HAPPENING NOW



This post originally appeared on GlobalResearch and was written by Edward Curtin.


There is a vast literature on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who died on this date, November 22, 1963. I have contributed my small share to such writing in an effort to tell the truth, honor him, and emphasize its profound importance in understanding the history of the last fifty-seven years, but more importantly, what is happening in the U.S.A. today. In other words, to understand it in its most gut-wrenching reality: that the American national security state will obliterate any president that dares to buck its imperial war-making machine. It is a lesson not lost on all presidents since Kennedy.

Unless one is a government disinformation agent or is unaware of the enormous documentary evidence, one knows that it was the U.S. national security state, led by the CIA, that carried out JFK’s murder.


Confirmation of this fact keeps arriving in easily accessible forms for anyone interested in the truth. A case in point is James DiEugenio’s posting at his website, KennedysandKing, of James Wilcott’s affidavit and interrogation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, declassified by the Assassinations Record Review Board in 1998. In that document, Wilcott, who worked in the finance department for the CIA and was not questioned by the Warren Commission, discusses how he unwittingly paid Lee Harvey Oswald, the government’s alleged assassin, through a cryptonym and how it was widely known and celebrated at his CIA station in Tokyo that the CIA killed Kennedy and Oswald worked for the Agency, although he did not shoot JFK. I highly recommend reading the document.


I do not here want to go into any further analysis or debate about the case. I think the evidence is overwhelming that the President was murdered by the national security state. Why he was murdered, and the implications for today, are what concern me. And how and why we remember and forget public events whose consequences become unbearable to contemplate, and the fatal repercussions of that refusal. In what I consider the best book ever written on the subject, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2009), James W. Douglass explains this in detail, including the James Wilcott story.


Realizing what I am about to say might be presumptuous and of no interest to anyone but myself, I will nevertheless try to describe my emotional reactions to learning of John Kennedy’s murder so long ago and how that reverberated down through my life. I hope my experiences might help explain why so many people today can’t face the consequences of the tragic history that began that day and have continued to the present, among which are not just the other assassinations of the 1960s but the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent endless and murderous “war on terror” with its mind-numbing propaganda and the recent anti-Russia phobia and the blatant celebration of the so-called “deep-state’s” open efforts to overthrow another president, albeit a very different one.


On November 22, 1963 I was a college sophomore. I was going down three steps into the college dining hall for lunch. (Many of my most significant memories and decisions have taken place on steps, either going up or going down; memory is odd in that way, wouldn’t you say?) I remember freezing on the second step as a voice announced through a PA system that the president had been shot in Dallas, Texas. When I finally recovered and went down into the building, another announcement came through saying the president had died. The air seemed to be sucked out of the building as I and the other students with a few professors sat in stunned silence. Soon little groups on this Catholic campus joined together to pray for John Kennedy. I felt as if I were floating in unreality.


Later that day when I left the campus and drove home, I thought back to three years previously and the night of the presidential election. Everyone at my house (parents, grandparents, and the five sisters still at home) had gone to bed, but I stayed up past 1 A.M., watching the television coverage of the vote count. My parents, despite their Irish-Catholicism, were Nixon supporters, but I was for JFK. I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would vote for Nixon, who seemed to me to personify evil. When I finally went up the stairs to bed, I was convinced Kennedy would win and felt very happy.


It wouldn’t be for another tumultuous decade before I would hear Kris Kristofferson sing

Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse Or if the going up is worth to coming down…. From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse The goin’ up was worth the coming down

and I would ask myself the same question.


In the meantime, the next few years would bring the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile crisis, and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, among other significant events, and for a high school student interested in politics and world events it was a heady and frightening few years. It was a country of newspapers back then, and I would read perhaps 3-4 each day and sensed a growing animosity toward Kennedy, especially as expressed in the more conservative NYC papers. I can remember very little talk of politics in my home and felt alone with my thoughts. As far as I can remember, this was also true at the Jesuit high school that I attended. And of course nothing prepared me for the president’s murder and the feeling of despair it engendered in me, a feeling so painful that I couldn’t really acknowledge it. At nineteen, I felt traumatized but couldn’t admit it or tell anyone. After all, I was a scholar and an athlete. Tough.


Then on Sunday morning my family had the TV on and we watched as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the guy the government said had killed the president. The unreality was compounded manyfold, and when later it was reported that Oswald had died, I felt I was living in an episode of The Twilight Zone, a popular television show at the time, whose narrator would say we are now entering the weird world between shadow and substance.


