Dealey Plaza's Main Street and Elm Street
Backstory and Context
As I said above Dealey Plaza is an important part of American history, more specifically in Texas’ history and even the Presidency’s history. “The site marks the birthplace of Dallas, originally founded by John Neely Bryan in the 1840's. Almost a century later, as a part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration, the familiar white concrete colonnades and triple underpass were constructed, creating a vehicular park to serve as gateway to the city. The project was spearheaded by civic leader George Bannerman Dealey. After George B. Dealey died in 1946, a bronze statue to honor him was installed in the park and already had his name (Jfk.org).” Dealey Plaza has seen its fair share of history, from all the way back in the mid-1800's up until the 1960's and present day. Regardless though we can see that Dealey Plaza has been an important part of American history from the start. Being a birthplace of one of the larger cities in the state of Texas it more or less pushed the creation of the state into light and got it on track. Dealey Plaza’s past most definitely has a strong connection to why it has found a spot in American Presidential history, mainly because the Plaza is a very important and public area of that part of northeastern Texas.
After hearing a little bit of backstory to this small section of the West End area of downtown Dallas known as Dealey Plaza, we can look at how it is specifically connected to the American Presidency. As talked about briefly in the introduction, Dealey Plaza is bookmarked in darker American history overall because of the assassination of our 35th and youngest president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was a very young, charismatic, and promising president, winning the election in 1960, against Republican candidate Richard Nixon. John F. Kennedy was the youngest president ever elected, he won the election against an older candidate than him, and John was 43 at the time of his victory. Sadly enough though, John would only be able to fulfill three years of his presidency, due to his life taken away by Lee Harvey Oswald.
President John F. Kennedy was in Texas for the next upcoming election year. He wished to gain more votes from this particularly red state, but he was optimistic in the travel for more votes. “By the fall of 1963, President John F. Kennedy and his political advisers were preparing for the next presidential campaigning. Although he had not formally announced his candidacy, it was clear that President Kennedy was going to run and he seemed confident about his chances for re-election. At the end of September, the president traveled west, speaking in nine different states in less than a week. The trip was meant to put a spotlight on natural resources and conservation efforts. But JFK also used it to sound out themes – such as education, national security, and world peace – for his run in 1964 (JFK Library).” After his swing out west he then decided to try and get Florida and Texas on his side for the upcoming 1964 election. President Kennedy knew that having these larger states on his side of the election meant a larger chance for a win. “President Kennedy was aware that a feud among party leaders in Texas could jeopardize his chances of carrying the state in 1964, and one of his aims for the trip was to bring Democrats together. He also knew that a relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence felt – particularly in Dallas, where US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there. Nonetheless, JFK seemed to relish the prospect of leaving Washington, getting out among the people and into the public fray (JFK Library).” Even though he knew that going to Texas might not be the best idea because of extremists, President Kennedy still went on his journey. It is unknown if Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone shooter, if he was hired by someone or an association to do it, or if he was working for the Soviets, but we do know and understand his past relatively well. Oswald was a fan of the Soviet Union and spent a lot of time there after his time in the military, which isn’t really evidence for anything but at the same time it does make one’s mind ponder at the instance that he could’ve been working for and with the Soviets.
November 22nd 1963, President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline Kennedy, Texas governor John Connally, and his wife Nellie went to Dallas in an open convertible motorcade. On a ten mile long journey to a luncheon where JFK would speak, shots were fired as they were driving through Dealey Plaza. President Kennedy was struck by two bullets, one in the head and one in the neck. Governor Connally was hit in the back as well. Initially right after the shooting the motorcade took off towards the hospital, but by the time they arrived, it was too late for our president. President Kennedy was announced dead at 1:00 that day. The whole nation was speechless, heartbroken, and confused as to why someone would do such a godless thing. This day marked Dealey Plaza a murder site of a president rather than a birthplace of a city in Texas.
Nowadays you can visit this plaza, take tours, and pay your respects in a sense. There is a white ‘X’ on the road to where President Kennedy was in the motorcade when the shooting took place. There is also a museum with a floor (the sixth) dedicated to JFK. After the assassination Dealey Plaza became a hotspot for conspiracy theorist. “A 2003 ABC News poll found that 70% of Americans believe Kennedy’s death was the result of a boarder plot. The trajectory of the bullets, some say, didn’t square with Oswald’s perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Others suggest a second gunman – perhaps on the grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza – participated in the shooting (Content.Time.com).” Out of the many conspiracy theories some say it was just Oswald, others think it was the CIA, some believe it was the mob, or even the KGB. Regardless of whoever pulled the trigger and gave the possible order, an amazing president was murdered and a once nice and beautiful plaza was turned into a murder crime scene.
In conclusion the Dealey Plaza of Dallas Texas was originally a nice little area near downtown Dallas, where you could walk, sit down, or even go for a nice drive. It was the birthplace of its origin city. Dealey Plaza was sadly turned into a depressing and dark piece of American history that inspires conspiracy theorists and many tourists.
A Gateway to the City , History of Dealey Plaza . Invalid date. Accessed December 6th 2019. https://www.jfk.org/the-assassination/history-of-dealey-plaza/.
November 22nd, 1963: Death of the President, John F. Kennedy: Presidential Library and Museum . Accessed December 6th 2019. https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/november-22-1963-death-of-the-president.
The JFK Assassination , Conspiracy Theories. Accessed December 6th 2019. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1860871_1860876_1861003,00.html.