It’s been 55 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. Revisit the memory in this curated photo tour.
55 years ago, on November 22, 1963, the world watched as John F. Kennedy, the sitting President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Today, the specter of that moment lingers in our collective memory. We remember the terror, uncertainty, and loss of a nation through images: frame 313 of the 8mm Abraham Zapruder film, Elliott Erwitt’s photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy at the funeral, the Stan Stearns portrait of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin. Let’s take a look back at just eight of the pivotal events that occurred on that sunny November day, forever changing the course of history.
8:45 AM: Hotel Texas
In the morning hours of the 22nd, President Kennedy gave two speeches: one outside in the parking lot of the Hotel Texas and one indoors at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast. The first one took place at around 8:45 AM, as thousands of citizens stood outside in the rain to see the president. Kennedy arrived at the second speech about 25 minutes later.
Over the course of the two speeches, he addressed American defense, space travel prospects, and the economy. “I am confident, as I look to the future, that our chances for security, our chances for peace, are better than they have been in the past,” he stated. “And the reason is because we are stronger.”
11:30 AM-11:45 AM: Arrival at Love Field and the beginning of the motorcade
After a thirteen-minute plane journey from Fort Worth, the President and First Lady greeted a group of people waiting at Love Field in Dallas. “He had the warmest welcome of his trip from a great crowd at the airport,” Alistair Cooke wrote for The Guardian shortly thereafter. “The cries and pleas for a personal touch were so engaging that Mrs. Kennedy took the lead and walked from the ramp of the presidential plane to a fence that held the crowd in. She was followed quickly by the President and they both seized hands and forearms and smiled broadly at the people.” Someone gave Jacqueline a bouquet of red roses.
At Love Field, the Kennedys joined the Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie in a convertible before making their way downtown. Despite the political tensions of the time, the crowd continued to receive the President enthusiastically. At one point, the First Lady told her husband, “You can’t say Dallas wasn’t friendly to you.”
12:30 PM: Shots fired
As the motorcade moved through Dealey Plaza, three shots rang out. At first, they sounded like fireworks; some bystanders assumed the motorcade had backfired. In a moment, everything changed, turning “gayety into horror,” as Edward T. Folliard wrote that day for The Washington Post. President Kennedy and Governor Connally were hit, though the latter survived his injuries. Kennedy was struck down while waving at the crowd; Mrs. Kennedy let out the words, “Oh, no” as he fell into her lap. The shots came from the School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald worked.
As chaos erupted nearby, people scrambled; an unidentified man picked up a child in hopes of getting her to safety. President Kennedy’s car immediately sped off towards Parkland Hospital. As reported by The New York Times the next day, a secret service agent could be seen pounding his fist on the trunk deck in an expression of “frustration and anguish.”
1:00 PM: Death of a president
At Parkland Hospital, a team of doctors struggled to keep Kennedy alive. According to reports, he survived for approximately forty minutes. His time of death was listed as 1:00, when two priests finished his final rites, though the exact time of death is unknown. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the brain. The president was forty-six years old.
As the priests performed the rites, Jacqueline Kennedy bent down to kiss her husband’s cheek. “She didn’t say anything,” Dr. Robert N. McClelland, who was part of the effort to save Kennedy’s life, later told ABC News. “She just stood there a moment and exchanged rings from her finger to the president’s finger.” Assistant White House Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff announced the death at about 1:36 PM.
1:45 PM: Arrest
After sneaking into a movie theater in Oak Cliff, a 24-year-old Lee H. Oswald was arrested. Later, he would be questioned about the Kennedy killing as well as the murder of Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit, who was shot shortly after the assassination. “He put up a wild fight in the theater,” The Los Angeles Times reported on November 23rd. “Police officer M.N. McDonald, who was cut across the face in the scuffle, quoted Oswald as saying after he was subdued, ‘Well, it’s all over now.’”
2:39 PM: Swearing-in
Kennedy’s Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, standing between Jacqueline Kennedy and his wife Lady Bird, took the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field. 99 minutes had elapsed since the shooting. Only about twenty-five to thirty people were present for the ceremony. By 2:46 PM, they were wheels-up, headed for Washington with the body of JFK.
6:05 PM: Andrews Air Force Base
When asked if she wanted to change her bloodied clothing, Mrs. Kennedy demurred, stating firmly, “Let them see what they have done.” She repeated the same words when asked about allowing the press at Andrews Air Force Base. When she arrived with her husband’s casket, she joined hands with Robert Kennedy, who had been there waiting for the plane to land. He told her, “Hi, Jackie. I’m here.” JFK’s body was then taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The First Lady’s suit and stockings were never cleaned; today, they’re held in a vault in the National Archives. The family has required that it not be shown publicly until 2103.
11:28 PM: Charged
As November 22nd drew to a close, Oswald was formally charged with the murder of John F. Kennedy. He denied the charges; as Dan Rather of CBS Newsput it at the time, “Oswald has admitted nothing.” Two days later, Jack Ruby, the owner of a local nightclub, shot Oswald as police transported the accused assassin to the county jail. He died in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital.
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