The next day a friend and I went to the Fordham University campus to visit a Jesuit priest who was a mentor to us. He had the television on for JFK’s funeral and we sat and watched it for a while with him. After a few hours, it became too painful and the two of us went outside to a football field where we threw a football back and forth. Perhaps subconsciously we were thinking of Kennedy’s love of football; I don’t know. But I remember a feeling of desolation that surrounded us on that empty cold field with not another soul around. It seemed sacrilegious to be playing games at such a time, yet deep trauma contributes to strange behavior.


Then I went on with my college life, studying and playing basketball, until the day after Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Those New York newspapers that didn’t like Kennedy, hated Malcom even more and were constantly ripping into him. I vividly remember talking to my college basketball teammate the next day. He had been in the Audubon Ballroom during the assassination. His sense of devastation as a young African American struck me forcefully. As we walked to basketball practice and talked, his sense of isolation and gloom was palpable. Visceral. Unforgettable. It became mine, even though I didn’t at the time grasp its full significance.


In 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was driving to visit a girlfriend and remember hearing the news on the car radio and feeling deeply shocked. I felt immediately oppressed by the first warm spring evening in the New York area. It was as if the beautiful weather, usually so uplifting after winter and so joyously stimulating to a young man’s sexuality, was conspiring with the news of King’s death to bring me down into a deep depression.


Soon the country would awaken on June 5 to the surreal news that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles the night before. Like so many Americans, when he died not long after, I felt his death was the last straw. But it was far from it. For all the while Lyndon Johnson had lied his way to election in 1964 and escalated the Vietnam war to savage proportions. Death and destruction permeated the air we were breathing. The year 1968 ended with the suspicious death in Thailand of a hero of mine, the anti-war Trappist Monk Thomas Merton. Subsequent research has shown that that too was an assassination. And while all of this was going on and my political consciousness was becoming radicalized, I became a conscientious objector from the Marines. I was 24 years old.


By the late 1970s, having been fired from teaching positions for radical scholarship and anti-war activities, and mentally exhausted by the unspeakable events of the 1960s, I retreated into the country where I found solace in nature and a low-key life of contemplation, writing literary and philosophical essays, a novel, book reviews, and becoming a part-time newspaper columnist. By the 1990s, I gradually returned to teaching and a more active political engagement, primarily through teaching and writing.


Then in 1991 Oliver Stone jolted me back in time with his film JFK. I found powerful emotional memories welling up within me, and growing anger at what had happened to the U.S. in the previous decades. Soon JFK Jr., who was investigating his father’s assassination and was about to enter politics and take up his father’s mantle, was killed in a blatantly rigged “accident.” A month before I had been standing in line behind his wife in the bakery in my little town while he waited outside in a car. Now the third Kennedy was dead. I called my old friend the Jesuit priest from Fordham, but he was speechless. The bodies kept piling up or disappearing.


When the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened, I realized from day one that something was not right; that the official explanation was full of holes. My sociological imagination took fire. All that I had thought and felt, even my literary writing, came together. The larger picture emerged clearly. My teaching took on added urgency, including courses on September 11th and the various assassinations.


Then in 2009 I read and reviewed James Douglass’s masterpiece, JFK and the Unspeakable, and my traumatic memories of 1963 and after came flooding back in full force. I realized that those youthful experiences had been so difficult for me to assimilate and that I therefore had to intellectualize them, for the emotional toll of re-experiencing them and what they meant was profound. The book really opened me to this, but so too did the awareness of how sensitive I was to John Kennedy’s death, how emotional I felt when reading about it or hearing him speak or listening to a song such as “The Day John Kennedy Died” by Lou Reed. It was as though a damn had burst inside me and my heart had become an open house without doors or windows.


I tell you all this to try to convey the ways in which we “forget” the past in order to shield ourselves from powerful and disturbing memories that might force us to disrupt our lives. To change. Certain events, such as the more recent attacks of September 11, have become too disturbing for many to explore, to study, to contemplate, just as I found a way to marginalize my feelings about my own government’s murder of President Kennedy, a man who had given me hope as a youngster, and whose murder had nearly extinguished that hope.


