Bill Minutaglio Discusses His New Book, Dallas 1963

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October 20, 2013 at the Downtown Library

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Award-winning author Bill Minutaglio discusses his just-released book Dallas 1963: Patriots, Traitors, and the Assassination of JFK in time to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Bill and his co-author, Steven L. Davis, have written a chilling account of the city that would become infamous for the assassination of a president. "Dallas 1963" is a clear-eyed work of history that avoids speculation and theory, instead focusing on the group of radicals, reactionaries, and extremists that coalesced in Dallas leading up to–and during–the Kennedy presidency. The book presents a clear and revelatory look at the tragedy that transformed America.

Bill has written commemorative essays for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the assassination of President Kennedy. He has been interviewed by Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, and Terry Gross, and has been featured on The Today Show, Nightline, NPR, BBC and in several documentaries. He is a Clinical Professor of Journalism, and Fellow to the Collier Chair, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Rights Held By: 
Ann Arbor District Library
Length: 
01:28:01
Article Keywords:History, John F. Kennedy Assassination
Media Categories:Books & Authors, History
Media Type:Video, AADL Events

Transcript:

  • [00:00:22.75] TIM GRIMES: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the Ann Arbor District Library. My name is Tim Grimes. I'm the manager of community relations and marketing at the library. And it's a nice fall afternoon out, so we really appreciate that you're spending it here with us. Thank you so much.
  • [00:00:38.22] This is one of many events that we have here at the library. We hope to see you back for more. We do have these brochures just outside, and you can also check on aadl.org to see about some of our upcoming events.
  • [00:00:52.45] We have lots of lectures, films, concerts. If you come here tomorrow night, we have another author event. It's bestselling author Jamie Ford. He wrote a wonderful book called House at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was a bestseller about the Japanese internment. He's written his second novel, Songs of Willow Frost, and will be here tomorrow night at 7:00.
  • [00:01:13.05] Also on Tuesday night there's a very interesting documentary that won some Emmy awards, by a Michigan filmmaker, called Where Soldiers Come From. It's the story of two Northern Michigan best friends in highschool, who graduated and then went on to serve in Afghanistan. It's the story of how they served in the war, and what happened when they came home. And lots more events. Please check it out, aadl.org.
  • [00:01:39.49] But we're very excited about today's speaker. It is actually the 50th anniversary of the death of John F Kennedy. And there's a wonderful new book out, Dallas 1963. And we are very, very lucky to have the author here today. Please help me welcome Bill Minutaglio.
  • [00:01:59.69] [APPLAUSE]
  • [00:02:09.56] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Hello, everyone. Thanks for coming out on a beautiful day. It is beautiful, yeah? It's really great to be here. I wanted to say right off the bat that I'm from Texas, just to get that cleared up. So don't hold it against me, OK?
  • [00:02:27.76] My father-in-law, who is a cranky professor at Portland State University in Oregon, used to call me and blame me for everything because I was from Texas. Hurricanes, wars, anything he could think of. So again, if you feel that way, forgive me. That's just where I live, and my family does, too.
  • [00:02:49.67] But thank you very much. It is really great to be here. And if you have any advice on getting my son into some of the fine schools in the neighborhood, let me know. I could use that, or he could use it.
  • [00:03:06.19] On the drive over here, I was noticing how beautiful it is, seeing trees that change color. We don't have that a lot in Texas. They just stay the same color, or they spontaneously combust because of the heat. So all kidding aside, it's just gorgeous to be here.
  • [00:03:23.42] But then, because I tried to read into too many things-- and maybe I'm an armchair psychologist, an armchair meteorologist, and a metaphorical meteorologist-- I was thinking about how things sometimes don't change a lot in history, in American history. And that leads me to talk about my book, Dallas 1963.
  • [00:03:47.13] A few folks-- got to jump right to the end-- who have read it have said, at times-- perhaps we could talk about this. I'd love to hear what you think-- that I could change the title and call it America 2013, at least some parts of it, as opposed to Dallas 1963. So, in part, my book might be read as an examination of how sometimes things don't change a whole lot, but maybe should.
  • [00:04:19.96] But let me just get going, and I'll tell you a little bit about it. I think-- boy, talk about a literal exposition there-- it's about Dallas in 1963. And actually it's a bit of a misnomer. It's really about the months and years building up to that fateful moment in November of 1963 we're now celebrating or commemorating, the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's death in Dallas.
  • [00:04:53.68] What we were thinking about-- and I say we. I'm not Queen Victoria. I don't normally talk that way. I say we because I co-wrote it with a fellow named Steven L Davis, who's a brilliant writer from Texas. And I wish he was here with me, to enjoy being here.
  • [00:05:10.37] But he's an old friend. He had grown up in Dallas. I had worked in Dallas at the Dallas Morning News for almost 20 years. And from my window at the Dallas Morning News, I could see the Kennedy assassination site. And when I first moved to Dallas, I lived about two blocks away from the Kennedy assassination site.
  • [00:05:31.74] And I was telling some folks here, earlier, that I don't know what I was expecting when I moved there. I felt that, for a place where something so outsized and dramatic had occurred, that it almost should have been hermetically sealed, as if there should have been a bubble put over this zone.
  • [00:05:48.89] In these famous places that we think of-- Dealey Plaza, the Texas School Book Depository, the triple underpass, the grassy knoll. These names, if you're of a certain generation, really resonate with you, and I hope are still taught about and in schools around America.
  • [00:06:08.97] But I used to walk by the assassination site, and I could see it from my window at work. And what I felt-- and I hope this doesn't sound too mysterious or mumbo jumbo-ish. But I felt that there was really something in the marrow, in the DNA, and even in the shadows, in Dallas, that had not yet been told about what had happened there 50 years ago.
  • [00:06:34.93] And as I talked to my buddy who grew up there, who had a more intrinsic roots-oriented sense of the city, we began saying that when people think of Dallas, they think of the protagonists, of course. The most obvious-- President Kennedy, LBJ, Governor Connally, and then, of course, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby. And people center on that.
  • [00:07:02.58] And I know many of you here do remember where you were when you heard the news. I remember where I was when I heard the news. But usually you center around those figures that you saw on TV and resonating.
  • [00:07:15.48] What Steve and I decided to do was-- we felt that there was something calling us to write about another protagonist. And that protagonist was the city that in fact we love, called Dallas, Texas. That Dallas, in itself, was a protagonist.
  • [00:07:35.53] And that might be highfalutin literary reaching for the stars kind of thinking. But we talked about it a lot, and really began doing some research, and decided that there was no city like Dallas in this time period, in the three to four years before Kennedy's arrival, that it truly was singular. I'm hopelessly biased in this regard, because I wrote a book about it.
  • [00:08:03.89] But I fail to see how there could have been a more swirling, intense, action-oriented, and-- frankly, I hate to say it, as much as I love Dallas-- a vitriolic hatred toward President Kennedy, emanating out of the city of Dallas.
  • [00:08:22.45] And not everyone felt that way. I really want to underscore that. That's really just a misnomer. Dallas is not a city of hate. That's too easy. That's low hanging fruit, low hanging objectification. There were tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in Dallas, who loved Kennedy or respected the office.
  • [00:08:46.81] Our book is about a handful of people, 8 to 10, who I maintain hijacked the microphone. They stole the civic dialogue and ratcheted up the heat. Turned Dallas into this roiling hot-house, in a way, this place where this virulent and vitriolic set of attacks on Kennedy just multiplied and multiplied and multiplied, inspired in some way-- I would rather use the word "influenced." "Inspired," it's too positive-sounding-- had to have influenced Lee Harvey Oswald. Because he lived in the city, and he was a very malleable figure and someone subjected to delusions of grandeur. And I'll explain a little bit of this as we move forward.
  • [00:09:44.51] Let's take a look at some images that might help explain this. Let me go back. This is the cover the book, Dallas '63. Behind it, it says wanted for treason. And that looks like a wanted poster, of course.
  • [00:09:58.68] Does anybody remember this, remember these floating around? I don't know if these entered history books. Here's the full flyer. These were distributed all around Dallas as Kennedy was arriving in November of '63.
  • [00:10:15.78] This man is wanted for treasonous activities against the United States. He has illegally invaded a sovereign state with federal troops. Kennedy ordered troops to go to the state of Mississippi to help enforce the integration of the University of Mississippi. He has consistently appointed anti-Christians to federal office. Aliens and known communists abound in federal offices.
