Thursday November 26th, 2015 6:13PM

'Black Jack,' the caisson, the drumbeat - the funeral

By The Associated Press
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is another in a series of reports marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination President John F. Kennedy.)


The horse's name was Black Jack. His saddle was empty, but boots were in the stirrups - backward. Skittishly, he followed the body of John F. Kennedy on its last journey.

You could hear his hooves against the pavement, along with the clip-clop of the team of six white horses that pulled the caisson bearing the flag-bedecked coffin. And you could hear the muffled drums that resounded across Washington, and across the nation.

Fifty years have passed, but the sights and sounds of that November day are indelible. This was by design: With a fine eye, Jackie Kennedy helped orchestrate a funeral unlike any in American history, before or since. This was the final act in an unforgettable drama that began Friday with the murder of the 35th president of the United States, continued Sunday with the murder of his murderer, and came to a close Monday, Nov. 25, 1963, with the kindling of an eternal flame on a wind-swept Virginia hillside.

As one writer of the time suggested, the funeral was attended by 180 million Americans - the entire stunned populace. Only 50,300,000 American households had televisions in 1963, and it was estimated that 41,553,000 sets were tuned into the funeral.

They had been watching for days. Cameras in the Capitol rotunda followed mourners - a quarter million in all - as they filed past the casket. Cameras in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters caught Jack Ruby as he thrust a .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver into the gut of Lee Harvey Oswald and fired.

And now they watched as an extraordinary pageant unfolded in front of them. At the White House, mourners and dignitaries joined the procession behind Black Jack: the black-veiled widow, the Kennedy family, President Lyndon Johnson. France's Charles de Gaulle, ramrod tall; Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian Lion of Judah, more than a foot shorter, his uniform festooned with medals and gold braiding; all together, 19 chiefs of state and heads of government, assorted royal personages, all of them on foot.

At the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, they heard Cardinal Richard Cushing depart from the Latin: "May the angels, dear Jack, lead you into paradise. May the martyrs receive you at your coming."

Outside, as the coffin left the church, Jackie Kennedy leaned down and whispered a few words to John Jr., who turned 3 years old on that day. He lifted his right hand to his brow, a child's farewell salute to his father; it would be the most memorable moment in a day full of them.

At Arlington, 50 jetfighters in a "missing man formation" roared overhead, Air Force One flew by and dipped its wings, a 21-gun salute resounded. The honor guard crisply folded the flag from the coffin. A bugler played taps, but cracked the sixth note; it was an error, but many took it as a reflection of the American broken heart.

Then, with the ignition of the eternal flame, it was over. Not the mourning - that would go on for months. And not the descent into violence - over the coming years, others would fall victim to assassins, among them the brother-in-law, Robert, who was at Jackie Kennedy's side.

But the nation awoke from the fevered nightmare that had begun four days before, in Dallas. The funeral served that purpose.

"It was just about the best America could produce - meaningful, democratic, sincere, sorrowful, no phony emotion of any kind," said Angier Biddle Duke, the State Department's chief of protocol. "It brought out the best in everybody."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.
2:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
White House undergoes Thanksgiving Day lockdown after man draped in American flag jumps fence
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence at the White House on Thursday, prompting a lockdown as the first family celebrated Thanksgiving.The man was immediately appre...
5:49PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Obama grants reprieve to turkeys 'Honest' and 'Abe' during White House ceremony
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation's most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and...
9:18PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 5 days ago )
World leaders vow vigorous response to Paris terror spree, but little indication of next steps
ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — World leaders vowed a vigorous response to the Islamic State group's terror spree in Paris as they opened a two-day meeting in Turkey on Sunday, with President Barack Obama call...
2:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Rash of E. coli cases in Pacific Northwest highlights problem of foodborne illnesses
SEATTLE (AP) — As Chipotle prepares to reopen its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest this week after an E. coli outbreak that sickened about 45 people, health experts say foodborne illnesses are mor...
1:40AM ( 2 weeks ago )