tv Presidential Mourning Tragedy CSPAN April 30, 2022 11:40am-1:01pm EDT
as many of you know, the most divisive perhaps one of the most divisive elections in our nation's history was the election hundred president john adams ultimately lost to vice president thomas jefferson. and while the transfer of power was ultimately peaceful. adams did forego his successors inauguration. i think that's also happened another time or two, but i won't bring that up. and those two men actually remained at odds for many many
years. it was only later during their retirement. did they actually rekindle their friendship? discussing many different topics in their correspondence including the topic of death adams actually wrote to jefferson in 1822 these words quote. i answer your question. is death an evil? it is not an evil. is a blessing. to the individual and to the world yet we ought not to wish for it. to life becomes in supportable end quote he was 86 years old when he wrote this note. perhaps adams had become comfortable with the idea of leaving the world. but it was four years later.
that both men adams and jefferson passed away on the same exact day july 4th 1826 and while he was not present when his father died john quincy adams later recorded his father's last words three very poignant words thomas jefferson survives had no way of knowing that jefferson had died on the very same day. as americans then gathered across the country to honor the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence news of adams and jefferson's passing spread. and what had begun as a month of celebration? is now one of mourning and commemoration. and his citizens began to listen to eulogy speeches and tributes.
in churches government buildings and in public spaces and while jefferson and adams had their own opinions and how they should be remembered it would be up to those living in 1826 and successive generations even up till now to define and to shape their memory. will presidential sites such as yours are frequently called upon to discuss the legacies of people who have held the highest office in our country. and one way when very important way when iconic way as we all know these men will eventually die. and it's how that death is marked and remembered. becomes very important our next panel will provide wonderful and different perspectives on this process. one of our panelists has actually planned a presidential funeral. one is a historian and another oversees a presidential site
defined by tragedy. these three participants will give greater insight into how these rituals and how these events changed over time and how we can use moments like this to better understand the relationship between the american people and the president of the united states. as well as how presidential mourning at any given time can reflect different elements of american society politics and culture. our moderator for this session is john highbush executive director of the ronald reagan presidential. foundation and institute, and before i introduced the other panelists. i just want to take a moment of personal privilege here. and recognize john's 12 years of transformational leadership at the reagan foundation. i had the privilege of working for and with john for several
years and planning the reagan president the reagan centennial. and he was a great friend a great leader and certainly has been extraordinary in transforming the work of the reagan foundation and preserving and continuing to advance the legacy of our 40th president of the united states. so congratulations john for your great achievement. joining john on stage or my friend jean becker former chief of staff to president george hw bush and first lady barbara bush lewis picone historian and board trustee for the groveland cleveland birthplace memorial association and author of grant's tomb the epic death of ulysses s grant and the making of an american pantheon. and nicola longford executive director of the sixth floor museum at dealey plaza, nicola. thank you for welcoming. so many of our guests the other
day to your wonderful museum, please welcome us. and our panel as we continue the mornings program. thank you so much stewart as stuart mentioned he and i've had the chance to work. in the past both at the red cross and stuart was just an absolutely remarkable head of the reagan centennial in 2011. he has saved me from one disaster another weather at the right. for at the reagan library wonderful to be with you all this morning. i you know, i had a little trepidation when stuart told me that what he wanted me to discuss with our panels is death and destruction and tragedy and and i thought okay this this
will be quite a challenge but when i saw who are pan were that shall be hearing from this morning? it's it's really this is i think you're going to learn a lot and this you'll find this to be a real pleasure. even though the subject is a difficult subject for for well for all americans and and you'll learn more about that in just a moment. i did a little bit of homework. i'm not a good mathematician, but i i delved into some of the documents that the white house historical association pulled together. on this very topic of presidential funerals assassinations morning and the like and the math, you know today we have six living presidents today, including our current president in the white house. 32 have died outside of the white house of various natural causes eight presidents have
died while in office. four of those assassinated now as you can imagine depending on the circumstances very very different situations with respect to america and mourning depending on the particular president. these experts have studied just about every one of them. so when we get to the q&a portion have your questions ready? i think we know today americans. are having quite a lot of difficulty unifying coming together on just about anything. but when you experience when you plan when you study the death of the united states president we find that this it's some of these very rare moments where americans actually come together as a people. to mourn whether it be the
incredible shock. of an assassination of a president or natural passing of a president the morning is there i read in one of the papers that talked about how there's the quote is no greater shock for the country in the passing of a president. and i remember that you know, for example, i'm probably one of the elder statesman here today. i remember the passing of john f kennedy. i was just a mere five years old, but it was the very first memory i have as a young boy, and i remember i was living in arlington, virginia and i heard this thunderous noise outside of our home and i ran out into our backyard. and overhead were the jets that
were flying with the missing man of formation. just moving their way across the skyline of washington dc and then i ran downstairs. to our big black and white television set to see those very same jets on television and it's a my very first memory in a memory. i'll not forget and i thought a lot about it as i was studying up on our panelists. the what what you'll find is that presidential funerals presidential mourning is all about processions the lying in state. riderless horses teams of six white horses um, tell it in the modern day television roadblock coverage across all of the networks. presidential library burials the i'd like to start with the show
of hands can everyone who has fully planned and executed involved the presidential funeral. please raise your hand. here you're setting me up. i am now everyone who has bend or presidential funeral one of the events or as watched one on tv, raise your hand. okay, there's a lot more of a second than the first. so i want to i'd like us to start off by talking. with someone who has done it all gene becker. gene take us behind the scenes of what it is like to plan and involve yourself. in a full-blown modern-day presidential funeral and i what you see on tv, i hope looked
really organized and varied together. it's chaos. and it's a process that goes on for years and years. and i decided the best way to answer. your question. i'm not here to promote my book, but my editor would want me to show this the last chapter is called the long journey home. and i'm just gonna read something i put in the book talking about planning the funeral this before president bush died. one day in maine when i had worked all day on the funeral. i came home to house guests who were ready to do something fun for the evening. i was exhausted and a little frustrated at some of the problems. i knew i had to solve all i wanted to do was drink a bottle of wine and collapse. one of my friends was not amused and with major attitude. she said i don't understand what the big deal is. you've been planning this funeral for years.
