West Palm Beach, Florida (JFK+50) Fifty-four years ago today, December 15, 1960, Richard Paul Pavlick* was stopped here in West Palm Beach by police officer Lester Free who saw him drive across the highway dividing line. Upon a search of the vehicle, seven sticks of dynamite were discovered along with "spools of wire, and a homemade detonation device."
Pavlick, who was 73 years old at the time of his arrest and had a history of bizarre behavior, was charged the following day for planning to assassinate the President-elect of the United States, John F. Kennedy.
The Secret Service Chief at the time, U.E. Baughman, later wrote...
"The closeness of the call was appalling. Hardly anybody realized just how near we came...to losing our president-elect to a madman."
Richard Paul Pavlick
Secret Service Photo
Pavlick confessed to officers that he had planned to assassinate the President-elect and when asked why he wanted to kill JFK answered...
"Kennedy money bought the White House and the presidency. I had the crazy idea I wanted to stop Kennedy from becoming president."
Pavlick's Car and Weaponry
Pavlick had left his home in Belmont, NH and had driven 1500 miles to southern Florida. Along the way he bought "detonators, blasting caps, seven sticks of dynamite and four large cans of gasoline."
Once in West Palm Beach, he lodged at a motel not far from where JFK's Secret Service detail was staying. For five days, he was parked outside the Kennedy home at 1095 North Ocean Boulevard. This was the property Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. had purchased in the 1930s for $100,000.
Pavlick was a retired postal worker who was known for writing "prolific letters to newspapers" about his belief that Joe Kennedy had been attempting to buy the presidency for his son.
Pavlick also was a fixture at local public meetings where he frequently spoke out on such topics as the improper displaying of the American flag and the poisoning of the town water system.
On Sunday, December 11, 1960, the Secret Service accompanied the Kennedys to St. Edward Church where Agent Jerry Blaine would be posted at the door.
Pavlick, unknown to Blaine, "walked through the front door" but "just didn't seem to fit."
Blaine wrote later that Pavlick caught his attention because he appeared "disheveled." As the man went down the aisle toward JFK's pew, Blaine grabbed him by the elbow and turned him back toward the front door.
Pavlick exited, got into his car, and drove off but not before Blaine recorded the car's description and license plate number. Actually, according to Mr. Blaine, Pavlick was listed as a threat in the SS Protective Research Section for sending threatening notes to former U.S. presidents.
After his arrest, Pavlick admitted that he had parked outside JFK's residence waiting for the opportunity to drive his bomb-laden car into the President-elect's but when he saw JFK was with his wife and children decided to wait for another opportunity.
Pavlick, who remained institutionalized until December 13, 1966, had been determined to be legally insane. In other words, at the time of his attempt to kill JFK he was unable to distinguish between right and wrong.
*Richard Paul Pavlick (1887-1975) was born in Belmont, New Hampshire. He worked as a postmaster until his retirement. In 1960, RPP mailed strange postcards to Thomas M. Murphy, the postmaster in Belmont. Murphy became suspicious when the postmarks on these cards coincided with the places visited by President-elect John F. Kennedy. Murphy alerted US Attorney Maurice P. Bois who in turn contacted the Secret Service. RPP died at the VA Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1975.
"JFK: the assassin who failed," by Philip Kerr, New Statesman, November 27, 2000
"Near Miss: JFK Assassination Attempt in 1960," by Steve B. Davis, Writings and Wramblings, www.stamperdad.wordpress.com**
"The Kennedy Assassin Who Failed," by Dan Lewis, December 6, 2012 SMITHSONIAN.COM
"The Kennedy Detail," by Gerald Blaine with Lisa McCubbin, Gallery Books, New York, 2010.
**Steve is also the author of the only book written on this event and its' aftermath. The book can be purchased at the following links...