St. Louis, Mo., and Washington, D.C: 1969.
pp. total on quarto sheets. 4to. "HE'S DEAD ALL RIGHT." Fine. In a black and grey half morocco and cloth folding case, spine gilt Item #247566
An exceptional group of correspondence between Reverend Oscar L. Huber, the Priest who administered Kennedy’s last rights after his assassination and is best known for allegedly leaking the news of JFK’s death before there was an official announcement, and Hugh Sidey, the journalist for Time Magazine who reported that the Reverend declared “He’s dead, all right.” Though Huber struggled with the negative attention which came from being labeled disloyal to the United States Government for having gone against a request by the Secret Service to be discrete, these letters are the first time that Rev. Huber confronts his accuser, some six years later. By this time he had already published his own book entitled Last Moments With President Kennedy (1968) in which he vehemently denies leaking any information in the moments following the President’s death. The catalyst for this exchange is the publication of several books on the Kennedy assassination which focused on his role in the Kennedy assassination. Quoting in part, he writes:
“I am writing this letter after much deliberation. Shortly before Mr. Manchester’s book, THE DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, came into the hands of the public, an article appeared in the February 7, 1967 issue of LOOK in which Mr. Manchester stated that you asked me if the President was dead, and I took a deep breath and said: “He’s dead all right.” Mr. Sidey, I did not tell you, or any other reporter, or any group of reporters the President was dead. May I ask you this question? Were you really at Parkland Hospital on the day of the assassination? If so, perhaps you did ask a Priest if the President was dead, and it is possible that he gave you the above answer –but I assure you if you did ask me the question I DID NOT tell you the President was dead.”
This begins a polite but heated exchange between the two men over the course of five letters. Sidey defends himself as a reporter, stating firmly (quoting in part):
“We did not manufacture that reply. It is recorded for all posterity on the records of the broadcasters and wire services of that day. It had to come from somewhere…Further, I don’t find it unnatural or in any way unfortunate that you said that. It was, in fact, to me, a very essential truth that needed saying just then.”
For all their heated debate, these two men end the correspondence on a surprisingly congenial note. From Sidey:
“I think that the world is big enough for us to live with our memories. Neither of us, I suspect, is entirely accurate and neither of us has deliberately done anything to injure anyone else. History is filled with such inconsistencies as ours and having been in the business of recording it day to day I can claim no infallibility nor can I grant it to any other human. You performed a very great service to a great man, his family and his country in a most critical time. The details are almost irrelevant to that. I hope that my account has not really caused you too much embarrassment and I further hope you won’t let it concern you much in the future."
And Rev. Huber:
“I am deeply impressed with your letter of May 13th. In my humble estimation it is a letter that only a gentleman would write. Never did I think you deliberately wrote those things which I made a sincere effort to clarify without giving offense to you. I assure you I hold nothing against you and that I would deem it a pleasure to meet you some day.”
These letters provide a captivating insight into what took place on the day of Kennedy’s assassination, parts of which will always remain a mystery.
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