The book, The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After, is a publication by Steven Gillon. The book is the author’s attempt to debunk some of the misconceptions surrounding the ascension of Lyndon B. Johnson’s rise to power after the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. The president was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while on a campaign trail to win the support of the Texan people. Because of the impending elections, president John F. Kennedy (JFK) wanted to win the votes in Texas since his support had been waning among conservative whites in the country. The reality was that the president’s liberal views were not popular with the white population in the south.
The book by Gillon follows the events that took place after the assassination of the president. It gives an introspection into the rise of Lyndon B. Johnson’s rise to the presidency and how he consolidated power in the hours that followed the death of his predecessor. The author gives detailed description of how Lyndon B. Johnson was thrust into a position he had no experience on. The 24 hours following the death of the president saw Johnson strike a delicate balance trying to take the responsibility of leading the world’s most powerful nation, comforting a grieving family as well as reassuring the public that all was well. The author’s argument in the book is that most narratives about the chain of events following Lyndon Johnson’s ascension to power are marred by inaccuracies. In fact, the book is themed on the need to change the misconceptions and falsehoods that have been part of American history on the events which took place after the tragic death of JFK. The book seeks to debunk one sided narrations published by other authors such as William Manchester; the latter’s publication titled The Death of a President was not impartial since it alluded that the vice president was involved in the murder of the president. Contrary to such publications, Gillon’s book is does a personal recount of the events preceding that day from different witnesses. Some of the them had never been interviewed even by the commission of inquiry which was set up by the secret service to follow on the president’s death. Since the death of the president is shrouded in mystery as evidenced by the many conspiracy theories which have tried to explain what happened, there was a need to address all these concerns from an impartial research.
The author’s supported his thesis that most narratives on president’s JFK death and Lyndon B. Johnson’s ascension to power are not impartial. According to the author, president Johnson played an important role in steering the country out of a potential crisis. In addition, he was very supportive to the president’s family and widow, Mrs. Kennedy. The author gives recounts of how the Kennedy’s media manipulation was influenced to cast a good image of the president despite the many flaws he had. In addition, Manchester is portrayed as having been purposely hired to write a book which depicted president Johnson in bad light. Gillon highlights the achievements of Johnson in steering the country after the death of JFK. The former was also showed so much empathy and concern to the family of the slain president.
I agree with the sentiments expressed in the publication by Gillon. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was shrouded in so much mystery. Oswald, the man accused to have killed the president, for instance, could not have acted alone. Not only that, at the time of the president’s death, he was under the watch of the Secret Service. Therefore, most of the stories which have come about trying to explain the chain of events after the death of the president are bound to be controversial since the killers of the president could have had a hand in them. This is why most publications on the Johnson’s ascension to power 24 hours after the death of the president cannot be accurate representations of the true events. Johnson has always had to fight his poor portrayal among the American public. “LBJ’s ability to muster Hispanic votes in boss-controlled counties inspired a story and cemented his reputation as a corrupt politician”.
Although president Johnson might have not been the perfect replacement for the assassinated president, he took the challenge and played a role which helped chart the course of American history. In analyzing the events that took place, it is important to acknowledge that Johnson managed to take the country through a six-year period afterwards. If he had not been a good and assertive leader, America’s history might have been different. The reality of a mutiny taking place after the death of JFK was high. However, his leadership and reassurance calmed the situation. More importantly, the vice president had to persevere attacks on his character for his probable role in the death of the president. However, from his actions, it is evident that he was also taken by surprise. In fact, his sensitivity to the matter is evident in the way he treated the family of the assassinated president.
The book’s contribution to history, especially American politics, cannot be overlooked. The book gives what can be considered to be a well-researched paper on the events which led to the assassination of the president. The book also gives a recount of how the newly sworn in vice president had to step into his predecessor’s shoes. To American politics, the book is a documentation which would serve many generations to come. It can be relied on as a guide which can be used to avert any crisis which might arise following the death of an American president.
- Gillon, Steven M. The Kennedy Assassination-24 Hours After: Lyndon B. Johnson’s Pivotal First Day As President. New York: Basic Books, 2009. Print.