Inside the Warren Commission Report and The Assassination of JFK | SCC

News Archive

Inside the Warren Commission Report and The Assassination of JFK

John Sherman Cooper Lecture Series at Somerset Community College to feature speaker Howard P. Willens on October 24

Howard P. Willens, an attorney that served as assistant legal counsel on the Warren Commission that investigated the John F. Kennedy assassination, will be guest speaker for the 12th Annual John Sherman Cooper Lecture at Somerset Community College (SCC). The event will be held on Monday, October 24, 2016 2 p.m. in the Harold Rogers Student Commons Citizens National Bank Community Room, located on the SCC Somerset North Campus at 808 Monticello Street in Somerset. Admission is free and the public is invited.

About Howard P. Willens

Willens is a lawyer who has practiced in both the public and private sectors in Washington D.C. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Michigan and his law degree from Yale Law School.

From 1961 to 1965, Willens served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. During part of that time, he was the assistant counsel to the Presidents Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, and from 1965 to 1966, he served as the executive director of the Presidents Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia.

During his work on the Warren Commission Willens assisted the Commission's General Counsel in all aspects of its work, including hiring the staff, organizing the investigation, dealing with the various investigative agencies and preparing the final report.

Willens was a partner in the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler amp; Pickering from 1967 through 1994. His practice included complex litigation in federal and state courts, arbitration of disputes involving foreign governments and corporations, and appellate work in federal and state courts. He advised clients regarding alleged violations of U.S. criminal laws and conducted internal investigations of alleged criminal conduct by corporate employees. On the regulatory side, he represented clients before agencies administering U.S. antitrust, securities, anti-discrimination, automotive safety and emissions, anti-boycott, and consumer protection laws.

Willens was retained by the Northern Marianas people in 1972 to represent them in negotiations with the United States regarding the terms under which they became U.S. citizens and a commonwealth under U.S. sovereignty. This assignment led to a relationship that lasted for nearly four decades, concluding with his service as Special Legal Counsel to the Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands during 2006 to 2009.

Willens has co-authored three books about United States policy in the Western Pacific: National Security and Self-Determination: United States Policy in Micronesia (1961-1972), An Honorable Accord: The Covenant between the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States (1972-1976) and The Secret Guam Study.

Based on his Warren Commission assignment, Willens wrote History Will Prove Us Right. He will be sharing his thoughts and findings at the John Sherman Cooper Lecture on October 24, 2016.

About John Sherman Cooper

Cooper was born in Somerset on August 23, 1901. He graduated from public schools and attended Centre College in Danville, but graduated from Yale College in 1923. Cooper attended Harvard Law School from 1923-1925, was admitted to the Kentucky Bar in 1928 and then set up his law practice in Somerset.

Cooper was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in 1927 and began his service in 1928. He served as judge of Pulaski County from 1930 to 1938. He was a veteran and served in World War II and rose to the rank of captain in the Army. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1946 and served until 1949. He was elected to the Senate a second time from 1952 to 1955. On Nov. 6, 1956 Cooper was elected a third time to the Senate and was reelected in 1960 and 1966. His Senate service ended on January 3, 1973 when he declined to run for reelection.

Cooper was also a member of the board of trustees of the University of Kentucky from 1935-1946, served as a delegate to the United Nations, and was appointed Ambassador to India, Nepal and the German Democratic Republic. He died on February 21, 1991 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The inaugural Cooper Lecture was given by Senator Mitch McConnell in August 2005. At that time McConnell said, One of the greatest senators in Kentucky history, and certainly the greatest of my adult lifetime, is John Sherman Cooper. He stood fast for what he believed was right, no matter how large the opposition or great the cost. He taught me how to be a senator. And he taught everyone who knew him the value of integrity, forthrightness and moral character.