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The president's final hours

Nov. 22, 1963. President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. A life cut short. A nation in mourning. It all happened so quickly.

According to research from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, here's a look at Kennedy's last hours.

With an eye on the 1964 election, President Kennedy departed Washington, D.C., on Air Force One for a two-day, five-city tour of Texas accompanied by the first lady. It was Jackie Kennedy's first extended public appearance since the loss of their baby, Patrick, in August.

JFK felt Texas was crucial to re-election in 1964, but uncertain with feuding Democratic party leaders in Texas. The trip was meant to bring party leaders together and sound out JFK's political themes of education, national security and world peace.

Tensions ran high in Texas that fall, especially in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there.

After stops in San Antonio and Houston, JFK ends Nov. 21, 1963, in Fort Worth, where hundreds of people waited to see the couple off as they made their way to Dallas' Hotel Texas.

Nov. 22 rose "as a cold, rainy day that morning in Dallas," said Southern Methodist University professor Tom Stone, "but the weather changed. The sun came out."

Later in the day, JFK would parade through Dallas with his motorcade. As the weather cleared up, JFK instructed his people "to take the bubble top off the limo," Stone said.

"It wasn't bulletproof. It was just a plastic bubble, but it would have made the shots more difficult," Stone said. Life is full of "what ifs," but "Kennedy might be alive if the weather hadn't changed."

President John F. Kennedy reaches out to the crowd gathered at the Hotel Texas parking lot rally in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. The President, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy started the day by attending a Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the hotel, before heading to Dallas. - MCT