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Connally, a former Johnson assistant, and Senator Ralph Yarborough, the leader of the Party’s liberal wing. Assigned to accompany the Vice-President during a Presidential motorcade through San Antonio, the Senator had gotten into another car instead, and, in a procession in which the other vehicles behind the Presidential limousine were packed with people, Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, had had to sit conspicuously alone in the back seat of their convertible. Both times the senator ignored the invitation and rode with somebody else,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Chicago Tribune noted the “curt wave of his hand” with which Yarborough had sent the Vice-President’s emissary packing. On the morning of the twenty-second, Lyndon Johnson sat in his suite at Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas with newspapers in front of him—there were four separate stories in the Dallas paper alone; one was headlined “NIXON PREDICTS JFK MAY DROP JOHNSON”—and then he had to go downstairs for a rally of five thousand labor-union members, and join Kennedy, Yarborough, Connally, and some local congressmen, all of whom had, of course, seen those stories.
Johnson was wearing a raincoat and a hat; Kennedy was bareheaded and lithe, in an elegant blue-gray suit.
His assignment was to introduce Kennedy, and, as he finished, the crowd roared for the young man beside him.
Kennedy is organizing herself; it takes longer—but, of course, she looks better than we do”), Kennedy was easy and charming. Johnson had had to ask the President for a favor: to be allowed to bring his youngest sister, Lucia, who lived in Fort Worth, to meet him. Shaking hands with Kennedy that morning, Lucia was thrilled; she had always wanted to shake hands with a President, she said. At ten o’clock in Washington that Friday morning, at about the same time that Kennedy was entering the Fort Worth ballroom, a Maryland insurance broker named Don B. Reynolds, accompanied by his attorney, walked into Room 312 of the Old Senate Office Building, on Capitol Hill, to begin answering questions from two staff members of the Senate Rules Committee: Burkett Van Kirk, the Republican minority counsel, and Lorin P.
Drennan, an accountant from the General Accounting Office who had been assigned to assist the committee. Reynolds was there because the Rules Committee had begun investigating a scandal revolving around John-son’s protege Robert G.
In a desperate attempt to head off the investigation, Baker had resigned (he later said that if he had talked “Johnson might have incurred a mortal wound by these revelations. The scandal had thus far concentrated on the man known in Washington as “Little Lyndon,” but the stories were beginning to focus more and more on Johnson himself. On the Monday of the week that Kennedy left for Texas, a lengthy and detailed article had appeared in Life—“SCANDAL GROWS AND GROWS IN WASHINGTON,” based on the work of a nine-member investigating team headed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, William G. It had gone beyond a recounting of Baker’s personal financial saga to make clear that, in distributing campaign contributions and in his other Senate activities, Baker had simply been “Lyndon’s bluntest instrument in running the show.” And the focus was about to sharpen that morning. Reynolds, who was Baker’s former business partner, had come to Room 312 to tell the Senate investigators about a number of Baker’s activities, one of which—the purchase of television advertising time and an expensive stereo set, in return for the writing of an insurance policy—Baker himself later called “a kickback pure and simple,” to Johnson. On the advice of his attorney, Reynolds had brought with him documents—invoices and cancelled checks—that he said would prove that assertion. Another of Baker’s activities that Reynolds began describing that morning would also turn out to be related to Johnson: an overpayment by Matthew McCloskey, a contractor and major Democratic funder, for a performance bond—an overpayment of a hundred and nine thousand dollars for a bond that had cost only seventy-three thousand dollars, with twenty-five thousand dollars of that overpayment, Reynolds later said, going to “Mr.


