Special Collections

Editor’s Note: Last month, Iowa Alumni Magazine brought you the story of former UI professor Earl Rose, who served as Dallas County medical examiner when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. While Secret Service agents prepared to whisk the president’s body back to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One, Rose argued—unsuccessfully—that he was legally compelled to perform an investigative autopsy.

Although Rose would go on to conduct autopsies on both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, he was remembered primarily for the one that he didn’t do. As the controversy and conspiracy theories regarding the president’s assassination swelled over the years, Rose kept meticulous records and astonishing relics regarding that fateful Friday afternoon. Read more about how the University of Iowa came to own the “Earl F. Rose Papers” in this sidebar from October’s edition of Iowa Alumni Magazine.     

The Smithsonian Institution wanted the Earl F. Rose Papers, but the Roses gifted them to the places closest to their hearts: Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

In 2005, UI archivist David McCartney happened to be giving a presentation at the Iowa City Senior Center about how to conduct historical research online. For his audience, the discussion quickly turned to how to manage all the personal albums, papers, and special mementoes of their long lives.

Afterward, Earl and Marilyn Rose, 74MA,82PhD, approached McCartney, who knew to some extent Earl’s role during the Kennedy assassination. “It was one of those amazing moments of connecting history with an actual individual,” McCartney recalls. “He mentioned he had these materials at home and asked if I’d be interested. My eyes got really big. I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

UI Special Collections received the bulk of the materials in late spring of that year, but McCartney didn’t realize their gravity and scope until they were all processed by library staff. A detailed list of the contents, including a full transcript of Rose’s interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, his book of recollections titled Dallas: My View of History, and a personal memoir My Ana can be found at: www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/tomsc900/msc860/msc860.html.

“I miss Earl,” McCartney says. “He was a thoughtful man with a delightfully wry sense of humor. I was so fortunate to have met both him and Marilyn. And our community is fortunate to have this rich collection.”

To read about Earl Rose’s role in one of America’s most ill-fated historical events, click here.

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