Dealey Plaza: The Front Door of Dallas

All Exhibits


Orville Nix Photo
Nix Collection

Assassination in Dealey Plaza

"There was the rifle. I could see the rifle…being drawn in the window."

Bob Jackson
Former Dallas Times Herald photographer
November 22, 1993
Oral History Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

On his visit to Dallas on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart. In the presidential car with Kennedy were his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally's wife, Nellie. Hundreds of well-wishers were scattered throughout the plaza. Nellie Connally’s last words to Kennedy—“Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you!”—reflected the sentiment of the crowd.

Suddenly, at 12:30 p.m., after the motorcade turned from Houston Street onto Elm Street, shots were fired, killing President Kennedy and wounding Governor Connally. Bob Jackson, a Dallas Times Herald photographer, was in a press car in the motorcade, eight cars behind the president. After he heard a third shot, Jackson looked up and spotted a rifle at a sixth-floor corner window in the Texas School Book Depository building.

"Now you see people really being given an opportunity to come to this strange killing ground out here and see with their own eyes…what happened. And that’s the oddity of this place. That it seems so banal…the concrete pergola from a WPA project, the curve downhill toward the freeway, the railroad overpass, the Depository building…all of these totally banal city structures…gain a kind of symbolic significance."

Josiah Thompson, Kennedy assassination researcher and author of Six Seconds in Dallas
November 21, 1998
Oral History Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

"Cradle" and "Grave"

Dorothy and Carter Murphy Collection

Not only was Dealey Plaza the birthplace of the city and county of Dallas, founded by John Neely Bryan in the 1840s, but it was also the site of Dallas’ ultimate city planning solution, a vehicular park and a triple underpass. Built in the 1930s and 1940s during the fervor of the Texas Centennial and President Roosevelt’s New Deal, these projects were spearheaded by Dallas civic leader George Bannerman Dealey.

Hailed as the “Front Door of Dallas,” Dealey Plaza served as the major gateway to the city from the west and, equally important, as a symbol of civic pride. In 1963, the focus changed when President Kennedy was assassinated in the heart of the plaza. Instantly, the proud cradle of a city’s history became known as an internationally recognized murder site.

Dealey Plaza presented Dallas with the controversy of addressing a site that served as both “cradle” and “grave”, a historic place where Dallas was born and an American president died.