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Dallas — The 8-foot (2.4-meter) bronze sculpture of Kennedy, the centerpiece of the tribute, is located in downtown Fort Worth at the spot where the president delivered his last public address. Thousands waited in the rain on Nov. 22, 1963, to catch a glimpse of him and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
Kennedy then went inside the Hotel Texas, now a Hilton, where he delivered his final speech at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast before his motorcade departed for the trip to Dallas.
Fort Worth leaders had originally recognized Kennedy’s visit by renaming the theater in the nearby Tarrant County Convention Center for him. But when the theater was torn down in 2000 to make way for expansion of convention space, a community initiative began to create a new tribute.
Lawrence Ludtke of Houston, who is now deceased, was commissioned to design the sculpture, but the undertaking stalled after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, Taft said.
A few years ago, the city made the tribute a top priority again, and Taft enlisted the help of Fort Worth patrons to raise $2 million to complete the bronze work of Ludtke’s clay model.
“The focus of what we have done is completely different than the focus in Dallas because of the death,” said Taylor Gandy, one of the Fort Worth patrons. “Ours is a celebration of Kennedy’s life and the activities of his last day. It is two different stories told from two different perspectives.”
Fort Worth’s memorial also contains a wall of photographs from the president’s last visit and audio links to his last two speeches.
Dallas and Fort Worth officials are expecting the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination to draw thousands of additional visitors to the significant sites throughout the year and especially around Nov. 22.
The Sixth Floor Museum is one of the city’s top destinations. Located in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District, it chronicles the assassination and the legacy of Kennedy.
“We normally get about 320,000 visitors a year but in the next year, we’re expecting about 350,000,” said Carol Murray, a spokeswoman for the private, nonprofit exhibit. “There continues to be a lot of interest from both older people who remember the assassination, as well as younger people whose imaginations have been captured by the Kennedy legacy.”