Monday, January 22, 2018
Human Interest

Time Capsule: JFK's visit to Tampa, Nov. 18, 1963

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, NOV. 18, 1963

It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy came to Tampa, the city's first visit from a sitting president, a visit so joyful in the moment, so bittersweet in memory.

The president's schedule and motorcade route were published in advance so residents could plan their strategy for catching a glimpse of him. Thousands showed up at MacDill to cheer his arrival: local politicians, business leaders, the press, white- and blue-collar workers, husbands, wives, students — and one lonely beauty queen. In the background to the left is a young woman in a gown and tiara. Was it an unusual experience for her, to be among such a throng and yet so invisible? No news accounts of the day mention her or which organization she was representing. On that day, Miss Somewhere or Queen of Something was just one more admiring fan.

But perhaps she didn't go completely unnoticed.

Years later, Rep. Sam Gibbons, who accompanied Kennedy that day, recalled that the crowds worshiped the youthful president. "In the limousine we were talking the whole way," Gibbons said. "He was waving and talking about the bobby soxers in the crowd. He leaned over and said, 'You have a lot of pretty girls here in Tampa, Sam.' "

Four days later, of course, the president was dead.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

     
 
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