An Untold Story

by John Kelin


On and off over the last year, Mike Blackwell and I discussed, via email, the possibility of his writing a short article for Fair Play about his friendship with Ed Hoffman. "I have known him at least ten years more than any of the rest of the research community," Mike told me, "and of course, was SO astounded when I heard what he had to say."

Unfortunately, this story will remain untold --- or at least, untold the way Mike might have written it here. As many by now know, Mike died last November 13 in Seton Hospital in Austin, Texas, after suffering what was described to me as a massive heart attack.

Obviously, the loss of Mike Blackwell is a tragedy in and of itself, not because of any article he might have written. He was only 46 years old. But Mike did make some fine contributions to Fair Play, and I would like to acknowledge them here.

First, though, something else. Some of Mike's photographs were used in Eye Witness, the story of Ed Hoffman. "The last edition has quite a few pictures, all but one of which were taken by yours truly from 1991-1996," Mike wrote me in late 1997. Although Mike was given a general "Thank you" by Hoffman and co-author Ron Friedrich in the book's introduction, he did not receive any photo credits. Mike was disappointed with this, naturally, but added that "Ron is trying to change that."

At the JFK Lancer "November in Dallas" conference, held just a week after his death, Mike got a "Special Recognition" in the program guide. "Mike had planned to attend the conference this year," the guide said, "and we know it just will not be the same without his resourcefulness."

I spent some time with Mike and several others on November 22, 1997. I was attending the Lancer conference but skipped out for a few hours. We paid a visit to the grave of J.D. Tippit, where I took a photo of Mike taking a photo of Tippit's headstone. I hope that the image of him leaning over a grave doesn't seem too ghoulish now. Mike said he liked it: "I received the picture from the Tippit grave today (Saturday). It looks great! ... I will go get a frame tomorrow, and put it on my desk Monday and show everybody!"

Later, Mike sent me a photo he'd taken of that day's Dealey Plaza remembrance ceremony, and it appeared in Fair Play #20. He perfectly captured the moment of silence at 12:30pm.

It was around the first of the year, 1998, that Mike wrote and asked, "Do you think anyone would be interested in a short article about my long association with Ed Hoffman?" I was, of course. I never did learn the full extent of their friendship, but it was plain they had known each other for quite some time; Mike expressed complete faith in Hoffman's account of seeing gunmen fleeing the area behind the grassy knoll picket fence after the assassination. "I wish that I had known him since '63, so I could jump up and down and shout 'he hasn't changed the story!'"

Although Mike never completed his proposed article, he never gave up on writing it. "I have always wanted to do this, especially now that Ed has written (with Ron's help) his whole story down," he wrote me.

Last May, Mike attended a press conference in Dallas announcing the fingerprint match between a previously unidentified print taken from a carton on the TSBD sixth floor, and a known print of convicted killer Malcolm E. "Mac" Wallace. He sent me a good picture of Walt Brown holding aloft evidence of the match, and I used it twice --- in issues #22 and #23.

In late August, I got another email from Mike, which said: "Here's something that I found this weekend on the highway between Carthage and Henderson, Texas. Hope that you like it." He attached the following photograph:

Of course, I did like it. I was touched that he took the time to pull his car over and take this picture. He even sent it in .gif format, because he remembered .gif is easier for me to deal with.

As much as I liked the picture and appreciated the effort, I didn't have much reason to use the photo. I'm sorry for the circumstances that have me using it now.

And I'm sorry I never got to know Mike better. I only met him in person on two occasions. But in those brief meetings, and in all his emails, there was an essential goodness that always came through. I'm going to miss that.


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