History In The Headlines

Beyond Dallas: The Assassination’s Key Players After Nov. 22, 1963

By Christopher Klein
Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, find out what happened in the days, weeks and years after November 22, 1963, to eight figures whose lives became entwined with the events in Dealey Plaza.

1. Clint Hill

Dallas Morning News

Dallas Morning News

When the Secret Service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy heard the shots ring out in Dealey Plaza, he rushed from the left running board of the trailing car and dove onto the trunk of the presidential limousine and shoved scrambling Jackie Kennedy back inside the accelerating car. Haunted by guilt for not saving the president, Hill went into seclusion, plummeted into a deep depression and even contemplated suicide in the years after the assassination. He remained silent until an emotional 1975 interview on the CBS news program “60 Minutes” in which he broke down on camera. The now 81-year-old Hill, following up on his 2012 book “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” recently released his memoir of the events in Dallas, “Five Days in November.”

2. Marina Oswald

Marina Oswald, 1977 (Credit: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Marina Oswald, 1977 (Credit: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Hours after Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, the Russian-born widow of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald buried her husband in a Fort Worth, Texas, cemetery. Testifying through an interpreter, Marina Oswald was the first witness heard by the Warren Commission in February 1964. Only 18 months after the assassination, she remarried and, in spite of a constant torrent of death threats and hate mail, continued to live in the Dallas suburbs and eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Now 72, the reclusive Marina Porter initially told the press she believed Oswald was involved in the shooting, but by the 1980s she began to change her view. “He definitely did not fire the shots,” she said of her first husband in a 1993 interview with NBC.

3. Abraham Zapruder

Abraham Zapruder (right) during an interviews with WFAA reporter Jay Watson on November 22, 1963.

Abraham Zapruder (right) during an interviews with WFAA reporter Jay Watson on November 22, 1963.

From his vantage overlooking Dealey Plaza, the women’s clothing company owner pointed his Bell & Howell 8mm camera at the presidential motorcade and filmed the most famous home movie in American history. The day after the assassination, the 58-year-old Russian immigrant sold all rights to the film to Life magazine for $150,000 with the stipulation that frame 313, which showed the fatal shot, be held back. Zapruder donated $25,000 from the sale to the widow of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit, who was killed by Oswald following the assassination. Zapruder was so traumatized by the events of November 22, 1963, that he never again picked up a movie camera. He died in 1970.

4. Dr. Robert N. McClelland

UPI/Getty Images

UPI/Getty Images

The assistant professor of surgery at Parkland Hospital was showing a training video to his students on November 22, 1963, when he was suddenly summoned to Trauma Room One. Inside an operating room packed with doctors, nurses and FBI and Secret Service agents, the surgeon assisted in a tracheotomy in the desperate, unsuccessful attempt to save the president’s life. Two days later, McClelland was called into surgery again—this time to operate on Oswald after he was shot by Ruby. (Years later, he also performed Zapruder’s cancer surgery.) Now 84, McClelland believes that the hole he saw inn the back of Kennedy’s head was an exit wound, not an entrance wound as the Warren Commission asserted, and that there were at least two shooters in Dealey Plaza.

5. Jack Ruby

Bettman/Corbis

Bettman/Corbis

The Dallas nightclub owner who killed Lee Harvey Oswald on live television in the basement of Dallas police headquarters two days after the assassination was found guilty of murder on March 14, 1964, and sentenced to death. A few months later, Ruby insisted on taking a polygraph test before the Warren Commission in which he denied he was part of a conspiracy and had acted as a lone vigilante to save Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of a trial. Ruby’s attorneys successfully appealed his conviction on the grounds that he could not receive a fair trial in Dallas, but before a new trial could begin he died of a pulmonary embolism on January 3, 1967, at Parkland Hospital, the same hospital where Kennedy and Oswald had been pronounced dead.

6. Sarah T. Hughes
Sarah HughesAppointed by Kennedy in 1961 as a federal district judge, the first woman to hold such a position in Texas, Hughes was at the Dallas Trade Mart on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, awaiting the president’s arrival for a luncheon. When news of the assassination reached the Trade Mart, Hughes returned home where she received a call that Vice President Lyndon Johnson had personally summoned her to Love Field to administer to him the presidential oath of office. The judge was handed a copy of the oath and a Bible as she boarded Air Force One and became the only woman in American history to have sworn in a president. In 1970, Hughes presided over the three-judge federal panel that first heard the landmark Roe v. Wade case that disallowed many restrictions on abortion. She retired from the active federal bench in 1975 and died in 1985.

7. Earl Warren
A week after the assassination, Johnson personally recruited an extremely reluctant Warren to head the federal government’s investigation into the events in Dallas. The 14th chief justice of the United States continued to lead the high court for five years after presenting the controversial 889-page final commission report in 1964. Named chief justice in 1953 after serving as California governor for more than a decade, the Republican unexpectedly led a liberal majority that, through a series of landmark decisions expanded civil rights, individual liberties and the power of the federal government. Warren died in 1974 at the age of 83.

8. John Connally

John Connally, 1980 (Credit: Getty Images)

John Connally, 1980 (Credit: Getty Images)

The Texas governor was seriously wounded in his chest, wrist and thigh in the shooting but recovered and easily won re-election in 1964 and 1966. The conservative Democrat, who was rumored to be a possible vice-presidential candidate to standard-bearer Hubert Humphrey in 1968, was appointed treasury secretary by Richard Nixon in 1971 and officially switched party affiliations in 1973 after supporting Nixon’s re-election. After his 1975 acquittal for taking a $10,000 bribe for helping to win milk price support increases while treasury secretary, Connally was an early challenger to Ronald Reagan for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, but in spite of spending $11 million, he earned only a single delegate. The Texan’s business empire crumbled in the 1980s, and he filed for bankruptcy in 1987. He died in 1993 at the age of 76.

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Categories: John F. Kennedy, Kennedy Assassination