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Friday, March 5, 2021

InMarket: The ghosts of 1963

Editor’s note: A version of this column ran in 2012 when Fort Worth unveiled the statue of President Kennedy in General Worth Square.

As a delegate to the July 1960 Democratic National Convention, I shook Jack Kennedy’s hand in Los Angeles the night he was nominated for president. In September, I chatted with Amon Carter Jr. as we awaited Kennedy’s campaign motorcade in Burk Burnett Park. I sat on the Burk Burnett platform that day with Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn and shook Kennedy’s hand again. As administrative assistant to Sen. Bill Blakley, I stood with the senator on the snow-covered steps of the U.S. Senate on Jan. 20, 1961, for Kennedy’s inaugural address and saw the breath come out of his mouth when he uttered the words: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” My wife Wanda and I were present at the breakfast in the Texas Hotel that historic Friday morning of Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy gave his last speech on earth, very complimentary of Congressman Jim Wright. When the president had finished his talk, Fort Worth Press reporter Bill Aguren walked up to me and asked what I thought about the speech. He quoted me perfectly: “I saw him make many friends in the Texas delegation in Los Angeles. Whether his talk here will have the same magnetizing effect, I don’t know yet. But it is conceivable that he made many more friends here this morning.” While I say that Aguren quoted me perfectly, the only mistake he made in his story headlined “The Conservatives Loved JFK’s Talk” was that he attributed my remarks to Mayor Bayard Friedman, whom he identified in his story as the city’s No. 1 Republican. People often mistook me for the mayor. Bill Aguren was one of them. No. 1 Republican Bayard Friedman, back in Fort Worth, would not have been closer than 1,500 miles to that Los Angeles convention hall where JFK was nominated. At the end of the president’s talk, Raymond Buck, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, presented him with a Shady Oaks hat, which he declined to put on despite a swelling of commands from the audience: “Put it on!” He passed his hand over his famous locks and promised to put it on if we came to see him Monday in the White House. The following Monday, I stood across from the White House as his flag-draped casket came by on a caisson. In my mind I could hear, “Come to see me Monday in the White House and I will put it on for you.” How sad a sight is human happiness, to those whose thought can pierce beyond an hour! Returning to Fort Worth that Monday night, I stopped, got out and peered through the locked gates of Rose Hill Cemetery where the president’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was buried earlier in the day. Halloween spooky. Edgar Allan Poe stuff. Ghosts? I doubt that anyone else in the world was at both Arlington National in Washington and Rose Hill in Fort Worth on that same historical day. Don Woodard is a local businessman and author.

In Market is a column written from the perspective of a plugged-in business journalist about business happenings in and around Tarrant County. Got an idea for In Market? Robert Francis can be reached at rfrancis@bizpress.net.  

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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