By the fall of
1963, President John F. Kennedy and his political advisers were
preparing for the next presidential campaign. Although he had not
formally announced his candidacy, it was clear that President Kennedy
was going to run and he seemed confident about his chances for
At the end of September, the president traveled
west, speaking in nine different states in less than a week. The trip
was meant to put a spotlight on natural resources and conservation
efforts. But JFK also used it to sound out themes—such as education,
national security, and world peace—for his run in 1964.
Campaigning in Texas
month later, the president addressed Democratic gatherings in Boston
and Philadelphia. Then, on November 12, he held the first important
political planning session for the upcoming election year. At the
meeting, JFK stressed the importance of winning Florida and Texas and
talked about his plans to visit both states in the next two weeks. Mrs.
Kennedy would accompany him on the swing through Texas, which would be
her first extended public appearance since the loss of their baby,
Patrick, in August. On November 21, the president and first lady
departed on Air Force One for the two-day, five-city tour of Texas.
Kennedy was aware that a feud among party leaders in Texas could
jeopardize his chances of carrying the state in 1964, and one of his
aims for the trip was to bring Democrats together. He also knew that a
relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the
political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence
felt—particularly in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after
making a speech there. Nonetheless, JFK seemed to relish the prospect of
leaving Washington, getting out among the people and into the political
first stop was San Antonio. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Governor
John B. Connally, and Senator Ralph W. Yarborough led the welcoming
party. They accompanied the president to Brooks Air Force Base for the
dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center. Continuing on to
Houston, he addressed a Latin American citizens' organization and spoke
at a testimonial dinner for Congressman Albert Thomas before ending the
day in Fort Worth.
We will continue to do…our duty, and the people of Texas will be in the lead.
Morning in Fort Worth
light rain was falling on Friday morning, November 22, but a crowd of
several thousand stood in the parking lot outside the Texas Hotel where
the Kennedys had spent the night. A platform was set up and the
president, wearing no protection against the weather, came out to make
some brief remarks. "There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth," he began,
"and I appreciate your being here this morning. Mrs. Kennedy is
organizing herself. It takes longer, but, of course, she looks better
than we do when she does it." He went on to talk about the nation's need
for being "second to none" in defense and in space, for continued
growth in the economy and "the willingness of citizens of the United
States to assume the burdens of leadership."
The warmth of the audience response was palpable as the president reached out to shake hands amidst a sea of smiling faces.
inside the hotel the president spoke at a breakfast of the Fort Worth
Chamber of Commerce, focusing on military preparedness. "We are still
the keystone in the arch of freedom," he said. "We will continue to
do…our duty, and the people of Texas will be in the lead."
On to Dallas
presidential party left the hotel and went by motorcade to Carswell Air
Force Base for the thirteen-minute flight to Dallas. Arriving at Love
Field, President and Mrs. Kennedy disembarked and immediately walked
toward a fence where a crowd of well-wishers had gathered, and they
spent several minutes shaking hands.
first lady received a bouquet of red roses, which she brought with her
to the waiting limousine. Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie,
were already seated in the open convertible as the Kennedys entered and
sat behind them. Since it was no longer raining, the plastic bubble top
had been left off. Vice President and Mrs. Johnson occupied another car
in the motorcade.
The procession left the airport and traveled
along a ten-mile route that wound through downtown Dallas on the way to
the Trade Mart where the President was scheduled to speak at a luncheon.
of excited people lined the streets and waved to the Kennedys. The car
turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza around 12:30 p.m. As it was
passing the Texas School Book Depository, gunfire suddenly reverberated
in the plaza.
