On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Arguably the crime of the century, Kennedy’s murder stunned the American people and set off an outpouring of grief around the world. But the days after JFK’s assassination also involved additionally shocking events and dramatic moments, from his funeral service to the search for his assassin.
In the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination, Kennedy’s alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot to death live on American television. Oswald’s background as a former resident of the Soviet Union, his Russian wife, and connections to communist Cuba added a cold war component to the assassination.
The sketchy background of Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby, also quickly fomented numerous conspiracy theories that became an integral part of any future discussion of JFK’s assassination – one of these even claims countless eerie coincidences between Kennedy’s life and that of Abraham Lincoln.
What happened following the assassination of John F. Kennedy – arguably one of the world’s most important leaders – had historical, political, and social implications that still reverberate today.
After The Shot, Jackie Kennedy Attempted To Flee The Limousine
On November 22, 1963, at approximately 12:30 pm, President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade proceeded through downtown Dallas’s Dealey Plaza. As the President’s convertible Lincoln Continental passed in front of the Texas School Book Depository building, three shots were fired at JFK.
Secret Service Agent Clint Hill was riding on the bumper of the follow-up car and immediately ran towards the presidential limousine at the sound of the first shot, attempting to shield the President from additional harm. However before he could reach the President two more shots were fired. It is believed the third shot was the ruinous shot, shattering his skull and scattering bone fragments and brain matter throughout the interior and exterior of the automobile.
His wife, Jackie, had put her arms around her husband. After the third shot, she reflexively recoiled and began to crawl out of the passenger seat and onto the trunk of the car. Hill was able to grab onto the rear of the trunk as the driver quickly accelerated toward Parkland Hospital. Hill forced Mrs. Kennedy back into the rear of the automobile.
Testimony from Mrs. Kennedy to the Warren Commission indicated she had no recollection of attempting to leave the car; Hill testified he thought she was attempting to retrieve a large skull fragment that was on the back of the car. Texas Gov. John Connolly – was also seriously injured while he sat in the front seat – recalled in the aftermath of the shooting, Jackie Kennedy said repeatedly
“They have killed my husband, his brains are on my hands.”
In a subsequent interview, Jackie Kennedy said on the way to the hospital she spoke to her husband,
“Jack, can you hear me… I love you, Jack.”
Despite almost being hurled off of the back of the vehicle, Hill made it to the passenger compartment and covered JFK and Jackie Kennedy as the car rapidly approached the hospital. Hill maintained had he been situated on the right bumper of the President’s car, he would have had enough time to get to the President.
Oswald Escaped From His Assassination Vantage Point Within 90 Seconds Of Shooting
After firing three bullets at the Kennedy motorcade, Lee Harvey Oswald immediately hid his rifle amidst the stacks of textbook boxes situated on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. He went down a stairwell, and 90 seconds after the shooting, he encountered his supervisor and a policeman in a second floor lunchroom. Not under suspicion at the time, he was allowed to pass. Other employees observed him behaving casually, and he left the building just as police were attempting to seal off the area, only three minutes after the shooting.
He got on a city bus, but because of the traffic caused by the chaotic aftermath of the assassination, he eventually got off and hailed a taxi to take him to his rooming house in the nearby neighborhood of Oak Cliff. Here, he was observed by the building’s housekeeper as he went to his room and emerged after only a few minutes, now clad in a jacket and, unbeknownst to her, carrying a pistol.
J. Edgar Hoover Called RFK With A Cryptic Message
Robert “Bobby” F. Kennedy – the President’s brother – was having a private lunch with members of JFK’s administration at his home in suburban Virginia when his wife answered the telephone. On the phone was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover, without emotion and only 15 minutes after the shooting, transmitted an ominous message. “I have news for you. The President’s been shot.”
When Bobby asked how seriously injured the President was, Hoover replied, “I think it is serious. I am endeavoring to get details. I’ll call you back when I find out more.” Then Hoover hung up.
