Every day when I step out of the elevator onto the third floor of the Star-Telegram, and each time I enter my office, I'm reminded of John F. Kennedy.
Hanging above my desk is a framed over-sized reproduction of the Star-Telegram morning edition's front page of Nov. 22, 1963, which once hung in the Press Club of Fort Worth. It shows the smiling president and first lady emerging from Air Force One after landing at Carswell Air Force Base the night before.
Above that photo is a picture of the lighted skyline of downtown -- the special Christmas lighting having been turned on early for the occasion -- with the banner headline: "WELCOME, MR. PRESIDENT!" The sub-headline declares: "JFK Lands Amid Roar of Cheers," followed by, "Crowd Lines Route to Town; 10,000 Welcome President."
On the third-floor wall near the elevator is a Star-Telegram photo picturing the hatless president addressing the crowd that gathered in the rain before sunrise that glorious morning. Shown with him in the parking lot across the street from Hotel Texas (now the Hilton) are Gov. John Connally, Sen. Ralph Yarborough and state Sen. Don Kennard.
Fort Worth was where the president spent his last night, made his last two speeches, was served his last meal and perhaps heard his last prayer.
That short time in Cowtown showed a vibrant young president full of life, enjoying the Texas hospitality some in Washington feared he would not receive in the Lone Star State.
Then it was time for the short flight to Dallas where a large enthusiastic crowd also awaited him. Unfortunately, so did a lone gunman on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
In Fort Worth that morning, a smiling Kennedy told the mostly labor crowd, "There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth."
Sadly, there would be faint hearts here when it came to memorializing the assassinated president.
Cities nationwide were finding ways to honor Kennedy by naming schools, streets, parks and public buildings for him.
Early in 1964, a group of Fort Worth women pushed to have the city acquire the parking lot and turn it into a public square named for Kennedy.
When that effort failed, the women saw another opportunity since the county had passed a bond issue to build a new convention center downtown.
The group acquired more than 10,000 signatures on a petition to name the center for the slain president, but county commissioners rejected the idea, insisting the building carry the county's name. After added pressure, the commissioners voted 3-2 to name the convention center theater for Kennedy, although they never placed his name on the outside of the building. They mounted a small bronze plaque inside (and basically out of sight) near the box office that proclaimed it the John F. Kennedy Theater.
The theater was razed in 2000 to make way for an expanded convention center.
The city eventually acquired the parking lot and turned it into a public square, but it snubbed Kennedy again by naming it for Gen. Williams Jenkins Worth, the city's namesake.
Since 1999, plans have been under way for a Kennedy memorial on that site, complete with an 8-foot bronze statue of the slain president. It has been a long time in the making, but Tuesday the JFK Tribute Committee of Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives Inc. unveiled the final design for the memorial, which is expected to be dedicated around the president's birthday in May 2012.
In addition to the statue, there will be "larger-than-life images of his visit" to Fort Worth, a water wall and texts describing his time here.
It is a shame that it took almost 50 years for Fort Worth to properly memorialize this president, but we now know that it is going to happen.
More funds are needed for completion and maintenance of the $1.5 million project, but organizers are confident that with the public's help it will be done, and done well.
The memorial will be worth the wait, but that doesn't change the fact that this special tribute should not have taken so long in a city that prides itself on rising above pettiness to do what is fitting and proper.