Bullets struck the president's neck and head and he slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The governor was also hit in the chest.
car sped off to Parkland Memorial Hospital just a few minutes away. But
little could be done for the President. A Catholic priest was summoned
to administer the last rites, and at 1:00 p.m. John F. Kennedy was
pronounced dead. Though seriously wounded, Governor Connally would
The president's body was brought to Love Field and
placed on Air Force One. Before the plane took off, a grim-faced Lyndon
B. Johnson stood in the tight, crowded compartment and took the oath of
office, administered by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Hughes. The
brief ceremony took place at 2:38 p.m.
than an hour earlier, police had arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a recently
hired employee at the Texas School Book Depository. He was being held
for the assassination of President Kennedy and the fatal shooting,
shortly afterward, of Patrolman J. D. Tippit on a Dallas street.
Sunday morning, November 24, Oswald was scheduled to be transferred
from police headquarters to the county jail. Viewers across America
watching the live television coverage suddenly saw a man aim a pistol
and fire at point blank range. The assailant was identified as Jack
Ruby, a local nightclub owner. Oswald died two hours later at Parkland
The President's Funeral
same day, President Kennedy's flag-draped casket was moved from the
White House to the Capitol on a caisson drawn by six grey horses,
accompanied by one riderless black horse. At Mrs. Kennedy's request, the
cortege and other ceremonial details were modeled on the funeral of
Abraham Lincoln. Crowds lined Pennsylvania Avenue and many wept openly
as the caisson passed. During the 21 hours that the president's body lay
in state in the Capitol Rotunda, about 250,000 people filed by to pay
Monday, November 25, 1963 President Kennedy was laid to rest in
Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral was attended by heads of state
and representatives from more than 100 countries, with untold millions
more watching on television. Afterward, at the grave site, Mrs. Kennedy
and her husband's brothers, Robert and Edward, lit an eternal flame.
the most indelible images of the day were the salute to his father
given by little John F. Kennedy, Jr. (whose third birthday it was),
daughter Caroline kneeling next to her mother at the president's bier,
and the extraordinary grace and dignity shown by Jacqueline Kennedy.
people throughout the nation and the world struggled to make sense of a
senseless act and to articulate their feelings about President
Kennedy's life and legacy, many recalled these words from his inaugural
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred
days, nor in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this
administration. Nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let
he Warren Commission
November 29, 1963 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the President's
Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. It came to be
known as the Warren Commission after its chairman, Earl Warren, Chief
Justice of the United States. President Johnson directed the commission
to evaluate matters relating to the assassination and the subsequent
killing of the alleged assassin, and to report its findings and
conclusions to him. To see the Warren Commission's report, go to http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/warren-commission-report/index.htmlThe House Select Committee on Assassinations
U.S. House of Representatives established the House Select Committee on
Assassinations in 1976 to reopen the investigation of the assassination
in light of allegations that previous inquiries had not received the
full cooperation of federal agencies.
Note to the reader:
Point 1B in the link below to the findings of the 1979 House Select
Committee on Assassinations states that the committee had found "a high
probability that two gunmen fired" at the president. This conclusion
resulted from the last-minute "discovery" of a Dallas police radio
transmission tape that allegedly provided evidence that four or more
shots were fired in Dealey Plaza. After the report appeared in print,
acoustic experts analyzed the tape and proved conclusively that it was
completely worthless—thus negating the finding in Point 1B.
committee, which also investigated the death of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr., issued its report on March 29, 1979. To see the report, go to http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/select-committee-report
November 29, 1963 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the
President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. It
came to be known as the Warren Commission after its chairman, Earl
Warren, Chief Justice of the United States. President Johnson directed
the commission to evaluate matters relating to the assassination and
the subsequent killing of the alleged assassin, and to report its
findings and conclusions to him. To see the Warren Commission's report,
go to http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/warren-commission-report/index.htmlAssassination Records Collection
the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of
1992, the U.S. Congress ordered that all assassination-related material
be housed together under supervision of the National Archives and
Records Administration. To learn more about the collection, go to http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk
Arlington National Cemetery
To learn more about President Kennedy's funeral and grave site, go to http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/visitor_information/JFK.html
Copyright 2013 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or