If all had gone according to plan, John F. Kennedy and his entourage would have shown up in Austin on the night of November 22, 1963, to attend a $100-a-plate fundraising banquet at Austin’s Municipal Auditorium.
In a recently published book, JFK’s Final Hours in Texas, Julian Reed, press secretary for Texas Governor John Connally, notes that hundreds of Texans had already traveled to Austin in anticipation of that night’s festivities when the bad news came from Dallas. Caterers were preparing food; the chairs were set up in the auditorium; decorations were in place.
These “Local References” notes, which Connally’s office drew up for Kennedy’s use throughout his trip, show the changing flavor of Texas industry and politics in the early 1960s, reflecting the increased presence of the aerospace industry and the incipient transfer of influence from the Democrats to the GOP.
In San Antonio, where he dedicated the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base on November 21, the President might mention the Alamo as part of a long tradition of local involvement in the military. In Ft. Worth, where he spent that night, Kennedy could joke about General Dynamics’ recent successful bid for the contract to produce the F-111 experimental fighter plane. (The language presses the point that Kennedy, despite his later status as a symbol of the 1960s, was no dove.)
The unused local references for the Austin banquet are full of the Texas Longhorns, and especially longtime coach Darrell K. Royal (who, in 20 seasons with Texas, never had a losing record). “I’m extremely proud to see so many Texas Democrats,” the President might have added in Austin, making light of the first signs of the state’s four-decade shift to the GOP. “From what people are trying to say, you’d think there weren’t this many Democrats left in the whole state!”