DATE OF EVENT: Friday, Nov. 22, 1963
DATE PUBLISHED: Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, in The Kansas City Star
Dallas (AP) — President John F. Kennedy, thirty-sixth President of the United States, was shot to death today by a hidden assassin armed with a high-powered rifle.
Kennedy, 46, lived less than an hour after a sniper cut him down as his limousine left downtown Dallas. Automatically, the mantle of the presidency fell to Vice-President Johnson, a native Texan who had been riding two cars behind the chief executive.
There was no immediate word when Johnson would take the oath of office.
Kennedy died at Parkland hospital, where his bullet-pierced body had been taken in a frantic but futile effort to save his life.
Lying wounded at the same hospital was Gov. John Connally of Texas, who was cut down by the fusillade that ended the life of the youngest man ever elected to the presidency.
First word of his death came from two priests as they stepped out of the hospital’s emergency ward.
Government sources in Washington immediately confirmed his death.
The priests came out of the ward at 1:37 p.m.
The announcement by the priests brought audible sobs from scores of newsmen and other citizens crowded around the emergency ward entrance.
Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Tex.) talking only a few minutes before to newsmen, collapsed in sobs as he told of witnessing the slaying of the President.
Yarborough said he was in the third car behind the President. “It seemed to me that at least two of the shots came from our right rear,” he said. “I cannot say about the third.”
Director J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI telephoned the Dallas FBI office and ordered an all-out investigation of the assassination.
Police ordered an unprecedented dragnet of the city.
They believed the fatal shots were fired by a white man about 30, slender of build, weighing about 165 pounds, and standing 5 feet 10 inches tall.
The murder weapon reportedly was a 30-30 rifle.
Shortly before Kennedy’s death became known, he was administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic church. He had been the first Roman Catholic president in American history.
Even as two clergymen hovered over the fallen President in the hospital emergency room, doctors and nurses administered blood transfusions.
The governor and his wife had been riding with the President and Mrs. Kennedy.
The First Lady cradled her dying husband’s blood-smeared head in her arms as the presidential limousine raced to the hospital.
“Oh, no,” she kept crying.
Connally slumped in his seat beside the President.
Kennedy died of a gunshot wound in the brain at approximately 1 p.m., according to an announcement by Malcolm Kilduff, acting White House press secretary.
Lyndon Johnson and his wife left the hospital a half hour later. Newsmen had no opportunity to question them.
The horror of the assassination was mirrored in an eyewitness account by Yarborough.
“You could tell something awful and tragic had happened,” the senator told newsmen before Kennedy’s death became known. His voice breaking and his eyes red-rimmed, Yarborough said: “I could see a secret service man in the President’s car leaning on the car with his hands in anger, anguish and despair. I knew then something tragic had happened.” Yarborough had counted three rifle shots as the presidential limousine left downtown Dallas through a triple underpass. The shots were fired from above — possibly from one of the bridges or from a nearby building.
One witness, Mal Couch, television reporter, said he saw a gun emerge from an upper story of a warehouse commanding an unobstructed view of the presidential car.
Kennedy was the first President to be assassinated since William McKinley was shot in 1901.
Malcolm Kilduff, assistant presidential press secretary, said Johnson was not hit. He previously had been reported wounded.
Kilduff told newsmen that Connally, a Democrat, was wounded in the right chest in the same ambush that felled the President. Connally was rushed into surgery for a 2-hour emergency operation.
Connally’s condition was said to be serious. But Kilduff said that while the governor “was not out of the woods, his doctors said his vital signs were good.”
He said the doctor said Connally had a good pulse and that his respiration was satisfactory.
Kennedy and his wife had just passed the halfway point in a 3-day speaking tour through Texas.
The President already had prepared a luncheon address for a Dallas audience before he died. In his prepared text, he assailed his ultra-conservative critics.
Dallas is considered a center of conservative philosophy and finance.
Here, on October 24, Adlai E. Stevenson was spat upon by one heckler and struck by another after making a United Nations day address.
It was believed that Kennedy’s body would be moved shortly to Washington.
Traditionally, funeral services for Presidents who die in office are held in the capital city.