Dallas has lost its leading expert on the Kennedy assassination. The longtime curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, Gary Mack, died Wednesday at the age of 68. Friends say he suffered from an aggressive cancer.
Consumed with what happened in Dealey Plaza, Mack started out chasing conspiracy theories and ended up chief historian and archivist of the assassination.
Hugh Aynesworth and Gary Mack weren’t exactly friends when they first met. More like adversaries.
“I don’t know, he thought I was the devil I think at the beginning, all these conspiracy people did. And of course they accused me of being ex-FBI, ex-CIA and everything else in between," says Aynesworth.
Aynesworth was a newspaper man who dismissed conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. Mack worked in radio and TV and felt differently. One day, sometime in the 1980s, Aynesworth and Mack had lunch, and everything changed.
“We suddenly became friends. And we kicked around a lot of different things and investigated a lot of things together and he became quite a historian," says Aynesworth. "He did so much for the Sixth Floor Museum.”
Mack joined the staff there in 1994 and became curator six years later. Wednesday, his colleagues were reeling.
“Gary’s death today has simply left behind a very big hole and we take comfort in knowing that his spirit will live on at the museum and in Dealey Plaza," says the museum's Executive Director Nicola Langford.
One of Mack’s major accomplishments while working at the Sixth Floor was collecting 250 hours of Kennedy assassination news coverage. He joined KERA’s Krys Boyd on “Think” in November of 2009 to talk about how he got it.
“I knocked on the door at Channel 4 first and I don’t know, maybe the planets were lined up properly or something, and I said 'look, would you consider donating all of your Kennedy assassination footage to the Sixth Floor Museum?' And they thought about it and said 'well, OK.' And they did!”
Mack and Krys Boyd co-produced a KERA-TV documentary called “JFK: Breaking the News” in 2003. It focused on how television covered the assassination.
Boyd says she leaned heavily on Mack’s encyclopedic knowledge when they were working together.
“There were a lot of times where I had to just stop myself from just calling him to ask him all my questions because it would have been so much easier to just turn to Gary and let him fill me in on every detail," she says.
Hugh Aynesworth is already feeling the void.
“We’re not going to have one person that knows that much about the assassination. And all elements and all roads leading everywhere, Gary was the man," he says.
Those who know Gary Mack say he’s left such big shoes to fill, it’s doubtful anyone will even try them on