On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy boarded air force one for a two days visit to Texas on a mission to reconcile the Democratic Party members there in preparation for elections due in 1964. Little did anybody know that Kennedy, on this same day, would join a growing list of American presidents who have been assassinated. Abraham Lincoln was the first casualty in 1865, followed by James Garfield in 1881, then William McKinley in 1901 and now John F. Kennedy in 1963 (Prouty, 2009). There has been at least another dozen attempts to kill various presidents including in recent times, a testimony of how endangered the Office of the President of United States is.
J.F. Kennedy born in 1917 was the youngest president to by then to have been voted to that office and the first Catholic. On that fateful day, the President was riding in an open limousine with his wife Jacqueline accompanied by Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie. Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird together with Senator Ralph Yarborough were riding in another limousine behind them with secret service members in between and the head of Dallas police leading them all (Ferrall, 2009).
Accompanying the president in his open limousine was the Democratic Governor of Texas, John Connally, and his wife Nellie. Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird rode in a following limousine accompanied by Texas Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough. From Dallas Love Field airport, the motorcade was headed towards Trade Mart where a luncheon was to be held. According to Lyndon’s wife Lady Bird’s account (Wicker,2004), the streets were lined up with cheerful supporters, children waving hands and generally an ecstatic mood prevailed. By 12:30 p.m the motorcade snaked through the town and as it was making a sharp left-hand turn in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building, there was a loud bang, a shot had been fired and then two more shots in quick succession. Suddenly the festive mood was turned into horror, the spectators ran falling on each other and the presidential motorcade speeded very fast (Wicker, 2004). The President had been shot dead and governor Conally wounded. The presidential motorcade speeded to the nearby Parkland Hospital from where he was pronounced dead. The president’s killer a Mr. Lee Oswald had fled the scene of the crime but was confronted moments later on the streets of Dallas by a police officer whom he also shot and killed. Oswald was arrested moments later in a movie theater where he had gone. He fell victim to an assassin bullet himself two days later as he was being moved by police from the police headquarters to Dallas County Jail (Prouty, 2009).
Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the next president aboard Air Force One to Washington D.C. He appointed a commission to investigate what really transpired on that fateful day; the Warren commission. The commission came to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president out of mixed and indeterminate motives: frustration, envy and lust for fame (Wicker, 2004). That conclusion was not good enough for the American public and accusations of conspiracies to cover-up the motivating factor; the secret hands behind the killing; the people Oswald was working for became intense. Rumors had it that Fidel Castro was behind it, others the Israel’s Mossad, others the Pentagon in cahoots with CIA and to the extreme Lyndon Johnson himself. The number of gunmen present is also sometimes disputed with some alleging the presence of another gunman who fired the third shot (Ferrall, 2009). His death remains a subject of public debate.