Jean Hill and Jim Featherston

Copyright © 1999, 2000 by David Reitzes

Jim Featherston watches the motorcade


Some conspiracy theorists claim that the Warren Commission took testimony only from witnesses expected to bolster the theory of Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt as lone assassin. Anyone who has studied the Warren Commission testimony knows this is clearly not the case. One obvious bit of evidence against this "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" theory is the Warren Commission testimony of eyewitness Jean Hill -- and the Commission's failure to take testimony from Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Featherston, named by Hill as a sinister conspirator.

Jean Hill was deposed by Commission counsel Arlen Specter in Dallas on March 24, 1964.(1) Hill's friend Mary Moorman had just snapped a Polaroid photograph of the President's assassination, and Hill testified, "There was a man holding Mary's arm and she was crying and he had hold of her camera trying to take it with him."

"Who was that?" Specter asked her.


Mrs. HILL. Featherstone of the Times Herald and --

Mr. SPECTER. Dallas Times Herald?

Mrs. HILL. That's right. . . . [He was] holding her by the arm and her camera. and telling her she had to go with him, I started trying to shake his hand loose and grab the camera and telling him that "No, we couldn't go, we had to leave." . . . I was just wanting to get out of there and to get away and he kept telling me -- he insisted we go with him and . . . he just practically ran us up to the court house, I guess it is, and put us in this little room . . . we couldn't leave. He kept standing in front of the door and he would let a cameraman in or someone to interview us and they were shooting things in our faces, and he wouldn't let us out.(2)


Jean Hill

Not only did "Featherstone" hold Hill and Moorman captive in the courthouse, but according to Jean Hill, he also tried to keep her from saying certain things to the press -- particularly her account of a man running up the steps on the grassy knoll after the shots were fired.


Mrs. HILL. ["Featherstone"] said, "You know you were wrong about seeing a man running." He said, "You didn't."

Mr. SPECTER. Who told you you were wrong . . .

Mrs. HILL. Featherstone. . . . I said, "But I did," and he said, "No; don't say that any more on the air."

Mr. SPECTER. Who said, "Don't say that any more on the air?"

Mrs. HILL. Featherstone . . . [He said] that the shots had come from a window up in the Depository and for me not to say that any more, that I was wrong about it, and I said "Very well," and so I just didn't say any more that I ran across the street to see the man . . .(3)


Oliver Stone ran with this story in his film JFK, portraying "Featherstone" as a sinister conspirator attempting to intimidate a key eyewitness. Is this what really happened?

Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Featherston had watched the motorcade from the east side of Houston Street. When the shots rang out, he thought they were firecrackers, and was unable to see any of the events occurring on Elm Street. He saw an acquaintance of his, Frank Wright, and asked him what had happened. Wright said, "I don't know, but a young woman down there has taken a picture of whatever happened." Featherston picks up the story here.


I ran to Dealey Plaza, a few yards away, and this is where I first learned the president had been shot. I found two young women, Mary Moorman and Jean Lollis Hill, near the curb on Dealey Plaza. Both had been within a few feet of the spot where Kennedy was shot, and Mary Moorman had taken a Polaroid picture of Jackie Kennedy cradling the president's head in her arms. It was a poorly focused and snowy picture, but, as far as I knew then, it was the only such picture in existence. I wanted the picture and I also wanted the two women's eyewitness accounts of the shooting.

I told Mrs. Moorman I wanted the picture for the Times Herald and she agreed. I then told both of them I would like for them to come with me to the courthouse pressroom so I could get their stories and both agreed. . . . I called the city desk and told Tom LePere, an assistant city editor, that the president had been shot. "Really? Let me switch you to rewrite," LePere said, unruffled as if it were a routine story. I briefly told the rewrite man what had happened and then put Mary Moorman and Jean Lollis Hill on the phone so they could tell what they had seen in their own words. Mrs. Moorman, in effect, said she was so busy taking the picture that she really didn't see anything. Mrs. Hill, however, gave a graphic account of seeing Kennedy shot a few feet in front of her eyes.

Before long, the pressroom became filled with other newsmen. Mrs. Hill told her story over and over again for television and radio. Each time, she would embellish it a bit until her version began to sound like Dodge City at high noon. She told of a man running up toward the now-famed grassy knoll pursued by other men she believed to be policemen. In the meantime, I had talked to other witnesses and at one point I told Mrs. Hill she shouldn't be saying some of the things she was telling television and radio reporters. I was merely trying to save her later embarrassment but she apparently attached intrigue to my warning.

As the afternoon wore on, a deputy sheriff found out that I had two eyewitnesses in the pressroom, and he told me to ask them not to leave the courthouse until they could be questioned by law enforcement people. I relayed the information to Mrs. Moorman and Mrs. Hill.

All this time, I was wearing a lapel card identifying myself as a member of the press. It was also evident we were in the pressroom and the room was so designated by a sign on the door.

I am mentioning all this because a few months later Mrs. Hill told the Warren Commission bad things about me. She told the commission that I had grabbed Mrs. Moorman and her camera down on Dealey Plaza and that I wouldn't let her go even though she was crying. She added that I "stole" the picture from Mrs. Moorman. Mrs. Hill then said I had forced them to come with me to a strange room and then wouldn't let them leave. She also said I had told her what she could and couldn't say. Her testimony defaming me is all in Vol. VI of the Hearings Before the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, the Warren Report.

Why Mrs. Hill said all this has never been clear to me -- I later theorized she got swept up in the excitement of having the cameras and lights on her and microphones shoved into her face. She was suffering from a sort of star-is-born syndrome, I later figured.(4)


Had the Warren Commission been interested only in squelching dissent, it would have been wise to call Jim Featherston to testify, or not to depose Jean Hill at all. Instead, for whatever reason, Hill's testimony went unchallenged.


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Jean Hill's Affidavit of November 22, 1963

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1. Ms. Hill's complete Warren Commission testimony can be read here. More information on Hill can be found in this article at the Kennedy Assassination Home Page and in this article by conspiracy theorist Peter Whitmey.

2. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VI, pp. 215-16.

3. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VI, p. 222.

4. Jim Featherston, "I Was There," from Connie Kritzberg, Secrets from the Sixth Floor Window (Tulsa, Ok.: Under Cover Press, 1994), pp. 31-33.  


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You may wish to see
Jean Hill's Affidavit of November 22, 1963

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Dave Reitzes home page


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