Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Murray J. Jackson, former Dallas police dispatcher dies at 77


The former Dallas police radio dispatcher who handled the police emergency in the wake of the Kennedy assassination has died at the age of 77 in Hamilton, Texas.

Murray James Jackson was a warm a fun-loving soul who will be remembered by friends and family for his great sense of humor and helpful attitude.

He was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on September 24, 1934 to Murray Bernard and Lura Fern Jackson. In 1943, they moved to Dallas, Texas, where Murray spent most of his childhood. He attended Sunset High School and in 1952 as a senior got a part-time job working at a Mobil service station at Hampton and Fort Worth Avenue. It was there that he met many Dallas police officers who would occasionally come in, use the restroom, drink a Coke, and take a break.

One of those officers was J.D. Tippit, whom Jackson grew to admire. “I wanted to be just like him,” Jackson once said. “He impressed me quite a bit.”

In 1957, Jackson was drafted into the U.S. Army but was released a year later on a hardship discharge. It was then that he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a Dallas police officer.

He graduated from the police academy in June of 1958. After working late nights and evenings for nearly three years he was partnered with the man who inspired him – J.D. Tippit. They worked together until early 1963 when Murray took a position in the department as a radio dispatcher.

On November 22, 1963, Jackson sent his former partner and personal friend into the central Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Thirty minutes later, Tippit was shot to death at Tenth and Patton after stopping Lee Harvey Oswald. It was a tough blow for Jackson who never really came to terms with the loss.

Jackson retired from the police department in November, 1994, and moved to Hamilton, Texas, with his wife Mary Jo to be close to her mother and father. They opened an antique store just off the town square which they operated for many years.

Those who knew Murray knew him as a gentle man who forever enjoyed telling jokes and making people laugh. He had an intense love and commitment to his family and was a devoted husband to Mary, and a loving and caring father to Mary’s children.

He was also open to discussing one of the most intense and tragic moments of his life, the assassination of President Kennedy and murder of his friend and fellow officer, J.D. Tippit.

I had the good fortune to sit and talk with Murray for many hours in 1985 and 1999, and found him candid, funny, serious, and knowledgeable. On more than one occasion, he went out of his way to help answer questions and unravel some of the mysteries and confusion that followed in the aftermath of the assassination. For that, we are forever grateful.

Murray Jackson died on March 16, 2012, in Hamilton, Texas, at the age of 77.

He is survived by his wife Mary Jo; daughter, Melinda Jo Cohen of Hamilton; son Richard Eddie Blackmon of Hamilton; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He will be missed. [END]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

National Archives to Keep JFK Secrets until 2017

The National Archives (NARA) today turned down the request of a Washington non-profit public interest group to declassify secret records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in time for the 50th anniversary of that tragic event in 2013.

The request for release of the secret documents was made by the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), a Washington, D.C. non-profit public interest group in a letter signed by several of its board members and attorneys Mark Zaid, Charles Sanders and Prof G Robert Blakey, who served as the chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

The letter made the point that the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in 2013 will result in widespread discussion and news coverage, and that government documents related to the assassination should be made public in order for a fully informed discussion.

Here is the complete text of the response from the National Archives in a letter from NARA General Counsel Gary M. Stern to Assassination Archives and Research Center President Jim Lesar:

“I write in response to the letter of January 20, 2012, from you and five colleagues to David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, requesting that the National Archives and Records Administration review the remaining classified documents that were ‘postponed’ from public disclosure in accordance with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination in November 2013.

“We share your passion and commitment to providing access to JFK assassination records as quickly as possible. As your letter recounts, the JFK Act established a rigorous process for declassification review and release that was administered by the Assassination Records Review Board until 1998. For any assassination records that were not released by the ARRB, subsequent release could be postponed until a date certain not to exceed 25 years from the enactment of the JFK Act, i.e., no later than 2017.

“The JFK Act Collection consists of a total of approximately 5 million pages, and less than 1% of the documents in the Collection are ‘postponed in full’ until 2017. I note that your letter states that in 2010, Assistant Archivist ‘Michael Kurtz revealed that the CIA continues to withhold approximately 50,000 pages of JFK assassination-related records.’ I would like to clarify that NARA has never counted, and thus does not know, the actual number of pages that are postponed in full. Dr. Kurtz accurately stated that ‘less than one percent’ of the total volume of assassination records was still being withheld; he also provided our rough estimate that the collection totals approximately five million pages. Thus, it appears that the 50,000 page number in your letter may have been derived by incorrectly calculating a full one percent of five million pages. All we do know is that the CIA withheld in full a total of 1,171 documents as national security classified (there is a small number of other agency documents also postponed in full, principally for law enforcement).

“Your letter asks NARA to submit these remaining 1,171 documents ‘currently withheld by the CIA’ for declassification review as part of the National Declassification Center's (NDC) project to complete the declassification of the ‘400 million page backlog’ identified in the President's December 29, 2009, Memorandum Implementing Executive Order 13526, by December 31, 2013. We recognize that, in a 2010 public forum. Dr. Kurtz stated that the postponed JFK assassination records would be included as part of the NDC project. However, as we have tried to explain before. Dr. Kurtz misspoke. Rather, because the postponed JFK assassination records have already been subject to a full and complete government-wide declassification review, they are not part of the 400 million page backlog of records that have yet to receive a final review.

“Because of the mandated December 31, 2013 deadline for our review and processing of the extremely large set of backlogged records, the NDC must target its efforts exclusively on records contained within that backlog. In addition, because we are limited in the resources we can assign to these special reviews, we try to balance historical impact, public interest, and extent of other government agency involvement in order to manage government-wide declassification resource constraints as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“As you know, the JFK Act authorized unprecedented powers for the ARRB, including the ability to overturn an agency decision on declassification, with the President as the only appeal authority. Although agencies did appeal ARRB decisions, President Clinton did not overturn any access determinations on appeal. The power wielded by the ARRB meant that more records were declassified and made available under the JFK Act than would have been released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or any currently applicable review provision of the prior or current Executive Order on Classified National Security Information.

“As previously mentioned, the 1,171 remaining postponed documents will be released in 2017, unless the President personally certifies on a document by document basis that continued postponement is necessary and that the harm from disclosure is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Moreover, as you point out, the JFK Act clearly intended for periodic releases prior to the 2017 date. To date all of the periodic release dates have been met, including in 2006, when the CIA made preemptory releases of all documents that were postponed from release until 2010. Thus, the only documents in the Collection that are still withheld in full for classification reasons are the 1,171 CIA documents that the ARRB agreed should not be released until 2017.

“We recognize that the remaining records are of high public interest and historical value, and we appreciate your stated desire not to have to wait five more years to obtain access to these records. Given this public interest, we have been consulting with the CIA to see if it would be possible to review and release any of these remaining documents in time for the 50"^ anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination in 2013. Although the CIA shares NARA's interest in wanting to be responsive to your request, they have concluded there are substantial logistical requirements that must take place prior to the release of these remaining records and there is simply not sufficient time or resources to complete these tasks prior to 2017. Accordingly, we will not be able to accommodate your request.

“Thank you for your interest in this matter. Please share this letter with the co-signatories to your letter, and let me know if you have any questions.” [END]