Today is the anniversary, forty-seven years ago, of the Kennedy Assassination. For many of those years, the anniversary received significant mention in the state’s newspapers. TEXAS MONTHLY regularly published stories in November issues, usually at five-year intervals, updating the latest in assassination scholarship and trivia. Today, the event was largely ignored by the state’s press, the exception being the Dallas Morning News, which ran a story about the 6th floor museum at the former Texas Schoolbook Depository. Neither the American Statesman, the Chronicle, or the Star-Telegram mentioned the anniversary, at least not in its online editions.
The assassination had two immediate effects. One was that a Texan, Lyndon Johnson, became president. The other is that the city of Dallas,and the Morning News, which were very conservative institutions at the time, underwent a lot of soul-searching. Dallas had become notorious for right-wing activity in the early sixties, stirred up by General Edwin Walker and H.L. Hunt, among others. During the 1960 campaign, members of a militant anticommunist group called the Minute Women accosted and spat upon Lady Bird Johnson at a Dallas hotel. On the morning of Kennedy’s visit to Dallas, the Morning News ran an ad that began, Welcome to Texas, Mr. President, and followed with a litany of conservative complaints about Kennedy’s presidency. It was shameful. These events gave birth to a nationwide narrative that Dallas collectively, and its political climate, was responsible for Kennedy’s death, and Dallas was shunned for a time. In due course, many of the vestiges of the old Dallas political establishment faded away, and the city’s reputation was restored. At the Morning News, the branch of the Dealy family that had run the paper for many years was replaced by representatives of another branch of the family, and the paper’s editorials ceased to spew vitriol. [The full text of the ad appears in the comments section, below.]
One person who never forgave Dallas for its transgressions was Lyndon Johnson. The late George Christian told me that Dallas got nothing from the Johnson White House. All the federal goodies and all the payrolls went to Fort Worth.
Those of us who lived through it didn’t know it at the time, but the assassination marked the beginning of the Sixties–not on the calendar, but as a cultural phenomenon, an end of innocence that reshaped American life and continues to divide Americans to this day. It would soon be followed by civil rights demonstrations, riots in urban ghettos, an unpopular war that killed more than 50,000 Americans, the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassination, the burning of cities in the summer of 1968, Johnson’s abdication, hippies, “free love,” psychedelic drugs, and Woodstock. Truly the best of times and the worst of times.