After JFK Was Pronounced Dead, A Legal Fight Over His Body Ensued
The President’s limousine arrived at Parkland Hospital at 12:38 pm CST. He was rushed into Trauma Room No. 1 just as Chief Resident Ronald Jones arrived with several other doctors. The doctors performed a tracheotomy, inserted an IV in the President’s arm, and performed chest massage. Upon examining Kennedy’s skull, it was readily apparent their efforts were superfluous, and an EKG showed no heart activity. No official announcement was made until a priest administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Twelve minutes after JFK entered the trauma room, he was pronounced dead. President Kennedy’s body was then wrapped into a hastily acquired coffin and placed on a gurney.
As the President’s entourage attempted to leave the trauma room, it was confronted by Earl Rose, the Dallas county medical examiner, who stated emphatically that Texas state law required an autopsy be performed in the county where a crime had occurred. While technically correct, many felt Rose was behaving inappropriately, especially since Mrs. Kennedy refused to leave the hospital or Dallas without her husband.
The situation was also complicated by the lack of any federal laws governing the assassination of a president, a situation that has since been rectified. When Rose refused to back down, a heated exchange took place, some claiming that the Secret Service drew their weapons to force Rose to step aside. The Secret Service then hurriedly rushed the casket to the airport at Love Field and quickly loaded it aboard Air Force One, preempting any additional attempt to impose local jurisdiction.
Walter Cronkite Got Emotional Announcing Kennedy’s Death
At approximately 2 pm EST, news networks started to preempt regular programming to switch to JFK’s assassination. Rumors began sweeping both the local Dallas and national newsrooms that President Kennedy was dead.
For 38 minutes Walter Cronkite repeated various unconfirmed reports of Kennedy’s death, including a report from Dan Rather who spoke to one of the two priests present at Parkland Hospital who confirmed it.
Finally, at 2:38 pm EST, Cronkite was handed an Associated Press news flash that confirmed the President’s death. Cronkite was quite friendly with Kennedy and was deeply affected by the announcement, choking up as he read the news.
Oswald Killed A Policeman, And Was Arrested In A Movie Theater
Upon leaving his rooming house at a few minutes after 1 pm, Lee Harvey Oswald briefly wandered aimlessly in the neighborhood near his home. At approximately 1:15 pm, he reached the intersection of 10th and Patton Streets where a Dallas policeman named JD Tippit observed him from a patrol car. Although Tippit had received a description already circulating of a suspect in the Kennedy assassination, it is impossible to determine whether
Tippit connected Oswald to that description. Oswald spoke to Tippit through the window of his car, and when the police officer got out of his vehicle and began walking towards him, Oswald quickly drew his pistol and shot him four times, including once in the temple.
The area was quickly overrun by numerous police cars, and Oswald’s movements became furtive. He attracted the attention of a shoe store employee who, upon hearing the sirens, decided to follow Oswald. Oswald stopped at a movie theater, walked into the lobby, snuck into the theater. When the shoe store employee, Johnny Brewer, approached and asked a theater employee if Oswald had bought a ticket, she said no. He told her to call police.
Police quickly descended upon the theater, the movie was halted, and the house lights were turned up. Patrolman Nick McDonald patted down a few patrons before coming to Oswald. When he asked him to stand, Oswald shouted “It’s all over now.” He punched the officer with one hand and drew his gun with the other. As officers converged on Oswald, McDonald got his hand on the weapon. Oswald was subdued, handcuffed, and led out of the theater. Outside was an angry crowd already jeering and threatening him, aware that he was connected to the murder of Officer Tippit and possibly even the President.
LBJ Was Sworn In As The New President Immediately After JFK Died
At 2:38 pm CST, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States. The oath of office was administered by Judge Sarah T. Hughes, a federal judge appointed by JFK only months earlier. It was the first and only time that a female administered the oath of office to the President of the United States.
Lyndon Johnson ignored the Kennedy entourage’s wishes that he fly home on Air Force Two, and he insisted that Jackie Kennedy stand next to him while the oath of office was administered, as a sign of Kennedy support for the transition.
