|Belated Warning to LBJ
Letter to LBJ
(LBJ Presidential Library Archives)
Author's note: This letter illustrates the predominate attitude toward President John F. Kennedy that prevailed in East Texas as of the weekend of November 22, 1963.
This letter was published in an Esquire magazine column by Mark Warren titled:"On The Anniversary of Kennedy's Death, Extremism Lives On." Mr. Warren reports he came across this letter in the stacks at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin while doing research of his own. He identifies Bruce Alger as the "then-congressman from Dallas, and the only Republican in the Texas delegation." [F.Y.I. - Texas was a predominately Democrat state in 1963.]
November 24, 1963
President Lyndon B. Johnson
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
In this time of mourning and appreciating how very busy you are, I still must write about existing conditions here in East Texas, even if you are too busy to read this, because I feel it is my duty to do so. I wanted to write President Kennedy's staff and try to get them to persuade him not to go to Dallas but unfortunately didn't do it out of fear of being a crank or busy-body. This time I will risk that appellation. I am frightened at conditions that prevail in East Texas.
Mr. President, the easy thing and what is desperately trying to be done [is] to convince a stunned nation and world that Mr. Kennedy's murder was the work of some deranged crackpot, and while the trigger was pulled by such a one, perhaps the atmosphere that made it inevitable was the hatred of the people (I don't mean every one of them but a big majority) who wanted Mr. Kennedy and anyone connected with him out of the White House. A week ago this might have sounded ridiculous but subsequent events lend it credence, I believe. There is a virus of disrespect and hate spreading here very rapidly. And unless one lives right here with it, day in and day out, it is unbelievable how quickly and subtly it infects reasonably intelligent persons. This is not too hard to understand only if one recognizes the unremitting, deep, bitter religious and racial prejudice existing today in this section of our land — I don't know if any of them are similarly infected in other sections, but I know personally of what I speak as regards East Texas. In fact, although nearly every one indignantly denies having any racial or religious prejudice to the point where he deceives even himself in this matter, after listening seriously to protestations of horror and shock one can almost hear a collective sigh in essence, "Too bad he had to die but after all a Catholic is no longer in the White House and this ought to set the 'niggers' back on their heels for awhile!" It is painful to some of us I know to give credence to such a condition so we blind ourselves that where religious and racial prejudice prevails, not just the killer but all are mentally confused. When this prejudice is played upon so adroitly and exploited actively (as in our locality) by such groups as The American Fact-Finding Committee and many more [of] that ilk, for instance the John Birchers, etc., it soon fans into a situation as exists here, many, many citizens ridden by a vicious hate which inevitably erupts and expresses itself in violence — as in the case of Mr. Kennedy's murder in Dallas.
A strong evidence of this was the recent demonstration of violence against Ambassador Adlai Stevenson in Dallas, and even more clearly by an article carried in the Dallas News (a 100% anti-Kennedy sheet) stating that Mr. Bruce Alger advised the citizens of Dallas there was absolutely no need to feel apologetic about this incident — everyone being free to express his opinion. He neglected to specify the degree of violence of such expression. And the citizens vote for Bruce Alger! So what can one expect? I just heard the flash about Oswald being shot and also the theory that this was caused by mass hysteria. That is here, all right, but I think rather there are certain groups and individuals who wish to insure Oswald's complete and continuing silence because, knowing the 'temper' of Dallas, I can't believe a known police character of Ruby's caliber would risk his neck through any feeling of patriotism or love for Mr. Kennedy — can you?
I don't know if anything can be done about the festering sore of prejudice and hatred on our social structure here, but I doubt if you can know its deadliness unless you are in constant, daily touch, and I thought it my duty to mention it, in case, even though you may consider I am an alarmist and am exaggerating. I only wish I were.