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C. James Carrico, 67; 1st Doctor to Treat Wounded President Kennedy

July 30, 2002|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dr. C. James Carrico, the first physician to tend President Kennedy in a Dallas emergency room immediately after he was mortally wounded, died of colon cancer Thursday at his home in Greenbank on Whidbey Island, Washington. He was 67.

The Pasadena-born Carrico, who was president-elect of the American College of Surgeons at the time of his death, was a first-year surgical resident on Nov. 22, 1963, when Kennedy was rushed into Parkland Memorial Hospital.

As the first doctor to see Kennedy, Carrico inserted a tube into the barely breathing president's trachea. Carrico stayed at Kennedy's side for 25 minutes until a colleague pronounced the president dead.

When asked by the Warren Commission why Parkland's emergency doctors did not further examine Kennedy after he died, Carrico replied: "We felt that a complete examination would be carried out--and no one had the heart, I believe, to examine him then."

Although conspiracy theorists contend that Abraham Zapruder's home movie of the assassination shows Kennedy jerked violently in two directions, indicating that he was struck by bullets fired from two directions, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

Carrico believed that the Warren Commission findings were accurate.

"My bias is that the medical evidence in the Warren Commission report indicates both bullets appear to have come from the same place," he told Associated Press in 1975. "The fact that the president moved in two different directions is not surprising. Considering the impact of the missiles on his brain and nervous system, trying to guess what happened from his movements is almost impossible."

Carrico revealed during his testimony that he had written a letter to be read by his children when they were older describing how he felt that day.

It was, he told the commission, "just a little homespun philosophy. I just said that there was a lot of extremism both in Dallas and in the nation as a whole, and in an attitude of extremism, a warped mind can flourish much better than in a more stable atmosphere."

Carrico moved to Seattle in 1974 and became chief of surgery at Harborview Medical Center, a county teaching hospital he helped turn into a Level 1 trauma center.

In 1983, he became chairman of the University of Washington Medical School's surgery department and stepped down seven years later to accept a similar job at his alma mater, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He retired in 2000.

Carrico, who was the top graduate in the 1961 class of the University of Texas Southwestern, was twice named distinguished alumnus of the University of North Texas, from which he received a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He also served as chairman of the American Board of Surgery and was a former president of the American Assn. for the Surgery of Trauma.

He is survived by his wife, Sue; two daughters, Ellen Telaneus of Denton, Texas, and Amy Molloy of Portland, Ore.; a son, Christopher of Hampshire, England; two siblings, and six grandchildren.

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