how is it you're not done yet. what is the big deal? my answer i had a lot of attitude just imagine you're in charge of an event. that will take place over six days in three, maybe four if he died in maine it would have been four different cities and involves a cast of thousands including presidents and queens and kings and members of a very large family that live all over the united states who need to be moved from where they live to houston to washington back to houston to college station and back to their homes. all of which will be carried live on television morning noon and night for six days. and you have no idea when it's going to happen. none when it does happen you have about 48 hours before it all begins to pull it all
together before the show begins again live on television for the next six days. you won't sleep. you won't eat. you won't really think you just do. my ever asked that question. so that's just it's just in charge of the super bowl and houston and we literally had a fight about whose job was harder. i said, you know when the super bowl is and he said, but i know you're gonna agree with me he says, but i don't know the teams until two weeks out. you know, who's gonna die. this is seriously jean and i have a very close mutual friend joanne drake and when i first met when she works at the rate foundation and library one of the very first things that she showed me when i took on this
job was a three ring binder and i think stewart's seen this about this -- about six inches thick and it was the planning it was the plans that the staff. put together for president reagan's funeral. so i i know of what gene talks about and mrs. reagan's was just as thick. can i just add quickly that after president reagan died after president ford died after nancy reagan died. all joanne wrote long memos to me president ford who the man in charge of his funeral a man named greg will wrote me along memo. they became my bible of how to do a funeral it saved my life. and and i did the same for the chiefs of staff of president bush 43 obama. clinton and carter i wrote this long memo. what went right what went wrong and we can talk about later some
of those big challenges, but those memos saved my life. yeah in a moment. we'll talk about the sharing of those memos, but this is one of those the best laid plans of men, and i want to put a photo up for and ask gene to comment. here we go. gene best laid plans. sometimes there are surprises big surprises that might occur unexpected moments in presidential funerals. and here's just one. this is one of the best unexpected moments. of president bush's funeral if many of you will remember that president bush and bob dole were big political rivals. they had a very nasty 1988 republican primary contest and both says some things that they probably wish they hadn't said they became huge friends. and when senator dole this is when president bush's line and stayed in the the rotunda and he
insisted on standing. and saluting the casket. he's in a wheelchair now and i had an opportunity to ask him why he did this. why he insisted on standing and i can't tell you the answer without crying is that i had to stand and salute that great man. this was one of the big pictures of the funeral that went viral. no everyone. it was just such a wonderful moment, you know. lewis why so much spectacle i mean everyone passes at some time or another but why the pop and the circumstance? what's the history behind it? yeah, that's a good question because it's something that's built up over time and gene is hinting that all of these plans going into six days of a funeral. going back to the beginning with george washington with the very
first presidential funeral in 1799. just to show how far we've come george washington in his will ask for no funeral oration. so he didn't want any funeral and one of the reasons that i surmised is that washington had such a strong sense of republican virtue. and that in america our leaders were citizens first, and we were much different from the monarchs and the of all europe so he had asked for no funeral. now washington was a freemason. so the freemasons had asked martha they can hold a modest funeral for him and they did and i think there's maybe an image of the funeral and it was just a couple of hundred marchers that were in the funeral. he was he died and was interred. at mount vernon but the funeral
did set some precedence that are still in practice today, the the military flourishes the 21 guns salute the riderless horse that we still see today. now over time with advances in in technology and as the country grew funerals began to become more elaborate and significantly when the president died in office like william henry harrison being the first president diane office in washington, dc. there was a funeral procession which might a little bit resemble of what we see today with hundreds of martyrs that march from the white house to congressional cemetery where he was temporarily interred. and then over time with again with advances and technology like the train. and with embalming with abraham lincoln where there can be these
more elaborate elongated ceremonies before the president was interred, but still these modest funerals would still be in practice even into the 1900s grover cleveland's funeral from beginning from when the funeral first started at his home in princeton to when he was placed in the ground was barely one hour in princeton, new jersey. so extremely modest calvin coolidge's was probably the last of the modest funerals in 1932 were just several hundred guests attended this funeral in northampton, massachusetts. after that, we see where franklin roosevelt died in office in 1945 and there was this that major event, but it was unplanned because no one expected him to die. and that leads us into john f kennedy the next president to die and just very quickly after john f kennedy who also died on
