Weeks after John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election, a retired postal worker nearly killed the President-Elect. Richard Pavlick, a mentally unbalanced man who hated Catholics and often went on political rants, traveled from New Hampshire to Florida with a singular goal in mind – to kill President-Elect Kennedy.
Pavlick believed that Kennedy and his family had ‘bought’ the 1960 election. As would later prove to be pivotal turn of events, Pavlick drew the attention of his hometown postmaster Thomas Murphy. As he stalked Kennedy, Pavlick sent postcards to Murphy from various places across the country. As postal workers are wont to do, Murphy zeroed in on the postmarks and noticed a curious thing - they corresponded with the locations of JFK’s public appearances.
About five weeks after his election, while enjoying an extended family vacation in Palm Beach, Florida, Kennedy prepared to attend Sunday morning church service. Pavlick had loaded his 1950 Buick with seven to ten sticks of dynamite, along with a detonation device; As Pavlick looked on, President-Elect Kennedy exited his vacation house.
Because suicide bombers were unknown in the United States at that time, Pavlick intended to ram his Buick into Kennedy’s limousine, and blow up both Kennedy and himself before the Secret Service had time to act. Unfortunately for Pavlick, Jackie and the children were also accompanying John. Since Pavlick only wanted to assassinate the President-elect and not his family, he abandoned his scheme for the time being; there would come another day.
Pavlick continued to stalk JFK while in Palm Beach, looking for another chance to kill the President-Elect. At some point, both Pavlick and Kennedy were even in St. Edwards Cathedral at the same time. Pavlick also carefully took note of the actions of Kennedy’s Secret Service agents looking for anything he could exploit.
In the meantime, back in Pavlick’s hometown, Postmaster Murphy alerted authorities after having learned that Pavlick had purchased dynamite,. Four days later, Secret Service agents located Pavlick after a Palm Bach patrolman stopped the 73-year-old man for a relatively minor traffic violation – driving over a white line. It was at that point that the police discovered enough dynamite in the car take out an entire city block. Authorities were later able to determine that Pavlick had checked out the Kennedy homes at Hyannisport and Georgetown, and also the Palm Beach Airport.
The story of the attempted assassination plot never got the publicity it deserved because Pavlick’s arrest came on the same day as a mid-air collision that killed 132 of 133 people on board the two planes.
Pavlick later confessed to the plot to kill Kennedy. But, instead of being put on trial, he spent the next five years in a mental institution. After being released, Pavlick focused his attention on tormenting his perceived nemesis, Postmaster Murphy. He also self-published a book titled “An Innocent Man Illegally Arrested Spent Six Years in Hell” which was an autobiography of his life and the “true” story of his perceived illegal arrest, indictments, and false charges. Pavlick died in 1975, having never spent a single day in prison for his assassination plot.
Had Pavlick been successful, the assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald and his murder by Jack Ruby would never have occurred, and Lyndon Johnson would have been President during the Cuban Missile Crisis.