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Tampa Marks JFK Visit in Tampa Ceremony

Eric Staab

Four days before his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Tampa, greeted by thousands of people lining his motorcade. Fifty years later, a solemn crowd filled the seats at Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa to pay honor to the late president.

One of the speakers at the JFK in Tampa ceremony was former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco. Greco said it was a different time back then.

"We've come a long, long way in 50 years," he said. "Not all of it's been great. There was a time when we hugged each other, kissed each other, cried when something like this happened."

Greco glibly referenced today's politicians and how they differ from JFK.

"Politics today is not what it was 50 years ago," he said. "Everybody's arguing with each other. Somehow they forgot what this man knew. We're all in the same boat- black, white, rich or poor. If it sinks, everybody dies."

After Greco left the podium, photojournalist Tony Zappone recalled his memories of the late president.

"The visit by President Kennedy was probably the highlight of my life and one that I've lived over in my mind everyday in part for 50 years," he said. "I used to run home every day for his press conference on television as a young kid. I didn't understand the issues, but I just loved hearing him talk."

He covered the president when he came to Tampa in 1963, and took his picture as a young freelance photographer for the Tampa Tribune.

"Once he came through (an) intersection," he said, "I dropped the 35mm and picked up a regular camera to get him a second time. I guess the Tribune trusted me. I was surprised they had a 16-year-old photographer take such an important picture."

The ceremony featured music from the "Bourbon City" Jazz Band, which performed the hymn "Amazing Grace" and the poignant military piece "Taps."

A plaque detailing the Kennedy visit to Tampa was dedicated at the close of the ceremony. It stands at Lykes Gaslight Park along Kennedy Boulevard.

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