In the Dallas Times Herald November 21, 1963, edition, Lee Harvey Oswald saw President John Kennedy’s (JFK) motorcade route. At that moment, Oswald painted a target on Kennedy’s back. Follow JFK and his assassin from November 21 to 25 on the JFK assassination tour.
Oswald worked at the Texas Schoolbook Depository at Sixth and Elm with a perfect sniper’s-eye view of the route. This meticulous guide explains where and what happened.
Visit Irving, Texas, hosted me, but all opinions are my own.
View a map of the JFK assassination tour locations.
Table of contents
- November 21: Oswald stays at Ruth Paine’s Irving home
- November 22: Oswald assassinates JFK
- November 23: Citizens honor JFK
- November 24: Ruby assassinates Oswald
- November 25: A day of funerals
November 21: A quiet night at Ruth Paine’s home
The JFK assassination tour begins in Irving, between Dallas and Fort Worth.
On the 21st, Oswald hitched a ride with his coworker, Buell Frazier, to visit his wife, Marina in Irving. He needed curtain rods from his wife’s place. Partly because Oswald could not drive, Marina lived with Ruth Paine while her husband lived in a Dallas rooming house. He commuted to work via a bus line.
He usually visited his family on weekends, but November 21 was a Thursday. That evening, he played with his daughter June under an oak tree before going to bed. After Paine cleaned the kitchen, she noticed the garage light glowing. She was sure she had turned it off but went to bed unconcerned.
Related: Visit the Ruth Paine House Museum.
November 22: Oswald assassinates the President
Oswald left for work at 6:30 a.m. When he arrived at the depository, he carried an extended package of “curtain rods.”
That morning’s Dallas Morning News contained a large, black-bordered ad accusing JFK of treason. In Suite 850 of Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas, JFK told his wife, “Last night [in Houston] would have been a good time to assassinate the President.” He thought he had escaped, but JFK had yet to take his assassination tour.
The maid, Jan White, asked JFK for an autograph. He scrawled his signature across the paper’s front page.
JFK speaks twice at the Hotel Texas
About an hour after Oswald went to work, JFK spoke in the hotel parking lot. He had planned only a breakfast speech to the Chamber of Commerce, but Rep. Jim Wright had arranged the additional appearance.
At 8:50 a.m., the President stood on a trailer. He promoted his space program, praising the city’s aviation and military defense contributions. “There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth,” he remarked. Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) and other dignitaries stood behind him.
Later, the President championed national security during the Chamber address.
The morning rain had cleared before his parking lot speech. At 10 a.m., the Secret Service removed the bubble top from the Presidential limousine because JFK wanted people to see him.
If the rain had continued, the President would have left the top on. The top would protect fashion icon Jackie Kennedy’s (JBK) appearance.
At 10:40, the Presidential party left the hotel to board Air Force One at Carswell Air Force Base.
Roxie’s reliable report: After remodeling and ownership changes, Hotel Texas Suite 850 became Hilton Fort Worth Room 808. The former parking lot is now part of the current General Worth Square.
An eight-foot-tall JFK sculpture faces Main Street between Eighth and Ninth Streets, and JFK’s famous quotes encompass him on stone walls.
A welcoming crowd at Love Field
The Presidential plane, Air Force One, landed at Love Field, Dallas, an hour later. The JFK assassination tour had entered Dallas. Mostly enthusiastic crowds greeted the President and First Lady under a vibrant blue sky. After greeting the dignitaries, the Kennedys waded into the delighted crowds.
The First Lady clutched a bouquet of red roses that Dallas First Lady Elizabeth “Dearie” Cabell had given her. Yellow roses are a Texas symbol, but the florists had run out of them.
Related: Texas bluebonnets are the state’s official flower.
While the crowds were shaking the Kennedys’ hands, Oswald ate lunch on the depository’s balcony.
Roxie’s reliable report: The City of Dallas dedicated the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza one block east of Dealey Plaza on June 24, 1970. The plaza’s memorial is a large white roofless room with narrow openings on the north and south. The gaps symbolize JFK’s spirit. The walls’ 72 white columns seem to hover above the ground. At night the memorial seems to float on top of the lights below.
