Smiling Sada Abe

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Another photo with more somber police

Behind the camera: Published in the Mainichi Newspaper
Where: Leaving the Takanawa Police stn in Tokyo
Photo Summary: Sada Abe with policemen after her arrest
Picture Taken: May 20, 1936
This image is in the public domain because of its age

In 1930s Japan a Japanese woman became infatuated with and strangled her lover to death. After his death, she cut off his penis and carried it around with her while being chased by the police. When news of the crime broke that a “sexually and criminally dangerous woman was on the loose,” the nation was gripped with what was called “Abe Sada panic.” On the run for a few days, she was caught and spent six years in prison. She later became a sensation in Japanese culture for many decades. At the time of her arrest police were struck with her calm demeanor.

Sada Abe’s life

Born in 1905 Sada Abe was the youngest child of four. An independent girl at a young age she was sexually assaulted and perhaps due to this assault became difficult for her ageing parents to control. Abe was always fascinated with the Geisha lifestyle and so her father sold her to a Geisha House although there is some debate on whether she wanted to go or not. Abe found living the life of a Geisha extremely frustrating and quickly fell out with the house and turned to prostitution. She spent years working in the brothels until becoming the mistress of Kichizo Ishida.

Kichizo Ishida

The two became incredibly infatuated with each other spending days in hotels with marathon sex sessions that didn’t stop even when maids cleaned the rooms. When Ishida would return to his wife Abe became incredibly jealous and flirted with the idea of murdering him. Buying a knife she even threatened him during the next visit to the hotel but Ishida thought she was just role-playing and didn’t take her seriously. While making love she tried to strangle him with a cord but he actually enjoyed the restriction of his breath and told her to continue which threw her off. Later in the night, he passed out and Abe wrapped the cord again around his throat and strangled his sleeping body to death. Using the knife she removed his genitals with a knife, using the blood from the wound she wrote “Sada and Kitchi together” on the sheets, and carved her name on his arm with a knife. Later when the police asked about why she took Ishida’s genitalia, Abe replied, “Because I couldn’t take his head or body with me. I wanted to take the part of him that brought back to me the most vivid memories.”

“Abe Sada panic” and arrest

Another photo with more somber police

When the body was discovered the police released a media alert that sparked a public panic over a crazed woman running around Japan chopping of genitalia. Police were swamped with sightings from around the country. After the murder, she drifted around Tokyo eventually ending up in a hotel in southern Tokyo. After a massage and beers at the Inn, she fell asleep.
Police who were visiting all hotels, trying to find her, became suspicious of the alias she used to sign in. After apologetically entering her hotel room Abe Sada supposedly told the police, “Don’t be so formal, You’re looking for Sada Abe, right? Well that’s me. I am Sada Abe.” The police didn’t actually believe her but were finally convinced when she displayed Ishida’s genitalia. While interrogating Abe officers were struck by Abe’s demeanour. When they asked why she had killed Ishida. “Immediately she became excited and her eyes sparkled in a strange way [and she said] ‘I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him…..’ William Johnston who wrote the book, Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan suggests that what made Abe so fascinating to the Japanese public was that “she had killed not out of jealousy but out of love.”

Later life

Abe was sentenced to six years in prison which she served and was released. She tried to live her life in obscurity but the nature of her crime brought her back into the limelight. She wrote a book about her life and there were many other unofficial bios published.
The Abe craze started a little cottage industry in Japan. The hotels they stayed at saw a huge jump in business as young couples wanted to stay in the same room. Shinagawaka, the Inn where she was arrested, kept the room in the same condition as when the police caught her. In addition to the books published there are even some movies about her life, including a number of A/V films or Porn Movies.

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By the Sword

Behind the camera: Yasushi Nagao
Where: Stage of Hibiya Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Photo Summary: Otoya Yamaguchi thrusting his sword into Socialist party leader, Inejiro Asanuma
Picture Taken: October 12, 1960

1960 saw great political turmoil in Japan as the ruling party, the LDP, tried to pass the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The Japan Socialist Party tried in vain to stop the bill’s passage in the Diet even physically preventing LDP members from entering the parliament chamber before being removed by police. Failing to stop the bill the Socialists and their supporters took to the streets in sometimes violent protests that even forced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to cancel a planned trip to the country. Hoping to capitalize on the anger that the bill was passed on June 19 Socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma planned an American style televised rally for the upcoming Lower-house election. It was at this rally that an ultra-nationalist member Otoya Yamaguchi rushed the stage and twice plunged a samurai blade into Asanuma’s stomach. The picture captured by Mainichi photographer Yasushi Nagao was published around the world and eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography the first time someone from Japan had won the award. With the award, Nagao was able to travel freely around the world, something that was difficult for Japanese citizens at the time. He died of natural causes on May 2, 2009.

Taking the photo

Yasushi Nagao was one of thirty-six photographers that worked for the daily Japanese newspaper, Mainichi. On that day he was assigned to cover the election debate at Hibiya Hall. Before he entered the Hall he slipped a twelve-exposure film pack into his 4×5 Speed Graphic camera. As Asanuma started his speech right-wing hecklers started throwing objects at the stage while shouting, “Shut up, Communist” and “Banzai the U.S.A.”
As police moved in to remove the hecklers most of the press covering the event followed them in hopes of getting some good crowd shots. Nagao chose to stay at the stage. The young Yamaguchi dressed in his high school uniform slipped past the police and ran onto the stage. Out of the corner of his eye saw Yamaguchi jump on stage and Nagao by instinct changed the focus from 10 to 15 feet. He initially thought that the boy “was carrying a brown stick to strike Asanuma.” Running full speed across the stage the young assassin slammed the blade deep in the belly of Asanuma, the impact forced the two to spin apart. Nagao had waited until this point as the impact had pushed Yamaguchi and Asanuma out from behind the podium. Nagao snapped the moment as Yamaguchi prepared to thrust his blade a second time into Asanuma’s belly. The photo was his last unexposed negative.
Realizing that he had a great image Nagao rushed his roll of film to the Mainichi building. By agreement, UPI had exclusive rights to all Mainichi news pictures and they radio-photoed Nagao’s image back to the States where it was published in numerous newspapers and magazines including the October 24, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine. The image won every photo award in America including the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1961.

The assassin

Colourized by Ömercolorize

17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi was a member of an ultra-right-wing nationalist group. His father, Shimpei Yamaguchi, was a colonel in the Japanese Self-Defense force. Even though Shimpei Yamaguchi was forced to resign his commission he defended his boy saying: “A rightist is better than a leftist.”. When Otoya was arrested police records record that he expressed regret that he was only able to kill Asanuma. He had planned to kill three people: Communist member Sanzo Nosaka, Japan Teachers’ Union Chairman Takeshi Kobayashi as well as Asanuma. The sword he used is called a wakizashi which is a small blade that the samurai used to wear. It was found by Otoya in the bottom of his father’s closet a week before the assassination.

On November 2nd, while in a juvenile detention center, Otoya used toothpaste to write a message on his wall: “Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!”. He then tore his bedsheet into strips which he used to make a rope to hang himself in a Japanese ritual called owabi. Owabi is a samurai tradition in which one commits suicide to apologize to those inconvenienced by Asanuma killing.

Inejiro Asanuma

The 225 lbs (102 kg) politician was the left-wing leader of the Japanese Socialist Party. He often enraged the Japanese conservatives by publicly supporting communist China. In 1959 he visited Red China and even went so far to say, “the United States is the common enemy of the Japanese and Chinese peoples.” To prevent the passage of the Japanese American mutual defense pact Asanuma organized large snake-dancing demonstrations that eventually prevented President Eisenhower from visiting the country. After his assassination, the Socialist party paraded his widow in hopes of generating sympathy votes from the Japanese public. Even with the support after Asanuma’s murder during the November 20, 1960 election the LDJ won with 296 seats compared to 145 seats of Socialist party down from 166 seats they held during the 1958 election.

