BY KEN LITTLE
Daniel Babb is the genealogist of a family that has roots in Greene County more than 200 years deep, but he is also a Dallas native.
Babb, who was in Greeneville last weekend to catch up on the progress of the Babb Homestead renovation near the Nathanael Greene Museum, is a keen observer of events leading up to today's 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
While Babb was not yet born when the shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, the Kennedy assassination has weighed heavily on the consciousness of the city.
Babb said in an email with The Greeneville Sun on Thursday that his family moved to Dallas in 1967, when he was 2 years old, "so all my memories are from after the fact."
'LIKE A FOG'
"But there was absolutely a prejudice laid on people of the city of Dallas that hung over us like a fog. I don't recall any time we covered it in school, but every November the airwaves of our local stations are stuffed with remembrances in (Kennedy's) honor," Babb said.
Babb said he learned that many of the city's citizens had looked forward to the presidential visit in November 1963.
"If you look at the other pictures from that day, you can see how excited most were that Kennedy was here.
"There were throngs at the airport, and people lined the long parade route 10-deep just to catch a glimpse of the President," he said. "It was a time that Dallas felt it was finally getting recognition as a mature big city."
But the day "turned out very differently," Babb said.
"We lost one of our (police) officers, J. D. Tippit, that day also. Then, another blow to our sense of security when Jack Ruby shot (Lee Harvey) Oswald," he said.
Many people still associate Dallas with the history-changing event, Babb said.
"To this day, no matter what day, no matter what time, you pass through Dealey Plaza and there are forever dozens of people still lining the streets looking and pointing and taking pictures," he said.
"Conspiracy theorists push alternate stories and sell pamphlets to the tourists."
Babb said he "never bought into many of those theories."
"The grassy knoll isn't consistent with his [President Kennedy's] wounds. No visit to Dallas is complete without a stop by the plaza and accompanying Sixth Floor Museum in the old School Book Depository," Babb said.
To him, the most "surreal place" is Parkland Memorial Hospital, where the mortally wounded president was rushed after he was shot.
"It still looks largely the same as it did that day. Not realizing this, I went to visit a sick friend there once and had to stop the car when I came across the ambulance entrance that figured so prominently in the pictures that day.
"The hospital is being replaced, and, sadly, this landmark will likely be lost in the process," Babb said.
Dallas has a "big memorial event" planned for today, Babb said.
"The entire plaza is on lockdown already, and security is so tight that tickets aren't even transferable," he said.
The assassination remains a topic of conversation in the city, even after 50 years.
"I think every long-term citizen of Dallas knows the story all too well, and I love to talk to people who lived here at the time.
"An older friend once told me that he had to walk home six miles from the parade route because the entire city went on lockdown and the bus system shut down almost immediately," Babb said.
"He was two blocks up the parade route so all he saw as the motorcade passed was joy, and found it unbelievable when the news came down minutes later."
Ironically, it took a television series that became popular years after Kennedy's assassination to resurrect the city's image.
"Dallas," starring the late Larry Hagman as fictional oil magnate J.R. Ewing, aired from 1978 to 1991. A new version of the series debuted last year.
"The stigma against Dallas was only erased when the TV show burst into people's living rooms in the mid-1970s.
"Suddenly, we were the shiny new city of J.R. Ewing, and everyone wanted to be a part of it," Babb said. "The city has experienced rapid growth ever since."