The Kennedy Legacy

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JFK 50 years later: “There’s still a healing going on”

Bill Paxton can still remember the excitement and anticipation in the crowd — and the magic of the moments that followed.

An 8-year-old boy at the time, he was part of the crowd of thousands who watched President John F. Kennedy walk outside the Hotel Texas in downtown Fort Worth and give a brief speech the morning of Nov. 22, 1963.

“There was a real electricity in the crowd,” Paxton, now a well-known movie and television actor, said Wednesday night. “Everybody was so excited.”

He said he didn’t remember a lot of Kennedy’s speech, but he did remember the president said he was sorry his wife couldn’t make it. He said she tended to take longer to get ready than he did.

Paxton’s memories were among those shared Wednesday during a “Fort Worth Remembers JFK” program at Texas Christian University geared to make sure that the president’s overnight visit to Fort Worth nearly 50 years ago is not forgotten.

He joined a crew of journalists — CBS’ Bob Schieffer, a former Star-Telegram reporter, historian Hugh Aynesworth, former Star-Telegram reporter Mike Cochran, former KLIF radio anchor Gary DeLaune and former KRLD radio announcer Bob Huffaker — as they recalled events surrounding the president’s visit in November 1963.

President Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy arrived at the then-Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth late on Nov. 21, 1963, to a crowd of thousands and much excitement.

“Fort Worth opened up its heart to the Kennedys,” Cochran recalled. “It was something to behold, the affection Fort Worth had for the Kennedys.”

The next morning, the president spoke outside the Hotel Texas, now the Fort Worth Hilton; talked to those gathered for a breakfast of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce; and rode in a motorcade seen by thousands from downtown to Carswell.

About an hour later, Kennedy had arrived in Dallas and was assassinated while riding in the presidential motorcade.

‘Biggest story I almost got’

Schieffer tells the story about how he was the Star-Telegram’s night police reporter and unfortunately not involved with covering the president’s visit to Fort Worth.

His brother woke him up on Nov. 23, 1963, telling him the president had been shot.

He hurried to the newsroom, only to find phones ringing off the hook and an empty newsroom because most of the reporters had been sent to Dallas to cover the president’s assassination.

Trying to help, he answered a phone and heard a woman on the other end ask if someone could give her a ride to Dallas.

“Lady, we don’t run a taxi here,” Schieffer recalls telling her.

The woman told him she believed her son had been arrested in the shooting of the president.

Schieffer quickly got her address.

He and another reporter soon picked up Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother.

He interviewed her on the ride over and said she talked about how people would feel sorry for her daughter-in-law, and send her money, but nobody would care about her and she would starve.

“The woman was truly deranged,” Schieffer recalled.

He took her to the Dallas Police Department, stayed with her, and thought he was going to be in the room when she and her son finally spoke.

About that time, an FBI agent in the room asked who he was and Schieffer admitted he was a reporter.

The man told him to leave the room and told him that “if I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.”

Schieffer quickly left and still believes that was the “biggest story I almost got.”

Aynesworth is widely considered one of the most respected authorities on JFK’s assassination — he witnessed Kennedy’s shooting, the arrest of Oswald at the Texas Theater and the shooting of Oswald by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

Initially, he said, he was irritated because he was one of the few reporters at The Dallas Morning Newswho didn’t have an assignment.

But he decided to go ahead and watch the motorcade because it’s not very often people had a chance to see the president. He stood near the depository and heard shots shortly after the president’s car passed him. He said there was pure chaos — people screaming, crying, running around in the street.

Trying to determine the best place to be, he soon heard on a police scanner that a police offer had been shot. Having a feeling that it was connected to the president’s assassination, he ran to the theater and arrived in time to see the police arrest Oswald.

DeLaune was the first person to tell the world that Kennedy had been shot, “perhaps tragically.” He also was standing just feet from Oswald when he was shot by Ruby.

‘A healing going on’

Schieffer said there are moments in history etched in people’s memories “because they were so overpowering.”

For many, one of those dates is Sept. 11, 2001.

For many, another of those dates is Nov. 22, 1963.

“It was the weekend that changed America,” Schieffer said.