Jackie Kennedy Arrived In DC Still Wearing Her Blood Spattered Outfit
From the moment the news of the assassination was broadcast, every radio and television station showed nothing but continual news concerning the incident for four days. At approximately 6:00 pm EST, Air Force One arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland containing President Johnson, the body of John F. Kennedy, and the Kennedy entourage. The nation watched live as President Kennedy’s coffin was unloaded and placed into an ambulance; Jackie Kennedy then emerged with Robert Kennedy, who had boarded the plane upon its arrival. President Johnson appeared next and made some brief remarks to the nation.
Jackie Kennedy was still deliberately wearing the bright pink outfit she had worn all day, the dried blood of her husband clearly visible on the front of her skirt. She had been asked earlier if she wanted to change into something else, but she replied:
“Oh, no, I want them to see what they have done to Jack.”
The outfit was donated to the National Archives by Jackie Kennedy, but is restricted from public view until 2103 by request of JFK and Jackie’s daughter Caroline Kennedy. It is currently stored in a secret, sealed, and climate-controlled location within the National Archives. Jackie’s pillbox hat disappeared at some point on November 22 and its current whereabouts are unknown.
Oswald Claimed He Was A Patsy And He Didn’t Kill JFK
Once the Texas School Book Depository was sealed off, the police asked the superintendent of the building Roy Truly to assemble all of his employees. It was quickly determined that Lee Harvey Oswald was missing. A rifle was discovered on the sixth floor that Oswald’s Russian wife Marina later identified as Oswald’s.
By the time of Oswald’s arrest at the movie theater, police believed he was linked to the assassination but were not certain. A co-worker of Oswald’s recognized him at police headquarters after they went to provide an affidavit about the assassination.
Oswald was formally charged with Officer Tippit’s death on Friday night. A few hours later at 1:30 am on Saturday, he was arraigned for President Kennedy’s death. Oswald’s strange background as a Marine sharpshooter, former resident of the Soviet Union, and Marxist agitator only added to the surreal immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination.
Throughout his time in the Dallas jail, Oswald adamantly proclaimed his innocence, “The only thing I have done is carry a pistol in a movie… I didn’t kill anybody… I haven’t shot anybody,” he said during an impromptu news conference. “I’m just a patsy.” These statements fueled the fire of conspiracy theorists who believe a slew of things, including that Oswald killed JFK as part of a Cuban conspiracy.
The President’s Body Lay In State, And Public Lines To View Him Were Miles Long
On Sunday, November 24, the flag-draped casket of President John F. Kennedy was transported to the rotunda of the US Capitol Building by the same horse drawn caisson that transported the casket of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. It was accompanied by a funeral procession of the Kennedy family, service members, and hundreds of US government dignitaries and world leaders, and it was observed by an estimated 1,000,000 spectators.
For 24 hours, an estimated 250,000 members of the public were allowed to enter the Capitol and pay their respects. At times, this line – in freezing cold temperatures – stretched for more than two miles. When the viewing concluded the next day, many thousands of people were unable to gain access.
Oswald Was Shot By The Sinister, Mob-Connected Jack Ruby
On Sunday, November 24, Dallas police decided to transport Lee Harvey Oswald to a safer county jail location from their downtown Dallas headquarters. As Oswald was being led through the basement of the jail, he was fatally shot by Jack Ruby, the Dallas owner of a strip club. The attack on Oswald appeared on live television and added an additional sense of violence and chaos to the murder of President Kennedy. Oswald subsequently died on the operating table at Parkland Hospital. Because Jack Ruby had ties to the Chicago Mafia and various other criminal connections, his behavior and subsequent death from cancer while appealing his murder conviction have been viewed with deep suspicion.
It is possible that Ruby – a police groupie and attention seeker – impulsively killed Oswald because he felt he would be regarded as a hero. Many pointed to evidence that Ruby’s killing was unplanned: he left his beloved Dachshund in his car while he wired money to a dancer, his initial purpose for being in the vicinity. Ruby, based on the time of his wire, needed practically split-second coordination to get to Oswald and shoot him. It seems unlikely that he would have brought his dog with him and incorporated wiring money while methodically planning the murder of America’s most high profile criminal.
