The Ordeal of Vernon Oneal: The Tale of President Kennedy’s 1st Casket

The Ordeal of Vernon Oneal: The Tale of President Kennedy’s 1st Casket

November 22, 1963. Even prior to President Kennedy’s near-lifeless human body was taken off from the presidential limousine at Parkland Medical center, United Press International’s initial reports that “3 shots ended up fired at President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade now” was racing across teletype machines nationwide. Holding a transistor radio to his ear, a single among the the thousands and thousands of Individuals who monitored the breaking information was Vernon B. Oneal, a Dallas funeral director whose company also bundled an ambulance company.

At roughly 12:46 CST, only sixteen minutes just after JFK was shot, and 47 minutes in advance of Assistant White Dwelling Secretary Malcolm Kilduff formally announced the President’s death to the entire world, Oneal’s telephone rang. It was Solution Company agent Clint Hill calling from Parkland Healthcare facility, advising Oneal to select his finest casket and transport it to the clinic “as quickly as probable.”

“Is it for the President?” Oneal requested.

“Of course,” Hill replied, “it is for the President of the United States.”

Grasping the urgency of Hill’s directive, Oneal bolted into his showroom and chosen his signature product, an eight hundred pound reliable bronze casket named the “Brittania”. Produced by the Elgin Casket Corporation, it was double-walled and could be hermetically sealed. Healthy for a president or king, Oneal’s price was $3,995.

As his career dictated, Vernon Oneal was well prepared to discreetly consolation and assist the bereaved Kennedy household in each way possible. At Parkland, he whispered phrases of sympathy to Jacqueline Kennedy. He and two of his associates were then assisted by nurses in meticulously wrapping JFK’s remains in numerous sheets and plastic, hoping the blood and mind matter nonetheless seeping from the enormous wound in the President’s head would not stain the casket’s plush satin shirring.

In advance of departing Parkland Oneal dutifully stood by Mrs. Kennedy and the casket as the late President’s White Dwelling aides and Top secret Provider agents endured an ugly shouting match with a regional formal named Dr. Earl Rose, who insisted that JFK’s body must, by law, be held for autopsy in Dallas County. Oneal had each individual suitable to believe that his companies would proceed to be essential all the way to President Kennedy’s burial internet site, and he desired Mrs. Kennedy to be confident of his loyalty and respect the complete scope of his establishment’s solutions were being at her solicitation, and the gentleman was determined to go to any avail, whether the funeral be held in Washington or Massachusetts, to satisfy her each would like.

Then, abruptly, Oneal’s hopes have been dashed. The Solution Services agents and JFK’s most faithful aides had no quicker brushed Dr. Rose apart when the casket containing the assassinated President was precipitously loaded into the rear of his Cadillac hearse, the same car he and his staff made use of to produce the bronze coffin to Parkland Healthcare facility. It had been Oneal’s intention to travel Kennedy’s body right to his funeral household for embalming and the scheduling of funeral arrangements, but the Top secret Company commandeered the hearse and an agent advised him to observe in an additional vehicle, neglecting to convey to Oneal that their real place was Air Drive Just one at Like Field airport.

Alongside with a law enforcement bike escort, 3 autos commenced pulling out of Parkland’s support road: Oneal’s hearse, a vehicle total of Top secret Services brokers and JFK’s aides, and the very last carrying Oneal and two of his personnel. The funeral director sensed a thing critical was amiss when he observed his hearse turn left in the way of the airport fairly than appropriate to his mortuary. Brokers in the 2nd car radioed their counterparts at Enjoy Discipline, instructing them to allow “the initially two cars and trucks only” beyond the airport fence in close proximity to Air Drive 1. Below no instances would Oneal and his workers, or any other car or truck, be permitted to enter the region in close proximity to the presidential jet.

Positive sufficient, agents enable the initially two cars move by means of a fence in just view of the aircraft, but halted Oneal’s sedan. The undertaker was furious, and justifiably so. The martyred President was within his casket and his coach, both equally supposedly bound for his funeral residence. The agents overlooked his protests, leaving Dallas police officers to assure the beleaguered businessman that the hearse would be returned to him the moment Air Power Just one took flight. Vernon Oneal felt like a spare tire. The United States government had used him to the extent their primary needs were being happy – later dumping him at the gate.

Perhaps the ultimate insult to Vernon Oneal included payment of the coffin alone. He repeatedly sent a $3,900 invoice to Jacqueline Kennedy for just about a calendar year but she hardly ever replied. Eventually, fourteen months right after JFK’s assassination, in January 1965, the federal governing administration paid him a sum of $3,160. But by then Oneal was living a public relations nightmare his tries to obtain payment from Mrs. Kennedy were widely printed and his mortuary endured an agonizing 50 percent fall in small business.

Interestingly, Oneal’s casket was not applied in the interment of John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Arlington Countrywide Cemetery. Its handles and finish were being damaged at Appreciate Discipline as the Mystery Support agents hurriedly struggled to maneuver by means of Air Power One’s slim doorway. In addition, blood from Kennedy’s head wound did ooze by way of the protecting sheets and plastic, ruining the casket’s satin interior. The flaws have been observed prior to the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Medical center, resulting in JFK’s closest aides finding out a new, far more high priced casket at Gawler Funeral Household in Washington’s Georgetown district, remaining a far more beautiful example built of five-hundred-yr-old African mahogany. Gawler also ready the late President’s body for burial subsequent an autopsy at Bethesda.

For many a long time the whereabouts of the Oneal casket remained a carefully-guarded mystery. Understandably, the Kennedy family failed to want the artifact to tumble into the improper hands and grow to be a grotesque sideshow relic. It was eventually disclosed that, in 1966, the casket was purposely loaded aboard a C-130 Air Drive transportation aircraft and unceremoniously deposited into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, hardly ever to be found all over again.