Readers: This is the second of three columns detailing local connections to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago next week.
Richard Paul Pavlick, a 73-year-old retired postal worker, came to Palm Beach to kill John F. Kennedy in 1960, just weeks after he was elected and before he was sworn in.
Pavlick was violently anti-Catholic and believed that the Kennedy family had bought the election. In his car was a letter to the American people, saying in part, “I decided that never would the presidency of the United States be up for sale.”
His plan: Wait for Kennedy to leave for Mass at St. Edward’s Catholic Church, then ram the presidential car.
Inside Pavlick’s Buick: seven sticks of dynamite.
But then Jackie Kennedy came to the door, along with Caroline, 4, and “John-John,” all of 16 days old, to see the president-elect off.
“I did not wish to harm her or the children,” Pavlick would say later. He decided to wait for a better opportunity. He didn’t get one.
Pavlick had sold his Belmont, N.H., home and had made one trip to case the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Mass. But he also had let slip his plans to a Postal Service colleague, who told authorities.
The Secret Service posted a bulletin describing Pavlick and saying he might have explosives.
So four days after Pavlick’s almost attack, at 9 p.m., Palm Beach patrolman Lester Free spotted the Buick crossing from West Palm Beach on the North Bridge. He stopped it at Royal Poinciana Way and North County Road.
In seconds, Palm Beach officers and Secret Service agents had surrounded the car and one had pulled Pavlick out.
Pavlick had three more sticks and more detonating equipment in his motel room.
“We hit the grass,” former patrolman Nick Mancino recalled in a 1983 Palm Beach Post story. “I didn’t know what was in that car, but my reaction was that it was going to go, ‘Boom!’”
Pavlick later was found incompetent to face charges and was sent to a medical center in Missouri. He bounced around psychiatric hospitals for six years until charges eventually were dropped. In the 1970s, Pavlick still was sending dozens of letters proclaiming his innocence to everyone from the White House to Congress to the media. He died at 88 in 1975 in a veterans’ hospital in Manchester, N.H.
NEXT WEEK: The anniversary
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