Tonawanda News — Let’s say you want to stir up a little something.
Start with three cups of quiet collaboration. Add in a dash of rumor; a teaspoon each of anti-Semitism, segregation and Red Scare; and a tablespoon of divisive politics. Stir in money – lots of it – and bake in a 10-gallon hat for three-and-a-half years.
Yields: heated arguments and mouthfuls of hate.
And as you’ll see in the new book “Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis, that’s a recipe for changing history.
When the holiday cards arrived at the homes of Dallas’ “most influential residents,” there was confusion – and consternation.
Signed “Best – Jack,” the cards featured then-Senator John Kennedy and his family on the front. The subtle, assumed message was that Kennedy would run for president, which concerned Dallas’ powerbrokers – including the world’s richest man, a minister and a newspaperman.
It was January 1960. Dallas had been steadfastly ignoring Brown vs. Board of Education and other unpopular Washington edicts; a liberal Democrat in office was unthinkable. No, the city’s powerful firmly supported Nixon for the upcoming election.
But best-laid plans can be changed by the smallest events. When a Texas politician gathered protestors for a Dallas appearance by Lyndon Johnson just before the election, violence erupted and national cameras captured normally-genteel women spitting at the VP candidate and his frightened wife. Horrified on-the-fence voters nationwide cast their ballots accordingly.
But “hatred” for Kennedy wasn’t limited to Dallas.
Southerners widely detested his stance on race relations. Conservatives feared his Catholicism would make him “more devoted to the Pope than to the American Constitution.” Many thought he was weak, since he seemed reluctant to utilize nuclear weapons against Russia.
Those and other issues plagued Kennedy’s time in the White House, but he was determined to run again for office. He and the Democrats knew, however, that winning Texas in the 1964 election had to start in Dallas so they sent Adlai Stevenson there in October 1963 to pave the way. But after witnessing riots and being spat upon, Stevenson “privately” questioned Kennedy’s plans to visit Dallas.