Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy's pink hat is a missing piece of history

by FAYE FIORE / Los Angeles Times

President John F. Kennedy had asked wife Jacqueline to wear her pink suit during their trip to Dallas, where he was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963. (Art Rickerby / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images / November 22, 1963)

In the nation's collective memory, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is a clash of images and mysteries that may never be sorted out to the satisfaction of everyone.

But if there is a lasting emblem that sums up Nov. 22, 1963, the day America tumbled from youthful idealism to hollow despair, it is Jacqueline Kennedy's rose-pink suit and pillbox hat.

An expanded collection of Kennedy treasures and trivia was unveiled this month on exhibit and online to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration; it includes the fabric of his top hat (beaver fur) down to his shoe size (10C).

But missing and hardly mentioned are what could be the two most famous remnants of Kennedy's last day. The pink suit, blood-stained and perfectly preserved in a vault in Maryland, is banned from public display for 100 years. The pillbox hat — removed at Parkland Hospital while Mrs. Kennedy waited for doctors to confirm what she already knew — is lost, last known to be in the hands of her personal secretary, who won't discuss its whereabouts.

Does it matter? Should it? It's said that history takes a generation to decant, and great chapters are defined by the trappings of everyday life: a stovepipe hat, a pair of polio braces. Mrs. Kennedy could not have imagined the outfit she put on that morning would come to epitomize the essence of Camelot and the death of it.

"The single symbol of that event and of her as a persona is that pink suit," said Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a first ladies historian. "It's all anyone need see and, in an instant, people know what it is in reference to."

This is the story of how an otherwise ordinary pink suit and hat came to be treasured by a nation, only to slip from its reach.

Few public figures understood the power of fashion the way Jacqueline Kennedy did, and when she packed for Dallas, she chose nothing she hadn't worn before. The goal was not to upstage the president as she had to his delight on a recent trip to Paris, but to exquisitely accentuate him as the 1964 election season kicked off. She took along two suits, one of them the pink Chanel knockoff created by a New York dress shop so she could indulge her French tastes and still buy American.

The pink was unforgettable — the color of roses, azaleas, watermelon. Kennedy himself asked her to wear it. It was trimmed in navy blue, with a blue blouse, blue pumps and handbag, and the trademark pillbox hat, secured with a pin.

Looking back now at the grainy footage of the first couple as the dark limousine, top down, rounded the turn from Houston to Elm, it's hard not to hope for a different outcome. As long as she is wearing that hat, the world is still intact. Then, inevitably, comes the lurch of his body, the unforgettable flash of pink scrambling in panic across the trunk. All that day, her clothing bore witness to history.

Lady Bird Johnson, wife of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was riding in the motorcade's third car, recalled for investigators her memory of Secret Service agents frantic to get the president inside Parkland Hospital while his wife bent over him, refusing to let go: "I cast one last look over my shoulder and saw, in the president's car, a bundle of pink, just like a drift of blossoms, lying on the back seat."

Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent assigned to protect the first lady, remembered resting his hands on the suit's trembling shoulders, the left side of the skirt wet with blood where she was cradling her husband's head.

Somewhere inside the hospital, the hat came off. "While standing there I was handed Jackie's pillbox hat and couldn't help noticing the strands of her hair beneath the hat pin. I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head," Mary Gallagher, the first lady's personal secretary who accompanied her to Dallas, later wrote in her memoir.

Despite urgings from staff and handlers to "clean up her appearance," Mrs. Kennedy refused to get out of her bloodied clothes, according to biographer William Manchester's detailed account of the assassination, "The Death of a President."

"Why not change?" one aide prompted.

"Another dress?" the president's personal physician suggested.

Mrs. Kennedy shook her head hard. "No, let them see what they've done."

The suit was never cleaned and never will be. It sits today, unfolded and shielded from light, in an acid-free container in a windowless room somewhere inside the National Archives and Records Administration's complex in Maryland; the precise location is kept secret. The temperature hovers between 65 and 68 degrees, the humidity is 40%, the air is changed six times an hour.

