East Texan forever framed in motorcade photo

Published on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:03 - Written by KELLY GOOCH kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Linda Brown Cross not only remembers where she was the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas — she has a picture to document it.

Ms. Cross, a retired 67-year-old Tyler Junior College professor, was a student at North Dallas High School on Nov. 22, 1963.

The then-teenager was working in the counselor’s office when she heard the president’s motorcade was coming, and the “bubble top” had been removed.

Ms. Cross said the counselor gave her a note, and she went with friends to watch the motorcade.

She said she wanted to get closer to the street but was stopped by a motorcycle cop. In the end, she saw Kennedy.

“I’m waving, and he waves at me and smiles at me,” Ms. Cross recalled.

“I was just all excited … (but) I felt really uncomfortable about him being open like that.”

She said she wanted to see Vice President Lyndon Johnson come through, too. When she rejoined her friends, she expressed her concerns about the president’s safety, which her friends laughed at.

“I said, ‘This is so scary. I wish he hadn’t taken the top down,’” she said.

“When Johnson came back, his wasn’t down. I think that’s what made me think” about that, she said.

She and her friends were eating lunch at a nearby hamburger place when she heard on the radio that Kennedy’s motorcade was attacked.

Soon, she learned Kennedy had been killed.

“The images of that day were burned into my mind — I would never forget,” Ms. Cross wrote in a first-hand account.

But decades later, Ms. Cross received a more tangible image.

One day in the 1990s, she entered her TJC office to find a picture on the floor.

It came with a written note: “Ms. Cross, I thought you might like this. … It’s the real thing.”

She said the picture, of Kennedy’s motorcade, was not signed with a name.

“As I glanced at the unforgettable scene from my memory, I noticed the people standing behind the limo were my friends,” she wrote in her first-hand account. “Knowing I had moved down the street a few feet to get a better view, I began looking for myself. There I was — just as I remembered. The president smiled at me as I wildly waved.”

She said she didn’t know who left the picture, but a week later, Jeff Coleman, a former student, showed up — it was from him.

Coleman didn’t know that she was in the photograph until she told him.

“He said, ‘It’s the real thing,’ (and) I said, ‘I know. I’m in the picture,’” Ms. Cross said.

“It was a strange thing.”

She said the grandfather of Coleman’s friend was a photographer and had followed the motorcade route to get pictures of Kennedy.

After the assassination, federal agents came in and took materials out of his lab, but he eventually got that one negative returned to him, she said.

Coleman asked for a copy for her because he knew she enjoyed history and would love it, Ms. Cross said.

“I did love it. I also loved the fact that it was proof of my memory of that day. One of Kennedy’s last smiles was directed to me, and I saw two presidents in one day — and it wasn’t even inauguration day. That day was one of my saddest days,” she wrote.

The retired professor said she would talk to students about Kennedy’s assassination, and most had seen the picture in her office.

“A teacher likes to be able to say something personal about history,” she said.

Ms. Cross isn’t the only person with a picture from that November day.

Ms. Cross said family friend Carroll Sinclair also had a picture. Sinclair lives in Tyler but was living in Dallas at the time.

Sinclair, 76, said it was about noon, and the parade would pass within a block of his office, but he decided to miss the motorcade and go home for lunch.

As he crossed the street the motorcade was on, he said he saw approaching motorcycles, so he pulled on the side of the road, took a picture and went on home.

Ms. Cross said the fact her family friend ended up with a picture taken around the same place that day was “kind of a strange coincidence” considering they didn’t know each other then.

And today, they both have a piece of history.