Dr. Humes Dies

by John Kelin

Dr. James J. Humes, one of the pathologists who performed the autopsy on President John F. Kennedy, and who in recent years admitted to destroying both his autopsy notes and the first draft of his autopsy report, has died at the age of 74.

Humes died of lung cancer in a Florida hospital.

Humes was chief pathologist at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland when Kennedy's body was flown there for an autopsy after the November 22, 1963 assassination in Dallas.

Assisted by pathologists J. Thornton Boswell and Pierre Finck, Humes reported that Kennedy was killed by two bullets fired from behind. This enabled the Warren Commission to conclude that JFK was slain by a single gunman acting alone.

In March of 1964 Dr. Humes told the Commission that he burned a preliminary draft of his autopsy report on the President. However, in a certificate dated November 24, 1963, Humes stated that he burned "certain preliminary draft notes" and that he "transmitted all other paper related to this report to higher authority."

In 1997 he told the Assassination Records Review Board, after what the Board called "persistent questioning," that he destroyed both his autopsy notes, and the first draft of his report.

George Lundburg, former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and a longtime friend, said that "Humes, Boswell and Finck got the answers right ... he [Humes] was a consummate professional who succeeded brilliantly in all he ever did, and yet had this one day hung around his neck forever in the eyes of many."

Humes himself maintained that "people ... could read the truth in the Warren Commission report," according to Ann Sansbury, one of Humes' seven children.

The New York Times reported in December 1963 that Dr. Humes "said he has been forbidden to talk" about the autopsy. Author Harrison Livingstone said that Humes "was being forced, during a coup and overthrow of the administration, to falsify data ... there was a big ambush down there."

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