The Death of a President: November 20–November 25, 1963 – William Manchester (1967)

The Death of a President: November 20–November 25, 1963 is historian William Manchester‘s 1967 account of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The book gained public attention before it was published when Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline, who had initially asked Manchester to write the book, demanded that the author make changes in the manuscript. The book is dedicated ‘For all in whose hearts he still lives — a watchman of honour who never sleeps’. The book chronicles several days in 1963, from a small reception the Kennedys hosted in the White House the evening of the visit to Dallas, through the flight to Texas, the motorcade, the assassination, the hospital, the airplane journey back to Washington, D.C., and the funeral. The tension between the Kennedy and Johnson factions, the worldwide reaction, and Lee Harvey Oswald‘s televised murder by Jack Ruby are all discussed in painstaking detail. During early 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned Manchester to produce an account of the assassination. … Manchester interviewed 1,000 people for the book, including Robert F. Kennedy; only Marina Oswald refused. Working 100 hours a week for two years to meet an accelerated 1967 publishing deadline, the stress of producing the book sent Manchester to a hospital due to nervous exhaustion for more than two months, where he completed a manuscript of 1,201 pages and 380,000 words. … Both Jacqueline and Robert F. Kennedy had refused to read the manuscript, delegating the review to former Kennedy administration members John Seigenthaler, Ed Guthman, and Richard N. Goodwin. They believed that passages in the book ‘unflattering’ to Johnson might damage Robert Kennedy’s political plans for 1968, and requested changes. Pam Turnure, Jacqueline Kennedy’s secretary, also read the manuscript; alarmed by many “personal revelations” from Jacqueline’s interviews with Manchester, such as the fact that she smoked cigarettes (something Jacqueline Kennedy had successfully hidden in the White House), she also provided lists of changes. Additionally, Jacqueline Kennedy believed that the proceeds from the Look offer should go to the Kennedy Library. She claimed that her interviews with Manchester had been intended for the library, threatened to block publication of the book unless the changes were made, unsuccessfully offered Look $1 million to cancel the serialization, and during late 1966 filed a lawsuit asking the court to issue an injunction to stop the book’s publication. …”
Vanity Fair: A Clash of Camelots
The More They Stay the Same: William Manchester’s The Death of a President

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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