As James Reston, Jr. put it: "The origin of President John F. Kennedy's 

trip to Texas in November 1963 is a subject which has passed through the

prism of shame and collective guilt and emerged as a blur."(1)  Did 

Kennedy travel to Texas in order to patch up a political feud between

the Hatfield/McCoy Democrats in that state?  Was he there in order to

raise funds?  Even now it isn't absolutely certain what reason or

reasons moved Kennedy to fly to Texas and to Dallas.  Certainly, one would

not have predicted, prior to the trip, that Dallas would love President



To be sure, after the trip was announced by the White House on September

26 as a two-day tour, the majority sentiment, as expressed in the local

Dallas newspapers, was generally favorable.  Dallas citizens apparently

wanted to welcome Kennedy in style.(2)  And yet other, more sinister

elements lurked in Dallas, as they lurk in all cities.


In 1960, Lyndon B. Johnson himself had been spat upon while visiting

Dallas. Shortly before the President's trip, on October 24, Adlai

Stevenson had been hit with placards wielded by hostile followers of

right-wing Major General (Ret.) Edwin Walker.(3)  The day before Kennedy's

visit to Dallas, "Wanted for Treason" posters, featuring a picture of

Kennedy, were circulated on Dallas streets.  And on the very morning of

Kennedy's last day on earth, the "Dallas Morning News" printed a paid

advertisement headed "Welcome President Kennedy to Dallas", an

advertisement featuring a series of questions very critical of Kennedy's



Kennedy himself was aware of Dallas's reputation; on the morning of

November 22, after having read the "Dallas Morning News", he handed the

paper to Jackie, saying: "Can you imagine a newspaper doing that?  We're

headed into nut country now"(5)  Apparently considering the possible

implications of this, Kennedy then mused that, when it comes to

assassinating a President, "Anyone perched above the crowd with a rifle

could do it."(6)


With two Texas motorcades (in Houston and in San Antonio) behind them, a

brief one to the Fort Worth airport just ahead of them, and another

full-scale motorcade in Dallas only a few hours away, the Texas trip

would certainly afford a would-be sniper or snipers plenty of

opportunities to murder Jack Kennedy. 


Tragically, the concatenation of events which brought Kennedy to Elm

Street in Dealey Plaza were the result of the unpredictable outcomes of

quite ordinary political wrangling, with a dose of Murphey's Law thrown

in for spite. The Warren Commission, the HSCA, and James Reston, Jr.,

separately investigating the circumstances which brought Kennedy's

famous "bubble top" limousine to the assassination site all concluded

that the hands of fate and chance were at work.  Reston wrote of the

"Three Furies" which combined to bring Kennedy to Elm Street.(7)  The HSCA

noted that "In the end, ironically, it was the tension and compromise

between the two views [that is, the Connally/conservative wing and the

Yarborough/Kennedy liberal wing] that produced the fatal motor

cade route.  If either side had been able to dictate its desires without

compromise, the assassination might never have occurrred."(8)


Reston's analysis of the "Three Furies" is particularly illuminating. 

According to Connally, Kennedy had been pushing for a Texas trip since

even before Connally had been elected Governor in 1962.  Kennedy,

according to Connally, wanted money, plain and simple.(9)  In June of

1963, meeting in El Paso, Texas, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson tried to pin

Connally down to a date; Connally, as Governor of the state, was

expected to host the visit.  Kennedy suggested four fund-raising affairs

to celebrate Johnson's birthday on August 28.  Connally demurred, citing

the fact that, at such a hot time, many of the principal money men would

be out of state or otherwise unavailable.  Connally promised to think

about it and come up with a plan.  Apparently, the initial discussions

focused on a one-day trip, with time militating against any motorcades.


In late September the White House announced a two-day trip to Texas on

November 21-22.  On October 4, during a visit with Kennedy in

Washington, Connally formally acquiesed to the trip but suggested that

one fund-raiser would suffice and would raise as much money as four.  He

also suggested that it would be good if Jackie could come along as

well.  She was popular in her own right, and the politicos' wives were

anxious to see her and be seen with her.


Connally felt he had everything to lose and nothing to gain by Kennedy's

trip.  He was trying to establish himself as an independent factor,

neither a Johnson man or a Kennedy man.  And Connally's supporters (and

by far the ones with money) were conservative and anti-Kennedy.  In

contrast, Connally's rival Ralph Yarborough was seen as a liberal, a man

of the people.  Both of these men - and Yarborough suspected that

Connally and Johnson were in league against him - wanted to advance

their own interests. As White House advance man Jerry Bruno observed,

"With John Connally, it was always what was best for Dallas and

Texas..."(10)  As opposed to what was best for the President.


