Who Killed John F. Kennedy?

Penny Sadler's picture

On November 22, 1963, the president’s motorcade turned onto Elm St. in Dallas, Texas. At 12:30 pm CST, as it passed in front of the Texas School Book Depository (411 Elm St.), shots rang out. The motorcade raced to Parkland Hospital less than ten minutes away. At 1:00 pm., John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States was pronounced dead.

Dealey Plaza, Dallas. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Dealey Plaza

Meanwhile on the sixth floor of the book depository, police found a barricade of boxes, three spent bullet cartridges, and a paper bag under the southeast window on the sixth floor. Then, a rifle was found stuffed between boxes near the staircase on the sixth floor.

Sniper's perch. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Sniper's perch

The rail yards and an area known as the grassy knoll were also searched, but no evidence was found there.

At about 1:50 p.m., Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested inside the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff. Oswald was an employee of the Book Depository at the time and was missing from roll call, thereby becoming a prime suspect in the president’s shooting. Finger and palm prints on the boxes linked Lee Harvey Oswald to the murder.

Oswald and Ruby. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Oswald and Ruby

On Sunday, November 24, 1963, while being transferred from the city to the county jail, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner.

Ruby was convicted and sentenced to death, but that verdict was overturned on appeal in 1966. In 1967, while awaiting a second trial, Jack Ruby died of cancer at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

These are the facts as reported by journalists and spectators in 1963. I was just a toddler at the time of Kennedy’s death, but I can not read that first paragraph without becoming emotional. I can’t help but think, what if? Why? What would our world be like today if Kennedy had lived to fulfill his dreams for America?

The Campaign exhibit, Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

The campaign exhibit

I was part of the Dallas film crew on Oliver Stone’s production JFK, and was able to talk to many people who were spectators in the crowd that day. In my conversations with them I understood that each and every one of them felt a deep loss, and many still felt real grief. Unlike any president before or since, John F. Kennedy inspired an entire nation and gave hope for the future. Perhaps this is the real tragedy. Hope is a terrible thing to lose.

I’m also a believer that there was more than one shooter. That Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone, but was perhaps set up to be the fall guy. And I wouldn’t discount the theory that Lyndon B. Johnson had a hand in it. What do you think?

Who killed Kennedy?

Was it really Lee Harvey Oswald, murdered before he even had a chance to go to trial? Was it a conspiracy? Was it the Cubans? The Italian Mafia? The CIA? Did Lyndon Johnson have a hand in it? Perhaps it was a conspiracy between all of them?

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza presents the evidence, but does not really answer that question.

Dealey Plaza, Sixth Floor Museum Exterior

Sixth Floor Museum Exterior

In fact, in the museum’s mission statement it is stated: “The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history.”

Further, the vision of the museum is: “To be an impartial, multi-generational destination and forum for exploring the memory and effects of events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, through sharing his legacy and its impact on an ever-changing global society.”

I believe the Sixth Floor Museum fulfills both its mission and vision while offering visitors an amazing array of hard evidence: photographs, video footage, radio broadcast recordings, guns, cameras, clothing, and more, with which to examine and to draw their own conclusions.

The museum’s permanent exhibition documents the “events of the assassination, the findings of the official investigations that followed, and the historical legacy of that national tragedy.”

Entering the museum is a step back in time to the 1960s - a history of the political and social highlights of America and the achievements of Kennedy’s short time in office, the events of November 22 - 25, 1963, and the findings of two investigations, The Warren Commission and the House of Representatives’ Select Committee.

What you will see at the museum:

Two areas of the sixth floor are recreated to appear as they did in 1963, the sniper’s perch where supposedly Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed the president as his motorcade passed in front of the Book Depository, and the stairwell where the rifle was discovered.

Sniper's perch. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Sniper's perch

Rifle location. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Rifle location

Amateur films and photographs. These are images that were captured by people in the crowd that had come to welcome the president to Dallas. This includes both 8mm and 16mm films, photographic prints of many sizes, negatives, and transparencies.

Professional media film and photographs. This is the largest single source for still and moving images outside of the major broadcast networks and the National Archives. The collection includes 16mm and 35mm films and 2” video tape, photographic negatives, and reel-to-reel audio.

Exhibit: The Photographers. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Exhibit: The Photographers

The document and artifact-based collection includes: historic objects such as presidential memorabilia, cameras, clothing, Parkland Memorial Hospital records, court records, newspapers from around the world, 3-D models, and much much more.

The Oral History Collection includes more than 1,000 audio and visually recorded personal memories about the life, death, and legacy of President Kennedy as told by eyewitnesses, law enforcement officials, filmmakers, and media.

The Reading Room. A place where collection materials are available for research.

FBI Model exhibit, Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

FBI Model exhibit

What’s important about this museum and why I believe it should be on every visitor’s itinerary to Dallas:

We must never forget. Let us learn from the events of November 22, 1963; at the Sixth Floor Museum, John F. Kennedy’s vision for America lives on through historical photographs, films, and recordings, and perhaps inspires visitors from around the world who travel to Dallas and visit the museum.

Leavelle suit exhibit, Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

Leavelle suit exhibit

New and engaging materials and evidence is added to the museum regularly. The Oral History room is constantly adding new interviews. The website www.jfk.org contains a wealth of information and materials like the Zapbruder Film, the only recording of the entire event captured on moving film footage.

History and conspiracy fans alike will find a wealth of well organized and documented information at the Sixth Floor Museum. If you're a history buff, the black and white film and photographs will take you back in time; perhaps like me, you will even shed some tears. If you're a conspiracy theorist, good luck.

6th floor window view. Sixth Floor Museum. From Who Killed JFK?

6th floor window view

The museum continues to add new information and files as they become available. There are thousands of documents yet to be released. The JFK Act requires all records to be released in 2017. Who knows what new information will be revealed?

For now the museum, like the rest of the world, waits until 2017 for new evidence to be released.


The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
411 Elm St.
Dallas, Texas 75202

and their Teacher resource guide

Photos courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza



Penny Sadler is the Style/Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. For more information on traveling in style, please see www.pennysadler.com and http://adventuresofacarryon.com/