planned is when presidents started to do this pre-planning of funerals and and wondering binder that turned into three or that grew over time. so that's when we see the modern the modern-day state funeral that were so familiar with now really start to form after kennedy. really herbert hoovers was the first one that had that pre-planning that had gone into it. yeah, and as you've pointed as we both pointed to the the planned element of it is as geneus said, okay. well, you don't know when when it's going to happen. my gosh with john f kennedy, you really really don't know when it's going to occur. yet a funeral still needs to take place and needs to take place relatively quickly. so nicola if you could talk to us, you've got this fabulous museum here in dallas the sixth floor museum, but a great deal
that that covers jfk's funeral. how were they able to do that? well, i think the last thing the presidential couple expected when they made their visit to texas into dallas was to have the four days in november and a national funeral and uniting the world and in sorrow, but mrs. kennedy was inspired by lincoln's funeral procession. so with great detail did she plan that and was enormous grace and support from her team? but the sexual museum really chronicles the assassination and addresses those chaotic days leading up to the assassination the aftermath and how the nation and the world warned and why they're still questions today yeah, i remember at the time. so i grew up and i found a book on our shelf at home. it was called a toward the torch's past famous book about
the jfk funeral and i remember leafing through it and seeing these iconic images of the funeral. i thought i'd pull one up. yeah. tell us about this moment. um one of those strengths of our museum collection is that we've been given donated so many wonderful images and films and her movies by innocent bystanders in this photograph was taking by dr. thomas mcconnell who actually was a doctor at parkland hospital before and after the assassination, but he was here documenting this tragic very sad moment of mrs. kennedy coming out with the children just before little john john raised his hand in salute. so we have a lot of materials that we haven't yet been able to put on display, but this is just one example where people have wanted to express their powerful memories not necessarily thinking that their stories are important, but it adds so much rich texture and dimension to the stories that we're able to do through programming. nicola tell me i'll use the word
tourist site, you know, and and whether we're dealing with ford's theater the side of the lincoln assassination or your own exhibit. tell me how do museums exhibits evolve dealing with an assassination when you're rubbing up against something. so extremely delicate and the morning it. how do you how does the community come together and decide it's time for us to commemorate this does it take a long while does it happen instantly? well, it takes a very long time on the day of the assassination the grassy knoll de lily plaza became an instant site, so we were just city of dallas was overwhelmed with mourners coming to try and understand what had happened. our story has been a very long journey one of great struggle
and endurance over the decades. obviously the assassination took place in 1963 the sixth rule museum exhibit didn't open until 1989 and in 1993, the daily plaza area was designated as a national historic landmark district designation. the museum opened after at least a decade of struggles trying to figure out what to do with that building. thank god dallas county save the building and turned it into dallas county administrative offices. through the first and fifth floors the sex laws left vacant and a wonderful lady who ended up becoming a very godmother linda lynn adams was the chair of the dallas county historical commission and she along with civic leaders. lobbied for throughout dallas to gain support to create an exhibit to explain to the world the events that led up to the assassination. we had to find a way to address. all the people that were
flocking to dealy plaza trying to seek their own meaning their own. piece in this tragic piece of history gene i didn't i didn't figure this out till i went to the reagan but you know it it's on the tip of your tongue. how do you approach a president to say listen? it's time to start talking about your death and we've got to get on with this thing and you know, how how soon will the president engage in this sophisticated planning effort. and is it a delicate moment? okay in so many ways i had the best job in america being george bush's chief of staff. he loved talking about his funeral for first of all the answer part of your question, i think. divinity the first funeral meeting in the white house when you're president, i obviously was not part of that meeting,
but i know that there is there they make sitting presidents at least do some kind of outline of a funeral in case he dies in office. so when i became his chief and staff, i inherited a very small folder of plans and by the time we were done it was a credenza he about after he turned maybe 80 i once a year i said we need to talk about your funeral. and he's like, oh good and you know really odd the other thing he did is every presidential funeral. he attended he changed his mind about something. after president nixon's is when he decided to be buried his library he and this is bush. we're gonna be be very kind of unport, maine. after president reagan, he decided he did not want to ride a rider to his horse. he thought it was too dramatic after president ford.