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Assassination of Robert Kennedy

Behind the camera: Bill Eppridge and Boris Yaro took similiar photos
Where: Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles
Photo Summary: Robert F Kennedy after he is shot. Hotel busboy Juan Ramero was shaking his hand when he was shot and was the first to help him
Picture Taken: Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968

On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was attending a successful campaign in the California primary elections while seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He had just finished giving a speech to supporters in the Ambassador Hotel and was on his way to another part of the hotel. He was crushed by the adoring crowd and while he was shaking hands with busboy Juan Ramero, twenty-four-year-old assassin Sirhan Sirhan fired all the bullets from his gun at Kennedy. When the crowds cleared two photographers snapped the above images of the busboy trying to help Kennedy.

Robert F. Kennedy

In 1968 five years had gone by since Robert F. Kennedy’s brother then President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Since that time Robert F. Kennedy (also called Bobby) had been elected United States Senator seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The campaign had been going well and following the California primary, Kennedy was in second place with 393 delegates compared to vice president Hubert Humphrey’s 561. After giving a speech at the Ambassador Hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom, in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angles, he was walking through the kitchen when the assassin struck.
Sirhan Sirhan managed to hit Bobby three times with the bullets fired from his gun. One entered his brain behind his right ear while the two others went in through the right armpit exiting from his chest and back of the neck. Soon after the picture was taken he was rushed to the Central Receiving Hospital in Los Angles about a mile away. Before he was lifted onto a stroller he was still conscious and was able to speak a few words. After being stabilized he was transferred to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for surgery. The operation went through the night starting at 3:12 a.m. and lasting to 7:02 a.m. Despite the surgery, Kennedy died several hours later at 1:44 a.m. PDT on June 6, nearly 26 hours after the shooting.

Sirhan Sirhan

The assassin was one Sirhan Sirhan a strongly anti-Israeli Palestine Christian immigrant. He had moved to America when he was 12 and had lived in New York and California. Sirhan had developed an obsession with killing Bobby Kennedy and after his arrest, his diary and writing showed that he had severe mental issues. He was convicted on April 17, 1969, and the judge sentenced him to death. However he was removed off death row after a landmark case in the California Supreme Court, California v. Anderson, invalidated all pending death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. He is still incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran. On February 10, 2016, at his 15th parole hearing, Sirhan was denied parole again.

Juan Ramero

Ramero was 17 in 1968 but he idolized Kennedy and was thrilled that Bobby was staying at the hotel he worked for. When he was a child in Mexico, Bobby was worshiped by his family because he was a Catholic and a family man, and his brother John Kennedy had spoken of Hispanics as hardworking and family-oriented at a time when Hispanics were seen as nothing more than menial workers to be ignored. The night before he had promised to do extra work to get a chance to take a room-service call from the Kennedy suite. The call came and he had a chance to meet him in person. But it wasn’t enough and when Kennedy passed through the kitchen Ramero pushed through the crowds to get another handshake.
While he was shaking Bobby’s hand he felt heat and saw Kennedy go down. Kneeling by his side he was captured in the photos above. When Ramero felt the back of Bobby’s head his hand came back covered in blood. Juan took his rosary beads and pushed them into Kennedy’s hands and as he knelt over him Ramero thought he heard Bobby. At the trial Ramero told the court that he saw the assassin:

I thought there was a person that couldn’t wait to shake his hand, and I thought I was going to be interested to watch it, and so I was watching it and I … seen him put his — he put his arm like that and he shot two shots and then I saw a gun and then I turned around and I seen he was right in front of him (the senator) and I leaned down and put my hand to the back of [Kennedy’s] head and tried to give him some, whatever I could, aid, some aid; that is about all I could do.

He an interview with TIME he remembers, “the doctors said it would have been impossible for him to speak, but with God as my witness, I swear Mr. Kennedy said either, ‘Is everybody O.K.?’ or ‘Everything’s going to be O.K.'”
After the pictures were released he became a celebrity with mail pouring in from all over the world. But feeling uneasy with all the attention and after Juan’s stepfather told him no honorable man profits from another man’s tragedy he left. He travelled from town to town until 1974 when he settled down with his wife Elda and the two started a family in San Jose. As of 1998 Juan still lives with Elda and their three daughters, one son and four grandchildren. He is still scared from that evening and doesn’t talk about the pictures with his family and rarely does interviews but hopes that he can honor Bobby Kennedy by living in his spirit, working hard, honoring his God, and taking care of his family while living a life of tolerance and compassion.

The Photographers

Boris Yaro

Boris Yaro's photo

Boris Yaro’s photo

Boris Yaro who was working for the LA Times was like Ramero a fan of the Kennedy clan he remembers that after hearing the shots:

Bobby put both arms up and began to bob and weave like a boxer. At one point he put his head down almost to his knees, but the man with the gun kept lunging and firing, wounding five other people.
I froze. “No,” I said to myself. “Not again. Not another Kennedy.”
During my professional career I have been instructed to not touch things, especially at a crime scene. But as I watched the shooter go for his revolver, I broke the rule, crouched under the swinging arms and grabbed the gun. I was shocked to feel that the grip of the gun was smooth and very warm. Then someone took the weapon from me. I turned to see who, but all I saw were business suits and tuxedos. I figured it was probably a cop and turned back to Bobby, who in the darkness was sinking to the floor.
Suddenly the area was lighted by a TV film camera and I started to make photos of Kennedy sprawled on the floor, a busboy near him.
My mind was shrieking, “No . . . no, this can’t be. I’m here to make a photo for my wall.”
Someone grabs my arm. It is a woman, and all I see is her face. Her mouth is making funny sounds. “Don’t take pictures,” she says. “I’m a photographer, and I’m not taking pictures!” She is pulling on my arm, trying to move the camera from my eye. I am shooting at a very slow shutter speed, and she has stopped me.
I pull my arm from her grasp and growl, “Goddamn it, lady. This is history!”

June 5, 1968 - Bill Eppridge - Then and now

In 2012 did a series of photos of photographers and their iconic pictures

Bill Eppridge

In his book A Time it Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties Eppridge remembers that he was assigned by LIFE to cover bobby’s 1968 campaign.

[The] senator came off the stage. The bodyguard said, ‘Senator this way,’ pointing to the door, and … Bob Kennedy said, ‘No, this way’ and turned and went to the right, to the kitchen and he had no protection in front of him.”
Then the shots rang out.
“I got through the curtain into the kitchen and I first heard two shots, and I turned to my left and there was the senator lying there. And at that point my profession changed. I became a historian,” Eppridge says.
What he saw was “almost like a crucifixion.” Eppridge says he took three frames of a white-shirted busboy holding Kennedy — the third one became the icon.

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Reagan Assassination Attempt

Behind the camera: Assembled media members and ABC cameraman Hank Brown
Where: In front of Washington (D.C.) Hilton Hotel located at 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, near the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues, a few blocks north of Dupont Circle
Photo Summary: The aftermath of John Hinckley’s assassination attempt
Picture Taken: March 30, 1981, 69 days into the United States Presidency of Ronald Reagan

Jerry get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs
-Regan to his secret service agent

Reagan’s shooter was a mentally ill John Hinckley Jr who had an obsession with actress Jodie Foster after seeing the film, Taxi Driver. He stalked her for a number of years before he decided that he needed to do something grand to get her attention. Hinckley decided to try and kill the president imitating Travis Bickle the lead character (played by Robert De Niro) of the movie Taxi Driver who also tried to kill a famous politician. On March 30, 1981, Hinkley ambushed the President who was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after delivering a luncheon address to AFL-CIO representatives. The attempt on Reagan’s life was caught on camera and is often used as one of the most famous pieces of footage of that era.

