Rawlings names committee to plan commemoration of JFK tragedy in Dallas
SCOTT K. PARKS The Dallas Morning News Staff Writer, 30 May 2012
A high-powered committee of Dallas philanthropists and community leaders has begun the sensitive job of planning events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Ruth Sharp Altshuler will serve as chairwoman of the committee, which was formed by Mayor Mike Rawlings. The 21-member group held its first meeting at Dallas City Hall on Tuesday.
“We started by introducing ourselves, and many members shared where they were on Nov. 22, 1963, and what it meant to them,” Rawlings said. “There were several moments when there were a lot of tears in the room.”
The committee’s formation means that Rawlings and longtime Dallas civic leaders have rejected the idea of letting the 50th anniversary come and go without official recognition or sanctioned events.
Previous anniversaries have been informal and low key. Tourists gathered at Dealey Plaza, scene of the assassination, usually to observe a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m., the time that shots rang out on Nov. 22, 1963, and forever changed Dallas and American history. News organizations have observed the anniversaries with stories, and the Sixth Floor Museum has unveiled exhibits during some key anniversaries.
In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, much of the world appeared to be looking for a scapegoat. Civic leaders believed the city of Dallas was miscast in the role of villain, considering the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumed gunman, was from Fort Worth and had lived in Dallas only a short while.
So city leaders historically avoided planning any events around the
anniversaries because of the lingering stain on the city.
The committee’s formation indicates that the 50th anniversary, still 18
months away, will be different. Finally, enough distance between the past and present exists that Dallas leaders have become comfortable enough to emerge into the clear light of history.
“This is a part of our history and it will never go away,” said Lindalyn
Adams, a committee member and historic preservation advocate who worked to create the Sixth Floor Museum during the 1980s.
Committee members contacted Wednesday by The Dallas Morning News declined to comment on their first meeting. Instead, they agreed to let Rawlings be their spokesman. He said they talked about two things: the objective of the 50th-anniversary commemoration and how to craft the overall tone.
“The objective is to send the simple message to all that are outside the
city, throughout the world, that the citizens of Dallas honor the life and
legacy of JFK,” Rawlings said. “Tone is very important: serious, respectful, understated. We want it to be very classy.”
A central question is what role Dealey Plaza will play in the commemoration.
The Sixth Floor Museum, which explores JFK’s life and death, has obtained a special activity permit from the city of Dallas that appears to give it control of Dealey Plaza from Monday, Nov. 18, to Sunday, Nov. 24.
JFK assassination researchers – critics call them conspiracy theorists -
typically gather at Dealey Plaza to spin their version of events to tourists on anniversaries, and they fear that the museum might use its permit to bar them from the site.
“We feel it’s an important location in the city and we want to make sure it reflects the epitome of respect and solemnity on that day,” Rawlings said. “There will probably be something that happens there on that day, but that is as far as we’ve gotten.”
The committee’s composition suggests that Nov. 22, 2013, will be packed with multi-ethnic events, spiritual observances and artistic presentations.
Tourist and convention bureau strategists work hard to attract visitors to Dallas year-round, attempting to fill hotel rooms and restaurants.
But Rawlings said the city will not attempt to promote the commemoration.
“We want to ensure there is zero commercialization of this event,” he said.
AT A GLANCE: The committee
The committee appointed to plan the 50th-anniversary commemoration of the
Ruth Sharp Altshuler, philanthropist, committee chairwoman
Mayor Mike Rawlings, committee spokesman
Cappy McGarr, businessman and board member of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Lew Blackburn, president of the Dallas ISD board of trustees
Blaine Nelson, chairman of the board of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Zan Holmes, pastor emeritus of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church
Kevin Farrell, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas
Ken Menges, attorney and Sixth Floor Museum board chairman
Deedie Rose, philanthropist
Erle Nye, retired utility executive and civic leader
Anita Martinez, arts patron and former City Council member
Margot Perot, philanthropist and wife of businessman Ross Perot
Linda Custard, philanthropist and women’s health advocate
Bobby Lyle, businessman and philanthropist
Lindalyn Adams, civic leader and historic preservation advocate
Terdema Ussery, president of the Dallas Mavericks
Caren Prothro, civic leader and philanthropist
Linda McFarland, civic leader and philanthropist
Jeanne Phillips, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; spokeswoman for businessman Ray Hunt
Rick Ortiz, president of the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Adelfa Callejo, attorney and Hispanic civil rights activist