Bud Kennedy

North Texas showing long-overdue reverence for JFK

DALLAS -- Dallas and Texas tried to forget the Kennedy assassination.

But the world demanded we remember.

A half-century later, city and county leaders will host a rare memorial ceremony next year at Dealey Plaza, meaning that for at least 45 minutes, dignity will displace souvenir hawkers and grassy-knoll nuts.

Nobody would dare say Dallas or Fort Worth is marketing the anniversary. Yet our cities obviously want to send a message of reverence about President John F. Kennedy's death on Nov. 22, 1963.

"This story is going to be told, and it's important that it be told by Dallas," former Mayor Ron Kirk said Tuesday. Now an ambassador and U.S. trade representative, he said his TV interviews elsewhere often include the Dallas theme and the Zapruder assassination film clip.

Current Mayor Mike Rawlings, a former Pizza Hut executive, spelled out the purpose.

"The story of Dallas' growth and success can only be understood in the context of this unspeakable tragedy," he said.

In other words, Dallas itself is on show.

The announcement for "The 50th," the ceremony marking the assassination, seemed at times like a Super Bowl news conference, with discussions of security, free-speech zones and street blockades.

A Dallas foundation has donated $500,000 for security. Crowds will be diverted to remote video-viewing locations around downtown, with protesters sent to City Hall.

National news coverage is a given. President Barack Obama has not said whether he will come, both Kirk and state Sen. Royce West said.

(Fort Worth will mark the anniversary by re-staging Kennedy's Chamber of Commerce breakfast in what is now the Hilton Fort Worth, where a new JFK Tribute statue stands on the plaza outside.)

Among the Dallas news conference guests Tuesday was former Fort Worth Press reporter Julian Read, Gov. John Connally's press secretary in 1963.

He pointed out that it took 25 years before Dallas County officials opened the Sixth Floor Museum.

"The fact is, for years there was nothing meaningful here to remember the assassination," he said.

"So many other voices dominated the dialogue -- the movies, the conspiracy authors. I'm proud Dallas finally stepped up to do something positive."

This welcome is not only about Dallas.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @budkennedy

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