JFK: The Iowa Connection - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

JFK: The Iowa Connection

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By Phil Prazan


Fifty years ago, Iowans glued their eyes to the local papers or waited to watch the national broadcasts out of Dallas, Texas, where president John F. Kennedy had just been shot.

But soon the nation would look to decisions made from someone living right here in the metro.

New president Lyndon B. Johnson looked to Chief Justice Earl Warren to gather the best and brightest and figure out what happened on November 22, 1963 and why.

"They picked very bright, very well educated, very intelligent, very hardworking young lawyers to go out and do the investigation work," explains Charles Dobbs, an Iowa State University historian.

In Des Moines, attorney David Belin got a call. The newly formed Warren Commission wanted  him to be on the team lawyers. They would interview hundreds of witnesses who were in Dealey Plaza that afternoon and others that might be involved.

"He was excited to help get to the bottom of this mystery and he certainly went into it thinking that there may well have been a conspiracy to kill the president and he was going to help solve this crime," says Belin's daughter Laurie.

Given a partner, his task was to find who the gunman was and how many there were.  Belin flew every week from Iowa to Washington DC.

"It was a burden on my parents.  At that time he was a guy with three young kids.  My mother was expecting their fourth child. It was a lot to do, but there was never any question that of course he was going to do it," Laurie said.

Ten months of work later, the Warren Commission presented an almost  900–page document to President Johnson, finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was the gunman and he acted alone.

"Nobody wants to believe this little man, this un–important person, this failure in life, could achieve these things.  People just want to believe it was something else and the majority of the American people believe that Kennedy was killed because of some type of plot," said Dobbs.

Publishers soon put out books advocating other possible scenarios, condemning the government and the Warren Commission for a cover-up.  Fueling the fire, Americans found out that some information was kept secret from the Commission, things like CIA plans to assassinate communist leaders and the full autopsy report of the president.

"Anything like that fuels the conspiracy theories that are already out there, when there are real and actual conspiracies that are covered up by the government so he was very frustrated about that," said Laurie.

Belin published books arguing that any other account of the Kennedy assassination is biased and not founded in fact. Belin passed away in 1999, taking to his grave his staunch beliefs that Oswald was the only killer.

The Warren Commission findings remain the only official recording of events for November 22nd, 1963. Ninety-Seven percent of the report is de-classified and the rest will become open to the public in 2017.

"I think he'd be very pleased and I think he'd be happy still 50 years on, defending the Warren Commission," said Laurie.

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