On This Day in History…. November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was Assassinated in Dallas, Texas

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings

IN FOCUS: 47TH ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S ASSASINATION

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On this day in history… November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States (1961-63), was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. by Lee Harvey Oswald, while in a Presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas heading towards the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy was in a open limousine waving at the cheering crowd with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nelly when three shots in succession erupted, which hit the President, and the Governor. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Hospital, where President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 46 years, 30 minutes after the shooting. As news of the assassination was first announced on CBS by anchor Walter Chronkite, there was an immediate outpouring of grief by the nation that mourned the lost of an idealized young President. In a new book “The Kennedy Detail” Secret Service agent Clint Hill has said; “It has taken me decades to learn to cope with the guilt and sense of responsibility for the president’s death, and I have made it a practice to keep my memories to myself. I don’t talk to anybody about that day.”

At 2:38 p.m. Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36th US president, aboard Air Force One with Jackie Kennedy standing by his side, still wearing the clothes stained with the President’s blood. Police arrested Oswald two hours later. Oswald, a Soviet sympathesizer with ties to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee had shot Kennedy from the school book repository building. Two days later, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner fatally shot Oswald, as he was being transferred from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail; Ruby claimed he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy any further grief.

Three days later on November 25, 1963 a state funeral was held for the slain President. It was a preceded by a repose of Kennedy’s body in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours on the 23rd. On Sunday, the 24th, the President’s coffin was carried by the same horse drawn carriage as President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier before him, to the Capitol building where his body laid in state for 18 hours, with 250,000 people visiting his casket.

File:Kennedy salute.gifOn Monday, one million gathered on the route of the processional from the Capitol to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where the funeral was held. Foreign dignitaries from 90 countries, including 19 heads of state came to pay their respects, and millions of Americans watched the funeral on TV, which was covered by then three big networks; ABC, CBS, and NBC. After the Requiem Mass, as the President’s body was carried from the cathedral, three year old John Jr. saluted his father’s casket giving the mourning nation an iconic image to remember. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, after the service Jackie Kennedy lit an eternal flame that remains burning over the President’s grave site.


This past March historian Ellen Fitzpatrick published her book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation,” speaking to PBS’s Newshour about the purpose of the book and looking back at the memory of President Kennedy, she claimed; “And what I was trying to get at was how Americans in the moment viewed John F. Kennedy. It seemed to me that, in the decades since his death, there’s been so much historical revisionism, much of it appropriate, that dismantled the hagiography that grew up around him in the immediate aftermath of his assassination. But it had become increasingly difficult for students, for younger people, even people of my own generation, to recover that moment, the kind of idealism and faith that people had and the way that President Kennedy was viewed in his time…. So, I was thinking, how can I recapture this? And I went into the archives. I asked the archivist. I remembered the condolence letters. I remembered Mrs. Kennedy thanking the public.”

  • 47th anniversary of JFK’s assassination in PhotosMSNBC, 11-22-10
  • Kennedy assassination: Where were you? (Photos): Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and JFK’s assassination. Today is one of those thankfully few dates in American history that rocked the nation with a tragedy so big it stopped the clocks in people’s memories. Forty-seven years ago, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas…. – WaPo, 11-22-10
  • Nov. 22, 1963: The Death of a President Remembering the Fateful Day in Dallas When President John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated: It seems so long ago, and so recent. Those of a certain age will remember where they were 47 years ago today when they heard about the shots ringing out in Dallas. Subsequent assassinations of public figures did not quell the pain felt by the nation when President John F. Kennedy was killed, less than three years after entering office, at the age of 46. Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was waving to the cheering crowd as his motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street when gunfire was heard. The president slumped into the back seat of his open limousine with gaping wounds in his head and neck. He lost consciousness immediately…. – CBS News, 11-22-10

