When Camelot came to Cowtown: Remembering JFK, 1963

Posted Sunday, Jul. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy Fifty years ago this week, Dallas and Fort Worth argued over airports, developers talked of an Arlington domed stadium, and the Dallas Cowboys first hit training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

In New Orleans, a man named Lee Oswald lost his job at a coffee company.

He would not work again until the Texas School Book Depository.

We are about to relive 1963 day-by-day, building up to Nov. 22 and a memory Dallas once dreaded.

Now, Dallas plans on being the center of attention to mark 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was killed at Dealey Plaza.

But along with Dallas, the world also will be watching Fort Worth.

The last hours of Camelot began at what is now the Hilton Fort Worth downtown, with a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast and a parking-lot speech out front at what is now the site of the JFK Tribute.

Much of that Fort Worth morning will be a centerpiece of a new National Geographic Channel documentary, JFK: The Final 24 Hours, remembering Kennedy’s trip through Texas on his way to Dallas.

“We have the speeches, but we also have these great stories of people in Fort Worth who got up early to see the president,” said Robert Erickson, the California-based producer.

Former Fort Worth Press reporter Julian Read, then Gov. John Connally’s press secretary, consulted on the project.

Crews visited in May to interview those who attended, including Chamber of Commerce breakfast guests and five women from the Carter-Riverside High School Class of 1964.

“It’s a delight to see these five ladies in photos, and then see them come to life at the JFK Tribute,” Erickson said.

“They came to the speech so early, the Secret Service wondered who they were. And the lovely people who lined the road in River Oaks [for a motorcade] and the art exhibit — I don’t want to upset anyone in the other cities, but Fort Worth absolutely rolled out the red carpet.”

Much of Fort Worth’s 50-year observance so far has centered around “Hotel Texas,” the art exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art of masterpieces assembled from private collections for the Kennedys’ suite at what is now the Hilton.

The exhibit comes to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth on Oct. 12. There also was talk of a commemorative breakfast, but nothing has been announced.

Dallas has a formal event at Dealey Plaza, but tickets are mostly reserved for Dallas County residents. Tarrant County residents can enter a limited drawing for a few seats.

Fort Worth doesn’t view the assassination the same way as Dallas, said Gene Smith of TCU and the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History.

“We have the Tribute downtown now where we can remember him every day,” Smith said.

“We remember JFK’s speech. To us, it’s about the excitement of that presidential visit. To Dallas, that’s where it all came to an end.”

This year, Fort Worth is where the memories begin.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy Get alerts at www.RebelMouse.com/budkennedy

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