Assassinated in Texas
Kennedy was intent on winning reelection. In March 1963, a poll showed 74 percent of respondents believed that he would win. Nevertheless, he did not want to leave anything to chance. With the passage of his weakened civil rights bill pending, Kennedy wanted to work especially hard at ensuring the Southern vote. He decided to go to Texas, where civil rights had become a divisive issue that affected his popularity with voters and many local party leaders.
Kennedy and Jackie arrived in San Antonio, and he dedicated the Aerospace Medical Center. He proceeded to Houston for a dinner for Representative Albert Thomas. At each stop, he was welcomed by crowds of people. It was a surprising turnout, since his approval rating in Texas had fallen to 50 percent, a 26 percent decrease from 1962. That night, Jackie and Kennedy traveled to Fort Worth to spend the night. When Kennedy awoke the next morning, a crowd of supporters had already gathered outside his hotel.
President and Mrs. Kennedy deplane from Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.
Photo Credit: Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
Nevertheless, Kennedy knew that Texas was going to be a difficult state to win. That morning, the Dallas Morning News had reported some less than welcoming news. Its front-page story was entitled: “President's Visit Seen Widening State Democratic Split.” The story reported that Kennedy had failed to take a hard stand against communism. Kennedy arrived at the Love Field airport, where he and Jackie slid into the backseat of an open limousine. The car proceeded through the downtown area destined for a luncheon in which he was scheduled to speak.
Waiting for Kennedy's procession was Lee Harvey Oswald. He was well traveled, having lived in Russia for several years, and he had visited Cuba during Castro's dictatorship. Oswald worked along the downtown route of Kennedy's procession at the Texas School Book Depository in the Dealey Plaza building. With all of the preparations made for the president's visit, Oswald knew ahead of time that Kennedy would travel along this route. When the time finally arrived, Oswald waited for a sighting of Kennedy from a sixth floor window in the building. Around 12:30 P.M., when Kennedy arrived in his view, he fired three shots from his rifle. The second one hit Kennedy in the back of the neck, and the third struck him in the back of the head. Kennedy was rushed to the Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:00 P.M.