Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The other victim in Dallas

I've always been fascinated by Texas political history.

One of the most fascinating of the Lone Star State's colorful characters is John Connally, an LBJ protege who was governor of Texas when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

You no doubt know that Connally, riding in the jump seat of the 1961 Lincoln limo, was also hit that day.

His story -- understandably so -- tends to get lost amid the death of a president.

But Connally's tale is a good one, worthy of study on its own.

Here is a fascinating interview with Connally and his wife Nellie conducted by Larry King in 1992.

For those of you interested in this type of thing, don't miss "The Lone Star," James Reston Jr.'s excellent biography of Connally.

As an aside, Connally later became a Republican. President Richard Nixon wanted Connally to be his successor for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. But, of course, Watergate happened, Connally became entangled in scandal and most doubted that the Republican base would have accepted the former Democrat anyhow.

Give Connally a look. His is a Texas-sized tale.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven score and 10 years ago...

On this date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to deliver what would become the most famous speech in presidential history.

In 272 words, Lincoln perhaps said more than he knew:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

'A Death In Emergency Room 1'

Yet another fine piece of journalism from Jimmy Breslin in the aftermath of 11/22/63...

A Death in Emergency Room One

By Jimmy Breslin
New York Herald Tribune
November 24, 1963

Dallas -- The call bothered Malcolm Perry. "Dr. Tom Shires, STAT," the girl's voice said over the page in the doctor's cafeteria at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The "STAT" meant emergency. Nobody ever called Tom Shires, the hospital's chief resident in surgery, for an emergency. And Shires, Perry's superior, was out of town for the day. Malcolm Perry looked at the salmon croquettes on the plate in front of him. Then he put down his fork and went over to a telephone.

"This is Dr. Perry taking Dr. Shires' page," he said.

"President Kennedy has been shot. STAT," the operator said. "They are bringing him into the emergency room now."

Perry hung up and walked quickly out of the cafeteria and down a flight of stairs and pushed through a brown door and a nurse pointed to Emergency Room One, and Dr. Perry walked into it. The room is narrow and has gray tiled walls and a cream-colored ceiling. In the middle of it, on an aluminum hospital cart, the President of the United States had been placed on his back and he was dying while a huge lamp glared in his face.

John Kennedy had already been stripped of his jacket, shirt, and T-shirt, and a staff doctor was starting to place a tube called an endotracht down the throat. Oxygen would be forced down the endotracht. Breathing was the first thing to attack. The President was not breathing.

Malcolm Perry unbuttoned his dark blue glen-plaid jacket and threw it onto the floor. He held out his hands while the nurse helped him put on gloves.

The President, Perry thought. He's bigger than I thought he was.

He noticed the tall, dark-haired girl in the plum dress that had her husband's blood all over the front of the skirt. She was standing out of the way, over against the gray tile wall. Her face was tearless and it was set, and it was to stay that way because Jacqueline Kennedy, with a terrible discipline, was not going to take her eyes from her husband's face.

Then Malcolm Perry stepped up to the aluminum hospital cart and took charge of the hopeless job of trying to keep the thirty-fifth President of the United States from death. And now, the enormousness came over him.

Here is the most important man in the world, Perry thought.

The chest was not moving. And there was no apparent heartbeat inside. The wound in the throat was small and neat. Blood was running out of it. It was running out too fast. The occipitoparietal, which is a part of the back of the head, had a huge flap. The damage a .25-caliber bullet does as it comes out of a person's body is unbelievable. Bleeding from the head wound covered the floor.

There was a mediastinal wound in connection with the bullet hole in the throat. This means air and blood were being packed together in the chest. Perry called for a scalpel. He was going to start a tracheotomy, which is opening the throat and inserting a tube into the windpipe. The incision had to be made below the bullet wound.

"Get me Doctors Clark, McCelland, and Baxter right away," Malcolm Perry said.

Then he started the tracheotomy. There was no anesthesia. John Kennedy could feel nothing now. The wound in the back of the head told Dr. Perry that the President never knew a thing about it when he was shot, either.

