Air Force One landed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth on Thursday evening, November 21, 1963. The Presidential entourage was greeted by thousands along an approximately nine mile motorcade route through the neighborhoods of west Fort Worth to the Hotel Texas at the center of downtown.
A cold rain blanketed the region the next morning, Friday, November 22, 1963. Despite the weather and contrary to predictions of an equally cool reception by Texans, a huge crowd assembled outside the hotel hoping to see the President. The future Speaker of the U.S. House Representatives, Fort Worth Congressman Jim Wright, was with the President as he walked outside to speak to those who endured the cold wet morning. Over Secret Service objections, the President took the time to deliver remarks to the drenched but appreciative audience. His heartfelt comments reflected his vision for a prosperous future for the United States: his respect for the courage, strength, and importance of our military defense and Fort Worth’s invaluable role therein; his dedication to exploration of the new environment—space; and his knowledge that, through leadership, we could overcome any challenges that lay ahead. The grateful throng applauded warmly and clamored for a handshake.
He left the appreciative outdoor audience and returned to the hotel to join Mrs. Kennedy and deliver his remarks at the Chamber of Commerce Breakfast. Among those at the head table were Congressman Wright; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; Governor John Connally; Mayor Bayard Friedman of Fort Worth. In the audience were hundreds of governmental, municipal, civic, business, academic, and community leaders. That speech — a more formal presentation of the issues referenced in his impromptu outdoor address — expanded upon topics like Fort Worth’s pivotal role in aviation, military history, and national defense; anxieties abroad; and the aspirations and practicalities of space exploration.
Breakfast ended, and the President retired to his room where he and Mrs. Kennedy only then realized that the art on the walls and sculptures in their suite were something quite special—not reproductions, but masterworks assembled from local private collections specifically for the Kennedy’s brief stay. After a phone call thanking the art organizer, Ruth Carter Johnson, and a discussion of the anticipated events of the day, the Kennedys left the hotel, joined the motorcade, departed and drove down Main Street through a ticker tape parade enjoyed by thousands more lining the sidewalks. Elected officials followed en route to Carswell Air Force Base and then to Dallas for the next engagement.
By commemorating John F. Kennedy’s timeless vision and immutable ideals of courage, discovery and leadership, the JFK Tribute in Fort Worth highlights how even a moment in history can uplift and inspire, reflecting timeless themes that are as important today as they were nearly 50 years ago.
EXTENDING THE TRIBUTE’S REACH
As Robert Kennedy said in his foreword to the 1963 edition of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, “[It] is not just the stories of the past but … hope and confidence for the future. What happens to the country, to the world, depends on what we do with what others have left us.”
Even as we highlight JFK’s stay and final speeches by opening this powerful tribute to the man, the era and the power of ideas, those who have supported the effort have the future at the forefront. The Tribute not only marks an important moment in Fort Worth’s history, it also provides educational opportunities to share the spirit and optimism of the times with residents of the area, visitors, and school children. On site at the JFK Tribute, guests will see the sculpture of President Kennedy, view bold images that capture moments in time through archival photographs, and inscriptions describing his stay in Fort Worth. In addition, both an audio tour and downloadable transcripts of the two speeches he made that day will be available via mobile devices or from anywhere there is internet access. Also via the internet, teachers can access study and instruction and self-study guides developed for elementary, middle and high school students.
The physical Tribute and its on-line counterparts are structured to offer a place for both contemplation and education, for today and the future.