The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

November 22, 2013

Elkhart man met Kennedy the day he died

PALESTINE —

Do you remember where you were 50 years ago on Nov. 22, 1963?

Many people do — as that was the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade through downtown Dallas during a five-city tour of Texas to boost his re-election bid.

Elkhart resident Gary Robbins, 82, knows exactly where he was that day.

On that day, Robbins was a 32-year-old motorcycle police officer for the Fort Worth Police Department, making $315 a month. Fifty years later, all he has to remind him of that day is his old motorcycle police helmet, historical details and photos he has found through various archives.

“It's something I will never forget,” Robbins said. “I shook his hand that day. Thirty minutes to an hour later, he was dead.”

Kennedy started off the morning of Nov. 22, 1963 in Fort Worth. The nation's 35th president, Kennedy spoke briefly to several thousand people outside the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth, where he and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy spent the night. In the hotel, the president also spoke at a breakfast meeting with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

“A motorcycle police officer for the Fort Worth Police Department, I was assigned to escort the JFK motorcade from the old Texas Hotel in downtown Fort Worth after his speech in front of the hotel,” Robbins recalled. “The motorcade went north on Main (Street) then out Jacksboro Highway to River Oaks and then out to Carswell Air Force Base.”

Arriving at the air force base, the president exited the car they were riding in and started up the ramp. According to Robbins, his wife reminded him he did not thank the officers who escorted the motorcade.

“He came back down from Air Force One and shook hands with all of us,” Robbins recalled. “It was quite an honor. I have found some pictures from his visit to Fort Worth and one picture was President Kennedy shaking our hands. I think I was standing behind Mrs. Kennedy, but it's hard to tell in that photo and it was 50 years ago.”

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