John Kennedy's Death Notice
page 1 of The New York Times, November 23, 1963]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
KENNEDY IS KILLED BY SNIPER AS HE RIDES IN CAR IN
JOHNSON SWORN IN ON PLANE
By TOM WICKER
Gov. Connally Shot; Mrs. Kennedy Safe
President Is Struck Down by a Rifle Shot From Building
on Motorcade Route--Johnson, Riding Behind, Is Unhurt
Special to The New York Times
Dallas, Nov. 22--President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was
shot and killed by an assassin today.
He died of a wound in the brain caused by a rifle
bullet that was fired at him as he was riding through
downtown Dallas in a motorcade.
Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was riding
in the third car behind Mr. Kennedy's, was sworn in as
the 36th President of the United States 99 minutes
after Mr. Kennedy's death.
Mr. Johnson is 55 years old; Mr. Kennedy was 46.
Shortly after the assassination, Lee H. Oswald, who
once defected to the Soviet Union and who has been
active in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, was
arrested by the Dallas police. Tonight he was accused
of the killing.
Suspect Captured After Scuffle
Oswald, 24 years old, was also accused of slaying a
policeman who had approached him in the street. Oswald
was subdued after a scuffle with a second policeman in
a nearby theater.
President Kennedy was shot at 12:30 P.M., Central
standard time (1:30 P.M., New York time). He was
pronounced dead at 1 P.M. and Mr. Johnson was sworn in
at 2:39 P.M.
Mr. Johnson, who was uninjured in the shooting, took
his oath in the Presidential jet plane as it stood on
the runway at Love Field. The body of Mr. Kennedy was
aboard. Immediately after the oath-taking, the plane
took off for Washington.
Standing beside the new President as Mr. Johnson took
the oath of office was Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Her
stockings were spattered with her husband's blood.
Gov. John B. Connally Jr. of Texas, who was riding in
the same car with Mr. Kennedy, was severely wounded in
the chest, ribs and arm. His condition was serious,
but not critical.
The killer fired the rifle from a building just off
the motorcade route. Mr. Kennedy, Governor Connally
and Mr. Johnson had just received an enthusiastic
welcome from a large crowd in downtown Dallas.
Mr. Kennedy apparently was hit by the first of what
witnesses believed were three shots. He was driven at
high speed to Dallas's Parkland Hospital. There, in an
emergency operating room, with only physicians and
nurses in attendance, he died without regaining
Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Connally and a Secret Service agent
were in the car with Mrs. Kennedy and Governor
Connally. Two Secret Service agents flanked the car.
Other than Mr. Connally, none of this group was
injured in the shooting. Mrs. Kennedy cried "Oh no!"
immediately after her husband was struck.
Mrs. Kennedy was in the hospital near her husband when
he died, but not in the operating room. When the body
was taken from the hospital in a bronze coffin about 2
P.M., Mrs. Kennedy walked beside it.
Her face was sorrowful. She looked steadily at the
floor. She still wore the raspberry-colored suit in
which she had greeted welcoming crowds in Fort Worth
and Dallas. But she had taken off the matching pillbox
hat she wore earlier in the day, and her dark hair was
windblown and tangled. Her hand rested lightly on her
husband's coffin as it was taken to a waiting hearse.
Mrs. Kennedy climbed in beside the coffin. Then the
ambulance drove to Love Field, and Mr. Kennedy's body
was placed aboard the Presidential jet. Mrs. Kennedy
then attended the swearing-in ceremony for Mr.
As Mr. Kennedy's body left Parkland Hospital, a few
stunned persons stood outside. Nurses and doctors,
whispering among themselves, looked from the window. A
larger crowd that had gathered earlier, before it was
known that the President was dead, had been dispersed
by Secret Service men and policemen.
Priests Administer Last Rites
Two priests administered last rites to Mr. Kennedy, a
Roman Catholic. They were the Very rev. Oscar Huber,
the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, and the
Rev. James Thompson.
