Reporting Joel Thomas
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Fifty years ago a group of classmates wore the uniform of the Polytechnic High School Marching 100 Band.
They were asked to play for President John F. Kennedy as he traveled from Fort Worth to Dallas on that fateful November day in 1963. And now they have a momento of history few outside of Poly High School have seen.
“It was a special day for us to play for the President of the United States,” band member Jerry Winfield recalled. “I was fifteen years old! Tenth grade!”
In grainy video of the procession from the hotel where JFK had stayed the night before to Carswell AFB where his plane awaited, you can see the band at the end of Main Street standing on the courthouse steps.
“We were honored,” Donnie Wiggins remembered. “I was playing trumpet. We were playing Dixie.”
As the motorcade passed the drum majors saluted. The president stunned the band when he ordered the motorcade to slow down so he could return the salute.
“You may say, ‘What!’” the former band director Jim Smith laughed. “But we have a picture.”
The photograph was taken by yearbook co-editor Kyle Morse from the top of the courthouse steps. You can see the president standing up in the back of the convertible limo, his hand apparantly completing or coming up in salute. Behind him, throngs of people line the streets shouting and waving trying to gain the president’s attention. But he is clearly focused on the band, the ornate plumes of their hats clearly visible in the foreground at the bottom of the picture.
“That was the shot!” Kyle Morse exclaimed. “The moment he stood up to salute. That’s when I took the picture.”
“It was never printed in a newspaper or magazine,” Winfield said. “It was just preserved in the yearbook. I think after this picture was taken, two hours later or something like that, he was assassinated.”
Morse said immediately after the motorcade passed the students piled onto buses and went back to school.
“It was about 12:30, 12:40 when they had the public announcement that the President had been shot,” Morse said.
Winfield said he recently pulled out his old yearbook to look at the photo as he thought about the approaching 50 year anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
“It started out as an exciting day, but it ended a very somber day,” Winfield said.
These band members shared more than just a uniform. They shared a moment in time just before an assassin would change history. And until now, they were the only ones who knew that moment was preserved in a photograph.
“It was big,” Wiggins said. “I enjoyed it. It’s something you never forget.”
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