Dealey Plaza Revisited
A web-only companion to the November 1998 issue, featuring the assassination of President Kennedy.
Although the assassination of President John F. Kennedy occurred 33 years ago, the controversy over the events surrounding the assassination has never died down. On this anniversary we visited the crucial sites connected with the assassination, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s boarding house on West Beckley to the site of the infamous backyard photographs. Our tour will provide you with photographs and descriptions of these sites, along with comments from four assassination experts about the importance of events that took place at these sites.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived at Dallas’ Love Field from Fort Worth at 11:37 in the morning. He was accompanied by Mrs. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and Texas governor and Mrs. John Connally. They were in Dallas as part of a tour for the 1964 Presidential campaign. The motorcade left Love Field and passed through downtown Dallas on Main Street, then turned north onto Houston Street (moving against the normal direction of traffic—the street had been blocked off) for one block. From Houston Street, the motorcade turned left onto Elm Street and moved towards the triple underpass. The entourage was on its way to the Trade Mart north of the central business district for a sold-out luncheon. At 12:30, as the open limousine carrying the Kennedys and the Connallys moved west on Elm past Dealey Plaza, shots rang out. They were fired at the motorcade on Elm Street, starting just past the oak tree on the north side of Elm and stopping before the limousine reached the second lamp post on the north side of the street. Both the President and the Governor were wounded. The limousine picked up speed and raced to the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room where Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00.
Police at Dealey questioned eye witnesses and immediately began searching the Texas School Book Depository, a textbook distribution facility facing Dealey Plaza at 411 Elm. They also searched the rail yard in back of the pergola on Dealey Plaza, and a fenced area north of Elm and west of the Depository later known as the grassy knoll (the grassy knoll is on the north side of Elm Street between the parking lots for the former School Book Depository and triple underpass, in front of and to the west of the Bryan Colonnade). No evidence was found. At 1:12, after a search of the School Book Depository, police discovered a barricade of boxes, three spent bullet cartridges, and a paper bag in the southeast corner window area on the sixth floor. Ten minutes later, they found a rifle betweeen boxes near the six floor staircase. This evidence, along with finger and palm prints on some of the boxes, was later linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, an order clerk who had begun work at the depository October 15, 1963.
Oswald had been seen on the sixth floor about 35 minutes before the motorcade passed the building. He had also been seen in the second-floor lunchroom about two minutes after the shooting. Police investigators had released him and Oswald left the building through the front door.
At 1:18, a call came in on the police radio that Dallas Patrolman J.D. Tippit had been shot at Tenth and Patton in the Oak Cliff section of town. Oswald was seen a few minutes later at the Hardy Shoe Store a few blocks away from the Tippit shooting. The witness, Johnny Brewer, led police to the Texas Theater where Oswald was arrested at 1:50. He was linked to both the Kennedy assassination and to the Tippit murder.
On November 24, as Oswald was being transferred from the City Jail to the County Jail, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a local night club owner. (Ruby was convicted and sentenced to death in March 1964, but the verdict was overturned in the fall of 1966. While awaiting a second trial, Ruby died of cancer at Parkland Hospital in January 1967.)
On November 29, 1963, President Johnson established a commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination. The Warren Commission made its findings public on September 24, 1964—it concluded that Oswald acted alone when he killed the President. Discrepancies in the Warren Report led to numerous subsequent official and unofficial investigations in succeeding years.
On January 2, 1979, the House of Representative’s Select Committee on Assassinations supported the Warren panel’s conclusion that Oswald fired the fatal shots. But, the committee also found that, based on audio recordings of the shooting taken from police radios at the time of the assassination, that a second gunman had fired at the motorcade from the grassy knoll. The House Select Committee concluded that President Kennedy “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
These findings were later repudiated by the FBI, and in 1988 the Justice Department formally closed the investigation into the assassination, concluding that there was no “persuasive evidence” of conspiracy.