John F. Kennedy is assassinated and Washington mourns his death on November 22, 1963.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 6/19/2001
  • Essay 3386
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On Friday, November 22, 1963, Washington mourns the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). Church bells peal, college classes are canceled, and flags are flown at half-staff. Monday, November 25, is declared a day of mourning, and the state will come to a standstill that day as the slain president is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally were shot on November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Connally was seriously wounded, but survived. John F. Kennedy died in a Dallas hospital. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for those crimes and for shooting a Dallas police officer. Two days later Oswald himself was murdered while in police custody.

Shock and Grief

As soon as Washington Governor Albert D. Rosellini (1910-2011) heard the news of Kennedy's death, he declared a period of mourning throughout the state. Floyd Miller, Seattle's acting mayor -- Mayor Gordon Clinton (1920-2011) was returning from an official trip to Asia -- ordered all flags in the city to be flown at half-staff, and soon after his return, Mayor Clinton declared Monday, November 25, a day of mourning. Classes at the University of Washington were canceled for the balance of November 22. The Saturday football game between the University of Washington and Washington State University was postponed for a week.

The bells of St. James Cathedral rang out and the church was filled with grief-stricken and tearful mourners. Television networks canceled all commercial programming. All local television programming focused on the president's death and on the new administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973).

Washington State Patrol Chief Roy Betlach (1922-1999) placed every trooper on alert. "We don't know what to expect. People might panic. A rash of serious automobile accidents would result" ("Rosellini Places ...").

The Last Salute

Beginning Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., guns at Fort Lawton, at the Naval Supply Center at Pier 91, at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and at Sand Point Naval Air Station were fired every half hour in memory of the dead president. The funeral procession and burial occurred on Monday, November 25. The procession in Washington, D.C., included the traditional saddled, unmounted horse. John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. President Johnson designated that day as a national day of mourning. Across the state of Washington, businesses, schools, and public offices were closed. At Boeing, 60,000 employees stopped work during the televised burial ceremonies. In Seattle city and county officials gathered at Veterans' Memorial Plaza at the Public Safety Building at 1:30 p.m. for a memorial service. Downtown was almost deserted.

President Kennedy made two visits to Washington during his term of office. On November 16, 1961, he participated in a Centennial Convocation for the University of Washington at the Olympic Hotel. A second planned visit to Seattle, scheduled for October 21, 1962, the closing day of the Seattle World's Fair, was canceled as a result of the Cuban missile crisis. In September 1963, just weeks before his murder, Kennedy made stops at the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland and at Tacoma.


Merriman Smith, "Assassin Kills Kennedy," The Seattle Daily Times, November 22, 1963, p. 1; "UW-WSU Grid Game Postponed," Ibid., p. 1; "Rosellini Places State in Mourning," Ibid., p. 7; "Flags Half Staffed at News of Tragedy," Ibid., p. 7; "Networks Cancel All Commercial Programming," Ibid., November 23, 1963, p. 19; "Navy, Army Guns Sound Sad Farewell," Ibid., p. 19; "Mayor Proclaims Day of Mourning," Ibid., p. 19; HistoryLink Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "President Kennedy's Cold War cold cancels Seattle World's Fair visit on October 21, 1962" (by Greg Lange), (accessed June 18, 2001).
Note: This essay was corrected and revised on November 19, 2013.

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