Home movie of President Kennedy given to museum

AP News
Posted: Feb 22, 2011 11:35 PM
Home movie of President Kennedy given to museum

Roy R. Botello will never forget the crowd's enthusiasm as he recorded a home movie of John F. Kennedy at a Houston hotel on the eve of the president's assassination in Dallas.

The footage of a Nov. 21, 1963, gathering of the League of United Latin American Citizens shows Kennedy and his wife smiling as people jostle through the crowd to shake their hands or snap photos. A mariachi band can be seen behind the president and first lady.

After keeping the silent, color images stored away in a living room drawer in his San Antonio home for decades, Botello decided to donate his film to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which is dedicated to Kennedy's assassination.

The home movie includes images of Jacqueline Kennedy addressing the gathering of several hundred people at Houston's Rice Hotel in Spanish. Botello said the crowd's appreciation of the first lady knowing the language is one of the memories from that night that still stand out.

"She knew what the mariachis were saying but (President Kennedy) didn't know anything about that. He just looked up and smiled," said Botello, 89, who speaks English and Spanish and was on a LULAC scholarship committee back then.

"She was enjoying the mariachis behind her. It was rewarding for us that she understood," he said.

Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, said local media outlets also recorded the event, but that Botello's is the first home movie he's seen. Mack notes that the footage is all the more special because it was shot by an amateur whose perspective makes viewers feel like they're part of the crowd.

At one point, the scene becomes so hectic that Botello is knocked down.

"He didn't have the focus correct all the time, but that doesn't matter," Mack said. "You really feel like you are right there in the moment so to speak."

He said Botello's footage is also notable for the images of Mrs. Kennedy, who had made few appearances since the death of the couple's infant son, Patrick, in August 1963.

"Jackie had this marvelous smile and you can see that very clearly," Mack said.

The Kennedys were in Texas as part of a five-city tour. They had already been to San Antonio. From Houston, they flew to Fort Worth on the night of Nov. 21 before leaving for Dallas the next day. Austin was to have been their last stop before going back to Washington.

But as the Kennedys' motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository in downtown Dallas on a parade route on Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested that day and then killed two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

Botello, who worked as a caseworker for what was then the Texas Department of Public Welfare, said he was at his office when he heard about Kennedy being killed.

"We were all astounded as to what had happened," he said.

He tucked away the footage he had captured the night before. But last year, he decided to share his film with a San Antonio television station, which did a broadcast piece on the footage.

The station later contacted Mack at the museum and he then reached out to Botello about donating the footage.

The museum has since taken the footage to a lab that specializes in restoring 8mm film. Mack said the restoration made the picture much sharper and the colors much more vibrant.

"Hopefully it will encourage others to give us a call and let us know what they have," he said.