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Expert: Oswald Lone Gunman, Despite Conspiracy Theorists

Kennedy assassination shouldn’t shoulder entire responsibility as America’s turning point.

Written by John Davis

Pitch

The whodunit lists read like alphabet soup: The CIA, the KGB, the FBI and LBJ. Don’t forget Fidel Castro and the Mafia. Even after 50 years, conspiracy theorists haven’t changed their most wanted lists. However, investigations in recent years point squarely to Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman, says one Texas Tech expert. And though the Kennedy assassination does play a part in the changing of America’s trust and belief in itself, more complex issues bubbled under the surface long before.

 

Expert

Sean Cunningham, assistant professor, Department of History, Texas Tech University (806) 786-0913, sean.cunningham@ttu.edu.

 

Talking Points

  • More people have shed the conspiracy theories and embraced the lone gunman theory.
  • The Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations receive the greatest amount of attention because of the “drama” factors. Lincoln’s came on the heels of General Lee’s surrender. Kennedy’s became a public spectacle through the advent of television. The role of the president was different in the days of Garfield and McKinley.
  • Though some claim this event marks the end of American innocence, Vietnam had been bubbling since the Truman years, and the Civil Rights Movement had begun in the ’50s.

 

Quotes

  • “Conspiracy theorists have at least seven favorite suspects, some working together, and countless theories on how the assassination was carried out. If you visit Dealey Plaza in Dallas, you’ll likely find dozens of self-employed conspiracy ‘tour guides’ who claim to know the ‘real truth’ of what happened. They may try to convince you that a gunman fired from the gutters or that the limo driver did it. The fact is that the JFK assassination continues to captivate the imagination and has become a multi-million-dollar-a-year industry. There’s a great amount of investment in keeping conspiracies alive.”
  • “Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. president to be assassinated, and that happened days after General Lee’s surrender at Appomatox. The nation hadn’t begun to recover from the Civil War, and the assassination was a horrifying end to a horrifying struggle. With Kennedy, the difference is television. The event is television’s first opportunity to cover an event of this magnitude. The JFK assassination was, therefore, one of the nation’s first collective experiences.”
  • “Following the assassination, Mrs. Kennedy spent a significant amount of energy to construct a legacy for her husband that mirrored Abraham Lincoln’s. She even used Lincoln’s funeral as a model. As Lincoln was described as The Great Emancipator, she worked to portray her husband as a supporter and champion of the less fortunate and of the early Civil Rights Movement.
  • “This event is the baby-boom generation’s 9/11. People point to Nov. 22, 1963, as a turning point – as the end of American innocence. But so many other things contributed to the unraveling of American confidence during the ’60s, including Vietnam and civil rights. It’s a much longer, more complicated story than people realize.”
  • “One thing people don’t typically realize is that JFK struggled with a number of physical ailments. He was often sick, and much of that was related to Addison’s disease. He was constantly receiving injections of cortisone and other steroid injections, along with other medications, and he wore a back brace. You can’t understand the bullet wounds he suffered without understanding that he was wearing a back brace, which propped him up and made him an easier target.”

 

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Sean Cunningham

Sean Cunningham is an assistant professor in the Department of History in the College of Arts & Sciences.

View his profile in our online Experts Guide.