"It looks like it's brand-new, except for the blood," said senior archivist Steven Tilley, one of a handful of people to lay eyes on the suit since that day in Dallas.

Half a dozen members of the Assassination Records Review Board, created by Congress in 1992 to preserve all available records for public scrutiny, were admitted to the vault for a rare glimpse, but did not consider it relevant to the crime. No other requests to see it have been granted.

Yet the suit's stamp on history is indelible for a nation that anguished at every sight of its disheveled first lady: climbing the stairs onto Air Force One to accompany her husband's coffin back to Washington, standing beside Lyndon Johnson as he took the oath of office — an iconic photo of an unexpected transfer of power fully explained by a stricken expression and a stained sleeve.

"Somehow, that was one of the most poignant sights," Mrs. Johnson later wrote in her diaries, "that immaculate woman exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood."

Despite the chaos, aides managed to secure virtually all of the Kennedys' belongings back at the White House by nightfall. The pink hat seemed to hopscotch from Dallas to Washington, according to Manchester's account. There it was in a heavy paper sack, cradled in the arms of one of the president's baggage handlers aboard Air Force One. While Mrs. Kennedy accompanied the coffin to Bethesda Naval Hospital for the autopsy, the hat made its way to the executive mansion.

A White House policeman was instructed to give it to Agent Hill, but handed it by mistake to Robert Foster, the agent assigned to protect the Kennedy children. Foster, who died in 2008, told Manchester he took the bag to the Map Room and opened it, immediately recognizing the contents.

Mrs. Kennedy returned to her private quarters of the White House in the early morning hours of Nov. 23. She took off the suit and bathed. Her maid, Providencia Paredes, told Manchester that she put the clothing in a bag and hid it.

What became of it after that speaks to the confusion and numbness of the time. A president had not been assassinated in 62 years; no one knew what to do. The Kennedy children had to be brought from their grandmother's Georgetown home to the White House and told. It wasn't even clear who should prosecute the murder — shooting the president was not then a federal crime. The first lady's attire was not exactly top priority as President Johnson figured out how to take the helm of a grieving nation.

But sometime in the next six months, a box arrived at the National Archives' downtown headquarters, where such treasures as the Constitution and Bill of Rights are kept. In it was the suit, blouse, handbag and shoes, even her stockings, along with an unsigned note on the letterhead stationery of Janet Auchincloss, Mrs. Kennedy's mother: "Jackie's suit and bag worn Nov. 22, 1963."

No hat.

The box was the one originally sent by the dressmaker, addressed to "Mrs. John F. Kennedy, The White House," but wrapped now in brown paper. Archivists put all of it in a climate-controlled vault in stack area 6W3, where it remained for more than 30 years.

"It was sort of a secret that we had it," Tilley said. Sticklers for protocol, archives officials knew it still legally belonged to Mrs. Kennedy. So it was more than a little awkward when Parade Magazine called in 1996 with a question from a reader asking what became of the pink suit.

Tilley, then head of the JFK collection, tried to reconstruct how it fell into archivists' hands. Mrs. Kennedy had been dead for two years, her mother for seven. He called everyone he could find in a position to know. No one could recall the box arriving. The single-digit postal code on the address was the only clue that it had been mailed sometime before July 1964, when the nation switched to five-digit ZIP Codes.

"It's one of the mysteries," Tilley said. "And there is nobody around anymore who can ever fill that in."

He suspects Mrs. Kennedy's mother sent it. The first lady herself exchanged letters with the head archivist in the weeks after the assassination, but there was never any mention of her suit.

"She kept it on that day, but once that moment passed, then perhaps she didn't want anything to do with it after that," Tilley said.

