By Scott Wright
I spend a lot of my spare time reading, and over the July 4 holiday I finished a book titled “The Kennedy Detail” by Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin. It was a page-turning, 448-page read about the federal agents charged with guarding our 35th president.
First, a little background to explain my interest: Nearly 20 years ago, during Christmas break while I was in college, I traveled to Texas with my friend John. His father, who lived in Houston, had given him tickets to the Cotton Bowl and John asked me to come along. I'll never forget sitting in a freezing, drizzling rain and watching Florida State and Texas A&M slip, slide and stumble to a boring 10-2 final score.
The night before the game had been much more exciting. John and I drove from Houston into downtown Dallas and parked within walking distance of Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was killed on Nov. 22, 1963. It was a dark and dreary night. There haven't been many times in my life when I've felt more haunted that I did standing on the sidewalk between the grassy knoll and the painted “X” on Elm Street where a bullet once exploded Jack Kennedy's head right before his lovely young wife's eyes.
The author describes that moment in shocking, gruesome detail. In a chapter titled “Six Seconds in Dallas,” Blaine retraces the final path of the motorcade in minute detail that includes the fatal shot, which caused one of the author's fellow agents to “suck in his breath as the horrific image became forever etched into his soul.”
I have given plenty of thought, through the years, to the person – or people – responsible for killing the president. John and I even spent part of our vacation inside a Dallas theater watching the brand-new Oliver Stone film “JFK.” We walked out convinced we knew the entire truth. Absolutely, we agreed, the CIA, or Castro, or the Mafia, or some organized group had to have been responsible for something so horrible. The cause of the death that changed our nation forever couldn't have been the work of one lone nut.
Or could it? By the time I picked up Blaine's book a few weeks ago, I had been convinced for several years that Lee Harvey Oswald was indeed a lone nut with some firearms acumen who simply got lucky. When Blaine and his peers all pretty much said the same thing in his book, that was good enough for me.
Some will surely argue that Blaine's book is another part of the “massive conspiracy” we've all been hearing about for the past 50 years. But after reading about how Blaine and Clint Hill (Mrs. Kennedy's Secret Service agent) and all the other agents who were there that day had their lives changed forever, their futures turned upside down, and their careers cut short (for the most part), it's not hard to realize that the disaster they saw unfold before their eyes that day in Dallas was no grandly-engineered scheme. Instead, it was a damned nightmare come to life – one that Jerry Blaine and all the other Secret Service agents on the Kennedy Detail relived over and over, every day, for the rest of their lives.
The inside of the dust jacket reads, in part: “Drawing on the memories of his fellow agents, Jerry Blaine captures the energetic, crowd-loving young president, who banned agents from his car and often plunged into raucous crowds with little warning. He describes the careful planning that went into JFK's Texas swing, the worries and concerns that agents, working long hours with little food or rest, had during the trip. And he describes the intensely private first lady and her first-ever political appearance with her husband, just months after losing a newborn baby.”
This book is all of that, and a lot more. If you enjoy learning about little-known aspects of American history, I highly recommend “The Kennedy Detail.” The book is available at www.amazon.com in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions.
Managing Editor Scott Wright has been with The Post since 1998. He is a two-time winner of the Society of Professional Journalists' Green Eyeshade Award for humorous commentary. He is also the author of "A History of Weiss Lake" and "Fire on the Mountain: The Undefeated 1985 Sand Rock Wildcats," both available at www.amazon.com. He is a native of Cherokee County.