Many people will pretend that they are exposing themselves to such traumatic memories and are investigating the events and sources of their disquietude. It is so often a pretense since they feel most comfortable in the land of make-believe. What is needed is not a dilettantish and superficial nod in the direction of having examined such matters, but a serious in-depth study of the facts and an examination of why doing so might make one uncomfortable. A look outward and a look inward. Just as people distort and repress exclusively personal memories to “save” themselves from harsh truths that would force them to examine their current personal lives, so too do they do the same with political and social ones. When I asked two close relatives of mine, both of whom came close to death on September 11, 2001 at The World Trade Towers, what they have thought about that day, they separately told me that they haven’t really given it much thought. This startled me, especially since it involved mass death and a close encounter with personal death in a controversial public event, two experiences that would seem to elicit deep thought. And these two individuals are smart and caring souls.

What and why we remember and forget is profoundly important. Thoreau, in writing about life without principle, said, “It is so hard to forget what is worse than useless to remember.” This is so true. We are consumed with trivia, mostly by choice.


Perhaps a reason we remember so much trivia is to make sure we forget profound experiences that might shake us to our cores. The cold-blooded public execution of President John Kennedy did that to me on that melancholy Friday when I was 19, and by trying to forget it and not to speak of it, I hoped it would somehow go away, or at least fade to insignificance. But the past has a way of never dying, often to return when we least expect or want it.

So today, on this anniversary, another November 22, I have chosen to try to speak of what it felt like once upon a time on the chance that it might encourage others to do the same with our shared hidden history. Only by speaking out is hope possible. Only by making the hidden manifest.


T. S. Eliot wrote in “Journey of the Magi” words that echo ironically in my mind on this anniversary of the day John Kennedy died:

All this was a long time ago, I remember And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and Death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.

Remembering in all its emotional detail the day John Kennedy died has been a long and cold journey for me. It has allowed me to see and feel the terror of that day, the horror, but also the heroism of the man, the in-your-face warrior for peace whose death should birth in us the courage to carry on his legacy.


Killing a man who says “no” to the endless cycle of war is a risky business, says a priest in the novel Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone. For “even a corpse can go on whispering ‘No! No! No! with a persistence and obstinacy that only certain corpses are capable of. And how can you silence a corpse.”


John Kennedy was such a man.


Eliot was right: Sometimes death and birth are hard to tell apart.


President Kennedy’s courage in facing a death he knew was coming from forces within his own government who opposed his efforts for peace in Vietnam , nuclear disarmament, and an end to the Cold War – “I know there is a God-and I see a storm coming. I believe that I am ready,” he had written on a slip of paper, and his favorite poem contained the refrain, “I have a rendezvous with death” – should encourage all of us to not turn our faces away from his witness for peace.


We must stop being at ease in a dispensation where we worship the gods of war and clutch the nuclear weapons that our crazed leaders say they will use on a “first-strike” basis. If they ever do, Eliot’s question – “were we led all that way for Birth or Death?” – will be answered.

But no one will hear it.


Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization His website is edwardcurtin.com and his new book is Seeking Truth in a Country of Lies


The man who immediately understood the true cause and profound meaning of President Kennedy’s assassination, and for 57 years quietly taught that understanding to the rest of us, has died. Vincent J. Salandria was 92, vigorous and lucid till the end. On Sunday, August 23rd, he collapsed while walking his dog in his Philadelphia neighborhood.

We reprint here in full Christopher Sharrett’s excellent short biography of Vince, written in 1999 as the introduction to False Mystery, a collection of Vince’s speeches and articles that remain indispensable reading today.

To the extensive list of Salandria-inspired people and material provided by Professor Sharrett below, we should add three of the most important that have arrived on the scene since his piece was written: Jim Douglas’s JFK and The Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters and two works by David Talbot: Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, and The Devil’s Chessboard, about the career of CIA director Allen Dulles.  

In addition, Vince advised and will appear in two upcoming documentary films, one directed by Max Good on the role of the Paines in history, and Four Died Trying, produced by TRC co-chair Libby Handros and directed by this writer.

Vince insisted on asking fundamental questions that cut through the cant of official propaganda. With an attorney’s clear logic, he asked with perfect simplicity: “What would an honest government do?”

It was a test the authorities consistently failed at the time of the assassination, and one we would do well to apply more vigorously today.  

Farewell, great teacher.