he wanted all the same music. my two favorite phone calls though was brent's go-croft and henry kissinger after president ford's they informed me that no one who was 80 or older should be honoring paul bearers because they were exhausted and they were cold and they were hungry and so i told president bush and so you know what we did his honorary paul bears with the captains of the uss george hw bush we kicked out all the old people bad and then my other favorite was the 43rd president stage who called me immediately after john mccain's funeral gene everyone at that funeral talked too long except for me. dad's funeral. no one talks more than 10 minutes 10 minutes. you got it. i'm like, yes, sir. but president bush i and i is this time to talk about the train? oh, we'll get to that. should we say that for later? yeah. okay, so he enjoyed talking about the funeral and one quick
story. this is a little bizarre, but even the national media has to get really organized because they also have to hit the ground running and the networks divide up who's gonna be the pool camera for the big events. fox news was the pool camera at the grave site and they called and wanted permission to come advanced it. to we ended up closing it to the media the grave the burial turned out to be a hundred percent private but for a while. is going to be a pool camera, so i just told president bush start as an fyi. i said you're not gonna believe this but fox news is advancing your graveside at the library today. he says i have an idea. he says i'm gonna go and when they get out there, i'm gonna be laying on top of the great with my arms crossed like i'm dead. i said no, you're not doing that. i told you this would not be all
about it lewis. how is it that in america the death of a president? drives ever so briefly and i want to know why so briefly these moments of national reconciliation. yeah. well, president is one person who unites everyone we all vote for president the president represents everyone so presidential funerals traditionally when the nation is divided is something that unites us and throughout history there have been periods of reconciliation some briefly some some more permanent that have come out of it that have where the presidential funeral has been the catalyst. one of the brief examples can go back to washington's funeral again when the country was
becoming greatly divided over over the formation of political parties. and george washington's funeral briefly brought together the federalists and democratic republicans to mourn together, but ultimately political forces were at play that were bigger than george washington's death. a couple of successful examples of how presidential funerals and presidential deaths have really been catalyst for one being after james garfield had died when he was assassinated and one of the reasons one of the of the dividing issues of the time was over civil service reform. and and the spoils party out of that out of that assassination shortly after the pendleton act is signed and civil service reform begins to take shape. perhaps one of the most potent examples of reconciliation being being spawned by by a
presidential death and funeral is ulysses s grants. because grant had died 20 years after the civil war. so a generation after the civil war when the country is still greatly divided north and south. but grant was really perhaps the one individual. that was beloved north and south of the mason-dixon line and dying a generation after the civil war. the nation was really ready for. reconciliation so he was really the perfect man at almost the perfect time to really bring about some of that reconciliation. during his funeral. there's there's confederate marchers who march with predominantly union, but also confederate marchers. there's two former confederate generals who were paul at his funeral. and his tomb which comes 12
years later in 1897 really becomes a place. where all sections of society come to mourn and pay respects at the same location again, there's north and south of the border. there's white americans. there's african americans. there's men and women democrats or republicans. he's really the one man and this becomes perhaps the one place that can really bring about this of this reunification. no, we know the history of reunification that it was largely also the reunification of the north and the south was also built upon upon african americans in the south losing their civil rights. so unfortunately, that's that's a very important part of the story, too. but grant's funeral was a point that really began to reform the united states of america that
had still been greatly divided in 1885 when he died. nicola i back to assassinations for a moment. yeah, fortunately the exhibit the reagan library portrays. what was thank god an attempted assassination. but in jfk's case an actual assassination and death of the president. how do you go about? determining what artifacts? what objects involving and assassination are? appropriate for public display. i'm sure that must be a difficult situation. well, i get that into amendment, but i'll do say that john john hinckley who attempted to assassinate president reagan actually lived in dallas. so that was another shock for dallas said has really still being really from the effects of having the city where the president was lost his life.
