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JFK exhibit gives unique perspective

A Denton exhibit featuring more than 700 items surrounding the life of President John F. Kennedy and his death 50 years ago provides a unique opportunity for area residents.

The “JFK Texas Exhibit” — featuring badges from Dallas police officers, personal photographs, photos of Kennedy’s visit to Fort Worth before his trip to Dallas, cultural mementos and other items collected during the days and weeks after the president’s assassination — will be on display through Dec. 29 at Western Heritage Gallery, located in Suite 400 of Stonehill Center, 5800 N. Interstate 35.

“This is a community exhibit,” said Brett Jones, gallery manager. “A lot of people in the community have loaned their things, which is touching.”

Many of the dealers who sell items at the gallery have also contributed to the exhibit.

Visitors will find a room focusing on Dallas with newspapers, photos, books, figurines and a string of Teletype alerts sent out moments after Kennedy was shot.

Other parts of the exhibit include material from Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit — who had a deadly encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald — and from several other Dallas officers along with presidential campaign material from the time.

Jones said he wanted to show the popular culture of the era, so he included musical artists in the exhibit.

“We wanted to tell it in pictures and Life and Look magazines and newspaper headlines and book covers,” Jones said. “It’s a very visual exhibit.”

Local historians Georgia Caraway and Doug Harman helped conceptualize the exhibit and contributed items.

Harman said he did not know of any other non-government, non-museum entity celebrating the Kennedy visit and the era of the 1960s the way it is being done at the Western Heritage Gallery.

Jones said the exhibit gives Denton residents the opportunity to see how history unfolded.

“A lot of people have never seen this stuff,” he said. “It was such a huge part of American history ... a world-history-changing event. It was also probably the biggest news story that came out of Texas in the 20th century.”

Jones said there is no agenda for the exhibit.

“One hundred different people remember that day 100 different ways,” he said. “What we hope to do is throw out a few hundred memory cues and let people go back and reflect where they were and come to their own conclusions.”

The exhibit will also raise funds for the Denton Community Food Center. The gallery is having a special ticket-only benefit for the food center on Friday, with each ticket costing $20.

The exhibit is not the only Denton event dedicated to JFK and Nov. 22, 1963. A free screening of the documentary JFK50: Eyewitness to History sponsored by the Mayborn Institute at the University of North Texas on Wednesday and a display of books, newspaper and magazine articles and other items related to the news of the Kennedy assassination at Emily Fowler Central Library through November are also scheduled.

By taking advantage of these and other local opportunities, residents can relive a pivotal time in their lives or discover more about a key era from our nation’s past.

It’s a good time to be a student of history in Denton.