John Kirby

Provincetown, MA

August 25, 2020

Introduction to False Mystery

by Christopher Sharrett


The writings of Vincent J Salandria on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are historic, foundational, and essential to any serious scholar interested in understanding the real dynamics of the Kennedy murder and its place as a terrible and pivotal moment of the American Century. In his 1967 book Six Seconds in Dallas, Josiah Thompson notes that what he terms the “second generation” of assassination researchers—including Mark Lane, Edward J. Epstein, Harold Weisberg, Raymond Marcus, Léo Sauvage, Richard Popkin—owe “a deep debt to Salandria’s pioneering and largely unsung research.” Thompson is accurate, since Salandria is in the front rank of Warren Commission critics, and the prescience of his analysis is an instruction to all interested people.


On November 22, 1963, the day of the assassination, Salandria watched the unfolding narrative on television with his then brother-in-law, the late Harold Feldman (himself a important scholar of this case and the author of the monograph “Fifty-One Witnesses: The Grassy Knoll”). Many friends of Salandria recount his responses to that day. Salandria noted at the first moments of this crime that it reeked of a governmental coup, and that the confirmation of his suspicion would be the murder of the alleged suspect while in custody. He observed that from the first hours of the case, the pronouncements of the government, as carried by the major media, contained a consciousness of guilt at the center of state power. At no time did the government entertain seriously the possibility of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, even as local authorities in Dallas and the mainstream media offered a steady stream of evidence pointing to conspiracy (witnesses and physicians saying Kennedy was shot from two directions; witnesses running to the grassy knoll in front of the motorcade as well as into buildings behind the motorcade; more than one rifle found; various suspects detained; gun smoke smelled at ground level; a bystander wounded). Although many of these reports could have been in error, Salandria noted that the federal authorities, if honest, would have pursued these reports rather than shut down their options and proclaim the guilt of one man, a warehouse worker named Lee Harvey Oswald.


Oswald’s guilt was indeed immediately proclaimed, and rarely with the qualifier “alleged.” Oswald’s supposed leftist political affiliations were loudly trumpeted as a means of enhancing the aura of guilt around a man declared the murderer—and the only murderer—even before he was officially charged with the crime. It should be noted that the labeling by the government of Oswald as a leftist—and hence a homicidal madman—effectively stilled the dissent of and terrified much of the American progressive community, particularly with the publication of the Warren Report. The voice of Vincent Salandria, who never wavered from progressive values, was not so stilled.


On Nov. 2, 1964, Salandria published an article in The Legal Intelligencer, the oldest law publication in the United States. The piece, reproduced herein, is the first sustained criticism of the Warren Commission’s conclusions on the forensic evidence in the assassination. It represents a courageous and articulate dissent from within the American legal profession that, sadly, has rarely been replicated. To those who today argue that the government’s initial response to the assassination flowed from a concern merely to protect national security, Salandria’s article, written in 1964, is a crucial response. It shows that the authorities were utterly disingenuous about the smallest detail of the forensic evidence of the crime, and none of the official conduct augured well for confidence in the government’s motivations, then or now, in telling us about the assassination.


The circumstances of this article’s publication are as remarkable and historic as its content. The Philadelphia Bar Association had just finished celebrating the work for the Warren Commission of Arlen Specter, a native son who would soon be elected the city’s district attorney. Salandria, a practicing lawyer in Philadelphia, was unimpressed by his colleague’s new status in the profession. Theodore Voorhees, then Chancellor of the Bar, felt that Salandria’s dissent was too important for the Intelligencer to ignore, despite the paper’s positive appraisal both of the Warren Report and the service provided to the Warren Commission by its legal staff.


Salandria’s article, like his subsequent essays for the New Left journal Liberation [published in January and March 1965], contains a discourse now very familiar to assassination researchers, although it is doubtful if many know where the discourse originated. With a painstaking, methodical approach, Salandria showed how the government’s own evidence completely undermined its conclusions. His argument was bolstered many times over in his Liberation pieces, written after the Commission had issued its twenty-six evidentiary and hearings volumes. While critics have repeated ad nauseam the particulars of Salandria’s argument (the conflicting medical exhibits; the timing of the shots; the impossible trajectories; the ammunition; the ignoring of testimony), few, it seems to me, have apprehended Salandria’s perspective and sensibility as he studied these data.


