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Encore Presentation: Interview With Nellie Connally

Aired November 24, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an event seared into America's consciousness. What was it like to be in the car when the president was shot? Nellie Connally, the only surviving passenger from that blood-stained presidential vehicle, joins us and shares her gripping moment-by-moment memories. November 22, 1963, 39 years later, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

KING: We have a very special guest tonight on LARRY KING LIVE. She was last with us in November of 1998 on the anniversary occasion. It's always good to see her, the ever young Nellie Connally. Nellie is the widow of the former Texas governor, former secretary of the Navy John Connally. She was riding in that fateful car that fateful day, November 22, 1963.

And she is the last surviving passenger from that car. With Jackie Kennedy gone, her husband gone nine years ago, and of course, John Kennedy killed that day. And it is always good to see her and welcome her, and we're going to relive that day for you and take you back through history, and then discuss some other things later on with the former first lady of Texas.

Another first lady of Texas is another First Lady now, isn't she?

NELLIE CONNALLY, WAS IN JFK'S CAR: Yes. Oh, yes, double.

KING: Double first ladies.

CONNALLY: That's tough.

KING: And your husband switched parties.


KING: Went from Democrat to Republican. Nixon got him to do that, right? You don't know?

CONNALLY: I don't know. I think he just decided that the Democrat party had changed.

KING: And he switched.

CONNALLY: And we wanted to stay in politics and you needed to be in a party so...

KING: And he was President Kennedy's secretary of the Navy before he ran and was elected governor, right?


KING: What was life like for you in Washington?

CONNALLY: Well, I love Washington. And we had -- you know, John worked in Washington for Lyndon Johnson when he was a young man. So we had spent time in Washington. And I especially liked the time with the Navy because it taught me the discipline of being on time everywhere, you know.

KING: Good thinking.

CONNALLY: And if we were going to land at 12:00 and we got there at a quarter of or five of, we just tooled around until exactly 12:00. Well, that helped me for the rest of my life through other things that I did.

KING: Let's go to the morning of November 22, 1963. Were you first in Ft. Worth?

CONNALLY: San Antonio.

KING: Oh. The day began in San Antonio for you.

CONNALLY: The day began -- well, the Johnsons were there and the Kennedys arrived there. So, that's when we got started was in San Antonio.

KING: Because Kennedy slept the night before in Ft. Worth.

CONNALLY: Well, maybe so.

KING: But you met him in San Antonio.

CONNALLY: Yes. Yes. We hooked up this group and the Johnsons got to San Antonio first. I came second. John -- we all came from different places. John came in. And then the big Air Force One came, and a handsome couple got off. And we went out, the Johnsons and the Connallys, and we welcomed them to Texas. And it was so exciting. You know, they looked so wonderful and think what all we thought we had ahead of us. Then we went to Houston.

KING: This was the beginning of the -- you're taking us through the Texas trip.

CONNALLY: I'm taking you through the tour. Then we went to Houston to Congressman Thomas' dinner. And from there, we went to Ft. Worth. And we got into Ft. Worth late. The next morning...

KING: It was a breakfast in Ft. Worth.

CONNALLY: There was a breakfast, and it was a very large breakfast. I can't compute the size.

KING: The president spoke at that breakfast. CONNALLY: He did. And they all came in, everybody that was traveling, except Jackie. She was late dressing. And he said, she's late dressing. She's doing herself, and said that the nice thing about it is, she looks much better than us when she gets here. And about that time, she walked in. And, of course, they just went bonkers over her. They were so excited, they would stand up in their chairs to get a better look at the first lady.

KING: And as a little background, there were a lot of fears about him going to Texas. Adlai Stevenson warned him not to go to Texas. He'd been spit on in Texas.

CONNALLY: No. It was Johnson that was spit on.

KING: Johnson -- but they both didn't want him to go.

CONNALLY: But Kennedy wanted to come because he hadn't been to Texas since...

KING: Being elected?

CONNALLY: Yes. And he wanted to raise as much money as he could raise there. And he wanted to get as many votes as he could because they thought they were not going to do very well.

KING: And he wanted to settle things between Yarborough and Connally and Johnson.

CONNALLY: And Johnson.

KING: Yarborough was the senator from Texas. And it was a lot of...

CONNALLY: Of course, it would have been a lot easier to settle that in Washington.

