The best-selling nonfiction book when he was killed was Victor Laskyâ€™s â€œJ.F.K: The Man and the Myth,â€ a dubiously researched jumble of smears and innuendo, including the stale rumor that Kennedy, an observant Catholic, had suppressed a previous marriage to a Palm Beach socialite. The book was briefly removed from circulation by its publisher, Macmillan, after Kennedyâ€™s death.
Kennedy hatred was deepest, perhaps, in the South, where civil rights battles had grown increasingly tense. â€œWhite violence was sort of considered the status quo,â€ Diane McWhorter, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and is the author of â€œCarry Me Home,â€ a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the racial unrest of 1963, said recently.
â€œThere had been so many bombings that people had accepted it,â€ Ms. McWhorter said. But in May, the cityâ€™s blacks struck back, attacking the police and firefighters and setting several businesses on fire. In September, only two months before Dallas, white supremacists in Birmingham planted a bomb in a black church, killing four young girls.
Kennedy himself was a reluctant supporter of civil rights legislation, but when at last he called for it, many Southern whites were enraged.
â€œI was in my gym class at the Brooke Hill School for girls,â€ Ms. McWhorter recalled. â€œSomeone came in and said the president had been shot, and people cheered.â€