Walter Cronkite announces death of JFK on CBS

  • John F. Kennedy, in memoriam: It’s Nov. 22, and that may never be a normal date for political America. A full 47 years after the assassination of President John Kennedy, his murder continues to attract attention from historians, politicians, popular culture, and, of course, conspiracy theorists — just as it has since that fateful day in Dallas. The USA TODAY website has an interesting retrospective on JFK’s America, including a photo gallery… – USA Today, 11-22-10
  • John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 47 years ago today: Forty-seven years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade through Dallas with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas officials. Kennedy’s birthplace on Beals Street in Brookline reopened on Sunday for a small ceremony marking his death. The National Park Service, which runs the site, officially closed for the season in October. At the JFK Library in Dorchester, a memorial wreath has been installed in the lobby of the presidential library. The library recently upgraded its internet presence to focus on the date 50 years ago when JFK was elected president. The National Archives has collected hundreds of thousands of documents relating to Kennedy’s assassination and the multiple investigations into the shooting of the president. Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself murdered on Nov. 24, was charged with shooting Kennedy from the sixth floor of what was then known as Texas School Book Depository in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. The building is now a major museum. Boston Globe, 11-22-10
JFK Assination

Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson takes the presidential oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas just two hours after Kennedy was shot. (Cecil Stoughton)

  • Front pages largely ignore today’s anniversary of JFK assassinationUSA Today, 11-22-10
  • JFK Assassination Anniversary: Eternal Flame Flickers but Still Burns: Forty-seven years later, it all seems part of another world defined by black-and-white television, the black-and-white certainties of the Cold War and black-and-white racial relations. Even if he had served two full terms as president, JFK (born in 1917 and afflicted with Addison’s disease) almost certainly would be long dead by now. Few remain who were close to John Kennedy (aside from his daughter, Caroline) following the deaths of Ted Kennedy last year and “ask not” speechwriter Ted Sorensen three weeks ago.
    Today’s Americans – no matter what age – have become hardened by the shock of wrenching events from the 9/11 attacks to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the shooting of Ronald Reagan. But for teenagers born after World War II, this was not how it was supposed to be in 1963. Assassination meant John Wilkes Booth and Mrs. Lincoln’s evening at the theater…. – Politics Daily, 11-22-10
  • John F. Kennedy Assassination Still Intrigues, 47 Years Later New JFK Documentary and Motion Picture Will Probe Grim Day in Dallas: 47 years have passed since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but the man who served less than a full term in office still casts a long shadow over the American politics and culture even as his relatives have slowly retreated from it. A new movie, as well as a documentary featuring Secret Service agents on duty in Dallas when JFK was shot, ensure that the Kennedy assassination will not fade from our minds any time soon.
    In January, when JFK’s nephew Patrick leaves Congress, it will be the first time since 1944 that no member of the Kennedy clan is on Capitol Hill. The retiring Rep. Kennedy was not even born when his uncle was killed, but the events of that day in Dallas still capture the interest of Americans. The documentary about the Secret Service is set to air Monday night on Discovery…. – ABC News, 11-22-10

