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50 years: JFK assassination

Fifty years ago, one of the biggest events in U.S. history took place, the Kennedy assassination. And with it came one of the biggest conspiracies in U.S. history.

Two historians who have both studied the JFK assassination extensively will be speaking this week in honor of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Nov. 22 assassination. Minnesota State University Moorhead professor Steve Hoffbeck will speak Tuesday at the Detroit Lakes Library, and M State instructor Steve Carlson will speak Friday at M State.

Steve Hoffbeck

Hoffbeck said part of his interest in the assassination is because of his age. Born in 1953, he was 10 years old at the time of the assassination, a time when a kid becomes more aware of the world around them.

“Like others of my generation, here I was, 10 years old, and I heard the announcement that the president has been shot when I was in gym class.”

It happened on a Friday, and schools were closed the following Monday. Sitting in front of his one-channel television at home, Hoffbeck watched the funeral. He has also kept the newspapers and magazines from that time.

“Those are the impressions, as far as what happened, and then somehow, I saw the fellow who was the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, then he gets killed on the Sunday morning.”

It was the first live murder filmed in history, Hoffbeck said.

“That’s weird that they had the cameras there. From there, everything gets to be real fishy.”

Oswald was in police headquarters when he was killed.

Then there was the connection to the mafia.

“Why would the mob want to keep him quiet unless they were responsible? That’s the logic of the time. Then it’s wondering, ‘what in the world did happen at that time?’”

Though there was an interest as a kid, Hoffback was never overly interested in the piece of history until he was an adult, teaching higher education, and a fishing buddy actually brought up the topic and started throwing out all these theories.

“Here I am a historian so I should be able to define what the truth is,” he said with a laugh. “So I looked into things.”

So since the 1980s, he has started collecting evidence including articles, documentaries, interviews and files.

“When I deliver this presentation, my challenge is to whittle it down to the essentials so that those who come, and if they have an idea, then I can say, these are the key elements. If someone doesn’t have an idea, then I will try to convince them of what took place.”

The key element, he said, is to look at those closest to the scene. One of those people is Nellie Connally, the wife of Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding in the front seat of the convertible JFK was in the backseat of.

She talked about the number of shots fired and maintains that no matter what anyone says, she was there.

Another person is JFK’s wife, Jackie.

“Jackie Kennedy left the most intriguing quotation as to why she did not change her clothes that day, why she didn’t take off the pink jacket that had blood on it. She said, ‘I want them to see what they’ve done.’ That’s kind of cryptic.”

 And then there is U.S. Federal Judge John Tunheim, who is from Minnesota, who was in charge of the assassination record review in the 1990s.

“He said there were things that bothered him about the records.”

Hoffbeck said he doesn’t want to give away too much information before his presentation so he didn’t go into details.

He also looks at a report from lawyer G. Robert Blakey, who was the lawyer on the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s. He has reviewed all the files on the assassination as well.

He talks about former Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry, who was heavily criticized because JFK and the Lee Harvey Oswald were both killed in his city.

“These are the people I look at, the very best sources, as near as I can tell because I can find all kinds of scuzzy sources that are saying it’s this, that and the other thing, but I have to go to the best sources.”

In his short amount of speaking time Tuesday evening, Hoffbeck said he wants to build a case around the assassination.

Hoffbeck’s presentation is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Detroit Lakes Library. It is free to the public.

Steve Carlson

Carlson, who taught history at Frazee-Vergas High School for many years before retiring is now a faculty member at M State Detroit Lakes and Wadena. He will be taking a second look at the assassination and the Warren Report.

“This presentation will discuss the members of the Warren Commission, their conclusions after a 10-month investigation and the controversy that has surrounded the Warren Report ever since.”

Carlson’s presentation will cover multiple points including what happened Nov. 22-25 right after the shots were fired.

He will discuss how Lyndon B. Johnson created the Warren Commission, early criticism of the report, Zapruder film, the single bullet theory and the grassy knoll. He will also talk about witnesses and other suspects, the case against Lee Harvey Oswald, his flight and arrest and any additional evidence.

Other portions of the presentation include JFK’s physical evidence (his body), presidential security, remaining questions and how the United States changed course after the incident.

Admission to the presentation is $5. It is from 6-10 p.m. in room C-101 in M State Detroit Lakes.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.