Throughout his analysis of the Warren Commission evidence, Salandria posed to himself and to his reader questions that were at their heart philosophical and moral as well as political. He noted that the authorities, from the beginning, asked us to suspend not only the rule of law and basic physical laws, but also laws of logic and reason. We were asked by the Warren Commission to accept the Orwellian notion that two plus two equals five. We were asked to accept as sensible and professional conduct under our system of law the Chief Justice and his staff accepting into evidence crude anatomical sketches of President Kennedy’s wounds, drawn by a Navy corpsman at the direction of his superior, rather than primary autopsy data. Salandria asked himself and his readers if one could accept, as reasonable professional conduct of adult men, the Bethesda military doctors who performed Kennedy’s autopsy not immediately contacting the medical personnel in Dallas who first treated him, but instead contacting these personnel only as an afterthought the morning after the autopsy was completed and the body sent on for burial. These questions are still pertinent at the end of the twentieth century, since the federal government has yet to provide to the American public a clear, firmly supported account of how many times President Kennedy was shot, from which direction(s), and on which parts of his body he was wounded. Each time an accounting of the wounds is offered (the Clark Panel in 1968; the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979; the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992), the narrative changes, usually to accommodate to some degree the skepticism of the public.


As Salandria continued his research into the assassination, he observed that the media’s representations of the crime shifted regularly to meet the needs of the authorities in possession of the evidence. In this recognition, Salandria was especially prescient. Today, such writers as Jerry Policoff, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, and many others have proven that ours is hardly an independent media, but rather a set of (dis)information organs, constructed as corporations, wholly answerable to state and private power. This was never more evident than in Salandria’s early scrutiny of the media’s coverage of the Kennedy assassination.


Less than two weeks after the assassination, Life magazine published a Memorial Issue containing an article that attempted to put to rest “nagging rumors” about the assassination. The piece informed us that while President Kennedy was indeed shot in the throat from the front, this could be explained by examination of an 8mm film taken by a bystander that was at the moment of publication Life’s exclusive property (the famous Zapruder film). The author of the essay informed us that the film shows Kennedy turning far around, exposing thereby his throat to Oswald’s sniper’s lair six stories above the presidential motorcade. It would be ten years before the general public would learn that no such turn took place as it finally saw the Zapruder film on national television. Few would know the history of media mendacity on this issue, but Salandria was keeping careful notes.


Life’s uncritical support of the Warren Commission at times bordered on the hysterical. When the Warren Report was issued in the fall of 1964, Life was so enamored of it that the magazine published not one but three versions of a single issue. The issue contained an account of the Warren findings written not by a Life journalist, but by Gerald Ford, the future President who served (at the suggestion of his friend Richard Nixon) on the Commission. Salandria remarked that it was highly unusual, in an era before computer-based publishing, for a magazine to publish three versions of a single issue. The reason for this strange enterprise became clear as Salandria scanned the three versions. Each text contained refinements that bolstered the Commission’s lone-nut thesis, and attempted to clear up (but in the process only complicated) the contradictions related to a broad range of subjects—from the direction of the President’s body under the impact of the fatal shot to the timing of the Tippit shooting to the internal dissent on the Warren Commission. Salandria wrote to Life editor Ed Kern about the peculiar phenomenon of three versions of the same issue. Kern replied that indeed such an occurrence was highly unusual—and very costly—but could not figure out who authorized the changes nor how it was done.


In 1967-69 Salandria supported the efforts of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in reopening the assassination probe. This work is not represented here, but is mentioned in other locations, including Garrison’s A Heritage of Stone and On the Trail of the Assassins. Suffice it to say that Salandria’s contribution to Garrison’s effort was significant; Garrison sent an early printing of On the Trail of the Assassins to Salandria with the inscription: “To my intellectual mentor and friend.” Garrison’s discussion of “models of explanation” in A Heritage of Stone owes much to Salandria, whose examination of the elementary data convinced Garrison that he was looking not at a plot of right-wing fringe groups, but a coup at the center of the American power structure.


In the early 1970s, Salandria refined his model of explanation of the assassination in a speech before the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The speech was published in the unlikely venue Computers and Automation, a Boston-based science journal created by Edmund Berkeley and Richard Sprague, two computer systems analysts committed to the truth of the assassination and issues of social justice. In this transitional article, reprinted here, Salandria parted company with the school of assassination research—a school he helped to found—focused on Dealey Plaza, in order to examine the why of the assassination and its implications for America. At this stage of his work he determined that the continued ransacking of the Dealey Plaza microdata was a way of prolonging a false debate and instilling a pointless doubt and doublethink in the public, a theme that has been dominant in Salandria’s work to this day.