  • [00:10:41.81] Number seven down there, it's maybe hard to read in the back. He has been caught in fantastic lies to the American people, including personal ones like his previous marriage, which I'll talk to you about. Pretty intriguing. These were created, built, made in Dallas and distributed on the day of his arrival. There, wanted for treason. It's the reason we have it as the cover of our book.
  • [00:11:05.39] So hopefully to explain where we came up with that-- it wasn't just some provocative, sensational invention that we came up with. This was a flyer paid for and distributed by the thousands in the city on the day of his arrival, and funded by some pretty strident folks whom I'll talk about, who are very powerful as well.
  • [00:11:28.11] This is President Kennedy. This, I hope, proves my point. He's speaking in Dallas in September 1960 to a really big crowd. People loved him there. There were great supporters of President Kennedy.
  • [00:11:39.70] There were a lot of people who didn't like him and weren't going to vote for him. And that's fine, because that's sort of the way we do things, isn't it? You could be opposed to someone, but maybe not at the action-oriented level that I think some folks in Dallas had done.
  • [00:11:55.64] But here he is visiting the city. He had come in September of 1960-- real quickly-- to try to diffuse the sense that was emanating right out of Texas, and really in Dallas, that he practiced an exotic religion called Roman Catholicism.
  • [00:12:20.95] There were folks in Dallas-- and I'm going to show you an image of one of these guys-- who believed that a Roman Catholic in the White House would be on bended-knee to the papacy, and that in fact there was an almost dark art to Roman Catholicism that might seep out into federal offices and then begin controlling policy. And that it would undermine true Christian values.
  • [00:12:48.37] So Kennedy is in Texas in September 1960-- right before, at that time, the most contested presidential race in American history-- trying to address this, and basically to explain to people in Texas and in Dallas, I practice no dark arts. I don't secretly call up the pope at night or ask his advice on how to run things. I won't be doing that as president-- that's why he's here.
  • [00:13:16.63] And-- big crowd. A lot of people loved Kennedy. You might recognize the guy with the requisite LBJ hat, the Stetson that he always had, traveling through Dallas. A lot of smiling faces, obviously Kennedy-- another indication of how well-liked they were there.
  • [00:13:41.69] Four days before the most contested presidential election in presidential history, at that time-- you're looking at two images. It's a little tricky to see. With one here, and then there's [INAUDIBLE] two, two photographs. Let's start with this one over here. The congressman--
  • [00:14:01.82] SPEAKER: Stay close to the mic.
  • [00:14:03.32] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You told me that, and I wandered. Forgive me. I will stay close to the mic.
  • [00:14:11.20] The gentleman holding the sign that says, LBJ sold out to Yankee socialists, is the congressman from Dallas. He was considered by some-- and I don't know who keeps this list exactly. But he was considered to be the most strident extremist member of Congress. Period. End of story. And represented Dallas.
  • [00:14:30.76] He was so extreme in his beliefs that he was the only member of Congress to vote against a free milk program for elementary school children in America. The only one. There had been great uniformity on both sides of the aisle, except for him. There had been some surplus milk in America, and some folks said, why don't we give it to poor kids.
  • [00:14:52.23] And I'm not making a political observation. This is just a repertorial observation. He voted against it, because he said it was socialist. That was Socialism, and getting damn close to Communism. So you could perhaps understand where he was coming from.
  • [00:15:05.82] What was happening four days before the election is that Bobby Kennedy, who was a very intense campaign manager for his brother, John Kennedy, had said this election is too dang close. We need to get you, LBJ, down to Texas, because we're in danger of even losing Texas. And that can't stand. That's the only reason you're on the ticket.
  • [00:15:29.37] And Bobby Kennedy used more colorful language. And I won't use it here, but he said something about that son of a B. We put you on the ticket to carry Texas. And get down there, it's four days before the election. It could go either way. Go down, try to-- it makes no sense for us to lose Texas. You're from Texas. And you're the king of Texas, last we heard. So he was sent to Dallas to go give a last-minute speech.
  • [00:15:57.43] And what happened was that the congressman from Dallas knew he was coming. And he laid a trap for LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson, who's in the center of the photograph, there, wearing the string of pearls. Very demure, elegant in her way, dignified woman.
  • [00:16:13.22] And what happened-- and this is an event that really resonated nationally, but it's now been forgotten. It's called the Mink Coat Mob riot. The Mink Coat Mob riot.
  • [00:16:23.99] In Dallas, at the instigation of the local congressman, 300 of the leading citizens, many of whom were dressed in mink coats that they had bought from Neiman Marcus-- which was just down the block-- the famous emporium, came out and waited for LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson to take to the street, to step out of their limousine, and to go give a political rally speech in the fanciest hotel in Dallas.
  • [00:16:49.81] When that happened, things became unhinged. These are really well-dressed people, the affluent folks of Dallas, the folks from the upper echelons of society and civic discourse. They simply went a little crazy.
  • [00:17:03.35] They began spitting at LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson. They began rushing them with signs, trying to hit them. People were pulling hat pins out of their hats-- their pillbox hats-- and trying to stab them, ripping off Lady Bird Johnson's white gloves and throwing them in the gutter, calling LBJ a traitor, a Judas, and worse.
  • [00:17:25.48] LBJ, look at the serene look on his face. He's a master of political theater. He knew that this was actually looking pretty good on national television. And so what happened was, the extremist congressman was setting a trap four days before the election. He thought he could actually derail the Kennedy, LBJ effort. But it completely backfired.
  • [00:17:47.19] The images from this out of control riot, this moment, this hysteria in Dallas, were broadcast nationally. And some historians-- not I, true historians-- have suggested that that incident, when seen around the nation, helped to actually secure, in some quarters, the election for Kennedy and LBJ.
  • [00:18:07.34] It backfired. People voted in sympathy with LBJ and Lady Bird. They saw this dignified woman being attacked, and her husband playing the martyr. He's a master of political theater. And then, in fact, this unbelievably out of control moment where the police had to get involved. People were wounded, taken to the hospital. It was a melee in the finest hotel in Dallas, that had backfired.
  • [00:18:33.82] Years later, Richard Nixon said, we lost the election, I lost that election, because of that a-hole congressman in Dallas. This is the harbinger. Our book begins with this incident in November of 1960, or really begins to take off. It is an indication of how different, singular, and overheated things were in Dallas.
  • [00:19:00.61] These two people are interesting because of their superlative nature. The man over here, who's a little bit less in focus, with the young lady behind him--that's his daughter-- is the world's richest man.
  • [00:19:12.54] It's HL Hunt, the world's richest man at the time. The billionaire. He lived in Dallas. He loathed Kennedy. He hated Kennedy. He believed that Kennedy was driving the country to Socialism, and, frankly, was going to completely undermine the oil industry in the United States.
  • [00:19:28.63] What's fascinating-- and he spent millions and millions of his own dollars creating what I maintain was the birth of extremist radio in America. He created a radio broadcast called "Life Line" that was heard every day by 10 million people around the nation. And it was basically an endless set of diatribes against Kennedy, blasting Kennedy, calling him a socialist.
  • [00:19:54.90] This is, I think, a fascinating photograph, because he's at a book signing party-- HL Hunt. And he's just written a book. And he's at a store in downtown Dallas. And those are his daughters behind him. They're celebrating the book.
  • [00:20:07.43] But his book was his manifesto of how the United States should be altered and changed. And it's sort of this utopian novel. But it was really his blueprint for how America should be run.
  • [00:20:22.24] And so if you read the book-- it's a little hard to find these days-- you will note that one of the things that HL Hunt, the world's richest man, funding, bankrolling the anti-Kennedy efforts in the city of Dallas, was suggesting was that people who were in the lower income brackets in America, the 40% and lower wage-earning bracket in America, should not be able to vote.
  • [00:20:49.56] I want to let that settle for second there. And that would mean I couldn't vote. But wealthy folks could vote up to seven times. And you could also purchase more votes if you had some disposable income.
  • [00:21:10.21] And again, I'm not practicing class warfare here. I'm just suggesting to you that that was part of his-- he suggested that should be part of the new United States Constitution. And baked into the constitution, by the way, as a permanent part of the new American constitution, should be an oil depletion allowance, which some people have characterized as a tax loophole for oilmen. But more significantly, he believed that the more money you had, the more often you could vote-- an interesting concept. I don't think it took off.
