The assassination of President John F Kennedy remains one of the most shocking moments in 20th-century presidential history. The location of the shooting is well known, but when was JFK shot, when did he die, and what else happened over that weekend?
When was JFK shot?
President Kennedy was part of a motorcade through Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. He was shot at around 12:30 pm as a sniper aimed at his open-top car during this journey. JFK was pronounced dead at 1:00, and the news was made official at 1:33. Lee Harvey Oswald was later arrested for the crime.
The timeline of events over the day of the assassination is fascinating, but the story extends much further over the ensuing weekend. Between 12:30 on Friday and the afternoon of the following Monday, the president had been killed and buried, and his shooter arrested and murdered.
Friday, November 22nd: The Motorcade and Fatal Shots
The presidential motorcade in Dallas was a chance for local people to see the president and show their love before his official business. Officials carefully planned out a route to the Dallas Market Center, where he was due to have a lunch meeting. The plan was to drive slowly over a 10-mile course for maximum exposure for 45 minutes. They left Love Field at 11:40 and followed the route toward the meeting.
The motorcade ran a little late, and it wasn’t until 12:30 that it reached Dealey Plaza. Here, it passed the Texas School Book Depository down Elm Street. This was when the shot rang out. Three shots in total are said to have been fired from this location, with bullets striking Kennedy.
Friday, November 22nd: President Kennedy’s Death
President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 pm, just a half-hour after the shots were fired. There was some heart activity while he was being taken from the motorcade to the hospital, but his injuries were fatal. At the time, Jacqueline Kennedy had been seen holding his head and allegedly trying to retrieve skull fragments.
The official announcement from the White House came a little later. This allowed for time to create an official address and for a priest of the Roman Catholic Church to administer the last rites to the deceased president. The world found out for certain at 1:33 pm, although many had already assumed the worst.
That Friday evening saw the autopsy take place. It was important to establish the cause of death and handle proceedings as quickly as possible so that Kennedy could then be laid to rest. The procedure took place between 8 pm and midnight in the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. This was at the request of Kennedy’s widow due to his previous role in the navy. Not long after this, his body was transported from Parkland Memorial Hospital to be transported back to Washington on Air Force One.
Friday, November 22nd: Johnson and Oswald
The timeline of events on November 22nd doesn’t just revolve around President John Kennedy and Mrs Kennedy. At the time of Kennedy’s death, Lee Harvey Oswald was still at large and wanted by police. His description had been taken by a local worker, who saw Oswald with a rifle in the window. It was communicated to law enforcement between then and 12:55, with the exits of the depository also sealed off around that time.
Oswald had left the scene but was spotted in a nearby store before entering the Texas Theatre. The store owner told the theatre clerk, who then called the police around 10 minutes after the announcement of Kennedy’s death. A short while later, Oswald was arrested and is said to have resisted and drawn a pistol.
Following the dramatic capture of Oswald, the ceremony to formally declare Vice President Lyndon B Johnson as the new President of the United States took place. The proceedings were quick and simple compared to those of most inaugurations. Power needed to be transferred speedily, so the nation wasn’t without a leader. This was automatic at the moment of death but had to be made official by a federal judge. Lyndon B Johnson took his oath of office on Air Force One at 2:38 pm before flying back to the United States capital.
Sunday, November 24th: The Death of Oswald
On Sunday, Lee Harvey Oswald was in the process of being transferred from the city jail to the county jail when he was shot. The incident occurred in the basement of the Dallas Police headquarters and was captured on film by news broadcasters. A nightclub owner named Jack Ruby shot Oswald at 11:21 am and was subsequently arrested. Oswald was also taken to Parkland Hospital and died from his injuries at 1:07 pm.
Monday, November 25th: Kennedy’s Funeral
John F Kennedy’s remains were brought to the United States Capitol, where he would lie in state as part of the national period of mourning on Sunday. The next day, Monday, November 25th, a state funeral took place. There was a mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral before he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
The timeline of events from the death of President John Kennedy to his funeral is a complex and shocking one but also much shorter than one might imagine. Everything from the shooting to the transference of power and the funeral occurred within just four days. What makes this more remarkable is that everything surrounding the arrest and death of Oswald followed a similar path.
There will always be debate over exactly what happened on November 22nd, 1963. Many simply do not believe the official story or that Oswald was responsible for the fatal shot. Whatever the truth, two men were fatally shot in Dallas on that infamous November weekend, and the JFK assassination will be remembered for many years to come.