Last week was the 56th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While much has been written about this event, there may be a few facts you may not be aware of.
Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t arrested for killing the president.
About 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot, Oswald was confronted by Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. Tippit had been alerted as to the identification of the probable killer of the president — a slender white male, in his early 30s, 5' 10" tall and weighing about 165 pounds.
As Tippit was driving around in his patrol car, he noticed a man that fit that description. He pulled over and got out of his car.
At that point, Oswald pulled out a revolver and shot Tippit four times. Oswald then ducked into the Texas Theatre without buying a ticket. Police were notified by the theater's cashier and quickly surrounded the theater.
After a brief struggle, Oswald was taken into custody and subsequently charged with the murder of Officer Tippit.
In 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy was not technically a federal crime. Kennedy would have had to been killed in a location owned or controlled by the U.S. government, such as the White House, the Pentagon or at a military installation, or on a U.S. highway.
Since Kennedy was killed on a street in Dallas, it was considered a local crime. To close this apparent loophole, Congress passed a law in 1965 specifically making the assassination of a president (or president-elect or vice president) a federal crime.
After President Kennedy had officially been declared dead, vice president Lyndon Johnson was sworn on board Air Force One by federal judge Sarah Hughes. This was the first and only time in American history that a woman ever did so.
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This was not Oswald’s first attempted assassination.
Eight months earlier, he had tried to kill Edwin Walker, a former general in the U.S army. Gen. Edwin, a rabid anti-communist, had resigned from the military in 1961. He had become a well-known critic of President Kennedy’s administration, for instance by opposing the government’s aim to racially integrate schools.
Oswald fired at Walker while the general was spending a quiet moment at home. The attempt was unsuccessful, as Walker suffered only minor injuries from bullet fragments.
Sometime in 1966, President Kennedy’s preserved brain was stolen.
During the president’s autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, his brain was removed and placed in a stainless-steel container. For some time, that steel container was kept inside a file cabinet located within the office of the Secret Service. Eventually, the vessel was moved to the National Archives, where JFK’s brain was to have been placed in a secure room.
In October of 1966, it was revealed that Kennedy’s brain had gone missing. Even though over 40 people were interviewed by the FBI, the brain was never found. Some have speculated that it was stolen by Robert Kennedy to conceal the nature of the President’s poor health and his drug history.
Conspiracy theorists have a different explanation. They allege that this theft was just one more example of the massive cover-up of Kennedy’s assassination. They say the missing brain could have provided evidence of the trajectory of the bullet, which then could have shown that Oswald was not the assassin.
Phil Connelly of Corvallis writes a weekly history column for the Ravalli Republic.