Tag: Lyndon B. Johnson

Mcbridge

On occasion, I find myself coming back to the murder of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). His assassination remains one of the America’s darkest moments and officially, the crime is still an open case for the Dallas Police Department. Some may express surprise at that statement but it should be remembered that no one was ever convicted for Kennedy’s murder. A twenty-four year-old former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) was convicted in the court of public opinion as the assassin but was himself murdered before he could stand trial in a Dallas courtroom. Roughly forty-five minutes after Kennedy’s murder, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit (1924-1963) was shot to death after stopping a pedestrian walking in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Oswald was arrested at the Texas Theater and charged with Tippit’s murder. But due to his death at the hands of nightclub owner Jack Ruby (1911-1967), he was never officially tried and convicted of Tippit’s murder, which is still an open homicide case. The Warren Commission established that Oswald committed both murders before hiding in the Texas theater and for years many have accepted the “lone gunman” theory. But if we look closer, there are many things about both murders and Oswald himself that just do not add up. Author Joseph McBride has spent thirty years researching and writing this book that takes us into the nightmare that occurred on November 22, 196,3 in Dallas, Texas. And what he has to say might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The book opens with a recap of McBride’s childhood in Wisconsin during 1960 when Kennedy was ramping up his campaign for the presidency. McBride’s parents were both reporters and his mother was part of the local Democrat committee. Her position in the committee provided McBride to meet Kennedy on several occasions and during one of those occasions, McBride took a photo which is included in the book, of Kennedy in what could be described as an unguarded moment. On the day of Kennedy’s murder, McBride relates that information presented during news broadcasts raised his suspicions about the crime Those seeds of doubt grew into a life-long quest to find the truth about Kennedy’s murder. I should point out that McBride’s focus here is primarily on the murders of Oswald and Tippit. The book is not a broad discussion of the crimes such as Jim Marrs’ best-selling classic Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, but a more streamlined approach to examine what former commission member David W. Belin (1928-1999) called the “Rosetta Stone” of the case.

Seasoned researchers into the Kennedy assassination will know that there has been a lack of focus on the life of J.D. Tippit. He has typically been portrayed as the simple yet heroic officer who tried to stop Lee Harvey Oswald and died in the line of duty. On the surface it fits the narrative of the good cop/bad suspect line that we are taught from a young age. However, if Tippit was attempting to arrest the man who allegedly had just shot the president, then why did he not have his gun drawn as he got out of his squad car? And how would he have known to stop Oswald when Dallas Police had yet to learn Oswald’s name according to the official timeline? There are seemingly endless mysteries surrounding both Tippit and Oswald regarding their alleged encounter. McBride journeyed down the rabbit hole and provides what I have found to be the most in-depth analysis of what may have taken place in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas on that fateful day.

I believe that by putting his focus on the Tippit murder, it allows readers to digest critical information without being overwhelmed by other events that took place in and around Dallas that day. Tippit’s murder undoubtedly is the Rosetta Stone of the case but not for the reasons that Belin believed as McBride makes clear. To be clear, McBride is not a conspiracy theorist. In fact, what I found is that he remains unbiased and does not shy away from presenting contradictory evidence when addressing a topic. I believe that makes the book even more fascinating. McBride presents an honest and thorough discussion of the Tippit murder. And at no point, did I feel he has moving too far in one direction but rather he moves through the book like a veteran detective with an eagle’s eye for clues. And frankly, the amount of information he provides about Tippit’s personal life is just staggering and has caused me to see the murder in a very different light. And although secrets remain about Tippit’s murder, the version presented in the Warren Commission’s report should be taken with a grain of salt. If you want to learn about the real J.D. Tippit, this is without question a book that you need to read.

Although Tippit’s murder is the nexus of the book, McBride does focus on other strange events that day after shots rang out in Dealey Plaza. The most telling are FBI reports from field agents in Dallas that reveal some very surprisingly decisions taken by Dallas officials. And the discussions between J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and former President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) underscore the problems Dallas detectives faced in making their case. Further, a particularly deeply distburbing fact comes to light about the attitude of Dallas police towards Kennedy’s murder. I found myself staring in disbelief and what former detective Jim Leavelle (1920-2019) reveals about the effort to solve Kennedy’s murder. Before leaving Washington, Kennedy had been briefed on the right-wing climate of hate in Dallas and was advised not to travel there. But he insisted on doing so to show that the President of the United States cannot be afraid to travel within his own country. It was his fate to go to Dallas but the local police owed him far more of an effort than what is shown in the book.

