It’s an event that is easily overlooked, but it had a great deal of significance for the entire world: the swearing in of Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 36th President of the United States of America at 2:38pm on November 22, 1963, a little over 2 hours after President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.
Johnson took the oath of office in cramped conditions aboard Air Force One, with 27 people crammed into a 16 square foot stateroom for the historic event – while down the hall, Jackie Kennedy sat grieving next to her husband’s corpse. Johnson would go on to be one of the most controversial Presidents in American history, remembered for the civil rights reforms of his Great Society program, but also for presiding over the massive escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War.
One of the defining events of its era, the assassination of President Kennedy remains a remarkably controversial one, even today. Conspiracy theories abound as to who shot Kennedy and why.
While the official story, that Lee Harvey Oswald did it, with the rifle, in the book depository, is plausible, it is also notably incomplete – there are any number of holes and anomalies in it. The murder of Oswald only two days later, before he could stand trial, has done nothing to quell these uncertainties.
On a symbolic level, the death of Kennedy was the end of an era in many ways. Quite aside from the idealism that he brought to the nation, his death marked a change in the way America saw itself – no longer the lily-white paladin, but more the grim avenger willing do the dirty work no one else would – although in fairness, this change of self-image would take the rest of the decade to be complete.