DALLAS, TX — In keeping with its credo of honoring the past while looking to the future, Dallas is celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the seminal events in its history: the November 22, 1963, inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“The Johnson presidency was a major milestone in 20th Century America, and it began right here in Dallas,” said Rexall Thackerton, chairman of the month-long celebration called LBJ/50. “We need to focus the country’s attention on that.”
Centerpiece of the celebration will be the Boeing 707 jet that in 1963 served as Air Force One, where Johnson was sworn into office and officially became our 36th President. It will be flown from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, to Dallas for the entire month of November.
“A blue-ribbon panel of Dallas leaders evaluated the best place in the city to display the plane, and the obvious answer was Dealey Plaza,” Thackerton said. “Unfortunately, that means we have to close the Plaza to the public all month, but we’re sure people will understand.”
Dallas is one of only five cities outside of Washington, D.C., that has hosted a presidential inauguration – and the most recent. The others are New York (George Washington and Chester Arthur), Philadelphia (Washington and John Adams), Buffalo, N.Y. (Theodore Roosevelt), and Plymouth, Vt. (Calvin Coolidge).
“That’s a distinguished list of world-class cities, and Dallas is proud to be part of it,” Mayor Mike Rawlins said. “This is definitely something people should always remember about our city.”
LBJ/50 will feature dozens of lectures and symposia about the Johnson presidency at schools, meeting halls and other institutions throughout the region, though none downtown.
“We expect hundreds of media and thousands of visitors from around the world who are still fascinated by Lyndon Johnson after all these years, and we felt it was best to disperse them,” Rawlins explained.
“That way, everyone has a chance to attend an event, and our city center won’t get too congested. Even with the anniversary, Dallas needs to go about its business.”
Additionally, there will be a continuous public reading of Robert Caro’s award-winning series of books about President Johnson’s life and presidency, which total more than 3,300 pages.
“That should keep C-SPAN tied up for at least a week,” Thackerton noted.
LBJ/50 will culminate with a festive re-enactment of the inauguration on November 22, featuring native Dallasites in the key roles: Dr. Phil McGraw as President Johnson, Angie Harmon as Lady Bird Johnson, Selena Gomez as Jacqueline Kennedy and Morgan Fairchild as Judge Sarah T. Hughes, the only woman ever to swear in a president.
“We are confident this piece of living history will dominate the airwaves and social media the entire day,” Thackerton said. “Nobody has ever seen something like this before, and there’s simply nothing else people will want to talk about.”