president kennedy's assassination was happened at the dawn of television and satellite broadcasting. so the news ricocheted all around the world and there's been an outpouring of interest all across the world since the assassination and finding out what happened. so people come to dallas trying to seek meaning. and the careful crafting of the original exhibit john f kennedy in the memory of a nation was designed to reach people who had lived through this traumatic time the it was not that this was a museum or a memorial. this was an exhibit that would help put into context historical context events that happened and to allow those people the remembrance as we call them to find their own solace and reflect. they had no idea that. 33 years later that there would be a sixth floor museum at deely plaza. that's an accredited museum by the american alliance museums
and so holding 90,000 artifacts originally the exhibit had very few artifacts. it was designed really to be sort of a floating. chronological look at the events leading up to president kennedy's trip to texas. what was the climate in dallas at the time the enormous welcome reception and the wonderful motorcade and i'm going through daily plaza, which was designed as a wpa project as a gateway into the city and it's still works as such. and nobody could imagine would have happened. but then the series of investigations afterwards, so the responsibility of the original project developers was to address the controversy, but walk a very fine line to be factually based not to tell you what to believe but to lead the visitor through and to come to their own. shoes at the very end. so over time we've tried to update the exhibit and put in more artifacts as we've been
lucky recipients of donations, and there's a gentleman here. also who has lent a very important artifact and that's the place setting that would have been at the trademark for the president. we have taken our display of artifacts very carefully. this is not to be ever display of curiosities. um, it's not ripley's it or not. most of the evidentiary materials in the national archives and probably won't see the life of we won't see it in our lifetimes perhaps on display. the most controversial artifact that we put on display in preparation for the 50th anniversary commemoration was the rifle. it's an exact copy of the one that we have your oswald used to assassinate the president. that's carefully displayed some people don't even notice it another artifact was the wedding ring that lee harvey oswald left on the dressing room or
nightstand the morning of the assassination with all his cash 187 dollars. but we wanted to display these things to provoke questioning what was behind the mindset of this man that had he not left his ring and money in the teacup. and hadn't argued with his wife the night before woody have taken those drastic actions that he did that of course such tragedy. you know gene we've talked about big binders and planning books and the rest of that, but you also touched on. different staffs of different presidents and it might be presidents of opposite parties at each other's next at times there seems to developed in the modern times like a camaraderie almost as it were amongst presidential staffs reaching out to help each other in these
really difficult times. talk about that a little it really is we have each other's back. and as i mentioned earlier, certainly president reagan's chief of staff it was really present for its lawyer who planned his funeral. and they give you a heads up of the landmines. that are ahead. and without those they saved my life and how to organize it before and and how does they sing during? and one of the bigger challenges that i face, is this a good time to talk about what i learned from both president reagan and president ford for the state funeral in washington, dc. all of congress's invited and their spouse. all the governors are invited and there's spouses and the diplomatic cores invited they don't all come.
and what happens is about five o'clock the night before the funeral. you find out how many tickets come back to you five o'clock the night before the reagan and the ford people were caught so flat-footed by this for a couple of reasons that they busted boy scouts. i was ready because they warned me to be ready i way over invited. and for about 12 hours, we had 281 people coming that i did not have a seat for and the funeral team was very nervous. i was a size 6 when president bush died. i'm just saying but sure enough at five o'clock the night before the funeral. i got 500 seats back. and i was ready 281 it already been invited. i won't go into detail, but there are other i we filled every seat. there was a b list that he meeted but one of the pieces of advice they gave me was to identify a group of people.
who you could invited the last minute to be your seat filler someone who meant something to the president. so we chose the cia. he had a very close relationship with the cia. so i asked them if they could use some tickets in the end and they were thrilled i had 75 seats left. and i gave them to the cia and i i will need names. because the security was very tight as you can imagine and those what my favorite moments that week the person of into the phone said, yeah, don't worry about that. you know, you've got to love those guys, but that's just an example of working together. so now all the chiefs of sit feeling jesus staffs now, they know be ready for those seats come back to you. yeah lewis you mentioned it and
as did eugene the whole concept of funeral trains trains. i want to put up a photograph. for people to see and where did the traditions start? okay, when did that stop and then we'll go to junior? yeah. yeah. so the the first president's who was president's remains who was placed. i on a train was was william henry harrison, but that wasn't part of his funeral. he was temporarily interned i congressional cemetery before being brought to ohio, but the first funeral train was 1848 when john quincy adams died. he had died in washington dc. he was also temporarily in turn but for for a shorter term at congressional cemetery before being being brought up north to boston to be buried buried in
quincy. and so the train was almost it wasn't really meant to be a funeral train. it was just meant to be a form of transportation to take him north. but meanwhile people would gather at the track and they would men would take off their hats when when the train passed and it really became a a place of mourning that funeral track and for people who didn't have the means to go to the funeral in dc or didn't have the wherewithal to go to quincy for any ceremonies were able to have their brief moment with with the former president to pay their respects. abraham lincoln's funeral train in 1865 really is probably the funeral train that that is the most famous funeral train of the mall. and again, i mentioned that
earlier there's the intersection of of railroad technology, but also embalming which was perfected during the civil war. so mary todd wanted her husband buried in springfield, which was 1700 miles away from where he was assassinated. so there was a long funeral train that spanned two weeks stopped in multiple cities where abraham lincoln's remains were removed from the train and and put out for public viewing in a prominent building but during those 1700 miles there was hundreds and hundreds of displays and bonfires and people that would be singing hymns to to pay their respect. so in the end there was millions and millions of people who either saw one of the many one of the many processions or were
along those railroad tracks. it was a very personal way that people can pay their respect to the president and the coffin would be placed on display with windows. so so people can actually see the coffin when they pass by now over time again with technology changing the funeral train kind of of went out of style if you will. dwight eisenhower's funeral in 1869 was the last funeral train before president bush's and one of the reasons reportedly was because mamie didn't like the fly. so she preferred the train? but it really it's very important because it really creates a way for just everyday citizens to be able to pay their respects. yeah. sure gene. i'm gonna give you a hit by the way president eisenhower's train i grew up in a on a farm in
missouri and his train went through my hometown at night ten o'clock o'clock at night and we went we went to mississippi for the world. we definitely went so can you all see can they see the pictures? we're seeing i'm not and you'll see them pull that up again. here we go. there you go. so president bush loved trains, he was in love with trains he decided he wanted to train his the his second funeral service was in houston. that was the family and friends funeral. he was buried at his library about 90 miles away in college station, texas anyone to train he loved talking about this train. you're not gonna please don't judge me, but one day we're talking about any so excited he really viewed his funeral as a big event, and he said gene will be great. we'll be exhausted from all those events and we can eat lunch on the train and we can visit and rest and relax before the burial and i i don't know what why but i said, sir.