Video Breakdown

The footage starts with Aides to the President and then the President himself walking down to the Executive Limo parked outside the hotel. It seems like any other day and in the background, you can hear reporters about to ask questions. As the limo comes into the frame you can see a bald James Brady the President’s Press Secretary walk towards the cameraman. Just as Reagan reaches the Limo you hear loud pops, screams and then a commotion as Secret Service and Police wrestle Hinkley to the ground.
As the first shots ring out you can see secret service agent Tim McCarthy wearing a light blue suit go into an almost football stance as he tries to block the bullets from Hinkley’s gun. He succeeded in taking one of the bullets in his abdomen. Surgeons at George Washington University Hospital successfully removed the round from his stomach, and he fully recovered. He received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982 in recognition of his bravery.
As the street clears you can see wounded lying on the street. James Brady, who took the first bullet, is the closest lying face down and not moving. Shot in the forehead he would suffer brain damage and became permanently disabled. Farthest away from the camera is secret service agent Tim McCarthy and right next to the wounded Brady is District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delehanty who was shot in the back by the third of John Hinckley, Jr.’s six bullets. He would later recover from his wounds.
As the camera pans down to Brady you can see Hinkley’s gun a Rohm RG-14 .22 cal. revolver on the ground and later you hear police asking for a tissue to take the gun into evidence. Agents are screaming for a police car to take Hinkley away. Eventually, the car comes but the rear door of the squad car jams so then they have to take him to another police car further down the street. As they hustle Hinkley into the patrol car the ambulance pulls up to treat the wounded.

Mr. President, today we are all Republicans
-Head surgeon and liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano

Reagan Remembers

My speech at the Hilton Hotel was not riotously received – I think most of the audience were Democrats – but at least they gave me polite applause. After the speech, I left the hotel through a side entrance and passed a line of press photographers and TV cameras.
I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left – just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, “What the hell’s that?” Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When he landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelievable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. “Jerry,” I said, “get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs.”
“The White House,” Jerry told the driver, then scrambled off me and got on the jump seat and the car took off. I tried to sit up on the edge of the seat and was almost paralyzed by pain. As I was straightening up, I had to cough hard and saw that the palm of my hand was brimming with extremely red frothy blood. “You not only broke a rib, I think the rib punctured my lung,” I said.
Jerry looked at the bubbles in the frothy blood and told the driver to head for George Washington University Hospital instead of the White House. By then my handkerchief was sopped with blood and he handed me his. Suddenly, I realized I could barely breathe. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough air. I was frightened and started to panic a little. I just was not able to inhale enough air. We pulled up in front of the hospital emergency entrance and I was first out of the limo and into the emergency room. A nurse was coming to meet me and I told her I was having trouble breathing. Then all of a sudden my knees turned rubbery. The next thing I knew I was lying face up on a gurney and my brand-new pinstriped suit was being cut off me, never to be worn again.
The pain near my ribs was still excruciating, but what worried me most was that I still could not get enough air, even after the doctors placed a breathing tube in my throat. Every time I tried to inhale, I seemed to get less air. I remember looking up from the gurney, trying to focus my eyes on the square ceiling tiles, and praying. Then I guess I passed out for a few minutes. I was lying on the gurney only half-conscious when I realized that someone was holding my hand. It was a soft, feminine hand. I felt it come up and touch mine and then hold on tight to it. It gave me a wonderful feeling. Even now I find it difficult to explain how reassuring, how wonderful, it felt. It must have been the hand of a nurse kneeling very close to the gurney, but I couldn’t see her. I started asking, “Who’s holding my hand? Who’s holding my hand?” When I didn’t hear any response, I said, “Does Nancy know about us?” — Reagan autobiography

Regan again lost conscious and when he again woke up he saw his wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan. Still keeping his wits he jokingly explained, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (borrowing Jack Dempsey’s line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship).
Shortly before surgery to remove the bullet, which barely missed his heart, Reagan remarked to the surgical team, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” The head surgeon, liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano, replied, “Mr. President, today we are all Republicans.”
Reagan had been scheduled to visit Philadelphia on the day of the shooting. He told a nurse, “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” a reference to the W.C. Fields’s tagline (which was itself a reference to an old vaudeville joke among comedians: “I would rather be dead than play Philadelphia”).

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Martin Luther King Jr Killed

Behind the camera: James Louw
Where: Balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Photo Summary: A mortally wounded Martin Luther King Jr surrounded by friends and aides. Marrell Mccullough appears to be holding him in his arms
Picture Taken: Minutes after the bullet struck at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968

By all accounts, King was in a jovial mood that April 4 day. While standing on the balcony he joked with friends and colleagues while he waited for his jacket. At 6:01 a shot rang out, hitting King in the side of the face. Friends rushed to his side and desperately tried to stop the bleeding. Police soon appeared on the scene guns drawn asking where the shot came from. Those on the balcony pointed in the direction of an old run down hotel across the street. That moment was captured by photographer, James Louw, and now lives in infamy as King’s death shot.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement, a political activist, and a Southern Baptist minister. In 1964, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (for his work as a peacemaker, promoting nonviolence and equal treatment for different races). In 1977, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday, only the fourth Federal holiday to honor an individual (the other three being in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus). In 2004, King was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Considered by many as one of the greatest public speakers in U.S. history, Dr. King often called for personal responsibility in fostering world peace. King’s most influential and well-known public address is the “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Garbage Strike

In late March 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black garbage workers of AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment: for example, African American workers, paid $1.70 per hour, were not paid when sent home because of inclement weather (unlike white workers). The night before on April 3, Dr. King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple, delivering his famous I’ve been to the Mountaintop address. After the assassination, the city quickly, quietly, and on favorable terms settled the strike.

In High Spirits

This is Ralph, this is Ralph, don’t be afraid.
-Reverend Abernathy to King

The owner of the Lorraine Motel, Walter Bailey, where King was staying claimed that King was a frequent guest at the establishment and that Reverend Ralph Abernathy, told the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) under oath that he and Dr. King stayed in room 306 at the Lorraine so often that it was referred to as the “King-Abernathy suite.” Bailey also remembers that on that fateful day, April 4, 1968, King was especially happy and while he was getting ready was, “teasing and cutting up” those present. One of King’s best friends and number two man in the SCLC, Reverend Abernathy, remembers that around 1 that day he and King had fried catfish for lunch and then Abernathy had a nap waking around 4 p.m. to King on the phone asking him to come over to his Brother’s, who was travelling with them, room.
When Abernathy arrived King told him that dinner was set for 6 p.m. as they had been invited for prime rib roast and soul food such as chitterlings, greens, pig’s feet and blackeyed peas at the local Rev.
Samuel “Billy” Kyles house.

From right to left Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph David Abernaty posing for pictures on April 3, 1968. They are on the same Lorraine Motel balcony that Dr. King would be killed on the next day.

