(Editor’s Note: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. On Nov. 22, 1963, many lives of a generation were changed by the assassination. ECM Political Editor Howard Lestrud, an avid JFK item collector for more than 50 years, is writing a series of articles on Kennedy leading up to the assassination observance in November. The first in the series was on Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, and his father, Orville Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture under Kennedy. In the second segment, Lestrud talked to former Dallas Police Detective James R. Leavelle, the man in white handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. In this third installment, Lestrud discusses the upcoming special observances planned for Nov. 22 by the city of Dallas and by the Sixth Floor Museum.)
by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
The assassination of a United States president is something that transcends generations.
There were adults and impressionable children who never have forgotten where they were and what they were doing on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.
I recall very vividly leaving my college classroom in Austin, Minn., after taking an exam and heading to a local pool hall to unwind. As I shot pool, I heard the radio get louder and louder. I asked the recreation center worker what was going on. He said, “The president has been shot.” The time was 12:30 p.m.
Today, learning of tragedy as it happens is not unusual, thanks to technology. Fifty years ago the communications world was still maturing. From 12:30 p.m. on and continuing for four days, many of us watched our televisions and listened to our radios to follow the tragedy that shook the world.
Now, 50 years later, the city of Dallas, Texas, where this terrible shooting took place, will honor the memory of our 35th president.
“The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy” is a public memorial taking place Nov. 22, 2013, in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Paid for by private donations, the commemorative event is organized by Dallas Mayor Michael S. Rawlings and a committee of 25 local leaders, in cooperation with the city of Dallas.
The memorial will unite the city to remember the spirit of Kennedy and ultimately look forward into the “new frontier” that he passionately communicated.
Kennedy’s death left an immeasurable impact on anyone old enough to remember the tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963. However, “The 50th” will also teach younger Americans about the president’s legacy.
The event will be free and open to the public, with tickets distributed through a secure, online ticket request process. The limit on tickets has reportedly been met.
Video screens will be placed in strategic locations around downtown Dallas to ensure everyone can take part in the memorial. The event is being paid for by private donations raised by individuals and foundations.
“It’s important that the direction for this event was generated by citizens of Dallas, and not by any one person or City Hall, so I chose members who were symbolic of the whole community from a diversity standpoint and a thinking standpoint,” Rawlings said.
“I chose members that represented Dallas and its leadership, and also members who were actually here 50 years ago, some of them on the streets, others who were at the Trade Mart, like committee Chairwoman Ruth Collins Altshuler,” he added.
A longtime Dallas philanthropist and civic leader, Altshuler created the program for the memorial and invited presidential historian David McCullough to remember Kennedy with a special reading of Kennedy’s speeches.
“We’re honored to have a historian of David McCullough’s stature speak on this historic occasion,” said Altshuler. “As the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of several presidential biographies, he’s uniquely qualified to speak about the lasting legacy of our 35th commander in chief.”
In addition to Chairwoman Altshuler and Honorary Chairman Rawlings, the committee is made up of Lindalyn Bennett Adams, the Honorable Lew Blackburn, Adelfa Callejo, Linda Pitts Custard, the Most Rev. Kevin J. Farrell, Nancy Strauss Halbreich, the Rev. Zan W. Holmes Jr., the Honorable Clay Lewis Jenkins, the Honorable Ron Kirk, Bobby B. Lyle, the Honorable Anita N. Martinez, Linda B. McFarland, Cappy R. McGarr, Ken Menges, Blaine L. Nelson, Erle Nye, Rick Ortiz, Margot Perot, the Honorable Jeanne L. Phillips, Caren Prothro, Deedie Potter Rose, Terdema L. Ussery II and the Honorable Royce West.
“This is a part of our history. The story of Dallas’ growth and success can only be understood in the context of this unspeakable tragedy,” Rawlings said. “It’s important that the city of Dallas has a strong voice in remembering this very solemn day and honoring a great president who was a hero to so many people around the world.”
For more, visit http://www.50thHonoringJohnFKennedy.com.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected].
WHAT: The 50th Committee (President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Foundation), consisting of 25 local civic leaders, in cooperation with the city of Dallas, will hold an observance to celebrate the remarkable life, legacy and leadership of John F. Kennedy. “The 50th: Honoring the Memory of President John F. Kennedy” will commemorate Kennedy’s life with a serious, understated and respectful memorial in tribute to our nation’s 35th president. It will take place at 11:45 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2013, at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, where the president was assassinated in 1963. Along with Dallas civic leader Ruth Collins Altshuler, who is serving as the chairwoman, and Mayor Michael Rawlings, the 25-person committee organizing the event is made up of a broad cross-section of leaders from the Dallas business and philanthropic communities.
WHY: As the first designated event the city of Dallas has ever held in Kennedy’s memory, “The 50th” will honor the prominent U.S. leader with a sense of dignity and history.
“The 50th” will be a concise and reflective observance, which will include:
• The tolling of church bells throughout the city and a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m.
• Renowned presidential historian David McCullough, the subject of a two-part profile on “60 Minutes,” will give special readings from Kennedy’s presidential speeches at the event.
McCullough has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for biographies about former presidents John Adams and Harry Truman, and has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award.
• Mayor Rawlings will represent the city of Dallas and the JFK 50th Committee of the President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Foundation.
• Internationally acclaimed, 73-member U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club, under the direction of Dr. Aaron Smith, will honor Kennedy in song.
• A ceremonial flyover will take place.
• Religious leaders will offer prayers and a benediction.