The President’s motorcade enters Downtown Dallas
The motorcade rolled downtown at 12:05. JFK had 25 minutes to live on his assassination tour in Dallas.
Progress crawled as the crowd pressed to see the President and First Lady. JFK stopped the limousine several times to shake hands. Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife Nellie also sat in the Presidential limousine.
Nellie said, “You can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you, Mr. President.”
Roxie’s reliable report: JFK’s staff had chosen the Dallas Trade Mart for his afternoon speech. The Secret Service thought the building was a security risk and deployed more than 200 officers to secure the building. Ironically, the Trade Mart’s location sent the motorcade past the fatal depository.
While the President never arrived at the trade mart, British sculptor Elizabeth Frink honored JFK with a sculpture, “The Eagle,” in 1964. Fifty-five years after JFK died, a Scottish firm used his other speeches to recreate the undelivered Trade Mart speech. They called it “JFK Unsilenced.”
Related: The Presidential party planned to visit the LBJ Ranch after they left Dallas.
Oswald fires the fatal shots
As the happy words left Mrs. Connally’s mouth, Oswald fired from his sniper’s perch on the depository’s sixth floor. His first shot at 12:29 missed the President, but a fragment struck bystander James Tauge, cutting his cheek.
Oswald’s second shot hit JFK’s spine. The damage caused him to take Thorburn’s position. His arms bent upward and his fingers curled inward.
Finally, the third shot blew out Kennedy’s head. JBK cried out, “What are they doing to you?”
Connally suffered wounds in his back, chest, thigh, and wrist. Thinking he was mortally wounded, he said, “My God, they’re going to kill us all.”
Secret Service Agent Clint Hill ran toward the limousine. He heard and felt the third shot when he arrived at the trunk. Hill reached the car as the frantic First Lady climbed away from the carnage.
The Texas First Lady was bending over her husband. Hill knew immediately that the President was dead. He looked at the other agents, turned down his thumbs, and shook his head.
Related: Hill is in North Dakota’s Rough Riders Hall of Fame in Bismarck.
Roxie’s reliable report: Oswald’s workplace is now the Sixth Floor Museum. Its name comes from Oswald’s sixth-floor sniper’s perch. The exhibits crowd the space, so the museum does not allow photographs.
The sniper’s sight picture clears when guests visit the seventh floor, as Dealey Plaza spreads out below. An X on the road marks the deadly spot. Every time the city repaves the streets, anonymous people replace the X.
The assassin flees as the President dies
The assassin tucked his rifle into a stack of boxes and bought a Coke before he left the building. Oswald had begun his JFK assassination tour through Dallas, and the target had shifted to him. Dallas Police Officer Marrion Baker briefly stopped Oswald but did not arrest him.
Afterward, Oswald boarded a city bus, but traffic slowed it. Finally, he exited the bus and summoned a taxi to take him near his rooming house at 12:32.
By 12:45, law enforcement was broadcasting the assassination suspect’s description, a thin white man in his 30s, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall.
At the Parkland hospital
JFK’s driver raced to the hospital, arriving at 12:36. Staff rushed Kennedy and Connally into the hospital while the roses wilted in the limousine. Any life JFK had was fast fading, so Father Oscar Huber administered Last Rites (PDF).
The doctors pronounced the President dead at 12:58 p.m. The wire services announced it about half an hour later. At the same time, Connally entered surgery, and he would fully recover.
Roxie’s reliable report: Kennedy died in Parkland’s Trauma Room One. A plaque on the wall honors the slain President, but the federal government purchased Trauma One’s contents decades ago. Agents stored them in Kansas City.
Unfortunately, Dallas County is currently demolishing the deteriorating hospital. It will be gone in November 2023, 60 years after JFK died there.
Oswald on the run
The taxi left Oswald a few blocks from his rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley. The assassin retrieved another firearm from his apartment and then walked away.
Downtown, the investigation centered on the depository. When officers counted the employees, only Oswald was missing.
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Make an appointment before you tour the rooming house.
Oswald assassinates a Dallas police officer
Those who remember 9/11 will understand how people reacted to JFK’s murder. They experienced shock, disbelief, and an overwhelming need to learn what was happening.