While the two got ready back in their room 306 Rev Kyles appeared and told them to get a move on or they would be late for the dinner. Dr. King had to assure Kyles that he had telephoned the preacher’s home and that Mrs. Kyles had said dinner was not until 6. “We are not going to mess up her program,” said Dr. King.
King and Kyles went to the balcony that overlooked the motel parking lot and swimming pool. There was a crowd of people present getting ready to go for dinner. King greeted the people below and from the second floor, Rev Kyles had a short conversation with the SCLC attorney Chauncey Eskridge who had been in Federal court most of the day trying to solve some legal problems with the strike protest.
Other SCLC members were in the courtyard including advance team members Rev. James Orange and James Bevel. They had been sent ahead of time to deal with a black militant group called, The Invaders. The Invaders were pushing for violence something King deplored. In fact, Orange had just arrived with Invader member, Marrell McCullough, who was, in fact, an undercover agent working as a mole in the Invader group.
King’s chauffeur, Solomon Jones, who had been beside King’s limo all day looked up and noticed that King didn’t have a jacket and called up that King should put on a jacket as it was getting cold. Witnesses recall that Dr. King smiled back at his driver and said, “Solomon, you really know how to take good care of me.” They were about to go when Abernathy decided to slip back into the hotel for some aftershave while King waited on the balcony chatting to members of his entourage below.

At 6:01 p.m., as Dr. King stood behind the iron balcony railing in front of room 306, the report of a high-powered rifle cracked the air. A slug tore into the right side of his face, violently throwing him backward.
At the mirror in room 306, Abernathy poured some cologne into his hands. As he lifted the lotion to his face, he heard what sounded like a “firecracker.” He jumped, looked out the door to the balcony and saw that Dr. King had fallen backward. Only his feet were visible, one foot protruding through the ironwork of the balcony railing. According to Abernathy, the bullet was so powerful it twisted Dr. King’s body so that he fell diagonally backward. As Abernathy rushed out to aid his dying friend, he heard the cries and groans of people in the courtyard below.
Just below the balcony, Jones recalled that Young and Bevel shoved him to the ground just after the firecracker sound. He looked up and saw Abernathy come out of the room and then realized that the prone Dr. King had been shot. Lee, who had been talking with Young and Bevel, took cover behind a car and then noticed Dr. King’s feet protruding through the balcony railing.
Memphis undercover policeman McCullough recalled that immediately before he heard the shot, he saw Dr. King alone on the balcony outside room 306, facing a row of dilapidated buildings on Mulberry Street. As he turned away from Dr. King and began to walk toward his car, McCullough, an Army veteran, heard an explosive sound, which he assumed was a gunshot. He looked back and saw Dr. King grasp his throat and fall backward. According to McCullough’s account, he bolted up the balcony steps as others in the courtyard hit the ground. When he got to Dr. King’s prone figure, the massive face wound was bleeding profusely and a sulphurous odor like gunpowder, perhaps Dr. King’s depilatory, permeated the air. McCullough took a towel from a housekeeping tray and tried to stem the flow of blood.
Eskridge had heard a “zing” and looked up toward the balcony. He saw that Dr. King was down, and as Abernathy walked out onto the balcony, Eskridge heard him cry out “Oh my God, Martin’s been shot.” A woman screamed.
Abernathy recalled that when he walked out on the balcony, he had to step over his mortally wounded friend.
…the bullet had entered his right cheek and I patted his left cheek, consoled him, and got his attention by saying, “This is Ralph, this is Ralph, don’t be afraid.”
Kyles, who had started to walk toward his car, ran back to room 306. Young leaped up the stairs from the courtyard to Dr. King, whom he found lying face up, rapidly losing blood from the wound. Young checked Dr. King’s pulse and, as Abernathy recalled, said, “Ralph, it’s all over.”
“Don’t say that, don’t say that,” Abernathy responded.

Kyles ran back to room 306 to call an ambulance but the switchboard operator, the motel owner’s wife, wasn’t at her desk. Kyles would later find out that she had gone out to the parking lot so that she could see Dr. King. When she saw what happened, she collapsed with a heart attack and would later pass away as a result.
Having no luck with the motel phones Kyles ran onto the balcony and noticed police in the courtyard screamed for them to call an ambulance on their radios. While waiting for it to come he took a spread from one of the motel beds and covered him from his neck down. He also took a crushed cigarette from his hand. Dr. King never smoked in public as he didn’t want the kids to see him smoking.
A King biographer, Taylor Branch, claims that King was still conscious while on the balcony and that his last words were to Ben Branch (no relation to Taylor Branch) a singer that was going to play that night: “Ben, make sure you play ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand,’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”
Rev Abernathy kneeling over his friend tried desperately to stop the bleeding. Around 5 mins after King had been shot an ambulance arrived and took him away to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.

Jesse Jackson is Born

People freaked out and did strange things
-Andrew Young

King’s wound produced a huge amount of blood and after the ambulance took away his body all that was left a huge pool of King’s blood. Ralph Abernathy in a state of shock grabbed a jar and started scraping up the blood, crying how it was King’s blood and precious, “This blood was shed for us.”
Jesse Jackson also still in shock had by this time made his way to the balcony from where he was hiding down by the pool. Andrew Young remembers seeing Jackson dip his hands in the huge pool of blood and after raising them to the sky wiped them on his shirt, “people freaked out and did strange things … it was_ it was_ I mean, what do you do in a moment like that”?
The main players in the SCLC quickly followed Kind to the hospital leaving Jesse Jackson behind in shock. However, it was the tragedy of King’s death that the star of Jesse Jackson was born. Media quickly swarmed the hotel where King had been shot and they quickly focused on the young SCLC member with King’s blood all over his shirt. With the rest of the SCLC off at the hospital Jesse became the media spokesman:

The black people’s leader, our Moses, the once in a 400 or 500-year leader has been taken from us by hatred and bitterness. Even as I stand at this hour, I_ I cannot even allow hate to enter my heart at this time, for it was sickness, not meanness, that killed him.
People were_ some were in pandemonium, some were in shock, some were crying, hollering, “Oh, God!” And I immediately started running upstairs to where he was and I caught his head and I tried to feel his head and I asked him, I said, “Dr. King, do you hear me? Dr. King, do you hear me?” And he didn’t say anything and I tried to hold his head. — Jesse Jackson

While the rest of SCLC was back at the motel trying to figure out the next step, Jesse Jackson quickly made his way back to Chicago where hours after King’s death he appeared on the Today show with his bloody shirt while a newly hired booking agent got him spots on other TV shows. Overnight Jesse Jackson became a nationally known figure of the civil rights movement.

Country in Mourning

The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 60 cities. Five days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the lost civil rights leader. A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral that same day. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was meeting with several advisers and cabinet officers on the Vietnam War in Camp David.

The Lone Gunman?

Ray was the killer but that he didn’t act alone
Conclusion of U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations

Two months after King’s death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder, confessing to the assassination on March 10, 1969 (though he recanted this confession three days later). Later, Ray would be sentenced to a 99-year prison term.
On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took a guilty plea to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. Ray fired Foreman as his attorney (from then on derisively calling him “Percy Fourflusher”) claiming that a man he met in Montreal, Canada with the alias “Raoul” was involved, as was his brother Johnny, but not himself, further asserting that although he didn’t “personally shoot Dr. King,” hinting at a conspiracy he may have been “partially responsible without knowing it”. He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.
There was much attention devoted to the identity of Raoul and the involvement of Ray’s brother, Jerry Ray. One book by William Bradford Huie, They Slew The Dreamer, labels Raoul as George Ben Edmondson. Edmondson was a convict who learned computer programming in a Jefferson City prison and escaped eventually making his way to Canada where he worked for the West German Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal. Nothing else was made of the connection and Edmondson was released and returned to Canada but the media attention by the time of his release had died out and nothing was followed up. Edmondson himself saw the allegation as ridiculous. Another theory offered by a 1977 New Times magazine article suggested that Jerry Ray (James’ brother) and “Raoul” were one and the same. State prosecutors in Memphis claimed to have investigated Raoul and did find the individual but insisted that he had nothing to do with the killing and was working on the day he was shot.
U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the Kennedy and King assassinations released a report in 1978 that Ray was the killer but that he didn’t act alone. They concluded that a group of white supremacists in St. Louis, reportedly with a $50,000 bounty on King’s head, might have been involved, too. The house committee’s full report is sealed until the year 2029.

