JFK's FINAL HOURS IN TEXAS Presents Eyewitness Account of the Tragedy and Its Aftermath

JFK's FINAL HOURS IN TEXAS Presents Eyewitness Account of the Tragedy and Its Aftermath

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin, and leading independent digital publisher RosettaBooks today announced the publication of JFK's FINAL HOURS IN TEXAS: An Eyewitness Remembers the Tragedy and Its Aftermath by Julian Read, as a hardcover and eBook, respectively. The national media representative for Texas Governor John B. Connally in 1963, Read is one of the few remaining eyewitnesses to the tragedy who was on the White House press corps bus as part of President John Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas on November 22. Now, for the first time, Read describes the agony of that day and the weeks immediately following for those at the epicenter of the tragedy, and the history-changing legacies of the Kennedy assassination for Texas and our nation.

Julian Read rode within full view of JFK's limousine, which was driving slowly less than 200 yards ahead, uncovered so enthusiastic crowds could see the charismatic first couple and their Texas hosts, Governor and Mrs. Connally. From his front seat, Read had a clear view across the bus driver onto Dealey Plaza, looking down the incline at the presidential car as it rolled past the School Book Depository. Suddenly, he heard a loud pop-and then, two more-that changed the course of history.

He rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he found the First Lady, in her pink suit, and Nellie Connally in the deserted hall outside the trauma rooms where their two husbands were fighting for their lives. There, Mrs. Connally told Read what occurred in the limousine-information he used to give the first briefing to the press and the world at Parkland, moments after White House Deputy Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff announced to a stunned gathering that the president had died.

As an 18-year-old cub reporter for the venerable Fort Worth Press, Read had founded his own fledgling advertising and publicity shop and had gained recognition in helping to elect an underdog politician named Jim Wright, who later became speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Intimately involved from the beginning in John Connally's successful campaign for governor of Texas in 1962, Read-like Connally, the son of a poor Texas dirt-farming family-became and remained his counselor, confidant, and "consigliere" for more than 30 years.

In JFK's FINAL HOURS IN TEXAS, Read covers fifty years of history in the making from the perspective of a native Texan present for the incomprehensibly shattering body blows of that horrific day in Dallas, the weekend that followed and throughout the traumatic months-and years-of recovery in the aftermath. He recreates the momentum of the presidential visit and the unfolding political and social change afterwards, including:

  • The maneuverings, machinations, and plays for influence in planning the five-city Texas trip
  • Speculation on support for the president's reelection the following year
  • Crowd reaction to the first public appearance of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy since the loss of their infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, a few months earlier
  • More than 60 pages of archival images including Jackie Kennedy speaking in Spanish to Mexican Americans at a LULAC meeting in Houston; Kennedy leaving his security force to greet crowds at Love Field; and Read's scrawled notes from the immediate aftermath of the assassination
  • How JFK's martyrdom and the political genius of Lyndon Johnson hastened policy including the Voting Rights Act, civil rights legislation, and a broad collection of Great Society measures
  • The previously overlooked consequences of the aborted portion of the trip, and more.

JFK's FINAL HOURS IN TEXAS is available as a hardcover (Dolph Briscoe Center for American History; $24.95) and an eBook (RosettaBooks; $9.99). The print edition also includes an inserted "mini-guide" to a number of events and activities planned in Texas to honor President Kennedy in commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death.