Just as on September 11, 2001, everyone was inside listening to the radio or watching television to grab any snippet of information.
Instead of staying inside, Oswald was outside. He ducked into and out of businesses as he sought to evade law enforcement.
His odd behavior attracted Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit. The pedestrian matched the assassin’s description. So Tippit drove up and opened his police cruiser’s passenger vent window.
After a brief conversation, Tippit got out of the car. Oswald whipped out his revolver and shot the officer four times, point-blank. Multiple witnesses saw Oswald shoot Tippit and watched him flee while he was attempting to conceal his pistol.
Bystander Temple Bowley reported the shooting on Tippit’s police radio. “Hello, police operator! We’ve had a shooting out here.”
The witnesses tracked the shooter to a Texaco parking lot and then lost him. Oswald was out in the open on his JFK assassination tour.
The TV tells Tippit’s family that he’s dead
Many of Tippit’s family members learned about his death from the media. “Can you imagine? They announced it on TV, and his wife didn’t even know about it,” his brother Dan recalled. The family’s plight moved the nation, and people donated $650,000.
Roxie’s reliable report: Tippit’s family waited many decades until the state placed a marker where Tippit had died. The state installed it on November 20, 2012.
Another monument stands at his Clarksville, Texas, birthplace. His name is also on the Dallas Police Memorial, the Texas Peace Officers Memorial in Austin, and the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Related: When Buddy Holly died, his wife Maria Elena learned it through media reports.
Intent on fleeing, Oswald ducked into Hardy’s Shoe Store at 213 W. Jefferson, currently Liz Bridal and Quinceañera. The manager, Johnny Brewer, saw that Oswald matched the assassin’s description. He also knew that someone had murdered an officer nearby.
Oswald acted scared when a police car passed and left shortly afterward.
Brewer followed him to the Texas Theatre. He asked the box office attendant and the maintenance man whether the man had bought a ticket, and they said no. All the exits were closed, so they knew the visitor was still inside.
When the police arrived, the staff stopped the movie War Is Hell and turned on the lights.
Oswald stood up. Then he said, “It’s all over now,” and pulled his gun on Officer Nick McDonald. McDonald shoved his finger between the gun’s hammer and barrel, and Oswald’s shot failed.
The posse subdued and arrested him at 1:50. Now, the police would derail Oswald’s JFK assassination tour.
Roxie’s reliable report: The assassination shamed Dallas, and the populace took out their grief on the theater. The owners sealed the theater’s original design under a six-flags-over-Texas motif in two months – while the theater was open. However, entertainment changes doomed the theater, and it closed in 1989.
Later owners allowed Oliver Stone to restore its façade to its 1963 appearance for his 1990 movie JFK. After more misfortunes, the theater reopened in 2010. Eleven years later, the owners completed a $2 million expansion and upgrade.
A fight over JFK’s body to a flight from Love Field
Parkland medical examiner Earl Rose attempted to autopsy JFK’s body because Texas law requires the procedure. Moreover, a thorough autopsy would “provide credibility for the ensuing investigation.”
Instead, Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman and JFK’s physician George Bulkley confronted Rose. LBJ, the new President, and his wife, Lady Bird, were already on Air Force One at Love Field. They were waiting for JBK, and Jackie refused to leave her husband’s body.
A heated argument ensued. Finally, Rose decided to stand aside (PDF).
“There was nothing more I could do to keep the body in Dallas. I had no minions, no armies to enforce the will of the medical examiner.”
Judge Hughes administers LBJ’s oath
Twenty minutes after JFK’s hearse arrived at Love Field, Judge Sarah T. Hughes administered the Oath of Office to LBJ. JFK had appointed her as the state’s first female federal judge.
Before the oath, she hugged both of the Johnsons. “We didn’t say anything; there … wasn’t anything to say,” the judge recalled.
JBK came from her compartment at the plane’s rear to watch the oath. She had refused to change her blood-drenched clothes because she wanted the world to see “what they had done.” She would not remove them until around 4 a.m.
LBJ introduced Hughes to the former First Lady. Then Hughes leaned toward Jackie. The judge said she had admired JFK. After the pleasantries, LBJ raised his right hand and repeated the oath at 2:38 p.m.
