Filming Kennedy: Home Movies from Dallas

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Jack W. Daniel

"My middle son, he said, 'Somebody threw a firecracker, Daddy.' And I said, 'No, son, that’s not a firecracker. Somebody has shot at the president.'"

Jack W. Daniel
February 11, 1997
Oral History Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Jack W. Daniel hoped to capture a home movie of President Kennedy against the picturesque backdrop of Dealey Plaza, especially the area now known as the grassy knoll. “My original plan was to go across the street about even from where... [Abraham] Zapruder was, so I could film back towards the Dealey Plaza, being the most photogenic place,” he recalled in his 1997 oral history.

However, even more important to Daniel than a natural green background was the opportunity for his three young sons to have a clear view of President Kennedy—and vice versa. At the last minute, he instead selected a less crowded area on the west side of the triple underpass. He recalled, “I thought it would be a little more personal thing—the boys waving at the president, and the president waving back.”

Armed with his pistol-grip Argus home movie camera, he purposely stood several feet behind his children so that they could be captured on film waving at the president. “I told my boys, ‘Now when the motorcade turns off of Main Street, start waving because he’ll be here in seconds.’”

Seconds later, Daniel and his sons heard shots being fired, but two of his sons continued to wave as the motorcade emerged from the triple underpass. As the limousine sped past their position in a blur, Daniel captured the confusing scene on film.