Assassination of John F. Kennedy - DEATH OF THE PRESIDENT

Before his funeral, President Kennedy lies in repose in the East Room of the White House. Abbie Rowe took this public-domain photograph which is online via the JKF Presidential Library and Museum.

 

Lady Bird Johnson's diary records that Jackie Kennedy was shielding her husband's body when the stricken President's blood-stained limo arrived at Parkland Hospital. Rufus Youngblood, a Secret Service agent, heard her say:

They've murdered my husband! They've murdered my husband!

Doctors treating the President immediately knew that Kennedy would not survive. In Trauma Room One, Dr. Robert N. McClelland saw that the President's "head was almost destroyed." He noted that his "face was intact but not much else."

During the Warren Commission hearings, Dr. McClelland testified what he observed:

As I took the position at the head of the table that I have already described, to help out with the tracheotomy, I was in such a position that I could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted.

It had been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot so that the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half, as well as some of the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out.

There was a large amount of bleeding which was occurring mainly from the large venous channels in the skull which had been blasted open. (Robert N. McClelland, Warren Commission Hearings, Volume VI, page 33.)

A distraught secret service agent was seen beating the back of the President's car. Not since McKinley's death, at the turn of the century, had the country lost its leader to an assassin's bullet.

Soon reporters outside Parkland were broadcasting that a priest had been sent into the hospital. The President, a Catholic, was read the Last Rites.

At 1:00 p.m. CST, he was pronounced dead. At 1:22 p.m. Kenney O'Donnell told Lyndon Johnson:

He's gone.

For those alive at the time, the horrific events of the day are burned into one's memory. Who could ever forget Walter Cronkite's emotional announcement that the President had died?

Reporters were initially unsure of Vice President Johnson's whereabouts. A decision was made to have the Presidential party quickly leave Dallas for Washington.

Mrs. Kennedy accompanied her husband's body in the ambulance that brought him from Parkland to Air Force One. She arrived at the plane, ascending the stairs alone, at 2:02 CST.

Following a conversation with Bobby Kennedy, LBJ agreed he should be sworn-in as the 36th President of the United States before leaving Dallas. Judge Sarah Hughes was summoned to Love Field to administer the oath. 

At 2:40 p.m., Lyndon Baines Johnson, flanked by his wife and Mrs. Kennedy, took the oath aboard Air Force One.  At the time, he was fifty-five years old.

When the plane bearing JFK's body arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Mrs. Kennedy was still wearing her blood-stained suit. It is said she retorted, when urged to change her clothes, "I want them to see what they've done to Jack."

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 4460stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Jan 10, 2016


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