Monday, November 22, 2004

In Memoriam: JFK

Dallas, Nov. 22--President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today. He died of a wound in the brain caused by a rifle bullet that was fired at him as he was riding through downtown Dallas in a motorcade.

Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was riding in the third car behind Mr. Kennedy's, was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States 99 minutes after Mr. Kennedy's death.

This is how the lead story in the New York Times on November 23, 1963 began.

My earliest political memories revolve around the Kennedy assassination, an event that occurred 41 years ago today. That morning my mother went shopping in Fort Worth. She returned home (we lived at the time in Itasca, a small town about 45 miles south of Fort Worth) earlier than planned because all of the stores in Fort Worth and Dallas closed as soon as word of the shooting spread.

I can’t say that I remember much about the day of the assassination itself, nor do I remember seeing at that time the photos of the administration of the oath of office to Lyndon Baines Johnson aboard Air Force One, although I’ve seen the photos of both events often in the years since then. What I do remember is the television coverage of JFK’s funeral. If you watched the Washington, D.C. portion of President Reagan’s state funeral this past summer, you will know almost exactly what I saw on television, although back then it was in black and white.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was, for me, a disturbing introduction to politics. For many Americans just a decade or so older than I am, it was (along with the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement) the defining political event of a generation.