While Perry worked on the throat, he said quietly, "Will somebody put a right chest tube in, please."

The tube was to be inserted so it could suction out the blood and air packed in the chest and prevent the lung from collapsing.

These things he was doing took only small minutes, and other doctors and nurses were in the room and talking and moving, but Perry does not remember them. He saw only the throat and chest, shining under the huge lamp, and when he would look up or move his eyes between motions, he would see this plum dress and the terribly disciplined face standing over against the gray tile wall.

Just as he finished the tracheotomy, Malcolm Perry looked up and Dr. Kemp Clark, chief neurosurgeon in residency at Parkland, came in through the door. Clark was looking at the President of the United States. Then he looked at Malcolm Perry and the look told Malcolm Perry something he already knew. There was no way to save the patient.

"Would you like to leave, ma'am?" Kemp Clark said to Jacqueline Kennedy. "We can make you more comfortable outside."

Just the lips moved. "No," Jacqueline Kennedy said.

Now, Malcolm Perry's long fingers ran over the chest under him and he tried to get a heartbeat, and even the suggestion of breathing, and there was nothing. There was only the still body, pale white in the light, and it kept bleeding, and now Malcolm Perry started to call for things and move his hands quickly because it was all running out.

He began to massage the chest. He had to do something to stimulate the heart. There was not time to open the chest and take the heart in his hands, so he had to massage on the surface. The aluminum cart was high. It was too high. Perry was up on his toes so he could have leverage.

"Will somebody please get me a stool," he said.

One was placed under him. He sat on it, and for ten minutes he massaged the chest. Over in the corner of the room, Dr. Kemp Clark kept watching the electrocardiogram for some sign that the massaging was creating action in the President's heart. There was none. Dr. Clark turned his head from the electrocardiogram.

"It's too late, Mac," he said to Malcolm Perry.

The long fingers stopped massaging and they were lifted from the white chest. Perry got off the stool and stepped back.

Dr. M.T. Jenkins, who had been working the oxygen flow, reached down from the head of the aluminum cart. He took the edges of a white sheet in his hands. He pulled the sheet up over the face of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The IBM clock on the wall said it was 1 p.m. The date was November 22, 1963.

Three policemen were moving down the hall outside Emergency Room One now, and they were calling to everybody to get out of the way. But this was not needed, because everybody stepped out of the way automatically when they saw the priest who was behind the police. His name was the Reverend Oscar Huber, a small seventy-year-old man who was walking quickly.

Malcolm Perry turned to leave the room as Father Huber came in. Perry remembers seeing the priest go by him. And he remembers his eyes seeing that plum dress and that terribly disciplined face for the last time as he walked out of Emergency Room One and slumped into a chair in the hall.

Everything that was inside that room now belonged to Jacqueline Kennedy and Father Oscar Huber and the things in which they believe.

"I'm sorry. You have me deepest sympathies," Father Huber said.

"Thank you," Jacqueline Kennedy said.

Father Huber pulled the white sheet down so he could anoint the forehead of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy was standing beside the priest, her head bowed, he hands clasped across the front of her plum dress that was stained with blood which came from her husband's head. Now this old priest held up his right hand and he began the chant that Roman Catholic priests have said over their dead for centuries.

"Si vivis, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, amen."

The prayer said, "If you are living, I absolve you from your sins. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, amen."

The priest reached into his pocket and took out a small vial of holy oil. He put the oil on his right thumb and made a cross on President Kennedy's forehead. Then he blessed the body again and started to pray quietly.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord," Father Huber said.

"And let perpetual light shine upon him," Jacqueline Kennedy answered. She did not cry.

Father Huber prayed like this for fifteen minutes. And for fifteen minutes Jacqueline Kennedy kept praying aloud with him. Her voice did not waver. She did not cry. From the moment a bullet hit her husband in the head and he went down onto his face in the back of the car on the street in Dallas, there was something about this woman that everybody who saw her keeps talking about. She was in shock. But somewhere, down under that shock some place, she seemed to know that there is a way to act when the President of the United States has been assassinated. She was going to act that way, and the fact that the President was her husband only made it more important that she stand and look at him and not cry.

