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President John F. Kennedy's assassination is an unforgettable part of Dallas' history.Nearly 54 years later, scholars and enthusiasts alike are still processing details from that fateful drive through Dealey Plaza now that the remaining investigation files have been unsealed. For the 50th anniversary in 2013, KERA produced special stories and reports from the commemoration:The 50th: Remembering John F. Kennedy was KERA's live, two-hour special covering the official commemoration event at Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 2013. Hosted by Krys Boyd and Shelley Kofler, the special includes reports from KERA reporters before the ceremony begins. Listen to the special here.Bells tolled across the city, and the event featured historian David McCullough, who read from Kennedy’s presidential speeches; Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings; religious leaders; the U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club; and a moment of silence. Read highlights from the event from KERA's live blog from that day.Throughout the month, KERA posted an online series called 22 Days In November, which takes a closer look at that fateful day, what it meant to the country and how it affected Dallas.We shared stories and memories in a series called “JFK Voices.” Explore our archives below.

What The Unsealed FBI Files Tell Us About The JFK Assassination, 54 Years Later

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
President and Jackie Kennedy arrived at Dallas Love Field on Nov. 22, 1963.

As the 54th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy nears, information from the previously sealed FBI files related to the tragedy is still being processed by scholars and enthusiasts alike. 

Jeffrey Engel, who heads Southern Methodist University's Center for Presidential History, says the documents so far offer some interesting insight, but he's seen nothing that changes what happened on that November day in Dealey Plaza.

Interview Highlights

On Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone: There’s really been nothing new in these documents that should change our opinion from the Warren Commission, that should change the idea that there was a lone gunman. There’s been a lot of anticipation. It’s been fascinating to watch people’s excitement build, hoping that they’re going to find something that would completely explain away every problem, every quandary that we’ve had trying to figure out what happened in November of 1963. But these records have been more about the process of the investigation than they were about actual assassination itself.

The value in exposing the process: We’re starting to understand why the CIA, in particular, did not want these records being revealed because they show the CIA not in a great light, in many cases, in how they were conducting their operations more generally. The truth is in the '60s and '70s, the CIA was doing a lot of business they’re not proud of, and so we’re seeing them really expose how they operate in ways they wish they had not, 40 years later.

3 reasons it’s difficult for people to accept Oswald acted alone:

  1. There is a subset of society that just simply refuses to accept the easy answer. The easy answer is usually the right answer. They just want to see a conspiracy. They want the world to be more complex because they like the idea that there is actually somebody in charge.
  2. There are these coincidences, and the more you pull on strings, the more you realize there are more strings to pull. It doesn’t mean the strings are connected to anything.
  3. We’re still dealing with the trauma of having lost this presidency, which in a real sense, was the end of America’s innocence as it conceived of itself. We don’t really think of the 1960s beginning until Kennedy’s assassination, and of course, we know how the 1960s ended in tragedies like Vietnam and racial tensions and civil rights tensions. We don’t necessarily want to believe that it could just be a simple act of murder; perhaps there’s some greater meaning given what we know came to be a tumultuous decade.


This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.