your family. well i said i'm more or less said to him that you're not and he said gene. i will be on the train. i may not eat lunch, but i'll be okay. anyway, this is this is a union pacific train union pacific was amazing. they had this engine specially made is they have now donated it to his library in college station. it is under a tarp. it will be unveiled on president bush's 100th birthday, june 12th. 2024 your all invited. this is an amazing. it was an amazing train. this was one of the more touching moments. we're coming over the track was packed just like all the historic trains, but there was a group cowboys waiting on their horses and as a train went by they tipped their cowboy hats what i didn't know until later there was about 20 cowboys, but
the the engineered decided to toot the horn to greet them and most the horses ran off. these were the only five but we all cried it was it was really special there have been 20 of them. i don't know what we would have done but it was it was a really special part of his funeral. yeah great. great story. i've got oh a hundred more questions, but i bet a few of you in the audience do well. we're bringing microph. is up front and i promise if you're too afraid ask a question. i'm not and i've got a lot more so but if you if you would we've got 20 20 minutes for questions and please feel free to come forward. i don't have a question. but i wanted to give you an
eyewitness account of being in the capital. when they brought the casket in my father was a united states senator from the state of wyoming. and on the day of the capital event he put the family in the car, and he said let's go down and let me see if i can get you into the capitol. so we drove downtown. and we couldn't get anywhere. it was total. good luck. and he leaned out the window and asked set up to a policeman. i'm senator mcgee. i need to be in the capital and immense immediately he got us a police escort. who took us over to constitution avenue? the site that jackie kennedy would be on just a few minutes later. so we drove by all the faces.
that she would see. and we were taken up. behind the capitol where all the dark cars were parked? my dad drove a blue and white chrysler with big fins on the tail and our car was parked right in there and appeared in all the pictures as this one light car, but we were taken up the steps. into the capital put right behind a rope line where the casket was. and that's right where mrs. kennedy and i think only caroline came up to the casket. and it was just that far away from me. and it was the first time i had ever had i'd ever experienced death. and i finally couldn't i was trying to hold back tears. i didn't want to cry in front of my father.
but i started to cry. and right as i was wiping a tear away. a reporter snapped my picture i had a copy of the picture. but my parents never told me that it appeared. different places around the country so it's become a big treasure of mine. and then my father told me that. however, many days later the the senate and a bus all the senators and drove them out to arlington. and he was there. and when he turned around i've never seen this reported. president nixon was standing by himself under a tree. behind all those all those people so anyway, i just wanted to relay that story because it was very personal and i don't know if i'm the only one in the room that was there. but i was yeah, can i ask how old you were at the time i was
probably about 16 and 11th grade if i could just thank you so much for sharing that story. this is still very much living memory and it's important to record all these memories and we'd be delighted to do an oral history with you we have over 2,000 growing oral histories in this new material add so much dimension in texture to our storytelling and we do wonderful public programs and they're all on youtube. so that's a shameless promotion for looking at our youtube channel for all a wonderful programs and people like you sharing their memories. thank you. thank you nicole. i know how important those oral histories are to the museum. so i really do. hope you get together with her sir. good morning. my name is tracy messer with the calvin coolidge presidential foundation. thank you all for here this morning. on three occasions mr. coolidge wore a black armband as a symbol of mourning on the death of his
predecessor warren g harding on the death of his 16 year old son calvin jr. and on the death of his father colonel coolidge, and i was wondering if any of you can comment on the tradition of wearing a black armband as a sign of mourning when did it start and when did it seem to go out of fashion? i know that i should be able to comment on this, but unfortunately, i don't know the history of that. but yeah, but it's something that isn't really in style now. you don't really see it now. but yeah, unfortunately that's a really good question and i don't have the answer. sir yes, thank you, sir. nikolai. i had the privilege of marching in president kennedy's. inaugural parade and i had to also that was my plea beer and my if the naval academy and my
first class year, i had the privilege of leading the honor company. ah that marched in his funeral procession. and the marine band the us the naval the national geographic magazine took a picture at the lincoln memorial. it was the marine band west point. the naval academy the air force academy and finally the coast guard academy honored companies. and that's a memory. i will take to my grave. i was the class of 1964 and of course. this was january. i mean september 25. 1963 and i can remember.
