It is an intriguing document: A map of Cuba with former President Kennedy’s handwritten notes apparently scrawled during the hectic early days of the Cuban missile crisis.
The map — along with civil rights documents — is at the centre of a legal tussle between a Web-based memorabilia collector and the federal government, which claims the documents were improperly removed by Kennedy’s personal secretary.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Ward on Monday temporarily blocked the sale of the map until a hearing scheduled for next week. The collector had been seeking $750,000.
Gary J. Zimet, operator of the memorabilia site, has advertised being the exclusive seller of a map and its original envelope identified as, “Cuban Missile Crisis Map With JFK’s Handwritten Annotations Indicating Locations of Russian Missile Sites October 16, 1962.”
In its arguments, the government said Evelyn Lincoln — the personal secretary who worked for the White House on Kennedy’s papers until July 1964 — also compiled annotated and handwritten notes for the President Kennedy Library Corp. until at least 1972.
The map and civil rights documents were donated to the United States in February 1965 for deposit in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the government said.
“It appears that Evelyn Lincoln improperly removed the map from the custody and control of the United States” and later gave, sold or bequeathed it to Robert L. White, a private collector of Kennedy memorabilia, the lawsuit states. It did not suggest that Lincoln, who died in 1995, had done anything criminally wrong.
“Whatever path the map may have traveled, it nevertheless falls squarely within the deed of gift and rightfully belongs to the United States,” the government wrote.
In February, Moments In Time Inc. began advertising the map, prepared by the CIA, as having been given to White by Lincoln. The document features rows of Xs indicating presumed missile sites.
Zimet posted on his Web site a copy of a letter signed by White that reads: “This was saved, in its original envelope, by the personal secretary to the president and my close friend Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln. I acquired it from her in 1995.”
The lawsuit also demands the return of nine documents, six with notes by Kennedy, all related to the 1962 enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. He was the first black student admitted into the school, sparking rioting in which two people were killed.