“I Knew I Had Been Hit”

Thirty years after the Kennedy assassination, John Connally recalls in his autobiography the moment that changed his life—and the world.

I heard what I thought was a rifle shot. I turned my head in the direction of the sound, which seemed to come from behind my right shoulder. My eyes saw nothing unusual, but I felt an icy chill of anxiety. I turned to the left, toward President and Mrs. Kennedy.

In the middle of my turn, I felt a thud, as if someone had pounded me on the back with a fist, a blow so hard I doubled over. My eyes were still open. I could see blood drenching my shirt and I knew I had been hit.

The car jerked into another speed. My wife, Nellie, pulled me to her lap and said without panic, “Be still.” I blurted out the words “My God! They are going to kill us all!” In the microsecond it took for that cry to leap from my lips, two things happened: Nellie’s action saved my life, and the conspiracy theorists had the first peg on which to hang their endless webs of intrigue. John Connally, the governor of Texas, had referred to the collective They, the mysterious They, the ever-present and all-powerful They.

It would be a conceit to think, much less claim, that a spontaneous outburst from a wounded man touched off the cycle of conspiracy plots that

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