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JFK 50: How November 22nd Changed Dallas

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brian New
Brian joined the CBS 11 News team in 2013 after working a...
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – For one day at the Texas Theatre it is as if nothing has changed in 50 years.

Moviegoers can buy a ticket for 90-cents and watch the same movie, “War is Hell”, as those unsuspecting witnesses did in 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested near the back of the theatre.

The current owners of the Texas Theatre said they feel obligated on November 22 to acknowledge history, but they no longer want it to be the main attraction.

“We didn’t take over the theatre so we could be museum of where they caught Lee Harvey Oswald,” said co-owner Barak Epstein. “We took over the theatre so we could show movies.”

In many ways it’s the same struggle for the city of Dallas.

The desire to erase the reputation of being the “City that Killed Kennedy” has been the motivation for much of what’s changed in the city during the past fifty years.

“Immediately after the assassination they decided we got to do something about our image because it felt as if the future of the city lay in the balance. Something had to be done.” said SMU historian Darwin Payne. “Consequently a lot of things were done to try and rescue that image.”

Shortly after the assassination, Dallas voters turned to a political outsider to lead the way.

Erik Jonsson, co-founder and former president of Texas Instruments Incorporated, was elected mayor and he laid out the plan known as “The Goals for Dallas”.

The “Goals for Dallas” led to the building of a new city hall, a new library across the street, and a more progressive downtown.

Then when an eight-thousand acre regional airport was proposed, Jonnson said it needed to be bigger.

The 18-thousand acre DFW International Airport became the biggest airport in the world when it opened in 1974.

The airport led to an economic and population boom.

And then it was the Dallas Cowboys and the TV show, “Dallas”, that gave the city recognition for something other than the shots fired at Dealey Plaza.

Payne said, “Once the TV show became so popular, they asked, ‘Dallas, do you know who shot JR?’ And so it took the minds of people away from the assassination to that TV show.’

Changing an old reputation can be tough.

Just ask the owners of the Texas Theatre.

Epstein said after 50 years he hopes most people now come just for a show “and not necessary for the other thing.”

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