Today, November 23rd, 2016, marks the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The event occurred shortly after noon as the President and the First Lady rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas.
The President’s Career Plans Prior to his Death
During the fall of 1963, President Kennedy and his advisers were making plans for the next presidential campaign. Even though JFK had not formally announced his candidacy, it was clear to the American people that Kennedy would run and he seemed very confident about the outcome of the next election.
At the end of September, President Kennedy decided to travel west, speaking in nine different states in less than one week. The trip would help to put a spotlight on conservation efforts and how to preserve our natural resources. However, JFK also used this time to share his opinion on various themes such as education, national security, and world peace, which would have been the key points of his run in 1964.
Campaigning in Texas
The president was gearing up for the upcoming political season. In early November, he addressed Democratic gatherings located in Boston and Philadelphia. Then on November 12, he held the first important political planning session for the upcoming election year in 1964. At the meeting, Kennedy stressed the importance of winning both the states of Florida and Texas. He talked about his plans to visit both of these states within the next two weeks.
The First Lady would accompany him on the tour through Texas, which would be her first extended public appearance since the loss of their baby, Patrick in August.
On November 21st, the president and first lady left out on Air Force One for their 2-day five city tour of Texas.
President Kennedy was aware of the feud among party leaders in Texas and he knew that it could jeopardize his chances of carrying the state during the next election. One of his primary goals for the trip was to bring Democrats together. He also known that there was a small, yet vocal group of extremists in the area who contributed to the political tension in Texas. And that they would likely make their presence known while he was in the area. Not long before Kennedy’s visit, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson had been in Dallas and was physically attacked after making a speech there. Nevertheless, JFK was looking forward to leaving Washington and getting out among the people and into the political disputes.
His first stop was in San Antonio, where he was met with a welcoming party that included Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Governor John B. Connally and Senator Ralph W. Yarborough. They accompanied the president to Brooks Air Force Base for the dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center.
As the president headed 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.
The Morning of November 22 in Fort Worth
There was a light rain falling on the morning of November 22, 1963. But even with the rain, there was a large crowd of several thousand people who stood in the parking lot outside of the Texas Hotel where the Kennedys were staying. A platform was set up and the president came out, without any protection against the weather, to make some brief remarks to the crowd.
“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.”
Moving on to Dallas
As the President and his party left for Dallas, they went by motorcade to Carswell Air Force Base for the 13-minute flight. As they arrived at Love Field, President and Mrs. Kennedy disembarked and immediately walked toward a fence where a crowd of well-wishers had gathered. They shook hands with the people at the gate for a few minutes before they had to leave.
The first lady received a bouquet of red roses, which she brought with her to the limo. 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 were both seated in another care in the motorcade as they headed through downtown Dallas.
Crowds of people waved at the Kennedys as they drove along Main Street at Dealey Plaza around 12:30 P.M. As the car was passing the Texas School Book Depository, gunfire was heard throughout the plaza. Bullets struck the president’s neck and head as he slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The governor was also hit in the chest.
The car sped off to the Parkland Memorial Hospital that was located just a few minutes away. But very 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 he was seriously injured, Governor Connally would recover.
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 US District Court Judge Sarah Hughes. The brief ceremony took place at 2:38 p.m.
Less 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.
On 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 Hospital.