Mr. Johnson was sworn in as President by Federal Judge
Sarah T. Hughes of the Northern District of Texas. She
was appointed to the judgeship by Mr. Kennedy in
The ceremony, delayed about five minutes for Mrs.
Kennedy's arrival, took place in the private
Presidential cabin in the rear of the plane.
About 25 to 30 persons--members of the late
President's staff, members of Congress who had been
accompanying the President on a two-day tour of Texas
cities and a few reporters--crowded into the little
No accurate listing of those present could be
obtained. Mrs. Kennedy stood at the left of Mr.
Johnson, her eyes and face showing the signs of
weeping that had apparently shaken her since she left
the hospital not long before.
Mrs. Johnson, wearing a beige dress, stood at her
As Judge Hughes read the brief oath of office, her
eyes, too, were red from weeping. Mr. Johnson's hands
rested on a black, leather-bound Bible as Judge Hughes
read and he repeated:
"I do solemnly swear that I will perform the duties of
the President of the United States to the best of my
ability and defend, protect and preserve the
Constitution of the United States."
Those 34 words made Lyndon Baines Johnson, one-time
farmboy and schoolteacher of Johnson City, the
Johnson Embraces Mrs. Kennedy
Mr. Johnson made no statement. He embraced Mrs.
Kennedy and she held his hand for a long moment. He
also embraced Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln,
Mr. Kennedy's private secretary.
"O.K.," Mr. Johnson said. "Let's get this plane back
At 2:46 P.M., seven minutes after he had become
President, 106 minutes after Mr. Kennedy had become
the fourth American President to succumb to an
assassin's wounds, the white and red jet took off for
In the cabin when Mr. Johnson took the oath was Cecil
Stoughton, an armed forces photographer assigned to
the White House.
Mr. Kennedy's staff members appeared stunned and
bewildered. Lawrence F. O'Brien, the Congressional
liaison officer, and P. Kenneth O'Donnell, the
appointment secretary, both long associates of Mr.
Kennedy, showed evidence of weeping. None had anything
Other staff members believed to be in the cabin for
the swearing-in included David F. Powers, the White
House receptionist; Miss Pamela Turnure, Mrs.
Kennedy's press secretary, and Malcolm Kilduff, the
assistant White House press secretary.
Mr. Kilduff announced the President's death, with
choked voice and red-rimmed eyes, at about 1:36 P.M.
"President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1
o'clock Central standard time today here in Dallas,"
Mr. Kilduff said at the hospital. "He died of a
gunshot wound in the brain. I have no other details
regarding the assassination of the President."
Mr. Kilduff also announced that Governor Connally had
been hit by a bullet or bullets and that Mr. Johnson,
who had not yet been sworn in, was safe in the
protective custody of the Secret Service at an
unannounced place, presumably the airplane at Love
Mr. Kilduff indicated that the President had been shot
once. Later medical reports raised the possibility
that there had been two wounds. But the death was
caused, as far as could be learned, by a massive wound
in the brain.
Later in the afternoon, Dr. Malcolm Perry, an
attending surgeon, and Dr. Kemp Clark, chief of
neurosurgery at Parkland Hospital, gave more details.
Mr. Kennedy was hit by a bullet in the throat, just
below the Adam's apple, they said. This wound had the
appearance of a bullet's entry.
Mr. Kennedy also had a massive, gaping wound in the
back and one on the right side of the head. However,
the doctors said it was impossible to determine
immediately whether the wounds had been caused by one
bullet or two.
Dr. Perry, the first physician to treat the President,
said a number of resuscitative measures had been
attempted, including oxygen, anesthesia, an
indotracheal tube, a tracheotomy, blood and fluids. An
electrocardiogram monitor was attached to measure Mr.
Kennedy's heart beats.
Dr. Clark was summoned and arrived in a minute or two.
By then, Dr. Perry said, Mr. Kennedy was "critically
ill and moribund," or near death.
Dr. Clark said that on his first sight of the
President, he had concluded immediately that Mr.
Kennedy could not live.
