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JFK Assassination 50 Years Later The Wichita Falls Connection

Friday marks 50- years since the fatal shots were fired, not far at all from our homes here in Texoma, that claimed the life of an American president.
Friday marks 50- years since the fatal shots were fired, not far at all from our homes here in Texoma, that claimed the life of an American president.

Since President John F. Kennedy's life was cut short by Lee Harvey Oswald, Wichita Falls has been connected in some very intriguing ways to one of the darkest periods in American history.

JFK's connections to Wichita Falls include a quick stop in his presidential campaign of 1960,

Less than three years later, a Wichita Falls man would be there when Kennedy's presidency came to a sudden end in Dallas.


Graham Purcell/Former 13th District Congressman: "The parade was going to be at high noon So at least secretaries from law offices would be out on the streets. Turns out, there was a huge crowd all the way from Love Field to downtown. Everybody was happy about it and feeling good."

The late Graham Purcell was sitting just three cars behind the president's in the motorcade.

The night before, he'd sat and talked with President Kennedy on Air Force One between Houston and Fort Worth.

"We talked about how successful the trip had been because we were afraid it wouldn't be. In San Antonio, Houston were huge crowds, enthusiasm, pleasant appearances, people smiling. So, it was a good feeling for everyone that night. It's saddening every time I think about it, or talk about it."

President Kennedy was in Texas for political reasons.

Texas was a pivotal and worrisome state in his re- election plans.

So he and his democratic hosts were pleasantly surprised to find the welcome as warm and bright as the Texas sun.

Then...

"Turned off Main Street onto right behind the old courthouse. I was looking on top of that school storage building. There were two policemen, one on each end of the building. I was thinking, what a burden it is to have the president come to your town. About that time, the shots rang out, and I thought they were firecrackers."

WBAP: "It appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route. There has been a shooting. Parkland Hospital has been advised to stand by for a severe gunshot wound."

Purcell: "Two Catholic priests came out of the back of the hospital. We asked them if they knew what had happened to the President. The young priest said father so and so here just gave the last rights to the President. He's dead. That's the way we really knew it. Then we stood there, the whole Texas Delegation that was there, and we didn't know what to do. It was like being in a stadium and seeing an act. It wasn't real."

50- years after President Kennedy spent his last remaining seconds here in downtown Dallas in- front of the Book Depository Building, visitors still feel his presence here in Dealey Plaza, and the pain they felt not so long ago.

John Day/Ontario, Canada Resident: "Oh, I feel a twinge, a twinge. I feel emotionally connected in a certain way, because watching it on T.V. live, and like you were here. It was just such a shock, and my heart hurts. It hurts and I'm Canadian, but it hurt. I remember that so well."

Lynda Maxwell/Ontario, Canada Resident: "All over the world. We were sobbing. I was in high school, finished an exam, and we were just crying on the school bus on the way home. We just couldn't believe it. Just unbelievable."

"The 6th Floor Museum in the Texas School Book Depository building attracts nearly 350- thousand visitors each year. Just some of what you'll see here, Oswald's perch, re- created from police photographs that show where the actual shots were fired. Directly above, up here on the 7th floor, you can really get an idea of what Oswald was seeing when he turned Dealey Plaza into a killing zone."

Almost from the very beginning, many people were crying conspiracy, especially when Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down just 2- days after the assassination.

Oswald's brother, Robert Oswald, who's a Wichita Falls resident, did not buy into the conspiracy theories, though.

In fact, he may have reiterated that belief a few years later in this special panel interview at KFDX.

Congressman Purcell never bought into the theories either.


Oswald: "I've spent years on it. I've thought about it, consciously, sub consciously, and the only conclusion I can come to, is that he did in fact kill the President of the United States, Shot the police officer, J.D. Tippit, etc."

Purcell: "This business of a grassy mole, or knoll is silly. It could not have been but one shooter, and I'm sure it was Oswald, because they found 3- empty shells in that 5th story window where he was shooting from. So, that's the way it happened."

Down below that window today, locations where President Kennedy was shot are marked on Elm Street, and are a reminder of such a tragic period forever logged in American history, as is this Eternal Flame, still burning at Arlington Cemetery.

They're reminders of how the United States of America was changed, in only an instant, but also of how it never will forget.

Congressman Purcell would fly out to Washington in the 2nd plane, just behind Air Force One, carrying the President's coffin, his widow, and the new 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson.

Also, another interesting note, after a Dallas jury convicted Jack Ruby of murdering Oswald and sentenced him to death, an appeal won Ruby a new trial in 1967.

That was slated to be held in Wichita Falls.

Ruby became sick, though, and died in prison before that trial could begin.
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