Church bells to toll in Dal­las; Bos­ton to show items from JFK fu­neral

The Washington Times Daily - - Auto - BY JAMIE STENGLE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Loose gath­er­ings of the cu­ri­ous and con­spir­acy-minded at Dal­las’ Dealey Plaza have marked past an­niver­saries of the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, fea­tur­ing ev­ery­thing from makeshift memo­ri­als to march­ing drum­mers to dis­cus­sions about who else might have been in on the killing.

But in the place where the pres­i­dent’s mo­tor­cade passed through and shots rang out on Nov. 22, 1963, a solemn cer­e­mony on the 50th an­niver­sary of his death de­signed to avoid such dis­trac­tions will in­clude brief re­marks by the mayor and the tolling of church bells.

It’s an ap­proach that will be mir­rored Fri­day in Bos­ton, where the JFK Li­brary and Mu­seum will open a small ex­hibit of never-be­fore-dis­played items from Kennedy’s state fu­neral and host a mu­si­cal trib­ute that will be closed to the pub­lic, and in Wash­ing­ton, where Pres­i­dent Obama will meet pri­vately at the White House with lead­ers and vol­un­teers from the Kennedyestab­lished Peace Corps pro­gram.

“It’s 50 years later, and it’s also a mo­ment to look for­ward to the fu­ture,” said Thomas Put­nam, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the li­brary, which usu­ally doesn’t ob­serve the an­niver­sary. “We want our tone to be re­spect­ful, and we want it to have a cer­tain rev­er­ence, but we also want it to be hope­ful and end on this no­tion of what JFK stood for.”

The com­mit­tee con­vened by cur­rent Dal­las Mayor Mike Rawl­ings to plan the city’s event wanted to fo­cus “in a pos­i­tive way more on the legacy of Pres­i­dent Kennedy,” said Ron Kirk, a for­mer mayor and mem­ber of the panel.

About 5,000 tick­ets were is­sued for the free cer­e­mony in Dealey Plaza, which is flanked by the Texas School Book De­pos­i­tory build­ing where sniper Lee Har­vey Oswald perched on the sixth floor in 1963.

Fri­day’s event will in­clude read­ings from the pres­i­dent’s speeches by au­thor David McCul­lough. In a nod to Kennedy’s mil­i­tary ser­vice, the U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club will sing “The Bat­tle Hymn of the Repub­lic,” and there will be an Air Force fly­over. A mo­ment of si­lence will be held at 12:30 p.m., when the pres­i­dent was shot.

There was no short­age of events in Dal­las this year mark­ing the an­niver­sary, in­clud­ing pan­els with jour­nal­ists and oth­ers who wit­nessed the events of the day, spe­cial con­certs and mu­seum ex­hibits.

As press aide for Texas Gov. John Con­nally, Ju­lian Read was in a me­dia bus sev­eral ve­hi­cles be­hind the pres­i­den­tial limou­sine. Af­ter the gun­shots, he watched as the ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing the pres­i­dent and wounded gov­er­nor sped away. Mr. Read re­leased a book this year re­count­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence and has at­tended sev­eral of the events, which he called cathar­tic.

“Even though there are all those melan­choly thoughts, the way it’s shap­ing up ... gives me more of a com­fort than any time since 1963,” said Mr. Read, who will re­turn to Dealey Plaza on Fri­day.

John Judge, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coali­tion on Po­lit­i­cal As­sas­si­na­tions, first came to Dealey Plaza to mark the fifth an­niver­sary of JFK’s death in 1968.

Mr. Judge’s group, which be­lieves Kennedy’s death was part of a con­spir­acy, usu­ally gath­ers on the plaza’s “grassy knoll” for a mo­ment of si­lence at 12:30 p.m. Since it’ll be blocked off this year, Mr. Judge says he’s reached a “liv­able” agree­ment with the city in which they’ll gather a few blocks away and move to the plaza af­ter the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony ends.

The group has made T-shirts for the oc­ca­sion with the slo­gan “50 years in de­nial is enough” and an im­age like that of Kennedy on the half-dol­lar coin, ex­cept with a bul­let hole in his head and blood.

“It was meant to be shock­ing be­cause we think that not solv­ing his mur­der was shock­ing,” Mr. Judge said. He added about 10 mem­bers of his group will at­tend the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony.

Other events be­ing held Fri­day in Dal­las in­clude a cer­e­mony at Park­land Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal, where Kennedy was de­clared dead, to lower the U.S. flag to half- staff. In Fort Worth, the city’s Cham­ber of Com­merce will host a break­fast at the ho­tel where Kennedy gave his last speech and spent the last night of his life.

In Bos­ton, the pri­vate mu­si­cal trib­ute will fea­ture Paul Win­ter, who per­formed at the White House with his jazz sex­tet dur­ing Kennedy’s pres­i­dency, along with a U.S. Navy choir and James Tay­lor. Other no­table guests at the event, which will be streamed on the li­brary’s web­site, in­clude Mas­sachusetts Gov. De­val Pa­trick, who is sched­uled to read quotes from Kennedy’s speeches.

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