Bill Muntaglio and Steven L. Davis
Twelve. 371 pp. $28
By Ron Capshaw
Rarely mentioned in the seemingly endless debate about who killed John F. Kennedy is how much the reputation of Texas was tied into it. The immediate reaction from the national news media on 22 November 1963 was that the hateful rightwing climate in Dallas murdered the president. Texans, in turn, sought to save their state’s pride by practically screaming (which didn’t help their case) that Kennedy wasn’t killed by a Texan or Texans but by a New Orleans-born Marxist.
Bill Muntaglio a Texas journalist, and Stephen L. Davis, a University of Texas professor residing in Austin, a liberal bastion, show the dangerous combination of fundamentalist religion and politics in Camelot-era Dallas. Ministers cranked out pamphlets entitled “God: The First Segregationist.” Birchers regard the cold war as a holy one, the forces of God versus satanic communism, and true to their conspiracy mindset found one of its minions in the White House. Even though President Kennedy’s committment to civil rights was feeble at best, Dallas’s right-wing viewed him as some kind of Malcolm X, and his decided anticommunism (his administration increased the number of advisers in South Vietnam, and waged a secret war against Fidel Castro) was still found wanting. The publisher of the Dallas Morning News told Kennedy to his face that the country needed a man on horseback, but was instead getting a president who rode Caroline’s bicycle. Not even one of their one, Lyndon B. Johnson, was exempt from suspicion and abuse. When visiting Dallas during the 1960 campaign, he and Lady Bird were mobbed by an angry crowd. And UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was spat upon and hit during a visit to Dallas just a month before the assassination.