Now officially the President, Johnson said, “Let’s be airborne,” and the plane took off. JFK’s part of the assassination tour had left Texas forever.
Roxie’s reliable report: Hughes is the only woman to swear in a President and the only person to swear in a President aboard an airplane. She later helped to decide Roe v. Wade at the district court level.
In 2015, local historian Farris Rookstool III donated a bronze plaque to commemorate the oath. Unfortunately, it hangs in a secure location, and the public cannot view it. People planned to commemorate the occasion inside the airport, but those plans mysteriously fell through.
Four years later, the airport installed a duplicate plaque above the TSA checkpoint on Love Field’s second floor.
Police charge JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald
Dallas Police Capt. Will Fritz interrogated Oswald for 12 hours. During this time, Jack Ruby, the Carousel Club owner, wandered around police headquarters. Many officers visited Ruby’s club and trusted him.
Ruby had called his mother in Chicago after the shooting. He was “crying hysterically,” his niece recalled. He wanted to return to Chicago, but his mother advised him to remain in Dallas.
Roxie’s reliable report: The now-demolished Carousel Club’s site is in the AT&T Discovery District.
Police found Marina at Paine’s house, and officers began interrogating her and the Paines.
Investigators asked Ruth whether she had firearms in her house. She was horrified at the idea and said no.
Marina corrected her. She had seen a gun barrel poking out of a blanket in Paine’s garage. When the investigators searched the garage, they found the blanket, but the gun was gone.
Dallas filed Tippit’s murder charges at 7:10 p.m. and JFK’s assassination charges in the wee hours of November 23.
November 23: The citizens honor JFK
At 3:34 a.m., a military honor guard escorted JFK’s body to lie in repose in the White House East Room. His body remained there until a funeral procession brought it to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda.
More than 250,000 mourners (PDF) viewed the casket until 9 a.m. on the 24th. At times, the line stretched for three miles.
November 24: Ruby assassinates Oswald
Back in Dallas, police moved Oswald from police headquarters to the county jail. Detective James Leavelle handcuffed himself to Oswald to protect him from numerous death threats.
Police had scheduled his departure for 10 a.m., but accumulated delays pushed it to 11:20. Oswald and Leavelle would be in an insecure location, the tunnel below police headquarters, for only a few minutes.
Ruby had come to the Western Union office across the street to send money to an employee. Then he wandered over to police headquarters. No one stopped Ruby as he walked into the tunnel. He was always armed because he carried large amounts of cash.
But, curiously, he had left Sheba, his much-loved dachshund, in his car.
Leavelle had cuffed Oswald’s wrists, then cuffed the assassin’s right wrist to his left. “Lee, if they’re going to shoot at you, I hope they’re as good a shot as you are,” Leavelle said.
“No one’s gonna shoot at me,” Oswald replied.
A second murder
At 11:21 a.m., Leavelle saw Ruby aim his .38-caliber pistol at Oswald, and he tried to pull Oswald away. Instead, Leavelle was only able to turn Oswald’s body. The bullet hit him 4 inches left of his navel.
Leavelle corralled Ruby with one arm as other officers swarmed him. Then the detective rode to Parkland in an ambulance with Oswald. Some of the same doctors who had treated JFK and Connally now treated Oswald, who died two hours later. He had completed the Dallas portion of his JFK assassination tour.
Ruby later claimed that he shot Oswald to save JBK the trauma of a trial.
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Before you explore the assassination sites, take a JFK assassination bus tour. The narration will stitch together the events. Then return to the places that interest you.
November 25: A day for funerals
The shocked nation faced a long day of mourning as Americans awoke on Monday.
A President laid to rest
JFK’s funeral was a security nightmare like no other. St. Matthew’s Cathedral would hold the service, and over 100 American and world leaders marched slowly for eight blocks from the White House to the cathedral.
A scarred and nervous Secret Service was responsible for protecting them. Hill, who had climbed up the limousine to guard JBK, marched behind her and the fallen President’s brothers. Other agents marched with them.