  • [00:21:44.47] So the gentleman on the other side was his preacher. That was the man whom he went to for spiritual guidance at church. His name is Reverend WA Criswell. And he became the spiritual leader, I would maintain, in America against Kennedy. And where does he live? He's the leader of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
  • [00:22:01.53] You see this rather singular storm brewing, this coalescing of these amazing figures. So he heads the largest Baptist congregation in America and travels the nation. And he's very well known. One of the members of his congregation, an aid, is Reverend Billy Graham.
  • [00:22:18.83] This is not an insignificant man, Reverend WA Criswell. A lot of folks have forgotten him. Through the 1950s he was a staunch anti-integrationist. He referred to folks who supported integration-- after the Supreme Court's ruling in 1954 ordering public school desegregation, he said, up in Washington, they're infidels. Let them integrate. Let them wear their dirty shirts and integrate.
  • [00:22:42.89] I'm not sure what he meant by the dirty shirts. But he was also extreme. This was a guy I was alluding to earlier. He really believed that there was something about Roman Catholicism that would undermine true Christian values in the United States. And spoke from the pulpit-- great thundering speaker. Captivating speaker.
  • [00:23:08.89] And Hunt loved him, and vice-versa. Hunt especially loved him. HL Hunt, world's richest man, loved him so much that after one of Criswell's especially virulent anti-Kennedy speeches, decided to print up 200,000 copies of it, and send it to pretty much every Protestant minister in America. And it was distributed.
  • [00:23:31.88] And the FBI got a little interested in that, because that seemed, to them, to be some sort of quasi-illegal campaign literature that needed to be examined and investigated. And Hunt went into a little bit of hiding. He had had these broadsides printed up in New York to create a little bit of distance. But you see what's happening here. You've got different folks coalescing.
  • [00:23:59.14] This is a gentleman-- the gentleman over there with the white hat is standing in front of the building that I used to work at. Let's see, from his perspective, a little to his left, was my window. So I know where this is.
  • [00:24:11.74] Let's start, though, with the statue. That's a famous statue, at least in Dallas, maybe American, history. That's Dealey Plaza. That's Dealey Plaza. Back behind it is a pretty famous building, the Texas School Book Depository. You can almost see the window up on the sixth floor from which Lee Harvey Oswald, we believe, fired on the President.
  • [00:24:34.40] George Bannerman Dealey was a crusading publisher known in the South he was the publisher of the Dallas Morning News. This is the gentleman in the statue, here. He was known best for driving the Ku Klux Klan out of Dallas.
  • [00:24:52.27] This is another little-known fact about the city. The national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan in America, probably at its most active and aggressive public manifestation, was in Dallas, Texas. It was not in some other-- if you look at a map, and we think of deep Southern cities. It was in Dallas, Texas. Dallas is one of those uniquely Southern and Western cities. The Southern element has really been forgotten, I think.
  • [00:25:20.56] But this gentleman in the statute drove them out of town. He said, they're no good for business. They'd been parading in town. There were tens of thousands of members, public members-- the mayor, the people who ran the most prominent banks, and so forth-- in town. And he chased them out of town with the help of that guy over there. And that's his son, Ted Dealey, who was a Cub reporter at the time.
  • [00:25:46.44] George Bannerman Dealey retired. His son became the publisher. He's standing in front of the Dallas Morning News building. Ted Dealey developed this sense, particularly after World War II, that the US was in danger, that we were going to succumb to the Russian bear, and that Socialism was encroaching. It was creeping up into the highest levels of government.
  • [00:26:14.39] And it was part of the cloth. We were being confronted with a war that could heat up a literal war, a hot war. But the Cold War was also insidiously taking root. And part of it involved integration, what some people, broadly, would call progressive movements, and what he saw as big government intrusion on states' rights.
  • [00:26:42.38] And he became the microphone, because he was the most powerful media magnet in Texas, arguably in the South. I could argue that. His paper was extremely influential, and read and imitated by other newspapers. But he became the guy that really used the media to attack Kennedy.
  • [00:27:09.11] Not only that. Here's a-- I think it's fascinating. I'm heavily biased, forgive me, about what I think is fascinating in my book. Why wouldn't I be? But Ted Dealey so much loathed President Kennedy that he went directly to the Kennedy White House to a lunch with Kennedy and berated him in person.
  • [00:27:32.27] Kennedy had invited a number of publishers to come to the White House for a luncheon, just to meet, and for a little bit of mutual politicking. Let's flatter the publishers, maybe they'll write nice things about them. The publishers feel, maybe we can go to the White House, get a little bit more first-hand information. We're going to go to the mountain top. And these things happen all time. Publishers go up, and then they dance with the president. And the president dances with them. That's always happened.
  • [00:28:02.51] Dealey got invited and decided on his way up-- I was looking at his handwritten notes that I had come across in an archives. He stayed up late the night before he was going to meet with Kennedy. And in what seemed to be rather fevered scrall, he was writing in pencil on some hotel stationery at the hotel in Washington.
  • [00:28:20.85] He was basically saying, this is my chance. I'm going to be in the room with President Kennedy. I'm going to be this far away from him. And I'm going to yell at him. And I'm going to tell him what he needs to know that he's not hearing from the heartland. And he did.
  • [00:28:34.95] In the middle of a lunch, people are enjoying things and having a nice lunch and Kennedy was-- a lot of witty repartee. Suddenly, Dealey stands up and begins yelling at the President of the United States.
  • [00:28:45.06] And what does he tell him? He says, you're just like your daughter Caroline. You're just a little girl on a tricycle. You're not a man on horseback. You're weak-willed. And this country is going to be annihilated because you are like Caroline riding a tricycle. And he went on. He said you're afraid to drop a bomb, aren't you? You're afraid to annihilate the enemy.
  • [00:29:10.71] And Kennedy was staggered, as were many of the other publishers, many of whom, perhaps, even felt the same way, but simply thought it lacked decorum in the White House to accost the President that way. And he was reviled. It made national headlines for a while. And Kennedy had jokingly said, cancel my subscription to the Dallas Morning News. So he lost a customer. But he was a very tough-minded man who didn't like Kennedy.
  • [00:29:38.01] The other thing, the personal animus-- this goes back to the wanted for treason poster that I showed you earlier. I saw a couple of raised eyebrows going, what was that bit on the treason poster about Kennedy's marriage?
  • [00:29:49.33] Dealey got obsessed with this rumor that was circulating in Washington and other certain anti-Kennedy circles, that President Kennedy had been married once before, prior to being married to Jacqueline Kennedy. And I'm not making this up. There was a rumor that he had been married once before, and that somehow the marriage was not just annulled, it was disappeared.
  • [00:30:14.04] Because the Kennedy dynasty had the power and influence to do this. Somehow or other, the paperwork for it was destroyed, vanished, as if it had never occurred. As if it had never occurred. And again, I'm not making this up. There was an active group of people around the nation who were pursuing this rumor.
  • [00:30:33.03] The great, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Sy Hersh, Seymour Hersh, many years later was still investigating this rumor. So it was an active rumor back then. And Ted Dealey ordered his reporters to investigate it.
  • [00:30:46.10] He had a personal animus, in my opinion. Again, I worked at the Dallas Morning News, in that building. I think he just took it to another level. He was opposed to Kennedy at all fronts. And I found a lot of documentation in his archives, where he ordered his reporters, find the truth out about that marriage. I know he was married before, and we need to know it. Because it's part of the continuing lie at the Kennedys are projecting.
  • [00:31:21.32] This is former Major General Edwin Walker, who here is on the cover, obviously, of Newsweek. General Edwin Walker is famous in American history for being in charge of the troops helped to lead the integration of public schools immediately in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Incredibly watershed moment in American history.
  • [00:31:48.19] He was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas, to help escort black students into schools that they had been prohibited from attending. And he was the guy that was going to provide the armed escort with thousands of federal troops. So he led them. A World War II hero, a Major General career military officer.
  • [00:32:08.40] After that happened in the mid '50s, he had deep, deep recriminations. He began thinking that integration of the public schools was a denial of states' rights, what he called Southern traditions.
  • [00:32:24.21] And then attended to that, it was probably part of this conspiracy in the United States by socialists, and even communists, to undermine the American way of life. That it was wrong. It was even biblically wrong. He would resort to things in the Bible to back up his argument. No good came of his beliefs.
