50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy and C.S. Lewis deaths

“Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.”
First Lady of Texas Nellie Connally, spoken to President Kennedy moments before he was assassinated

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22: Fifty years ago today, a dark shadow fell over America: at approximately 12:40 p.m., news reports began echoing that President John F. Kennedy had been fatally shot. In the fifty years following the assassination of JFK, 40,000 books have been published on the former President; conspiracy theories are as timely as ever; new films are being released by notables like Tom Hanks and leading experts are still debating the events that took place that day.

AMERICA’S MOURNING OVERSHADOWED C.S. LEWIS: While this column is our main ReadTheSpirit overview of Kennedy’s death and legacy, we’ve got more fascinating reading on the passing of C.S. Lewis that same day in 1963. FIRST, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm interviewed HarperOne Publisher Mark Tauber about the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death. AND, Visual Parables faith-and-film writer Ed McNulty also is honoring C.S. Lewis this week.

Did you know? Any documents related to the Kennedy assassination that are not yet available to the public are scheduled for release in 2017. (Access the online National Archives of JFK Assassination Records here.)

Months before the assassination took place, President John F. Kennedy and his political advisers were readying for the next presidential campaign. So, President Kennedy began traveling the country and speaking to crowds of thousands about education, national security and world peace. Though extremists had contributed to political tensions in Dallas—and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been attacked—Kennedy welcomed a chance to be among the people. (Read a full story at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.)


Crowds of 150,000-to-200,000 bystanders had gathered that late morning to watch the President, First Lady, Governor Connally and Nellie Connally make their way through the streets of Dallas. (Wikipedia has details.) As the motorcade turned onto Elm Street, shots were fired—a first, which Governor Connally testified as sounding like a high-powered rifle, and another two, shot in close proximity and with a different sound. By the time the third bullet hit, President Kennedy had been fatally shot in the head and Governor Connally had been critically wounded through the chest. Later, aboard Air Force One, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy refused to change out of her blood-spattered, pink Chanel suit, because she wanted “them to see what they have done to Jack.”

Did you know? Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t arrested for killing JFK, but rather for shooting Dallas patrolman J.D. Tippitt—45 minutes after the fatal shot to Kennedy.

In the four days that followed the assassination, major television networks ran uninterrupted coverage of the event (it was the longest uninterrupted news event on television until coverage of the 9/11 attacks, in 2001). The Warren Commission took the next 10 months to conclude an investigation that has since stirred conspiracy theories throughout the country.

In 1978, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Kennedy was, indeed, likely assassinated as a result of a conspiracy, and faulty evidence—along with criticism of the Secret Service for failing to follow proper procedure— has only added to those conclusions. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, but was shot to death two days later by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, before he could testify in court. (Learn a few lesser-known facts about the assassination at CNN.com.)

The state funeral for JFK ensued on Monday, November 25, with representatives from more than 90 countries in attendance. Four days later, on Nov. 29, 1963, LIFE magazine published a series of pictures of the assassination, taken by amateur cameraman Abraham Zapruder. The “Zapruder film” lies in the National Archives and was last valued at $16 million. (View key stills from the film at LIFE.time.com.)


In time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy, an onslaught of books are hitting the market, with new takes on this decades-old event. Among them, a veteran journalist and scholar released Dallas 1963, to give the rundown on the extremists and radicals located in Dallas in the months leading up to that day. (USA Today reports.) The Kennedy Half-Century argues that an assassination—if not in Dallas, then somewhere else—was inevitable. A former speechwriter for the Kennedy administration recently penned The Accidental Victim, in which he concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald meant to kill Texas Gov. John Connally, and not Kennedy.

CBS News is set to stream the historic broadcast coverage of the JFK assassination Nov. 22-25, beginning with the news of the shooting, at 1:40 p.m. today. Current interviews and anniversary commemorations will stream throughout the weekend, too, ending with the news broadcast of Kennedy’s funeral on Nov. 25. CBS will also live-tweet the streaming coverage, and key moments from the footage will be available on demand at CBSNews.com.

CNN’s “The Assassination of President Kennedy” sets the stage of November 22, 1963 through archival material, rarely-seen interviews and newly released materials. (Newsday has the story.) Produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog, the two-hour film is earning positive reviews from critics.

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