After all this time, Paxton said, he was glad to get a chance to be part of Wednesday’s event that remembered the country’s fallen president.

After the assassination, he said, “everyone in North Texas wanted to pretend like it never happened,” he told the Star-Telegram. “It was like it never happened. It was such a dark time.”

For so long, he said, Texans simply wouldn’t talk about the trip or the shooting.

“We forget what a great trip they had until it all went wrong,” he said. “There’s still a healing going on.”


Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy Kennedy

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Five Things You Don’t Know About Caroline Kennedy

She grew up in one of America’s most famous families, but Caroline Kennedy has always shunned the public life – until now. 

This week, the only surviving child of John F. and Jackie Kennedy begins a quest to win the U.S. Senate to be vacated when Hillary Clinton joins Barack Obama’s cabinet. (Clinton’s replacement will be appointed by New York’s governor.) 

Kennedy, 55, is married to New York designer Edwin Schlossberg. They have three children, Rose, 25, Tatiana, 23, and Jack, 20. She is a lawyer, author and fundraiser. But did you know she learned to talk while her dad was running for president, first uttering the words “plane,” “goodbye” and “New Hampshire”? 

More facts about Kennedy:

• She has a tattoo 
While on a trip to Hong Kong in the ’80s, Caroline and cousin Kara Kennedy were challenged by male family members – John F. Kennedy Jr. and Teddy Kennedy Jr. – to get inked, the New York Post reports. Kennedy flashed the resulting butterfly tattoo, on the inside of her right forearm, at this year’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. 

• She inspired the song “Sweet Caroline”
Neil Diamond revealed that he wrote his 1969 hit “Sweet Caroline” in honor of the slain president’s daughter. “I’ve never discussed it with anybody before – intentionally,” Diamond told the Associated Press. “I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday.” He did, when he performed the song for her live via satellite at Kennedy’s 50th birthday party. 

• She volunteered as a school crossing guard 
According to the New York Times, Kennedy, who persuaded wealthy New Yorkers to donate millions to the city’s schools, was not too proud to don a reflective vest and stand in traffic as a school crossing guard at her children’s own (private) school. 

• She gets stage fright 
Even with her pedigree, Caroline still has moments of self-doubt. In 1999, the year after her brother John’s death in a plane crash, social worker Rosa Pardo received an award from the Robin Hood Foundation, a favorite Kennedy charity.  Caroline was at the ceremony on behalf of her brother and was sitting at the same table as Pardo, who told PEOPLE that Kennedy was as nervous as she was about standing up before the large crowd. “She’s a normal everyday person,” says Pardo. 

• Her likeness is a hot collectible 
Dozens of Caroline Kennedy items have shown up on eBay, including her books (In Our Defense and Right to Privacy), photos and dolls. The rarest? The Caroline Kennedy First Lady Dress-Up Book – a 1963 paper doll set featuring then 5-year-old Caroline in historic First Lady attire. Because of JFK’s assassination, the book was shelved just before its planned release. Only a few copies remain and are worth up to $900.


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JFK Eternal Flame to Burn in Ireland


June 18, 2013

The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame generated new light today. Part of the flame was taken by torch from the presidential memorial at his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery and is being transported to New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland.

The flame will be placed at a memorial there in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland.

The transition of the flame took place at a ceremony this morning at Arlington. The ceremony began with a wreath-laying in honor of the 35th president of the United States.

The ceremony continued with both countries’ national anthems, with members of both countries’ militaries present.

The Kennedy family was represented by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., who spoke on behalf of his great-uncle about how humbling the honor is for the family.


"The story of the president’s trip to Ireland is the story of a young man returning home," he said of the June 27, 1963, visit. "It’s the story of a thousand welcomes and million tears."

Members from the Irish Embassy also spoke to illustrate the effect Kennedy has had on the Irish people.

Irish Minister of State Paul Kehoe called President Kennedy a voice of hope. “He was that embodiment of that hope … living proof that Irish people could do anything they set their minds to,” Kehoe said, adding that Kennedy arrived just when Ireland needed a source of encouragement.

The Kennedy Torch was lit from the eternal flame. The torch was passed down a line of representatives from the Irish Defense Forces, Special Olympics, U.S. Peace Corps and New Ross Town Council.