On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison. More years were then added to his sentence for attempting to escape from the penitentiary. Ray died in prison on April 23, 1998, at the age of 70 from complications related to kidney disease, caused by hepatitis C probably contracted as a result of a blood transfusion given after a stabbing while at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It was also confirmed in the autopsy that he died of liver failure.

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Ruby Kills Oswald

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Behind the camera: Robert H. Jackson
Where: Basement of Dallas police headquarters in Dallas, America
Photo Summary: Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald while Oswald was handcuffed to Jim Leavelle
Picture Taken: 11:21 am CST Sunday, November 24, 1963

The Nation was still in shock from the assassination of President John F Kennedy when two days later on Sun, Nov 24, 1963, Oswald the prime suspect in the JFK murder was himself gunned down by Jack Ruby. The nation watched in horror as Ruby shot Oswald on live TV the first time a homicide was captured and publicly shown on live television.

Transferring Oswald

JFK was assassinated on the afternoon of Nov 22, 1963. About an hour later Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested on suspicion of murdering both President Kennedy and Officer Tippit (Witnesses saw Oswald shoot Tippit as he stopped his squad car to question Oswald). By that evening he had been arraigned for both murders. Since the assassination of JFK hundred of reporters had been descending on Dallas and when word broke out about Oswald’s arrest the reporters headed towards police headquarters. District Attorney Henry M. Wade told the Warren Commission that he thought about 300 reporters and other individuals were hanging out on the third floor where Oswald was being questioned. When he was being questioned the hallways were so cramped and security so lax that anyone could have killed Oswald as he walked flanked by his police escorts through the hall of the third floor.

Colourized by Marina Amaral

Due to media pressure for some kind of statement from Oswald an impromptu press conference was held around midnight in the basement assembly room of the Police Station. As many as 100 people reporters and curious onlookers crammed into the small room. The Police Chief Jesse Curry stopped the press conference almost as soon as it started because the media got out of hand, the newsmen “tried to overrun him.” Before the screams of reporters shouting questions drowned him out Oswald was able to give the following statement:

Well, I was questioned by Judge [Johnston]. However, I protested at that time that I was not allowed legal representation during that very short and sweet hearing. I really don’t know what the situation is about. Nobody has told me anything except that I am accused of, of, murdering a policeman.
I know nothing more than that and I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.
Q. Did you kill the President?
A. No. I have not been charged with that. In fact nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question.
Q. Mr. Oswald, how did you hurt your eye?
A. A policeman hit me.46 — Warren Commission

During the Warren Commissions’ investigation when looking at the news camera footage of the midnight press conference Jack Ruby was identified as being present in the crowd of reporters.
Over the next two days, Oswald was interrogated several times at the Dallas Police Headquarters before it was decided to transfer him to the county jail. The decision to transfer Oswald was reached Sat evening, Nov 23 by Chief Curry. In an effort to get reporters to go home on Saturday night Curry had announced that around 10:00 AM the next day Ruby would be transferred. During the night, around 2-3am, the local FBI office received a call from an unidentified man who warned that a “committee” had decided “to kill the man that killed the President.” This threat was passed on to the Dallas police department and to Chief Curry.

With this threat in mind, Chief Curry decided to use an armored truck to transfer Oswald and his own men would handle the transfer. Some of the officers at the Dallas headquarters had suggested that Oswald either be moved at another exit or at an unannounced time but Captain J. W. “Will” Fritz one of Curry’s advisers negated the idea, as he said that Curry “wanted to go along with the press and not try to put anything over on them.”

Warren Commission Exhibit #2636

To provide security during the basement transfer extra police were called in and orders put out to secure the route the armored truck would take. The officer in charge of the patrol division for the city of Dallas, a Capt. C. E. Talbert, on his own initiative, took extra security precautions for the basement. First, he directed a Sgt. Patrick T. Dean, to clear the basement of all non-police personal and then directed a search of the basement looking in the rafters, above the A/C units and in the many closets. After the search, news media were allowed back into the basement after their credentials were checked although the Warren report found that police allowed in anything that looked official with some reporters testifying that they weren’t checked at all. When Oswald came down to the basement around 40 to 50 newsmen and 70 to 75 police officers were assembled.
At this time Oswald’s right hand was handcuffed to the left hand of Detective J. R. Leavelle. As they walked towards the waiting car Fritz walked ahead and then Oswald, with Detective Leavelle at his right, Detective L. C. Graves at his left. Leavelle would later testify lights from the camera’s made it impossible to make out anyone in the crowd. As the crowd of reporters surged forward, Oswald made it about 10ft before Jack Ruby slipped from the crowd and holding a .38 calibre revolver shot one bullet into Oswald’s abdomen.
It took a few minutes to get the unconscious Oswald out of the police station as the cars intended for his transfer were blocking the exits. The time lost in the confusion wouldn’t have made any difference as the single bullet did major damage and doctors were unable to save him. 48 hours and 7 min after the Presidents death Lee Harvey Oswald was pronounced dead.


Colourization by Artistic Panda

Colourization by Artistic Panda

Just before the shooting

Timeline of Jack Ruby’s day:

  • 10:00 AM: Even though the police said they would transfer Oswald at 10:00 Jack Ruby is at home and takes a long time to leave his apartment. While on the way to the police station he stops off at a Western Union office.
  • 11:17 AM: He sends a $25 money gram which is stamped, 11:17. The clerk later reported that he didn’t seem rushed.
  • 11:21 AM: Ruby shoots Oswald yelling, “You killed my president, you rat!” as he was taken to the jail he went on to tell the police, “You guys … couldn’t do it. I did it for you. I had to show that a Jew has guts. I’m happy that I got him.” Ruby, himself a Jew, was worried that the Dallas Jews were going to be blamed for the JFK killing.
  • Through video footage of Jack Ruby standing outside of the police station and the Western Union money gram the Warren report was able to determine that he entered the basement no shorter than 2-3min before he killed Oswald. The Warren report also established that he received no help in entering and was able to slip by police guards as a police car was exiting the station. No press pass was found on Rudy when he was arrested and no discarded press passes were found in the basement. Ruby himself denied to the Commission that he received any form of assistance claiming that he just walked down the ramp into the basement when the police car was exiting.

    Jack Ruby

    Ruby's Money Gram time stamped at 11:17

    Jack Ruby was born Jacob Rubenstein on March 25, 1911, in the heavily Jewish 24th Ward on Chicago’s West Side. He shortened his name to Ruby because of concerns that his Jewish name would hurt a planned mail order business. After serving in Army Air Force during World War II in 1946 Ruby returned to Chicago. In 1947 he moved to Dallas where he managed a number of bars, strip clubs, dance halls and nightclubs. During his time as a manager, he associated and was friends with many people in both law enforcement and the mafia.
    During his trial, Ruby’s lawyer tried to get him off the hook by claiming mental illness. This defense failed and on March 14, 1964, Ruby was convicted of “murder with malice” and received the death penalty. This was later overturned and a second trial was about to begin when Ruby became ill and on December 9, 1966, Ruby was admitted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
    Jack’s connection to the mafia has fueled many Conspiracy theories but several official investigations have ever revealed any concrete connections. Although while in jail he was visited by friends Sam and Joe Campisi, two high-level figures in the Dallas mafia.
    Ruby himself started to ramble about conspiracies but as his health deteriorated in jail so did his mind. By 1967 Ruby was suffering from lung cancer but before that could kill him on January 3, 1967, he died from a pulmonary embolism. In a twist of fate, JFK, Oswald, and Ruby died in Dallas’s Parkland Hospital.

