The Pensacola connection to JFK’s assassination

Updated: Nov. 22, 2019 at 10:15 PM CST
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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - Like a footprint in the sand on the Pensacola Beach, it’s a story nearly washed away by time.

“I would say still it’s kind of an unknown story,” journalist Drew Buchanan said.

As a kid, Buchanan was told of an ordinary house painter living in Dallas named Hank Killam.

Buchanan said, “One of his closest friends and his coworker was the roommate of Oswald and also another connection was Hank Killam’s wife was actually a dancer at the nightclub for Jack Ruby and Jack Ruby obviously was the man that assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald. So it’s these two very interesting but disassociated connections I assume that have gotten people thinking in this conspiracy theory sphere.”

Shortly after the president was killed, Killam claimed he knew too much because of those connections.

“The anecdotes were that he had heard inside information possibly about the assassination plot itself and after a few months, after the assassination leading up to March, he starts getting more and more paranoid and getting more and more suspicious of people following him. There’s quotes of men in black suits following him and he eventually comes home to Pensacola,” Buchanan said.

He moved in with his mom on Romano Street but the paranoia didn’t stop.

“And he still had these suspicions and these theories that people were still following and he’d hear things,” said Buchanan.

Nearly four months after JFK’s assassination, Killam received a phone call around 4am, luring him from his bed.

Buchanan said, “The accounts show that he had gone to possibly a couple bars, maybe seeing some friends or even followed by some folks maybe gotten some trouble. But it led to the fact that he had been found outside the Thiesen building, which is a very large building in downtown Pensacola with his throat severed and he bled out on the sidewalk”

Police said Killam either jumped or fell from the first floor window of the old Thiesen building. He was found dead on the sidewalk about 35 feet away.”

His death report says city employees saw Killam staggering away from the window as a large piece of glass fell behind him.

Buchanan said, “The interesting fact was, when the police came, when they did all the reports, they almost immediately ruled it a suicide.”

Suicide by Pensacola police, but accidental death by the coroner...Conflicting reports fueling conspiracy...

Did Killam know too much?

Author Gerald Posner mentions Killam in his book “Case Closed”, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for history.

Posner said, “They were finally, the family, going to have him go into an institution for some rehab on March 17, 1964. That’s the day he gets up at 4am and ends up dead. I think he knows he’s going to that hospital and what happens is an accident. I don’t think it’s suicide. It’s not intentional, but that plate glass window that breaks, he obviously hit it, was hallucinating, or it happens and that plate glass window shatters. That then feeds the conspiracy because you think, ‘Ah he must have been killed because he knew something. Meanwhile he has already talked to the FBI half a dozen times at least telling them everything he knew. They didn’t find it credible. It wasn’t as though he was holding a secret. He had given the information he had but then had this accident so forever he’s enshrined in this idea that maybe he knew something else.”

Killam was listed as taking amphetamines and barbiturates at the time of his death. Police noting he seemed to have a psychiatric problem but didn’t seem violent.

Buchanan’s curiosity to dig deeper into Killam’s story gained some traction in Pensacola and beyond. His article on the strange guy and his puzzling death, now immortalized at a new bar called “The Kennedy”.

“Whether or not all the facts are right, we still don’t know but it’s there for people to read and have a connection to Pensacola in a very large, national news story,” Buchanan said.

Another interesting note to this story, since there were conflicting reports of suicide or accidental death, Killam’s brother wrote a letter asking the city of Pensacola to exhume Killam’s body to determine the exact cause of death, but, that never happened.