire crackers,” Krahmer said. “It was such a blur and I was in shock, I guess.”
Brown said that Zabruder had almost decided not to bring his new camera that day and if he had not a valuable piece of history would have been lost.
“Zabruder was at his office and his secretary urged him to go home and get his new camera as it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So he did,” Brown said.
Lee Harvey Oswald had always been determined as the lone gunman who murdered JFK that day. His years leading up to the 1963 event caused many to question his activities, associations and travels.
In detailing Oswald’s years prior to the assassination, Brown stated that Oswald had joined the Marine Corps at 17, learned Russian, received an early military discharge, emigrated to Russia at the age of 20 and attempted to renounce his U.S. citizenship. In Russia he married a Russian woman, Marina, and fathered a child. He and his family were allowed to returned to the United States in 1962 and was a supporter of the pro-Castro movement.
Brown recapped the president’s fatal trip to Dallas.
“ Following stops in San Antonio and Houston, JFK arrived in Fort Worth on Thursday November 21, 1963,” Brown said. “ What was to be the last night of his life, he and Mrs. Kennedy stayed at the Hotel Texas in Suite 850 in downtown Fort Worth.”
Early the next morning Brown said that Kennedy saw a crowd gathering in the rain in the parking lot of the hotel and decided to make an impromptu speech greeting the rain-soaked crowd prior to his departure later that morning for Dallas.
At his arrival at Love Field via Air Force One, Kennedy again met and greeted a large crowd that had assembled at the local airport.
Gainesville resident Frankie Schmitz was in the crowd to shake the president’s hand.
Brown said that Schmitz later told others that by the time he drove back to Gainesville, the president was dead and that he couldn’t believe it since he had just seen the president at Love Field.
Brown stated that in the two months prior to the fateful trip to Dallas, eleven of JFK’s most senior secret servicemen had either retired or transferred. When the assassination occurred, only the secret service agent protecting Jacqueline Kennedy was able to reach the automobile carrying the president and his wife.
“With other agents guarding the president in the same proximity, why were there no other agents rushing forward,” Brown asked.
Brown also indicated that the limousine carrying the president had almost come to a stop at the time of the shooting and in the Zabruder film, the brake lights came on. Normal procedure would be for a quick exit. This delay allowed time for the presumed fatal shot.
Following the Warren Commission investigation that JFK had been shot by the lone gunman, Oswald, Brown said that the House Select Committee Investigation on Assassinations in the 1970’s contradicted the previous conclusion of the Warren commission.
The latter investigation concluded that "scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy."
The investigation added that "on the basis of the evidence available to it, President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
Brown said that despite this conclusion, evidence and information proving the conspiracy could not be found.
Part two of “Remembering JFK” will be held 6-8 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 22 at the Little Theater on the North Central Texas College campus. A restored replica of Kennedy’s Lincoln will be on display at this event.