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The Kennedy Assassination: Timeline of the day

50 years ago today, the world was altered indelibly. Here’s how it unfolded.

FIFTY YEARS AGO today one of the most iconic figures in Western politics went to Dallas to raise funds for a presidential election that was now just a year away.

What would unfold over the next few hours would change the face of America.

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(Note: this timeline presupposes that Oswald was at least involved in the shooting. The entries are based on record and testimony. For more on the conspiracies, click here.)

7.00am: Kennedy begins his day in the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. His personal secretary Evelyn Lincoln recalls that he was in a “very happy mood”.

Kennedy is in Texas to quell Democratic Party tensions in the State, as well as fundraising ahead of the 1964 Presidential election.

7.10am: Lee Harvey Oswald arrives at the home of Lesley Frazier, a work colleague. Frazier gets into his car and notices a Oswald has a  ”package” on the back seat. Oswald tells him it is a curtain rail and they proceed to work at the Texas Book Depository.

7.30am: Kennedy enjoys a breakfast in the hotel of soft-boiled egg, bacon and dry toast.

7.56am: Oswald arrives for work.

8.40am: Kennedy emerges from his suite. He walks across the street to give a speech in front of the Hotel Texas. He speaks briefly to around 5,000 people who chant “Where’s Jackie?”, looking for the First Lady. Kennedy points to the hotel suite and says she takes longer getting ready, but “she looks better”.

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9.20am: In a flash of bulbs and light, Jackie Kennedy arrives wearing a bright pink suit and pillbox hat.

9.25am: Kennedy speaks to the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He laments the lack of focus given to his wardrobe.

Everybody waits to see what Jacqueline will wear, and they never pay attention to what you and I wear, Lyndon. Nobody cares what we wear.

9.50am: Kennedy finishes his speech and is presented with a cowboy hat and rattlesnake boots before morning prayers.


(Mobilecheese/YouTube)

10.15am: The Kennedys return to their hotel suite to prepare to leave for Dallas.

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10.40am: The Presidential motorcade hits the road to Carswell Naval Air Station in Fort Worth.

11.10am: Departure is delayed because of a show of support by Air Force personnel. Kennedy’s stock is high with the armed forces because of his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and there are lengthy queues to shake his hand at Carswell.

11.25am: Kennedy departs aboard Air Force One. He is followed by Vice-President Lyndon B Johnson in Air Force Two. The two don’t travel in the same vehicle for fear of an attack wiping out the executive of the USA.

11.40am: After a 15-minute flight, Air Force One touches down at Love Field in Dallas. Thousands of people have turned out to see the President and despite concerns over protests or anti-Kennedy sentiment, the crowd is nearly overwhelmingly behind the President, who still holds a 51.4 per cent approval rating.

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11.45am: Kennedy deplanes and is led to the limousine. He has earlier in the day eschewed a top on the limo, opting for a convertible version that would allow the crowds see him. The weather in Dallas is warm and sunny, despite drizzle earlier in the day in Fort Worth.

The Kennedys are joined in the limo by Texas Governor John Connally, his wife Nellie and two Secret Service agents: William Greer, a Tyrone native and Roy Kellerman, the agent designated to the President, who is codenamed “Lancer”.

11.50am: The motorcade stops for a young girl whose sign pleads for a hand shake. He is mobbed by, and shakes hands with, a number of children.

12.00pm: The motorcade pulls into downtown Dallas and the Kennedys wave to the crowds. There are an estimated 200,000 people along the route as the motorcade heads to the Dallas Trade Mart, where 2,500 wait to hear JFK speak.

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12.25pm: An unplanned right turn takes the motorcade off Main Street and down Houston Street. They then turn left on to Elm Street.

12.30pm: Kennedy is shot. As the limousine travels past the Texas School Book Depository, shots ring out around Dealey Plaza. At first, Jackie doesn’t realise anything is amiss.

