The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

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  • 0:03 A Moment to Remember
  • 0:59 Events of Nov. 22, 1963
  • 5:09 The Aftermath
  • 7:00 Investigating the…
  • 8:45 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Ryan Korn

Ryan taught elementary school and holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

In this lesson, we'll learn about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, its aftermath and the subsequent investigations, as well as some of the resulting conspiracy theories.

A Moment to Remember

KENNEDY IS KILLED BY SNIPER AS HE RIDES IN CAR IN DALLAS; JOHNSON SWORN IN ON PLANE - The New York Times front page headline on Saturday, November 23, 1963.

A moment to remember…

Every generation has at least one moment where everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news:

  • For my grandparents, it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • For my parents, it was Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon.
  • For me, it was the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But for the generation that came of age in the early 1960s, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. An assassination is the planned killing of a well-known person, usually for political reasons. Kennedy, who was elected as the youthful and inspiring leader for a new generation, served for less than three years, cutting short the hopes and dreams of a generation.

The Events of November 22, 1963

Around mid-day on November 22, 1963, Walter Cronkite, a respected TV news anchor, interrupted a soap opera with a sudden news bulletin: 'From Dallas, Texas. The flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1:00 pm Central Standard Time; 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago. Vice-President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded. Presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th president of the United States.' The events surrounding that announcement were chaotic and only pieced together after the crisis:

11:38 am: Air Force One arrives in Dallas, Texas with President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and his wife are already there waiting. The leaders plan on touring the state and meeting with voters over the next two days.

11:52 am: The Kennedys join John Connally, the governor of Texas, and his wife in an open-air motorcade that will bring them on a tour through Dallas. By noon, they are downtown and passing through crowds totaling over 150,000 people.

12:29 pm: The motorcade enters Dealey Plaza, a park surrounded by roads and buildings.

12:30 pm: While waving to the crowd, President Kennedy is shot. The first bullet hits him in the back of his neck, while the second hits him in the back of his head. Connally is also wounded.

12:31 pm: The president collapses, unconscious. A Secret Service agent jumps aboard the president's car in a futile effort to protect him. Mrs. Kennedy screams, 'Oh, my God! They have shot my husband!' The motorcade races off to a local hospital.

12:45 pm: Police announce a description of a suspect: 'The suspect… is reported to be an unknown white male, about thirty, slender build, five feet ten inches tall, one hundred and sixty-five pounds, armed with what is thought to be a 30-30 rifle.'

1:00 pm: Kennedy is pronounced dead at the hospital. One of his doctors would later say that, 'It was apparent the president was not alive when he was brought in… I am absolutely sure he never knew what hit him.' Vice-President Johnson immediately becomes president.

1:15 pm: Police officer J.D. Tippit is killed after confronting a man who matched the suspect's description.

1:22 pm: Police discover a rifle hidden behind some books on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, a building that overlooks Dealey Plaza.

1:33 pm: In a now infamous broadcast, Cronkite informs the nation that Kennedy has been killed.

1:35 pm: Doctors begin surgery on Governor Connally to save his life.

1:50 pm: After a struggle, the suspect is arrested at a nearby movie theatre. He is identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old former Marine and a Texas School Book Depository employee.

2:04 pm: The president's body is placed in a casket and driven from the hospital to Air Force One.

2:20 pm: Police begin interrogating Oswald, who repeatedly denies having anything to do with the police officer's murder or Kennedy's assassination.

2:38 pm: Johnson is officially sworn in as president on Air Force One. The plane departs Dallas shortly thereafter with President Kennedy's body aboard.

4:58 pm: Air Force One lands just outside of Washington. President Johnson speaks briefly with reporters, and President Kennedy's casket is taken to another hospital for an autopsy. It will later be moved to the White House and Capitol for memorial ceremonies.

7:10 pm: Oswald is charged with killing the officer, and later that night, with assassinating President Kennedy.

The Aftermath

President Kennedy's death would reverberate throughout the nation for many years. But its immediate aftermath was almost as shocking as the assassination itself. On Sunday, November 24, 1963, two days after the assassination and with the nation deep in mourning, Oswald was being transferred from the Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail where he would await trial.

During the move, a man named Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner, stepped in front of a crowd of reporters and police officers and shot Oswald in the chest. All of this happened, if you can believe it, live on national TV. Oswald was taken to the same hospital as Kennedy, and he, too, was pronounced dead. With Oswald's death, his motive for the assassination became a mystery.

The next day, Monday, November 25, 1963, President Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Over 250,000 people, including leaders from more than 90 countries, attended his funeral. President Johnson proclaimed the day as a national day of mourning, saying, 'As he did not shrink from his responsibilities… so he would not have us shrink from carrying on his work….'

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