Bumping Into History: Medicine, Photography and JFK

Dallas pathologist and photographer Dr. Tom McConnell recounts how medical training, military service, an interest in photography and serendipity resulted in his photos of the JFK funeral in 1963.

This event was held November 19, 2020. Click here to see what events are happening now!

Join DCP and Dallas pathologist and photographer, Dr. Tom McConnell, on Thursday, November 19 at 6:30 pm CST for an online event about his life in medicine and his connection to events associated with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

A reviewer of Dr. McConnell’s memoir (Dead Wrong) described him as “…a high-IQ version of Forrest Gump, whose touchstones through life parallel many of the quintessential events in twentieth-century America.” In this one-hour webinar, Dr. McConnell will recount how his medical training, military service, an interest in photography and a dose of serendipity resulted in the powerful photographs he took at the funeral of JFK in 1963.

There were other intersections with the JFK story for Dr. McConnell. He was present at the autopsy of Jack Ruby and did the autopsy on Lee Harvey Oswald’s landlady. During his pathology training at UT Southwestern and Parkland Hospital his interest in JFK expanded after reading the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy autopsy. He accurately surmised that JFK was afflicted with a disease that was denied during President Kennedy’s life.

With his trademark blend of creative insight, dry wit and medical knowledge, Dr. McConnell will tell his story and show photos from the JFK funeral that have never been shared before with the public. As is often the case, pictures taken with no particular motive other than capturing a moment can weave themselves into a person’s life. For Dr. McConnell that thread pulled him into a passion for photography and added to his appreciation of art in other forms.

  • The webinar is Thursday, November 19 at 6:30pm CST and lasts until 7:30pm CST.
  • The cost for this webinar is $10.
  • DCP members can enjoy this event for FREE but must still register to receive the Zoom link. Log in to your member account. The discount code will be under Membership/Account Details/Benefits.
  • We recommend that you log in to the Zoom webinar at least 10 minutes before the panel discussion starts to become familiar with the program and work out any technical issues that may occur.
  • All proceeds from the $10 registration help DCP to continue this series of online events on the unique power photography holds to shape people’s lives.

Thomas H. McConnell is a physician, a pathologist, now semi-retired, and a member of the pathology faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He was born in the late 1930s at Parkland Hospital in Dallas where his father, a physician, and his mother, a nurse, met. He grew up in Sulphur Springs, TX, and still speaks with a strong East Texas twang. He attended Rice University and graduated with honors from UTSW in 1962.

After graduation he interned at the U. of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He describes his 1962– 1963 year in Mississippi as “life altering.” Civil rights unrest boiled, US troops patrolled, Medgar Evers was assassinated, FBI agents muscled James Meredith into Ole Miss and Dr. McConnell was involved in the care of several memorable patients, an experience he found transformative.

After his internship Dr. McConnell joined the US Army and was posted at the Pentagon. He was Medical Officer of the Day on November 22, 1963 and was tasked to provide medical support for the JFK funeral activities at the White House, the Capitol and Arlington National Cemetery.

Finding Pentagon duty stuffy, Dr, McConnell volunteered for airborne training and became Battalion Surgeon for the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of D-Day Fame. He loved the US military and attests to the fact that military service inspires a lot of tales.

After military service Dr. McConnell returned to Dallas for pathology training at UT Southwestern and Parkland hospital and soon found himself running a commercial medical laboratory. He later sold the business and was invited to join the faculty at UT Southwestern in 1997 to teach a basic pathology course to students in the School of Health Professions.  As a teacher he published two textbooks, The Nature of Disease, a textbook of pathology, and Human Form, Human Function, a textbook of anatomy and physiology (Kerry Hull, co-author).