In the mid-1990s, the suit was moved to a new, second archives building here. In 2003, a deed of gift was secured from Caroline Kennedy, by then the sole surviving heir. She stipulated the suit not be displayed for the life of the deed —100 years. When it runs out in 2103, the right to display it can be renegotiated by the family, Tilley said.

And the hat? Agent Hill, 79, who famously lunged onto the back of the limousine that day to protect the first lady, had the answer.

"I know what happened to the hat," he said in a phone interview. "I gave it to Mary Gallagher."

Gallagher, 83, and Paredes, the maid who boxed up the clothes, together have posted for Internet auction a long list of items that once belonged to Mrs. Kennedy — a pink nightgown: $300-$400; a used tube of "Arden Pink" lipstick and some pale blue stationery: $200-$300; an unopened pack of Greek cigarettes and matchbook: $100-$200. (Mrs. Kennedy was a closet smoker.)

Reached by phone, Gallagher refused to discuss the hat.

"I don't accept these kinds of calls. Over the years they've just been enough so that I've had to draw the line.... I'm sorry. I can't help you any further," she said, hanging up.

No one at the National Archives has ever searched for the hat because it legally belongs to Caroline Kennedy. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

Many of the National Archives records are open for public research, and the Kennedy assassination remains one of the three most asked-about subjects, up there with the Watergate scandal and the alien invasion of Roswell, N.M.

The archives' vast collection includes the president's shirt as it was cut off by the medical team, the tie nicked by a bullet, his white lace-up back brace. Even the contents of Parkland Hospital's Trauma Room One, where he was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. Texas time, are in a cave somewhere in Kansas.

But the whereabouts of the hat is a little-known mystery no one is working to solve; Kennedy historians contacted for this story were surprised to learn it's missing. They suspect it was sold to a private collector, or stuck away in somebody's attic, lost to the nation, a hole in history. [END]

Source: Los Angeles Times

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ambulance that may have carried JFK sells for $132,000


A 1963 Pontiac ambulance that supposedly carried the body of President John F. Kennedy after his assassination was sold at a Scottsdale, Ariz., auction Saturday night for $132,000 (the price includes a $12,000 commission).

The price would have probably been much higher except that the ambulance's authenticity been cast into question before the sale, said McKeel Hagerty, president of collector car insurer Hagerty Insurance.

Some experts and bloggers had cast doubts on the authenticity of the vehicle and whether it had actually ever carried Kennedy's body.

"If it were absolutely without a doubt, they probably would have paid several hundred thousand more to have it," he said.

Auction house Barrett-Jackson of Arizona said it was able to prove, to its complete satisfaction, that the vehicle actually was an authentic 1963 Bonneville ambulance that had been used by the Navy. But whether it had ever actually carried Kennedy's body may never be completely proven.

"Based on all research and our conversations with experts around the country, we do not believe there is a person alive who can answer this question with certainty," Barrett-Jackson said in a statement issued Friday, the day before the auction.

Barrett-Jackson said it had "fielded dozens of inquiries from around the country and reviewed countless documents submitted by interested parties" since announcing that it planned to sell the ambulance.

Details of the controversy surrounding the ambulance were reported Thursday by the automotive blog under the headline "The JFK ambulance is a fake."

In December, shortly after Barrett-Jackson announced it would sell the car, some antique ambulance buffs began posting on the website "Friends of the Professional Car Society" noting that the Kennedy ambulance had supposedly been destroyed in the 1980s at the request of the Kennedy family. "Professional car" is a term for passenger car-based ambulances, hearses, livery cars and the like.

Some experts even provided documentation, including photographs of the ambulance being flattened in a crushing machine, according to

Barrett-Jackson also showed one of the photographs in a presentation just before the auction. The image showed a car just like the one auctioned being flattened in the jaws of crushing machine.

Barrett-Jackson even admits that the smashed ambulance, and not the one sold at auction, may have actually carried the president's remains.

On the other hand, the one on the auction stand may have, the auction house said.