The revelations of the numerous problems of proving Oswald’s guilt, provide the context for a discussion on the many problems with regards to the lone gunman theory. Capt. William Fritz of the Dallas Police Department was certainly aware of this and as McBride shows, most officials knew that making a case against Oswald would be a monumental task. Of particular interes are McBride’s notes of his discussion with former Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (1914-2001). The statements by Wade in response to McBride’s questions are nothing short of mind-boggling and a sharp defense attorney would have made a name for himself picking apart the indictment against Oswald. However, that is only a small piece of the puzzle that McBride puts together to show the lack of evidence, planted evidence, hidden information and various other anomalies that make the lone gunman theory even more ludicrous.

There has always been confusion as to what Tippit was doing before he was killed. According to the Warren Commission report, there exist at least forty-five minutes between the shooting in Dealey Plaza and his murder in Oak Cliff. But much of what Tippit and Oswald were doing during that time remains shrouded in mystery. To piece the story together, McBride draws on several sources that include Tippit’s widow Marie, witnesses near Oak Cliff who spotted Tippit prior to his death, Dallas Police Department radio transmissions and witnesses to the murder, some of whom were never called to testify by the Warren Commission. As I read through the statements and series of events, I felt a chill run down my spine as I realized that there was a lot more to the events in Oak Cliff that we have been led to believe. Not only was Tippit out of his assigned area but his murder took place near the home of Jack Ruby who shot Oswald live on national television on November 24. Questions have persisted if Oswald, Tippit and Ruby knew each other. While I would stop short of saying that there is a smoking gun, what we do learn raises suspicion that many figures in Oak Cliff were more connected than the Warren Commission wanted to acknloweledge.

McBride’s analysis of the murders that day is spellbinding and anyone that has doubts about the official story should absolutely read this book. There are no outlandish theories or witness bashing. It is simply an honest and open discussion built on facts discovered by the author through meticulous and exhaustive research. I guarantee that after you have finished this book, you will find yourself looking at the murder of John F. Kennedy in a completely different light.

ASIN: B00EP6B0J0

JFK RFK

ethelI am constantly amazed that in spite of all of the things I learned in school and through my own studies, that there are endless stories from the Civil Rights Movement that are continuing to be told.  Amazon recommended this biography of Ethel Lois Payne (1911-1991) and as I looked at the cover, I recalled the name but the face did not ring a bell.  My curiousity continued to pull me in and I knew that I had to learn more about this intriguing woman.  Author James McGrath Morris has called her the first lady of the Black press.  It is quite the title but as I learned while reading the book, the title was not only earned but it may in fact may be an an understatement.

Payne’s story begins in Chicago, in the year 1911 when she enters the world becoming the fifth child of William and Bessie Payne.  Jim Crow and segregation were alive and well making life for Blacks unbearable at times.  And although racism does exist today, the America in which we live stands in stark contrast to the America in which Payne navigated as she made a name for herself as a respected journalist.  Chicago is a rough city but those of us familiar with it already know that.  And putting aside the modern day shootings that place, violence has been a part of Chicago’s history for well over 100 years. Morris recounts some dark moments in the city’s history which show the tense racial climate the pervaded throughout the city and America.  But Payne is unfazed and determined to blaze her own path.  After the conclusion of World War II breaks, the military comes calling and Payne finds herself as foreign correspondent in Japan. This first major assignment would kickstart the career that lasted until her final days in 1991.

Upon returning to the United States, she accepted a post with the Chicago Defender and eventually earned her White House press credentials.  The act in itself was almost unheard and Payne wasted no time in stirring the pot.  A tense question and answer session with President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) brings her more press than she could have bargained for but at the same time, earned her the wrath of supervisors.  Nonetheless it was the point of no return and Ethel Payne kept moving forward.  And what followed is a journey across several continents that included meetings with U.S. Presidents, foreign leaders and activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). It was an incredible journey, beautfilly told here by Morris.

I also found that the book provided interesting tidbits about American history.   And while the author does not present the book as a reference book for American history, he does bring the events of the past back to life which highlight the progression in civil rights made by America in the past several decades.  Surely, there are dark moments in the book where progressive minds come face to face with hardened racists.  Birmingham and Little Rock are just two cities whose names will be burned in the memories of readers.  The acts that are committed are horrific and will make some readers pause.  Personally, I find it difficult to fathom why people were filled with so much hate towards each other solely based on differences in physical characteristics.  But that was how things were and sadly, the events detailed in the book did happen and many lives were lost in the struggle for equality.  Payne’s voice through the Chicago Defender, was a bastion of hope that America was listening to what its black citizens were trying to say.

