The Ordeal of Vernon Oneal: The Story of President Kennedy's First Casket

November 22, 1963. Even afore Admiral Kennedy's near-lifeless physique was removed from the presidential auto at Parkland Hospital, United Press International's antecedent letters that "three shots were accursed at Admiral John F. Kennedy's celebration today" was antagonism above buzzer machines nationwide. Holding a transistor radio to his ear, one a part of the millions of Americans who monitored the breaking account was Vernon B. Oneal, a Dallas burying administrator whose business aswell included an ambulance service.
At about 12:46 CST, alone sixteen account afterwards JFK was shot, and 47 account afore Assistant White House Secretary Malcolm Kilduff clearly appear the President's afterlife to the world, Oneal's blast rang. Dallas breaking news it was Secret Account abettor Clint Hill calling from Parkland Hospital, advising Oneal to baddest his best casket and carriage it to the hospital "as anon as possible."

"Is it for the President?" Oneal asked.
"Yes," Hill replied, "it is for the Admiral of the United States."
Grasping the coercion of Hill's directive, Oneal anchored into his exhibit and called his signature model, an eight hundred batter solid brownish casket called the "Brittania". Manufactured by the Elgin Casket Company, it was double-walled and could be hermetically sealed. Fit for a admiral or king, Oneal's amount was $3,995.
As his profession dictated, Vernon Oneal was able to anxiously abundance and abetment the beggared Kennedy ancestors in every way possible. At Parkland, he abreast words of accord to Jacqueline Kennedy. He and two of his assembly were again assisted by nurses in anxiously wrapping JFK's charcoal in several bedding and plastic, acquisitive the claret and academician amount still seeping from the massive anguish in the President's arch would not stain the casket's costly glassy shirring.
Before abandonment Parkland Oneal accurately stood by Mrs. Kennedy and the casket as the backward President's White House aides and Secret Account agents endured an animal shouting bout with a bounded official called Dr. Earl Rose, who insisted that JFK's physique must, by law, be captivated for dissection in Dallas County. Oneal had every appropriate to accept that his casework would abide to be appropriate all the way to Admiral Kennedy's burying site, and he capital Mrs. Kennedy to be assured of his adherence and respect; the abounding ambit of his establishment's casework were at her solicitation, and the man was bent to go to any avail, whether the burying be captivated in Washington or Massachusetts, to amuse her every wish.
Then, suddenly, Oneal's hopes were dashed. The Secret Account agents and JFK's a lot of loyal aides had no eventually brushed Dr. Rose abreast if the casket absolute the assassinated Admiral was precipitously loaded into the rear of his Cadillac hearse, the aforementioned car he and his cadre acclimated to bear the brownish casket to Parkland Hospital. It had been Oneal's ambition to drive Kennedy's physique anon to his burying home for embalming and the scheduling of burying arrangements, but the Secret Account commandeered the hearse and an abettor brash him to chase in addition car, apathy to acquaint Oneal that their accurate destination was Air Force One at Love Field airport.
Along with a badge motorcycle escort, three cars began affairs out of Parkland's account road: Oneal's hearse, a car abounding of Secret Account agents and JFK's aides, and the endure accustomed Oneal and two of his employees. The burying administrator sensed something austere was awry if he empiric his hearse about-face larboard in the administration of the airport rather than appropriate to his mortuary. Agents in the additional car radioed their counterparts at Love Field, instructing them to admittance "the aboriginal two cars only" above the airport fence abreast Air Force One. Under no affairs would Oneal and his employees, or any added vehicle, be accustomed to access the breadth abreast the presidential jet.
Sure enough, agents let the aboriginal two cars canyon through a fence aural appearance of the aircraft, but apoplectic Oneal's sedan. The administrator was furious, and justifiably so. The martyred Admiral was central his casket and his coach, both allegedly apprenticed for his burying home. The agents abandoned his protests, abrogation Dallas badge admiral to assure the abandoned agent that the hearse would be alternate to him the moment Air Force One took flight. Vernon Oneal acquainted like a additional tire. The United States government had acclimated him to the admeasurement their primary requirements were annoyed - afterwards auctioning him at the gate.
Perhaps the ultimate insult to Vernon Oneal complex transaction of the casket itself. He again beatific a $3,900 bill to Jacqueline Kennedy for about a year but she never replied. Finally, fourteen months afterwards JFK's assassination, in January 1965, the federal government paid him a sum of $3,160. But by again Oneal was active a accessible relations nightmare; his attempts to aggregate transaction from Mrs. Kennedy were broadly appear and his mortuary suffered an disturbing 50 percent bead in business.


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