Filming Kennedy: Home Movies from Dallas

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Dr. A. Jack Jernigan

Jernigan still
A.J. Jernigan Collection

"On the way to Love Field . . . the clouds began to lift, the sky began to get blue. Walter commented, 'I believe God is on the president’s side today.'"

Dr. A. Jack Jernigan
August 16, 2007
Oral History Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Dr. A. Jack Jernigan, chief psychologist at the Dallas Veterans Hospital, planned to take his children out of school to see the Kennedy motorcade on November 22, 1963. But he decided against it since “it was a very misty morning in Dallas,” as he recalled in his 2007 oral history. Nevertheless, he took his Kodak Brownie, Model 2 home movie camera to work in case the weather cleared.

Later that morning, when a young psychology intern, Walter Penk, mentioned he was meeting his wife and son at Love Field, Jernigan replied, “Well, we may go along together, and you can ride with me.” After meeting Penk’s family, they decided they might have a better view of the president if they waited at the exit to the airport to watch his motorcade leave. Jernigan stood on a circular concrete platform to get a better view and captured the arrival of Air Force One and Two. “Walter and his wife and son decided to walk on up a little bit toward the gate from which the caravan would be exiting,” Jernigan remembered. As a result, the Penks are visible in his film.

As the motorcade approached Jernigan’s position, he was concerned that the Secret Service might mistake his home movie camera for some type of weapon. That thought quickly vanished, however, when President Kennedy passed by. “The president waved,” Jernigan wrote the day after the assassination, “and I had the distinct impression that he was aware of my presence and waved for the camera.”

After leaving Love Field, Jernigan and Penk got onto Stemmons Freeway, where Jernigan filmed a short sequence showing the Dallas Trade Mart. He briefly parked the car and got out in the hope of watching the motorcade’s arrival. He captured the sign welcoming the Kennedys to Dallas. “I got into the car and drove back onto Stemmons,” remembered Jernigan. “We turned the corner, going south from the mart. All of a sudden, Dallas was frozen.” He remembers all traffic stopped on the freeway as police motorcycles made their way around the cars. Around this time, he turned on the car radio and learned that President Kennedy had been shot.