KING: But it should be pointed out, he was a big hit in San Antonio.


KING: A big hit in Houston, tremendous hit in Ft. Worth, right?


KING: And people were raving over the reception Texas was giving him.

CONNALLY: Oh, and you know, and Johnson said, Nellie, if they can just get up close enough to see him, they'll vote for him. And then we were going to have the big fundraiser in Austin that was going to end everything.

KING: That was at night. But you were going to stop for the speech in Dallas...

CONNALLY: In Dallas, for lunch.

KING: ... in the afternoon at that big convention center. So you flew from Ft. Worth to Dallas, which must have been like five minutes.

CONNALLY: Yes, or two.

KING: Two minutes, because you -- Air Force One didn't even go up off the ground.

CONNALLY: It's just probably skimmed the houses. We were lucky.

KING: And when you got off that plane, we will never forget those sights of Jackie and John and you and the governor getting off. And what do you remember most about arriving in Dallas?

CONNALLY: I remember most the caravan in Dallas. See, in Ft. Worth that morning, it was raining. It was ugly. It was raining. But when we got to Dallas, it was beautiful. And those people in Dallas were just eating him up.

KING: At the airport.

CONNALLY: Everywhere.

KING: They couldn't get enough of him.

CONNALLY: And on the caravan.

KING: We want to get to that. But at the airport, they were giving his wife flowers.

CONNALLY: Oh, yes. They just loved them both. I wanted Texas to love them and show them they loved them. And I wanted the Kennedys to respond like they knew they were being loved. And that's the way it was going. I thought it was so perfect.

KING: So you all get into cars. And you and John sat in the front seat of a big limo. There was a driver.

CONNALLY: Of his, his car, yes.

KING: Driver -- Secret Service men on the side.

CONNALLY: Driver, Secret Service man. John sat behind the Secret Service man. And the president sat behind him. And on the other side, there was the driver, and then me and then Jackie. And the difference in that car of the seating, John and I were in jump seats spaced between us. They were on a plank seat that they could raise and lower up and down. So they could be, if they wanted to be a little higher than we were or lower.

KING: So were they higher than you?

CONNALLY: I think so, because I don't know why they would want to be lower. KING: That's right, because they were both waving to the crowd, as you were waving.

CONNALLY: Oh, we were all just -- you know, I just felt so good.

KING: It was, as I remember, a beautiful day, right?

CONNALLY: Really beautiful.

KING: It rained in Ft. Worth, but it was beautiful in Dallas. Normally, they have the same weather.

CONNALLY: Yes. You're correct. They didn't that day.

KING: The procession begins, cheering mobs, right?


KING: In fact, the story up to the minute of that shooting is how well Texas accepted the arrival of John Kennedy, to the surprise of many.

CONNALLY: Yes. It was like he belong there, they liked him so much. And I think he was surprised. And he was responding to the crowd. I kept hearing a little hmm, hmm, hmm. And I thought what is that. And I looked back, and what he was doing, he was waving and saying hello, hello, hello. And, you know, if you make any kind of contact with the people -- it's hard to be in a caravan or parade.

KING: You're not kidding.

CONNALLY: If you make contact, any kind of contact, then they're happy. You know, if you just wave...

KING: Yes, but he had a way, didn't he?

CONNALLY: He did have a way.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Nellie Connally, as we relive November 22, 1963, the day that every American over the age of, well, almost 40 years now, so every American over the age of 45 would remember where they were. So remembering it that Nellie has detailed it. And when we get to the time of the shooting, she is going to take us, right, in fact, she is going to take us to that time when we come back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's Mrs. Kennedy, and the crowd yells, and the president of the United States. And I can see his suntan all the way from here. Shaking hands now with the Dallas people, Governor and Mrs. Connally.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presidential car moving out, the president and first lady. Big, beautiful Lincoln, followed by a carload of press.


KING: We're back with Nellie Connally, the former first lady of Texas, the last survivor of that car, the lead car, on that motorcade as it heads through Dallas. And what Nellie has done is put together some notes, so her memory is right on target for that fateful early afternoon in Dallas. And she's going to read from that and then we'll fire away some questions.

CONNALLY: The day had changed from a gray, rainy day to a beautiful bright, sunshiny day, perfect for a caravan. Before we landed, I asked John if I could ride in the car with him in Dallas. He said, certainly.

