“Are you sure you really want to take this on?”

 

 It is early June 2015 as I write this and I am looking forward to the release of my book, Dallas Forever Changed-The Legacy of November 1963. While I am happy with the publication, it seems as if it has been a long time coming. I actually began writing the book three years ago.

 The quote on the top of this entry is a statement made by a friend after I had told about my project back in 2012. The book is about how the JFK assassination affected Dallas, and it seemed to him that I was asking for some real grief by writing it. And indeed, I had run into some hostility, defensiveness and anger from Dallasites as I began my research. Yet, I hadn’t seen many writers tackle the assassination from the angle I was taking, and so I was convinced that the book idea was good. In the end, so did Pelican Publishing.

 

 The people of Dallas had no way of knowing it, but I had nothing against their city. Yes, the assassination happened there, but I didn’t believe that every person in the city had to be held responsible. In addition, I didn’t see how current residents, many of whom were not alive at the time of the crime, should have been held accountable for something that happened in another time and generation. Lashing at innocent individuals solved nothing in my book.

 Yet I was convinced that Dallas, at least its power structure, still felt the after-shocks of the assassination. This was hardly surprising since some, after even over 50 years, still label Dallas as the “city that killed Kennedy.” And what is a key defense from Dallas to counter this mean spirited accusation? Lee Oswald did it, not Dallas. It was Lee Harvey Oswald, that communist. It was Lee Harvey Oswald, that white trash transient who never really had anything to do with Dallas in any substantial way. It was Lee Harvey Oswald, that mentally unbalanced nut who had no self-esteem and thus did something dramatic to elevate his ego and self-worth.

 

 So get off our backs, Dallas said. We can’t be held responsible for some America-hating commie who came to our city and killed the president. Didn’t you see those crowds smiling and waving at Kennedy? 

 

 Yes, the crowds were there and they were friendly. But there is one problem. What if Lee Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy? What if he really wasn’t a nut? What if he was a patsy as he had said he was? Where did that leave Dallas? Was the city hiding something else by hiding behind Lee Oswald?

 

*****

 In a sense, Lee Oswald, whether he was guilty or not, was being framed by the media and the Warren Commission. A perfect example of this was how the opinions of Dr. Renatus Hartogs were used to paint a horrible picture of the man accused of shooting the president and a Dallas police officer.

 

 Hartogs worked as a psychiatrist for Youth House in New York City during the early 1950s. Many times problem children were referred to Youth House by the school city of New York for evaluation. In April 1953, Oswald was sent to Youth House because of truancy issues. Oswald lived in New York for a brief time.

 

 During his Warren Commission testimony with commission counsel Wesley Liebeler on April 16, 1964, exactly 11 years after seeing Oswald, Hartogs said this: “I found him to have definite traits of dangerousness. In other words, this child had a potential for explosive, aggressive acting out which was rather unusual for find in a child who was sent to Youth House on such a mild charge as truancy from school.”

 

 Hartogs then said later that he recommended that Oswald “should be committed to an institution.

 

 

 

 Both these statements are false or at least misleading.

 

 In his written report in 1953, Hartogs described a boy who did have some serious issues mostly due to a neglectful mother and an absence of a father. But nowhere in the report does he describe Oswald as being explosive or a real danger to society. Hartogs even stated that Oswald “could be reached through contact with an understanding and very patient psychotherapist.”

 

 Regarding the recommendation that the 13-year old be committed to an institution? Hartogs’s 1953 recommendations are vague at this point and even out treatment were mentioned as a real option. He concluded that “The Big Brother movement could be undoubtedly of tremendous value in this case and Lee should be urged to join the organized group activities of his community, such as provided by the PAL or YMCA of his neighborhood.”

 

 This doesn’t sound like committing someone to an institution, a recommendation that provides all kinds of stark images. Hartogs did mention the possibility of taking Oswald out of his home, but that sounded like more a judgement against Mrs. Oswald, not her son Lee.

 

 Even though Liebeler challenged Hartogs on several points, most notably the absence of a 1953 statement about Oswald being explosive, he also treated the psychiatrist with kid gloves. He sympathized with Hartogs for having to talk about Oswald after meeting with him once 11 years earlier.

 

 If Lee Harvey Oswald had lived to see his trial, and, if Hartogs had the nerve to take the witness stand in such a trial, a competent defense attorney would have ripped him apart. His conflicting statements and hazy memory would have served little purpose other than to help railroad Oswald for killing the president and Officer Tippit. And an advocate for Oswald wouldn’t abide by that or hand hold Hartogs as Liebeler did. Instead he would have challenged Hartogs on every point and maybe would have accused him of character assassination.

 

 And yet many used the opinions of Hartogs as an example of Oswald being a totally unstable character easily prone to violence both as a teenager and as a young adult. What complete and utter hogwash.

*****

 

 So where does Dallas stand today, almost 52 years after this traumatic event? It tries to cope in various ways which includes an attempt to control the debate regarding the events and aftermath of November 22, 1963. To the city’s credit, it has also attempted to reform itself and become a better place to live. Yet the debate around the assassination continues even if interest has faded with time.

 

 One reason Dallas has not had full closure is the need to believe that Lee Oswald had acted totally alone in killing President Kennedy. The majority of Americans don’t believe this, and, as a result, many curious out-of-towners visit Dealey Plaza, something the city could do without.

 

 So what should Dallas do to finally achieve this closure and further attempt to be known for something else? I believe it should do as I recommend in my book: Re-open the investigation in the murder of President John F. Kennedy. They can also look at the killing of Officer J.D. Tippit while they are at it.