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November 3, 2003

 

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UA History Professor to Speak in Dallas on the 40th Anniversary of JFK Assassination

For interviews: Dr. Howard Jones may be reached directly at 205/339-5044 or hjones@bama.ua.edu. Following this release is a transcript of portions of an interview Jones conducted with UA’s media relations office.

Dr. Howard Jones

Dr. Howard Jones

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Dr. Howard Jones, University Research Professor of History at The University of Alabama and author of a recent book about John F. Kennedy, will appear as a featured speaker at the upcoming regional conference of the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) in Dallas Nov. 21-23.

Jones, author of “Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War” (Oxford University Press, 2003), will speak from the “Grassy Knoll” on Nov. 22.

In “Death of a Generation,” Jones reveals that Kennedy was on the verge of implementing a withdrawal plan that would have spared the lives of 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese. Had Kennedy lived, Jones argues, all those lost souls’ children and grandchildren would be alive today.

COPA, which formed in 1994, was responsible for the drafting and passage of the JFK Assassination Records Act, which eventually led to the largest release of classified documents in U.S. history, more than 6 million pages to date. Its members consist of forensic, medical and ballistics experts, academicians and authors, researchers and citizens who continue to research the major political assassinations of modern history. COPA seeks to discover the historical and political truth about these murders.

Interestingly, their members’ research has led to some of the conclusions Jones reaches in “Death of A Generation,” especially concerning Kennedy’s war plans and the effect of his murder on those plans.

This year marks the 35th anniversaries of the killings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. Other Dallas speakers include Dr. Peter Dale Scott, Dr. Philip Melanson, Ronnie Dugger, Paris Flammonde and others, covering all three assassinations.

Jones joined UA’s history department, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, in 1974. He authored “Mutiny on the Amistad,” a 1987 book which received wide critical acclaim. He was a special consultant on Steven Spielberg’s movie production of Amistad.


An Interview with Howard Jones on JFK's Legacy and How Public Opinion on Iraq Compares with Vietnam

Q: How do you rank Kennedy's effectiveness among this country's presidents?

HJ: JFK's rating has, of course, risen because of the martyrdom of assassination. I also attribute some of his popularity to the image so many have of Camelot and that of the nation’s closest brush with a sense of royalty. Dean Rusk was among those who knew him well and considered him a hardnosed realist, an idealist without illusions perhaps. But his administration was headed in the right way in many ways, both domestic and foreign. Many have found it difficult to give him a good rating because of the legacy of deepened involvement in Vietnam. But once it fully becomes clear that he had an exit strategy under way (as Jones points out in his book, “Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War,” Oxford University Press, 2003), his ratings should rise -- perhaps in the top third.

Q: What do you see as key aspects of his legacy, and is his legacy apt to change much over time?

HJ: His legacy can only become clear with the passage of time. As I mentioned above, the documents recently opened show that he intended to phase out all special military involvement in Vietnam, only to see the program collapse with his assassination and the arrival of LBJ. He also should receive fairly high marks on civil rights advances, although many still believe that he moved too slowly. LBJ, of course, appealed to Americans to support civil rights in the name of JFK.

Q: Do you think the divisiveness in our country over Iraq is on course to rival the divisiveness the country experienced in Vietnam?

HJ: In the case of Vietnam, divisiveness did not really develop until the body bags began arriving home in great numbers. Some have suggested that the present administration wishes to avoid coverage of these events of today. When the American people see these in greater numbers, when they fully realize the costs of intervention, and when they can separate the Iraqi events from 9/11 without appearing unpatriotic, the divisiveness will grow.

Q: I would imagine you'll experience a variety of emotions standing on the “Grassy Knoll” 40 years to the date after the assassination. Have you experienced anything similar to this in the past, and what do you think this experience will be like for you, personally?

HJ: This will be a moving experience. I have become very emotional numerous times while giving talks on the Amistad,* particularly when I spoke in the areas of the country where the events occurred.

I anticipate the same kinds of emotion on November 22, especially since I am convinced that the shots that killed the president opened the Pandora's box to the tragedy of Vietnam -- measured primarily by more than 58,000 American deaths, along with countless numbers of Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, and others.

* Jones authored the 1987 book “Mutiny on the Amistad,” which chronicled America’s only successful slave ship mutiny. He was later a special consultant to Steven Spielberg on the movie production of “Amistad.”