    He’s been shot!

    List of clothing worn by Oswald

    A small slip of paper bearing four telephone numbers:
    OR 9-9450
    RI 8-9711
    AC 2-4161
    CO 7-3110
    CH 7

    Only one network was covering the prison transfer live and that was NBC through their Dallas-Ft. Worth affiliate station WBAP-TV. CBS had a camera set up and was recording the events but instead of going live with the footage decided to stay with its Washington DC report of the preparations for JFK’s funeral. On the live NBC feed correspondent, Tom Petit described the transfer of Oswald in the basement. On camera you can see Ruby come into the picture squeeze off a shot and then hear Tom Petit screaming, “He’s been shot! He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot! … There is absolute panic. Pandemonium has broken out.”
    CBS’s coverage came via its affiliate KRLD-TV and cameraman George Phenix who just a few feet away from Oswald taped the whole encounter. Later on national TV the footage would be replayed again and again frame by frame and narrated by then up and coming CBS reporter, Dan Rather:

    Now we will show you the film of Oswald being shot, still-framed, … Watch the hat in the right-hand corner of the frame. Watch Oswald’s eyes as they seem to catch the eye of the assassin [Ruby]. His head turns, he looks at the assassin and his eyes never leave him. The assassin moves in … and a few inches from {Oswald’s} abdomen, fires a shot. — Dan Rather

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    JFK jr salutes JFK

    Buy on amazonJFK Jr salutes his father
    Behind the camera: Stan Stearns
    Where: Just outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington D.C., America
    Photo Summary: Three-year-old, John F Kennedy Jr stepping up to salute his father’s casket. Jackie Kennedy is beside Robert Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline Kennedy
    Picture Taken: Monday, November 25, 1963

    In the wake of JFK’s assassination, people around the world mourned and tried to come to terms with John F. Kennedy’s death. Many found solace in the stoic Kennedy clan. Lead by the dignified and unbreakable Jackie Kennedy following the family adage of “Kennedy’s don’t cry,” people ached for her as she and the Kennedy family refused to break down. The youngest member of the Kennedy family three-year-old, John F Kennedy Jr. or John-John was no exception. As the casket left St. Matthew’s Cathedral on its way to the President’s final resting place JFK Jr. stepped forward and raised his small hand in salute, an image that broke the hearts of millions.

    The President has been killed

    At 1:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 1963, John F Kennedy was declared dead at the Dallas Parkland Hospital. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was then the President of the United States. With no knowledge of who was behind the assassination, secret service agents wanted to get the now President Johnson out of Dallas in the case of another assassination attempt. Agents wanted to go to the safety of Washington, but President Johnson refused to leave without Jackie Kennedy and Jackie refused to leave JFK’s body. A comprise was met when it was decided to bring Jackie and the President’s body to the capital in Air force One. This plan was almost thwarted by Dallas Police.
    At that time there was no federal ruling against killing a President. Therefore it was against the law to remove a murder victim from the jurisdiction of the Dallas Police. Dallas’, Dr. Earl Rose tried to enforce this law and block Kennedy’s body from being moved to Washington without first performing an autopsy in Dallas. He even brought a Judge to back him up. The Secret Service was able to convince everyone that security of the moment trumped everything and the Dallas officials backed down.
    Air force One arrived at the Andrews Air Force Base at 6:05 p.m. EST. Jackie Kennedy had refused to clean up or change wanting the media to capture her bloodstained clothes so that the plotters could see what they had done. Lady Bird Johnson who also on Air force One wrote in her diary:

    I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy’s dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked, it was caked with blood – her husband’s blood. Somehow, that was one of the most poignant sights – that immaculate woman exquisitely dressed and caked in blood.

    Robert Kennedy met the blood-covered Jackie when the plane landed and together they accompanied Kennedy’s body to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for an autopsy.

    JFK arrives at the Whitehouse

    On 4:30 a.m. EST Saturday, November 23 President John F. Kennedy returned to the White House for the last time. He was placed in the East Room of the White House which at Jackie’s request had been transformed into a recreation of how it looked when Abraham Lincoln was killed. At 10:00 am there was a private service and then for the rest of that Saturday, government officials were invited to pay their respects to the 35th President. It was decided that the next day the body would be moved to The Capitol Rotunda the large dome-like structure that is seen as the center of Washington.
    On Sunday the 24th, the President was moved by horse-drawn carriage to the Capitol Rotunda. It was the same carriage that had carried the body of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As per military tradition a riderless horse, ironically nicknamed Black Jack, was part of the procession with boots placed backward in the stirrups. After a number of Eulogies by government officials, the Rotunda was opened up to Public viewing. Until 9:00 AM the next day about 250,000 people waited in line, some for waiting for up to 10hrs, to walk past and pay their respect to the President.

    Day of Mourning

    One of Lyndon Johnson’s first acts as President was to declare Monday, November 25 as an official day of mourning. At 8:25 that day the doors to the Rotunda were closed locking out about 10,000 people still trying to get in to pay their respects. President Kennedy had never planned a funeral and so planning duties were taken over by the Military District of Washington (MDW) in consultation with the president’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, and a presidential aide. The plan was to have Kennedy’s casket moved from the Capitol Rotunda to the White House to St. Matthew’s Cathedral and then on to the President’s final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery. Almost 1,000,000 people turned up to watch the procession with millions more watching on TV that was broadcast to over 23 countries around the world.
    On Mon the procession finished the first leg of its journey when it reached the White House. From the White House, the funeral continued on foot to the Cathedral led by Jackie and close members of the Kennedy family followed by over 220 foreign dignitaries. They included 19 heads of state, various high-ranking government representatives including officials from the Soviet Union and members of various royal families. The last time so many presidents, prime ministers, and royalty attended a state funeral was to pay their respects to Britain’s King Edward VII in 1910. With so many high-ranking officials, it was a security nightmare for the secret service. As a safety measure Under Secretary of State, George Ball did not attend the funeral as everyone in Washington wanted to pay their respects.

    St. Matthew’s Cathedral

    Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!
    -Singing to JFK Jr on his birthday the same day as his father’s funeral

    Over 1,200 invited guests attended the service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral presided over by the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing. Cushing was a close associate of the Kennedy’s having officiated at their marriage, spoken at JFK’s Presidential Inauguration, and having christened their children. As requested by Mrs. Kennedy the funeral was a low mass, meaning no singing. Instead of reading directly from the bible, it was decided that the reading should be made from selected works of Kennedy’s writing and speeches including the entire Inaugural Address. At her request, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill the agent who is seen climbing onto the limousine in Dallas sat directly behind her in the church.

    For JFK Jr. Mon November 25, 1963, started out with his nanny, Maude Shaw, and sister Caroline singing “Happy Birthday” to him. The day that the nation buried his father was also his third birthday. While his mother and the Kennedy clan led the procession to the church John-John and his sister trailed behind in the limo. After the service, Jackie standing with Caroline and John-John and close Kennedy members witnessed the casket being carried out of the church. It was here that TV coverage, and photographers, caught an emotional scene as Mrs. Kennedy whispered to JFK Jr. who then stepped forward and gave his best three-year-old salute to his father.