Johnson’s campaign.” In New York, there was also going to be a meeting that morning—of about a dozen reporters and editors in the offices of Life’s managing editor, George P.
During the past week, reporters who had been sent to Texas to investigate the Vice-President’s finances had found areas ripe for inquiry.
And other reporters were digging into the advertising sales and other activities of KTBC, the cornerstone of the Johnsons’ extensive radio and television interests, and they, too, were turning up one item after another that they felt merited looking into. I always sound like this.” Share Tweet Buy a cartoon It seemed as if it was going to be a Kennedy day.
There was a moment’s expectant pause while steps were wheeled up to the plane, and then the door opened and into the sunlight came the two figures the crowd had been waiting for: Jackie first (“There’s Mrs.
Kennedy, and the crowd yells!” a television commentator shouted), youthful, graceful, her wide smile, bright-pink suit, and pillbox hat radiant in the dazzling sun; behind her the President, youthful, graceful (“I can see his suntan all the way from here!” the commentator announced), the mop of brown hair glowing, one hand checking the button on his jacket in the familiar gesture, coming down the steps turned sideways just so slightly, to ease his back. A bouquet of bright-red roses was handed to Jackie by the welcoming committee, and it set off the pink and the smile.
Yarborough sat on the left side in the back seat, behind the driver, a Texas state highway patrolman named Hurchel Jacks, the Vice-President on the right side, behind Rufus Youngblood, a Secret Service agent assigned to him. Lady Bird, sitting between Yarborough and her husband, tried to make conversation but soon gave up.
The two men weren’t speaking to each other or looking at each other—the only noises in the car came from the walkie-talkie radio that Youngblood was carrying on a shoulder strap—as the motorcade pulled out.
Every time the President waved, the crowd on the sidewalk surged toward him, pressing back the lines of policemen, so that the passage for the cars grew narrower, and the lead car was forced to reduce its speed, from twenty miles an hour to fifteen, to ten, to five. As Governor Connally waved his big Stetson, revealing a leonine head of gray hair, the cheers swelled for him, too.
In recent months, he had begun advising aides he would have wanted to keep with him were he to run for or become President to leave his staff. Given what the President was seeing for himself in Texas—that Johnson was no longer a viable mediator between factions of his party in his own state—and what was happening at that very moment in the Old Senate Office Building, the President’s assurances that he would be on the ticket might start to have a hollow ring. Leaving behind the crowds on Main Street, the lead car, the motorcycle police, and the Presidential limousine swung right onto Houston Street and then left onto Elm, which sloped slightly downhill toward a broad railroad overpass through a grassy open space, with scattered spectators standing in it, called Dealey Plaza. In Washington, Don Reynolds was showing the Rules Committee investigators the papers that he said proved his charges about Lyndon Johnson, pushing the documents, one by one, across the witness table.
In New York, the Life editors were assigning reporters to investigate specific areas of Johnson’s finances while still debating whether the magazine should run a story on Johnson’s wealth in its next issue.
Ahead of the Vice-Presidential car, the spectators in Dealey Plaza began to applaud the Kennedys and the Connallys as Johnson followed in their wake. It “startled” him, Lyndon Johnson later said; it sounded like a “report or explosion,” and he didn’t know what it was. Others in the motorcade thought it was a backfire from one of the police motorcycles, or a firecracker someone in the crowd had set off, but John Connally, who had hunted all his life, knew the instant he heard it that it was a shot from a high-powered rifle. The patrolman, a laconic Texan—“tight-lipped and cool,” Youngblood called him—pulled up within a few feet of the armored car’s rear bumper, and kept his car there as the two vehicles, with the Presidential limousine not many feet ahead of them, roared along the expressway and then swung right onto an exit ramp.


Youngblood said that “the President must have been shot or wounded,” that they were heading for a hospital, that he didn’t know anything, and that he wanted everyone to stay down—Johnson down on the floor—until he found out.
Then Youngblood’s weight was off him: hands were grabbing his arms and pulling him roughly up out of the car and onto his feet.
The white carnation was still in his lapel, somehow untouched, but his left arm and shoulder, which had taken the brunt of Youngblood’s weight, hurt. Then Youngblood and four other agents were surrounding him, the hands were on his arms again, and he was being hustled—almost run—through the hospital entrance and along corridors; close behind him was another agent, George Hickey, holding an AR-15 automatic rifle at the ready.
Johnson said later that he was rushed into the hospital so fast, his view blocked by the men around him, that he hadn’t even seen the President’s car, or what was in it. Lady Bird, rushed along right behind him by her own cordon of agents, had seen, in “one last look over my shoulder,” “a bundle of pink, just like a drift of blossoms, lying on the back seat. Then he was in what seemed like a small white room—it was actually one of three cubicles, in the Parkland Minor Medicine section, that had been carved out of a larger room by hanging white muslin curtains from ceiling to floor.
The agents were pushing nurse and patient out the door; they were pulling down the shades and blinds over the windows. Then he and Lady Bird were standing against a blank, uncurtained wall at the back of the cubicle farthest from the door. Youngblood was standing in front of them, telling another agent to station himself outside the door to the corridor, and not to let anyone in—not anyone—unless he knew his face. I walked out once to try to see if I could find out what was going on, but either nobody knew or they didn’t tell me.” Johnson asked Youngblood to send an agent to get some news, and he returned with Roy Kellerman, the acting chief of the White House Secret Service detail, but Kellerman didn’t provide much information. We knew what it might be.” Johnson said very little to anyone, moved around very little, just stood there.
Asked to describe him in the hospital, Thornberry used the same word that Youngblood used to describe him in the car: “Very calm. All through the time he was just as calm.” Kellerman’s deputy Emory Roberts came in and said that he had seen Kennedy, and, as he later recalled, that he “did not think the President could make it”—and that Johnson should leave the hospital, get to Air Force One, and take off for Washington. Not merely the President but the Governor had been shot; who knew if Johnson might himself have been the next target had not Youngblood so quickly covered his body with his own? The Secret Service wanted to get Johnson out of Dallas or, at least, onto the plane, which would, in their view, be the most secure place in the city. About a week later, William Lambert went in to see the magazine’s assistant managing editor, Ralph Graves, and told him that any further investigation into Johnson’s finances should be postponed.



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