Anyone who was five or older on November 22, 1963 remembers where they were and how they heard that John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, had been shot.
Jerry Parr was in a Nashville motel room with his wife Carolyn and two young daughters, waiting to move into their new home. He had just been transferred from the New York City field office where he provided protection for John and Jacqueline Kennedy on their visits to that city. He had only been with the Secret Service for 13 months.
As Jerry and Carolyn Parr watched television, the program was interrupted by a breaking news bulletin: President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally had been shot while traveling in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. A few minutes later, a clearly shaken Walter Cronkite announced that the president was dead.
Parr was devastated. For him and every other agent, the Kennedy assassination was a crushing, massive failure. An agent’s professional life has one mission: to protect his principal. When that mission fails, it fails utterly. There’s no silver lining, no learning for next time. There are agents today who still can’t talk about the Kennedy assassination.
Jerry Parr flew to Dallas one week after the assassination where he spent several days reviewing autopsy photos and reports on the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was himself shot and killed while in police custody by a local nightclub owner two days after Kennedy’s assassination. Parr was assigned to protect members of Oswald’s family who, in addition to receiving death threats, were important subjects of interest to the FBI.
See Chapter 3 of IN THE SECRET SERVICE for a riveting behind-the-scenes look at what Jim Matthews and Ernest Schworck called “Four dark days in history,” told by the agent who experienced them.
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