On this day in 1963 John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated by sniper’s bullets at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a presidential motorcade at Dealey Plaza. Kennedy had flown to Dallas with Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, the First Lady and others to shore up support for their 1964 re-election and smooth over frictions in the Democratic Party between liberal Texas Congressmen Ralph and Don Yarborough (no relation) and their conservative Governor John Connally.
After the shots, Kennedy’s motorcade sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead At 1:00 p.m., CST after all heart activity had ceased. Father Oscar Huber administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Father Huber told The New York Times that the President was already dead by the time he arrived at the hospital, and he had to draw back a sheet covering the President’s face to administer the sacrament of Extreme Unction. Hours later aboard Air Force One, while waiting for the slain President’s body to arrive for the trip home, Johnson was sworn in as 36th President by federal district Judge Sarah T. Hughes, a long standing friend.
A ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission from November 1963 to September 1964 concluded that one Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial. In contrast to these conclusions of the Warren Commission, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded in 1979 that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
In an attempt at closure, the U.S. Justice Department has “concluded” active investigations and stated “that no persuasive evidence can be identified to support the theory of a conspiracy in … the assassination of President Kennedy.” However, Kennedy’s assassination is still the subject of widespread debate and has spawned numerous conspiracy theories and alternative scenarios. Polling in 2013 showed that 60% of Americans believe that a group of conspirators was responsible for the assassination.
The lingering doubts around Kennedy’s death may grow from profoundly deep grief, and the disbelief that his inspirational vision for a greater, fairer and more just society could so easily be swept away by something so mundane as one man with a gun.