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Author James Douglass to mark 50th anniversary of JFK assassination

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Catholic theologian, peace activist and author James Douglass, who wrote what many scholars of the JFK assassination have heralded as the best book on the subject, will lead the Mercyhurst University community in marking the 50thanniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination in a two-part special event Nov. 5-6. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Douglass will deliver a lecture based on his bestselling 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.  The following night, Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Mercyhurst Theatre Program, under the direction of Brett Johnson, Ph.D., will stage Noah's Ark, a play inspired by Douglass' book and written by Ginny Cunningham of Pittsburgh. The dramatic 90-minute play will be read by members of the Mercyhurst and Erie theatre communities. 

Both events take place in Taylor Little Theatre at 7 p. m. Supported by the Mercyhurst History Department, the Mercyhurst Center for Mercy and Catholic Studies and the Mercyhurst Academic Enrichment Program, they are free and open to the public.

History Department Chair Chris Magoc, Ph.D., said Mercyhurst is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to mark this tragic moment in our nation’s history by hearing from one of the preeminent experts of the event. 

“Jim Douglass has been invited to speak in many places around the country this fall and has accepted few invitations, so we are delighted that he is coming,” Magoc said. “Because he goes more deeply into this profound national trauma than merely what happened in Dallas on that day, James Douglass’ vast knowledge and insights on what lay behind the Kennedy assassination are nearly unequalled among assassination scholars.” 

Equally compelling, Magoc said, is the play Noah’s Ark, which features a number of historic figures from the era – including JFK himself – and, like the Douglass book, centers on President Kennedy’s search for peace in the depths of the Cold War.

Author of six books, Douglass has also long been involved in issues of peace and social justice.  From 1963 to 1965, he served as theological adviser on questions of nuclear war and conscientious objection at the Second Vatican Council in Rome.  He then taught theology at several institutions, including Notre Dame.  In 1977, Jim and Shelley Douglass helped found the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action alongside the Trident submarine base near Seattle, Wash.  Jim Douglass served time in jail for acts of civil disobedience at the Trident base.  The Douglasses later founded Mary’s House, a Catholic Worker House for homeless families in Birmingham, Ala. 

In the late 1980s, Douglass began a series of peacemaking journeys to the Middle East as well as four pilgrimages to Sarajevo under siege, where he met with religious leaders and carried messages between Bosnian families in the U.S. and their relatives trapped in the city.  In the mid 1990s, he returned to Iraq to deliver medicine to children’s hospitals. In 2003, he was a member of a Christian Peacemakers Team in Baghdad during the US invasion of Iraq.          

Jim and Shelley Douglass are recipients of numerous awards, among them the Adin Ballou Peace Award from the Unitarian Universalist Peace Fellowship, the Martin Luther King Award from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award from Pax Christi USA and the Dorothy Day Award from Edgewood College.

For more information on either program, please contact Chris Magoc at