For Salandria, the endless probing of the evidentiary minutiae proceeds from the assumption that the case for conspiracy isn’t proven (and perhaps can never be proven), and that we should give the authorities the benefit of the doubt as we continue obsessional and debilitating detective work. For Salandria this reasoning, which invites the authorities to continue in their prevarication, is absurd and intellectually dishonest, since a consciousness of guilt was manifest in state power from the moment the assassination occurred. The micro-fixated critical orientation to this case forestalls an understanding of the assassination as a political act requiring mass mobilization, and an analysis of the murder attentive to its political-economic context.


In the mid-70s, Salandria developed these concerns further with the assistance of his friend, Professor Thomas Katen. In a piece called “The Design of the Warren Report, to Fall to Pieces,” perhaps Salandria’s most controversial article, he posited something many critics—including Sylvia Meagher and Harold Weisberg—had long intuited about the Warren Report. To read the Report is to disbelieve it. The reasoning of the Report is absurd, yet unreasonable or irrational men didn’t write it. Salandria argued that the Report was designed to appear incredible, and thereby signal to the people of America that faith in constituency-based government was obsolete, as state power and the capitalist system it represents consolidated their authority over America. Salandria scholars (there are more than a few) debate this piece, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to judge the intent of the Warren Report authors to the level of Salandria’s assertions. Intentionality is indeed a tough call, but it is useful to consider the effect of the Warren Report alongside Salandria’s argument with the hindsight of thirty-six years.


Today, the Kennedy assassination has entered cyberspace and the domain of pop culture. JFK assassination experts are everywhere, and although most think a conspiracy was “likely,” few seem able or interested in seeing how it was precipitated by basic assumptions of our government and economic system. Even fewer people seem interested in the crime’s relationship to subsequent history and our current moment as the case is consigned to the culture of postmodernity and The X Files. Looking at the current situation, we might reflect on Salandria’s most explosive contentions in “The Design of the Warren Report,” and an earlier piece, “The Promotion of Domestic Discord.” Is much of our supposedly adversarial culture, in large part produced by a culture industry, a means of coopting and diluting genuinely adversarial energies? The Huxleyan vision of the future Salandria spoke of in “The Design of the Warren Report” seems too close for comfort as wars become video games, and as we seek solace from the VCR and prescription tranquilizers.


The essay entitled “A False Mystery Concealing State Crimes” is Salandria’s speech before the Coalition on Political Assassination’s 1998 conference, and is a summary statement of his work. It exhorts the reader not to participate in the false, debilitating debate that refuses to say President Kennedy was the victim of a state-sanctioned coup. Salandria asks that we use this murder as an instruction for our times, a lesson concerning the bankruptcy of our way of life, as we engage in the difficult task of building a more just society. The speech, which took Salandria nearly two hours to deliver at COPA, received a prolonged standing ovation, heartening him greatly after a long period of believing assassination research had become an intellectual hobby horse and taken a disastrously pointless turn. The next evening, COPA gave Salandria a long-overdue lifetime achievement award.


Vincent Salandria has never wanted a public profile, and consistently rejected offers to write a book. Occasionally, he has accepted invitations from the Philadelphia media to speak on the subject of the assassination. He has also accepted invitations from civic groups to debate Arlen Specter; Specter has always refused, claiming he has “already” debated Salandria (presumably because he once answered questions about Salandria’s work). A speech by Salandria, although rare, is always pregnant with import that either misses most of the audience or is treated with derision. In a 1967 lecture attended by author Joe McGinniss, Salandria stated that RFK would most likely be assassinated, and that LBJ would step down from office. McGinniss, a chronicler of the 60s and 70s, thought it “sad” that Salandria should believe such things.


In the past thirty-five years Salandria has, in pop psychology terms, “empowered” any number of people interested in the truth of the Kennedy murder. A few people who have benefited from his thought: Harold Feldman, Gaeton Fonzi, Ray Marcus, Jim Garrison, Sylvia Meagher, Jim DiEugenio, and incidentally myself. In the early 1990s, Salandria assembled a circle of correspondents who engage in a round-robin exchange concerning the Kennedy assassination, its legacy, and the shape of our current world. Among those who have participated in this very prolific circle are E. Martin Schotz, Michael Morrissey, Robert Dean, Fletcher Prouty, Steve Jones, Gaeton Fonzi, Barbara LaMonica, Jim Douglass, Dick Levy, Donald Gibson, William Pepper, Joan Mellen, Ben Schotz, and many others. I have been privileged to be in their number. In time, some of this correspondence may be offered for publication, an event that I think would be significant in enhancing public discussion of the JFK assassination. The thinking of this group has already found its way into Fonzi’s The Last Investigation and Schotz’s History Will Not Absolve Us. Both Fonzi and Schotz have been close friends to Salandria for over thirty years. Fonzi produced groundbreaking research for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Schotz, who speaks with Salandria almost every day, has been his intellectual gadfly, a contributor of such magnitude to our understanding of this case it is appropriate that this compendium includes his essay “The Waters of Knowledge,” also presented at the 1998 COPA meeting.