  • [00:32:46.60] He began publicly telling his troops-- he commanded a large group of troops in Europe, in the 1950s, into the US presence. Troops in Europe, tens of thousands of troops. And word began seeping back to Washington, to Eisenhower and then Kennedy, that General Walker was telling his troops how to vote. And that he was providing them, frankly, with extremist propaganda that was suggesting pretty intense things-- that President Harry Truman was a socialist, that former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a socialist.
  • [00:33:29.68] And he was giving this intense extremist literature to his troops, telling them how to vote. Not good. And then, pushing further and further to attacking, eventually, President Kennedy. No good came of this, career-wise, because he was essentially defrocked and expelled from the military.
  • [00:33:56.01] He, in his way, when that happened, became the lightning rod-- in some ways, the national lightning rod-- for the anti-Kennedy movement. It's a Major General. He had been a World War II hero and had been a hero, in some estimations, in helping to integrate public schools in America.
  • [00:34:13.33] So many people thought he had been a warrior. And maybe he really was the man on horseback, not Caroline on the tricycle. Maybe this was the guy. And the reason I bring him up is that he moved to Dallas.
  • [00:34:29.71] When he was expelled, expunged, from the military, for basically disobeying his commander in chief, he decided to moved to Dallas. He could have picked anywhere in the world to move to, but he came to Dallas, Texas, because it a welcoming environment, because of all these other folks who were there.
  • [00:34:45.24] And here he is being greeted by the mayor. And we do this a lot in Texas. I'm sorry I didn't bring a cowboy hat to give you. But we gift each other with these things.
  • [00:34:53.98] So the mayor is giving General Walker a cowboy hat. The mayor is really interesting and indicative. His name is Earle Cabell. His grandfather had been a very prominent Confederate general.
  • [00:35:07.41] And there's a giant Confederate memorial and monument in downtown Dallas. One of the largest statues of Robert E Lee, in America, is in Dallas. This part of our ties to the South that a lot of folks tend to forget. Not all cowboys in Dallas.
  • [00:35:26.88] So his grandfather, the mayor, had been a Confederate general. And then his own father had been mayor. And now he's a third generation mayor. I mention that because it shows how tightly-woven Dallas is. And there's a generational consistency there. And this gentleman, when he would walk to work, he could walk by a monument to his father, the former Confederate general, who had become mayor.
  • [00:35:51.45] And so it's part of the cloth. And now he's giving a hat to a gentleman who's espousing the protection of Southern traditions. Segregation is really what we're talking about. So he was truly welcomed. In an enormous public ceremony, he was given the keys to the city. Now you begin to see all these forces pulling together in the city of Dallas.
  • [00:36:13.04] So not just to leaven our story for relief from this grinding, coalescing, but to be accurate, I really did want to underscore, in our book, the fact that there were other people who weren't as extreme in Dallas. And there were many, many, many. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
  • [00:36:37.20] And here's one that's kind of famous. I don't know. Do you know the store Neiman Marcus? It's our best store, and the most famous store. There must be an equivalent here in Michigan that I'm unaware of. Forgive me.
  • [00:36:50.26] But it's our finest emporium. They're famous for putting out a catalog-- maybe some of you have seen it. They put it out every Christmas-- that has the most outrageous and expensive gifts imaginable-- his and her airplanes, and interesting things.
  • [00:37:07.02] That's Stanley Marcus, who ran the finest store-- I'll go all the way-- in the South. And it was really, really affluent, really, really wealthy. Many of the mink coats worn by the Mink Coat Mob, whom I showed you earlier, were bought at his store. He had a vault that he kept the downtown to-- air control, or temperature control vault-- to house mink coats. And there were 20,000 of them in there.
  • [00:37:30.77] So he was doing OK. And that's Coco Chanel, over there, trying on a hat. Stanley Marcus was a Harvard educated man, who happened to be Jewish. I mention that because by dint of being Jewish, he was excluded from most of the private clubs in town. Blacks and Jews were still excluded at this time. It's the early 1960s.
  • [00:37:55.34] Yet most of his customers were the affluent, powerful people in town. He made monogrammed bathrobes for LBJ. LBJ didn't like the monogram on his and sent it back to him, and had him redo it. He made Mamie Eisenhower's inauguration dress. Interesting and powerful guy.
  • [00:38:12.35] The reason I'm showing this to you is that he was also a spy. I like saying that because it's provocative. But he really loved Kennedy. And he really loved LBJ. And he really loved the thought that Dallas needed to be catapulted out of what he thought was the Civil War era, into a more modern era, and become more internationalist. It needed to be less xenophobic.
  • [00:38:36.52] He wanted dialogue. He wanted art. He brought Pablo Picasso paintings to the Dallas Museum of Art. And people in the city went nuts, because they thought it was Communist art. So Stanley was, by Dallas estimations, a very progressive man.
  • [00:38:53.63] And the reason I say he's a spy-- his best customers were the people whom he was diametrically opposed to, politically. But he had to serve them. They were his customers. Otherwise, he'd go out of business.
  • [00:39:04.18] This is a very interesting man, and very quietly, but aggressively, very wealthy. He was funding the pro-Kennedy, LBJ forces in the city. Couldn't really talk about it a whole lot, but he gave away a lot of money. And you'll see in another slide, if I get to it, how he did that. Very interesting man.
  • [00:39:27.01] The back story-- I think this is true of any city. I do live in Texas. I've been there forever. But I was born in New York. And I also say, don't hold that against me as well. But I was born in New York. I grew up in Texas. And I can tell you, obviously, racism and the battle over civil rights took place everywhere, right? So it's not just a Southern thing. We know that. Forgive me for even mentioning it.
  • [00:39:52.03] But the woman boarding the train is Juanita Craft. And the reason she's in our book is that she was leading, along with another gentleman who will be in the next slide, the push for integration in Dallas. Here's another negative superlative to throw at you. Dallas, in this time period, was the last major American city to not integrate its public schools.
  • [00:40:10.75] It wasn't Birmingham, Alabama, or other places whom you might want to put on your short list. Forgive me, anybody here from Alabama or Birmingham, but you know what I'm getting to here. I don't think people know that, that Dallas was the last major American city to resist public school integration. And this is into the 1960s, by the way, a few years after the Supreme Court said that was the law of the land.
  • [00:40:35.33] But she really helped to lead integration, and was really-- I'm going to go all the way here. I'm being a little dramatic-- the Rosa Parks of Texas. She's boarding a train, so it's a good image for us to include in the book.
  • [00:40:48.76] Not on this train, but on another train, as she traveled around Texas trying to recruit young people, teenagers, to join the NAACP, and to help register older folks to vote, and so on, she sat in the whites-only section of a train in Texas. And the conductor came to her and said, if you don't move, I'm going to issue not just behavior modification, but Texas-style justice. And he was, essentially, suggesting he was going to order the train pulled to the side of the road, and she would be lynched.
  • [00:41:23.37] And it was investigated by the NAACP and other folks. Nothing never came of it, but-- that's who she was. And she was living in the city of Dallas, an ardent pro-Kennedy supporter. Didn't really have access to the microphone like some of those other folks, whom you saw, or the pulpits, but she was doing her bit to help Kennedy get elected, and at great odds. She lived in a neighborhood in Dallas that was frequently bombed, because it was an area that was being integrated. Very interesting. I've totally forgotten.
  • [00:41:54.44] By the way, Kennedy knew about her. And this woman right here was invited to the White House more often than anybody else from Dallas, during the Kennedy administration. She went three times to meet the President and Jacqueline Kennedy, because he knew of her efforts. He was courting her, politically. LBJ was saying, there's something called the black vote. We might want to think about getting it.
  • [00:42:18.80] So this picture is a little hard to see. The gentlemen that's over here, in less focus, his name is H Rhett James. And he, also, was leading the civil rights movement in Dallas. And his hell-bent mission was to do something that nobody in Dallas wanted-- particularly the gentleman we saw earlier. He wanted to bring Martin Luther King to Dallas to speak. And Dr. King had not been to Dallas, except for a brief visit back in the mid '50s to give a 20 minute speech to a youth group. It was hardly a political appearance.