When we landed, the president's bubbletop with there, and I would have ridden without asking. We got in the jumpseats right behind the driver and the Secret Service man in the front. I was on the driver's side and Ms. Kennedy got in the back seat directly behind me. And the president sat behind John. The back seat was slightly raised so that the Kennedys sat a little higher than we.

John and I were in separate seats with a space between us and were not quite as mobile as Jack and Jackie. We were indeed a happy foursome that beautiful morning. I had my yellow roses in my arms and Jackie had her red roses in hers. The crowds were the largest yet and the friendliest. I did so hope Dallas would give the Kennedys a warm and very cordial welcome. And I wanted the Kennedys to respond with equal warmth and friendliness. I could not have been more pleased.

I felt tingly all over with the pride of a mother whose children are performing just as I had hoped, and the relatives were terribly pleased. We had pleasant banter back and forth between the four of us. But mostly, the Kennedys were responding to a rousing ovation, and John and I were just smiling with genuine pleasure that everything was so perfect.

We had passed through the downtown area and its great, surging, happy, friendly crowds. I could resist no longer and turned to the president and said, Mr. President, you certainly cannot say that Dallas doesn't love you.

That's all I'm going to read.

KING: And as you said that, what happened?

CONNALLY: He grinned and he was happy. And...

KING: That was the last thing you heard.

CONNALLY: Yes. There was just a second or two, and then I heard this noise. And it came from the back of me. And I looked back toward the president and saw his hands just fly up to his neck and he slumped down. He said not one word. John is seated right in front of him. And so I didn't know for sure that it was a gunshot when I heard it.

KING: What did you think it was? You didn't know?

CONNALLY: It was just a noise. We had noises around. John knew it was a gunshot. And he turned to see the president. But see, the president was right behind him. He couldn't see him. So he whirled to the other side and he still couldn't see him. And in the process of moving back, the second shot hit John.

KING: From the same place?

CONNALLY: From the same place.

KING: Hit John in the wrist?

CONNALLY: No. It went through his -- below his shoulder, sliced out five inches of a rib, slipped through his lung and came out in his chest and landed -- crushed his wrist that was on his knee and landed in his leg. I pulled John down quickly, pulled him down in my lap, because I didn't want him to hurt him anymore. He was -- blood was all over him.

KING: Now, you have two Johns here. You're talking about John, the governor.

CONNALLY: I'm talking about John Connally...

KING: Your husband?

CONNALLY: My John, yes.

KING: All right. So you're holding your husband. What's happening in the back as you're (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CONNALLY: Well, then we had a third shot.

KING: From the same place.

CONNALLY: From the same place. And I'm not looking back now because I'm tending to John, but matter -- bloody matter covered the car and covered all of us and that was the...

KING: Matter, like...

CONNALLY: Brain, all that sort of stuff. And the driver or the Secret Service man said get out of this line and get to the nearest hospital. And we went flying to the hospital. And I just thought how awful it must be for the people on the side of the road to see this car just racing by with these two women holding their dying husbands. But I didn't know until I saw the Zapruda (ph) film that I was the only woman holding her dying husband because the Secret Service man had jumped on the back of the car, pushed Jackie back in it and had pushed them down and was on top of them.

KING: Do we ever know why Jackie -- what Jackie was doing?

CONNALLY: There were three or four things. If it had been me, I would have been trying to get out of the car. That's one thing.

KING: As she was, what appeared to be...


CONNALLY: Yes. She said in one of her quotes that she was trying to catch a piece of John's -- the president's skull. The third thing was that she was trying to help the Secret Service man on, because he was...


CONNALLY: ... he was going to get killed between the cars. The Secret Service man was trying to get to her. She was on one side of the back and he was on the other side. And he knocked her -- because he knew she'd get killed if she fell off. These cars were just roaring. And he pushed her down in the bottom of the -- you know, in the car, pushed them both down. Then we got the hospital.

KING: The Parkland Hospital.

CONNALLY: The Parkland Hospital.

KING: That was like in between on the way to the convention center, right?

CONNALLY: We didn't get to the center.

KING: Never got to the center. There's a whole bunch of people waiting for him to have lunch and speak.

CONNALLY: Oh, yes. Oh, they must have been waiting because it was going to be a big part of the caravan.

KING: What happens at the hospital? You pull into the emergency.

