November 22, 1963, is one of those unforgettable dates. If you were alive then and aware of the world around you, you remember exactly where you were when you heard the shocking news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot while traveling in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas.
Though ultimately there wasn't an enormous difference between the political outlooks of the Kennedy and Eisenhower administrations, the personal contrast between the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth presidents was huge.
At 43, Kennedy was America's youngest elected President, and although he suffered terribly from Addison's disease, he presented an appearance of youthful vigor. His wife, Jacqueline, a society beauty, was 32 when her husband took office. Her sense of style seemed to define the whole Administration, which the press nicknamed "Camelot," because for many Americans it represented a peaceful, prosperous time in their lives, and the youthfulness of the Kennedys, playing touch football on Cape Cod and enjoying their toddler children, gave many Americans a sense of excitement and confidence about the country.
Not for everyone though. Kennedy continued the cold war policies of his predecessor. The Bay of Pigs, his ill-fated attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, was a disaster that resonates in our foreign policy today, as does his escalation of hostilities in Vietnam. Kennedy also moved slowly in aiding the nascent civil rights movement. Domestically, the civil rights bill later promoted by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, was a much stronger bill than Kennedy's.
Elected by the narrowest of margins in 1960, Kennedy decided to travel to Texas to lay the groundwork for his 1964 campaign. He and his wife arrived in Dallas on the morning of the 22nd. They entered an open-topped Lincoln Continental along with Governor John Connally and his wife, and traveled by motorcade through downtown Dallas. As the motorcade reached Dealy Plaza, Mrs. Connally, pointing out the friendly crowds, leaned over to Kennedy and said, "You can't say they don't love you, Mr. President."
Those were probably the last words JFK ever heard. The limosine slowed to nine miles an hour as it made a turn before the Texas School Depository Building, where on the sixth floor a mysterious 24-year-old named Lee Harvey Oswald was watching by the window. What exactly Oswald did next, and whether he did so alone, is still being debated more than forty years later.
In This Pack
Texas: The Roots of Agony
Reece McGee | A native Texan considers her state's history, culture and politics and concludes that it was no surprise that the assassination occurred in Texas (December 21, 1963).
The Warren Commission
An editorial says that considering the discrepancies, gaps and unexplained aspects of the three murders, an official inquiry must be conducted but that the public should still be skeptical of a commission that is too weighted toward the establishment and may not be impartial in its investigation, especially of the FBI (December 28, 1963).
Oswald and the FBI
Harold Feldman | The author says there is considerable evidence pointing to a previous relationship between Oswald and the FBI. The bureau, however, remains mum on the subject (January 27, 1964).
The Warren Report: A Measure of the Achievement
Herbert L. Packer | The author says the Warren Commission's investigation has satisfied all reasonable doubts about whether Oswald acted alone (November 2, 1964).
The Warren Commission Report: Some Unanswered Questions
Fred J. Cook | The author analyzes the evidence and questions whether the commission's basic conclusion -- that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone -- is supported by the facts (June 13, 1966).
The JFK Lawyers' Conspiracy
Max Holland | The author attends a conference organized by a group that continues to raise questions about the Kennedy assassination and finds himself questioning the motives and expertise of those who have raised issues with the Warren Commission's report (February 20, 2006).
Several assassination experts take issue with Max Holland's article (March 20, 2006).