  • [00:42:50.30] By this time period, getting into 1963, Dr. King was a national figure. And there's some anecdotal evidence that folks were warning Dr. King, don't go to Dallas. Don't go there. It's too overheated.
  • [00:43:10.73] And this gentleman-- again, you can hardly see him. He's the pastor of the leading, largest black church in Dallas. It was a church founded by slaves-- had made it his mission to reach out to Dr. King and, as well, to the Kennedy White House.
  • [00:43:22.82] He was in constant correspondence with LBJ-- preacher in Dallas-- constantly sending him missives about what was going on in Dallas, the activities of these other men who were extremists. And he finally succeeded in luring Dr. King to Dallas for an extraordinary moment, I think, in Dallas history.
  • [00:43:43.83] So here he is, here. You can see him in better definition. He's the guy that's closest to me, with the striped tie. And then there's Dr. King. This is in January of 1963. Think about that. Think about being in the year 1963. We're marching. We're counting down to November 22.
  • [00:44:04.48] Dr. King comes to Dallas. And what happens? There's a bomb threat against him. There's a bomb threat against him. It obviously didn't come to fruition. Thank goodness. But it's another little indication. You have these riots going on earlier-- LBJ being attacked, Lady Bird Johnson.
  • [00:44:22.31] Dr. King finally comes. And the focus of his speech, by the way, was harmony. It was as simple as that. I studied the speech. He was talking about, let's stop the polarization. Let's stop yelling at each other. To me-- I'm skipping ahead. This sounds a little like 2013, if I may say that. But let's stop screaming at each other. Can we talk, at least? Let's at least talk. There was a bomb threat lodged against him in Dallas.
  • [00:44:52.82] This is a dramatic headline. The key part there, for us, is ex-General Walker is held for insurrection. While people were pushing for integration from his headquarters, General Walker had moved into a mansion in the most affluent part of the city, and then presumed that he would probably run for the presidency, that he would dethrone Kennedy.
  • [00:45:15.28] And one of the ways that he was going to do this was to jump start the anti-integration movement in America. And he left Dallas. Several of his colleagues, his supporters, were driving over to the University of Mississippi to begin to protest against the attempt by James Meredith to integrate the University of Mississippi. A watershed moment in American civil rights history.
  • [00:45:43.05] And Walker decided, I'm going there. I'm leaving Dallas. And many of us followers were going with him. One of them was stopped, en route, by the police. And they found unbelievable amounts of weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition-- they were going to war. They were going to war.
  • [00:46:00.62] And this is unbelievable. He essentially instigated a riot at the University. People were killed. Hundreds were wounded. And it resulted in him-- at the direct order of President Kennedy, Kennedy ordered troops to arrest former Major General Edwin Walker for insurrection, for sedition, and to hold him in a federal psychiatric facility. An amazing moment. Look at the size of the headline. The New York Times allotted that gray to devote this huge thing.
  • [00:46:35.89] And this is a man from Dallas. He's now not thinking, I'm just going to be issuing speeches in Dallas. I'm going to use Dallas as my national headquarters to-- I'm going to go all the way-- overthrow President Kennedy.
  • [00:46:49.78] He was arrested. A very prominent lawyer from Dallas got him released. And this is him being welcomed back in Dallas at the airport. And it's Walker for president, 1964. And you can see how supported he is there. And they're flying some Confederate flags.
  • [00:47:12.61] So here we are now. I don't have to tell you who this is, but I will-- Lee Harvey Oswald. Why is he next? Oswald had moved to Dallas at about the same time that General Walker had returned to Dallas from that incident Mississippi. And he became obsessed with General Walker, and what he thought was the rise of Fascism in Dallas. And he believed that General Walker was leading the nation down a fascist highway.
  • [00:47:45.73] And this is something else that's been exiled, I think, to the dustbin of history. Some of you here know this, maybe some don't. So I'll just say it. Oswald's attempted assassination of Kennedy was not his first assassination attempt.
  • [00:48:02.63] In April of 1963, he crept into an alleyway in Dallas, behind a mansion where General Walker lived, in the dark of night, found a white picket fence upon which he could rest is rifle, waited until General Walker appeared in a window of his house and sat down at his desk to work on some papers, and Oswald tried to blow his head off, and shot. The bullet hit the windowsill and was diverted just enough to miss Walker. It was a head shot.
  • [00:48:36.32] Lee Harvey Oswald, in April of 1963, a very malleable, I believe-- and I think a lot of folks have tried to do armchair psychology about him--a very malleable, impressionable person who wanted to take his place on the world stage. He wanted to make history.
  • [00:48:52.21] He was disappointed that the world, in some ways, hadn't noticed that he had defected-- former Marine marksman who has defected to Russia had not-- more hadn't been made of that. And I think he was disappointed.
  • [00:49:05.02] And again, I'm now being an armchair psychologist. But he came back. And he decided to kill the person who many people, Newsweek magazine, said was the most extreme political figure in America, and came this close to killing him.
  • [00:49:19.71] And I think a lot of folks have forgotten that story. This is in Dallas, Texas. This is, by the way, the nicest part of Texas. It's a beautiful, beautiful part of Texas where this general lived. Almost killed him.
  • [00:49:34.86] And I wonder-- don't you?-- if that had happened, if there would have been a full-on investigation into the assassination of General Walker, and would it have led to this man being captured. And the November 22 might not have happened. For fate and circumstance, pretty staggering. All in Dallas, Texas. It's just an amazing convergence.
  • [00:49:59.98] Also going on in Dallas-- I'm going to speed it up here. Forgive me. There were these other grassroots groups that were welling up. This one is a scene from something called the National Indignation Convention. When I say that, it always engenders that. It's just a funny name.
  • [00:50:17.08] They called it the National Indignation Convention. Initially, its sphere of influence was only in Dallas. And when they tried to broaden it, they began calling it the National National Indignation Convention. And people were saying, that's just too many nationals.
  • [00:50:35.22] They were virulently anti-Kennedy. The John Birch Society-- some of you know what that is-- was one of the great manifestations of extremist politics in modern American history. The guy who started the National Indignation Convention in Dallas said, that John Birch Society is too damn liberal. In fact, he used the word "taint." They have a liberal taint about them. And he very aggressively said, we are the most extremist organization in America. And we wanted that underscored.
  • [00:51:11.24] So they held giant political rallies. Their standard bearer, the guy they rallied around, was General Edward Walker. They're headquartered in Dallas. And what's happening with them is there are folks who were a little bit below the cloud line. They're not as powerful, in some ways, but they become the street-level soldiers for some of this activity-- the distribution of the wanted for treason posters, and things like that. But there you can see.
  • [00:51:41.70] So I'm marching forward here. I hope this is somewhat chronological. January of '63, a bomb threat in Dallas against Martin Luther King. April of 1963, an attempted assassination of General Walker, who desperately-- I'll go all the way-- really wanted Kennedy out of the White House. I thought we were doomed. The United States was doomed. So April '63, Oswald tries to assassinate this swirling violence.
  • [00:52:13.89] Around the same time period, in early and mid 1963, swastikas are showing up all over Dallas. There plastered on Neiman Marcus because Stanley Marcus, who runs it, is Jewish.
  • [00:52:27.75] There's a Holocaust survivor named Jack Oran-- someone whom I was lucky to interview late in his life-- at this time period, came home from work one day. He had been, quote, "operated on by Dr. Mengele." And I'm not going to go into the details. It was just horrific, what happened to this man, a Holocaust survivor, relocated to Dallas. He's coming home from work in early 1963, and there's a cross burning on his lawn.
  • [00:52:56.49] Little children in the nearby city of Fort Worth are being stopped by the police, outside a Jewish temple. And they're found to be wearing arm bands with swastikas. And they have bags of gunpowder. And their plan--these are children. One of them was 12. Their plan was to blow up the synagogue.
  • [00:53:17.91] Things were reaching this crazy point. Forgive me for the long introduction to this. It's hard to see, October 25, 1963. This is the LA Times. So this has made national news. At Stanley Marcus's invitation-- he desperately wanted Dallas to be liked. It was good for business, but he just wanted it to not be seen as a place full of this anger, this hate.
  • [00:53:43.86] He decided he would invite the very erudite and elegant United Nations ambassador from the United States, Adlai Stevenson, former presidential candidate, former governor, to Dallas to speak. As I've listened to his speeches and seen video of them-- rather calm presence, almost soothing, in his way, even if you don't agree with him politically.
