Thursday, January 27, 2011


January 27 (1996), Austin, Texas.   Former senator, Ralph Yarborough, who was riding in JFK's motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963, died here in Austin today.

Mr. Yarborough, a liberal Democrat who became known as "The People's Senator", was the only senator from a former Confederate state to vote for every civil rights law.

                     Senator Ralph Yarborough
                   United States Congress Photo

Mr. Yarborough, who was 1st elected to the US Senate in 1957, was born in Chandler, Texas & attended the US Military Academy. 

Yarborough graduated from Sam Houston Teacher's College in 1921 & taught school for 3 years. During WWII, he served in the US Army in Europe & Japan.

One of his 1st victories in the Senate was the passage of the National Defense Education Act of 1958.  Later he served as chair of the Senate Labor & Public Welfare Committee.

In the fall of 1963, Yarborough was having a rift with Texas Governor John Connally and the conservative wing of Texas Democrats.  

It has been written that one of the reasons JFK went to Texas was to try to "patch up" this feud as the electoral votes of Texas were critical to JFK in the election of 1964.

The story goes that Senator Yarborough did not ride with LBJ in an earlier motorcade & JFK had a "loud" private discussion with the Vice-President indicating his displeasure at the way Yarborough was being treated.*

*According to Phillip F. Nelson in "LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination" (2011), LBJ was trying to get JFK to put Yarborough in the limo with JFK in order to move his friend, John Connally, to the safety of his own car.

Governor Connally said later that JFK told him that if Yarborough did not ride with LBJ in the Dallas motorcade, "he would walk".

As JFK's motorcade turned onto Elm Street, Yarborough & LBJ were sitting in the back seat, with Lady Bird in between,  in an open car directly behind the secret service follow up car.  

Following is Senator Yarborough's account of what happened:

"The Secret Service in the car in front of us [the car behind Kennedy’s car] kind of casually looked around, looked up at the back of them and were rather slow to react. We went under the overpass and as we came up on the other side, I could see then the President’s car. 

And there was [Clint] Hill whom I knew as a Secret Service man assigned to protect Mrs. Kennedy. He was lying across the back [of the car] to hang on with his arm over in there so he could hang on at that high speed. His face turned back towards us, just in agony; & beating with his hand [against the car] like a terrible thing had happened. I knew then that Kennedy’d been shot. 
And within several minutes, we came to Parkland Hospital and the Secret Service immediately jumped out (&) practically pulled (Johnson) out & formed a cordon around him. One of them said "Mr. President." I knew then Kennedy was dead.

And I walked up to the car where Mrs. Kennedy was still there on the back seat, lying there with her head bowed over covering her husband’s head, his blood running down her leg and on her clothes, and twice saying, "They’ve murdered my husband. They’ve murdered my husband." It’s the most tragic sight of my life."*

*From The Men Who Killed Kennedy – The Coup d'état, N. Turner, 1988

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