When he was finished praying, Father Huber turned and took her hand. "I am shocked," he said.

"Thank you for taking care of the President," Jacqueline Kennedy said.

"I am convinced that his soul had not left his body," Father Huber said. "This was a valid last sacrament."

"Thank you," she said.

Then he left. He had been eating lunch at his rectory at Holy Trinity Church when he heard the news. He had an assistant drive to the hospital immediately. After that, everything happened quickly and he did not feel anything until later. He sat behind his desk in the rectory, and the magnitude of what had happened came over him.

"I've been a priest for thirty-two years," Father Huber said. "The first time I was present at a death? A long time ago. Back in my home in Perryville, Missouri, I attended a lady who was dying of pneumonia. She was in her own bed. But I remember that. But this. This is different. Oh, it isn't the blood. You see, I've anointed so many. Accident victims. I anointed once a boy who was only in pieces. No, it wasn't the blood. It was the enormity of it. I'm just starting to realize it now."

Then Father Huber showed you to the door. He was going to say prayers.

It came the same way to Malcolm Perry. When the day was through, he drove to his home in the Walnut Hills section. When he walked into the house, his daughter, Jolene, six and a half, ran up to him. She had papers from school in her hand.

"Look what I did today in school, Daddy," she said.

She made her father sit down in a chair and look at her schoolwork. The papers were covered with block letters and numbers. Perry looked at them. He thought they were good. He said so, and his daughter chattered happily. Malcolm, his three-year-old son, ran into the room after him, and Perry started to reach for him.

Then it hit him. He dropped the papers with the block numbers and letters and he did not notice his son.

"I'm tired," he said to his wife, Jennine. "I've never been tired like this in my life."

Tired is the only way one felt in Dallas yesterday. Tired and confused and wondering why it was that everything looked so different. This was a bright Texas day with a snap to the air, and there were cars on the streets and people on the sidewalks. But everything seemed unreal.

At 10 a.m. we dodged cars and went out and stood in the middle lane of Elm Street, just before the second street light; right where the road goes down and, twenty yards further, starts to turn to go under the overpass. It was right at this spot, right where this long crack ran through the gray Texas asphalt, that the bullets reached President Kennedy's car.

Right up the little hill, and towering over you, was the building. Once it was dull red brick. But that was a long time ago when it housed the J.W. Deere Plow Company. It has been sandblasted since and now the bricks are a light rust color. The windows on the first three floors are covered by closed venetian blinds, but the windows on the other floors are bare. Bare and dust-streaked and high. Factory-window high. The ugly kind of factory window. Particularly at the corner window on the sixth floor, the one where this Oswald and his scrambled egg of a mind stood with the rifle so he could kill the President.

You stood and memorized the spot. It is just another roadway in a city, but now it joins Ford's Theatre in the history of this nation.

"R.L. Thornton Freeway. Keep Right," the sign said. "Stemmons Freeway. Keep Right," another sign said. You went back between the cars and stood on a grassy hill which overlooks the road. A red convertible turned onto Elm Street and went down the hill. It went past the spot with the crack in the asphalt and then, with every foot it went, you could see that it was getting out of range of the sixth-floor window of this rust-brick building behind you. A couple of yards. That's all John Kennedy needed on this road Friday.

But he did not get them. So when a little bit after 1 o'clock Friday afternoon the phone rang in the Oneal Funeral Home, 3206 Oak Lawn, Vernon B. Oneal answered.

The voice on the other end spoke quickly. "This is the Secret Service calling from Parkland Hospital," it said. "Please select the best casket in your house and put it in a general coach and arrange for a police escort and bring it here to the hospital as quickly as you humanly can. It is for the President of the United States. Thank you."

The voice went off the phone. Oneal called for Ray Gleason, his bookkeeper, and a workman to help him take a solid bronze casket out of the place and load it onto a hearse. It was for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Yesterday, Oneal left his shop early. He said he was too tired to work.

