On 50th anniversary of JFK death - tears, memories, suspicion

Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:18pm EST
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By Jon Herskovitz and Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - President John F. Kennedy was remembered with prayer, song and tears in Dallas on Friday, the 50th anniversary of his assassination, as the city held its first official ceremony marking an event seen as the darkest day in its history.

"Our collective hearts were broken," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told a crowd of about 5,000 who came to a frigid Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was slain while riding in a motorcade.

Remembered fondly for his youthful vigor and glamorous wife, Kennedy remains one of Americans' favorite presidents for his handling of the Cuban missile crisis, his call to public service with programs such as the Peace Corps, and a promise - later fulfilled - to land an American on the moon before the end of the 1960s.

"A new era dawned and another waned a half century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas," Rawlings said.

The assassination cut short "Camelot," as the 1,000 days of the Kennedy presidency became known. He was 46 when he died.

"If that hadn't happened, history might have changed. He was a different kind of president," said Douglas Ducharme, a Canadian attending the event.

There were a few scuffles along the perimeter fence around Dealey Plaza between police and protesters, including conspiracy theorists who wanted to take part in the official event and others who sought attention for their concerns about what they consider police brutality in Dallas.

In previous years, conspiracy theorists gathered in Dealey Plaza to express their doubts of the official Warren Commission conclusion that gunman Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, shooting Kennedy to death from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository as the president rode in an open limousine.   Continued...

Members of the Kennedy family pay their respects at Arlington National Cemetery to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy at his gravesite in Arlington, November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing