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JFK: A National Tragedy Remembered 58 Years Later

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John F. Kennedy in an open-car motercade in Dallas. | Image from Wikimedia

November 22, 1963, marks the date when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas, fifty-eight years ago today.

At the age of forty-six, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the youngest U.S. President elected into office and the youngest to have died. Speculation concerning his assassination has been a source of various conspiracy theories throughout the years.   

Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was shot while riding in an open-car motorcade in downtown Dallas.

At 12:30 pm, two bullets from a rifle struck him in the head and neck. He was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he died shortly after his arrival.    

A twenty-four-year-old Dallas resident, Lee Harvey Oswald, was accused of the shooting. Two days after the assassination, a local club owner named Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald in the police basement where he was being held.    

A ten-month investigation by then-Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, known as The Warren Commission, concluded that Oswald acted alone when he fired on the motorcade.   

However, “the Commission’s investigation was criticized for being incomplete,” recounted NPR News, “with a Congressional committee later concluding that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.'”   

In 1992, Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, mandating that all government records concerning the assassination “should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination.”    

The law also states that the release of the records can be postponed if their public disclosure would cause “identifiable harm” to military, intelligence, law enforcement, or foreign operations. 

To date, more than 250,000 documents concerning the assassination and surrounding investigation have been released; that number represents about 90% of the government’s records on the subject.   

Last month, the Biden administration stated in a memo that the remaining files “shall be withheld from full public disclosure” until December 15, 2022. The reason cited for the delay was that the national archivist needed more time to review possible redactions for security reasons, a process that had been slowed by the pandemic.   

The memo also revealed that President Biden has asked the archivist to draft a plan to digitize the records and make the entire collection available to view online.  

In the written statement, Biden referred to Kennedy’s assassination as a “profound national tragedy” that “continues to resonate in American history and in the memories of so many Americans who were alive on that terrible day.”