I could hardly contain the excitement when my father, the late Earle Fletcher, told me that he, Mom (Liz), my brother Jim and I would be meeting Air Force One at Carswell Air Force Base on Nov. 21, 1963. Quite frankly, I envisioned a more intimate setting with President Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy and a few other dignitaries shaking our hands. In reality, my 12-year-old stature allowed me to see the top of Air Force One and some people walking down the ramp from far away. Aside from that, I saw the backs of a lot of coats in the throng in front of me on that nippy evening. Many estimated the crowd at 10,000. I proudly held my white cardboard sign that Dad had bought from a vendor. Written in blue glitter was, “Hooray for JFK.” I still have that sign, safely tucked away in a box. Even without a great view, it was an electric evening just being that close to the president of the United States. As general manager of KXOL Radio in Fort Worth, Dad was leading a hectic schedule. His news team provided comprehensive coverage of the landing, the motorcade to downtown Fort Worth, the breakfast where President Kennedy spoke the next morning, and the motorcade back to Carswell the next morning. Dad attended that breakfast at the Hotel Texas and was impressed at how well Fort Worth had displayed its own brand of Texas hospitality on a national stage. Following the breakfast, Dad was in his office with news director Roy Eaton critiquing how well KXOL had covered the presidential visit when newsman Russ Bloxom burst in and said, “The president’s motorcade has been shot at! Can I put it on the air?” From that moment forward, seemingly every radio station in America turned to an all-news format, following the shooting of President Kennedy and then Officer J.D. Tippit, Lee Harvey Oswald’s capture in the Texas Theatre, and his shooting by Jack Ruby two days later. Just hours after that glorious breakfast in Cowtown, we lost our nation’s president. I recall my fourth-period reading class at McLean Junior High reacting in shock as our teacher, and then class members, began to cry after hearing the horrific news. Lost in the tragedy was the fact that Fort Worth had rolled out the red carpet and its heart to welcome the first family in such glorious style.
John Fletcher is the CEO of Fletcher Consulting, a local marketing and public relations firm.