Schotz, a Boston psychiatrist, long ago suggested to Salandria that the public was encased in denial concerning the Kennedy assassination. Schotz observed that public discourse seemed to permit the notion that a conspiracy was “possible” or “likely.” A common statement on the subject is that one “feels” or “believes” that there was official misconduct and obfuscation in the crime. Like the addict or alcoholic unable to confront the seriousness of the disease, the American public would prefer not to know the truth and say it, but to remain locked in psychic and political paralysis rather than state outright that Kennedy was removed by official power, and thereby confront the monstrousness of our political-economic system. I have suggested to Schotz that he extend his penetrating insight a bit further, since to live in America, it seems to me, means to live in some state of denial, because a sensitive person could not live here, aware of the nation’s history, its murderous past, its cruel and inequitable present, without hiding in a carapace of denial. It is the hope of Schotz, Salandria, and this writer that we may all confront truth, shed denial, and build a better world.


I have many fond personal memories of Vince Salandria. I was still living in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in 1973 when I screwed up the courage to drop a letter to this formidable, yet quiet, founder of the JFK assassination research community. My adolescent shyness was still obvious in those years, and I disliked imposing myself. My friend Robert Cutler, a flinty and outspoken Bostonian who did major work on the Dealey Plaza trajectory evidence, scoffed at my inhibition. He admonished me with the remark: “Do you know who he is?” I couldn’t muster a reply. “He’s the first damn researcher!” I wrote to Salandria, we had a brief exchange of letters, I invited him to lunch, he accepted.


At the time, I was completing my first graduate degree at Villanova University, and often took a train into center city Philadelphia before making a very long trek to Villanova in the Philadelphia “main line.” My stopover in the city would frequently be the occasion to meet Salandria at his office, or at his old address on Delancey Place. We would have lunch (he bristled if I offered to pay) and walk through town. Salandria would tell me about the case, his experiences, his concern for America. I often felt like the companion to M. Dupin in one of Poe’s detective stories. Suffice it to say that Salandria’s original and penetrating mind made a lasting impression. He fast became one of the few thinkers whose sense of the world stayed with me. I soon began to chide him for his self-effacing tendencies; he still refers to himself as “a poor Italian peasant.” He always knew he packed the gear, and my refusal to accept his modesty has fueled the humor in our relationship.


We appeared together once on the radio station of the University of Pennsylvania, Salandria’s alma mater, and undertook a couple of minor projects before my graduate education and career took me far away from Philadelphia. I began lecturing on the assassination in 1975, recounting to college groups, churches, libraries, and high schools my experience as a researcher, my brief work for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and my view of the case. I always brought up the name Salandria. In 1991, just prior to the release of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, I realized that it had been almost five years since I last spoke to Vince Salandria. Among other things for which I must thank Stone’s historic film is the prompt to get in touch again with a man who has been so transformational to my political and historical worldview. And I have benefited at least some, I think, from his enormous humanity and generosity.


I am grateful to John Kelin for creating this tribute to Vincent Salandria, and hope these articles will inspire new enthusiasms in the young now with us, and in future generations.


Christopher Sharrett Seton Hall University July 1999


This obituary originally appeared in the New York Times on August 11, 2020.


Matt Herron, a photojournalist who vividly memorialized the most portentous and promising moments from the front lines of the 1960s civil rights movement in the Deep South, died on Aug. 7 when a glider he was piloting crashed in Northern California. He was 89.

His wife, Jeannine Hull Herron, said Mr. Herron was flying his new self-launching glider (he had learned to fly at 70) when it crashed about 125 miles northwest of Sacramento after taking off from Lampson Field in Lakeport, on Clear Lake. He died at the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board said the crash was under investigation.

