Michael Pardue, local resident and unofficial John F. Kennedy expert, stands approximately 6 feet tall, with long gray hair tied into a ponytail that falls over his slightly hunched shoulders and eyes that maintain a minor squint, constantly suspicious of his surroundings.
Peering through silver framed eyeglasses, Pardue scans through an overflowing binder of page-protected documents and photographs relating to the JFK assassination and other murder cases he has taken personal interest in.
The Watauga County Public Library will host a talk with Pardue in response to the 55th anniversary of JFK’s death Nov. 20.
Born in 1962, just over a year before the assassination took place, Pardue has spent upwards of 40 years examining minute details and speculations behind the many conspiracies surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.
The infamous shooting took place during a motorcade through the streets of Dealey Plaza in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963. The most widely understood version of the story pins the assassination on Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, who shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of a Texas School Book Depository.
There is, however, a popular belief that there was more than one shooter. Another theory states that a second assassin stood on what is known as “the grassy knoll,” a small grassy hill located adjacent to Elm Street, the road Kennedy was traveling down when he was fatally shot.
“Fifty-one witnesses in the plaza said that the shots came from the grassy knoll,” Pardue said. “Every one of them were ignored.”
Other details included bullet holes found in the windshield of the presidential vehicle, which was quickly replaced after the event, doctored photographs and videos, and Texas Gov. John Connally’s bullet wound, who sat in front of Kennedy in the vehicle. These give stock to the multiple shooter theory.
“I think that there’s more than enough evidence to show that there was more than just one shooter,” Pardue said. “There was all kinds of misinformation floating around.”
“As more and more information came in, the investigators, autopsy doctors and all that, had to change their findings,” Pardue said. “It was a very bizarre case.”
Pardue finds it difficult to believe that Oswald fired any of the shots at the presidential vehicle or even owned a rifle at all. Kennedy’s wounds may have also been doctored to make the Oswald conviction more likely, Pardue said.
James Humes, head doctor over the initial autopsy “admitted that he actually burned his original autopsy notes,” Pardue said. “A lot of the stuff just don’t fit. It’s like they went to pretty great length to convict Oswald in the public’s mind before any real investigation had took place.”
The event held at the library will likely run much like a discussion forum, Ross Cooper, adult services manager at the library, said. “I don’t think we’ve had anything like this.”
The talk was inspired by discussions about Kennedy’s death between Pardue and library staff.
Pardue spends a great deal of time at the library with his wife, not only researching the assassination but other interests as well, such as family genealogy.
“He’s a regular,” Monica Caruso, Watauga county librarian, said. “Many of us here have known him for a number of years.”
Library staff looks forward to the event and how it may represent what the library should be.
One of the primary purposes of the library is to get community members involved in discussion and give a voice to those who take particular interest in topics, Cooper said.
“That’s kind of a large part of what the library is, a gathering place and a community focal point.”
Although Pardue does not attempt to provide any conclusions about the assassination to his audience, he does wish to spark more intricate thought on the case.
“I can’t point my finger at one group or one person,” Pardue said. “Whoever did it though, knew that Kennedy had so many enemies that researchers wouldn’t exactly be able to point their fingers.”
The “JFK 55 Years Later: The Assassination Theories” talk will be held Nov. 20 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Watauga County Public Library. The event is open to the public with free admission.
Story by Tucker Wulff, A&E Reporter