EDITORIAL/Dallas, 1963: America lost a president and was forever changed 60 years ago today

(Associated Press file photo)
(Associated Press file photo)

End of Camelot

America's innocence vanished 60 years ago in Dallas

It was just before 12:30 p.m. when the motorcade reached Dealey Plaza In downtown Dallas.

The plaza, a city park and memorial built to honor prominent early Dallas residents, was a Works Progress Administration project completed in 1940 and named for George Dealey, who had been a civic leader and publisher of the Dallas Morning News.

The presidential limousine--a specially-built Lincoln Continental--rounded the corner onto Elm Street, passing the Texas School Book Depository building.

Nellie Connally, wife of Texas Gov. John Connally, was seated in one of the limousine's pull-down jump seats. As the crowds lining the street cheered, she turned to the president and remarked how Dallas loved him.

That's when the first shot rang out.

At least two more shots were fired. Gov. Connally, also in one of the limousine's jump seats, was seriously wounded.

The president fatally so.

The motorcade immediately sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Doctors worked on the president for several minutes but everyone in the trauma room knew it was no use.

President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m., Nov. 22, 1963 -- 60 years ago today.

Later that same day, Lee Harvey Oswald, a worker at the Texas Schoolbook Depository who had been seen in the building after the assassination, was taken into custody after a scuffle with police at the Texas Theater. He had left the depository before police could seal off the building, and went home. He then started walking and was stopped by Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit. According to police, Oswald pulled a gun and shot Tippit four times, killing him. A few minutes later he walked into the theater without paying. The ticket clerk called police.

Oswald claimed he was innocent -- a "patsy." And he never stood trial for either murder. Two days later he was gunned down by Dallas strip club operator Jack Ruby as he was being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail.

In the wake of the assassination, a presidential commission headed by U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that President Kennedy was killed by Oswald, acting alone.

But did he? That remains the greatest mystery of the 20th century. Many Americans -- maybe most Americans -- don't buy the Warren commission's conclusion and believe their was a conspiracy to assassinate the president. In 1978, a review by the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald had killed the president, but that he was likely a part of some conspiracy.

Many books have been written on the assassination and there are many self-proclaimed experts on the events of Nov. 22, 1963. Each has his or her own theory, his or her own culprits.

But the truth is we will never know for sure if Oswald acted alone, was part of a conspiracy or was just a patsy, as he claimed. Even if some conclusive new evidence came to light, it would be quickly challenged and discounted by those who own theories don't match. The Kennedy assassination has come to be more than just a tragic part of history, it has grown into an industry.

But on this day perhaps we can put aside all that and remember the young president who gave the country so much hope and was cut down so tragically in the prime of his life.

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