CONNALLY: We pulled into emergency and...

KING: Is John -- is your husband saying anything?

CONNALLY: No. He's lying in my lap.

KING: Is he unconscious?

CONNALLY: On and off. On and off. And see, while all that stuff was going on in the back, I was just whispering to John. Every now and then, he moved some little portion of him, and I knew he was still alive. And I would just say, be still. It's going to be all right. That's all I ever said.

KING: Weren't you scared?

CONNALLY: Scared to death, but not for myself. See, in my heart, I thought the president was already gone, and I just hoped we could make it with John. And we lucked out because we found out from the doctors that this huge wound that he had in his chest is something they call a sucking wound. And if we had -- if I hadn't pulled him down and we hadn't got his arm over it, not knowing it. I was just getting him out of the way, we saved his life.

KING: Hold it right there. We'll take you back to Parkland Hospital on that incredible morning in American history. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A half-hour later, he was dead, his life crushed like his wife's abandoned bouquet. A shocked nation weeps.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew the president had been hit. And I said, my God, they're going to kill us all. And then there was a third shot. And the president was hit again. And we thought then very seriously. I had still regained consciousness, but the president had slumped in Ms. Kennedy's lap. And when he was hit the second time, she said -- or the first time, it all happened in such a brief span -- she said, oh my God, they've killed my husband. She said, Jack, Jack.


KING: We're back with Nellie Connally, the former first lady of Texas. And we're now at Parkland Hospital on the early afternoon of November 22, 1963. Now, the first attention is for the president, right? I mean, how do they handle this? They've got a governor and a...

CONNALLY: Well, the Secret Service were racing around the car. And they were saying, Mr. President, Mr. President. They were trying to get Jackie, really, out of the car. They said, Ms. Kennedy, get out of the car. And she wouldn't get out of the car.

KING: Did she say anything?

CONNALLY: No. All of a sudden, John just heaved himself up out of my lap and fell over.

KING: Hit the side of the car.

CONNALLY: Fell over to the door. The door was by him. And I asked him later, I said, what were, you know, what were you trying to do? And he said, I was trying -- I knew the door was by me. And I was trying to get out of the car so they could get the president out. See, I was tormented all this time because I knew John was still breathing. And I didn't know how long...

KING: And you thought the president was dead.


KING: Because you'd seen the grab and you had seen the matter, right?

CONNALLY: And I had the stuff all over. And I wondered how long should I sit there doing nothing. So, somebody opened that door and some man and picked John up. How he could, I don't know.

KING: Your husband was a big man.

CONNALLY: Put him on a gurney and it started off. They started off.

KING: And you raced up.

CONNALLY: I ran behind it. What I was running from and what I was running to, I didn't know.

KING: Did they take him in before they took the president in?


KING: Because they had to get him out of the car.

CONNALLY: Yes. They got him out of the car first, because I was already seated outside the door of trauma room two that John was in when Jackie came in. They brought us two chairs and we sat outside the doors of these two rooms.

KING: And the president was in trauma one.

CONNALLY: And John was in trauma two.

KING: What did you and Jackie say?

CONNALLY: Nothing.

KING: Not a word?

CONNALLY: Not a word. We would look at each other occasionally. What could we say? She knew her husband was dead.

KING: She knew it, right?

CONNALLY: And I was wondering how long mine could live. And the only thing I could do every now and then was get up and push that door open to trauma room two. And if anything moved on John, I knew he was still alive. And I would go sit back in the chair.

KING: Were there tears? CONNALLY: No, I didn't cry.

KING: Did Jackie cry?

CONNALLY: She didn't cry. And...

KING: Did you see the blood on her dress?

CONNALLY: Yes. But then, they took John to another surgery -- to a surgery. And they went off down the hall with him and I ran off behind him again. And they put me in this little room that had nothing -- just a little waiting room. And they would come in and out of a long surgery.

KING: To tell you how he was...

CONNALLY: To tell me what was going on. And, otherwise, I was there just starkly alone. Well, there was a knock on the door. And I said, come in. And Lady Bird came in.

KING: The wife of the vice president.

CONNALLY: And she just opened her arms and I just flew into them. And I cried and cried and cried, which I hadn't done until then. And she said, Nellie, I'd like to stay, but they want Lyndon to get back to Washington as quickly as possible, and we have to go. And I said, go on. And then Lady Bird and Lyndon and Jackie were flying back.

