DALLAS — A piece of JFK history up for auction is ready to be sold to the highest bidder on Thursday, and the item is reigniting an old debate.
On the RR Auction website, the item is labeled as lot No. 154: ”The controversial and extremely historically important Texas School Book Depository sixth-floor corner window."
RR Auction also posted a video showing the item’s value.
The window belongs to the estate of Colonel D. Harold Byrd, the former owner of the landmark downtown building.
The Sixth Floor Museum displayed the window, known as the "Byrd window," for more than 10 years near the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the shot that killed President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The caption read: "The Original Window from the Sniper's Perch."
Through the years, the Byrd window has been stained with canceled auctions, a court battle, and doubt.
“The window they are auctioning currently does not match the crime scene photo they have in their ad,” said Farris Rookstool, JFK historian and former FBI analyst.
Rookstool believes the Byrd window is not the right one, and auctions such as this one trouble him.
“His window was removed from the southwest corner of the building, completely away from the crime scene,” he said.
Rookstool believes another window removed by Aubrey Mayhew in the 1970s is the right one. He has never seen it in person, but he has analyzed the pictures of the Mayhew window. He has compared them to crime scene photos, has met with both families, and has collected documents.
"Here's a progression of imagery that shows that the window that is the Aubrey Mayhew window is, in fact, the actual window that matches the crime scene photos of November, 22, 1963,” he said.
In 2011, Gary Mack, the curator of The Sixth Floor Museum, sent the Mayhew family an e-mail message, and News 8 obtained a copy of it:
"...after again looking at the pictures you guys provided, I'm still convinced your dad did, indeed get the real one,” Mack wrote.
On Wednesday, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza responded to our request for comment.
"We believe both windows are original to the building, but are unable to verify which was located in the sniper's perch,” said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. “The Sixth Floor museum at Dealey Plaza is not involved in any authentication efforts."
We interviewed Bobby Livingston from RR Auction via Skype about the issue.
“It's certainly a sixth floor window, and most likely is the sniper's nest,” he said.
Livingston was not aware of the curator’s e-mail.
“We will absolutely do the right thing," he told News 8. "If this is not the correct window, then we will absolutely do the right thing."
Shortly after our interview, Livingston pulled down the video from the auction's website. He told us he will make all bidders aware of the controversy, and the tale of two windows.
As of Wednesday night, the auction was still on.
“It's still an extremely valuable piece of the Texas Depository,” Livingston said. “It is a sixth floor window. Is it the sixth floor window? I think further study needs to be made.”
Joel Elliott, the attorney who represented the Byrd family in a lawsuit filed against Aubrey Mayhew, also sent us a statement. He said the suit was to determine who owned the correct Kennedy window, and to recover whatever window may be in Mayhew’s possession.
“An order granting partial summary judgment was entered stating that Mr. Mayhew did not own the true Kennedy window,” the attorney said.
Mayhew passed away while awaiting trial, and Byrd’s health also took a turn for the worse.
Elliott told News 8 there will always be a dispute over this issue.
“Legally, every step possible was taken to authenticate the window Mr. Byrd possessed,” he said. "Additionally, Mr. Mayhew never let me view his alleged window, and no one has disputed that Mr. Byrd’s window came from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository.”