The Kennedy children rode with their nanny as agents marched alongside. At one point, JFK’s daughter Caroline reached out of the window to hold Agent Bob Foster’s hand.
After the funeral, the honor guard replaced the casket on the caisson. JBK bent down to her son, John Jr., who had turned three that day. The little boy rendered a perfect salute to his fallen father.
Everyone watching, including 95 percent of Americans via television, felt the prickle of tears and a choked throat.
At 2:15 p.m., JBK leaned over her husband’s grave to light the Eternal Flame that still burns at its head.
Roxie’s reliable report: Arlington officials and the Kennedy family reinterred JFK’s remains almost three years later. Foot traffic had overwhelmed the original site.
After a year, Arlington began preparing a new location a few feet away. Officials moved JFK’s body during a private ceremony. Arabella and Patrick, the Kennedys’ two lost babies, came from Massachusetts to rest beside their father.
After Robert’s 1968 assassination, his family buried him next to his brother. JBK and Ted Kennedy are also buried there.
An officer honored
An hour after JFK’s services, 1,400 mourners gathered at Beckley Hills Baptist Church for Tippit’s funeral. A five-foot wall of flowers surrounded the officer’s casket. The mourners included 700 officers.
“Today, we are mourning the passing of a devoted public servant,” the Rev. C.D. Tipps, Jr. said. “He was doing his duty when he was taken by the lethal bullet of a poor, confused, misguided, ungodly assassin – as was our President.”
Fifteen motorcyclists led the procession to Laurel Land Cemetery, where 15 red roses covered Tippit’s casket. Tippit’s remains were the first to rest in the cemetery’s Memorial Court of Honor. The cemetery reserves the court for those who gave their lives “in special service of their country.”
An assassin buried
At 4:15, a few family members, a preacher, and reporters gathered to bury Oswald in Fort Worth’s Rose Hill Cemetery. Unfortunately, no friends came, and the funeral director had to draft reporters as pallbearers. The President and the officer had completed their JFK assassination tour at day’s end.
However, the assassin’s body would not rest yet. An exhumation was in its future. The exhumation proved the body was Oswald’s.
When Ruby shot Oswald, he started the JFK conspiracy theory industry. Numerous investigations ensued, and books still analyze one of America’s most traumatic days. The assassination also pushed the Presidential succession amendment to ratification.
Ruby’s conviction and death
In the Old Red Courthouse, Dallas County convicted Ruby of Oswald’s murder in March. The Criminal District Court No. 3 (PDF) sentenced him to death.
However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Ruby’s conviction because of an improper confession. The judges also invalidated the conviction because the court had refused to grant a change of venue.
Ruby served time in the Dallas County Jail while waiting for an appeal. Finally, the court set a new trial at Wichita Falls in February 1967, but a pulmonary embolism killed Ruby on January 3. He also died at Parkland.
Ruby’s body rests next to his parents in Westlawn Cemetery, Norridge, Illinois.
Establishing the succession
LBJ had been only two cars behind JFK in the Dallas motorcade. Early rumors said he was wounded.
The chaos and fear surrounding the Dallas events spurred the adoption of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment cleared succession questions and established protocols to fulfill Presidential duties if one should die or become incapable.
In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency. His initial Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned eight months earlier. Nixon had appointed Senate Majority Leader Gerald R. Ford as Agnew’s successor under the 25th Amendment.
Ford had been a member of the Warren Commission investigating JFK’s assassination.
When Ford became President, he appointed Nelson Rockefeller as Vice-President. The duo was the nation’s first unelected President and Vice-President.
No one can remove all targets from public officials’ backs, but the 25th establishes a chain of command to protect the country from chaos like November 22, 1963.
Escape from the JFK assassination tour in Irving
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: All this talk of death is depressing, and you need to escape. Take in a show at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving.
Leave enough time for dinner beforehand at Blaze Brazilian Steakhouse next door. At the Blaze, the wait staff offers you delectable dishes on a sword while you sit at your table. Reserve a room at the delightful throwback Texican Court Hotel.
For a nightcap, visit the Two Mules Cantina on site and buy s’mores fixings. Grill them in the courtyard, and then swim in the pool. Sadness, begone!
Metroplex JFK assassination tour map
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