KING: And they put the body in a car and took that too, with the Dallas medical examiner chasing the body.


KING: And he was right. You weren't supposed to remove -- that was not a federal crime then. So they removed the body of a murder victim.

CONNALLY: I don't know how they could hold him.

KING: I know. There was -- I interviewed the examiner of Texas. And I remember when you and your husband were on this show together.


KING: You had a disagreement over the -- where the shots went or -- Connally thought he was shot with the same bullet that hit Kennedy, right?

CONNALLY: No, but everybody else thought he was. And they couldn't find...

KING: The third bullet.

CONNALLY: The third bullet. And, see, just think about it. Six seconds a shot. John turns, can't see anything. He turns over here, he can't see anything. He starts back and there's another shot. That bullet couldn't have just hung in the air.

KING: Couldn't have gone through both?

CONNALLY: No, it just couldn't have.

KING: No better witness than you.

CONNALLY: It couldn't have. And I said, somebody wanted to really argue with me about it. And I said, were you in that car?

KING: The Warren Commission report said it was the same bullet, didn't they?

CONNALLY: Well, I don't know. But we went before the Warren Commission and they showed us the Zapruda (ph) film.

KING: Frame by frame.

CONNALLY: Frame by frame, so we could see everything.

KING: How long was John in the hospital?

CONNALLY: I think just about two weeks. The bullets should have killed him, but they missed the places...

KING: Vital.

CONNALLY: The vital places.

KING: When did you know he was going to live?

CONNALLY: When he came out of that surgery. I couldn't have been more shocked in my life when I went into the recovery room. He had tubes out of the front of him, tubes out of the back of him. His arm was in a sling. His foot was propped up. But, you know, as difficult as that was and going in to see him, and I went over, you know, I thought I was going to faint when I saw all that stuff hanging out of him. But I did think to myself, what a precious moment that was for us. He was alive.

KING: We'll be right back with Nellie Connally on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here were two relatively young men. We were almost identical ages riding with what I would like to believe two of the most beautiful wives in this country. We've been together for 24 hours. They were happy. We were their hosts. We were proud to be their hosts in Texas. They had a tremendous welcome in San Antonio, in Houston, in Ft. Worth, in Dallas. And then, in a matter of a few seconds, this incident occurred that changed all our lives, changed the course of history.




KING: Do you now agree, based on him turning that way slowly to you, you're looking, seeing the turn, that there had to be a fourth bullet?


KING: No, you don't agree with that, either? What happened between the turn?

CONNALLY: At -- you mean at the grassy knoll?

KING: No, how did...

CONNALLY: Well, Kennedy was here. John was here. Kennedy was here. Three shots, three reactions.

KING: How about the bullet that did that whole thing? That...

CONNALLY: That is baloney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a single bullet theory. That didn't happen. We disagree with the Warren Commission to that extent.


KING: We're back with Nellie Connally, discussing November 22, 1963. Who told the governor that the president was dead?

CONNALLY: I did. They told me not to tell him the first day, that he was in all these contraptions. They said let him get a little stronger. And I thought, you know, he knows. He's got to know. So I didn't. But the next day, he asked me, he said, Nellie, how is the president? And I said, he's dead. And then this little sad voice from this big man said, I know. I knew.

KING: Were you mad at Dallas?

CONNALLY: No. I was mad at Oswald. Why would I be mad at Dallas? They took so much blame...

KING: Boy, did they.

CONNALLY: ...that was not their fault, that this crazy man was in there. No, I didn't. I -- they -- we had so many stories, so many different stories, that finally they decided that maybe I should say something, because they knew if I said anything -- if I said John was doing fine or something, they could believe me.

And it was too hard for me to do. You know, I tried to do it. And I finally had to just put my glasses on and read what they had put for me. But then I said, I want to make one more statement about the abuse a city has taken that it does not deserve, for everybody to hear. Not just Texans, people all over the United States, all over the world, if it's going there. Because Dallas did not do this.


CONNALLY: The people couldn't have been friendlier. The crowds couldn't have been more wonderful, more generous in their reaction to the president.

And I just had such a good feeling about the way they had received him in this city. I had just turned around and said to him, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you, Mr. President. That was it.


And then I couldn't say any more. So I just went back in the room to see how John was.

