On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. During the course of our work we have accumulated a wealth of material related to the aftermath of JFK's assassination. Below are some highlights, including a selection of calls from Air Force One enroute from Dallas to Washington. The plane was carrying a newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson along with the slain president's body.
[Click on the titles to listen and read the Transcript+Clips]
Some 30 minutes after leaving Dallas aboard Air Force One after President Kennedy's assassination, President and Mrs. Johnson placed a telephone call to the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. The Johnsons offered their condolences to Mrs. Rose Kennedy, mother of the late President. Sergeant Joseph Ayres, the steward aboard Air Force One who initially talked with Mrs. Kennedy, would later tell William Manchester that he had to check himself from saying "President" Johnson. But Rose Kennedy used the appellation without hesitation.
During the flight aboard Air Force One from Dallas back to Washington immediately following President Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson made some calls that were routed through the White House. Shortly after expressing their condolences to Mrs. Rose Kennedy, the Johnsons spoke to Nellie Connally, wife of John Connally. The Texas governor, the only other casualty in Dealey Plaza, was one of President Johnson's closest political associates, having managed Johnson's 1960 campaign for the presidency.
Approximately 35,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean and 900 hundred miles west of Honolulu, the VIP Boeing 707 known as SAM 86972 was carrying six members of the Cabinet and Pierre Salinger to a conference in Tokyo when it received a garbled but alarming bulletin over the UPI∇ teletype. At Dean Rusk∇'s instruction, press secretary Pierre Salinger contacted the White House Situation Room to confirm the news about shots being fired at the President's motorcade in Dallas. Navy Commander Oliver Hallett took the inquiry from Salinger, who could not remember any code names but his own. Hallett struggled to deliver the blood-curdling confirmation dispassionately, though misstatements and his tone betrayed Hallett's own shock at the news.
At 1:33 P.M. CST, acting press secretary Malcolm Kilduff confirmed at a Dallas news conference that President Kennedy died, officially, at 1:00 P.M. CST. Within minutes the information was relayed to the Boeing 707 (known by its tail number 86972) carrying Pierre Salinger and six members of the Cabinet who had been heading toward Japan.
Of all the congressional members on the Warren Commission, Ford was the least known to President Johnson. He had been first elected to the House in 1948, the same year Johnson won his Senate seat. Ford's first and only intensive encournter with Lyndon Johnson had occurred in 1957, when both men served on a bipartisan House-Senate committee formed to draft the legislation creating NASA∇.
The full text of the entire volume of annotated transcripts of the LBJ recordings from November 22 to November 30, 1962, is available here. It includes the complete set of Air Force One calls enroute from Dallas to Washington. The volume was edited by former Miller Center scholar Max Holland.