Jim Hosty was a good husband and father of nine, and that’s mostly how he’ll be remembered at his funeral today at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Roeland Park.
But it’s by his full name and title — former FBI special agent James P. Hosty — that he will always be connected to one of the most infamous events of the 20th century, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“Oswald gets arrested and my dad got thrust into history at that point,” said son Tom Hosty.
Jim Hosty, who died June 10 of cancer at age 86, was the agent assigned to monitor Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife before that day in Dallas.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered an investigation into the assassination, Hosty had a lead role in examining Oswald’s background, Tom Hosty said.
“He always carried it with him,” his son said. “He was ready and willing to talk to anybody about the assassination.”
But he wasn’t always able to be so open about his involvement with the Oswald case. While working for the bureau, Hosty — who was transferred to Kansas City within a year of the assassination — had to keep quiet even when he was frustrated by FBI leadership, his son said.
“J. Edgar Hoover was willing to deflect any negative publicity on the agents,” Tom Hosty said. “My dad wished he had stood by him, but he didn’t.”
And there was no shortage of negative publicity. The assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, rocked America, and people had questions and criticism for the FBI. Speculation and conspiracy theories have lingered.
Hosty was proud of his fellow agents and the bureau.
“He recognized that it was a complex set of facts related to the assassination,” Tom Hosty said. “People were trying to fill in the gaps with their own speculation.”
After his retirement in 1979, Hosty — freed from the boundaries of his job — was intent on telling his story.
“My dad was a devout Irish-Catholic Democrat who loved Kennedy,” Tom Hosty said. “My father was prepared to lay down his life for the president.”
Another aspect of Hosty’s story was his unwavering belief that Oswald acted alone and that Hosty could not have seen it coming.“There was never an indication that Oswald was a threat,” Tom Hosty said.
In 1991, Oliver Stone’s film “JFK” painted an image of his father that Tom Hosty thought was inaccurate.
“I approached my dad and said, ‘We have to write your book. We have to set the record straight,’ ” he said.
Jim Hosty had kept “boxes and boxes” of documents related to the assassination and investigation. They went through the records, with Tom interviewing his father.
“Assignment: Oswald” came out in January 1996. After its publication, Jim Hosty was approached about his notes from the Oswald investigation. The notes were donated to the National Archives in the 1990s.
“He was a man on a mission,” Tom Hosty said. “He was determined to get the entire story out there to the American public — to set the record straight.”
Hosty will be buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Lenexa.