A Diverse Topic Demands A Diverse Collection: The John Armstrong Collection

This is the final installment in our series of blog posts exploring the digital collections related to the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy. To read the previous posts, click here for part one, here for part two and here for part three.

THE BEGINNING of a life-long obsession can often be hard to pinpoint exactly, but in the case of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it often starts on that blood-soaked day in Dallas: November 22, 1963. Much like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, no one who was alive and over the age of five can forget where they were when they heard reports that the president had been shot while riding in his presidential motorcade as it rolled through Dealey Plaza.

In the decades since that fateful day, many thousands of pages have been written about the event that changed American society forever. They run the gamut between carefully worded, scholarly examinations to full-on philippics attacking the author’s personal bête noir/cause of death. But the common thread that ties them all together is the author’s need for raw material, for the documents, photos, films and newspaper reports that serve as the basis for their various theses, regardless how far-fetched or ponderously grounded they may be.

For sheer scope of content, no other JFK-related digital collections in our care match the range of materials to be found in the John Armstrong Collection. Spanning dozens of notebooks and ultimately tallying more than 2,100 items, the Armstrong collection is a rare peek into the mind and method of a Kennedy author as he works to create his magnum opus (900+ pages and an accompanying DVD of more than 2,000 images).

A typical example of an item from the John Armstrong Collection, which features Armstrong’s notations on a sticky note (at top).

Armstrong spent years filing FOIA reports, photocopying articles from newspapers and generally being an obsessive collector of any and all documentation related to his task.  While some of the material in this collection may be found elsewhere, there is no doubt that the sheer volume of the material available in one place – especially the items that were cleared through FOIA requests – makes it of particular value to researchers.

While the collection has been crawled with OCR technology to make it keyword searchable, users should be advised that due to the nature of the source materials – which include poor quality photocopies of original documents, as well as materials that have been heavily redacted – it is advisable to browse the collection by its well-documented tab- and box-level listings, which are available on the collection’s home page.

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ON FRIDAY, November 22, Americans will pause to honor the memory of a young president, struck down by an assassin’s bullets and ultimately added to the honored rolls of great men lost in their prime. As the nation continues to determine what President Kennedy’s lasting legacy will be even at fifty years removed from his death, we are proud to partner with our friends at the Poage Legislative Library to present these materials to the world so that they, too, can make their own evaluations on the events before, during and after 11/22/63.

For more information on the John Armstrong Collection, visit the Poage Legislative Library’s collection homepage. For more digital collections content from the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections, visit our homepage.

Extending the Discussion: Penn Jones, “The Continuing Inquiry” and the Uncomfortable Questions About the JFK Assassination

As we approach the 50th commemoration of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we will be highlighting a number of JFK-related collections here on the Digital Collections blog. The William R. “Bob” Poage Legislative Library has become a hub for materials related to the assassination and its fallout, and we look forward to exposing those collections to a wider audience via the blog, our Facebook page and other promotional avenues. Read part one of the series here, part two here and part three here.

The quest to uncover the “truth” behind the Kennedy assassination (as understood by those who discount the official narrative outlined in the Warren Commission’s report, at least) has drawn legions of adherents almost since the day the fatal shots were fired in November 1963. This has become fodder for comedians and others who lampoon those who embrace a range of theories including the Mob Theory, the Cuban Theory and the Alien Theory. The upshot is that people who present genuinely compelling questions about the case are often lumped in with people who earnestly believe the Israeli government was behind the event.

For those who steadfastly resist toeing the Warren Commission line, there was a powerful voice whose publication presented alternative information about the assassination for more than seven years. From 1977 to 1984, Penn Jones – a World War II veteran and Texan and firebrand author – published “The Continuing Inquiry,” a newsletter dedicated to giving a voice to those whose beliefs about the Kennedy assassination were outside the mainstream.

Masthead of the August 22, 1984 edition of “The Continuing Inquiry”

As part of the digital collections derived from the Poage Legislative Library, the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections contains a run of “The Continuing Inquiry” from the March 22, 1977 issue to the August 22, 1984 issue. These full-text searchable items give startling insight into Jones’ obsession with proclaiming the “real story” behind 11/22/63. It includes illustrations, diagrams, photos and other illustrative techniques designed to refute and/or support the purported version of events being presented.

To learn more about Penn Jones’ life and “The Continuing Inquiry,” visit the Poage Library’s website. Access the Digital Collections’ copies of “The Continuing Inquiry,” visit our website.

We will conclude this series of posts on November 21 with a look at the John Armstrong Collection, our largest collection of Kennedy-related materials.

More Than the Sum of Its Parts: The JFK – Other Materials Collection

As we approach the 50th commemoration of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we will be highlighting a number of JFK-related collections here on the Digital Collections blog. The William R. “Bob” Poage Legislative Library has become a hub for materials related to the assassination and its fallout, and we look forward to exposing those collections to a wider audience via the blog, our Facebook page and other promotional avenues. Read part one of the series here and part two here.

 The impact of the Kennedy assassination can be measured in any number of ways, from changes in government policy to the stain it left on the reputation of Dallas, Texas. Accompanying these shifts in the cultural landscape were reams of documentation and artifacts that were preserved in quantities too small to justify the creation of entire digital collections but no less important for being less in number. For materials like these, we created a “JFK – Other Materials” collection.

“The Truth Letter” – Typewritten, Equal Opportunity Printer of News

Among the more interesting items in this collection are the “Truth Letter” newsletters. Published by Joachim Joesten between 1968-1971, the “Truth Letter” billed itself as “An Antidote to Official Mendacity and Newsfaking in the Press,” as well as a purveyor of “All the News That’s UNFIT to Print.” These typewritten, single-spaced publications were a platform for Joesten’s personal theories, responses to other publications and overall discourses on the subject of Kennedy’s assassination.