The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination has drawn all manner of retrospectives. But for one woman, the memory of tuning in to the news coverage is particularly poignant. Priscilla Johnson McMillan is the only person who knew both President Kennedy and his killer.
McMillan worked for Kennedy on Capitol Hill in the mid-1950s, when he was a U.S. Senator, advising him on foreign policy matters. She then moved into journalism and in 1959 was stationed in the Soviet Union, reporting for The Progressive and the North American Newspaper Alliance. It was there that she met a 20-year-old American called Lee Harvey Oswald. He was staying in her hotel while trying to defect to the Soviet Union.
McMillan interviewed him. Oswald proceeded to critique the American system and informed her that he was a follower of Karl Marx. “I saw,” he said, explaining why he left the U.S., “that I would become either a worker exploited for capitalist profit or an exploiter or, since there are many in this category, I’d be one of the unemployed.” On that night in Moscow, Oswald also told McMillan that he had a life mission: “I want to give the people of the United States something to think about.”
Four years later, on the night of November 22, as McMillan followed news coverage of the assassination in Dallas from Cambridge, Massaschusetts, charges began to emerge that Oswald was responsible for shooting Kennedy. McMillan was astonished. “My God,” she said, “I know that boy!”