the people on the streets and in the trees to get a better. view of the funeral procession being in tears and my question for you is we all remember john john's. salute in front of the catholic church ah on rhode island avenue do you know any background on that? salute i think he might have been prompted to salute. i think that is what the historical record is, but i can't verify that do you? yeah, i think that's the case. yeah. we're jackie had. had prompted him to salute his father. it was his birthday actually, too. it happened to be john john's
third birthday on that thing, but also want to thank you again for sharing our memories and this is just an example when the sixth floor exhibit was created in 1989 after decade. a lot of controversy and still controversy after opened and we're not afraid of dealing with controversy. we walk a very fine line but really adds power and meaning to our storytelling is the stories that you've shared. it's so important to collect them now and as we shout to younger generations to understand why this is such a significant event of the 20th century and why it's still controversial and yet why president kennedy's legacy still inspires us to become engaged citizens and back to the conversation that we've had over the last couple of days about civic engagement citizenship leadership educating our youth. these are all gathering rising points that i hope that we will take through to the 250th anniversary of this country.
you know nickelodeon we corresponded prior to this event, and i know one of the topics that you wrote about was i think just the same kind of moments that we're seeing here where these exhibits or museums. really provide an opportunity for closure and i sense that's the case for so many that have participated in these events. our exhibit was designed to help provide closure for the remembrance. but as there's been generational shift obviously and open. up to more diverse audiences and to be more inclusive because so many people were affected by. the assassination and one of the difficult challenges that we have here in dallas is getting school children from the north, texas to come because we're not in the teks. and so they're multiple facets that we have for learning opportunities, and we will be reshaping the museum as we have more space to expand and
showcase some of the artifacts and make it relevant today. i think all of us are talking about relevancy, and how do we empower our youth to be? curious about the past and find meaning in the present and to take action action and shaping the future. yes, thank you nicola. i have a question. i have a friend who's a historian at independence hall in philadelphia, and he tells me they get so many phone calls. so and so found so and so in the attic, which is a copy of the declaration of independence, i'm sure you get calls so and so has this bit of evidence or so and so saw this but as far as cold hard not so much evidence, but do you ever get new photographs of deal? of that day of people that come forward. i know many of them went to the fbi and were under investigation, but do you ever see people that come out and say these are photographs from that day indially plaza from that day somewhere else that you're still getting now. believe it or not. yes, we do.
and i'm looking at my stuff over here that deal with a collections. collection surprisingly we do still receive wonderful things that have never been seen before. a lot of people unfortunately, though there's a huge private collection collecting of kennedy memorabilia. so some of the things come up for auction a lot that would belong in a museum, but are not in a museum. they're in private hands. we want our artifacts to help guide the interpretation of this very complicated stories. so multi-dimensional, but as i said the 90,000 things that we have in the collection that original most of never been on display. so our films are home movies photographs people don't think that they're materials are very consequential. i don't think they're going to be a significant necessarily as a sapuda film. but anything that can had to
help people understand their peace in a moment that they were there as i witnesses is important to us and i see you came in 2005 and being so immersed in what you do every day. do you personally believe that there are other films out there that may show what happened somebody else was rolling or do you think abraham is a pruder was the only one rolling first? i have no opinions good answer. it's possible but unlikely. i think everybody's hoping that something will surface but after all these years. you know, it's every year goes by and something hasn't surface that's going to sort of. help us solve. the mystery i think the warren commission, we've worked very hard over the years because our storytelling was deemed so controversial and polarizing. to confront conspiracy a little bit more directly and especially with the one commission and staff as everybody. thought we were going to be some
sort of towardry. exploitative exhibit and we've worked very hard to stay as far removed from that as possible. thank you very much make well. i had read that as at least as of 2018. still over 60% of americans believe there's a broader conspiracy at play than lee harvey oswald had just an interesting step. what's the terribly complicated story and you know during the morning period the shock of jack ruby shooting lee harvey oswald the assassinated the assassin of the president on live television. i mean it was just an absolute crisis one after the other and i don't think young people understand that chaos and how he came through it. yeah. sir louis you mentioned that prior to hoover most of these processions were unplanned. so i was wondering if you could
shed some light on how administrations and prior to the 25th amendment would balance the expectation of showing morning for presidents who died in office with also the obligation to continue to provide governance to the american people. they i mean they managed to do both there was always the transition of power. i mean after lincoln edwin stanton probably had more power than than president johnson for a while, but the but the funerals were paramount they were away. there was this urge especially in the case of presidential assassinations like garfield and lincoln that was just this this mass public urge to say farewell and and to see to see the president one last time where they they really managed to do both now the president wasn't
the new president wasn't really largely involved in it. he was going about the business of government notably. harry truman was kind of thrown into the government after fdr's death, and he really had a crash course of what was going on with the government while on the funeral train partially while on the funeral train, so they managed to uphold the traditions and the expectations of the public for the for the public funerals, but the the work of government went on and lbj did the same thing very quickly took over commands of power even on air force one while they're still at love field. so yeah, there's always been that that balance of retaining the secession of power to make sure that that wasn't that wasn't disturbed. also giving attention to the public morning.
