JFK's final phone call

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by JASON WHEELER / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Inside a box, sheathed in a cocoon of Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap, are two strikingly ordinary objects that were made extraordinary by their place in history.

"It's surreal to see this," said former FBI analyst and JFK historian Farris Rookstool III as he unwrapped two rotary dial telephones that were installed by the White House communications staff into Suite 850 at the old Hotel Texas in Fort Worth where President Kennedy spent his final night.

Before the president departed for Dallas the next morning — November 22, 1963 — he used one of the two phones for a call that was "very impromptu."

The quick call went to Ruth Carter Johnson after the first couple learned she had helped organize the world class art exhibition that adorned their hotel suite.

Rookstool notes that the president — even with a tight schedule ahead of him that day — wanted to chat with Johnson personally.

"Just to thank her... just to give her a gesture of thanks. This is to me just a wonderful reminder of what his character was about that before he left town — not to have some aide or someone call up on the phone or send a 'thank you' note from Evelyn Lincoln, his secretary — he wanted to do what he thought was the right thing, which was to pick up the phone," Rookstool said.

He adds that it was the last time President Kennedy ever picked up a phone, making these old rotary phones "very iconic symbols of the end of a presidency."

The relics have since been frozen in time, like so many memories of the president who last used them. The two phones were purchased at auction by an out-of-state JFK memorabilia collector.

There is a possibility the two phones will be put on display in North Texas, but plans have yet to be finalized.

E-mail jwheeler@wfaa.com

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