The date of November 22, 1963 will forever be seared into the minds of all who were living then. That was the fateful day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Texas Governor John B. Connally was near-fatally wounded in a Dallas motorcade.

On the 48th anniversary of that date last week, I joined prominent Austinites and longtime friends Larry Temple, Ben Barnes and Neal Spelce in reliving our collective experiences of that tragic time before an audience at the Headliners Club.  Attorney Temple, than an assistant to Governor Connally, was deeply involved in planning for the President’s trip to Texas. Former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, then a young member of the Texas House of Representatives, devoted weeks to selling tickets for a mammoth fundraising dinner in Austin that was to climax the tour, and to coordinating preparations with the White House.  He then put together an impromtu prayer service in the Capitol instead of the gala dinner. Well-known broadcast personality Neal Spelce went from mapping out news coverage plans with the local police chief to broadcasting the heartbreaking word that there would be no dinner.

It was my fate to be in that Dallas motorcade as a host to a busload of  national and state reporters–just a few vehicles behind the presidential limousine as it passed beneath the window of the notorious Texas Schoolbook Depository. And as the shots rang out before us, I became immersed in the ultimate crisis that would keep me in Parkland Hospital nonstop for the next three days. 

As a years-later footnote to our experiences, Temple related how he, together with prominent media leaders Tom Johnson and Bill Moyers, travelled to New York to demand that the History Channel recant an absurd documentary claim that then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson had been part of a conspiracy to kill the President. As a result, the  History Channel did broadcast an acknowledgment of its error, and sent a letter of apology to Lady Bird Johnson.

And was there a conspiracy of some kind? Who knows? But I always will believe that it was solely the act of one demented individual.

–Julian Read

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