November 22, 1963 – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is shot and killed by an assassin.
For an American of a certain age, there are some seminal events that can never be shaken: the Moon Landing in the summer of 1969, the end of the Cold War in 1991, the Watergate Scandal, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986, the murders of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr; but the assassination of JFK is the number one “Do You Remember Where You Were When?” moment of my lifetime.
Kennedy died of a wound in the brain caused by a rifle bullet that was fired at him as he was riding through downtown Dallas in a motorcade. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was riding in the third car behind Kennedy’s, was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States 99 minutes after Kennedy’s death.
Shortly after the assassination, Lee H. Oswald, who once defected to the Soviet Union, was arrested by the Dallas police. He was accused of the killing.
This flyer (above), 5,000 copies of which were distributed around Dallas in the days before Kennedy’s November 22, 1963 visit, accused Kennedy of a range of offenses, including: being “lax on Communism”, “appointing anti-Christians to Federal office”, and lying to the American people about his personal life.
General Edwin A. Walker, a Texan veteran of World War II and the Korean War, had resigned his Army post in 1961 after a Kennedy-ordered investigation found that he had violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity on the job, for distributing ultra-right-wing John Birch Society literature to his troops. Walker moved to Dallas and became a leader of right-wing activity in the city.
The ex-General led protests of African-American James Meredith‘s enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962. White Nationalists joined students and locals in a violent, 15-hour riot on the campus on September 30, in which two people were killed execution style, hundreds were wounded, and six federal marshals were shot. Walker was arrested for four federal charges, including sedition and insurrection against the United States. He was temporarily detained in a mental institution on orders from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Walker spent only five days in the asylum.
Walker posted bond and returned home to Dallas, where he was greeted by a crowd of hundreds of devotees. After a federal grand jury adjourned during January 1963 without indicting him, the charges were dismissed.
After the Kennedy assassination, Walker was under suspicion of being involved, and the Warren Commission investigation tracked these flyers to Walker. They started to show up around Dallas days prior to JFK’s arrival; and were placed under windshield wipers and in newspaper racks.
Walker was exonerated of involvement with the assassination, but the Warren Commission did turn up a bizarre coincidence. Seven months earlier, Walker had been sitting at his desk at home doing some sort of white supremacist homework when a bullet fired from outside the house narrowly missed his head. According to Marina Oswald‘s testimony, which the Warren Commission found convincing, Lee Harvey Oswald had carefully planned and executed this attempted murder, months before his November assassination of Kennedy.
Walker was the inspiration for the character played by Burt Lancaster in the film Seven Days In May (1964) and General Jack D. Ripper, played by Sterling Hayden in Stanley Kubrick‘s anti-war black comedy, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964).
In 1976, Walker was arrested for fondling and propositioning a male undercover police officer in a public toilet. He was arrested again for public lewdness the next year.
Walker died of lung cancer at his home in Dallas in 1993, just days before his 84th birthday. He never married and did not have any children.