The JFK library -- Frustrations about when requesting information from the former president's library near Boston

By Tim Appelo
Updated June 14, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

”The Kennedy Library is a gold mine,” Thomas C. Reeves exclaims. ”You talk about Nixon erasing 18 minutes, but the Kennedy Library may have confiscated thousands of hours of JFK’s secret tapes.” The library, located near Boston, is ”a constant frustration to scholars,” says Reeves. ”The Kennedys have opened some files to family-approved historians like Arthur Schlesinger, but nobody else can get to ’em.” Library chief archivist William Johnson points out that many files have been opened recently, including JFK’s naval and medical records and White House gate logs. Michael Beschloss, whose book The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khruschev, 1960-63 was just published, says the library has been a bit slow to release documents, but he knows of none that was withheld because it would make JFK look bad.

So what might the library be hiding? ”Jack’s phone calls to civil rights leaders are highly censored, as are the records of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” says Reeves. (Johnson and Beschloss say the latter are restricted because of national security, not Kennedy pressure.) ”My educated guess,” says Reeves, ”is it’s because he panicked. The Camelot school says he was cool under fire, but he always panicked. The family wants to conceal the fact that every fifth word he used was a four-letter word. And they’re trying to hide the amphetamines. The President and several people around him were living on speed injections.” This, Reeves notes, was especially inadvisable for JFK: ”He had Addison’s disease — which used to kill people until cortisone came along — asthma, ulcers, and a bad back. He was our sickliest President, I think.

”I requested the in-depth oral interviews with Jackie and many others, but they’re all under lock and key for an indefinite period. We know all the papers of Joseph Kennedy are there at the library — he created the family. He approved all the husbands and wives, except Peter Lawford; he made Bobby attorney general; and he chose LBJ for Vice President. Jack didn’t want that. Jack was almost his father’s puppet.” Reeves admits that JFK matured impressively while in the White House and that Joe’s influence diminished. But how much? ”That we can’t say. That’s why we need more papers.”