The NFL Played Sunday Games, And Commissioner Pete Rozelle Faced Harsh Criticism
The National Football League has been accused of embracing a corporate culture that emphasizes profit over civic responsibility. Part of that stems from the decision directly after JFK’s assassination to play games on the following day.
Other games – including the Harvard-Yale game – were canceled, a first for the legendary game, and most other college games were canceled. The American Football League immediately announced it would not play. But National Football Commissioner Pete Rozelle claimed he contacted JFK’s press secretary Pierre Salinger, and Salinger encouraged him to play.
“Football was Mr. Kennedy’s game. He thrived on competition,” Rozelle said after he decided all seven of the league’s games should be played. The decision drew an immediately negative reaction, even from sportswriters like the legendary Red Smith:
“In the civilized world, it was a day of mourning. In the National Football League, it was the 11th Sunday of the business year, a quarter-million dollar day in Yankee Stadium.”
Because CBS held the rights to the NFL and proceeded with non-stop assassination coverage, none of the games were televised. Most Americans felt Rozelle was making a sports league more important than the President. He was criticized both immediately and for the rest of his otherwise successful career in which the NFL became an American staple and a marketing juggernaut. Even when he retired in 1989, this criticism still made an impression when the departing Rozelle was asked about his biggest regret as commissioner:
“Playing those games on Kennedy Sunday – the Sunday after President Kennedy died. … I wish we hadn’t. It has caused too much controversy.”
In A Poignant And Heartbreaking Photo, JFK Jr. Saluted His Father’s Passing Coffin
On November 25, the funeral mass for John F. Kennedy was held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Attended by more than 1,200 invitees, the mass featured biblical passages, the President’s entire inaugural address, and Schubert’s Ave Maria. At the conclusion of the mass, the president’s flag-draped casket was conveyed back to the caisson on its way to Arlington National Cemetery for his burial.
As the casket made its way down the steps of the cathedral in front of members of the Kennedy family, Jackie Kennedy whispered something to her son, John. The boy immediately snapped to attention and smartly saluted his father’s casket, a gesture that became one of the most visually memorable moments of the 20th century. The children were considered too young to attend the actual burial, so this would be the final time they saw their father’s casket. It was also John F. Kennedy Jr.’s third birthday.
JFK Was Buried At Arlington National Cemetery
After Monday’s funeral mass at St. Matthew’s, John F. Kennedy’s casket was brought to Arlington National Cemetery with a procession that included the leaders of 99 nations – the most ever to attend a state funeral since the death of King Edward VII in 1910. By the time this procession completely reached Arlington, the ceremony had already begun. Initially, people thought John F. Kennedy should be buried in Brookline, MA, his birthplace, but after his wife toured Arlington, she decided “He belongs to the people.” She selected a prominent location on the slope in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion.
As part of the memorial to President Kennedy, an eternal flame was erected and lit during the funeral. In the first year following the President’s internment, an estimated 3,000 people an hour visited the grave site, and within three years, over 16 million people had visited the Kennedy memorial. This prompted a larger memorial completed in 1967. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was buried at the same site on May 23, 1994.
Lee Harvey Oswald Was Buried On The Same Day As JFK
While the funeral of the slain President of the United States was the focus of the entire world, another burial was hastily being conducted in Fort Worth, TX. Lee Harvey Oswald was buried at the Rose Hill Cemetery in a brief ceremony witnessed by no mourners other than his immediate family: his estranged wife Marina, their two young children, his mother Marguerite, and his brother Robert. Although there were no other acquaintances of Oswald present, there were many reporters, federal agents, and police. In fact, so few family members were present that reporters were reluctantly enlisted to act as pallbearers. A minister drafted for the proceedings said a few brief words, and the body was quickly lowered into the ground.
Oswald’s afterlife has been anything but peaceful. His gravestone was stolen as a prank in 1967. In 1981, his body was exhumed at the request of his ex-wife to verify exactly who it was occupying the grave. Conspiracy theorists alleged it was not Oswald, but someone else involved in a sinister plot to kill JFK. Dental records and a childhood scar identified Oswald as the grave’s occupant.