John F. Kennedy Assassination: Key Witness James Tague Dies At 77

Jonathan Vankin - Author

Feb. 20 2017, Updated 11:13 p.m. ET

When John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, there were two other men wounded at the same time. One was Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding in the seat in front of Kennedy in an open-top limousine carrying the president and his wife as it rolled through Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

The third man wounded, one of the most important witnesses to the killing of John F. Kennedy, was James Tague. He died on Friday at his home about 70 miles north of the spot where he became, purely by accident, a crucial figure in history, just over 50 years earlier.

Tague was 77 years old. He had suffered a brief illness leading up to his death.

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Tague was standing in Dealey Plaza that day not to watch Kennedy pass by, but on his way to “meet a cute redhead for lunch,” he said in an interview last year, marking the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy Assassination.

As a gunman identified later by police and the Warren Commission — the government body assembled to investigate the assassination — as Lee Harvey Oswald fired at the presidential motorcade, a fragment of shrapnel from what appeared to be a stray shot struck Tague in the face.

His wound was not serious. “It was just skin-deep, that’s all there was to it,” he said last year. But it forced the Warren Commission investigators to account for an extra bullet, after already counting three shots.

One bullet struck Kennedy in the throat. Another bullet hit him in the head. That shot was fatal. What was initially assumed to be a third shot struck and wounded Connally.

But when confronted with the story of James Tague’s wound, Warren Commission attorney Arlen Specter, later a U.S. Senator, created what became known as the “Single Bullet Theory,” sometimes called the “magic bullet.”

Because the existence of a fourth shot would have certainly meant that a second gunman must have firing at Kennedy, Specter concluded that a single bullet wounded both John F. Kennedy and John Connally.

“They had to go back and rewrite the Warren Commission,” Tague said. “That’s where the magic bullet came from. That’s the only thing they could come up with. That one bullet went through two people.”

While Tague said that his inadvertent involvement in one of the 20th century’s pivotal, and most traumatic, events “did not consume my life,” he did later develop a fascination with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, writing a book offering his own theories, LBJ and the Kennedy Killing.


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