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JFK doctor dies

Charles A. Crenshaw believed that Oswald wasn't lone gunman

By Drake Witham and Linda Stewart Ball
The Dallas Morning News


Dr. Charles Andrew Crenshaw, one of several who treated President John F. Kennedy's gunshot wounds nearly 38 years ago, went to his grave insisting Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone gunman.

Dr. Crenshaw, chairman emeritus of the Department of Surgery at John Peter Smith Hospital, died of natural causes at his Fort Worth home Thursday. His family said Dr. Crenshaw's health had been deteriorating in recent years. He was 68 years old.

"He was quite a guy," said Dr. David McReynolds, chairman of the surgery department at John Peter Smith. "He's one of those guys that demanded respect, earned it, and got it. It wasn't Chuck. It was Dr. Crenshaw or The Chief."

Dr. Crenshaw started the surgery department at John Peter Smith single-handedly in 1966, Dr. McReynolds said, and was its backbone in those early years, on call practically every night.

But some controversy surrounded Dr. Crenshaw's later years when he recounted his emergency room treatment of Kennedy and Oswald in two books questioning the findings of the Warren Commission.

Dr. Crenshaw, an emergency room doctor at Parkland Memorial Hospital on the days Kennedy and Oswald died in November 1963, wrote about his experience in the 1992 book JFK: Conspiracy of Silence.

In it, Dr. Crenshaw detailed his contention that Kennedy had been shot twice from the front, contradicting the findings of the Warren Commission that Oswald was the lone assassin, firing from behind the president.

"It was just supposed to be this little book, a paperback in which he wanted to say what he saw," said his wife, Susan Lea Crenshaw. "Then it just exploded, and he was getting all of this national, and even international, attention."

The book was criticized by some fellow doctors.

"He was disappointed that some of the other doctors did not come to his defense," Ms. Crenshaw said, adding that the few who did remain good friends.

"I'm very sad that he died," Dr. Bob McClelland said. The professor of surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas was in the operating room at Parkland when Dr. Crenshaw, then a resident, found him. The pair rushed to the emergency room to help tend to the president. "He was a very bright person," Dr. McClelland said of Dr. Crenshaw.

"Of course, he got a lot of notoriety with that book he wrote. He certainly was not writing on the basis of his imagination. ... Unfortunately, there were some misconceptions about it on both sides of the fence - on his side, and on the side of people who criticized him."

The published account made him somewhat of a hero in the eyes of those who have said all along that there was more than one gunman.

"Other doctors spoke out, but he was the most vocal of them," said Tom Bowden, president of the Conspiracy Museum in Dallas. "That's the key."

Mr. Bowden said Dr. Crenshaw was well known among those who discount the Warren Commission's findings. Many were eagerly awaiting his next book, released last week.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the witnesses of those days are dying off," Mr. Bowden said. "That does create a loss for the conspiracy community, those guys who believed in what we believe in."

Dr. Crenshaw's second book, Trauma Room One, includes the first book, plus information about lawsuits that Dr. Crenshaw brought against his detractors and details that had come out since his first book was published, Ms. Crenshaw said.

"He was so happy that the book came out," Ms. Crenshaw said. "He just wanted to live long enough for this book to come out so it would prove that what he said in the first book was true."

But she said her husband's true passion was medicine.

"His legacy is not a book," she said. "His life was building John Peter Smith Hospital, and that's his legacy."

Dr. Crenshaw was born and raised in Paris, Texas, before graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1953 with a bachelor's degree. He earned a master's degree in biology from East Texas State Teacher's College, now Texas A&M-Commerce, in 1955 and a doctorate from Baylor University in 1957. He earned a medical degree at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1960 and interned at the Veterans Administration Hospital in 1961. He completed his assistant residency in surgery at Parkland in 1965 and his senior residency in surgery in 1966.

He served as the chairman of the surgery department of John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth from 1966 to 1992, and he was a member of several medical associations.

Services will be at 3 p.m. Monday at First Presbyterian Church, 100 Penn St., in Fort Worth. Cremation will precede the services.

Besides his wife, Dr. Crenshaw is survived by his son, Charles A. Crenshaw II; his daughter, Adelaide Andrews; and two grandchildren.

© 2001 The Dallas Morning News
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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