JFK at Rice

Today’s discovery was a very nice one. Inspired by the earlier post about JFK at Rice, alumnus Mike Loeb (class of 1963) brought in pictures that he had taken as an undergrad during Kennedy’s appearance at Rice Stadium. They’re just normal snapshots, taken from medium range, and some of them are a bit blurry, but they’re also darned interesting. The wider angle lets me see context better than the closer range photos taken by the professionals. If you click a couple of times to enlarge this picture and zoom in, it becomes clear that it was taken just moments after the one I included in the earlier post. Kenneth Pitzer is to Kennedy’s right and Congressman Albert Thomas is to his left. Vice President Johnson can be seen over Thomas’s shoulder.

Several of the other pictures gave me the opportunity to closely examine who was sitting where on the podium, like students of the Soviet Union used to do with photos of the May Day Parade at the Kremlin. Zoom in on this one and you’ll see Materials Science Professor Franz Brotzen in the first row by the two guys in uniform. (He’s wearing sunglasses.) All the way down at the other end of the front row is LBJ and to his right is Rice trustee Newton Rayzor. In between are various politicians, including JFK’s National Security Assistant McGeorge Bundy, and Rice Chancellor Carey Croneis.

This photo shows Rabbi Robert Kahn of Temple Emanu El giving the invocation. As I was digging through Pitzer’s files on the arrangements for Kennedy’s visit, I was semi-surprised to discover that it was the White House that insisted that there be an invocation and a benediction in the program. If you zoom in on this, you can see Houston Mayor Cutrer on LBJ’s left and Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby in a black hat right behind President Kennedy. I’m pretty sure I see two other university presidents in this shot: Phillip Hoffman from the University of Houston is all the way on the right in the first row, next to the man in uniform and I think that’s Dr. Sam Nabrit of TSU (in sunglasses) in the second row over the right shoulder of Rice’s William Houston. I can’t help but notice that there was a not insignificant number of African-Americans on this platform. I haven’t gone through and counted, but I’d guess there must be about half a dozen. I’m not prepared to draw any conclusions from that, but it’s certainly noteworthy. Rice was still pretty thoroughly segregated at this moment, and the lawsuit to change the charter had not yet been filed.

There’s quite a bit more of interest in the rest of this set of pictures and I’ll post some more on Monday. I had another really busy day today!

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