KING: Do you think in those moments sitting outside next to Jackie, that she was mad at Dallas?

CONNALLY: Well, if my husband had been...

KING: Because then, you didn't know about Oswald, didn't know anything.

CONNALLY: Yes, but if...

KING: If your husband had been killed...

CONNALLY: If he had been killed, I would be pretty upset myself about wherever I was, especially after the friendly, wonderful, carrying on that was going on. Well, see, a city that was that happy to have him there...

KING: By the way, that was one of the great greetings a president ever got.


KING: Was in Dallas that day. But boy, the city came in for a lot...


KING: ...of raps.


KING: Did you like Jackie Kennedy?

CONNALLY: Well, you know, people ask me so much. I didn't know her. I was with her the most I had ever been with her at one time during these three days.

We had met at the White House, and we had met at receptions and things in Dallas. She was different. She and I were very different. She was very composed and very quiet. KING: She sent you a note, didn't she?

CONNALLY: Yes, she sent me a note.

KING: After the funeral of her husband.

CONNALLY: And she said, if Jack had to die that way, I'm glad he died in the presence of a man like your husband.

KING: Did you surprise then when the William Manchester book reported that she said you were screaming in the car?

CONNALLY: Yes, because I never said anything but be still. It's going to be all right. I never said it. In fact, one little thing, when I got back to Austin and went to have my hair done, the fellow that did my hair said, Miss Connally, do you know that you have a two- inch streak of snow white hair from the top of your head to the bottom that you didn't have last week?

KING: You're kidding me.

CONNALLY: And I -- so when I had a physical, I said why did -- how did that happen?

And the doctor said, it's because you kept everything inside. You didn't scream. You didn't holler out. You didn't cry. And it manifested itself that way.

KING: That ride in that car to that hospital had to be harrowing.

CONNALLY: It was awful, awful. And you know, we took one curve.

KING: It was about six minutes, right?

CONNALLY: And I thought I was going to fall over on John, or he was going to fall out of my lap, because they took us so quick. We got there as quick as we could.

KING: Did the president make any sound?


KING: None, no sound. And you heard little murmurs from John going in and out, right?

CONNALLY: Just -- not murmurs as much as just movements.

KING: What was the mood like among the doctors, the people at the hospital?

CONNALLY: Of course, they were thunderstruck, let's put it that way. And see, I kept sitting there thinking the president is dead across the hall. Who is working on John in there? Because I thought...

KING: Secondary team.

CONNALLY: Yes. I thought who is helping him? And, of course, I later learned that he couldn't have had any better doctors, and I'll love them forever. But it was just -- it was just a bad time, pretty awful, unexpected, heinous, horrible time.

KING: On a personal note, my heart surgeon was an intern at Parkland that day.

CONNALLY: Was he?.

KING: A young guy running around. He said it was Panicsville.

CONNALLY: Oh, and in the hallway.

KING: Lights and blue lights.

CONNALLY: While we were sitting outside the doors, our husbands dying -- dead or dying inside, you never saw such racket. And there were people with Tommy guns, all kinds of rifles, guns running all around.

And it was terrifying. And in the middle of all of that -- can you smile? A hospital attendant came up to me and said, Miss Connally, you have to come to the office and fill out a blank on John Connally. If I had had a gun, he might not have been there. I just sat there. Can you believe right in the middle of all of that?

KING: Was he insured? Our guest is Nellie Connally.

We'll talk a little about Lee Harvey Oswald, the aftermath and the commission as well. We'll be right back.


KING: What do you think when you see the Zapruder film?

CONNALLY: We saw it frame by frame by frame, because they wanted to ask us if we could tell them what happened in those...

KING: This is the Warren Commission people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Warren Commission.

KING: And?

Anything surprise you viewing it?

CONNALLY: No. No. Nothing surprised me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but you know, we were viewing it in the immediate aftermath of the assassination itself, and it was...

CONNALLY: Pretty horrifying...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...a depressing thing to look at it. (END VIDEO CLIP)


KING: By the way, if I may divert for a minute, where were you on the morning of 9/11? There are two great tragedies most living Americans had remember, November 22...

CONNALLY: I was in Houston, just at home.

KING: Were you up?

CONNALLY: Yes, just horror stricken. Well, of course, the tube was full of it, so -- and then after -- see, then the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 and what was the third one?