thank you. thank you. yes, ma'am. thank you. hi, my name is colleen rickenbacker and i live here in dallas. and this is more of a story and obviously a big honor that i had linda lynn adams when this is towards the end of the 80s. she came to our office. i worked for the dallas convention visits bureau, which was now visit dallas and she came and i was the head of the convention services department and we had the great privilege she was taking us there to the sixth floor before anything was done and this was exactly how it looked when supposedly lee harvey oswald shot president kennedy, so we brought our whole department there which was about seven of us and they said to enter back from the back of the sixth floor to come up the back steps and come there and they would meet us there. so we get to the back steps. we come up to the sixth floor. we stand there there's seven of us standing there and we're ready to open the door and it tells me nothing's been touched nothing. it's the exactly the same way. it was we get to the door. we're going you go first. no you go first. no you go first. none of us. in because this is you know,
it's a part of history it's there. so actually since i was the head of the department i went in and everything with the boxes were standing are the same where he stood and looked out the window and shot him and everything was and it was the one of the best experiences that i have my life. just exactly a place some time a place in history and they walked us through where the boxes were and where he shot and where he ran out the back. so if you didn't get the experience to go to the sixth floor take the time tomorrow to do that. it's an unbelievable, you know exhibit and then how he went and he ran down the backstores with the bullets were and the shells and where he went down that way. so i just want to say how absolutely it was and our whole purpose because we got to work the whole year with her and how to get our you want to conventions would come into the city how to get them there to see a piece of this history and to get the children from the school. so we run round of the schools and how we told the story and how we had all the conventions that come into our city. so i just thank you very much for sharing that you have to do in all history. as well and i'll have to say
that the building is the greatest artifact you mentioned some of the artifacts also the snipers perch which is closed off, but we couldn't tell our story in another place. we are very much place based and i think there's a tremendous parent that site but we're very fortunate that the sixth floor was left pretty much in its original state and that's thanks to the preservation architects were involved in the project initially. thank you. i think we've got time probably for one last question this man. thank you jennifer kaps with the benjamin harrison presidential site and so currently harrison is one of the few first ladies who passed away while serving his first lady, so just conversation is just made me curious. i know more about presidents, but first ladies, do they also have a plan is they're also binder do they start that conversation matches the president's day. do you know if they have those sort of plans in place as well? like i could answer you have
overbush, she did have a plan their funerals are much simpler because it's one service. in their in in their home church. typically she took me with her to betty ford's funeral mrs. bush did betty ford actually had two funerals one in california and one in michigan, but mrs. bush wanted me to go with her and we talked about betty ford's funeral all the way home and was the first really meeting we had about her funeral. but yeah, she she was very hands-on with planning her funeral the eulogies the music. and she was like her husband. she they thought it was just another event. yeah, i just might add to that. mrs. reagan's three-ring binder was almost as thick as that for president reagan a very sophisticated of set of events that we had to execute and as
gene knows to win drake used to make it a practice. about once a year for eight nine years to approach mrs. reagan just to update the plan discuss it see if there were any changes that she'd want to make perhaps she might have changed her mind over the years and but i think first ladies give it a tremendous amount of attention. i'm gonna turn to in need of because she's in charge before i do before i do any because i think we got six seconds left. i wanted to just have gene comment on one particular photo that i know you you're gonna recognize as well that's good to talk about sully good that's president bushes after his bush died. he was sad and obviously. and we came up with the idea his
his his medical aid arranged for him to have a service dog named sully who became quite famous and evan took this was taken the funeral home in houston. the day after president bush died and evan just took sully to the funeral home with him to go check on everything and he found sully lane in front of the casket can't make it up and he took a picture and he came to the office and he said do you think we should send this out and i on, you know, release it to the media and i said, yes, i do. it will touch the nation's heart. and so i have a silly story. this is how famous sully was. but and by this gives me an opera. i was telling the story. i have two members of my funeral here. it's so exciting, maryland baker and lindsay reynolds were both great members of my funeral team. i was telling them we took sully with us to wash in dc on air force one because his next
assignment was walter reed hospital. and we wasn't we we a problem with who was going to take care of. slowly during the funeral and i said, let's take him with us. so we got permission from the air force to take him on air force one and i was given the job of walking him off air force one for some reason and and so i walk up off air force one and the press person and andrews air force base came running over to me and said gene the press wants to know and for a minute. i just assumed he she was gonna say they they would like to interview you. mm-hmm. she said the press wants to know if you could not be between and the camera. because you're blocking sully. it was a humbling moment, but sully sully has an instagram account. he has 5,000 followers and i'm one and follow a dog, but that