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The Assassination at 50

By November 2013Comments

In November 1973, Texas Monthly, which was still in its first year of existence, marked the tenth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy with a profile of Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, Marguerite; the cover, however, went to Tom Landry. Two years later, in November 1975, the cover featured Dallas Times Herald photographer Bob Jackson’s famous image of Oswald being shot and a story about the shooter, Jack Ruby. On the assassination’s twentieth anniversary, in 1983, an eerie Vivienne Flesher portrait of Oswald peered out from under the magazine’s logo, with the line “Oswald’s Ghost.” We skipped the twenty-fifth and thirtieth anniversaries entirely—no covers, no stories on the inside, nothing. Then we caught the fever again and published special issues for the thirty-fifth, in 1998, and the fortieth, in 2003, both of them featuring romantic cover photos of JFK and Jackie. Five years ago we did nothing. Which brings us to the present occasion.

There are a handful of pieces in this month’s issue relating to the assassination, but it is not the cover story, and I doubt it will ever be the cover story again. I wouldn’t have said this a year or two ago, when the fiftieth first began to loom into view. But the truth is that most of what needs to be expressed about the event has already been said, by us and by others. Its impact on Dallas and on Texas has been thoroughly considered (most insightfully, I believe, in Dallas native Lawrence Wright’s story “Why Do They Hate Us So Much?” in our November 1983 issue, as well as his book In the New World). Its many reverberations in American politics and society have been considered from every angle. Most importantly, there is no longer any legitimate mystery about what happened—or any need to spend time indulging or debunking conspiracy theorists.

Which is why, instead of focusing on the assassination, this month’s cover pays tribute to the wild, over-the-top prosperity of the boom that’s currently under way in the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin. This seems appropriate; it was the oil boom of the seventies, after all, that helped turn the page on the darkness of the previous decade. Money, especially oil money, is a powerful reviver. As Bryan Mealer writes in his vivid portrait of the shale bonanza (“ ‘Y’all Smell That? That’s the Smell of Money’ ”), booms are “our proof that the American dream is alive and well. For the dream flourishes in every boom, or at least a feverish version of it.”

Enough dreams have flourished since November 22, 1963, that the alarm and desolation of that day have long since faded. As executive editor Pamela Colloff points out in her story about the letters of sympathy sent to Jackie (“ ‘May God Be With You, My Dear Mrs. Kennedy’ ”), only a quarter of Texans living today were alive fifty years ago. The job of discovery and explanation has been completed. What remains for us—what will always remain—is the simpler job of remembering. And getting on with things.

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