1963 Life Interview

Research by Steven L. Brawley

Selections from Jackie's November 29, 1963 Interview with Theodore White for Life Magazine

  • "The sun was so strong in our faces. I couldn't put on sunglasses... Then we saw this tunnel ahead, I thought it would be cool in the tunnel..."
  • "They were gunning the motorcycles. There were these little backfires. There was one noise like that. I thought it was a backfire..."
  • "Then next I saw Connally grabbing his arms and saying "no, no, no, no, no," with his fist beating. Then Jack turned and I turned. All I remember was a blue-gray building up ahead. Then Jack turned back so neatly, his last expression was so neat... you know that wonderful expression he had when they'd ask him a question about one of the ten million pieces they have in a rocket, just before he'd answer."
  • "He looked puzzled, then he slumped forward. He was holding out his hand ... I could see a piece of his skull coming off. It was flesh-colored, not white - he was holding out his hand ... I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head. Then he slumped in my lap, his blood and his brains were in my lap ... Then Clint Hill [the Secret Service man], he loved us, he made my life so easy, he was the first man in the car ... We all lay down in the car ... And I kept saying, Jack, Jack, Jack, and someone was yelling "he's dead, he's dead." All the ride to the hospital I kept bending over him, saying "Jack, Jack, can you hear me, I love you, Jack."
  • "His head was so beautiful. I tried to hold the top of his head down, maybe I could keep it in... but I knew he was dead."
  • "When they carried Jack in, Hill threw his coat over Jack's head, and I held his head to throw the coat over it. It wasn't repulsive to me for one moment - nothing was repulsive to me."
  • "These big Texas interns kept saying, "Mrs. Kennedy, you come with us", they wanted to take me away from him...But I said "I'm not leaving"... Dave Powers came running to me at the hospital, crying when he saw me, my legs, my hands were covered with his brains... When Dave saw this he burst out weeping... I said "I'm not going to leave him, I'm not going to leave him"... I was standing outside in this narrow corridor... ten minutes later this big policeman brought me a chair."
  • I said, "I want to be in there when he dies"... so Burkeley forced his way into the operating room and said, "It's her prerogative, it's her prerogative..." and I got in, there were about forty people there. Dr. Perry wanted to get me out. But I said "It's my husband, his blood, his brains are all over me."
  • "I held his hand all the time the priest was saying extreme unction."
  • "The ring was all blood-stained... so I put the ring on Jack's finger... and then I kissed his hand..."
  • "Every time we got off the plane that day, three times they gave me the yellow roses of Texas. But in Dallas they gave me red roses. I thought how funny, red roses - so all the seat was full of blood and red roses."
  • "But there's this one thing I wanted to say... I'm so ashamed of myself... When Jack quoted something, it was usually classical... no, don't protect me now... I kept saying to Bobby, I've got to talk to somebody, I've got to see somebody, I want to say this one thing, it's been almost an obsession with me, all I keep thinking of is this line from a musical comedy, it's been an obsession with me..."
  • "At night before we'd go to sleep... we had an old Victrola. Jack liked to play some records. His back hurt, the floor was so cold. I'd get out of bed at night and play it for him, when it was so cold getting out of bed... on a Victrola ten years old - and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot... "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."...There'll never be another Camelot again..."
  • "Do you know what I think of history? ... For a while I thought history was something that bitter old men wrote. But Jack loved history so... No one'll ever know everything about Jack. But ... history made Jack what he was ... this lonely, little sick boy ... scarlet fever ... this little boy sick so much of the time, reading in bed, reading history ... reading the Knights of the Round Table ... and he just liked that last song."
  • "Then I thought, for Jack history was full of heroes. And if it made him this way, if it made him see the heroes, maybe other little boys will see. Men are such a combination of good and bad ... He was such a simple man. But he was so complex, too. Jack had this hero idea of history, the idealistic view, but then he had that other side, the pragmatic side... his friends were all his old friends; he loved his Irish Mafia."
  • "Everybody kept saying to me to put a cold towel around my head and wipe the blood off... later, I saw myself in the mirror; my whole face spattered with blood and hair... I wiped it off with Kleenex..."
  • "I thought, no one really wants me there. Then one second later I thought, why did I wash the blood off? I should have left it there, let them see what they've done... If I'd just had the blood and caked hair when they took the picture ... Then later I said to Bobby - what's the line between history and drama? I should have kept the blood on."

Notes: In 1969 Theodore White donated the notes of his interview to the JFK Library, to be made fully public only after Jackie's death. They were released on 26 May 1995.

Copyright Steven L. Brawley, 2002-2015. All Rights Reserved.