“He had this sort of quizzical look on his face. I remember thinking he just looked as if he had a slight headache.

I remember falling on him and saying “Oh, my God, they have shot my husband,” and “I love you, Jack.”

“I remember I was shouting.”

Jackie scrambles towards the back of the car, where Secret Service agent Clint Hill climbs on top of her and lays down over the back seat. It is later reported that she was attempting to retrieve a part of Jack’s skull.

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Connally is also hit, in the chest. Nellie grabs him and pulls him onto her lap, a move that will unwittingly save his life.

The Kennedy car pauses between shots as Greer hesitates, rather than accelerating away. It is a mistake Greer claims will haunt him. The fatal shot is believed to have been fired in this pause.

Rufus Youngblood, the Secret Service agent travelling with Johnson, forces the Vice President down in the back of the trailing car.

The cars speed to nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital.

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12.32pm: Oswald is confronted in the lunchroom of the Texas School Book Depository by Dallas PD officer Marion Baker. He is vouched for by the building’s janitor Roy Truly and is released.

12.38pm: The President is rushed to an emergency room. He is in the care of Dr Charles Baxter, professor of surgery and neurosurgeon Dr William Kemp Clark.

As he is examined, the situation becomes clear to Baxter.

“Within only a few minutes, it was obvious that the situation for the president was hopeless.”

Kennedy has a heart attack on the table, but efforts to resuscitate him are pointless. The wound is his head is so grave that Jackie has carried a large piece of his skull into the trauma room.

Kennedy is all but gone, but a pronouncement is delayed to allow a priest administer the Last Rites.

12.40pm: Governor Connally, who has sustained a massive chest wound, is treated in another room.

In New York, Walter Cronkite breaks into CBS broadcasting and announces the President has been shot.


(Max Power/YouTube)

At the same time, Oswald leaves work at the Texas School Book Depository. He is seen on a bus that stops near Elm Street before getting a cab back to his house.

12.50pm: A casket is sourced for JFK.

12.57pm: Church chaplain Reverend Oscar Huber administers the Last Rites on Kennedy.

1pm: JFK is pronounced dead.

1.03pm: Oswald leaves his rooming house, armed with his pistol.

1.05pm: The US Cabinet plane, headed for Japan, turns back towards Hawaii. US Press Secretary Pierre Salinger is in constant contact with the White House Situation Room.

“After about 30 minutes, a voice came on: ‘Wayside, stand by.’ Wayside was my code name. About every 30 seconds for the next three or four minutes the voice would come back, ‘Wayside, stand by.’ Then finally, a voice, ‘Wayside, Lancer is dead.’ Lancer was the president’s code name.”

1.12pm: Police search the Texas Book Depository. There, they find a Carcano rifle and three casings.

1.15pm: Dallas PD officer JD Tippit is shot by Oswald in Oak Cliff. Oswald flees.

1.30pm: Lyndon B Johnson, who is now set to become the President of the United States, is rushing to Air Force One. As he does, a statement is prepared to announce the President’s death.

Johnson meets the plane shortly after 1.30pm. He refuses to leave Dallas without the body or Jackie Kennedy.

1.38pm: Walter Cronkite makes the announcement that the President is dead on CBS News.


(Becky Ellis/YouTube)

1.45pm: Oswald is cornered in a Dallas movie theatre. He wrestles with a Dallas PD officer, but is detained. A crowd has formed outside, baying for blood. He is taken to Dallas police headquarters.

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1.50pm: Back at Parkland, the hearse has arrived, but an argument has broken out over the removal of the body. Texas state law dictates that all violent deaths must have an autopsy carried out in-state. But Kennedy’s aides, including Kenny O’Donnell and Larry O’Brien, angrily disagree.

O’Brien is reported, possibly apocryphally, to say “What a god-awful place to die.”

O’Donnell, O’Brien and Dave Powers win out and Kennedy is loaded into a hearse at Parkland.

