Thirteen-year-old captured on film the Kennedys passing in front of the Texas School Book Depository entrance.
Tina Towner stood in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, with her father’s 8mm home movie camera, filming the Presidential motorcade turning onto Elm Street seconds before the first shot. Her father stood next to her, taking still pictures with his camera. Today, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza announced that Tina Towner Pender has donated the film, photographs and both cameras to the permanent collection of the Museum.
“We are privileged to receive Ms. Towner Pender’s significant donation of her family’s remarkable photographs and home movie to The Sixth Floor Museum,” said Nicola Longford, executive director. “It is especially moving to receive a gift of this stature as the Museum celebrates its 26th anniversary tomorrow. As diligent stewards preserving the historical record, this new collection and dramatic visual documentation will allow for further research and study into the moments surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination.”
During the Dallas visit of President and Mrs. Kennedy in November 1963, the Towner family stood on the southwest corner of Houston and Elm streets directly across from the Texas School Book Depository entrance. Jim Towner photographed the Kennedy limousine turning onto Elm Street while Tina used the family’s movie camera to capture the same moments seconds before the shooting began. Minutes later, Tina shot an additional scene showing shocked bystanders along Elm Street. Her father walked further down Elm Street and took three photographs showing motorcade cars as bystanders and investigators reacted to the shooting and ran up the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza; and a distraught eyewitness describing what he saw.
At thirteen years old, Ms. Towner Pender was the youngest Dealey Plaza eyewitness known to be using a camera that day. “It started as an innocent day trip to see the President and ended with my family as witness to the most horrific crime imaginable,” said Tina Towner Pender. “I am donating these items to The Sixth Floor Museum because I want to ensure that the photos and home movie are properly cared for and preserved.”
Ms. Towner Pender wrote of her experience in Dealey Plaza in a book titled,
Tina Towner: My story as the youngest photographer at the Kennedy assassination.
“The Towner photos and home movie are crucial to understanding what happened in Dealey Plaza in the seconds just before and after the Kennedy assassination,” said Gary Mack, curator at The Sixth Floor Museum. “The Museum and I are honored that Mrs. Pender has donated these remarkable images that are still answering questions about the Kennedy assassination.”
The public first saw the Towner images in 1967 when several of them appeared in a Life magazine issue about amateur photographers of the assassination. The two cameras being donated by Ms. Towner Pender are a Tower Varizoom 8mm movie camera and a Yashica 44 twin-lens reflex camera mounted with a 60mm Yashica lens.