KING: Pearl Harbor.

CONNALLY: Pearl Harbor, all of a sudden, things that had been lying dormant a little became very much alive again. And they wanted to know how -- they would ask me how the Kennedy assassination and the -- 9/11 compared? And so I tried to say, which I can't do very well, that in the United States, in our country, we had a plan, a certified plan of what would happen if something happened to the president.

And the next day, we had a president that went right on working. And with the 9/11, we had a war on terrorism, which our president and other people didn't know when or if it would ever end.

KING: Also, Nellie, we -- Barry Goldwater, an opponent of his, said it best. We didn't realize how much we loved John Kennedy. And he was so young and so vital. So, that was very personal. I mean, to all the people who lost people on 9/11, nothing could be more personal. But we all knew Jack Kennedy. And you're not supposed to kill a president who is in his 40s.

CONNALLY: No, you sure aren't.

KING: Were you watching when Lee Harvey Oswald was killed?

CONNALLY: No, I was in the hospital, and they brought him in...

KING: So, they brought him to Parkland.

CONNALLY: ... to the hospital right where I was with John, who was trying to recover from the wounds he gave him. Well, of course, he died. And the only sad thing about that was that we didn't get to interrogate him and see if we could find out more.

KING: When you testified before the Warren Commission, was that difficult for you?

CONNALLY: Yes. It was always difficult. For months and months, John would cry out in the night. And I would just touch him and try to wake him. And the next morning, I would say, what were you dreaming about or thinking about? He said, somebody is always trying to shoot me. There's somebody with a gun after me all the time.

KING: Indeed, there were rumors on November 22, that it was after Connally and not Kennedy.

CONNALLY: I think he wanted them both.

KING: And there was no question in your mind it was one shooter?

CONNALLY: No question in my mind -- unless there were two or three of them up in that window.

KING: And they all came from behind you.


KING: It's just you heard the extra bullet.

CONNALLY: And, of course, now, they keep saying that there was a shot at the grassy knoll.

KING: From the front.

CONNALLY: Well, maybe there was. But in my mind, by the time we passed the grassy knoll, got to the grassy knoll, everything that happened in that car had already happened.

KING: Did the Secret Service man who climbed on to the back or the one that was in the front next to the driver take it badly?

CONNALLY: Well, everybody took it badly.

KING: I mean, personally, almost like they're supposed to protect him? Like they failed?

CONNALLY: Oh, no, I don't think so. I don't think so, because everybody that was guarding them, they were doing the best they knew how to do.

KING: Did you watch President Johnson sworn in on the plane, on the television?

CONNALLY: I saw it later on television.

KING: With Jackie standing there and the blood on the dress.


KING: Jack Valenti (ph), and Sarah Hughes was the female judge.

CONNALLY: Wonderful, but terrible.




JOHNSON: Protect...


JOHNSON: And defend...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Constitution of the United States.

JOHNSON: The Constitution of the United States.


JOHNSON: So help me God.


CONNALLY: Well, we've lived through a lot, haven't we?

KING: How long before you went back to Washington?

CONNALLY: I don't think we went back, did we, until...

KING: You became secretary of the treasury.

CONNALLY: Made him secretary of the Navy.

KING: Of the Navy.

CONNALLY: But then he was secretary of the treasury and we were back in Washington. I did one great thing. You interested in what I did while he was secretary of the treasury?

KING: Mm-hmm.

CONNALLY: I was just wandering around through the Treasury Building, looking at it. You know, seeing where everything was and I saw these painters and they were painting these gold columns. And I said, why are you painting those gold columns? And they said because people put their hands on and leave their prints. And we just have to paint them all the time.

And I said, well, that white up there looks beautiful on the top of the columns. Let's just paint them white today. And they said, oh, thank you, Miss Connally. Then we won't have to paint them so much. John came in from treasury and he said, Nellie, did you paint the gold columns white in treasury? And I said, yes. Aren't they going to be beautiful? He said, no. And I said what's the matter? He said, we closed the gold window today.

KING: That's funny. That's a great...

CONNALLY: Wouldn't you know that I would just stumble around and do that.

KING: Was -- when you were in Dallas, all Texans are in Dallas.

CONNALLY: We drive by that spot.

KING: Do you drive by that? I've been there a few times. I've been to the library there. I mean, they have the museum...

