It was the modern day “Shot heard ’round the world.” At 12:30 PM Central Time, while the motorcade carrying President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife Nellie was twice fired upon while passing through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald fired two shots from the Texas School Book Repository at the convertible. The first shot hit the President under his arm which was held up as he waved at the crowd. The bullet passed through his body and struck Governor Connally. The second bullet struck the President in the head.
At 1:00 PM, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson refused to leave Dallas for Washington without the Jacqueline Kennedy or the body of the president. At 2:38 PM, Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One with Mrs. Kennedy at his side. She wore the blood-splattered coat to remind people of the tragedy that just occurred.
Fifty years later, those who experienced the assassination as part of the American family continues to remember the sadness and grieving by everyone, even those that did not support Kennedy. Some have described the feeling as more profound than what we experienced on September 11, 2001 because while both were tragedies, Kennedy was the living symbol of a bright future.
Kennedy became the youngest person to ever be elected as President and the first Roman Catholic. At 43, Kennedy was the promise of a new vision that would have the United States leading the world in fighting the “common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” In his inaugural address, he called the nation to arms for its own sake when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Kennedy made an impact on this country in such a short period of time that one can wonder what would have happened if….
A few days after Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, U.S. Mint Director Eva Adams, Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts reported that there was discussions about putting Kennedy’s portrait on a silver coin. Since Jacqueline Kennedy did not want to replace Washington’s portrait on the quarter, it was decided to use the half-dollar. Roberts used models from the inaugural medal for the obverse design and Assistant Engraver Frank Gasparro prepared the reverse design using the Presidential Seal.
Since the law stated that coinage design could not be changed more often than 25 years, and that the Franklin Half was only 15 years old, it required Congress to authorize the change. The Act of December 30, 1963 allowed the design to be changed.
When the coin was released in 1964, the 90-percent silver coin was saved by a grieving nation wanting something that represented the fallen President. Over 273 million coins were struck in Philadelphia and 156 million in Denver. The composition was changed in 1965 with the introduction of clad coinage. Half-dollars consisted of 40-percent silver that included a core made from 79-percent copper and 21-percent silver. In 1971, the composition was changed to current copper-nickel clad that is in use today.
There has been one design change to the coin and that occurred in 1975 and 1976 in honor of the American Revolution Bicentennial. A special reverse depicting Independence Hall in Philadelphia was designed by Seth G. Huntington. For both years, the obverse featured the dual date 1776-1976 in celebration.
On the 50th anniversary of his assassination, we salute President John Fitzgerald Kennedy for his service and mourn the loss to this country.