Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 11, 1960:

An Assassin Stalks the President-Elect

A little-known near-assassination occurred in Palm Beach, Fla., on December 11, 1960, when one Richard Pavlick came within a whisker of blowing up President-elect John Kennedy with a car bomb that Pavlick himself would have detonated after ramming the house in which Kennedy was staying. Clearly the assassin was ahead of his time with the concept of suicide bombing.


Alistair Cooke, in his Letter from America on July 16, 2001, mentioned the incident: "There's one [assassination attempt] which never made the papers, which I heard about several years after John Kennedy was dead. It was an attempt on him, also shortly after his election, when he was down in Palm Beach staying at his father's house in December 1960.


"There is an office of the Secret Service known, not well known, as the protective research section. It has files on every letter -- threatening or obscene letter -- written to the President of the United States. The file has over 50,000 such notes, swollen by the never-ending dribble of the same offensive letters that come in to every incumbent president.


"If two notes appear to be from the same author the service puts out its feelers. Well, on Friday 9 December 1960 the protective research section received a letter from a postal inspector in a small New England town. It warned about the mischievous possibilities of a local character, one Richard Pavlick, who'd publicly uttered threats against the life of President-elect Kennedy.


"The Secret Service tracked the man to his home town and then started alerting airports, especially Palm Beach in Florida. However, two days after getting that warning note, on the following Sunday [December 11], a private small car drove along a Palm Beach boulevard and parked across from Mr Joseph Kennedy's house. At the wheel was Richard Pavlick.


"His car was equipped with seven sticks of dynamite -- enough, it was later calculated, to blow up a small mountain. They were rigged to go off at the pulling of a switch. President-elect Kennedy appeared and was about to go off to church. He appeared on the veranda of the house with, by great good luck, Mrs Kennedy and their two children.


"Pavlick had his hand on the switch. He suddenly paused -- overcome, he said, by a passing impulse. 'I didn't want,' he said, 'to harm her or the children. I'll get him later at the church.' Well, he drove off... However, four days later they caught him -- checking, once again, the layout of the Kennedy's church."


Pavlick was never convicted of any crime, but rather was confined to a mental hospital for about six years after the incident. He died in obscurity in 1975.

1 comment:

stamperdad said...

I have a nonfiction book project in the works on this incident. See my blog for more details under the heading,

"Nonfiction Book Project"

It should also be noted it has been copyrighted since 2007.

I am utilizing previously unavailable Secret Service, FBI files, and court records to shed light on this scary moment.

Steve B. Davis