"It was apparent that the President had sustained a
lethal wound," he said. "A missile had gone in and out
of the back of his head causing external lacerations
and loss of brain tissue."
Shortly after he arrived, Dr. Clark said, "the
President lost his heart action by the
electrocardiogram." A closed-chest cardiograph massage
was attempted, as were other emergency resuscitation
Dr. Clark said these had produced "palpable pulses"
for a short time, but all were "to no avail."
In Operating Room 40 Minutes
The President was on the emergency table at the
hospital for about 40 minutes, the doctors said. At
the end, perhaps eight physicians were in Operating
Room No. 1, where Mr. Kennedy remained until his
death. Dr. Clark said it was difficult to determine
the exact moment of death, but the doctors said
officially that it occurred at 1 P.M.
Later, there were unofficial reports that Mr. Kennedy
had been killed instantly. The source of these
reports, Dr. Tom Shires, chief surgeon at the hospital
and professor of surgery at the University of Texas
Southwest Medical School, issued this statement
"Medically, it was apparent the president was not
alive when he was brought in. There was no spontaneous
respiration. He had dilated, fixed pupils. It was
obvious he had a lethal head wound.
"Technically, however, by using vigorous
resuscitation, intravenous tubes and all the usual
supportive measures, we were able to raise a semblance
of a heartbeat."
Dr. Shires said he was "positive it was impossible
that President Kennedy could have spoken after being
shot. "I am absolutely sure he never knew what hit
him," Dr. Shires said.
Dr. Shires was not present when Mr. Kennedy was being
treated at Parkland Hospital. He issued his statement,
however, after lengthy conferences with the doctors
who had attended the President.
Mr. Johnson remained in the hospital about 30 minutes
after Mr. Kennedy died.
The details of what happened when shots first rang
out, as the President's car moved along at about 25
miles an hour, were sketchy. Secret Service agents,
who might have given more details, were unavailable to
the press at first, and then returned to Washington
with President Johnson.
Kennedys Hailed at Breakfast
Mr. Kennedy had opened his day in Fort Worth, first
with a speech in a parking lot and then at a Chamber
of Commerce breakfast. The breakfast appearance was a
particular triumph for Mrs. Kennedy, who entered late
and was given an ovation.
Then the Presidential party, including Governor and
Mrs. Connally, flew on to Dallas, an eight- minute
flight. Mr. Johnson, as is customary, flew in a
separate plane. The President and the Vice President
do not travel together, out of fear of a double
At Love Field, Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy lingered for 10
minutes, shaking hands with an enthusiastic group
lining the fence. The group called itself "Grassroots
Mr. Kennedy then entered his open Lincoln convertible
at the head of the motorcade. He sat in the rear seat
on the right-hand side. Mrs. Kennedy, who appeared to
be enjoying one of the first political outings she had
ever made with her husband, sat at his left.
In the "jump" seat, directly ahead of Mr. Kennedy, sat
Governor Connally, with Mrs. Connally at his left in
another "jump" seat. A Secret Service agent was
driving and the two others ran alongside.
Behind the President's limousine was an open sedan
carrying a number of Secret Service agents. Behind
them, in an open convertible, rode Mr. and Mrs.
Johnson and Texas's senior Senator, Ralph W.
Yarborough, a Democrat.
The motorcade proceeded uneventfully along a 10-mile
route through downtown Dallas, aiming for the
Merchandise Mart. Mr. Kennedy was to address a group
of the city's leading citizens at a luncheon in his
In downtown Dallas, crowds were thick, enthusiastic
and cheering. The turnout was somewhat unusual for
this center of conservatism, where only a month ago
Adlai E. Stevenson was attacked by a rightist crowd.
It was also in Dallas, during the 1960 campaign, that
Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife were nearly
mobbed in the lobby of the Baker Hotel.
As the motorcade neared its end and the President's
car moved out of the thick crowds onto Stennonds
Freeway near the Merchandise Mart, Mrs. Connally
recalled later, "we were all very pleased with the
reception in downtown Dallas."
