chapter  2
33 Pages

Texas Tragedy

Air Force One, perhaps the most majestic representation of the modernAmerican presidency, glides down the runway at Dallas’s Love Field, and an eager crowd erupts in cheers. Alongside it, the almost identical Air Force Two delivers Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his party. A gaggle of government and party officials stand ready to greet the John F. Kennedys, and thousands of citizens jostle for position behind a fence. The plane’s door opens and stands empty as the crowd thrums with anticipation. After a few moments, a figure fills the void-an astonishingly beautiful woman wearing a striking pink outfit. Ignoring protocol, the president has sent his wife ahead of him. Onlookers shriek with surprise and excitement. Jacqueline Kennedy looks as she always does at public appearances: precisely perfect. The president, with his thick brown hair and impeccable clothes, quickly follows his wife, making his way vigorously down the steps. As they disembark, one TV reporter comments that the president’s tan is visible from yards away. Robert Donovan, the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau chief, later describes them as “two beautiful people that day, glam - orous [and generating] a screaming reception.”1