Texas Governor John Connally’s wife, who was also in the car when President Kennedy was shot, makes a slender but valid contribution to the assassination story.
Nellie Connally’s eyewitness account is both a poignant personal recollection and a historically interesting record. Aided by veteran coauthor Herskowitz, who collaborated on Connally’s husband’s memoir, In History’s Shadow (1999), she includes all those small details that give recollections immediacy: what she wore (ironically, a pink suit like Jackie’s); what she was thinking about (the dinner the Connallys were to host that night in Austin); and whom she missed (her children, who would be meeting the president at dinner). But Connally was also a politician’s wife who understood the importance of the presidential visit. Texas Democrats were bitterly divided between liberals and conservatives, and though the state was heavily Democratic, it had voted Republican in 1952 and 1956. Many conservative Texans had demonstrated against Democratic political figures, even spitting at native son Lyndon Johnson, and the White House had ostensibly planned this trip to mend political fences. The real reason was more mundane: Kennedy was eager to raise money in the state for his upcoming reelection. Connally describes how well the visit went initially, with enthusiastic crowds sparking her comment as they neared the underpass, “Mr. President, you certainly can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you” (probably the last words Kennedy heard). She recalls the shock of seeing the president and her husband shot, the race to the hospital, and the wait outside with Jackie. John Connally was badly wounded, and his wife feared for his life. As she details his slow recovery, the tight security that surrounded him, and the emotions of those terrible days, the author offers a particularly Texan perspective to the events, expressing the shame she and so many others felt that the assassination had occurred in their state.
An invaluable personal account that fleshes out history.