Retired history professor writing third book

Retired history professor writing third book
Originally published June 02, 2010
Frederick, MD News Post.com

By Brian Englar
News-Post Staff

Gerald McKnight is a retired Hood College professor and JFK assassination expert. McKnight is working on his third book.

For retired Hood College history professor Gerald McKnight, much of the early part of his life conditioned him to question American policy and challenge the officially recognized versions of events.

Growing up in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood during the 1940s, many of his friends were avowed leftists, exposing him to a range of alternative political views.

Then came his service in the Korean War, where he was assigned the grim task of removing bodies from the battlefield after massive Chinese assaults.

“That was eye-opening for a 20-year-old,” McKnight said. “I think what it said to me in a sense was, ‘what is the history of this and how did we get involved with this?’ ”

McKnight said these experiences helped steer him away from his plan to go into veterinary medicine and into the field of history. However, it was not until he arrived in Frederick in the mid-1970s as a part-time professor at Hood that he found what would be his life’s work: attempting to call into question the official story of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and other political figures of the 1960s.

While at Hood, he worked with Virginia Lewis, history department chairwoman at the time as well as a JFK enthusiast, and met Frederick resident and assassination researcher Paul [Harold] Weisberg. He and Lewis decided to put together a class about the political assassinations of the 1960s, which McKnight continues to teach.

McKnight said the college provided a supportive environment where he could pursue his research without fear.

“It was encouraged,” McKnight said. “I wasn’t regarded as the village idiot or as someone who needed counseling.”

McKnight has since written two books, based largely on documents obtained by Weisberg and himself. “The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI and the Poor People’s Campaign” was published in 1998 and documents the bureau’s campaign of harassment against King and its efforts to thwart a planned march on Washington by impoverished Americans. He had to sue the Justice Department for the documents used in the book, receiving word his Freedom of Information Act requests would be granted the day before the case was set to go to trial.

“Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why” was published in 2005 and details many of the inner workings of the commission in an attempt to show its findings were based on a preordained conclusion reached by top officials almost immediately after the assassination.

He is working on a new book about the Kennedy assassination he said will highlight evidence drawn from recently obtained documents. He said its scope will be more expansive than “Breach of Trust,” dealing with many aspects of the case, including what he said is documented proof that the government used threats of deportation to get Marina Oswald to cooperate with its investigation, as well as evidence Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union may have been part of an Office of Naval Intelligence program to insert sleeper agents.

While McKnight hopes his work will make a difference in informing the nation’s understanding of the assassination, he thinks the upcoming 50th anniversary of the event is likely to spark a massive media campaign in support of the official story.

“I think there is a movement on to close off this issue once and for all,” McKnight said, “… to say that publishers and newspapers should treat this business of an alternative explanation for Dallas as some sort of mental disease that undermines the republic itself.”

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