Friday, November 22nd, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To mark this occasion, the Southwest Collection has installed an exhibit in our east gallery displaying books, documents, photographs, and other materials from several of our collections that relate to the tragedy. We currently house over 200 books about the assassination, ranging from academic publications to explorations of conspiracy theories. Two of our finest manuscript collections–the papers of Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr and Congressman George H. Mahon–contain a wealth of documentary evidence related to this moment in American history.
Waggoner Carr, born in 1918 in Fairlie, Texas, moved with his family to Lubbock, Texas, as a young man. After serving as a pilot during World War II, he completed a law degree at the University of Texas, went into private practice, and soon after involved himself in local politics. He served as Lubbock Assistant District Attorney and Lubbock County Attorney before setting his sights on Austin. There he represented Lubbock in the State Legislature (1951-1961), eventually rising to Speaker of Texas House of Representatives (1957-1961) before moving on to serve as Texas Attorney General (1963-1967).
Because he was the state’s Attorney General when Kennedy was assassinated, Carr oversaw the initial investigation into the murder, gathering evidence that he would later provide to the Warren Commission. Testimonies, police reports, photographs, and correspondence with investigators, witnesses, and government officials at all levels, as well as sound and movie recordings such as those in the above image, can be found among the many other fascinating items in his papers.
George Herman Mahon’s papers are another key component of our Kennedy-related holdings. Mahon practiced law in Colorado City, Texas, in the 1920s before serving as Mitchell County attorney from 1926. In 1934 he won the congressional seat for the Nineteenth Congressional District and remained in that office forty-four years. He retired in 1978 as the then-longest sitting member of Congress.
Because he served as Texas’ Representative during Kennedy’s tragically shortened term, and because he ranked as one of the most influential Texas Democrats, Mahon joined the Texas delegation that traveled with the President throughout Texas. He found himself riding through Dealey Plaza only five cars behind President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally. During the flight back to Washington D.C. after the assassination, Mahon recorded his recollections of the event. These notes–a sample of which can be seen above–as well as copious correspondence and a host of other documentation, are a part of our collection of his papers.
The John F. Kennedy exhibit will run through February, 2014, and is open to the public from 8am to 5pm on weekdays. Interested researchers may contact our Reference Department to take a look at the prized collections mentioned above, as well as the many other collections we make available.