Throughout the story, there are big name figures who helped changed the course of American history.  Some are former presdients John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) and Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994).  Further, the passage of the almost powerless Civil Rights Bill of 1957 is addressed as American continues to struggle with equality.   The back stories to the public facades are interesting and Payne’s obversations are spot on.  She possessed incredible acumen about the Washington and future of American’s black citizens.  In fact, as we see in the book, there were times where she was correct in her analysis without even knowing the underlying facts that proved her to be correct.

In later years after she moved away from Washington, her work was not done and Morris shows her continuing efforts at promoting civil rights not just at home but wherever possible.  And although her physical descent becomes apparent towards the later part of the book, she never slows down but instead keeps going as she always has.  Admittedly, the end of the book is without question the saddest as Morris chronicles here life that increasingly fades away from the spotlight.  And in her final moments, the reality of where she ended up is strikinigly real.  And I found myself scratching my head and the direction her life had taken as she continued to age.  However, that is only small part of a life that was nothing short of incredible.

What I did notice in the book is that Payne never married nor did she have children. She did however, care of a nephew for a short time but he was not totally reliant upon her.  The lack of a love interest becomes apparent in the story but the topic is only lightly discussed.  That might be due to Payne keeping her persona life highly guarded or in the alternative, her busy life made romance impossible.  I did feel a bit down regarding this part of the story and wished that she could have found someome to share her life with.  But she is long gone and the reasons she had for her single life have gone with her to the grave.  Notwithstanding this side-story, the book is still a very uplifting account of Payne’s accomplished life.

James McGrath Morris has certainly provided us with a fitting biography of Payne’s life that was a mixture of success, tragedy and defining moments in history.  Today her name is never mentioned and younger generations will most likely have the faintest idea about who she was and why she was important.  But I encourage anyone interested in American history and in particular the American Civil Rights Movement to read this book.  Highly recommended.

ASIN: B00KFFROFE

Biographies

john lewis

The Declaration of Independence of the then Thirteen States of America, is often looked upon as inspiration for what liberty truly means. The second paragraph drives home the point with the following words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The words, when taken at face value, give off the impression of a country in which one can truly be free. But we very well know through history, that the opposite has been true, millions of people, in particular Black Americans have had to endure a long and hard struggle to achieve equality in the United States. Two weeks from today, America remembers the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) and his view for a United States in which its citizens were truly united. Great strides have been made since Dr. King’s death, but by no means should his legacy be forgotten. Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) was a close associate of Dr. King’s and today he is one of the remaining figures from the Civil Rights Movement. Many of his peers are deceased but today at seventy-eight years of age, he is still serving in the U.S. House of Representatives continuing to fight for what he believes is the direction to the move the United States forward. At first glance he is unassuming but if you study his life and words closer, you will soon learn that this remarkable figure has an extraordinary story to tell about his participation in the movement for racial equality.

When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis is typically not the first figure many would have in mind. With his short stature and plain image, he appears to be the loving grandfather on the neighborhood block rather than the activist he was and still is. But just how did a young kid from the country in Georgia go on to be a pivotal figure in the movement that changed America? The answer to that question and many others about Lewis’ life are contained within the pages of this autobiography that is sure to leave the reading asking for more. In fact, I found it increasing difficult to stop reading the book once I had started. With Lewis’ easy-flowing narrative and endless anecdotes about himself and some of the most legendary figures America has ever seen, the book transplants the reader back in time to witness how a cause became a national and world-wide struggle against discrimination.

One of the things that I found likeable about the book is Lewis’ openness about his own shortcomings. He never portrays himself to be above anyone or all-knowing. In fact, he easily recalls the times in which he was lacking in knowledge, overcome with fear of his opponents and reluctance to partake in the cut-throat world of politics. Quite frankly, he has walked the walk and talked the talk, risking his life in sit-ins, marches and voter registration drivers in the deep American south, culminating with the showdown with the virulent racist Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama, Jim Clark. (1922-2007). In fact, the events Lewis recalls, are also discussed in the book by another of his close associates, Ralph David Abernathy (1926-1990). His autobiography and memoir of the movement was appropriately titled And the Walls Came Tumbling Down . Both authors played an important part in those events and do not fail to explain in full detail how they developed and why they were important. I highly recommend that book as a complement to Lewis’ story.

Similar to Abernathy’s book, King is a critical character in the story and both authors show how important King was to the movement at hand. What is also revealed, particularly here is the complicated power struggles within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Infighting, jealously and egos all play their parts in the story revealing the sometimes fragile relationships at the base of the movement. Misogyny, homophobia and even racism against White Americans became the tools that turned the SCLC into a shell of its former self. The assassinations of the 1960s convinced many that nothing could ever be the same again. Lewis addresses all of them and his relationship to several of the late figures. Students of the movement will recall that Lewis eventually became part of the campaign by Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) for President of the United States. His memories of Kennedy are touching and is yet another example of the extreme sense of loss that following in the wakes of the assassinations that became all to common in the turbulent 1960s.