Approaching 3-Street Underpass
Behind the three leading cars were a string of others
carrying Texas and Dallas dignitaries, two buses of
reporters, several open cars carrying photographers
and other reporters, and a bus for White House staff
As Mrs. Connally recalled later, the President's car
was almost ready to go underneath a "triple underpass
beneath three streets--Elm, Commerce and Main--when
the first shot was fired.
That shot apparently struck Mr. Kennedy. Governor
Connally turned in his seat at the sound and appeared
immediately to be hit in the chest.
Mrs. Mary Norman of Dallas was standing at the curb
and at that moment was aiming her camera at the
President. She saw him slump forward, then slide down
in the seat.
"My God," Mrs. Norman screamed, as she recalled it
later, "he's shot!"
Mrs. Connally said that Mrs. Kennedy had reached and
"grabbed" her husband. Mrs. Connally put her arms
around the Governor. Mrs. Connally said that she and
Mrs. Kennedy had then ducked low in the car as it sped
Mrs. Connally's recollections were reported by Julian
Reade, an aide to the Governor.
Most reporters in the press buses were too far back to
see the shootings, but they observed some quick
scurrying by motor policemen accompanying the
motorcade. It was noted that the President's car had
picked up speed and raced away, but reporters were not
aware that anything serious had occurred until they
reached the Merchandise Mart two or three minutes
Rumors Spread at Trade Mart
Rumors of the shooting already were spreading through
the luncheon crowd of hundreds, which was having the
first course. No White House officials or Secret
Service agents were present, but the reporters were
taken quickly to Parkland Hospital on the strength of
There they encountered Senator Yarborough, white,
shaken and horrified.
The shots, he said, seemed to have come from the right
and the rear of the car in which he was riding, the
third in the motorcade. Another eyewitness, Mel
Crouch, a Dallas television reporter, reported that as
the shots rang out he saw a rifle extended and then
withdrawn from a window on the "fifth or sixth floor"
of the Texas Public School Book Depository. This is a
leased state building on Elm Street, to the right of
the motorcade route.
Senator Yarborough said there had been a slight pause
between the first two shots and a longer pause between
the second and third. A Secret Service man riding in
the Senator's car, the Senator said, immediately
ordered Mr. and Mrs. Johnson to get down below the
level of the doors. They did so, and Senator
Yarborough also got down.
The leading cars of the motorcade then pulled away at
high speed toward Parkland Hospital, which was not far
away, by the fast highway.
"We knew by the speed that something was terribly
wrong," Senator Yarborough reported. When he put his
head up, he said, he saw a Secret Serve man in the car
ahead beating his fists against the trunk deck of the
car in which he was riding, apparently in frustration
Mrs. Kennedy's Reaction
Only White House staff members spoke with Mrs.
Kennedy. A Dallas medical student, David Edwards, saw
her in Parkland Hospital while she was waiting for
news of her husband. He gave this description:
"The look in her eyes was like an animal that had been
trapped, like a little rabbit--brave, but fear was in
Dr. Clark was reported to have informed Mrs. Kennedy
of her husband's death.
No witnesses reported seeing or hearing any of the
Secret Service agents or policemen fire back. One
agent was seen to brandish a machine gun as the cars
sped away. Mr. Crouch observed a policeman falling to
the ground and pulling a weapon. But the events had
occurred so quickly that there was apparently nothing
for the men to shoot at.
Mr. Crouch said he saw two women, standing at a curb
to watch the motorcade pass, fall to the ground when
the shots rang out. He also saw a man snatch up his
little girl and run along the road. Policemen, he
said, immediately chased this man under the impression
he had been involved in the shooting, but Mr. Crouch
said he had been a fleeing spectator.
Mr. Kennedy's limousine--license No. GG300 under
District of Columbia registry--pulled up at the
emergency entrance of Parkland Hospital. Senator
Yarborough said the President had been carried inside
on a stretcher.
By the time reporters arrived at the hospital, the
police were guarding the Presidential car closely.
