For interviews: Dr. Howard Jones may be
reached directly at 205/339-5044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following this release is a transcript of portions
of an interview Jones conducted with UA’s media relations
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
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
* 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.”