The JFK Assassination


An official portrait of JFK.
An official portrait of John F. Kennedy from a memorial folio (Stanley Marcus Collection, used with permission of DeGolyer Library, SMU).

The World Responds

JFK's assassination changed the nation, and nowhere was this felt more acutely than at the epicenter of the tragedy. In 1963, Dallas was a city led by right-wing extremists and Kennedy haters, says Dallas historian Darwin Payne, SMU professor emeritus of communications, who as a young newspaper reporter covered the assassination. This climate of hatred caused many to blame the entire city for the President's death.

However, out of tragedy rose a more moderate city leadership, including the voice of retail magnate Stanley Marcus. Documents chronicling this painful time are archived in SMU's libraries, including the hate mail sent to former mayors Earle Cabell and J. Erik Jonsson, as well as that sent to Marcus at Neiman Marcus' flagship store in downtown Dallas.

The collections may be viewed by appointment. Contact SMU's Office of News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

Letters from the collection of Earle Cabell, 1963 mayor, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University:

Los Angeles, California: "You've taught us to loathe the lowly ignorance of your citizens -- to loathe your lack of national respect -- & to loathe your complete absence of pride for your own country." High-resolution JPG of partial letter | Text of letter

London, England: "This whole Scandal is like turning over a rock, which your City represents, and to see all crawling lice beneath it." High-resolution JPG

A junior-high social studies class from Kenmore, NY: "We hope you will have faith in your future and not let this incident destroy your progress." High-resolution JPGs: Letter | Signatures

Waco, Texas: "It has been very clear, that the city of Dallas is not so much interested in its own intrinsic fault ... as it is in leading others to believe it was not at fault at all." High-resolution JPG

Kenton, Ohio: "It is not right that all Dallas should take all the blame for the President's death. Enclosed is a poem (if you can call it that), it expresses of what I'd like to think all America should think and feel." High-resolution JPG of partial letter | Text of poem

Little Rock, Arkansas: "We have appreciated very much your leadership in the midst of this great tragedy. ... [I]f we remain steadfast in our thoughts and our ideals, if we keep busy with our families and business responsibilities, we will emerge more prosperous, more self confident and with greater character than we otherwise could ever have achieved." High-resolution JPG of letter | Text of attachment

Huntington Park, California: "Of the thousands of ridiculous actions riding the wave-crest of national hysteria, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the inclination to make the City of Dallas Texas a shameful scapegoat for this historical incident, certainly hits an all-time high in zany thinking, but perhaps a retelling of an ancient Islamic Fable may be the key to help us regain our senses." High-resolution JPG of letter | Text of attachment

Seeds of Conspiracy

For many, JFK's death and the events surrounding it remain shrouded in mystery. The search for meaning behind the assassination has led to fierce debate and unnumbered rumors and theories concerning the involvement or motives of countless individuals, including many Dallas officials. The Cabell Collection houses former Dallas mayor and Congressman Earle Cabell's own official responses to reports on the assassination, as well as letters documenting the private speculation of people from around the world.

Documents from the Earle Cabell Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU:

Cabell's official response to the Manchester report concerning the city's handling of JFK's return to Washington: Text

Letter to Cabell from National Enquirer editor Tom Collins concerning the tabloid's take on the report: High-resolution JPG

Letter to Cabell from Lee Oswald's mother, Marguerite: "...[T]here is no doubt in my mind that the judgment as brought in by the seven [Warren] Commission members -- "lone assassin" -- will be overruled": High-resolution JPG

Coral Gables, Florida: Letter to Cabell concerning Lyndon Johnson's position in the motorcade: High-resolution JPG

Port Clyde, Maine: "God killed JFK...." High-resolution JPGs: Page 1 | Page 2