From the Archive: John F. Kennedy Funeral Invitation

November 3, 2023

On Nov. 22, 1963, the United States and the world were rocked when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while in his motorcade in Dallas, Texas. In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham writes how he was on a golf course in Black Mountain, North Carolina, when the sad news came:

In the early afternoon of November 22, I was playing golf with T.W. [Wilson], Lee Fisher, and Cilff Barrows…We had just teed off for the fifth hole right next to the road when Loren Bridges, manager of WFGW, the Christian radio station we owned there, drove up and shouted the President had been shot… We rushed to the WFGW studio, where dispatches were clacking over the wires…The report was sketch; hard information about the President’s condition was not available yet. I asked Calvin Thielman to go on the air with me to pray for Kennedy and his family and to read Scripture. I also asked T.W. to call a friend of ours who was a doctor at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to get the latest word. As Calvin and I went on the air, T.W. came to the control room window and held a scrap of paper up against the glass. ‘He’s dead,’ it said.”

Billy Graham and John F. Kennedy at the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast. This was the last time Billy Graham saw John F. Kennedy.

Minutes later, Walter Cronkite of CBS Broadcasting, made the official announcement to the nation that John F. Kennedy had died from his wounds. In the following days, Billy Graham received an invitation to attend the funeral.

Telegram invitation to Billy Graham to attend John F. Kennedy’s funeral service in St. Matthew’s Cathedral
Jackie Kennedy with her children during her husband, John F. Kennedy’s, funeral

Rev. Graham remembers the funeral service in his autobiography:

At President Kennedy’s funeral the following Monday in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, I was invited to sit among the friends of the Kennedy family. The question on everybody’s mind was, Why did it happen? Like everyone else, I was touched by the sight of the Kennedy children, Caroline and John, Jr… A different thought had haunted me the day before, when I stood in the Capitol Rotunda about thirty feet from Jackie and the family and watched the tearful faces of national and world leaders filing by. My friend Jim Bishop had just written a newspaper column about his last interview with Kennedy. It was hard not to think about his poignant quote from the late President: “There’s so little time and so much to do.”

Mourners surround John F. Kennedy’s casket in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, November 1963

One thing Billy Graham always recognized about life was that very statement from JFK – so much to do and so little time. Billy Graham’s mission during the life he was given was to share God’s love with the world because the most important thing we can do with the time we’re given is to decide to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. If you haven’t yet decided to follow Jesus, you can find out more about what that means.

See more artifacts and learn more stories about Billy Graham and U.S. presidents and world leaders in The Journey of Faith tour at the Billy Graham Library. Plan your visit today.

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