  • [00:54:08.08] But he was invited to the city to suggest that Dallas could move beyond this vitriol. It should take its place on the national stage and the international stage. And what happens in October of 1963? Almost exactly one month before President Kennedy is going to hop on a plane and come to Dallas, Stevenson gets attacked. Just as the Mink Coat Mob had once attacked Lady Bird and LBJ right in downtown Dallas.
  • [00:54:37.20] People lunge at him. They hit him. One of them struck him with a stick. You see bodies are on the floor over here. The police had to intercede. There were arrests. People were spitting. Stevenson, usually very unflappable, extremely erudite, very diplomatic, United Nations ambassador, was scared for his life. He was terrified.
  • [00:55:02.31] Stanley Marcus saved his life, some people say. He grabbed him by the lapel, threw him in a waiting car, and they made a getaway. And these are, again, some of the folks from the nicer part of town. These folks that had just got so possessed with rage, anger, they had moved well beyond yelling. Now they were attacking.
  • [00:55:26.77] Stanley Marcus grabs the UN Ambassador, in downtown Dallas. The UN ambassador. He pulls him in a car, says, get out of here, to the driver. They speed away. And Stevenson is shaking. And he turns to Stanley Marcus and says, my god, are these animals or are they humans?
  • [00:55:47.32] National headlines, Los Angeles Times, it went around the nation. Yet again, a black eye for the city. And it's just a strident minority. They stole the microphone
  • [00:55:58.32] These are the leaders of Dallas. And I bet this isn't too uncommon in many other cities. Most of these aren't elected officials. These are the folks that are the prominent businessmen. This is called the Dallas Citizens Council. And they're the more powerful, influential folks-- bankers, insurance executives-- and many of them imminently logical and civic minded.
  • [00:56:20.14] They had a great hand in deciding who would get elected. They were the citizen kings, if you will. And I don't mean that in a truly negative or pejorative way. They were very powerful. They cared about the city. It was enlightened self-interest for them to have Dallas know as a nice, receptive place.
  • [00:56:39.44] And in the wake of the Adlai Stevenson attack, and it had been a horrific year. Bomb threat, Martin Luther King, attempted assassination of General Walker, swastikas, crosses burned, the UN ambassador fearing for his life in downtown Dallas.
  • [00:56:55.60] They got together and said, enough is enough. We have to begin distancing ourselves from this extremism in Dallas. We have to come out publicly and say, General Walker please go away please stop. And everyone else who's being this histrionic and this virulent, please stop. It's enlightened self-interest for of all of us, by the way. It's good for business. We need to restore the image.
  • [00:57:19.75] I maintain-- and I don't mean to be too provocative-- by then it was too late. And here we go. On the day of the assassination-- some of you might remember this, too-- some of General Walker's supporters in town, and people who supported this extreme movement, went down to the Dallas Morning News, and placed this ad, which, in retrospect, was just horrific, and just awful.
  • [00:57:48.27] It's almost sickening, in a way, because it says, welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas. What you can't see-- it's a little difficult-- it's a number of accusations. It's an attack. What some people have said, is that looks like an obituary. Because it's bordered in black.
  • [00:58:07.49] The ad, some people say, would normally never have run in the paper. But Ted Dealey, the gentleman I had shown you earlier, who had gone to the White House and yelled this far away from Kennedy, and then had also investigated his marriage, ordered this ad run and said, this reflects what we feel. And so it ran in the paper. And many people have said, well this is truly symbolic of a city of hate. But again, I really do want to underscore that this is the act of a powerful minority.
  • [00:58:44.87] I already told you what this was. That same day, all over the city, police and advanced security teams for Kennedy were beginning to be worried. This seemed to be pushing the envelope. Because what's the penalty for treason? And so-- forgive me. I have slipped into professor mode, there. But thank you. Yeah. It can be death. And this scared people.
  • [00:59:10.85] And waiting for him, you see "Let's Barry King John." Again, I think that on fortune's side, Barry Goldwater. But let's "Barry" him-- you could read into that as you wish. We're getting toward the end of our slides. And of course, that's the image of Kennedy at Love Field. And a few minutes later, he'll be assassinated in downtown Dallas. And that's back to the cover of the book.
  • [00:59:40.32] So thank you for indulging me. I'm a college professor, and I wax on. I was telling somebody earlier, one of the best instructor survey forms I ever got-- students are allowed to judge you. They write survey forms at the end. How'd you do? I don't like that part of democracy.
  • [00:59:57.98] But one of them said, more guest speakers. I took that as a reflection, so I indulged it. I said, if that's what you want, that means less work for me. I'll bring in more guest speakers. But if you have any questions, I'd be glad to try to answer them.
  • [01:00:11.67] TIM GRIMES: If you have a question, just hold up your hand. I'll come around with a mic. OK.
  • [01:00:14.63] BILL MINUTAGLIO: I can't promise that I'll be able answer, but I'll give it a shot.
  • [01:00:18.63] AUDIENCE: Well, just a little bit of background. I noticed on the wanted for treason poster, it was talking about Kennedy betraying our friends in Portugal and Katanga, befriending our enemies in places like Yugoslavia and Poland, god forbid. Is there any particular reason why they were choosing those particular countries at that time? What was Kennedy doing with Katanga?
  • [01:00:42.67] BILL MINUTAGLIO: And I'm going to profess to not-- I'm a journalist. And I don't like when politicians begin going back and forth. But your question was about the specificity-- in case some of you hadn't heard it-- the specific countries that were mentioned in the literature, including Katanga and Portugal, as you said, and Yugoslavia.
  • [01:01:06.04] Basically, in a nutshell, to wrap it up, there was a sense that these were post-colonial environments, that there were socialist tendencies going on, and that we needed to be wary in terms of transitions of government. And the US wasn't doing enough to ward off encroaching not Socialism, but Communism. That's a real broad-based answer.
  • [01:01:35.95] The Yugoslavia one really hit close to home. Do you remember the photograph of the man going like this? That was the National Indignation Convention. One of the things that they were really upset about was that they couldn't figure out why some pilots from Yugoslavia were being allowed to train in Texas. That didn't go over too well.
  • [01:02:00.42] And so there was this sense that we needed to monitor any bit of encroaching Socialism, especially as there was this turbulent changeover of governments around the world. And again, there's probably someone in this room who could give you a more effective answer. But that was a very good question.
  • [01:02:18.99] TIM GRIMES: And we have one right here.
  • [01:02:21.17] AUDIENCE: You alluded to it earlier and throughout your presentation, but take us to 2013 and the parallels, which we can all guess at. But the New York Times ran an interesting piece yesterday, about how popular Ted Cruz is now in Texas.
  • [01:02:37.09] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Yeah. I don't know what you think of the media, but some people in the media-- oh, you are. OK. Well, you were. OK. We purport to be-- some of us do-- objective. I don't know. There are whole courses taught about the media's agenda. That's a given.
  • [01:03:02.21] But I'll start this way. I was thinking about this on my flight up, out of Texas. And Ted Cruz, he's in the news a lot, right? And he seems to have become the lightning rod for a way of thinking. He happens to be, yes, from Texas, which is interesting. He happens to be, I think, an inarticulate man, eloquent. He happens to be Ivy League educated. And I don't know what handsome means. I know that I'm not.
  • [01:03:31.07] But he has this ease about him, I would say. That's exactly like Bruce Alger, the gentleman who was the very strident, extremist congressman. He was also Ivy League educated, went to Princeton, but was an effective public speaker and had this bearing and way about him, and seemed to advocate many of the same things. So that's one way of beginning answer your question.
  • [01:03:58.88] I've had people give me advice about what to say as I go on my national book tour, which is interesting. And some of them are quite craven in trying to be provocative. And I'll just relay this to you. So perhaps by framing it that way, I've distanced myself from what I'm about to say.
  • [01:04:15.97] But I met someone at the University of Virginia in Washington as part of my book tour, who said, you need to begin just saying the words the Tea Party was born in Dallas in 1963. And he said, you'll sell a lot more books. And I said, I don't know that that's right. I don't know that I'm prepared to say that. It's obviously, intentionally provocative.
  • [01:04:37.48] I'm trying to answer this in a non-political way. But I would suggest that this sense of protecting state's rights, resisting what some people call federal oversight-- to try to choose as neutral a term as possible-- that there was encroaching socialism.