Today it is nearly impossible for youths to imagine what life was like for Black Americans during Jim Crow and later, even as President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) pushed forward an earth-shattering civil rights bill. As Lewis puts it, raw fear was a daily reality in a time where social justice warriors sometimes died early deaths and authorities used every trick in the book to maintain a strict social structure of power. His ability to fair in the book and examine every situation from all sides has earned him followers and detractors but here, Lewis explains himself, leaving it up to the reader to digest his words and perhaps use them in a positive way. What I found equally important as the story at hand is his messages to Black Americans as well. Change in society must come from all places, and only then can a nation truly move forward. John Lewis has spent the majority of his life fighting for equality on behalf of those who sometimes have no other voice. His eyes have seen some of the most important events in history and he is a living testament to the strong character common to his peers who became world-respected figures in their own right.

If you are looking for a good read about the Civil Rights Movement, this is a fine place to start where you can follow John Lewis as he is walking with the wind.

ISBN-10: 9781476797717
ISBN-13: 978-1476797717

Biographies Civil Rights Movement

ellsbergThe names of the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that are found on the memorial in Washington, D.C., are a reminder of a conflict deemed by many to be the worst the United States has ever been involved in.  The withdrawal of U.S. forces in March, 1973, brought a sigh of relief to the American public which had long grown tired of a war with no end in sight.  The dark truth which we now know is that we did not by any means accomplish the mission.  And the mighty American war machine failed to secure a victory. I have met many veterans of the war and have an uncle who served.  What I recall most about all of them is that they do not speak of their experiences while in combat.  I know the memories are there and for some of them, they were unable to leave parts of the war behind.  Today we call it PTSD, but back then you simply found a way to move forward in life.   But why were they in Vietnam to being with?  Was the domino effect really a threat to the United States?

On May 11, 1973, Daniel Ellsberg found himself the talk of the town as charges pending against him for espionage were dismissed by U.S. District Judge William Byrne. He had been indicted for leaking what became known as The Pentagon Papers, the subject of this book and the topic of the movie The Post starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.  The New York Times, after several battles in court, was finally allowed to move forward with its plan to publish The Pentagon Papers and contained in the pages of this book are the documents that the U.S. Government tried in earnest to hide from the American public under the guise of “national security”.   Ironically, the facts that are revealed in this book have absolutely nothing to do with national security but rather several presidential administrations that failed to find a workable solution to Indochina.

The late Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara (1916-2009) has been called the architect of the war and was loathed by many because of it. However, the title is misleading and in some ways unfair. The war had many architects either by wishful thinking, uncontrolled ego or naiveté.  What is truly ironic is that as the war waged on, McNamara became a strong voice of dissent.  And in spite of what we have been led to believe, our existence in Indochina began many years before 1965.  The story of U.S. involvement in Vietnam is a long tale, filled with hard truths, false truths, deception and ultimately failure.  But this is how it happened and why.

The papers are divided into several sections which correspond to a different aspect of the conflict.  The administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson are examined to understand what each cabinet did and did not do as it grappled with the growing headache.   Step-by-step Southeast Asia opens up as black hole as more advisors are committed, instability rages in South Vietnam and war hawks finally get their wish as the United States jumped nearly feet first into a jungle conflict that proved to be nothing short of disastrous.  Rolling Thunder, troop deployments and South Vietnamese politics are just some of the issues that antagonized Washington for nearly a decade.

If you served in Vietnam, I forewarn you that the book might anger you in many ways. For others, this is a critical source of information in order to understand the war from a behind the scenes view.   We are often told that the military fights to protect the country and our freedoms that we take for granted.  But did a nation over 13,000 miles from U.S. soil really pose a threat to the most powerful nation on earth at the time? And what would we have accomplished if we had in fact won the conflict?   Perhaps Vietnam would have become a second Korea, partitioned between a communist controlled North-Vietnam and a U.S. controlled South-Vietnam.   Following the U.S. withdrawal, Saigon fell and the North achieved its goal of reunification.  Today the war is a distant memory for young Vietnamese but for the older generation, many painful memories remain.  The figures in the book are long gone but their actions will stay with us and the Vietnam war will always be a regrettable example of U.S. foreign policy gone wrong.

ISBN-10: 1631582925
ISBN-13: 978-1631582929

Vietnam War