Discovery JFK Assassination

  • The John F. Kennedy assassination: Four unanswered questions: The Kennedy assassination, a pivotal moment in American life, has fascinated historians, conspiracy theorists, and filmmakers, among others. Some questions might never be answered….
    Forty-seven years ago today President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It was an event of only a few seconds, but it was a hinge of history, something of such political and cultural importance that at dusk on Nov. 22, 1963, America was a different country than it had been at sunrise. Sheer shock was part of it. Almost everyone past preschool age at the time can say where they were when they heard the news, as today a new generation will always remember what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. Given its importance, the Kennedy assassination over the generations has been a subject of unending fascination to historians, filmmakers, novelists, conspiracy theorists, and ordinary citizens alike. Notable works range from director Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” a dense, purposely chaotic take that depicts the assassination as the work of a conspiracy, to attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book “Reclaiming History,” a massive book of over 2,000 pages that attempts not just to refute conspiracy theorists, but to mock them, so that no one will take them seriously again…. – CS Monitor, 11-22-10
  • Young, old visit Dealey Plaza to mark anniversary of JFK assassinationDallas Morning News, 11-22-10
  • 47 years after JFK assassination, Sixth Floor Museum serves visitors who remember and those not yet born: Today, exactly 47 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the museum that has chronicled that fateful day finds itself in a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza wants to keep jogging the emotions of those old enough to recall the tragedy. On the other, it needs to find ways to explain the killing – using updated technology – to those who were yet to be born. “We’re at a pivotal moment right now,” said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. “We’re changing from memory to history.”… – Dallas Morning News, 11-22-10
  • JFK’s Secret Service agents reflect on loss of a president: We couldn’t help, but we felt like we failed. It was a terrible feeling. –Jerry Blaine, former Secret Service agent
    After mostly avoiding the spotlight for decades, many of the former U.S. Secret Service agents who were assigned to protect President John F. Kennedy are now offering their accounts of the day he was assassinated, 47 years ago Monday. After the first shot hit the president, former agent Clint Hill says, “I saw him grab at his throat and lean to his left. So I jumped and ran.” Hill is the man seen running toward the limousine in the famous film of the shooting, captured by a bystander named Abraham Zapruder. Hill jumped onto the back of the presidential car, in a desperate attempt to protect the president. “Just before I got to the car, the third shot hit him in the head.” Hill says.”It was too late.”
    First lady Jackie Kennedy had climbed onto the back hood of the car, but Hill moved her back into her seat, and attempted to shield the two of them from any further bullets, as the car sped to the hospital. As the president’s head lay in her lap, Hill heard Mrs. Kennedy say, “Oh, Jack, what have they done to you?”
    A newly detailed account of the assassination is laid out in the new book “The Kennedy Detail,” by former agent Jerry Blaine, written with journalist Lisa McCubbin, based on interviews with many of the agents who covered Kennedy. Former agent Hill, who has rarely granted interviews about the shooting, wrote a foreword…. – CNN, 11-21-10
  • Kennedy bodyguard nearly shot successor: A member of John F. Kennedy’s elite security detail wrote in a new book that he nearly shot the president’s successor Lyndon Johnson, just hours after the late leader was felled by an assassin’s bullet. Gerald Blaine, a member of the US Secret Service, recounted, in his just-published book “The Kennedy Detail,” that on the night of the assassination, he was assigned to protect the newly-sworn President Lyndon Johnson. In an interview with CNN Monday, 47 years after Kennedy’s November 22, 1963 assassination, Blaine discussed how he almost mistakenly shot Johnson.
    “It was about 2:15 in the morning at The Elms, which was Johnson’s residence before he became president. I heard, all of a sudden, a person approaching,” Blaine said. The now-retired secret service agent said that, fearing an attempt against the life of the new president, he raised his gun and put his finger on the trigger, only to see Johnson rounding the corner of the residence. “He turned white, he turned around and walked in — and that was the last that was ever said of it,” Blaine recalled…. – AFP, 11-22-10
  • JFK’s Assassination: ‘Changing From Memory To History’: Most any American who was over the age of five or so on Nov. 22, 1963, has answered this question more than once: Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had been killed? Many of us were at school or at work. Many recall the moment when CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite told the nation that “President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time — two o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” Even the usually unflappable Cronkite had to pause for a moment, take off his glasses, and collect himself before going on.
    Today’s Dallas Morning News has a story headlined “47 Years After JFK Assassination, Sixth Floor Museum Adapts To New Era.” It underscores how things are changing as more and more Americans can’t relate to what happened in Dallas because they weren’t even born then. After all, the Census Bureau says nearly 70% of the population is under the age of 50. So, as the Morning News says:
    “On the one hand, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza wants to keep jogging the emotions of those old enough to recall the tragedy. On the other, it needs to find ways to explain the killing — using updated technology — to those who were yet to be born. “‘We’re at a pivotal moment right now,’ said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. ‘We’re changing from memory to history.’ “
    According to the Morning News, those who are too young to recall what happened on that day want much more than “artifacts in glass cases” and a plaza that has been “preserved to look like it did the day the president was shot.” They want interactive displays and lots of context. Adapting the museum to a changing population obviously makes sense…. – NPR, 11-22-10
  • First Poster: Katie Holmes as Jackie in ‘The Kennedys’: The eight-part miniseries premieres on The History Channel in 2011. The first promotional poster of Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy Onassis has hit the web. Monday is the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “We have these wonderful seamstresses who are creating beautiful dresses that are obviously replicas of real things [Kennedy] wore,” Holmes has said. “Her great style was both appropriate for every event that she went to and also classic, and also things that were wearable. I feel really lucky to be playing her.” The poster also shows Greg Kinnear as JFK, Barry Pepper as Bobby and Tom Wilkinson as their father, Joseph. The eight-part miniseries premieres in early 2011. It was also recently announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will star and produce a movie about the JFK’s assassination…. – Hollywood Reporter, 11-22-10
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