DC: What are some of the most interesting statements you found?
CC: Oh—I could cite the most obvious ones, like Howard Brennan, Roger Craig,
Ed Hoffman, Gordon Arnold, or even Jean Hill…but I won’t. Just off the top
of my head, I’ll go with Robert Croft, June Dishong, and Peggy Hawkins.
Robert Croft, an amateur photographer, took only four stills, but his third one,
taken standing quite close to Phil Willis on the corner of Elm and Houston Streets,
is one of the best photos I’ve seen. And although he was never questioned by
any investigative body or law enforcement agency, his entire account is chronicled
in Richard Trask’s Pictures of the Pain. As a general rule, I don’t
rely solely upon uncorroborated statements, but Trask is an exception to this
rule; his work—especially Pictures of the Pain—is an essential resource.
June Dishong is interesting because she immediately wrote her impressions down
in a journal. And while she never drew attention to herself or her experience,
she also didn’t shy away from discussing it with her family; so, not only do
we have her written account, we also have corroborating details from those with
whom she spoke (Dishong died in 1998).
Peggy Hawkins piques my interest because there are still so many unanswered questions
in the wake of her one interview with the FBI. We still don’t know whether it
was her or her husband who worked for Allyn and Bacon Publishing Company in the
TSBD; why she never met up with her husband, John, to watch the motorcade, as
she planned to do; why John wasn’t interviewed by the FBI to determine if he
watched the motorcade, despite not meeting up with his wife; and why Hawkins
failed to mention she was standing with her four-year-old son, John, Jr.
DC: Are there witness statements that just can’t be resolved?
CC: Unfortunately, yes; just as there is physical evidence that can
never be recovered. The most obvious reason for unresolved statements is
when an eyewitness dies; another is the effect time has on a person’s ability
to recollect details. But just because some accounts can’t be resolved
with a high degree of certainty doesn’t mean they are without merit or
evidentiary value. As historians, we have to resign ourselves to the fact
that not all history can be recovered, not all questions can be answered;
but that should never deter us from the pursuit.