CONNALLY: I've been to that museum thing one time. I went back one time when they put a memorial plaque on the place where it all happened. And that's all.

KING: They have a beautiful commemoration there in the middle. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is gone.

CONNALLY: Yes, but -- I have no desire to look at that.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the wonderful Nellie Connally. Thank God she's around. Don't go away.


JOHNSON: We have suffered a loss that cannot be waived. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know that the world shares the sorrow and Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear.




JOHN CONNALLY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: I'm awfully proud of my family. And I want to take just a moment today to introduce them to you, by way of some film clips, so that you'll know them when you meet them. Here's some footage of my wife, Nellie, taken at a recent cattle sale at our ranch. I met Nellie when we were both students at the University of Texas, and she was the campus sweetheart. She's been my wife and companion for 39 years now. And she's a great campaigner in her own right.


KING: We're back with Nellie Connally, touching bases on some things current. I know your husband had to declare bankruptcy. Was that hard for you when they sold all those things?

CONNALLY: Of course, of course. Have you...

KING: How did they handle it?

CONNALLY: I just opened -- he handled it wonderfully. But, he tried and tried and tried to get enough money to take care of that, $93 million or whatever it was. And, of course, he couldn't. When they started out, he could get anything he wanted. But he couldn't get anything then.

KING: In this town, when you're history, you're history. CONNALLY: You're history. And they took everything we had.

KING: What did he die of?

CONNALLY: They think it started with the shot, the Kennedy shot through his lung. He had pulmonary fibrosis. And he got pneumonia and died. But the bullet went through his lungs.

KING: And you had breast cancer, right?


KING: And survived.

CONNALLY: And survived.

KING: They caught it early?

CONNALLY: I caught it. I found it.

KING: Yourself.

CONNALLY: Yes. I never do self-exams, which all women should do. They should have their mammograms. I don't care what the conversation is in the papers today, unless their very own doctor says, you don't have to do that. They should take the mammograms, do the self-exams and get a second opinion.

KING: And you're in good health today?

CONNALLY: I'm fine, yes.

KING: You're sprightly. Life is good.

CONNALLY: Life is tolerable good. It was better when I had John, but...

KING: What do you think of President Bush?

CONNALLY: Well, I think he has learned a lot fast. And I'm hoping that this country will give him the shove he needs. Because he's a young man.

KING: Did you watch the funeral of John Kennedy on television?


KING: Did John watch it, too?

CONNALLY: Yes. Our son represented us.

KING: He went to represent you.

CONNALLY: We sent him. They asked me and I said, John's not well enough. So, I'm not going to leave him. But my son John will come. And he stayed with the Johnsons. They thought -- everybody thought he was Secret Service, a new Secret Service man. But he came into that little room that I told you I was sitting in that was outside where John was. And he had a piece of note paper and a pen.

And he said, mother, I want you to write a note to Ms. Kennedy for me to take when I go up. And I said, I can't write her, John. Yes, I said, her husband died and your daddy may live. And I just don't -- and he just stood there and stood there until finally I took the pen and paper and I wrote her a note. I don't know what I said, because I didn't copy the note or anything.

He went to the funeral. And after the funeral, he said that he went with the president and Ms. Johnson over to the car where Jackie and Bobby were, and said they jumped out of the car the minute they saw the president, and hopped up. And, of course, they were coming to be nice to them, not expecting to do anything other than look in the window. They jumped out and shook his hand. And then Johnny said to Ms. Kennedy, I have a letter from my -- a note to you from my mother. It was very hard for her to write.

And he handed it to her. And she took it, took his hand in both her hands and said, Johnny, if anything good has come out of this, it's that your father will live. And I said, and John B. Connally fell in love right there. He thought she was the sweetest and most gracious -- and that was a wonderful thing for her to do. You know?

KING: Do you think about it much?

CONNALLY: I did for a while like a phonograph record. It just went off around again and again in my head if I was awake. Now, I have pushed it back, never to forget, but not to constantly upset me all the time.

CONNALLY: Oh, Nellie, you are some special lady. I really appreciate you doing this for us.

CONNALLY: Well, you're some special fellow. That's why I did it.

KING: You're a doll.

CONNALLY: Thank you. You ain't so bad yourself.

KING: Former first lady of Texas, Nellie Connally, reliving November 22, 1963.

Thank you very much for joining us. Good night.



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