"For example, there are credible reports that indicate there were two 1963 Pontiac Bonneville ambulances involved in the events of the night of Nov. 23, 1963," Barrett-Jackson said in its statement, "with one actually carrying President Kennedy's casket and family members and the other acting as a diversion."

Barrett-Jackson cited letters and other documentary evidence provided by the ambulance's owner, Dr. John Jensen, a Kansas City anesthesiologist, as providing sufficient evidence that it could, in fact, have been the ambulance that carried the presidents dead body away from Andrews Air Force Base in 1963.

Some argued that the one for sale by Dr. Jensen is just a movie prop. Jensen is said to have purchased the ambulance for an undisclosed amount out of a Kansas City junkyard.

Ray Wert, the editor of, said his site stands by the assertion that the ambulance is not what its owner purported it to be, but that he could still understand someone bidding for it.

"If you're a speculator, I can see going for it just in case," he said.

Addison Brown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, was the successful bidder. Brown, an avid car collector with her husband, Walt, said she is convinced the ambulance is as advertised and feels fortunate to own "a piece of history."

"(There is) absolutely no doubt in my mind," she told a throng of reporters following the sale on Saturday. "If they couldn't find a flaw, nobody will."

She said she plans to keep the vehicle in her collection for now and will see if the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is interested in the ambulance.

"It belongs somewhere people can see it and experience it," she said.

Sources:; Reuters

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Auction Company: JFK Ambulance ‘Shrouded In Mystery’

by JONATHAN WELSH / Wall Street Journal Blogs

The Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. released a statement yesterday that it cannot say for sure whether the 1963 Pontiac ambulance it plans to sell today at no reserve is actually the one that carried President John F. Kennedy’s body after his assassination.

The company, which has described the car as having met Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base and taken JFK’s flag-draped casket to Bethesda Naval Hospital and later to the Capitol. Reports based on research by automotive historians have indicated the car that carried Kennedy’s body was destroyed in the mid-1980s and the one for sale this weekend is a replica.

Barrett-Jackson acknowledges the theory that the car for sale isn’t authentic, and even mentions the existence of photographs that supposedly confirm the actual JFK ambulance’s destruction. Yet its officials say there are also people who believe there isn’t enough evidence to confirm that the car in the photos was the real JFK car. The company concludes that like certain other details of the Kennedy assassination, “the particular details surrounding the history of this ambulance will remain shrouded in mystery for years to come.”

The following is the complete statement released by Barrett-Jackson yesterday:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jan. 21, 2011 – Executives with Barrett-Jackson released a statement today about the 1963 Pontiac ambulance (Lot # 1277) to be sold at No Reserve on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. The car is part of the 40th Annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction from Jan. 17-23, at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

“The sale of this vehicle has received media attention from around the world. It has also generated considerable dialogue among and interest from Kennedy historians and even enthusiasts dedicated to the preservation and study of historical ambulances.

As you know, we work diligently to verify to the best of our ability the representations of consignors on every vehicle we offer for sale. In the case of this vehicle, we applied a heightened level of scrutiny because of its historical significance.

The tragic events of November 1963 surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are some of the most significant in our nation’s history. We are respectful of this fact and are presenting this car for sale with that in mind.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the history of this car at the auction site, in the media, and on various discussion boards on the Internet. Some of that discussion has been very useful in helping both us and the consignor clarify the description of the car. For example, there has been conflicting information about whether the ambulance took the President’s casket and family members from Andrews Air Force Base to Bethesda Naval Hospital and then to the U.S. Capitol building or to the White House. Different versions of these events were even recorded in multiple Associated Press stories in November 1963.

As an auction company, we do not hold ourselves out to be historians, and certainly not experts in the particular history surrounding the unfortunate events of November 1963. There are many people who have dedicated their professional lives to studying the events of this period, and even in that context there remains a great deal of disagreement about many key facts.

As with many other facts related to this topic, the particular details surrounding the history of this ambulance will remain shrouded in mystery for years to come.

