Formation of the Warren Commission
President Lyndon Johnson on the
telephone on the day the Warren
Commission was announced,
29 Nov 1963.
President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. One week later, on November 29, his successor President Johnson announced the formation of the Warren Commission. The process by which Johnson reached this decision and selected the Commissioners was shrouded in some mystery for years and has gradually become more clear, particularly in the 1990s with the release of the Johnson phone call tapes.
Johnson initially resisted calls for investigations beyond the FBI report, which was being written that first week – see his phone call with Washington Post columnist Joe Alsop. The long-told story that Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and Justice Department lawyers were pushing for the "blue ribbon commission" is now shown to be only part of the truth. The Johnson phone calls reveal that some powerful men outside the government played an important role in the push for a Presidential commission. Besides Alsop, these men include Eugene Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School, and Dean Acheson, one of the elder statesmen of the Cold War.
In some of the phone calls that week, LBJ alluded to the possibility of 40 million Americans dying in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. This fear was apparently related to the issue of Oswald’s visit to Mexico City and the allegations of Communist conspiracy emanating from that city. A phone call with Senator Russell on November 29 adds light to the story of how LBJ convinced Chief Justice Earl Warren to serve despite Warren’s great reluctance.
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