“Howdy, Mr. President! "

A Fort Worth Perspective of JFK

Three Funerals

Monday, November 25

Three men were buried on Monday, November 25, 1963 – the President of the United States John F. Kennedy; Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit; and accused assassin of the President and of Officer Tippit, Lee Harvey Oswald.

President John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy’s body would lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for almost 24 hours beginning on Sunday morning, November 24th, in Washington, D.C. By late Sunday evening the line of mourners stretched over nine miles, and almost 300,000 mourners filed past the casket to pay their respects with many thousands more turned away. Nearly 100 nations had sent representatives, many including heads of state. At 10:30 (EST) on Monday morning, the casket was removed from the Rotunda and carried on a horse-drawn caisson through the streets of Washington, followed on foot by the Kennedy family members and by President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, to St. Matthew’s Cathedral where it arrived shortly before noon for a one-hour mass. Following the service, as the casket was moved from the church back onto the caisson, a very young John F. Kennedy, Jr., stepped forward with his famous salute. This day was also John-John’s 3rd birthday. The procession continued to Arlington National Cemetery for burial at the specially prepared grave site on a hillside. Burial rites were concluded at 3:15 p.m. (EST).

Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit

On Monday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in Dallas, seven hundred uniformed policemen from throughout the state of Texas gathered at Beckley Hills Baptist Church to honor the slain thirty-nine-year-old policeman J.D. Tippit. Outside the church approximately 1,500 local citizens had come from throughout the area to pay their respects. The service was attended by Officer Tippit’s widow, Marie, his 3 children, J.D.’s mother and father, and numerous other relatives and friends. Following the service, the bereaved family was assisted to their waiting limousine as six police pallbearers carried the casket to the hearse. A fifteen-man motorcycle escort led the procession to Laurel Land Memorial Park for burial in a special plot designated for Dallas’ honored dead. In the not too distant future, Mrs. Tippit would receive a framed photograph of John F. Kennedy and his family inscribed by Jackie, “There is another bond we share. We must remind our children all the time what brave men their fathers were.”

Lee Harvey Oswald

On Monday around 4:00 p.m. in far east Fort Worth, Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife Marina and two small children, mother Marguerite, and brother Robert arrived at the Rose Hill Cemetery. Government agents and local police had positioned guards every few yards along the fence surrounding the cemetery. Before his family arrived, Oswald’s casket had been carried from the chapel to the grave site by six newspaper reporters, pressed into duty as pallbearers. Rev. Louis Saunders, executive secretary of the Fort Worth Council of Churches, was called by Fort Worth police chief Cato Hightower to replace another minister who failed to arrive. Saunders felt that “someone had to help this family.” The Oswald family was led to five aluminum chairs placed next to the gravesite beneath a green canopy. Two floral arrangements covered the coffin, sent mysteriously by someone named Virginia Leach. Lee’s brother Robert asked that the coffin be opened so the family could give their last respects, and the approximately 75 newsmen hovering nearby were ordered to step back from the gravesite. Rev. Saunders spoke a few words in condolence to the family and completed the service with these words: “May God have mercy on his soul.” Robert watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground before leaving the cemetery with the family. Grave diggers had the grave covered by sunset, and two policemen were left to stand guard overnight. A small number from a group of onlookers who had watched the entire 20-minute proceeding from behind the fence line slipped over to collect souvenir clods of dirt from the assassin’s grave. The long, emotionally burdened day had come to an end.

University of Texas Arlington Libraries
Special Collections
702 Planetarium Place • Arlington, TX 76019 • 817-272-3000
© The University of Texas at Arlington. All rights reserved.