NH man was accused of 1960 JFK plot blow up JFK
But only a dwindling number of folks recall the name of Richard Paul Pavlick, even in his adopted hometown of Belmont.
Pavlick was arrested in Florida in December 1960, a month before Kennedy's inauguration. Authorities said Pavlick drove his 1950 Buick from Belmont to Palm Beach with dynamite in the trunk, planning to crash it into Kennedy's car and detonate the explosives.
He never got another chance; he was arrested four days later by police and federal agents who discovered the explosives in his trunk.
In 1960, Sweeney was deputy police chief in Belmont, where his path crossed Pavlick's on many occasions.
Sweeney recently wrote an account of that time, both from his own memories and published accounts. He recalls Pavlick as a retired postal worker from Boston with "a perpetually dour expression" and "a large shock of white hair."
Sweeney said local folks noticed a change in Pavlick's demeanor after Kennedy was elected. "He seemed obsessed with the fact that Kennedy, if elected, would be the first Catholic President of the U.S. and complained that if this happened, 'the Pope would be running the United States from Rome.'"
In late November 1960, Pavlick suddenly deeded his property over to the Spaulding Youth Center and "left town, bag and baggage," Sweeney wrote. Then postcards from him started arriving in Belmont from cities around the U.S.
The local officials called the Secret Service and U.S. postal inspectors, and authorities put out a nationwide "stop and hold" for Pavlick's vehicle.
Richard Pavlick published his own 77-page memoir, "Six Years in Hell," which is available on the Belmont town website. He insisted he was innocent.
He was never out of New Hampshire during the period he was accused of sending those postcards to Belmont, he wrote. And the dynamite, he said, was to get rid of stumps on his land.
Pavlick then spent 2½ years at the state hospital in Concord.
In 1966, after the Manchester Union Leader started looking into his case, publisher William Loeb began an editorial campaign to free Pavlick.
Sweeney, who by then was police chief in Belmont, opposed those efforts.
Released on parole
On Dec. 13, 1966, a judge ordered Pavlick, then 79, released on parole.
Pavlick rented an apartment in Manchester, renewed his driver's license and registered a car. And "almost immediately," Sweeney began getting worried calls from the Murphy family. "Pavlick would show up at various hours of the day, park just down the road from the Murphy residence and stare at the house."
Pavlick, a World War I veteran, died on Veterans Day in 1975 at the V.A. Medical Center in Manchester. He was 88.
That reporter, Arthur Egan, wrote one last piece about the controversial figure, published on Nov. 14, 1975.
"I know from personal experience how even a small town in the peaceful State of New Hampshire could harbor a terrorist or sleeper cell," he said. "And that the most effective way to root one out is for citizens just like the late Postmaster Thomas M. Murphy to contact the authorities and report suspicious activity, and for the authorities they report it to, to take it seriously and investigate."
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