2pm: Johnson uses the phone aboard Air Force One to speak to Attorney General Robert F Kennedy. After offering his condolences, he asks Kennedy what he should do.

Bobby says that the oath should be carried out as soon as possible, so a call is put in to Federal Judge Sarah Hughes.

2.08pm: The hearse carrying the body of the 35th President of the United States leaves Parkland.

2.12pm: Judge Sarah Hughes, a longtime friend of the Johnsons, boards Air Force One and embraces both LBJ and Lady Bird.

2.15pm: The hearse arrives at Love Field. Two rows of seats and a partition are hastily removed and the body placed in the main compartment. Around the same time, Lee Harvey Oswald is questioned at Dallas PD headquarters.

2.30pm: Johnson asks Larry O’Brien if Jackie would like to be at the oath-swearing. He goes to the Presidential bedroom and asks her. On the way out, he picks up what he thinks is a Bible to be used to swear the new President in. It is actually JFK’s own prayer book.

2.38pm: Over the noise of the idling plane engine, Johnson takes the oath. His hand rests on Kennedy’s prayer book. Hughes becomes the first, and so far only, woman to administer the oath.

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2.47pm: After a short oath, Air Force One leaves Dallas. On board, Johnson phones Rose Kennedy.

Jackie turns to Larry O’Brien, Dave Powers and Kenny O’Donnell and says “You were there with him in the beginning and you were there with him in the end.”

3.45pm: Dallas PD search the apartment that Oswald rents. All they find is a gun holster, some letters and Communist pamphlets. In nearby Irving, detectives visit his Russian wife Marina.

She says her husband owns a rifle, but that it is in the garage under a blanket. When detectives lift the blanket, there is no rifle.

Marina is taken to Irving City Hall to make a statement.

4.55pm: District Attorney Henry Wade, a college and Navy room mate of Connally’s, visits Parkland and phones in to Dallas PD. He tells officers to charge Oswald with the murder of JFK.

5pm: Air Force One lands at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC. As those on the plane wait for a lift to remove the casket, Bobby Kennedy comes running up the steps, pushing past those on board.

He does not acknowledge the new President and heads straight to Jackie.

A military contingent is tasked with moving the coffin, but O’Brien asks that he and Kennedy’s closest allies be allowed do it.

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5.10pm: As JFK’s body is loaded into a Navy ambulance, Johnson faces the media, and the country, for the first time as President.

This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me it is a deep personal tragedy. I know the world shares the sorrow that Mrs Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help – and God’s.

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He leaves for the White House in a helicopter as the body is transported to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

7.10pm: Back in Dallas, Oswald is charged with Tippit’s killing and arraigned.

8.10pm: At Bethesda, Dave Powers, along with Kennedy’s personal valet George Thomas and Jackie pick out a suit for JFK to be buried in. They pick a blue suit with a white shirt and a solid blue tie.

8.27pm: Johnson leaves the White House for his home, The Elms.

11.30pm: The autopsy continues at Bethesda as O’Brien picks out a casket. The US Cabinet, which had been turned around from Japan finally lands at Andrews. Secretary of State Dean Rusk speaks.

“Those of us who had the honour of serving President Kennedy value the gallantry and wisdom he brought to the grave, awesome and lonely office of the presidency. President Johnson needs and deserves our fullest support.”

Midnight: Oswald is marched through Dallas PD headquarters, through a room thronged with reporters. DA Henry Wade, who has heard that the Police have charged Oswald as part of a communist conspiracy is there. He recalls meeting Oswald’s eventual assassin Jack Ruby.

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2.30am: Johnson, now the President of the USA, sleeps.

3.34am: The casket carrying John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, is driven up to the White House. His body is carried up the steps and set down.

Kennedy is just 46 and leaves behind two children.

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All pics: AP Photo

Read: John F Kennedy assassination: the conspiracy theories

Read: How JFK killing put TV at centre of homes

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