Final Days of United States President John F. Kennedy

About the final days of United States President John F. Kennedy, biography and history.

FINAL DAYS

JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35th U.S. president

Died: Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963. Death certificate stated 1:00 P.M. at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who desired that he receive Roman Catholic rites before being pronounced dead. Death actually occurred within seconds after the bullets struck him at 12:30 P.M. at Dealey Plaza.

On the afternoon of Nov. 21 Kennedy was traveling on a political peace mission high above mid-America on Air Force One headed for Texas, where a feud between Sen. Ralph Yarborough's liberal faction and Gov. John Connally's right-leaning followers threatened to split Texas Democrats. The President was accompanied by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy--always a great political asset. Early that afternoon at San Antonio, the presidential motorcade passed 125,000 people jammed along the route to Brooks Medical Center, where Kennedy gave a speech. Later at Houston, the party settled into the Rice Hotel, where Kennedy stripped to his shorts and worked on his evening speech. After dinner the President had a tense meeting with Vice-President Lyndon Johnson--their final conference--about the Texas political feuding, and Johnson angrily stomped out of the Kennedy suite. At the Coliseum later that evening, Kennedy inserted a mock blooper into his speech that delighted his Houston audience. This was an area that depended on military contracts, and the nation was about to launch the space program's biggest booster, rocketing "the largest payroll--payload," Kennedy corrected himself, "into space." Landing at Fort Worth after 11:00 P.M., the exhausted couple retired to a drab suite at the Hotel Texas.

The next morning Kennedy was pleased and excited to see that a crowd had gathered outside despite a gray drizzle. "There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth!" he greeted them. "Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself. It takes her a little longer, but, of course, she looks much better than we do when she does it," he added. Back inside the hotel, he growled at Senator Yarborough, who was balking at riding in the same car with the Vice-President. "For Christ's sake cut it out, Ralph," the President ordered, then told the senator to ride in the motorcade with Johnson or walk. Surveying the morning edition of the Dallas News, Kennedy disgustedly noted a black-bordered, full-page ad headed "Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas." It challenged the President to answer 12 loaded questions written from an archconservative view-point. "We're really in nut country now," he remarked to Jackie. "Last night would have been a hell of a night to assassinate a president." He reflected that "anyone perched above the crowd with a rifle could do it." Air Force One took the entourage on the 13-minute flight from Carswell Field in Fort Worth to Love Field, Dallas, landing at 11:39 A.M. in brilliant weather. Kennedy strolled the crowded airport fence longer than usual, "showing he is not afraid," noted one reporter. By noon the motorcade was headed for the Dallas Trade Mart, where he intended to lace into right-wing fanaticism. Sidewalk crowds were thin but friendly as SS 100 X, the blue Lincoln convertible, eased down Main Street. The sun was bright and Jackie slipped on her sunglasses. The President glanced at her and said, "Jackie, take your glasses off." He explained that people had come to see her and that the glasses masked her face. A few minutes later she absentmindedly put them back on, and again he admonished her to remove them. Traveling at 11.2 mph, the convertible approached the Texas School Book Depository Building on Dealey Plaza. People continued to clap as the motorcade moved along. Delighted at the reception the President was receiving, Nellie Connally, wife of Governor Connally, turned toward the back seat and said, "You sure can't say Dallas doesn't love you, Mr. President." Kennedy smiled and said, "No, you can't." One minute later, at 12:30 P.M., the first 6.5 mm bullet struck the President in the neck. "My God, I'm hit!" agent Roy Kellerman in the front seat heard him cry, and Kennedy lurched forward. Five seconds later, a second or third bullet tore off his right upper skull as brain tissue spattered the limousine. JFK belonged to the ages.

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