Stop saying Dallas was a City of Hate in 1963 when Kennedy was killed…It wasn’t

So Dallas, was a hatefilled city back in the day? – TM

John Connally with Jackie and John F Kennedy

In recent weeks, with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, there has been a picture painted by some that Dallas in 1963 was a city of hate. A city of full of fear-mongering, extreme conservatives that created a hotbed perfect for the assassination of JFK. There’s a new popular book, stories in the Dallas Morning News and the New Yorker, and reports on NPR all about how Dallas was full of people who secretly hoped Kennedy would die, so naturally he was killed here. Frankly, I think it’s a bunch of BS, and those locals writing about it are merely attempting to embrace that stereotype of 50 years ago, apologize for it and ask for forgiveness.

Let’s take a look at the argument for a city of hate. Proponents of that argument usually point to a few events and people in Dallas as justification. One of the first events they talk about is the angry mob that attacked LBJ while he was campaigning in Dallas as Kennedy’s Vice President in 1960. You know who made up that mob? Old rich white ladies, maybe a 100 of them, and all they did was yell and crowd around him. The authors of the new book talk about how terrifying those pictures of the mob are.

Allow me to do my best Seth Meyers impression…Really!?! Some old pissed off lady with pearls and a mink coat is scary? You do know members of the Klan were randomly firebombing black churches killing innocent children at the time in other cities. But no, you’re right. Those ladies really make us a city more inclined to hate.

They also point to the publisher of the city’s largest newspaper at the time, Ted Dealey of the Dallas Morning News. Dealey, a right wing conservative, became fed up with President Kennedy. So when he and 20 or so other Texas newspaper publishers were invited to a private White House luncheon with the President, Dealey decided to give him a piece of his mind. He reportedly stood up and told the President that the nation needed a man on horseback to lead them through these turbulent times, and that the President looked more like his daughter Caroline on a tricycle.

Whoa, stop the presses! A big time newspaper publisher called the President a little girl. I hear they’re fighting after recess. You know what other leaders in different cities were doing at the time to Kennedy? They were refusing to obey federal laws and treating military action to preserve “their way of life.” All of which caused Kennedy to send the National Guard after them. But yeah grade school name calling is far, far worse.

The proponents also point out the regional office of the John Birch Society and the presents of their book store and book clubs in Dallas. The John Birch Society was an extreme conservative group that believed every president since FDR had been a communist. Granted these people were ultra-right wing people, but they weren’t taken seriously in Dallas. For example, Peter Gent, the former Dallas Cowboy and author of the best book about pro football, once wrote about his high society girlfriend dragging him to one of their meetings. At the end of it everyone was asked to write the name of one person they knew personally that was un-American, engaging in un-patriotic activities, and who was a possible communist. Gent wrote down his own name.

So not only were they a joke, but come on, ultra-conservative book clubs…Really. Combined with the rich white lady mob, I’m sure they could have come up with a very hateful quilt. In other cities in America, ultra-conservative militias were arming themselves to go off and actually fight communists in left leaning countries. Like actual war, not books about war. But I understand our book club really did create this atmosphere of hate compared to other cities.

Let me pause and quickly sum up, old rich white ladies yelling at the president, rich old newspaper publishers calling him a girl, and…book clubs??? I can really feel the legitimate hate as compared to other places. Now, there are other events and people that the proponents point to, in particular three different people that lived in Dallas at the time. H.L. Hunt wrote a book (oh my), Rev Criswell called him a Catholic (my heavens) and General Walker called for an attack on the US Ambassador to the U. N. Okay not going to lie, that last one does make us sound a little like a hateful city. Especially after you consider that, Adlai Stevenson, the US ambassador to the UN, was “attacked” in Dallas after the General’s speech. But that attack consisted of Stevenson getting hit by a protest sign and spat on by one lady, not exactly like the bombing of government buildings which was occurring elsewhere, but still.

However I’ll point out that the General, who was a very ultra conservative guy, was actually shot at in Dallas. By none other than Lee Harvey Oswald, same guy who killed Kennedy. It’s a point that the “we’re a city of hate please forgive us” guys usually gloss over. Cause it’s hard to say “Dallas was a right wing, wacko conservative hate filled city that was ripe for a man like Oswald to kill Kennedy,” when Oswald was taking shots at those very right wing conservatives. Did he hate both the left and right, was he an extreme moderate?

No he was a guy with issues and problems, who could have lived in almost any city in the US but it just so happened to be living in Dallas at the time (I’ll point out he lived in a great places before Dallas). After the assassination, people looked for answers, for why it happened in Dallas. The narrative presented said that Dallas was a city of hate. When in fact, it wasn’t. We were like many other American cities at the time with right wing extremists. It was the 60’s for Christ sake. Even the authors of the new book say the ultra-conservatives were a small minority. They’ve only been blown out of proportion because of Kennedy. If he had been killed almost anywhere, that city would have been labeled a city of hate.

Now I say all of this as someone who was not alive during the Kennedy assassination, but know many who were. My impression, as to why all this is happening, is because of the guilt the city’s always felt. At the time most of the city never took those right extremist seriously, but when the assassination happened, and the national media pointed it out, we felt too guilty to say, “no, that’s not right.” We just hung our head, and said “yeah, we’re a city hate. Sorry, please forgive us. We’re trying to get over that now.”

Well we now have a generation that did not grow up with that immense guilt, that stain on our collective conscience. We’re a generation that grew up with our City known more for a football team, an airport, and a TV show than the assassination. So let me say it. No, we were not a city of hate. We were a city like many others throughout the US. We weren’t as tolerant as some cities, but we differentially weren’t as intolerant and hate-filled as others. A few pissed off rich ladies, a petty name caller, a conservative book club, and one out of hand protest doesn’t mean we were a hateful city. It means we were a normal city in the turbulent 60’s that just so happened to have one zealot who wanted to make history.

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