JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS JUST DAYS from securing the 1960 Democratic nomination for president when Dr. W.A. Criswell strode, bible in hand, to the carved wooden altar of the mighty First Baptist Church in Dallas.
Chopping the July air with disdain, he prophesied that the election of the Catholic Kennedy would “spell the death of a free church in a free state.”
The following week, when Kennedy was nominated on the first ballot, it came with an added sting for Criswell and other conservative Texans: Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, a son of the Hill Country, joined the ticket in the No. 2 spot.
Dallas Rep. Bruce Alger, Texas’ lone Republican in Congress, called it a capitulation “to radical forces of the East and North.”
With its own particular brew of affluence, fundamentalism and inflexibility, Dallas was never seriously in play in 1960.
But Texas’ 24 electoral votes were a weight-bearing beam that held up the Kennedy electoral strategy.
The motorcade went through Dealey Plaza that day, with both JFK and LBJ riding in the same open car with Johnson the local, sweating profusely and trying to dismiss the crowd like he would a herd of cattle — shooing them off with his cowboy hat, while Northerner Kennedy fresh as a daisy, taking it all in.
Kennedy went on to win the Lone Star state, yet the seemingly popular Dallas welcome, still only secured a bit over 30% of the vote in that maverick city.
Despite what you may have read, there was never any doubt that any future motorcades would take this same route.