I related the facts of how it was that shortly after noon on Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was fatally shot as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas.
For the factual account I relied on the narrative from the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, from where Lee Harvey Oswald aimed his assassin’s rifle.
I wrote about how it was that by the by the fall of 1963 President Kennedy and his political advisers were preparing for the next presidential campaign. Although he had not formally announced his candidacy, it was clear that President Kennedy was going to run and he seemed confident about his chances for re-election.
WHAT I didn’t write about was my personal experience on that fateful Nov. day.
At the end of September, the president had traveled west, speaking in nine different states in less than a week. The trip was meant to put a spotlight on natural resources and conservation efforts. But JFK also used it to sound out themes—such as education, national security, and world peace—for his run in 1964.
On Nov. 12, he held the first important political planning session for the election year.
AT THE meeting JFK stressed the importance of winning Florida and Texas and talked about his plans to visit both states in the next two weeks. Mrs. Kennedy would accompany him on the swing through Texas, which would be her first extended public appearance since the loss of their baby, Patrick, in August.
On Nov. 21, the president and first lady departed on Air Force One for the two-day, five-city tour of Texas.
President Kennedy was aware that a feud among party leaders in Texas could jeopardize his chances of carrying the state in 1964, and one of his aims for the trip was to bring Democrats together.
He also knew that a relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence felt—particularly in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there.
NEVERTHELESS, JFK seemed to relish the prospect of leaving Washington, getting out among the people and into the political fray.
Press representatives from all over the state had been invited to a luncheon at the Dallas Trade Mart to meet and greet the president.
I was pleased to represent The Mirror.
When I had just finished my lunch plate, there had been no word on why JFK was running late.
All of a sudden a side door flew open and a sizable group of news people came running in, eager to tell the world what only they and a few others knew: the president was dead.
After sitting a few minutes in stunned silence, the luncheon guests began to drift away. Many Dallas socialites were crying.
I had driven over alone from Gilmer that morning. The grey skies I drove through then had given way to brilliant blue.
When I got home I found my two children seated in front of the TV with their sitter, the late, lamented Grace Finch.
It was not a day I could ever forget.