  • [01:04:57.05] I'll go really far and get very specific. Medicare, when it was evolving at this time period, and President Kennedy was espousing a national health care plan-- people, on an extreme level, were suggesting, that's tantamount to a government death panel.
  • [01:05:17.74] And those are words that have been used, unless I'm a totally failed reporter. I'm just an old hack newspaper guy. But I've heard those terms used. Again, I'm trying to be objective. But there were folks who said back then, this is encroaching federal control over, literally, our lives, our health.
  • [01:05:42.49] It seems I'm hearing some of those echoes today. So it's a really legitimate question. And then the underpinning of it, almost the moral impulse, and spiritual impulse-- I live in Texas, and I think we still call it the buckle of the Bible Belt down there. And we have-- in Dallas we used to have the largest congregations in each denomination. We always say we're bigger than everything. Good and bad, I suppose. But the largest Presbyterian and Baptist congregations.
  • [01:06:20.34] So I don't know. I guess I'm not a student of the Tea Party, or to be honest, 2013 politics. I'm just not as conversant as many of you would be. But I think there's parallels.
  • [01:06:36.57] And by the way, I am not being political and careful. I just believe this. This is my opinion. The extremism is on both sides. I was telling somebody the other day-- and it's so simplistic. I have a TV set that has the ability to have a little picture of another station down in the corner. Do you know what I mean, the picture in the picture? And I only discovered that I had it. I'm a little old-fashioned.
  • [01:07:03.36] So I rather enjoy-- well, I don't know that I enjoy it. But I'll put MSNBC on and then Fox News down here. And it almost seems like they're yelling at each other on my TV set, right there in my living room. And then for fun I'll minimize one and make the other larger.
  • [01:07:21.96] Back on planet earth, where things are serious, the parallel to me is that back then, it seemed like a handful of people hijacked-- I'm redundant here. Forgive me. My book is-- please buy it. It's never redundant. But there was just this yelling and this polarization, and people, the greater majority who were somewhere in the middle, still had a lot of respect for folks in power-- I'm going to go all the way-- whether it was President Bush, or President Obama.
  • [01:07:54.40] But the level of vitriol, in my opinion, it's untenable. And one reason that it disappoints me, I feel-- I have two children. One is 20. A daughter who's 20, and a son who's 15. And I feel them being enured. They don't want to be citizens, in a way. They see this anger, and it's not interesting or pleasant to them. It doesn't seem constructive. I gave you a big speech. And I'm not running for office. I'll never be elected.
  • [01:08:23.40] TIM GRIMES: Couple more questions up here. We're going to start right here, in the middle.
  • [01:08:28.06] AUDIENCE: Hi, I've got two questions. The first one is, President Kennedy announced the Peace Corps on the steps of the University of Michigan union, very near to here. And so in your research of the more progressive folks that you mentioned, did you find student organizing? Or more of those organizing, looking to the international positive ties he was making?
  • [01:08:56.16] And the second question is more about your methodology. You took the city as a character. I have to admit, the only thing I remember about Kennedy's assassination was one picture from his funeral. But I was in India when Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated.
  • [01:09:15.24] So can you talk about the method of looking at the city as a protagonist, and how you went about finding the information? Because that might inform looking into other assassinations in other places and times.
  • [01:09:30.72] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Those are really good questions. Thank you. The first one-- and I'll try to answer that. I hope I understood it correctly. And tell me, please. Yell at me. Don't throw anything, but tell me. And I'll try to answer. By the way, I didn't know that about the Peace Corps and where we are.
  • [01:09:48.93] AUDIENCE: Medallion on the stairs.
  • [01:09:50.05] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Well, that's fantastic. That's just fantastic. Thank you for letting me know that. I like to learn, too. In Dallas, just as a nod to some-- the book is hyper-centered on Dallas. It really is. We move a little bit outside to look at other cities-- Houston and San Antonio.
  • [01:10:09.81] And then what you'll see in it, if you have the patience to look through it and endure it, as I say, is that it's completely chronologically-driven. It's written in a calendar entry style. So it effectively begins in January of 1960. And then month by month-- and the chapters are titled January '60, October '63, and so forth.
  • [01:10:34.53] And what we saw in Dallas-- and again, not intentionally to leaven the story, but to shine the light on things that have been forgotten because Dallas had been castigated as a city of hate-- was that there were a lot of really great student movements going on in the city, especially surrounding integration.
  • [01:10:56.02] And if you remember, there was a diminutive civil rights leader, Juanita Craft. She, both from a black student and white student prospective, was this figure. There were some amazing things that happened. And you know this. It happened everywhere.
  • [01:11:14.12] There were some students from Southern Methodist University who had gone to do a lunch counter sit-in along with some black students. And to get them out of there, the guy who was running the lunch counter began spraying pesticide over their heads. And it was some sort of statement as well. We need to fumigate the place, if you will.
  • [01:11:40.62] It was not contextually-- and I believe really effective journalism is done with an understanding of context in history. It must be done that way. It's far more fair. It's easier to script history in black and white. But given the context, that must have been an extraordinarily courageous thing to do in Dallas, the last major city to resist integration, cross burnings, former national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • [01:12:08.31] I forgot to mention this. The mayor of Dallas in 1960 was a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. Probably the most prominent building in Dallas-- folks who have been there, maybe you've seen this. It's beautiful. There's a building called the Magnolia Building. And on top of it is the unofficial city symbol. It's Pegasus. It's this giant glowing, red, neon sign. And it seems at night to be flying over the city. It's beautiful.
  • [01:12:38.90] But that building where it sits was built by the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. I'm not answering your question entirely, but students were involved. They've really been forgotten, in a lot of ways. And probably something I did incorrect was not to find them. But I kept it more centered on some of the leaders of the movement.
  • [01:13:00.41] And in terms of your second question, which is a really good one, a really important one-- this book is written present tense, which is like playing with fire when you're writing, in my opinion. You could really go off the rails. And the temptation really is, to take literary license, because it's present tense.
  • [01:13:24.72] I wasn't there. I was in the third grade, in a Catholic elementary school in New York City, listening to the news, in grave tones, being broadcast out of a little mesh speaker up on the wall. I didn't understand all of it, but I knew something grave-- and the long faces at home, when we gathered around the TV to see the live images, the horrific things that later occurred with Oswald.
  • [01:13:53.39] We decided that the best thing to do was to identify a number of prisms through which we could tell the story of the city. And to really boil it down, it became easy, in some way, because of the strident nature of some of them. But we said, for effective storytelling purposes, we would find 8, maybe 10, at the end of the day, and that we would only rely upon them if we had first-hand information from them-- oral histories, or their personal archives, their own papers.
  • [01:14:26.46] And I suppose this sounds very practical. I hope it doesn't sound too craven. But it made it easy for us, because we could go out and try to use them to recreate their lives, and what we think they were doing to the city-- not for it, but to it. Because it was done in their own words.
  • [01:14:47.04] So we have-- I should probably add it up-- 500 footnotes, or something. We really wanted to make sure that everything was accounted for. I know that didn't answer your question. Did it? OK. Well, you're kind, then. Thank you.
  • [01:15:01.69] TIM GRIMES: We had another question up here.
  • [01:15:04.68] AUDIENCE: I really enjoyed your talk.
  • [01:15:05.92] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Thank you very much.
  • [01:15:06.91] AUDIENCE: It put in context a major event, which we had probably forgotten a lot of the details that happened. It was very important. I was wondering, what was the role of journalists in managing dis-information. Specifically, people might have a difference of opinion on how someone had done something.
  • [01:15:28.39] But there is some specific dis-information things that were here, like the first marriage, and then also Obama with his birth certificate. And it doesn't seem that anything that the victim can do can make it better. So I think that it may fall less on the victim to justify his own actions, and more on the way the journalists work with this.
  • [01:15:53.23] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Please come back with me to my journalism classes at the University of Texas at Austin, because you would lead an effective discussion. It's so important. And it goes to agenda-setting, and bias, and where it begins. I'm not trying to curry favor with you, but journalists have biases. What a surp--
  • [01:16:13.32] AUDIENCE: Furthermore, substantiating claims that are made, before they report them.
  • [01:16:17.88] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Unequivocally. Yeah. You know what? I'll try to answer this in an anecdotal fashion, because perhaps that's a more interesting way to do it, too. But I believed, as I began doing work on this book with my colleague, that there was a parallel media universe. And I'm not wearing a tin foil hat, or getting into any conspiracy theories too much, maybe.
