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JFK ADVANCE MAN FELT GUILT FOR YEARS OVER ASSASSINATION

In a corner of his attic, Jerry Bruno picks through cartons of his John F. Kennedy memorabilia, stopping to gaze at a faded photo, brush the dust off an autographed book or pull out a campaign button.

It's a painful task for the man who planned Kennedy's fateful political trip to Dallas 30 years ago."I very seldom come up here and look . . . I just try to put it behind me," said the diminutive, white-haired Bruno.

For a while, Bruno felt he was to blame for the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. But he eventually shed his guilt, reasoning that Kennedy's death was a matter of fate.

"I look back and say, `How many times did we avoid something like that?"' said Bruno, who lives quietly in this picturesque coastal town. Since leaving government, he has worked as a political consultant and college professor.

"Bobby Kennedy used to talk to me a lot about this, the threat of assassinations," said Bruno, who also worked for JFK's younger brother. "He said, `Those that shoot don't talk and those that talk don't shoot.' "

Bruno was an autoworker in his hometown of Kenosha, Wis., when he got involved in state politics and met JFK in 1957.

In 1959, Kennedy asked Bruno to run his Wisconsin presidential primary campaign. After what turned out to be a crucial victory for JFK in Wisconsin, Bruno began planning Kennedy's political trips around the country.

With the Democrat's 1960 victory over Richard Nixon, Bruno joined the White House staff as advance man.

In 1963 came a Texas political swing aimed at patching up a rift between conservative and liberal wings of the state's Democratic Party.

Bruno made the arrangements for stops in Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

Gov. John Connally disputed some of the stops in Dallas: Bruno wanted the president to give a speech at a large hall, while Connally insisted on a smaller hall where guests would be limited to the more monied, conservative Democrats who were his allies.

The governor, who was seriously wounded during the assassination, finally got his way.

In his 1971 book "The Advance Man," written with Jeff Greenfield, Bruno notes that if Kennedy had gone to the large hall instead, his motorcade would have traveled two blocks farther from the Texas School Book Depository, and much faster, making him a nearly impossible target from the depository, from where Oswald shot.

Bruno does not suggest that the final itinerary muscled through by Connally had anything to do with a conspiracy. "It was just a power play," he said.

For about three weeks after the shooting, "I didn't want to talk to anybody, I didn't want to see anybody," Bruno said in an interview in his home.

Afterward, Bruno joined President Lyndon Johnson's staff, also as advance man. He left the White House in 1965 to head then-Sen. Bobby Kennedy's Syracuse, N.Y., field office.

He had followed Kennedy into his campaign for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination when tragedy struck again with RFK's assassination in June 1968 in Los Angeles.

"I was devastated . . . what could you say?" said Bruno. "I mean, I went through it twice."