Business as usual or meet the lone gunman(UA-66627984-1)

James Glen Darnell


Jimmy Darnell. Courtesy of the Darnell family.

James Glen Darnell began his career at WBAP-TV in 1961 after graduating from college and having a degree with a double major in journalism and education. He retired almost four decades later in May, 2000.  Darnell filmed a lot of major news stories from the 1960s to the 1990s, including the JFK assassination. James Darnell’s film snippet of the front entrance of the TSBD is part of the reason I got involved researching Prayer Man. Darnell rode in Cam Car 3 along with Malcolm Couch, Tom Dillard, Bob Jackson and James Underwood. The car ended up standing still in front of the TSBD and this is where he filmed for a few seconds, which was right after the shots had been fired at JFK and John Connally. The funny thing is that from all his recollections, be it private or to the FBI, there is no mention of him shooting this part. In that sequence he films Marrion Baker running towards the front of the TSBD. In the case of Prayer Man, Darnell’s footage is clearer compared to the Dave Wiegman film. But it is also blurred due to the rapid swerve of his camera.

The film sequence provides some  insights as to the stairs’ occupants with the slightly earlier shot Wiegman film. It shows some TSBD workers have left (Lovelady, Shelley and Jones) and also a group of women, about 6 have positioned themselves on the lower eastern side. The main problem with this film reproduction is the resolution. At this point what is publicly available is at a resolution of  654 x 480 pixels, not a lot. Especially when we are trying to identify the people in a small blurry detail of those actual 654 x 480 pixels. The search for a better quality copy of the Darnell film has been a mission and then some. First research pointed to that the original film was sent to NBC in New York. Ed Ledoux tried to approach NBC Universal in 2016, but did not very far. In Nov. 2018 Alan Dale manages to ask Stephen Fagin of the 6th Floor Museum at the JFK Lancer Conference what is happening with the Darnell film. Fagin answers that they have a 2K digital version of this film available in their research room and were going to go public about this in the near foreseeable future. The film can be viewed by making an appointment to see it in the Reading Room at the Sixth Floor Museum. I intend to go and check this out myself.

James Darnell film still. Enhanced by Mick Purdy.

After Marrion Baker’s run Darnell departs from the car and runs on the left side of Elm St. on the large green of Dealey Plaza then is seen filming while the press bus passes on Elm St. Subsequently, he and Roger Craig make their way up the stairs next to the picket fence and he is seen filming  behind it in the railroad yard. And then slowly makes his way back towards the Texas School Book Depository.

in Dec 2021 I got hold of a different copy of the Darnell film, in many cases this was worse quality than what was already available, but the exposure highlighted better sight of some of the older frames. Additionally there was some extra footage that showed that Jimmy Darnell had his finger on the trigger when he made his way to get out of camera car 3 to run down Elm on the left. This footage I have not seen before. First of all he was in the centre of the backseat, while filming he moves past behind Malcolm Couch on his left. See the sequence of frames directly below.

Then he aims the camera backwards towards Main St and films that the Press Bus has pulled over to let reporters get out. Then the camera swerves to the right to a whole group standing together on Elm just where the grass is about to start. Then he stops and starts to take a quick shot of what is happening in front of him. The policeman is kneeling down with his revolver drawn and cam cars 1 and two are in front of him to the right and finally he films James Altgens who stands on the opposite side of Elm in complete shock.

But the best is to come by showing a clearer version of Sarah Stanton standing on the steps only 4-5 ft from Buell Wesley Frazier exactly where she said she was. Her white-ish hair sticking a mile out from anyone else.

Sarah Stanton in Darnell. Click to enlarge.

Darnell was a multi-tasking journalist and conducted witness interviews such as with Jean Hill, which was transmitted on the waves at 13:21 and Mary Moorman on the streets of Dallas (Richard Trask – Pictures of the Pain pages 237-239 & 423). After these interviews he makes his way back to Love Field airport where he films JFK’s coffin being loaded on to AF-1, but the head of airport security that day, Newton Fisher of the DPD, confiscated his film. Denis Morissette recently put a compilation together of Darnell’s footage, some of it is not of good quality.

From Love Field Darnell makes his way to DPD where he remains until the early hours of Nov 23rd where he captures Oswald while he is brought in the ‘show up’ room for the infamous press conference.

The FBI does not interview him until Nov. 29th 1963. there is no mention of Bob Jackson and Malcolm Couch allegedly seeing the protruding rifle barrel in the 6th floor eastern window. Richard E Sprague who did a lot of research on the cameramen has a telephone interview with him in 1968. Sprague’s attempts in trying to obtain a copy of the film from NBC hits a brick wall.

Denis Morissette found a clip from NBC which aired the snippet we are after in 1964. It is right at the beginning in the video below. Until July 2016 I had no idea whether NBC had actually aired that particular segment.

The same sequence  shows up again in the documentary Beyond JFK, The Question Of Conspiracy which was released along with JFK The Movie – The Directors Cut in 1994 by Oliver Stone. I  saw it then for the first time and it never dawned on me, or anyone else back then how significant that clip was. As a side note it is worth mentioning that Robert Groden had spliced the film together with the Malcolm Couch segment which was shot at the same time and used for his documentary called “The JFK Assassination Films”. This could be one of the reasons that the film was not really noticed nor corrected accordingly by other researchers.

The still photo below is the first photo being used on forums in 2010 and 2013, we are of course asked to focus on the  male individual encircled in red, named prayer man. It was Sean Murphy who named him as such on May 19 2010 or shortly before that. Not a name I would have chosen, but since Murphy focused on this individual first it was his decision to do so.

Prayer Man image 2010 & 2013.

The frame above is also used in the “Oswald Leaving the TSBD” thread at the Education Forum by Bill Kelley. This then kicked off a serious debate which killed off the second floor lunch room encounter lie, but then as the years went by the forum thread regrettably got turned into a troll denial exercise in later years by Bill Miller and Brian Doyle, which then resulted getting the thread locked down by the moderators. Sean Murphy, one of the main researchers, stopped posting on Nov 22nd 2013 on the 50th anniversary.

Ed Ledoux made a rough edit of the Darnell and the Couch film sequences films overlapping and capturing Marrion Baker’s sprint.

Nellie Darnell passed me these notes from WBAP which show in good detail what Darnell filmed on Nov 22-24.

She also passed on a document with her dad’s story typed out in, I guess 1964, where he described in his own words the happenings of that weekend and also the Jack Ruby trial. I am posting four pages of it that are relevant to the area I am researching. The entire document can be viewed HERE. This is a great read as it gives the best insight to his thoughts about his movements and interactions during that weekend.

Jimmy Darnell passed away on Sept. 29 2017.

More reading:

Jimmy Darnell footage.

The Darnell film at the 6th floor museum.

The search for the Wiegman and Darnell films.

Digital Collections UNT.

I would like to especially thank Nellie Darnell for handing me some very special documentation and also for talking to me over the past couple of years.