A Photo Taken on the Day of His Death: President Kennedy, Flanked by Vice-President Johnson, Gives a Speech in the Rain

November 22, 1963

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A Photo Taken on the Day of His Death: President Kennedy, Flanked by Vice-President Johnson, Gives a Speech in the Rain
Ephemera
1 page | SMC 2420

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      Background

      At a little past 7:20 on the morning of November 22nd 1963, two men were preparing to drive the 15 miles into Dallas for work. The passenger placed a long brown paper package on the rear seat. “What’s the package, Lee?” the driver asked. “Curtain rods,” Lee replied.

      Some 35 miles away, another man was also preparing to go to work. In a hotel suite of the venerable Fort Worth Texas Holtel, he dressed for the day – a task which required, first, a labyrinthine application of ace bandages to a back brace which utimately left him sitting, and standing, ramrod straight. He shaved, recieved the President’s Intelligence Checklist – it had yet to be renamed the Presidential Daily Briefing – and checked the crowds ourside in the drizzle. Some 5,000 working men and women had been waiting in the parking lot for hours to hear him speak. President Kennedy was delighted: he would need their votes in 1964.

      Lee and his brown paper package, meanwhile, had by then arrived at work. The Texas School Book Depository Company, a seven-story brick building, faced Dallas’ Dealy Plaza – a kind of grassy vehicular park serving, proudly, as the gateway to the city. Lee carried the package inside.

      By 8.50 a.m., President Kennedy was standing atop a bedecked flatbed truck in the Hotel Texas parking lot, speaking into a microphone. Behind him stood Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Texas Governor John Connoly, Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, and a Texas State Senator, Don Kennard –looking, in the words of a White House press deputy, like fraternity brothers who hadn’t met in 20 years. In fact, who the big name boys (Johnson, Connolly, and Yarbrough) most resembled were the Three Stooges, pushing and pulling each other out of cars and off of chairs and podiums. Their childish antics had gone on for days, in service to the growing disparity between the conservative and liberal wings of the Texas Democratic party and, of course, their own Texas-size egos. Now, however, Kennedy had all three were he wanted them: in the background, lined up, and mute. This political phenomena wasn’t, though, like the rain in which they glowered, an happenstance of nature. The night before Kennedy had summoned his Vice-President to his hotel suite for a one-on-one chat. Some, like Jacqueline Kennedy, in an adjacent room, recalled hearing LBJ’s raised voice. “He sounded mad,” she remarked to her husband. “That’s just Lyndon,” he responded. The Vice President, not surprisingly, did not recall an argument, or storming out of the meeting, either. They’d had a collegial drink, that’s all. “Kennedy had a scotch and water or whatever it was he drank. I had a scotch and soda.” Everything was just fine.

      As Kennedy addressed the crowd, teasing about his wife’s non-appearance – “Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself. It takes longer, but, of course, she looks better than we do when she does it” – everything seem more than fine. He was exultant. “Here in this rain, in Fort Worth… we are going forward!” It was the start of a wonderful day.

                                                   ~

      Lee, hired as a stock boy, should have been busy fetching books, mostly up and down from the sixth to first floor. That morning, though, he only worked on one order. Someone thought they saw him up on the sixth floor, noonish, near the easternmost freight elevator. He was kicking and shoving cartons around.  

      To what end Lee Harvey Oswald was assembling a sniper’s nest, the world would soon know.

      To what end Lee Harvey Oswald was assembling a sniper’s nest, the world would soon know.

      [John F. Kennedy: Assassination] Photo, black and white, oblong folio, taken by Gene Gordon - a photographer at the Fort Worth Press - of President Kennedy speaking from a bedecked flatbed truck in the Hotel Texas parking lot Fort Worth, Texas on the morning of November 22, 1963. 

      Also depicted, standing behind the President, are Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Texas Governor John Connoly Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, and Texas State Senator, Don Kennard.

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