  • [01:16:41.02] But there was another media. And the biggest window, for me, was the black newspaper in town. It was called the Dallas Express. And as an exercise, I would take out that day's issue of it-- from 1962, let's say-- and then the Dallas Morning News, which was the legacy or more mainstream, larger paper. And it was as if I was reading two different accounts of the daily news. It really was. And I didn't know which one to believe. I had my suspicions. But somewhere, maybe in the middle, is where the truth was. It was very, very difficult.
  • [01:17:19.71] Someone just wrote in the American Spectator magazine that there was no extremism in-house at the Dallas Morning News. It just came out a few days ago, in response to our book, saying that our contention that there was extremism at the Dallas Morning News was false. And this writer said, I was there. In fact, he wasn't there. He came in 1973. So things had changed a lot.
  • [01:17:49.05] I'm not giving you a really good answer. I almost feel that when you read an article somewhere, that there should be a biography of the writer right after the byline. And it tells you a lot about them, where they went to school, how they were shaped, and-- throw in who they voted for, too, just for grins. Maybe that might help me. But I think contextually-- I had to filter that through-- it became very easy.
  • [01:18:17.49] I thoroughly disagree with this guy wrote this article. In fact, he was a former colleague of mine. I know who it is. And I respect him. But he was absolutely wrong. There was extremism emanating from that paper. I need some pulse deprogramming now. I read every editorial in the Dallas Morning News in that time period. And they just seem to increase in vitriol. It's extremism.
  • [01:18:45.16] I hope you see that I've been somewhat careful in using the word "right-wing" extremism. There was left-wing extremism, too. I'm now completely veering. My students tell me I do this all the time. So forgive me. But I'm going to raise something that I-- it wouldn't surprise me if some of you aren't thinking. It's like, well, Bill, nice presentation. Loved your slide show. Thanks for coming all the way from the Lone Star state. But isn't it true that a leftist killed President Kennedy? Wasn't it an avowed Marxist?
  • [01:19:19.65] So how does that cotton? What's your theory on that? And I think I did say this a little bit earlier. I think someone as impressionable as he, who was reading these things in the media, reading the militant communist literature, and reading the Dallas Morning News, it just-- and again, I'm not a psychologist. I'm not qualified to make this leap, to connect the dot. But I can't help but feel. It's just my opinion that he was influenced by this environment, this swirl, and this abandonment of reasoned discourse.
  • [01:19:51.84] It's easier said than done, isn't it? I think we're learning that-- to go back to the very good question about 2013-- it probably is harder. I'm not an elected official. But it is my opinion. I think they could've tried a little harder, these last few weeks, to get along and figure something else out. But that's as political as I hope to get.
  • [01:20:11.26] I know I didn't effectively answer your question. But in terms of the media's role, there were several versions of these stories welling up, there. And the media really did have a big influence at that time, in people's perceptions of Kennedy.
  • [01:20:29.23] TIM GRIMES: Yeah, I think we have time for-- is there one more question? OK. We have time for one more question. And then I want to say that books are for sale, right in the hallway by Nicola. And we will be having a book signing right after. So we hope to see you then.
  • [01:20:43.44] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Do mind if I just say something, just for 10 sec-- forgive me. I just met a fascinating gentleman. And forgive me if I mispronounce your name, George Perrault. George was kind enough to introduce himself to me, earlier, in that he gave me a photograph of himself at President Kennedy-- he was in the honor guard during President Kennedy's lying in state day. I'm not describing it correctly. But it's an amazing bit of history, that you were there as people paid tribute to him. Fascinating. So thank you very much. I meant to do that earlier to draw attention to you. So thank you.
  • [01:21:33.54] AUDIENCE: So here we are at the 50th anniversary of the assassination. And I'm sure that the city of Dallas has all sorts of solemn, dignified events planned.
  • [01:21:45.94] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Yeah, they do.
  • [01:21:48.28] AUDIENCE: But beneath the surface of how they're marking the occasion, how do they interpret the events, what happened 50 years ago, in terms of the broader popular culture, or wider culture in Dallas?
  • [01:22:03.29] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Another good question. Thank you. When I moved to Dallas-- I moved there in 1983-- I was staggered by the fact that it hadn't been cordoned off, that it hadn't been hermetically sealed, there hadn't been a bubble put over the whole area. And the reason I bring that up again is that Dallas, unequivocally-- I just know this from living there and working on stories about this specific matter that you mention-- just didn't know how to address it.
  • [01:22:28.91] They were torn up about it. Should we ignore it? Should we make it go away? Should we have a small nod to it? And it took decades of really roiling debate and resistance to finally create, in the Texas School Book Depository-- if you ever go to the city-- some of you might have, and have been there. It's now, I think, the number one tourist attraction in the city.
  • [01:22:56.14] Forgive me. I hope this doesn't seem perversely jocular. But before that, I think it had been Southfork Ranch, where the television show Dallas had been filmed.
  • [01:23:07.22] The Texas School Book Depository has been turned into something called The Sixth Floor Museum. I'm not a museum expert. I'm not qualified to critique them. But it seems to be done in a dignified way, and a sensible way. Most people I've talked to who have visited it seem to think it's appropriate. But the point of bringing that up is that it took decades. There wasn't a museum there, one that really tried to address it in a deep way.
  • [01:23:40.41] After the Kennedy assassination-- some of you might know this. There were a lot of stories about people traveling around the country. And people would just go, where are you from? And people would lie. They'd say, I'm from Houston, or somewhere else. Probably outside of Texas, even, because Texas was being assailed. And there was shame. There was embarrassment. There was fear.
  • [01:24:02.94] I got lucky, in some of my journalism work, to travel. And I was in Moscow in the 1990s. And I was on an elevator, in Moscow. And the elevator that I was on wasn't really working that well. I was going real slow. And so I just began talking to the people next to me. Maybe I just looked like I was from somewhere else. I don't know.
  • [01:24:27.27] And they said, where are you from? And I said, I'm from Dallas, Texas. And the first thing these folks did was go like this. They formed their index finger and thumb, and then went like this, and said, Kennedy. Kennedy. And that staggered me. This was in 1990.
  • [01:24:45.08] I'm not answering your question very effectively. I'm trying to. It's still there. It's still there. It's still there in the marrow, as I say, the DNA. It hasn't gone away. What happened is that folks really coalesced around the notion. We finally need to address it, almost from a spiritual level, this cathartic level.
  • [01:25:03.60] But as well, the early impulses were that we needed to address it from a fiscal level. It's not good for business. There's an amazing-- again, I'm biased, because I think everything in my book is amazing.
  • [01:25:14.65] But there's an amazing moment, a very poignant moment in our book, toward the very end, where immediately in the wake of the assassination, some business leaders in Dallas sent a note to Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow the president, and asked her, would you please do some public relations work on behalf of the city, because now Dallas is reviled. Dallas is known as the city that pulled the trigger that killed your husband and killed the President of the United States. Can you come out publicly and say Dallas isn't that bad? And our research indicated that she never responded.
  • [01:25:51.95] So that sense has lingered. And Dallas has recovered. People have written books putting the entire city of Dallas on Sigmund Freud's couch, saying that it had to go through this catharsis, and that the Dallas Cowboys football team helped to-- so called America's team. That's forgetting some other football teams around the country. But that it maybe directed attention away from it. And Dallas is home to a number of big Fortune 500 companies. George W Bush lives in Dallas and chose to go to Dallas after his presidency.
  • [01:26:32.34] So it's gone away. But as I maintain, it's never really gone away. And there are still people there. It is 50 years old, but there are people who were alive then, who were irrevocably changed by it. And they're still somewhat ashamed by it. Did that even come close? OK. Thank you.
  • [01:26:54.39] TIM GRIMES: OK. We want to thank Bill for coming.
  • [01:26:56.25] [APPLAUSE]
  • [01:26:57.00] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Thanks a lot. Thank you.
  • [01:26:59.66] TIM GRIMES: And again, books are for sale just outside. He'll be signing the books up here. Please fill out an evaluation form as you leave. But most important, thank you for coming today.
  • [01:27:09.92] BILL MINUTAGLIO: Thank all of you. Thank you very much.
  • [01:27:11.29] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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