JFK: The president’s final hours
Nov. 22, 1963. President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. A life cut short. A nation in mourning. It all happened so quickly.
According to research from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, here’s a look at Kennedy’s last hours.
With an eye on the 1964 election, President Kennedy departed Washington, D.C., on Air Force One for a two-day, five-city tour of Texas accompanied by the first lady. It was Jackie Kennedy’s first extended public appearance since the loss of their baby, Patrick, in August.
JFK felt Texas was crucial to re-election in 1964, but uncertain with feuding Democratic party leaders in Texas. The trip was meant to bring party leaders together and sound out JFK’s political themes of education, national security and world peace.
Tensions ran high in Texas that fall, especially in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there.
After stops in San Antonio and Houston, JFK ends Nov. 21, 1963, in Fort Worth, where hundreds of people waited to see the couple off as they made their way to Dallas’ Hotel Texas.
Nov. 22 rose “as a cold, rainy day that morning in Dallas,” said Southern Methodist University professor Tom Stone, “but the weather changed. The sun came out.”
Later in the day, JFK would parade through Dallas with his motorcade. As the weather cleared up, JFK instructed his people “to take the bubble top off the limo,” Stone said.
“It wasn’t bulletproof. It was just a plastic bubble, but it would have made the shots more difficult,” Stone said. Life is full of “what ifs,” but “Kennedy might be alive if the weather hadn’t changed.”
Pre-dawn: Thousands of people, a mostly masculine assembly, wait in a parking lot in the rain staring at the brown-brick walls of the Hotel Texas in anticipation of a speaking appearance by the president.
7:30 a.m.: In Suite 850, the president dresses in a two-button, blue-grey suit, white shirt and dark blue tie. He sits down to a room service breakfast of eggs and goes over the day’s activities with Kenny O’Donnell, a top aide, and David Powers, special assistant and assistant appointments secretary.
8:45 a.m.: Wearing no protection against the weather, Kennedy speaks to a crowd of thousands standing on a platform set up outside the Hotel Texas. The crowd yells, “Where’s Jackie?” The president responds, “There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth,” and “I appreciate your being here this morning. Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself. It takes longer, but, of course, she looks better than we do when she does it.”
9 a.m.: Breakfast with Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. JFK focuses on military preparedness.
11 a.m.: JFK’s motorcade leaves the Hotel Texas to drive to Carswell Air Force Base.
11:10 a.m.: The presidential party arrives at Carswell for a 13-minute, 30-mile flight to Dallas.
11:24 a.m.: Air Force One leaves Fort Worth.
11:37 a.m.: Air Force One arrives at Love Field in Dallas with the President and Mrs. Kennedy and Gov. and Mrs. John B. Connally Jr. of Texas aboard. Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his wife arrive aboard a separate plane.
11:55 a.m.: Thousands of supporters and a few protesters line the gate around Love Field. The president and Mrs. Kennedy shake hands with well-wishers before the Kennedy motorcade leaves Love Field 25 minutes late. It’s a 9.5-mile journey to the Dallas Trade Mart, where President Kennedy was to speak at about 12:30 p.m. The motorcade was to leave Love Field on Lemmon Avenue, then follow Cedar Springs Road to Harwood Street into downtown Dallas. The motorcade would turn on to Main Street from Harwood before arriving in Dealey Plaza and taking a right on Houston Street, then a left on Elm to reach the access road to Stemmons Freeway.
12:06 p.m.: JFK stops the motorcade to shake hands with children and others at Lemmon and Lomo Alto. He stops again a few blocks later after seeing a nun and a group of children.
12:29 p.m.: The motorcade turns from Main Street onto Houston Street. The presidential motorcade was traveling about 11 mph.
12:30 p.m.: Shots fired at Dealey Plaza. As the president’s limousine turns onto Elm Street, a shot pierces the air. JFK grabs his throat. About three seconds later, a second bullet hits the president’s skull.
12:33 p.m.: The motorcade races toward Parkland Memorial Hospital, which had been notified of the president’s injuries. At about the same time Lee Harvey Oswald leaves his rifle on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Making his way out of the building, Oswald runs into a Dallas police officer and his job supervisor, who allow Oswald to continue on and out of the building. Oswald travels on foot to the Greyhound Bus Terminal on Lamar Street, where he catches a cab to the Oak Cliff neighborhood where he lives.
12:36 p.m.: The presidential limousine arrives at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
12:40 p.m.: Walter Cronkite breaks into the CBS television show “As the World Turns” to announce that the president has been shot.
12:45 p.m.: The police broadcast a description of the suspect: “The suspect from Elm (Street) and Houston (Street) is reported to be an unknown white male, about 30, slender build, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 165 pounds, armed with what is thought to be a 30-30 rifle.”
12:57 p.m.: Father Oscar L. Huber of Dallas’ Holy Trinity Church administers last rites to President Kennedy.
12:58 p.m.: Oswald arrives at his home in Oak Cliff to retrieve a pistol, then leaves a few minutes later to wait at a nearby bus stop.
1 p.m.: With a crowd gathered outside awaiting news, doctors at Parkland pronounce President Kennedy dead.
1:03 p.m.: A roll call of employees at the book depository finds Oswald missing.
1:12 p.m.: Bullet casings are found by police on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
1:15 p.m.: Oswald shoots police officer J.D. Tippit dead at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Avenue in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas.
1:22 p.m.: A Mannlicher-Carcano bolt-action rifle is found on the sixth floor of the book depository.
1:40 p.m.: Oswald enters the Texas Theatre.
1:50 p.m.: Police surround the Texas Theatre and arrest Oswald.
2 p.m.: Oswald arrives at Dallas police headquarters and hours-long interrogations begin.
2:04 p.m.: Although Texas law states an autopsy must be performed, the Secret Service removes JFK’s casket from Parkland Memorial Hospital.
2:10 p.m.: Driven from the hospital to Love Field, the president’s body is loaded onto Air Force One.
2:27 p.m.: Cronkite relays news of the president’s death to the nation: “We just have a report from our correspondent Dan Rather in Dallas that he has confirmed that President Kennedy is dead. There is still no official confirmation of this. However, it’s a report from our correspondent, Dan Rather, in Dallas, Texas.”
2:38 p.m.: Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as the 36th president aboard Air Force One by Sarah T. Hughes, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas.
4:05 p.m.: Oswald is searched in the basement of Dallas police headquarters and put in a lineup. Police find five cartridges of ammunition.
4:58 p.m.: Air Force One lands at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and the casket is taken on a waiting ambulance to Bethesda Naval Hospital.
7 p.m.: Oswald is interrogated and charged with the death of officer Tippit after an intense investigation. He is put through multiple lineups, his fingerprints are taken and a paraffin test is administered. An autopsy on the president is performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
11:26 p.m.: Oswald is charged with Kennedy’s murder.