For example, there are credible reports that indicate there were two 1963 Pontiac Bonneville ambulances involved in the events of the night of Nov. 23, 1963, with one actually carrying President Kennedy’s casket and family members and the other acting as a diversion.

There is documentation—available for you to review here today—that directly ties the Naval Registration number of the vehicle used to transport President Kennedy’s remains to the physical identification numbers that are stamped in multiple places on the vehicle consigned to our auction.

There are also credible reports—and even photos—that suggest a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance involved in the situation was ordered to be destroyed in the mid-1980s. Some believe this was the original 'JFK Ambulance' while others believe there is not enough proof to link the particular vehicle that was crushed with the one that actually carried the President’s casket.

Since this vehicle was consigned to our auction, we have fielded dozens of inquiries from around the country and reviewed countless documents submitted by interested parties, including our consignor.

Despite all our diligence on this issue, we are unable to either confirm or refute with certainty whether the vehicle offered for sale at auction tomorrow was in fact the vehicle that transported President Kennedy’s casket and his family members. Based on all research and our conversations with experts around the country, we do not believe there is a person alive who can answer this question with certainty.

What we can tell you today is that Barrett-Jackson’s team has physically examined this particular vehicle in great detail. We have confirmed that the historical documentation provided by the consignor matches the results of our physical inspection. For example, we were able to locate and confirm that the engine block does have an engine serial number matching the VIN. We have examined each location of tags and stampings on the vehicle and have compared our findings to the consignor’s documentation. We even located the 'hidden VIN' on the vehicle chassis, and confirmed it matched the documentation as well.

These various physical inspections have been performed not just by Barrett-Jackson’s own collector car experts, but also by third-party automotive experts and even members of federal law enforcement.

There will always be a great deal of discussion and speculation around this vehicle and the events surrounding this important time in our nation’s history. We will offer the vehicle for sale tomorrow and invite interested parties to bid with all of this in mind, and based on their own research and examination of the car.”

Sources: Wall Street Journal; Barrett-Jackson

Friday, January 21, 2011

The JFK Ambulance is a Fake


Fig.1. Ambulance up for auction. (Barrett-Jackson)

This Saturday's auction of the ambulance that carried President John F. Kennedy's body has garnered worldwide attention. The only problem? It's a near-perfect fake. Here's how a group of historians discovered the truth about what happened to the real ambulance.

In a probe with as many twists as one might expect from a JFK assassination artifact, the history buffs of the Professional Car Society were able to not only poke holes in the documentation provided by the seller of the '63 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance, but produce photographic proof that the real vehicle ceased to exist in 1986. After weeks of its own research, and its original touting of the ambulance's history, we're now told that Barrett-Jackson will hold a press conference Friday to reveal the findings we lay out below.

Touted since late last year by the auction company, the slate gray JFK ambulance received hundreds of profiles — from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, almost every major news outlet ran a story about this Saturday's auction.

Fig.2. The ambulance at Andrews Air Force Base on November 22, 1963.

And why not? It's a compelling vehicular tale to tell. When Jacqueline Kennedy returned to Washington with the president's body on Nov. 22, 1963, the Secret Service ordered his remains to be transported to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center for an autopsy. Awaiting the Kennedys at Andrews Air Force Base was a slate gray ambulance, tagged "U S Navy 94-49196," visible in TV footage showing the arrival of the president's casket.

Barrett-Jackson announced in December that it would offer the JFK ambulance for sale, saying that it had sat in government storage until it was auctioned for surplus. Auction house president Steve Davis touted its historical value and provenance, with estimates from some that the vehicle could easily fetch more than $1 million. "No one had ever connected the dots, the builder, the manufacturer, the navy and their documentation," Davis told a Phoenix TV station. "There was reports that car had been crushed, that the Kennedys okay'd it to be crushed, that it didn't exist… well, those things have been proven wrong."

