March 26, 2017 by Hayley Ellis
Historian Steven Gillon’s book “The Kennedy Assassination–24 Hours After: Lyndon B. Johnson’s First Day as President” takes a look at the Kennedy assassination through the eyes of Vice President Johnson. Gillon gives a perspective that is rarely studied surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy. The book takes you through the days before the trip to Dallas and during the day of November 22, 1963. I learned a lot about the events of that November day that I hadn’t and from a perspective that is different from the one frequently shown in movies and documentaries. Some of the notable things I learned were:
- The White House Staff didn’t hear of President Kennedy’s death or the events that had taken place in Dallas until a member of the media had called to ask for press access to the White House.
- President Johnson was not well-liked by those in the Kennedy camp. He was seen as a traitor and he was chosen as VP to keep an eye on him and essentially keep the presidency from him. That all changed 3 short years into President Kennedy’s presidency.
- President Johnson didn’t hear of JFK’s death until about 20 minutes after his official Time of Death (ToD. Until that point he had hardly any information about the President’s state and wasn’t provided with information about what had occurred at Dealey Plaza.
- JFK’s technical ToD was 12:53pm but Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes were to have the record say 1:00pm. The Catholic Priest hadn’t gotten to the hospital to read his last rites until he was technically deceased and for the last rites to be properly given, the person must still be living. Therefore, Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes were that the time reflect that he passed after the Priest had given his last rites.
- There was confusion and tension on Air Force One when President Johnson (technically VP at the time) stepped on waiting for Mrs. Kennedy and the President’s body to arrive. The Kennedy camp had assumed that Johnson had already left on their way to DC on the VP plane, but the image that Johnson believed he needed to project was one of strength and continuity.
The book is a companion to the History Channel’s special The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After which I plan to watch in the very near future.
Overall, I would highly suggest this book as a reference on the Kennedy assassination. It gives a good historiographical account of what happened on that November day when the nation lost their beloved president. Gillon’s references were solid as well as his information from other prominent historians of the period. He provided many accounts from William Manchester, the historian personally chosen by the Kennedy family to record the events and provide their own side of the assassination. If you’re looking for something easy to read, of less than 300 pages I would highly recommend checking out Steven Gillon’s book.