Malcolm Perry was at the hospital. He had on a blue suit and a dark blue striped tie and he sat in a big conference room and looked out the window. He is a tall, reddish-haired thirty-four-year-old, who understands that everything he saw or heard on Friday is a part of history, and he is trying to get down, for the record, everything he knows about the death of the thirty-fifth President of the United States.

"I never saw a President before," he said.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Digging John F. Kennedy's grave was an honor'

This continues a series of blogs commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy...

A stroke of genius it is, this column. Writing for the New York Herald Tribune in the aftermath of 11/22/63, Jimmy Breslin interviewed Clifton Pollard, the man who dug John Fitzgerald Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

It is reprinted below.

Washington -- Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. "Polly, could you please be here by eleven o'clock this morning?" Kawalchik asked. "I guess you know what it's for." Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. "Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday," Metzler said. "Oh, don't say that," Pollard said. "Why, it's an honor for me to be here." Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion).

Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. "That's nice soil," Metzler said. "I'd like to save a little of it," Pollard said. "The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I'd like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I'd like to have everything, you know, nice."

James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. "He was a good man," Pollard said. "Yes, he was," Metzler said. "Now they're going to come and put him right here in this grave I'm making up," Pollard said. "You know, it's an honor just for me to do this."

Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.

Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked.

There was mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take.
The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. "What time is it?" a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. "Twenty minutes past three," he said.

Clifton Pollard wasn't at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn't know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. "They'll be used," he said. "We just don't know when. I tried to go over to see the grave," he said. "But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn't get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I'll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it's an honor."

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

'Gunsmoke' trumps glitter, rock and roll...

While several of my friends are headed over to Thompson-Boling Arena to see The Eagles, I'm eased back on the couch watching "Gunsmoke."

Guess I never was meant for glitter, rock and roll...

"Gunsmoke" is something of an institution. It ran in primetime for 20 years and 635 episodes, the latter of which is still a record for a scripted American television series. It is television's best western -- without a close second.

My two favorite periods are the early 30-minute episodes (1955-61) and the hour-long color episodes (1966-75). The half hour shows were lean and mean, the writing cogent and crisp. The color episodes -- the best of 'em anyway -- are like mini movies.

Part of my fondness for the show is connected to family. My late grandfather Wayne Wyatt loved this show. Back when I lived with my grandparents, he'd often poke his head in my room about 7 and say, "Is it time for Marshal Dillion yet?"

Papaw told me "Gunsmoke" was the only program my great-grandfather would watch on television, coming down to my Papaw's house each Saturday night in time to root on Marshal Matt Dillon.

My dad loves it, too. We'll often compare favorite episodes we've seen lately when we talk on the telephone.

I also like to listen to the radio show when I can't sleep. It stars William Conrad as Matt Dillon, Parley Baer as Chester, Howard McNear as Doc Adams and Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell. The show, which ran for nearly a decade, pioneered the use of sound effects and is darker and edgier than the television version. Listen to episodes here.

My friend Dean Harned surprised me on my birthday one year by purchasing me an autographed photo of James "Marshal Dillon" Arness. I felt like I'd won the lottery.

My heroes have always been cowboys, and still are, it seems...

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winfield Dunn on "Hee Haw"

Here's a blast from the past:

Outgoing Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn made an appearance on "Hee Haw" in December 1974.

Minnie Pearl, Gov. Dunn and Roy Clark sang a cover of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues."

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Secret Service Agent No. 9

This is the continuation of a monthlong series leading up to the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. 

If you haven't noticed by now, Clint Hill will be all over television this month.

Assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, the Secret Service agent harbored feelings of guilt for years. Nowhere was this more prevalent than in the 1975 interview he filmed for "60 Minutes" with the late Mike Wallace.

Hill blamed himself for years, convinced that had he acted a split-second faster, he could have saved President John F. Kennedy.

If you can watch this clip and are failed to be moved by it, I don't particularly want to make your acquaintance.

Hill was rocked with guilt for years and finally found catharsis through the help from a clinician.

