This past November, the galleries of the History Center echoed with the question, “Where were you fifty years ago?” It was important to mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Tampa--the first visit of a sitting president --and it was wonderful to watch people share their stories of seeing him that day. Those who were not around at the time appeared equally riveted by the recollections of this important day in our community’s history.
Of course, the euphoria of seeing the president was eclipsed four days later when he was assassinated in Dallas. That day also brought back vivid memories and elicited more stories as our guests reflected on the events surrounding November 22, 1963.
While observing interactions between visitors as they discussed these historic events, our staff was once again reminded of the important role the Center plays in preserving the memory, identity and culture of our region. The idea of documenting President Kennedy’s visit to Tampa was Lynn Marvin Dingfelder’s. A former television reporter, producer and writer, Lynn wanted to create a documentary film chronicling JFK’s visit to Tampa. She canvased the community, collecting stories and interviewing dignitaries, average citizens, law enforcement and even members of the President’s protection detail. Her documentary is a wonderful piece that captures the events of the Tampa visit in a personal and powerful way.
When Lynn approached us about producing an exhibit to complement the film, we eagerly agreed. The film and the exhibit have served as teaching tools for preserving this important historical moment. But perhaps more importantly, they brought the community together to reflect and share stories…exactly what well-told history should do. My deepest thanks go to Lynn, her team and sponsors for their good work, and to the community for sharing these heartfelt stories. -- C.J. Roberts, Frank E. Duckwall President and CEO