Behind the Scenes: Covering the JFK Assassination (Hardcover)

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On November 22, 1963, the author of Behind the Scenes was a young Dallas Times Herald reporter who sprinted from his newspaper desk to Dealey Plaza minutes after shots were fired at President John F. Kennedy. Thus began Darwin Payne’s close involvement in covering one shocking event after another on this history-making weekend.
Eyewitnesses he found at Dealey Plaza included Abraham Zapruder, who insisted from the first moments that the president could not have survived the serious wounds he had seen so clearly through his camera viewfinder. Payne interviewed detectives outside the School Book Depository that early afternoon as they brought down evidence of the shooter’s location, as well as his rifle, and he was among several journalists taken to the assassin’s sixth-floor window from where fatal shots had been fired.
Before the day ended, Payne was in the Oak Cliff rooming house where the suspect had been living briefly apart from his Russian wife, Marina. Payne learned that the alleged assassin, now in police custody after being charged with the murder of officer J. D. Tippit, was known as O. H. Lee instead of Lee Harvey Oswald.
On Payne’s regular Saturday night police-beat duty, he was among the growing number of assertive journalists from throughout the nation who saw and heard Oswald being led to and from his jail cell to the homicide office for interrogation. As detectives pushed their way with him through the crowd of reporters, he responded to their questions with defiant claims of innocence. The mind-boggling weekend was still not over, for the next morning nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald.

About the Author

DARWIN PAYNE is professor emeritus of communications at Southern Methodist University and the author of Indomitable Sarah: The Life of Judge Sarah T. Hughes; Big D: Triumphs and Troubles of an American Supercity in the 20th Century; and Dallas, an Illustrated History. He and his wife, Phyllis, live in Dallas.

Praise For…

Behind the Scenes is an outstanding introduction because of its knowledge of Dallas both before and after the assassination; its portrayal of key actors, such as Bruce Alger and Will Fritz; and how it contextualizes November 22.”—Max Holland, journalist and author of The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

“What makes this book unique, in my opinion, is its first-person account by a newspaper reporter (trained to ask questions, notice details) who seems to have been present at so many of the events related to the assassination during Nov. 22–25, 1963. He was very much an eyewitness to history. And with a reporter’s instinct, he apparently took copious notes and kept them, so that they form an important source for this book.”—Michael V. Hazel, author of Dallas: A History of “Big D” and Historic Photos of Dallas

“Darwin Payne is an old-fashioned reporter in the best possible way. He knew Dallas before the Kennedy assassination and has lived and worked there since, which is why he is able to give us so much more in this book than just the familiar facts of that awful day. It's also a primer on how real reporters work. This is a master craftsman and gifted storyteller at his very best.”—Bob Schieffer, CBS News
“Journalist/historian Darwin Payne hurriedly jotted hours of copious notes, kept them close to his soul, mind, spirit, and heart, and reflected upon and added to them over six decades. The result is a riveting, minute-by-minute, on-constant-deadline, hold-on-tight account of that dark day in Dallas. Through his words and commendable attention to detail, it is Nov. 22 all over again for those of that day, for those of this day. Compelling.”—Roger Summers, journalist, author, and historian

"Behind the Scenes—part memoir, part reporter’s stream of consciousness, part history of presidential visits to Dallas and an overview of presidential assassinations—is loaded with back stories and details to which few were privy. . . . [Payne] populates his narrative with rich characters in Dallas law enforcement and news media. The work analyzes what motivated the assassin, relying on little-known information about Oswald’s childhood and his limited financial resources."--D Magazine

"Both historians and journalism students will find a treasure trove of socio-political information and insights into the inner workings of the news media."--Review of Texas Books

Product Details
ISBN: 9781574419115
ISBN-10: 1574419110
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Publication Date: October 25th, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English