Connally, nominally in charge of the trip, had arranged for what came to

be the first Fury of the trip, the awarding to Kennedy of an honorary

degree by Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.  Kennedy was highly 

pleased with this. His Catholicism was still an issue with many people. 

TCU was a Protestant school.  Such an honor from such a school might

help Kennedy's image with some Protestants.  Advance man Jerry Bruno,

when he visited Connally and Dallas on October 28, was given to

understand that the TCU honorary degree was a done deal.(11) 


The plan at this point was for a mid-morning ceremony followed by a

liesurely drive to a luncheon in Dallas.  No motorcade was planned.  But

apparently Kennedy's religion was even more of a question to some than

they had thought.  TCU decided against the degree and the schedule was

thrown into disarray.  Kennedy had planned, after having participated in

a testimonial dinner for veteran Congressman Albert Thomas in Houston,

to spend the night, saving time and energy.


But the TCU cancellation left dead space in the schedule.  Hastily, a

breakfast event was planned in Fort Worth, requiring a late-night entry

into that city.  Still, two hours were left unplanned so it was decided

that Kennedy would fly to Dallas and drive from Dallas's Love Field

airport to the luncheon site - a site as yet undetermined.


Kennedy, meanwhile, through his aide Kenneth O'Donnell, had expressed

interest in a motorcade.  Connally was opposed, citing reasons of

overworking the President - he felt that Kennedy would make the best

impression if he was fresh.  Connally ultimately gave in on this issue

and tentative planning was begun.  However, the motorcade route was

dependent upon the location of the luncheon; that decision was not made

until November 15, only one week before the visit.


Connally, for reasons that are still in dispute, was absolutely

insistent upon holding the luncheon at the new Trade Mart, near the

airport along the Stemmons Freeway.  Kennedy and O'Donnell wanted to

hold it at the Women's Building, near the Fairgrounds.  The Secret

Service concurred, believing that the Women's Building would be easier

to secure.  Connally perhaps wanted to limit the size of the crowd,

excluding as many of Yarborough's supporters as he could.  Yarborough

pushed for the larger Women's Building. In the event, Connally got his

way, threatening to pull his support if the Trade Mart was not chosen. 

O'Donnell felt he had no choice but to go along.(12)


And so the third Fury - after the TCU cancellation and the decision to

hold a motorcade - roared into play.  Had the luncheon been held at the

Women's Building, the plans called for the motorcade to proceed from

Love Field directly to the Stemmons Freeway, exit at Main Street in

Dealy Plaza, and proceed at an approximate speed of forty miles per hour

to the corner of Houston and Main, where it would slow to the customary

motorcade speed.(13)  Had this happened, locations along Elm Street, such

as the Texas School Book Depository or the grassy knoll would have been

effectively neutralized as likely places from which to fire at the



Aside from the fact that Kennedy would have been much farther away, and

aside from the fact that the target would have represented a fast-moving

cross shot rather than a slowly-moving enfilade shot, the view of

Kennedy would have been partially obscured by his wife, sitting to his

left.  Those who believe that the assassination was a long-planned

conspiracy, involving setting up Oswald as a patsy or otherwise

communicating with or about Lee Harvey Oswald would do well to note that

had Connally not insisted on the Trade Mart as a luncheon site, all that

conspiratorial planning would have been for nought.  And since Oswald's

presence in the Texas School Book Depository on November 22 was also the

result of non-suspicious, happenstance circumstances, (the subject of

another article) one can only wonder just how Conspiracy Central managed

to pull it all off.


But whatever the implications for potential assassins, when Connally got

his way and the luncheon was planned for the Trade Mart a week before

the trip, the stage was set for the people in Dealey Plaza to become

extraordinary witnesses, whose recollections have been subjected to the

most intense scrutiny, rather than "mere" spectators who might, from

time to time, pull out the old pictures of Kennedy driving by them in

Dallas for bored grandchildren.


1 Reston, James Jr. TheLone Star: The Life of John Connally New York:

Harper & Row, 1989 p. 237 2 WCR, p.55


3 Reston, p. 242


4 WCR, p. 56


5 Reston, p. 273


6 Bishop, Jim The Day Kennedy Was Shot New York: Harper Perennial

edition, 1992, p. 29 (first published in 1968 by Funk & Wagnalls)


7 Reston, p. 255


8 11 HSCA 507


9 Reston, p. 240.  See also "Life" magazine, 11/25/66 and Connally's

testimony to the HSCA, HSCA 1 11+


10 Reston, p. 259


11 Reston, p. 255


12 Reston, p. 642 (excerpt from Jerry Bruno's diary)


13 11 HSCA 508