As far as I'm concerned, he's a patriot who did the best he could that awful day in Dallas.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Light laugh on a Sunday night

This photo made me literally laugh out loud.

On a personal note, I'll return to regular blogging when I recover from a particularly nasty stomach virus that kept me sidelined much of last week.

Happy Sunday, y'all. Have a good week.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

'Til then my heart will be...

...beyond the reef...

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Happy birthday, 'Morning Edition'

A favorite program, NPR's "Morning Edition," turns 34 today.

No, I wasn't listening when Bob Edwards began the program on Nov. 5, 1979.

But I listened later. Still do. Awoke this morning at 5 a.m. with a stomach ache and listened to the program awhile before drifting off to dream for a couple more hours.

I still love the show -- I am an NPR junkie -- but I miss Edwards.

It was his voice I heard on Sept. 11, 2001, as I drove to work on the Tuesday morning none of us will ever forget.

And I remember the tail end of his four-minute Friday morning chats with the legendary Red Barber. Funny thing is the ol' Redhead wanted to talk about everything but baseball, mostly the camellias in Tallahassee.

Listen to a selection of those memorable broadcasts here. Edwards later wrote a charming book about his banter with Barber. He can still be heard on his own show on Sirius/XM.

I listen to NPR's afternoon show "All Things Considered" almost each weekday. The local segments are hosted on WUOT-FM by my friend Brandon Hollingsworth.

And I'll usually dial up other favorite programs produced by either NPR or PRI, including "Fresh Air" at noon daily, "Wait..Wait...Don't Tell Me!" on Saturdays and, of course, the old favorite "A Prairie Home Companion."

Friday nights haven't been the same since Marion McPartland's death. Her "Piano Jazz" kept me company on drives home from Farragut.

I guess it says something about me that my two favorite media are newspapers and radio. Old habits die hard, especially for an old soul.

Happy birthday, "Morning Edition."

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Monday, November 04, 2013

11/22/63 -- as it happened

I will be dedicating one blog post a week to the events of Nov. 22, 1963, this month, in the days leading up to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Today I'd like to share with you a website sent to me by my friend Robert Rogers.  This is the most exhaustive collection of television and radio reports from Nov. 22, 1963, as well as TV and radio coverage and programs in the days and years since the Kennedy assassination.

Be forewarned: If you are a student of the assassination or a news nerd or both, you'll suddenly find that three hours or more have slipped by while you surf this site.

David Von Pein should be commended for his collection. It's the best I've discovered to date.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

William Shatner's greatest role

OK, wait just a minute.

Before you think I've lost my mind and forgotten about Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, let me quickly say that the headline should read William Shatner's greatest film role.

I just wrote that to get your attention.

But so should "The Intruder." Released in 1962, the Roger Corman-directed film is a raw, rough look at school integration. The screenplay is written by Charles Beaumont and taken from his novel of the same name.

Who knew, but my friend Shane Rhyne says the story is based on an incident at Clinton High School in Anderson County, TN. Sure enough, one of the characters makes reference to "Farragut." The town will look familiar to East Tennesseans, even though the movie was filmed in Missouri. Someone did their homework.

Shatner plays Adam Cramer, a cunningly charming John Bircher type rabble-rouser. He shows up in a sleepy Southern town to whip its white residents into a frenzy against school integration.

Standing in his way are a brave African American family, the school principal (played by Beaumont) and a newspaper editor (Frank Maxwell) who decides to buck his town and his own wife.

It's a tough picture to watch, unblinking, unsentimental, much more powerful, frankly, than "To Kill A Mockingbird."

You could almost call it an exploitation film, but it's a powerful one. In terms of pure performance, this is Shatner's best film. It's also Corman's best, most ambitious effort to date.

Why it fell through the cracks is a bit of a mystery. "Mockingbird" is super, sweeter, a big budget film based on Harper Lee's best-selling novel. Maybe that's part of it.

But if "The Last Picture Show" is the ugly underside of "American Graffiti," "The Intruder" is such for "Mockingbird."

It's a shame that the film has fallen through the cracks. Its message, hard to watch at times, is sadly still relevant today.

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