A child of the Depression and a protégé of the Dust Bowl documentarian Dorothea Lange, Mr. Herron assembled a team of photographers to capture the clashes between white Southerners and Black protesters, aided by their white Freedom Rider allies, as they sought to claim the rights they had been legally granted a century before.

Mr. Herron, who worked for newsmagazines, described himself as a “propagandist” for civil rights organizations, including the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which gave him rare behind-the-scenes access to its members.

His photographs of the civil rights movement appeared in Life, Look, Newsweek and other magazines and in books like “This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement” (2012) and “Mississippi Eyes: The Story and Photography of the Southern Documentary Project” (2014). From 1963, when he was arrested at a protest to integrate a Maryland amusement park, to 1965, Mr. Herron immersed himself in the South, living there with his wife and two young children. His daughter went to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham two weeks before a bombing by white supremacists killed four Black girls attending Sunday school there.

On one occasion, he recalled, he strapped his cameras on “like armor plate” for protection while being chased by a club-wielding deputy sheriff. “That gave me the courage that otherwise I lacked,” he said.

One of Mr. Herron’s most famous photos was of a confrontation with the police in Jackson, Miss., in June 1965.

Alyene Quin, a civil rights worker whose house in McComb, Miss., had been firebombed, had come to the state capital with her three young children to protest the election of five congressmen from districts where Blacks were not allowed to vote. Refused admittance to the Governor’s Mansion, they sat on the steps. Mrs. Quin held a sign that read, “No More Police Brutality. We Want the Right to Register and Vote,” while her children waved small American flags.

“Anthony, don’t let that man take your flag,” Mrs. Quin said as a highway patrolman tried to wrench the flag away from her 5-year-old.

“So Anthony holds onto the flag,” Mr. Herron told The Princeton Alumni Weekly in 2014. (He was a 1953 graduate.) “The patrolman, Hughie Kohler, probably had never met resistance from a small Black child before, and he’s trying to take the flag, Anthony’s hanging onto it, and Kohler goes temporarily berserk. So Kohler wrenches the flag out of Anthony’s hands. And the gods of chance sent me this sign in the background being held by another policeman: ‘No More Police Brutality.’”

Recalling the incident in an oral history project in 2010, he said, “The simple act of a small child carrying an American flag represented defiance of Mississippi law and custom.”

Matthew John Herron was born on Aug. 3, 1931, in Rochester, N.Y., to Matthew and Ruth (Coult) Herron. His mother was a master fabric artist and weaver, his father a certified public accountant. Given a camera as a gift, Matthew started taking pictures at 7, and his mother built a darkroom in the basement of the family’s home. As a teenager he was an Eagle Scout.

Mr. Herron graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton in 1953 and for a time pursued a master’s in Middle East studies and Arabic at the University of Michigan with the thought of forging a diplomatic career. He never completed the degree, however.

During the Korean War he registered as a conscientious objector and, drawing on his Middle East studies, fulfilled part of his service teaching in a Quaker school in Ramallah on the West Bank. There he returned to photography. “Matt’s heritage was Irish,” his wife said in an email. “He was a natural storyteller.”

Mr. Herron mingled with photojournalists in the Middle East, where he met and married Jeannine Hull, who was teaching there. Returning to Rochester, he briefly worked as a corporate photographer for Kodak (using a Speed Graphic) and was mentored by the landscape photographer Minor White, who taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In addition to his wife, who later became a research neuropsychologist, Mr. Herron is survived by two children; Matthew Allison Herron and Melissa Herron Titone; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Herron wrote a book with his family about their two-year sailing trip to West Africa from Florida in 1970; participated in Greenpeace protests against commercial whaling; and served as chairman of the Media Photographers International Committee. (Besides learning to fly at 70, he learned to play the double bass at 80.)

As a photographer, “Matt had a sensitivity to the subject matter and was able to envision it in a way that was both powerful, dramatic but also touching,” his colleague, Ken Light, a professor of photojournalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said by phone. He sought ways “to intensify the image,” Mr. Light added, like shooting a bombed Black church through the shattered windshield of a parked car.

In an oral history, Mr. Herron recalled the civil rights movement as a difficult but also a magical time.

“We embraced each other,” he said. “We sang freedom songs together. We wept together. It was the only time in my life that I lived in what I consider a truly integrated society, where there were no barriers.”

“I was photographing things that I wanted to photograph,” he added. “I was trying to bring to life a political movement which eventually transformed the country.”