The ambulance's appearance instantly raised doubts among the members of the Professional Car Society, in part because they had been through a similar case before. A decade ago, a California collector had claimed to have owned the same ambulance, painted slate gray with the same U.S. Navy numbers, but had later dropped his claims. The owner of the Barrett-Jackson ambulance, John Jensen, told several outlets that he had bought it from a California collector within the past couple of years.

After some emails from Professional Car Society members, Davis replied to the forum earlier this month that the seller had been able to use the Freedom of Information Act to prove that his ambulance was the same vehicle that hauled President Kennedy's body:

“Barrett-Jackson has in its possession copies, supplied at our request by the consignor, of recently uncovered documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of the Navy/Surgeon General, as well as Superior Coach Corporation, that for the first time, ties the Navy registration number and the VIN number of the 1963 Pontiac Bonneville chassis together.

“Barrett-Jackson was previously offered this ambulance for auction, by a different owner, but we refused to accept it, based on the fact that there was no VIN documentation, or provenance, that linked this specific ambulance to the Kennedy ambulance.

“Subsequently the new, and current owner, through an extensive investigation, was able to uncover documents, that, as I stated, for the first time, tie the VIN, and Naval registration numbers together.

“Documents show, Superior Coach Corporation, in response to a investigation by the Navy, confirmed the Navy registration number, 94-49196, as well as the Navy contract number, DA-20-113-AMC-1236-X, and the serial (VIN) number, 863P198767, of the ambulance that transported JFK, his wife, and brother from Andrews Air Force Base.”

While additional photos showing matching serial numbers were enough for some of the doubters, it didn't satisfy Dan Brintlinger, who had a 22-year old piece of evidence to the contrary.

In 1988, Brintlinger had written his congressman, Rep. Bob Michel, to ask what had happened to the Pontiac hearse. Michel forwarded a response from the U.S. Navy, which said that at the Kennedys' family request, the hearse had been donated to the Kennedy presidential library in 1980 and was later destroyed.

Fig.3. Department of Navy letter to Rep. Robert H. Michel.

As Brintlinger was raising his doubts, questions about the documentation also began to arise, this time from a different source. Historian Paul Hoch, a University of California-Berkley professor and one of the foremost experts on the Kennedy assassination, wrote Barrett-Jackson to question two of the letters the auction house had posted from the FOIA file on the ambulance. The letters were address to Surgeon General of the Navy Adm. Bart Hogan, and were dated Dec. 10, 1963.

The problem? Hogan retired from the Navy in 1961, and was head of the American Psychiatric Association at the time of the Kennedy assassination.

On Jan. 11, Barrett-Jackson president Davis replied to Hoch and the Professional Car Society forum again, offering an update on the auction house's investigation. While saying that Barrett-Jackson "is not the entity making the representations as to the history or particular provenance of this car," Davis did say an inspection showed the serial numbers on the Bonneville's parts matched those in the documents.

“Another factor that has played into our analysis here is the credibility of the consignor of this vehicle. He is a physician and an avid collector, and has gone to extraordinary lengths to complete his own diligence in researching the history of the vehicle. He has also been exceptionally cooperative and responsive as we have addressed various questions with him throughout this process.”

At that point, the questions stood in stalemate, with the auction house holding one set of documents and the auto historians holding evidence that suggested the original JFK ambulance was destroyed, but no proof that it actually happened.

Fig.4. Lettering on the original ambulance door.

Fig.5. Lettering on the auction ambulance door.

But the longer they looked, the more questions the Professional Car Society found. The JFK ambulance was described in some cases as "unrestored," yet the lettering on the sides and rear did not match that of the ambulance shown in the 1963 films at Andrews Air Force Base; the Barrett-Jackson car had periods between the "U" and "S" where the original did not.

On Tuesday, PCS director Steve Lichtman got the proof the auto society had sought: On June 26, 1986, the hearse had been crushed in a Boston junkyard, under witness from the John F. Kennedy Library.

