A Photographer's Story: Bob Jackson and the Kennedy Assassination

All Exhibits

Introduction

Bob Jackson with cameraOn Friday, November 22, 1963, newspaper photographer Bob Jackson was assigned to photograph President John F. Kennedy's visit to Dallas for The Dallas Times Herald.  What began as an exciting assignment for the young photographer became one of the largest, most tumultuous news events of the twentieth century—with Jackson, camera in hand, present at the center of much of the activity.  More than four decades later his black and white images provide a unique personal perspective of the events at Love Field, along the motorcade route, at Parkland Memorial Hospital and at Dallas police headquarters, where he photographed Jack Ruby fatally shooting accused presidential assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

A Photographer's Story: Bob Jackson and the Kennedy Assassination is on display in the seventh floor gallery through October 17, 2010.

 Exhibit Highlights:

November 22-24, 1963

   The Kennedys Arrival   Motorcade Turtle Creek   Parkland grief

As a member of the press corps, Jackson was at Love Field when the Kennedys arrived and rode in the presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas.  When shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, Jackson was one of the few eyewitnesses to see a rifle in a sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository.  His camera was empty of film at the time, and Jackson took no photos of the president's assassination.  Two days later, waiting for police officers to transfer Lee Harvey Oswald to the county jail, Jackson took one of the most recognizable still images of the twentieth century when he photographed the moment Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald.  Jackson won the Pulitzer Prize for News Photography in 1964 for the iconic photograph.

Jackson's photograph of Jack Ruby at the moment Ruby was shot.

The Aftermath

In the year following the Kennedy assassination, Jackson won many awards for his famous picture.  In March 1964, he was called to testify before the Warren Commission in Washington D.C., as an assassination eyewitness.  Although subpoenaed to appear for both the prosecution and the defense in the Jack Ruby trial in Dallas in the spring of 1964, Jackson was never called to the stand.  He did, however, cover the "trial of the century" as a photographer for The Dallas Times Herald.

 Ruby in hall    Judge Joe Brown

Jackson's Career 

Jackson worked as a newspaper photographer in Dallas from the early 1960s into the 1970s, and his photography tells a larger story than just the weekend of the assassination.  As a photographer, Jackson was a professional observer.  His "everyday" news images taken for the Times Herald both before and after the assassination shed light on a period when Dallas began to evaluate and reconstruct its international image in the aftermath of the traumatic death of President Kennedy.

Integration    Motorcade downtown

Conclusion

Through both well-known and rarely-seen black-and-white photographs, artifacts and film footage, A Photographer's Story sets the events of the assassination weekend in the context of Jackson's four-decade career in photojournalism. Jackson's most famous photograph is seared into the collective memory of the Kennedy assassination weekend. Yet, his other images from those dramatic four days provide a more complete portrait of the turmoil and emotion of those events.  In 2008, while reflecting on his extraordinary career, Jackson said, "The Pulitzer Prize image will last a long time.  I was just on a pretty routine assignment that turned into an historical event.  I was just fortunate to be able to cover it.  In the end, I want to be remembered not just for one picture, but for a career where I tried to do my best on any and every assignment." 

 Black farmer    Cowboys Staubach    Dealey Plaza