The flame will be transferred from the Kennedy Torch to the Kennedy Lamps for its journey across the Atlantic to County Wexford, which was not the only place where President Kennedy spoke in 1963. But it’s from where his great-grandfather emigrated in 1848.

The lamp will be dedicated at its new home Saturday.


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New Website Launched on 50th Anniversary of Landmark JFK Civil Rights Speech

"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution."

 - John F. Kennedy, June 11, 1963

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s landmark speech on civil rights with the launch of a  new microsite presenting the 1963 civil rights narrative through primary source materials drawn principally from the Kennedy Library archives. 

Hundreds of assets, most of which have never before been publicly displayed, are organized into seven events, including:

  • The right to vote in Mississippi
  • Project C 
  • The integration of the University of Alabama
  • President Kennedy’s televised address on civil rights
  • 1963 civil rights Legislation
  • The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
  • The Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church

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When we think of John F. Kennedy, he is without a hat, standing in the wind and weather. He was impatient of topcoats and hats, preferring to be exposed, and he was young enough and tough enough to enjoy the cold and the wind of those times…. It can be said of him, as of few men in a like position, that he did not fear the weather, and did not trim his sails, but instead challenged the wind itself, to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people.
E. B. White


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Kennedys make rare visit to Dallas, say RFK questioned ‘lone gunman’ theory in JFK assassination

A rare public appearance in Dallas this weekend by relatives of President John F. Kennedy was filled with political discussion and personal reminiscences, with only occasional attention to the tragedy that has linked the family and city for 50 years.

In a round-table discussion Friday night in the Dallas Arts District, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the president’s brother and attorney general, said his father publicly supported the official Warren Commission conclusion that the president was killed in Dealey Plaza by a lone gunman.

“In private, he was dismissive of it,” he said. “My father believed the Warren report was a shoddy piece of craftsmanship.”

Robert Kennedy Jr. and his sister, Rory, were guests of PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose, who interviewed them for an hour and a half on a sparsely decorated stage at the Winspear Opera House.

Robert Kennedy Jr. said his father was concerned enough about the accuracy of the Warren report that he asked Justice Department investigators to informally look into allegations that the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had received aid from the Mafia, the CIA or other organizations.

He said the staff members found phone lists linking Jack Ruby, Oswald’s assassin, to organized crime figures with ties to the CIA, convincing the elder Kennedy that there was something to the allegations.

The attorney general refrained from voicing his doubts in public, his son said, because he believed that with the issue of civil rights then gripping the country, “it was a distraction for him to make this a principal issue.”

Though talk about the aftermath of the assassination surfaced several times during the evening, most of the discussion centered on life in the Kennedy family.

Robert Kennedy Jr., 58, an environmentalist and lawyer, is the third of Ethel and Robert Kennedy’s 11 children. Rory Kennedy, 44, is the youngest and an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Rory Kennedy said her father was shy but passionate about issues. Her uncle, the president, was more aloof, but the more comfortable with retail politics.

Despite the difference in personalities, she said, “it’s hard to imagine two brothers being closer.”

Much of the evening was lighthearted, with Robert Kennedy Jr. entertaining the audience with stories about growing up in the most famous family in America.

He told about a family party in which a borrowed elephant charged at Amy Carter, daughter of President Jimmy Carter, and how boxing champion Muhammad Ali tried a zip line on the property, only to collide with a blue spruce.

He also recalled that when he was 8 years old, he asked for a meeting with his uncle to discuss environmental issues.

The younger Kennedy entered the Oval Office with a salamander as a gift. The amphibian had died en route, but he presented it to the president anyway.

“I was in denial,” he said.

The president kept poking at the salamander, he recalled, announcing “he doesn’t look too well.”

“I had to admit there was a startling lack of animation,” Robert Kennedy Jr. recalled.

Other recollections were more sobering.

The president’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, spent much of the five years after his 1963 assassination outside the United States because she was shocked at the level of violence here.

The attorney general read books extensively during that period, his children said.

“He read the Greeks,” Robert Kennedy Jr. said. “He read the Catholic scholars, and he read the poets, Emerson and Keats, trying to figure out why a just God would allow injustice of this magnitude

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