Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and nationally known authority on JFK assassination, has died

by MICHAEL GRANBERRY | Dallas Morning News

Gary Mack, longtime curator at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, died Wednesday. [File 2013 / DMN Staff Photo]

Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and a nationally known authority on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy who once influenced a congressional inquiry on the subject, died Wednesday. He was 68.

He had been suffering a “rare and aggressive” form of cancer, according to his wife, Karin Strohbeck, with whom he lived in Arlington.

Mack joined the museum in 1994 after a long career in radio and television. He had long professed a belief, or at least a suspicion, that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in killing the president.

“As conspiracy theorists like to say, you’re either a lone-nutter or you’re a CT — conspiracy theorist,” Mack once told The Dallas Morning News.

Even so, those who believe Oswald acted alone were among Mack’s staunchest admirers, who respected his open-mindedness and the fact that he embarked, often aggressively, on detailed missions to debunk conspiracy theories as the best way of reaching the truth. That alone left him at odds with many in the conspiracy community.

“I doubt if anybody anywhere knew more details about all aspects of the JFK assassination and aftermath than Gary,” said Hugh Aynesworth, author of November 22, 1963: Witness to History, who at the time of the assassination was a young reporter for The Dallas Morning News. Aynesworth is among those who believe Oswald acted alone.

Mack “helped debunk some of the more ridiculous offerings,” Aynesworth said. “His work at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza was beyond exemplary and will be sorely missed. Within hours of his death I had three phone calls from European newsmen who were stunned and planning coverage.”

Gerald Posner, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in writing perhaps the definitive book on the assassination, Case Closed, said he had known Mack for 23 years.

“He was always a remarkable source of information about the case and a wise guide who helped me avoid the many investigative pitfalls and black holes of JFK’s murder,” Posner said. “That we did not agree on the role and sole culpability of Oswald did not prevent him from always finding the time in his otherwise busy schedule to answer my many queries. His top priority was simply searching for the truth in the case. And his solid stewardship at the Sixth Floor was fueled by his passion about the case. The one thing about which I think both conspiracy theorists and ‘Oswald alone’ proponents can agree is that Gary Mack has died far too early and he will be missed by many.”

Dave Perry, a former insurance adjuster and one of Mack’s closest friends, collaborated often with him in debunking those conspiracy theories.

“The Sixth Floor was absolutely a dream job for Gary,” said Perry, who called it “the job of his life.”

With Perry’s help, Mack proved in the early 1990s that a story naming a deceased Dallas police officer as the grassy knoll gunman was bogus. A young man named Ricky White said he could prove that his late father, Roscoe White, had fired the final, fatal shot as part of a conspiracy acted out with Jack Ruby, who gunned down Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police station two days after the assassination. Aynesworth later credited Mack and Perry with one of the more important put-downs in the history of assassination research, saying, “Dave and Gary disemboweled the Ricky White story.”

Many credited Mack with knowing more basic facts about Kennedy’s death than anyone.

“It’s not that he’s academically, archivally trained,” the late Jeff West, then the Sixth Floor director, said in 1999. “Its just that his expertise is amazing. Somebody can bring in a shoe box of old photographs, and just by looking at them, he can tell you the time, the location and who the people are in the pictures. He has so much in his head, I’d like to figure out a way to download his head. Gary’s knowledge of the subject is nothing short of encyclopedic.”

Mack’s reputation extended well beyond Dallas.

“While it’s fair to say that Gary leans toward a conspiracy, I never thought he was paranoid about it or fixed on one theory to the exclusion of all others,” G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel and staff director of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, once told the Morning News.

“A lot of conspiracy theorists focus on one subject and then exclude any consideration of any other subject. They assimilate the evidence in light of their thesis, and any evidence inconsistent with that thesis is largely ignored. Gary has never been that way. He’s tended to apply the same thesis whether the evidence is consistent or inconsistent. He has the attitude of a scientist.”

Blakey once credited Mack with playing a key role in putting together evidence that, in 1979, prompted the committee to conclude with a “95 percent or greater” degree of probability that a conspiracy existed. The finding had to do with recordings found in old Dallas police files. Mack came up with the theory that the assassination might have been recorded by Dallas police and brought it to Blakey’s attention.

Although it remains controversial and was later refuted by the National Academy of Sciences, Mack’s idea led to this: A recording taken from a microphone strapped to an officer’s motorcycle in Dealey Plaza and transferred to a Dictabelt machine at police headquarters indicated there were four shots fired at the president, according to the acoustic sound study conducted by the House committee.

That prompted the committee to conclude that, of the four shots fired, three came from behind and one from the grassy knoll — which missed. If four shots were fired, the committee reasoned, there had to have been two gunmen.

The Warren Commission concluded that only three shots were fired and that all came from the $12.95 Mannlicher-Carcano mail-order rifle owned by Oswald and found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building, which now houses the museum.

The best lesson he ever learned about the assassination, Mack said, “is not to get locked into anything … There’s a lot of nonsense out there about the Kennedy assassination. Part of our job is to clear away some of that stuff and get some straight answers.”

Born in Oak Park, Ill., Mack was given the name Lawrence Alan Dunkel. During his days as a disc jockey, he changed his name to Gary Mack at the request of a radio station program manager, who felt it would be more catchy.

Family members say Mack inherited from his father, a salesman for Ohio Match Co. and then LaChoy Foods and Tasty Foods, a speaking voice worthy of an anchorman.

Mack is survived by his wife, his sister Susan Coleman of Las Vegas, Nev.; his son, Stephen Dunkel of Arlington, Va.; and his grandchildren, Nolan and Violet Dunkel. Details on services are pending. [END]

Source: The Dallas Morning News 

[Editor's Note: I first met Gary Mack thirty years ago at KXAS-TV during one of my many trips to Dallas. He could be stubborn and opinionated at times, especially when defending the Badge Man image or the acoustics evidence but no one ever questioned his passion for or his vast knowledge of a case he spend the better part of his life researching. He was a go-to source for all things JFK and will be sorely missed.]


Barry Ryder said...

Very sad news, indeed.

My sincere condolences go to Gary's family and his many friends and colleagues.
Coming so soon after Vince Bugliosi's death, this deals a double-blow for those of us who still ponder the events of '63.

I never met Gary and I only know him through his writings and broadcasts concerning the assassination.

The article (above) does a good job of noting the many highlights and achievements which characterised his work and study of the Kennedy, Tippit and Oswald murders.

Gary Mack always presented himself and his arguments very well. He was calm and assured; He was never vitriolic or unpleasant. He always came across as a man who knew his subject and was wiling to defend his views with passion and dignity. He was easy to listen to and articulated his ideas with conviction and sincerity. I liked his style.

I didn't always agree with (some of) Gary's theories and beliefs but his engaging delivery made him the sort of guy that one wanted to 'hear out' anyway.

When Gary was lobbying for a 'conspiracy' viewpoint, he was probably the most valuable asset that the CT community ever had.

We've lost a man who shared our interest in a profound historic event; a man who did much to shape the debate which still goes on about it.

For me, Gary Mack's enduring legacy will be the 6th floor museum. His work there (along with that of so many others) has done much to clarify the public understanding of a grossly misunderstood event.

I never knew Gary Mack but, henceforth, I'll be conscious of his absence.

Barry Ryder

Hideji Okina said...

It's sad,and I'm very astonishing.
Vince Bugliosi,Hal Livingstone are gone...Now Gary Mack...
In future I want interview with him,but forever none.
I hope he now peaceful in heaven.

Hideji Okina