Historian David McCullough in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., in May 2011. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)
In a news conference Tuesday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and longtime philanthropist Ruth Altshuler announced that McCullough would headline a 45-minute program of events at Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 2013.
The observance also will include a presentation by the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club, a military jet flyover, a brief speech by the mayor and prayers by the Rev. Zan Holmes and Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
There will be a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m, the exact time the shooting occurred.
His most recent history is The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which was published last year.
The JFK commemoration at Dealey Plaza will be privately funded, but attendance will not be restricted to VIPs, Rawlings said in an interview before Tuesday’s news conference. Nonetheless, the mayor said, some form of advanced ticketing will be required to gain admission to the observance.
Security will be tight during the ceremony. Houston Street adjacent to the plaza is expected to be closed. Details are still being worked out, Rawlings said, but it’s possible that the commemoration could be projected on video screens elsewhere in the city.
Dealey Plaza and surrounding streets will be open to the public during the rest of the day.
The program marks the first time in 20 years — and one of the first times since 1963 — that Dallas leaders have planned an official commemoration of the assassination.
Local officials have long declined to sponsor a formal observance, citing sensitivity to the concerns of the Kennedy family. As a practical result, past anniversaries have seen the plaza dominated by conspiracy theorists, leading, at times, to what traditionalists felt was a circus-like atmosphere.
The 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death will surely attract international media attention, and business, political and community leaders in Dallas have expressed concern about how the occasion will color the city’s image.
Rawlings said the emphasis would be on the life and legacy of the president, rather than his death. He said organizers wanted to create an event that was “low key, but powerful.”
Last year, leaders of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza obtained an events permit for the week surrounding the assassination anniversary. That permit was later taken over by the city.
In the spring, Rawlings formed The 50th Committee, chaired by Altshuler and including some of the city’s highest profile residents, to draw up plans for the commemoration.
“What are we trying to accomplish?” the mayor said. “It is to send the simple message to all outside the city of Dallas that the citizens of Dallas honor the life and legacy and leadership of John F. Kennedy.”