    Taking The Picture

    Stan Stearns remembers taking the picture:

    I was chosen to walk with Jackie and the world leaders from the White House to St. Matthew’s for the JFK service. When we got there I had to go behind the ropes with the other 70-odd photographers. All squeezed in an area for 30. Wow! UPI photographer Frank Cancellare squeezed me in next to him…. I had the longest lens, a 200mm. … I just watched Jackie. She bent down and whispered in [John-John’s] ear. His hand came up to a salute. Click! One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures.

    Stan Stearns was working as a UPI photographer when he took his famous shot of JFK Jr. In 1970 he retired from news photography and started a lucrative career as a wedding and portraits.

    Joe O’Donnell Controversy

    Dan Farrell, of Long Island, holds another historic photo taken from a different angle that he took for the New York Daily News

    Dan Farrell, of Long Island, holds another historic photo taken from a different angle that he took for the New York Daily News

    Decades later an ailing White House photographer Joe O’Donnell sparked a controversy when he claimed that he took the Stearn’s shot. Further investigation by the New York Times determined that O’Donnell had claimed not only Stearn’s picture but pictures from a wide range of famous photographers.

    Final Resting Place

    The funeral procession of a long line of black limousines to Arlington cemetery took over an hour to arrive. At 3:34p.m. JFK’s body was laid to rest. After the burial service, the widow Kennedy lit the eternal flame over his grave that has burnt continuously to this day. She had gotten the idea of a symbolic flame from the memorial to the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. On Dec 4, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy who had died shortly after birth on Aug 9, 1963, and his stillborn sister, Arabella, were reinterred alongside their father. At 64 on May 19, 1994, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis the woman who had gained so much respect for her strength during those four days in November died due to complications from lymphoma. On May 23 she was buried underneath the eternal flame, beside her husband.


    AP Images handles the copyright for this image.

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    Zapruder Film

    Behind the camera: Abraham Zapruder
    Where: Elm Street, Dallas Texas, USA
    Photo Summary: John F Kennedy after he is shot. Jackie Kennedy climbed onto the trunk in an effort to grab a piece of John’s skull. Agent Hill seen jumping onto the back of the car later testified that she said, ‘I have a piece of his brain in my hand.’
    Picture Taken: November 22, 1963

    On November 22, 1963, the nation was in shock as news spread throughout the country, someone had shot the president; someone had shot John F Kennedy. While Americans prayed and hoped that Kennedy could pull through, Abraham Zapruder who had filmed the bullets slamming into JFK’s skull had no such false hopes, “…I saw his head explode like a firecracker. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. There’s no way he could still be alive.”

    Just like any day

    Map of President's parade route

    People woke on Nov 22 with no idea of the anguish that would play out that day. Abraham Zapruder had woken disappointed that the weather was cloudy and overcast. JFK was going to be doing one of his motorcade parades through Dallas and he had wanted to film the parade. He had bought the top of the line Model 414 PD Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Camera, Serial number AS13486; with Varamat 9 to 27mm F1.8 lens the year before. For its day it was quite a piece of technology with an electric eye, spring wind indicator, and varying speeds of 1, 16 and 48. The camera used 8mm film with 25 feet being able to be shot at a time.
    Abraham Zapruder worked at his Jennifer Juniors, Inc. which made women’s clothing. In 1963 the company operated out of 4th and 5th floors of the Dal-Tex Building at 501 Elm close to where the president’s motorcade was to pass that day. He arrived without his camera but an office worker, Lilian Rodgers, convinced him to go back home and get it because the weather had cleared up and it looked to be a beautiful day.

    Taking the picture

    To get a better view of the passing President, Abraham Zapruder headed down to the parade route with another one of his employees, Marilyn Sitzman. He shot some footage to make sure the camera was working properly and noticed that he would have a better vantage point if he got on top of a concrete block located on the now infamous grassy knoll. Once up Zapruder’s vertigo kicked in and he asked Marilyn to come with him in case he started to get dizzy while filming. While waiting for the president to come he and Marilyn are photographed by a number of journalists and amateur cameramen also waiting for the president.
    At the Warren Commission Zapruder recounted what happened next:

    I started shooting–when the motorcade started coming in, I believe I started and wanted to get it coming in from Houston Street… Well, as the car came in line almost–I believe it was almost in line. I was standing up [on the concrete block] and I was shooting through a telephoto lens, which is a zoom lens and … I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this [Zapruder holds his left chest area]… For a moment I thought it was, you know, like you say, “Oh, he got me,” … I [didn’t] believe the President is going to make jokes like this, but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started–I can hardly talk about it [Zapruder breaks down crying] … I thought I heard two [shots], it could be three because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second–I really don’t know. … I never even heard a third shot … after the second shot … I started yelling, “They killed him, they killed him,” and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass–I don’t even know how I did it.
    And then, I didn’t even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward–back toward my office and screaming, “They killed him, they killed him,” and the people that I met on the way didn’t even know what happened and they kept yelling, “What happened, what happened, what happened?” It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn’t know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, “They killed him, they killed him, they killed him…

    Desperate to Develop

    Harry McCormick, Dallas Morning News reporter, arrived soon after the shooting and after talking to those milling around quickly determined that because of his location Zapruder would have filmed the whole thing from a great vantage point. McCormick tracked him down and tried to talk to him but Zapruder said that he would only talk to federal investigators. McCormick knowing the scoop he would have if he could get the footage, set off to find an agent so that he would be able to pitch buying the film from Zapruder again.
    McCormack was able to make contact with Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas Secret Service field office, Forrest Sorrels. An emotional Zapruder quickly agreed to supply agent Sorrels with a copy of his footage to help the investigation but got a promise from Sorrels that it only be used for investigation purposes and not shown to any media. McCormick again offered to pay for the footage but Zapruder turned him down already thinking that he could get a higher price.
    Then McCormick, Sorrels, Zapruder, and Erwin Schwartz, Zapruder’s business partner went to the ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV station in hopes they could develop and copy the film. WFAA-TV couldn’t process the film and missed probably the scoop of the century but was able to get Zapruder to do a live on-air interview about what he saw at 2:10 pm less than 2 hours after the shooting.

    Developing at the Kodak Lab

    Bert Schipp, the chief photographer at WFAA-TV, called a Kodak lab and made sure they could process Zapruder’s film. By this time a Dallas police car had been arranged and it escorted the trio of Zapruder, Schwartz, and Sorrels to the Kodak lab. Phil Chamberlain a lab technician met them on their arrival and they quickly processed the film, with Zapruder looking on. The original was labelled with the number 0183 by lab tech Kathryn Kirby. Zapruder and staff viewed it once and seeing the importance of the footage decided not to view it again until copies where made.

    The copies

    Went forward with considerable violence
    -Dan Rather commenting on Kennedy’s head but failing to mention the famous backward motion

    Since the Kodak lab didn’t have means to copy the film Zapruder was directed to go to Jamieson Films in Dallas. There he made three unprocessed copies and returned to the Kodak Lab to get them developed. The copies were given lab ID numbers 0185, 0186 and 0187. The footage was only 26 seconds long, with 486 individual frames, filmed at 18.3 frames per second. The original was split into 8mm and viewed by Zapruder, and a number of lab technicians present. They watched in silence with a collective gasp when the bullet struck Kennedy’s head.
    Agent Sorrels had left earlier when he heard that Oswald had been arrested but Zapruder was able to track him down around 10:00 pm and handed over two copies of the film. Secret Service Agent Max Phillips in Dallas shipped one of the copies to Secret Service Chief Rowley in Washington, D.C. with the note, “Mr. Zapruder is in custody of the ‘master’ film.” The other is handed over to the FBI who also ships it to Washington to be copied.

