Lyndon B. Johnson Establishes the Warren Commission to Investigate the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established on November 29, 1963, by Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22. Its 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964, and made public three days later. It concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the killing of Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Governor John Connally. The Commission's findings have since proven controversial and been both challenged and supported by later studies.
The Commission took its unofficial name—the Warren Commission—from its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren. According to published transcripts of Johnson's presidential phone conversations, some major officials were opposed to forming such a commission, and several commission members took part only with extreme reluctance. One of their chief reservations was that a commission would ultimately create more controversy than consensus, and those fears proved valid. The Commissions were printed off at The Double Day book publisher located in Smithsburg, Maryland.
Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States
Richard Russell, Jr. (D-GA), U.S. Senator
John Sherman Cooper (R-KY), U.S. Senator
Hale Boggs (D-LA), U.S. Representative
Gerald Ford (R-MI), U.S. Representative
Allen Welsh Dulles, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
John J. McCloy, former President of the World Bank
Among the numerous attorneys working for the Commission was Arlen Specter, now a Senator
The specific findings prompted the Secret Service to make numerous modifications to their security procedures.
In November 1964, two months after the publication of its 888-page report, the Commission published twenty-six volumes of supporting documents, including the testimony or depositions of 552 witnesses and more than 3,100 exhibits. All of the Commission's records were then transferred on November 23 to the National Archives. The unpublished portion of those records was initially sealed for 75 years (to 2039) under a general National Archives policy that applied to all federal investigations by the executive branch of government, a period "intended to serve as protection for innocent persons who could otherwise be damaged because of their relationship with participants in the case.” The 75-year rule no longer exists, supplanted by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 and the JFK Records Act of 1992. By 1992, 98 percent of the Warren Commission records had been released to the public. Six years later, at the conclusion of the Assassination Records Review Board's work, all Warren Commission records, except those records that contained tax return information, were available to the public with redactions. The remaining Kennedy assassination related documents are scheduled to be released to the public by 2017, twenty-five years after the passage of the JFK Records Act.
The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, usually called the Warren Commission after its chairman Chief Justice Earl Warren, conducted hearings in 1964 on the assassination of President Kennedy. It issued its now-famous finding that Lee Harvey Oswald, alone and unaided, killed President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. It further found that Jack Ruby's murder of Oswald, while Oswald was in police custody, was also not part of any conspiracy.
In addition to the published 26 volumes of evidence, the released files of the Warren Commission include over 50,000 pages of numbered documents, internal memorandum, transcripts of Executive Sessions, and more. The testimony and files of the Commission serve as an important base of evidence in any understanding of the events in Dallas.
Warren Commission, popular name given to the U.S. Commission to Report upon the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, established (Nov. 29, 1963) by executive order of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The commission, which was given unrestricted investigating powers, was directed to evaluate all the evidence and present a complete report of the event to the American people. The members of the commission were Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States; U.S. Senators Richard B. Russell (Democrat from Georgia) and John Sherman Cooper (Republican from Kentucky); U.S. Representatives Hale Boggs (Democrat from Louisiana) and Gerald R. Ford (Republican from Michigan); Allen W. Dulles, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and John J. McCloy, former president of the World Bank. The commission named former U.S. Solicitor General James Lee Rankin as its general counsel and also appointed 14 assistant counsels and an additional staff of 12. The proceedings began Dec. 3, 1963, and the final report was delivered to the President on Sept. 24, 1964. During its investigation the commission weighed the testimony of 552 witnesses and the reports of 10 federal agencies, most important of which were the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Dept. of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, and military intelligence. The hearings were closed to the public unless the person giving testimony requested otherwise; only two witnesses made that request. The commission, in its findings, attempted to reconstruct the exact sequence of events of the assassination. Foremost among its conclusions was refutation of speculation that the assassination was part of a conspiracy, either domestic or foreign, or that any elements of the government had a hand in the event. The report maintained that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone and without accomplices, shot and killed the President and wounded Texas Governor John Connally from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald was also declared the murderer of Police Patrolman J. D. Tippit, who tried to apprehend Oswald some 45 min after the shooting. In addition, Jack Ruby, a Dallas restaurant owner who killed Oswald the day after the assassination (Nov. 24), was found innocent of conspiracy; no connection was found between Oswald and Ruby. The commission concluded its report by recommending reform in presidential security measures, and it offered specific proposals to improve the Secret Service. The commission's findings came under attack from a number of persons who felt it served as a “whitewash.” In 1966 New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison began an independent inquiry based on the assumption that the assassination had resulted from a conspiracy. He brought charges against a New Orleans businessman, who, however, was acquitted in 1969. For a summary of the commission's findings, see Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1964). The commission's proceedings and conclusions are criticized in E. J. Epstein, Inquest (1966) and Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment (1966).