Tuesday marks anniversary of President JFK's first and only visit to San Antonio

President was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas

Courtesy: JFK Presidential Library and Museum
Courtesy: JFK Presidential Library and Museum

SAN ANTONIO – Tuesday marks the 54th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s first and only visit as president to San Antonio.

It also marks the last full day he was alive.

He was in town to dedicate the new Aerospace Medical Health Center at Brooks Air Force Base.

It was a whirlwind trip that thrilled thousands of San Antonians.

Everywhere the president went, a crowd would gather, if only to watch his motorcade drive by.

"To see him live in color and Mrs. Kennedy and that big black car and all the Secret Service, it was pretty exciting," Kenneth Pruitt said.

At one point, the motorcade left Broadway Street and passed right in front of Cambridge Elementary. There students and teachers came outside, lining the sidewalk.

Pruitt was one of those kids. Five decades later, he is now teaching at the same school.
He still takes time to talk about the importance of the visit -- when there was such hope for the future and a presidential motorcade was cause to cancel classes and work. And clap along the sidewalks of San Antonio.

"They marched us out there and we stood,” Pruitt said. “It was just surreal."

But not as surreal as the following day. The principal at Cambridge came over the PA and announced the news that no one wanted to hear.

"It was after lunch and he just said ‘The president's been shot in Dallas,’” Pruitt recalled. “It was emotional. When he was assassinated, it was a tough moment."

Pruitt said classes were canceled the next day as the country began to mourn the loss of the 35th president.

Another repercussion from that day was the president not being able to dedicate the high school that bears his name.

He promised to return to Edgewood ISD’s John F. Kennedy High School to celebrate, but that would never happen.

About the Authors:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.