Fig.6. Original ambulance at a Boston junkyard in 1986 prior to being crushed.

After sending the photos to Barrett-Jackson, Davis sent a new message to the forum, announcing the auction house would hold a briefing Friday to announce what it's found out so far about the vehicle:

Fig.7. Original ambulance being crushed at a Boston junkyard in 1986.

It's important to understand that Barrett-Jackson is not affirmatively making any representations as to the history or particular provenance of this car, and we will be clear about all of these facts with the bidders who register at auction to participate in the sale of this vehicle. What we are trying to do is uphold the high standard we've set for ourselves in following up on legitimate inquiries and questions related to a vehicle as important as the Kennedy ambulance.

A spokeswoman for Barrett-Jackson confirmed the company would hold an event Friday, but did not provide full details of what the auction house would say. Based on the dogged work of the Professional Car Society, there's one less mystery surrounding the Kennedy assassination. (H/T to Drujon!) [END]


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brother sues over Oswald's coffin

United Press International

Lee Harvey Oswald's brother says the Texas funeral director who sold Oswald's original coffin at auction was not the legal owner.

Robert Oswald filed a lawsuit Friday in Tarrant County against Baumgardner Funeral Home in Fort Worth, WFAA-TV reported. Oswald said in legal papers he paid for the coffin in 1963 when his brother was shot and killed two days after he assassinated President John F. Kennedy and is the legal owner.

Oswald's body was exhumed in 1981 in an effort to debunk some of the conspiracy theories around the assassination.

Allen Baumgardner kept the coffin, a plain pine box, and Oswald was re-interred in a new coffin. He made $160,000 from the sale of the old coffin, Oswald's and his mother's death certificates, and the instruments and table used for Oswald's embalming.

Robert Oswald believed Baumgardner destroyed the original coffin, his lawyer, Matthew Anderson, says. If he gains possession of it, that is what he plans to do.

"Mr. Oswald felt like it was a breach of that relationship and breach of trust to profit from those items against his wishes and basically sell them to the highest bidder," Anderson told the TV station.

Source: UPI

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dallas to appeal dismissal of charge against Dealey Plaza vendor

by RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News

Almost as doggedly as Robert Groden has pursued his theory that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy and cover-up, the city of Dallas is pursuing him.

Dallas prosecutors want to stop Groden from selling his books and magazines about the murder at Dealey Plaza and fined for violating an ordinance that prohibits the sale of merchandise in city parks.

After a municipal judge dismissed the charge against Groden last month, the city filed notice Wednesday of its plans to appeal the case and try to have it sent back for trial.

The city argues that Judge Carrie Chavez incorrectly ruled she did not have jurisdiction in the case and that the city should have charged Groden under a separate ordinance.

"[N]either the defendant nor the court has a right to choose the offense for which the defendant is to be charged. In fact, the 'separation of powers' doctrine protects that the prosecutor's discretion to choose the offense to be prosecuted from usurpation by the trial court," assistant city attorney Frederick Williams wrote in a strongly worded motion.

Groden's attorney, Bradley Kizzia, said the city's interest in pursuing Groden isn't about one man, but about removing all pamphleteers, authors and others who deal in Kennedy's murder from Dealey Plaza.

"It appears to me since Robert Groden is a noted author and widely recognized as very knowledgeable about the JFK assassination, they have decided to make an example of him," Kizzia said.

Groden is well-known among those interested in the assassination, and he even consulted with director Oliver Stone on the 1991 film JFK.

Until his arrest in June, Groden had spent 15 years selling books and magazines in the plaza, Kizzia said.

Now the city is pursuing him for not having a permit to sell merchandise in a city park.

"They say the reason they're doing it is he doesn't have a permit. There is not a process for getting a permit," Kizzia said.

The city attorney's office did not comment on the case.

Meanwhile, Groden has sued the city, alleging that it is violating his civil rights.

Source: Dallas Morning News