November 21, 1963: President Kennedy in San Antonio
Last September, we posted an entry about John F. Kennedy’s visit to the Alamo in 1960 as part of his presidential campaign. This visit, however, was not Kennedy’s only visit to San Antonio; rather, he and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, were in the Alamo City on November 21, 1963, the day before he was assassinated in Dallas.
A photographic negative in the DRT Library’s Joseph Elicson Photograph Collection, above, captures one moment of the President’s time in San Antonio. It shows him sitting in an open Lincoln convertible next to First Lady Jackie Kennedy, just as he was the following day in Dallas. The image also shows then-Governor John Connally, barely visible, in front of the First Lady and his wife, Nellie Connally, in front of the president. Significantly, in Dallas the two reversed positions, and Gov. Connally was wounded by one of the bullets that hit President Kennedy. Research by former DRT Library intern Amy Canon revealed that the the Elicson photograph was taken in front of the Beneficial Finance & Thrift Co. Consulting a 1963 city directory, Canon discovered that the company was located at 202 Broadway in San Antonio.
San Antonio was the first stop of a planned two-day, five-city tour of Texas, which was held in preparation for Kennedy’s 1964 presidential campaign. While in the city, the President spoke at the dedication of four buildings in the complex that housed the United States Air Force Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks Air Force Base. According to the Handbook of Texas and other sources, Kennedy’s speech at this event was his final official act as president. On November 20, 1963, the San Antonio Express-News reported on the festivities occurring the next day at Brooks. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m., with President Kennedy scheduled to arrive at 2:25 p.m. “An open house at the aerospace school will begin at 11 a.m.,” the newspaper article stated. “Guided tours will begin at noon, and visitors may expect to see such facilities as the high-altitude simulation chambers, space suits and the gravity-simulating centrifuge. At 1 p.m., the Air Force Band of the West, from Lackland, will begin a band concert.” Furthermore, the article described the scene of the dedication, stating that “on either side of the speaker’s platform will be the shell of an X15 [aircraft] and a model of the X20 Dynasoar spacecraft.”
For Further Research [updated February 10, 2012]:
An audio recording and transcript of the speech given by President Kennedy at Brooks Air Force Base are available through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website. The website also provides contextual information about the president’s 1963 trip to Texas and his assassination in Dallas, and users can see archival footage of President Kennedy in San Antonio as part of the nineteen-minute film “The Last Two Days.”