Friday the 22nd, then and now

I’m sure this isn’t an original thought, but I’ll toss it out there anyway.

Fifty years ago Friday, the president of the United States was shot to death in front of a school book warehouse in Dallas.

That event, Nov. 22, 1963, was on a Friday as well.

That gives the half-century commemoration a touch of added poignancy to those of us who are old enough to remember that terrible moment.

President John F. Kennedy had come to Texas to mend some political fences. He was beginning to gear up for his re-election campaign. He’d won the presidency narrowly in 1960 and he owed his winning campaign largely to the fact that he carried Texas, thanks in no small measure to the towering presence of Vice President Lyndon Johnson on the Democratic Party ticket. JFK picked LBJ — over the objections of many within his inner circle — because he believed Johnson could help him win the Lone Star State.

Three years later, trouble was brewing. Elements on the far right were kicking up a fuss over the president’s newly found awareness of civil rights legislation. There was stirring of discontent. The president came to Texas to quell that discontent.

By all accounts, his trip was largely successful. He took part in enthusiastic rallies in Fort Worth, where he spent the night of Nov. 21. He flew the 30 or so miles from Cowtown to Love Field, where huge crowds greeted him and the first lady, Jacqueline.

The motorcade took off from Love Field and headed toward downtown.

The cheering didn’t end until the gunshots rang out over Dealey Plaza.

The rest of the story, of course, ended tragically for the president’s family, the nation and the world.

We’ll look back this Friday on that earlier time. Dallas will mark a moment of silence at the hour of the very day to mark the instant when, as some have said, the United States of America lost its innocence.

***

I want to call attention to a rebroadcast Friday night of “Secrets of the Dead. JFK: One PM Central Standard Time.” It details CBS News’s coverage of the president’s murder. It airs at 9 p.m. on Panhandle PBS. The PBS NewsHour also will devote much of its coverage beginning at 6 p.m. on Panhandle PBS to the events of the day, as will Washington Week in Review, which airs at 7 p.m.

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