How news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination was received at the Texas home of Lyndon Baines Johnson is the focus of a new exhibit at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.
"We all stood there in shock with the rest of the world," recalled Richard "Cactus" Pryor, who was at the LBJ Ranch when he learned that President Kennedy had been killed on November 22, 1963.
The new exhibit described that tragic day and the transition of power to President Johnson. It is located in the Hangar visitor center on the LBJ Ranch and will be on display until May 21, 2014. The public is invited to not only view the exhibit, but also to contribute their own memories or reflections from that day in history.
From the breakfast speech in front of the Hotel Texas in Ft. Worth, to the motorcade through Dallas, the swearing in of President Johnson on Air Force One, and finally to his brief speech at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC, visitors can follow the timeline of the events on November 22, with a special emphasis on Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson's experiences.
The exhibit also includes a short video of Cactus Pryor, well-known Austin radio personality and longtime friend of the Johnson family, recounting his memories from that day. Cactus Pryor, Bess Abell, Dale Malechek, and other staff members and friends were preparing the LBJ Ranch for the arrival of the Kennedys later that same day. After getting the first reports from Dallas the staff gathered in the kitchen. While watching a small black and white television perched on top of a refrigerator they heard Walter Cronkite announce the death of President Kennedy.
In a re-creation of what it may have felt like inside that kitchen, the exhibit includes a mock-up refrigerator and television set—including the now iconic image of Walter Cronkite—where visitors can post a short personal memory from that day: where they were, how they heard the news, how they felt, and how it impacted the nation.
The shift of power from President Kennedy to President Johnson was exhibited when Johnson hosted his first state visit from West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard on the LBJ Ranch in late December 1963. The exhibit showcases the famous "Stetson Statesmanship," as Newsweek magazine called it, as President Johnson hosted a barbeque for Chancellor Erhard in the school gym in nearby Stonewall.
The Hangar Visitor Center is located on the LBJ Ranch unit of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park as part of the self-guided driving tour. Permits are required to drive the LBJ Ranch and can be obtained free of cost at the LBJ State Park, 199 State Park Rd. 52 in Stonewall, from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
The visitor center is open 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no cost to see the exhibits. For more information on this and other park activities visit www.nps.gov/lyjo or call 830-868-7128 x235