President John F. Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago today in Dallas transfixed Americans who, for the first time, watched live, on television, unfolding events that would have a profound impact on the course of American political history and remain even today a source of inquiry, questioning and speculation.
A half century beyond that cold-blooded murder, an indelible image remains of the presidential limousine – top removed for better viewing of the president as he and his popular, fashionable wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, passed through a large downtown Dallas crowd during a fence-mending campaign trip leading to the 1964 election.
Kennedy, 46, a naval hero of World War II, had selected a Texan, Sen. Lyndon Johnson, as his 1960 running mate and eventual vice president. Johnson was two car lengths behind the president in the motorcade and not in the spotlight when Kennedy was slain by Lee Harvey Oswald, who fired from an open window of the Texas Book Depository high above and behind the motorcade. Only hours later, Johnson was president, having taken the oath after Kennedy’s coffin had been loaded on Air Force One for the return to Washington.