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President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 60 years ago. He visited Tampa four days earlier

A dark green sign in a park details President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Tampa.
Tony Zappone
President John F. Kennedy met with military leaders from the U.S. Strike Command before traveling to public events during his visit to Tampa.

President John F. Kennedy was the first sitting president to visit Tampa. He stopped at MacDill Air Force Base before visiting several other locations, four days before his assassination.

Nov. 22 marks the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas.

But four days earlier, JFK was the first sitting president to visit Tampa.

During his visit, crowds gathered along the 35th president’s motorcade route on Franklin Street and Grand Central Avenue, now known as Kennedy Boulevard.

Kennedy stopped by Al Lopez Field, where he marked the 50th anniversary of the first commercial air flight between St. Petersburg and Tampa. He also visited Tampa International Airport, the International Inn and the Armory, where he spoke before the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“And if we can work in harmony, if we can understand each other's problems and position, if we can respect each other's roles and responsibilities, then surely the business of mankind will prosper and we will move ahead in a secure world, one where there is opportunity for all,” Kennedy said in his speech to the chamber.

And before departing MacDill, Kennedy offered thanks for those who serve "the great republic at a time of danger and change."

JFK at MacDill
President John F. Kennedy addresses the service members at MacDill Air Force Base (audio courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum).
Huge crowds visited JFK during his Tampa visit, even at MacDill AFB.

In 2013, the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council erected a historical marker detailing Kennedy’s visit to Tampa. It stands at Lykes Gaslight Park along Kennedy Boulevard.

Eric Staab

A year later, a documentary by Lynn Marvin Dingfelder on the visit was archived in the U.S. Library of Congress. “JFK in Tampa: The 50th Anniversary,” which aired on WUSF TV, combined film and photos of Kennedy's visit with first-person interviews from witnesses.

“This poignant day in Tampa’s history will live forever in America’s library and will be available to everyone who is interested in President Kennedy’s last day in the public eye before the fateful day in Dallas,” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said at the Library of Congress in 2014.

As WUSF’s digital news producer, I strive to serve others by sharing stories on our online platforms.