History: The Pensacola connection to the JFK assassination

From 2009-2011, Inweekly ran a Q & A column on Pensacola history called “The Public Record.” Readers sent in their questions and our researcher would hit the archives to find the answers.

This one was published Sept. 30, 2009

I was reading a book about the assassination of JFK and it referenced a man who died in Pensacola. Who was he?

Hank Killam.

On March 17, 1964, he was found bleeding to death on the sidewalk at 127 S. Palafox St. When police arrived, they discovered him outside a broken window display of the Linen Department Store. The plate glass was shattered, and there was blood four feet inside the building. Killam died before he reached the hospital. According to the coroner, his only injury was a long, three-inch deep laceration to the lower left side of the neck. Police listed his death as a probable suicide. They theorized that Killam threw himself through the window, severed his neck on the broken glass, and then crawled back out onto the sidewalk.

Not just his death, but also the circumstances leading up to it, is what has theorists buzzing. Killam was a person of suspicion in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was known to have ties to Lee Harvey Oswald (Kennedy’s assassin) and Jack Ruby (Oswald’s assassin).

Killam was a house painter in Dallas. His friend and co-worker, a man named John Carter, lived in the same rooming house as Oswald. Killam’s wife Wanda worked for Jack Ruby. She was a stripper and cigarette girl at his Carousel Club. Because of the two associations, Killam’s life changed forever after Kennedy’s death.

Men he called agents or plotters began harassing him. They continually showed up at his home and work to question him. After losing jobs to the distraction, Killam decided to leave town. He eventually wound up in Pensacola where his mother and brother lived.

The night before he died, Killam’s mother called police to her house on Romana Street claiming that her son would not go to sleep and was acting irrationally. Police did their best to calm Killam and went on their way. Later, around 4 a.m., Killam’s mother said the phone rang. Then she heard her son get dressed and go outside. Finally, she heard a car drive off. Killam did not own a car. He was found dying thirty minutes later.

Wanda maintained that her husband would never have committed suicide. Killam’s brother Earl pled with the county to exhume his brother’s body to find out more about his death. Earl claimed that two days before his brother died he said, “I’m a dead man, but I’ve run as far as I’m going to run.”