The Warren Commission
President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the President's Commission on the Assassination of
President Kennedy, commonly called the Warren Commission, by Executive Order (E.O. 11130)
on November 29, 1963. Its purpose was to investigate the assassination of President John
Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963, at Dallas, Texas. President Johnson directed the
Commission to evaluate matters relating to the assassination and the subsequent killing
of the alleged assassin, and to report its findings and conclusions to him.
The following members served on the Commission:
On December 13, 1963, Congress passed Senate Joint Resolution 137 (Public Law 88-202)
authorizing the Commission to subpoena witnesses and obtain evidence concerning any
matter relating to the investigation. The resolution also gave the Commission the power
to compel the testimony of witnesses by granting immunity from prosecution to witnesses
testifying under compulsion. The Commission, however, did not grant immunity to any
witness during the investigation.
The Commission acted promptly to obtain a staff to meet its needs. J. Lee Rankin,
former Solicitor General of the United States, was sworn in as general council for the
Commission on December 16, 1963. He was aided in his work by 14 assistant council who
were divided into teams to deal with the various subject areas of the investigation.
The Commission was also assisted by lawyers, Internal Revenue Service agents, a senior
historian, an editor, and secretarial and administrative personnel who were assigned to
the Commission by Federal agencies at its request. Officials and agencies of the state
of Texas, as well as of the Federal Government, fully cooperated with the Commission on
The Commission reviewed reports by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Secret Service, Department of State, and the Attorney General of Texas,
and then requested additional information from federal agencies, Congressional
committees, and state and local experts. The Commission held hearings and took the
testimony of 552 witnesses. On several occasions, the Commission went to Dallas to
visit the scene of the assassination and other places.
The Commission presented its Report, in which each member concurred, to the President
on September 24, 1964. The publication of the Report was soon followed by the
publication of the 26 volumes of the Commission's Hearings. The Commission then
transferred its records to the National Archives to be permanently preserved under the
rules and regulations of the National Archives and applicable federal law.
In the National Archives, the records of the
Warren Commission comprise Record Group
272: Records of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.
The record group contains about 363 cubic feet of records and related material.
Approximately 99 percent of these records are currently open and available for research.
The records consist of investigative reports submitted by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the Secret Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency; various kinds
of documents such as income tax returns, passport files, military and selective service
records, and school records relating to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby; transcripts of
testimony, depositions, and affidavits of witnesses, correspondence; manuals of
procedures of federal agencies; administrative memorandums; records relating to
personnel; fiscal records; agenda, proceedings, and minutes of Commission meetings and
minutes of staff meetings; exhibits; tape records, newspaper and press clippings, and
films; indexes; drafts and printer's proofs of the Report and Hearings of the Commission;
a chronology of events in the lives of Oswald, Ruby, and others, 1959-1963; records
relating to the interrogation and trial of Jack Ruby; and other records. Most of these
records relate to the period of the investigation of President Kennedy's assassination,
November 1963 to September 1964, but some records of earlier and a few later dates are
The Kennedy family donated the autopsy X-rays and photographs to the National Archives
under an agreement dated October 29, 1966. The agreement limits access to these materials
- Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, former Governor and attorney
general of California, Chair;
- Richard B. Russell, Democratic Senator from Georgia and chairman of the Senate
Armed Services Committee, former Governor of Georgia, and county attorney
in that State;
- John Sherman Cooper, Republican Senator from Kentucky, former county and circuit
judge in Kentucky, and United States Ambassador to India;
- Hale Boggs, Democratic Representative from Louisiana and majority whip in the
House of Representatives;
- Gerald R. Ford, Republican Representative from Michigan and chairman of the House
- Allen W. Dulles, lawyer and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency;
- John J. McCloy, lawyer, former President of the International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, and former United States High Commissioner
- persons authorized to act for a Committee of Congress, a Presidential
commission, or any other official agency of the federal government having
authority to investigate matters relating to the assassination of
President Kennedy or
- recognized experts in the field of pathology or related areas of science and
technology whose applications are approved by the designated Kennedy
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