They would allow no one to approach it. A bucket of
water stood by the car, suggesting that the back seat
had been scrubbed out.
Robert Clark of the American Broadcasting Company, who
had been riding near the front of the motorcade, said
Mr. Kennedy was motionless when he was carried inside.
There was a great amount of blood on Mr. Kennedy's
suit and shirtfront and the front of his body, Mr.
Mrs. Kennedy was leaning over her husband when the car
stopped, Mr. Clark said, and he walked beside the
wheeled stretcher into the hospital. Mr. Connally sat
with his hands holding his stomach, his head bent
over. He, too, was moved into the hospital in a
stretcher, with Mrs. Connally at his side.
Robert McNeill of the National Broadcasting Company,
who also was in the reporters' pool car, jumped out at
the scene of the shooting. He said the police had
taken two eyewitnesses into custody--an 8-year-old
Negro boy and a white man--for informational purposes.
Many of these reports could not be verified
Eyewitness Describes Shooting
An unidentified Dallas man, interviewed on television
here, said he had been waving at the President when
the shots were fired. His belief was that Mr. Kennedy
had been struck twice-- once, as Mrs. Norman recalled,
when he slumped in his seat; again when he slid down
"It seemed to just knock him down," the man said.
Governor Connally's condition was reported as
"satisfactory" tonight after four hours in surgery at
Dr. Robert R. Shaw, a thoracic surgeon, operated on
the Governor to repair damage to his left chest.
Later, Dr. Shaw said Governor Connally had been hit in
the back just below the shoulder blade, and that the
bullet had gone completely through the Governor's
chest, taking out part of the fifth rib.
After leaving the body, he said, the bullet struck the
Governor's right wrist, causing a compound fracture.
It then lodged in the left thigh.
The thigh wound, Dr. Shaw said, was trivial. He said
the compound fracture would heal.
Dr. Shaw said it would be unwise for Governor Connally
to be moved in the next 10 to 14 days. Mrs. Connally
was remaining at his side tonight.
Tour by Mrs. Kennedy Unusual
Mrs. Kennedy's presence near her husband's bedside at
his death resulted from somewhat unusual
circumstances. She had rarely accompanied him on his
trips about the country and had almost never made
political trips with him.
The tour on which Mr. Kennedy was engaged yesterday
and today was only quasi-political; the only open
political activity was to have been a speech tonight
to a fund-raising dinner at the state capitol in
In visiting Texas, Mr. Kennedy was seeking to improve
his political fortunes in a pivotal state that he
barely won in 1960. He was also hoping to patch a
bitter internal dispute among Texas's Democrats.
At 8:45 A.M., when Mr. Kennedy left the Texas Hotel in
Fort Worth, where he spent his last night, to address
the parking lot crowd across the street, Mrs. Kennedy
was not with him. There appeared to be some
"Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself," the President
said good-naturedly. "It takes longer, but, of course,
she looks better than we do when she does it."
Later, Mrs. Kennedy appeared late at the Chamber of
Commerce breakfast in Fort Worth.
Again, Mr. Kennedy took note of her presence. "Two
years ago," he said, "I introduced myself in Paris by
saying that I was the man who had accompanied Mrs.
Kennedy to Paris. I am getting somewhat that same
sensation as I travel around Texas. Nobody wonders
what Lyndon and I wear."
The speech Mr. Kennedy never delivered at the
Merchandise Mart luncheon contained a passage
commenting on a recent preoccupation of his, and a
subject of much interest in this city, where
right-wing conservatism is the rule rather than the
Voices are being heard in the land, he said, "voices
preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality,
wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which
apparently assume that words will suffice without
weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and
that peace is a sign of weakness."
The speech went on: "At a time when the national debt
is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on
our economy, they see that debt as the greatest threat
to our security. At a time when we are steadily
reducing the number of Federal employees serving every
thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of
civil servants far more than the actual hordes of
"We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of
a decade ago, will 'talk sense to the American
people.' But we can hope that fewer people will listen
to nonsense. And the notion that this nation is headed
for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a
matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain