JFK50GT - A Day In Dallas
John F Kennedy GeoTrail
JFK - A Day In Dallas

JFK50GT #3: Craddock Park

The Motorcade begins

The Presidential Motorcade leaves Love Field with the President and First Lady in the back seats of their limousine, following the lead vehicle, an unmarked white Ford driven by Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry. The rain has subsided and the sunshine is out on this brisk autumn day, so President Kennedy has opted to enjoy the trip without the plastic bubble that can be fitted over the passenger compartment. The bubble is good for inclement weather, but it was not bulletproof or designed to repel an attack. Facing the Kennedys in the middle seats were Governor John Connelly and his wife, Nellie. Driving the Presidential limousine was Agent William Greer, with Advance Agent Roy Kellerman in the passenger seat.

Even at the start of the 9.5 mile route through downtown Dallas and then to the Trade Mart, the Kennedy's are overwhelmed by their warm welcome.

Behind the Kennedy's car was a convertible follow-up car with 10 agents either riding along or walking up by the side of the Presidential vehicle at places along the route where the crowds were heavy. They were accompanied by a motorcycle escort of 4 Dallas Police Officers. Following these 3 cars was the Vice Presidential limousine with LBJ, Lady Bird Johnson, and Senator Ralph Yarborough in the back, with a Dallas Police Officer driving and a Presidential Agent in the front passenger seat. They were followed by a hardtop Vice Presidential follow-up car. Finally in the procession were two press pool cars primarily for the photographers and a press bus carrying many of the local and national news people covering the event.

After leaving Love Field through the airport's south entrance, the motorcade turned left onto Mockingbird, then right onto Lemmon Avenue, where the crowds were not as heavy ass at Love Field, but spectators along the entire route were positioned to catch a glimpse of the President and his wife. As Lemmon Avenue intersected with Lomo Alto, several boys playing in the park waved their sign vigorously to catch President Kennedy's attention. Their sign read, "Mr. President, please stop and shake our hands". He saws their sign and brought the car to a halt and did just that: he shook hands with each of the boys and wished them well, then ordered the motorcade forward until a short way down the street, where he saw a nun with Catholic schoolchildren. He stopped again to greet them, and then the motorcade was on its way to Turtle Creek Boulevard, Cedar Springs Road, and finally North Harwood Street which lead southwards from Love Field into downtown Dallas.

The Presidential Motorcade turns onto Main Street, greeted by red, white, and blue bunting and large crowds.

 

Deep into the heart of Texas, the outpouring of support exceeds expectations. While many Texas politicians didn't want to get close to Kennedy, the general public couldn't get close enough.

Upon reaching Main Street, the crowds became thick and the progress through downtown slow. Interestingly, as the motorcade turned right onto Main Street from North Harwood Street, the building on the corner right where they turned was the building where Kennedy's assassin would be shot and killed in 2 days. This would be the same day as Kennedy's funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, as well as John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s third birthday.

The motorcade headed westward down Main Street, all the way through downtown Dallas, until finally they made a right turn onto North Houston Street, which is usually a one-way road heading in the other direction (south). After driving just a single block on Houston, they made a sharp left turn onto Elm Street, right in front of the Texas School Book Depository. This final turn onto Elm Street marked the last few hundred feet of the motorcade route since the winding descent of Elm Street is less than 2 blocks long before running underneath a triple overpass then sweeping right up onto Highway I-35 where they were to head towards the Trade Mart, just a short way up the highway.

I made this photo of the intersection of North Houston & Elm, with the Book Depository looming above on the left. The photo was taken in early November 2013, nearly 50 years after Kennedy's motorcade made this last turn. The area still looks much as it did in 1963.

 

Looking down Elm Street, it seems even more sad that this short distance was all that stood between President Kennedy and his surviving this final gauntlet in Dallas. In the foreground on the far right, you can see an "X" in the road, which is the site where President Kennedy was first struck in the back (by the second of three bullets that were shot). Further down the road, you can see a common site almost every day in Dallas: someone standing in the middle of the road, getting their picture taken while standing on the "X" that marks the spot where President Kennedy was fatally wounded. In case you can't see the bright green hill of grass on the right, the city has helpfully marked it with a giant yellow "Grassy Knoll" sign.