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Procrastination Kills: The Historian in Dealey Plaza

Written by Gary North on November 22, 2013

William Marina was a fine historian. I wish he had been a better marketer.

On November 22, 1963, he took a group of his students to Dealey Plaza to see President Kennedy. As far as anyone knows, he was the only professional historian in the Plaza when the gunshots were fired.

He told me he hit the ground as soon as he heard them.

For almost 40 years, he taught a university course on the Kennedy assassination. Here, he showed remarkable marketing ability. His main goal was to teach a course on historiography. Historiography is the study of the writing of history: how documents are discovered, how they are interpreted, and how they are defended. Of all the courses for undergraduate history majors that is truly hated, historiography is that course. The only person I have ever known as an undergraduate who really liked the course on historiography was me. I was the only person in that classroom, 50 years ago this year, who was really interested in issues of epistemology: “What can we know, and how can we know it?” I would have taken the course, even if it had not been required for graduation, but if it had not been required for graduation, I could not have taken the course. No one else would have signed up.

Marina understood this early. When he offered a course on historiography, almost no students enrolled. So, he started offering his course on the Kennedy assassination. He told me that he never offered this course when there were not more students trying to get into the class than there were spaces available. What did he teach in the course? How documents are discovered, how they are interpreted, and how they are defended.

Year after year, one or two students in a class discovered something unique that he had not heard of before. For example, he had not known that a drug that Jack Ruby was taking creates violent responses in a significant number of people who take the drug. A woman who took the course was also a nurse. She mentioned this in a class discussion.

He never wrote the book on the Kennedy assassination that he told me for years that he was planning to write. He took notes. He saved those notes. But he never sat down to put those notes in a final format.

This bothered me a great deal. On April 27, 2009, I wrote an article with him in mind. It was on not procrastinating. I featured the example of Murray Rothbard, who did not procrastinate. I sent it to him. I wrote this:

It is steady as you go. It is line upon line. It is cumulative. If you are working on several projects, be sure that you have a schedule to complete each one in sequence. Stick to your schedule. If you don’t, you will probably die with all of them incomplete and fragmentary.So, you must prioritize. Be in a position to reschedule your time, so that if you ever find out you are terminal, you can complete the main one. This means that you must steadily complete sections of the main one. Get them finished. Don’t assume that you have 20 years.

You can read it here.

(To find out what happened — incredible! — click the link.)

Continue Reading on www.garynorth.com

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8 thoughts on “Procrastination Kills: The Historian in Dealey Plaza


    Days after the burial of JFK, Robert Kennedy stand in front of the tomb and said: "If we had only acted more decisively against our enemies this would never had happened, particularly Cuba"

    Another big lessons not to be forgotten by the usual left wig appeasers……..

    A. Ravinet

  2. That's wise advice. I've found that projects that seem like they would take an almost impossibly long time to complete can be accomplished as long as I stay focused on "line upon line." I'm working on a project now that is once again teaching me that lesson.

  3. kalamawashington says:

    Gary, I also enjoyed historiography. "A British View of the Grenville Years".

  4. My grandfather was there when JFK was murdered and he heard at "least five shots," so Oswald couldn't have been the killer. odd that the experts had to shim Oswald's rifle scope to make it shoot accurately huh. I don't know who killed JFK, but it wasn't Oswald and the government knows it.

  5. To use Hillarys words "what does it matter now!" It was a tragic time, things happen. Move on.

  6. randy crawford says:

    (1) When Robert F. Kennedy was shot in June 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, 13 shots were audible on journalists' recording equipment. Shooter Sirhan Bishara Sirhan's gun only held 8 bullets. The police safeguarded the hotel's pantry cupboard doors for later detailed ballistics angle analyses. Trouble is, when they were sought to be fetched from the LAPD evidence locker it turned out that the pantry cupboard doors had all disappeared. Several of the witnesses to the RFK shooting disappeared in the desert or were found dead in car trunks. {cf. book "Death in Paradise" re history of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office} = [ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/listing/26892533059… ]

  7. randy crawford says:

    (2) When Pittsburgh pathologist Cyril Wecht searched for JFK's brain at the National Archives to research the hit in Dealey Plaza, he couldn't find it, or any accounting as to whither it had disappeared. A new book claims RFK absconded with it {http://nypost.com/2013/10/20/jfks-brain-went-missing-and-rfk-may-have-swiped-it/} yet when Wecht persisted in trying to track it down he received death threats to himself and his family if he persisted in trying to search it out. When Secret Service Agent Clint Hill was trying to jump aboard the JFK assassination car in Dealey Plaza, Jackie Kennedy was reaching back to retrieve brain matter and a skull fragment from the top of the limousine trunk. Such wound debris to the rear, i.e. the large fragments blasted from an exit wound, indicate the fatal head shot came from the front. Dr. Robert McClelland,

  8. randy crawford says:

    (3) Parkland Hospital Instructor of Surgery, was in JFK's emergency trauma room during the doomed and in vain resuscitation efforts. He held instruments as another doctor performed the tracheotomy and McClelland saw JFK's cerebellum fall down and out of his skull from a massive right-rear-cranial exit wound. McClelland was above JFK's head, closer than anyone to see JFK's wounds from about 18 inches away. He was positive the entry wound had to have come from the front {http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/news/doctors-story-rivets-jfk-conference/}. Dr. McClelland said afterward that Warren Commission investigating lawyer Arlen Specter told him words along the lines of "We have witnesses who claim they saw shooting from the Triple Overpass [in front of JFK] but they aren't credible witnesses, so it would be helpful if you don't make any assertions about shots coming from the front." –END–