DALLAS — After years of on and off progress to mark the location where President Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office in 1963, the airport is finally moving toward completion of the historic project.
"This is the very first time the public will be able to see the bronze marker that is an exact duplicate of the one that is embedded at the site of where Air Force One was parked on Nov. 22, 1963, when Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office,” said Farris Rookstool, III, historian.
On Wednesday, in a nearly deserted airport, workers hung a 43-pound bronze marker and a presidential seal behind plexiglass. Both are next to a large window on the second floor at Dallas Love Field. This observation point is in a public area, just above the TSA security checkpoint, and overlooks where Air Force One was parked on that November day in 1963.
Amy and Farris Rookstool, III loaned both items to the city for the permanent exhibit.
"As a child, having been at Dallas Love Field on Nov. 22, 1963, I never would have imagined that one day I would be the historian who would commemorate the historic events that happened here. Honoring the first and only Presidential inauguration held aboard an aircraft (at our airport) is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow to our city. It pleases Amy and me knowing that future generations will get to learn about this history," Rookstool said.
The new bronze marker is an exact duplicate of one that is embedded in the ramp a few hundred feet away. That one marks the exact location where then-Vice President Johnson stood in a crowded stateroom aboard Air Force One and took the oath of office after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Until now though, the public could not see the historic marker since it sat outside on an active ramp that Southwest Airlines jets use to taxi in and out of gates.
“Southwest Airlines is the only airline in the nation where you get to taxi over this American History,” Rookstool said.
Twelve years ago, Rookstool helped identify where Air Force One parked on Nov. 22, 1963.
To permanently mark that exact location, Dallas Love Field originally installed a light that is flush in the ground next to Rookstool’s original bronze marker. That light shines back into the window at the observation area for the public to see.
But the work on recognizing this moment in history stopped a few years ago and the city inexplicably turned off the taxiway light for a while.
The light is back on now, Rookstool said, but too dim to be seen from inside the airport.
An informational panel, next to the duplicate marker and presidential seal, will eventually be replaced with a more historical explanation of what happened there 57-years ago.
"Usually the transfer of power happens on the Capitol steps in Washington during the inauguration. There's a couple of exceptions. This is one of them,” said Lyndon Nugent, LBJ’s grandson, in an interview with WFAA in 2017.
Johnson’s swearing-in at Love Field is only the fourth time the oath of office has been given outside the nation’s capital since the founding of the Republic.
Each of the other locations, dating back much farther in American history, publicly recognize the transfer of power.
A bronze plaque hangs outside 123 Lexington Ave. in New York, where President Chester Arthur received the oath of office in 1881 after President James Garfield’s assassination.
An entire building, the Ansley Wilcox House, in Buffalo, NY, is now a national historic site after Theodore Roosevelt recited the presidential oath here in 1901 following President James McKinley’s assassination.
And the National Park Service preserved the Calvin Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vermont, where he took the oath of office in the middle of the night on Aug. 3, 1923, following the death of President Warren G. Harding.
With the hanging of the duplicate marker on Wednesday, Dallas now officially marks – in public view – the transfer of power that happened here 57-years ago.
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