It happened in Dallas, a city compounded of Texas legend and Texas pride, a big city, but raw at the edges from a land still close to the ornery longhorn cattle and tough cowpokes that once herded them. The President's visit had realistic political overtones.
1964 is an election year. He was off to mend his barbwire fences in the Southwest. He spoke Friday morning, November 22nd, in Fort Worth; a speech largely devoted to the nation's strong defense posture. It was enthusiastically received, and at the end, a cheerfully applauding crowd gave him a Texas ten-gallon hat and urged him to put it on.
John F. Kennedy: I will put it on in the White House on Monday. If you will come up there, you will have a chance to see it there.
Herbert Gordon: The President and his gracious First Lady flew on to Dallas. The sun was bright, the weather, Texas hot. Secret service men swarmed everywhere. Faint, venomous overtones of danger had reached Washington earlier, but in going over Dallas with a microscope, they had overlooked one window, one man, one mail-order gun.
The first bulletin of the assassination was filed by United Press Internationals famed White House Correspondent, Merriman Smith. He was riding in the presidential motorcade. He screened word of the shooting into a mobile telephone, and here is how he later described those tragic shots and what followed.
Merriman Smith: The first shot sounded -- it could have been a very large firecracker or a small explosive, but the second one, you knew what had happened. Then came the third shot. They were beautifully paged; bang, bang, bang. The man who did this was a pro, an accomplished pro.
Then we saw the lead car, the President's car suddenly takeoff, and we followed him and went to the hospital.
Speaker: When you got to the hospital, what was it like there?
Merriman Smith: There were no end turns, no litters, no nothing. The President was faced down in the back of the car and Jackie was bending over him, as though she was whispering in his ear. You could see on the right side of his jacket, this growing stain, he was bleeding at the time.
So at this point I was pretty well convinced that he had been awfully wounded, and I yelled over to one of this secret serviceman I knew and I said, how bad was he hit? He said, hell, he is dead.