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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.