    Enter LIFE

    Earlier in the day, Richard Stolley from LIFE magazine had arrived from LA. He was on a plane as soon as he heard of the attempt on the president’s life. Setting up at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas he learns from LIFE stringer reporter, Patsy Swank, that footage of the assassination exists and was in Zapruder’s possession. Stolley immediately started calling the Zapruder house in 15min intervals.
    After handing over the two copies to the secret service at around 10:00 pm Zapruder drives around aimlessly trying to absorb the day’s events and arrived home at 11:00 pm. It was at this time Richard Stolley called and tried to set up a viewing of the film. Zapruder, tired, was able to put off the viewing until the next day and set up a 9:00 am meeting at his Jennifer Juniors office.

    Richard Stolley arrived an hour early and was joined by a number of Secret Service agents who wanted to see the film as theirs were shipped off to Washington to be copied. With Zapruder manning the projector the small crowd watched the film, replaying it as more reporters arrive. Stolley seeing that he had to work fast before others got the film was able to convince Zapruder to sell the print rights for $50,000. Stolley left with the original and quickly sends it to Chicago where the LIFE editorial staff was gathered to prepare the new November 26th edition. The original edition was stopped in the presses when news of the assassination reached Chicago. Managing editor George Hunt ordered the move costing LIFE almost a million dollars. Publisher Henry Luce who was initially outraged at the cost said later it was the best million he had ever spent.
    While making copies of the film and preparing black and white shots for the new LIFE magazine photo technicians damaged some of the frames the original footage, slicing it in two places.

    Life seeks to Suppress

    Obtain all rights to the film and withhold it from public viewing
    -LIFE executive C.D Jackson

    A copy was sent to NY where LIFE executive C.D Jackson was so disturbed by the footage he ordered Stolley to return to Zapruder and get full rights to the film. In 1973 Stolley would recount: C.D. Jackson “was so upset by the head-wound sequence that he proposed the company obtain all rights to the film and withhold it from public viewing at least until emotions had calmed.” He later changed his story in 1992, “All decisions regarding the use or non-use of the Zapruder film were made by LIFE’s editors, not by anyone on the publishing side”
    This stoked the conspiracy researchers, as C.D. Jackson was a former member of the US military intelligence. Many claim the Zapruder film to be altered in some way to cover up evidence of other shooters and the President’s limo stopping. They point to strange anomalies in the footage and that LIFE tried for such a long time to stop anyone from viewing the footage. However, Zapruder’s film wasn’t the only shoot of the assassination, with at least seven others present at the time filming. The two other publicly released films confirm the events of Nov 22 and that the anomalies can easily be explained by film limitation of the camera’s available in the 60’s. Even though LIFE executives tried to stop the public from seeing the film they themselves ordered copies for private showings.

    Stolley returned to Zapruder and was able to purchase all rights for the footage for $150,000 to be made in six annual payments of $25,000. The first $25,000 payment Zapruder donated to the family of murdered Dallas Policeman J.D. Tippit. Oswald had shot Tippit just prior to being arrested. Zapruder gave the impression to the media that the $25,000 was the price LIFE magazine bought his footage for and not just the first installment.

    Young Dan Rather

    A young Dan Rather was able to see the Zapruder footage and later narrated the film to CBS national television coverage, claiming that he saw the President’s head “went forward with considerable violence.” He failed to mention the backward motion made famous in the Oliver Stone movie, JFK. His omission seemed to confirm that the single shooter theory with just Oswald firing from the rear. When the Zapruder film became public, he was forced to apologize saying it was “an honest error.”

    The Groden copies

    In government circles, copies of the film circulated often copies of copies sometimes many generations old. When the Warren Commission studied the film the next year they had difficulties with the quality and clarity of the prints. In Feb 1964, LIFE lab assistant Herbert Orth brought the original film to a meeting of government officials and volunteered to make slides of all the frames. The original was sent out to a New Jersey photo lab where photo lab technician Robert Groden made a bootleg copy. He also was able to remove the amateur shakiness of the original by re-framing it. This improved version was far superior to the copies the government held but he placed it in a bank vault out of fear he would be arrested for making a bootleg copy.

    After the Warren Commission finished its report, footage and slides were entered into the National archives. Requests to get LIFE to release footage by private researchers and other media outlets are denied. It wasn’t until 1969 that Jim Garrison subpoenaed LIFE for his trial of Clay Shaw (later made famous in the movie, JFK) that the public saw the movie. Lax security at the trial allowed the film to be copied and bootleg’s started to circulate around the country. At the same trial Zapruder is called to testify, the next year on Aug 30, 1970, Abraham Zapruder died of carcinoma in Dallas.

    In 1975 Groden started to show his enhanced version of the Zapruder film. In March 1975 Geraldo Rivera on his show Goodnight America convinced ABC executives to show Groden’s film. This was the first time most in America have seen the backward motion of Kennedy’s head and it caused a sensation. Feeding off the public outcry congressman Thomas Downing and others introduce a resolution in Congress that would later lead to the creation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, HSCA. The committee went on to investigate the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr concluding that both murders were the result of a conspiracy.

    Life sells the Film

    A New Look at the Zapruder Film
    -The tag line for the new DVD released by the Zapruder family

    The increased publicity of the film and public outcry at LIFE for refusing to allow anyone to view the originals forced TIME-LIFE to sell the film and rights to the footage to the family for the symbolic amount of $1. The original and other material that TIME-LIFE owns is handed over to the National Archives with limited access. The family allowed anyone to study the film but if it was used for commercial purposes they are charged a fee. Disputes between the Zapruder family and those wanting to use the footage increase with several lawsuits being filled. The pressure was increased when lawsuits arguing that because of the importance of the footage, a national treasure, that no one should own the rights.

    The film hits the markets

    In 1991, the Zapruder family tried to sell video copies of the footage. This was quickly halted by legal action. In 1997, the film footage and related slides, copies, transparencies are made “assassination documents” under the JFK Act. Disagreement over how much the Zapruder family is to be paid for the material dragged on until 2000. The government valued the material, as worth 1.4 million dollars but the family wanted $30,000,000. Finally, in 1999 an arbitration board ruled the value to be $16 million dollars. This does not include the copyright of the film, which is retained by the family, which they use to distribute a DVD called Image of an assassination. The DVD costs $20 a copy and is 45min film long. Image of an assassination claims to be, “A New Look at the Zapruder Film” and offers more information and a highly improved version of the footage.

    Donation to the Sixth Floor Museum

    In 2000 the Zapruder family donated their collection of Zapruder film material to the Sixth Floor Museum in what used to be the Texas School Book Depository building. In addition to the following material the family also handed over the film rights to the Museum.
    Among the items handed over by the Zapruder family were:

  • The only privately held first day, first-generation print of the Zapruder film.
  • Numerous film copies—in a variety of formats including 8mm, 16 mm, and 35 mm. Some in full color and some in black and white. These copy prints and negatives of the Zapruder film were apparently utilized by Time-Life for publication layout and internally for reference.
  • Two complete sets of 4×5 color transparencies–these are LIFE 1st generation copies of each frame of the original film as they existed in 1963/1964 before any fading and damage appeared.
  • 8×10 glossy color prints of Zapruder film frames—these are LIFE prints of each frame. Again, they show each frame as they existed in 1963/1964 before any fading and damage appeared.
  • The original is still owned by the American government and presently in the Kennedy Collection at the National Archives at College Park. The National Archives allows copies to be made for personal use but to publish in any other way requires permission from the copyright holders, the Sixth Floor Museum.

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