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Former Texas first lady Nellie Connally dies

05:04 PM CDT on Saturday, September 2, 2006

By KELLEY SHANNON / Associated Press

AUSTIN – Nellie Connally, the widow of former Gov. John Connally and the last remaining survivor who was riding in President Kennedy's limousine when he was assassinated, has died, longtime family friend Julian Read said. She was 87.

She died late Friday at Westminster Manor in Austin, where she had been living for about a year after moving from Houston, said Read, who had served as press secretary to Gov. Connally in the 1960s.

"Total surprise," he said. "She has been extremely active and vital the past few days and weeks....It's a shock to all of us."

Nellie Connally had said the most enduring image she had of that day in November 1963 in Dallas was of a mixture of blood and roses. Connally had said the most enduring image she had of that day in November 1963 in Dallas was of a mixture of blood and roses.

"It's the image of yellow roses and red roses and blood all over the car... all over us," she said in a 2003 interview with The Associated Press. "I'll never forget it. ... It was so quick and so short, so potent."

As the limousine carrying the Connallys and the Kennedys wound its way through the friendly crowd in downtown Dallas, Nellie Connally turned to President Kennedy, who was in a seat behind her, and said, "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."

Almost immediately, she heard the first of what she later concluded were three gunshots in quick succession. Connally slumped after the second shot, and, "I never looked back again. I was just trying to take care of him," she said.

Anniversaries and inevitable media interviews followed the Connallys for decades to come.

She was active in numerous fundraising organizations. In 1989, Richard Nixon, Barbara Walters and Donald Trump turned out for a gala to honor her and help raise money for diabetes research.

"I've never known a woman with Nellie's courage, compassion and character," Walters said at the ceremony. "For all her ups and downs, I've never heard a self-pitying word from her."

The "downs" that Walters spoke of were when the Connallys found themselves in financial difficulties.

Private business ventures after 1980 were less successful than Connally's career as a politician and dealmaking Houston lawyer. An oil company in which he invested got into trouble, and $200 million worth of real estate projects went sour.

He filed for reorganization of his personal finances under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code and for liquidation, under Chapter 7, of the Barnes/Connally Partnership, the Austin-based real estate venture that he founded with former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes.

The auction paid only a fraction of the $93 million in debts Connally listed with the bankruptcy court in Austin.

Nellie Connally celebrated her 80th birthday with fellow breast cancer survivors at a ceremony in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center at Anderson hospital in Houston. It had been 10 years since overcoming breast cancer.

She served on the M.D. Anderson Board of Visitors since 1984, and a fund in her name raised millions for research and patient programs.

She is survived by her daughter, Sharon Connally Ammann of Marble Falls; and two sons, John B. Connally III of Houston and Mark Connally of Dallas.

Funeral services are pending.

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Former Texas first lady Nellie Connally dies

05:04 PM CDT on Saturday, September 2, 2006

By KELLEY SHANNON / Associated Press

AUSTIN – Nellie Connally, the widow of former Gov. John Connally and the last remaining survivor who was riding in President Kennedy's limousine when he was assassinated, has died, longtime family friend Julian Read said. She was 87.

Richard,

Sorry I did not see this. I also started a thread.

Dawn

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JOHN JUDGE SENT THIS ALONG, ADDING THAT HE DOESN'T ALWAYS BELIEVE DOUG THOMPSON'S RANTS.

The Rant

Is deception the best way to serve one's country?

By DOUG THOMPSON

Mar 29, 2006, 07:26

The handwritten note lay in the bottom drawer of my old rolltop desk,

one I bought for $50 in a junk store in Richmond, VA, 39 years ago.

"Dear Doug & Amy," it read. "Thanks for dinner and for listening." The

signature was a bold "John" and the letterhead on the note simply said

"John B. Connally" and was dated July 14, 1982.

I met John Connally on a TWA flight from Kansas City to Albuquerque

earlier that year. The former governor of Texas, the man who took one

of

the bullets from the assassination that killed President John F.

Kenney,

was headed to Santa Fe to buy a house.

The meeting wasn't an accident. The flight originated in Washington and

I sat in the front row of the coach cabin. During a stop in Kansas

City,

I saw Connolly get on the plane and settle into a first class seat so I

walked off the plane and upgraded to a first class seat right ahead of

the governor. I not only wanted to meet the man who was with Kennedy on

that day in Dallas in 1963 but, as the communications director for the

re-election campaign of Congressman Manuel Lujan of New Mexico, I

thought he might be willing to help out on what was a tough campaign.

When the plane was in the air, I introduced myself and said I was

working on Lujan's campaign. Connolly's face lit up and he invited me

to

move to the empty seat next to him.

"How is Manuel? Is there anything I can do to help?"

By the time we landed in Albuquerque, Connolly had agreed to do a

fundraiser for Lujan. A month later, he flew back into New Mexico where

Amy and I picked him up for the fundraiser. Afterwards, we took him to

dinner.

Connolly was both gracious and charming and told us many stories about

Texas politics. As the evening wore on and the multiple bourbon and

branch waters took their effect, he started talking about November 22,

1963, in Dallas.

"You know I was one of the ones who advised Kennedy to stay away from

Texas," Connally said. "Lyndon (Johnson) was being a real asshole about

the whole thing and insisted."

Connally's mood darkened as he talked about Dallas. When the bullet hit

him, he said he felt like he had been kicked in the ribs and couldn't

breathe. He spoke kindly of Jackie Kennedy and said he admired both her

bravery and composure.

I had to ask. Did he think Lee Harvey Oswald fired the gun that killed

Kennedy?

"Absolutely not," Connally said. "I do not, for one second, believe the

conclusions of the Warren Commission."

So why not speak out?

"Because I love this country and we needed closure at the time. I will

never speak out publicly about what I believe."

We took him back to catch a late flight to Texas. He shook my hand,

kissed Amy on the cheek and walked up the ramp to the plane.

We saw Connally and his wife a couple of more times when they came to

New Mexico but he sold his house a few years later as part of a

bankruptcy settlement. He died in 1993 and, I believe, never spoke

publicly about how he doubted the findings of the Warren Commission.

Connnolly's note serves as yet another reminder that in our Democratic

Republic, or what's left of it, few things are seldom as they seem.

Like

him, I never accepted the findings of the Warren Commission. Too many

illogical conclusions.

John Kennedy's death, and the doubts that surround it to this day,

marked the beginning of the end of America's idealism. The cynicism

grew

with the lies of Vietnam and the senseless deaths of too many thousands

of young Americans in a war that never should have been fought. Doubts

about the integrity of those we elect as our leaders festers today as

this country finds itself embroiled in another senseless war based on

too many lies.

John Connally felt he served his country best by concealing his doubts

about the Warren Commission's whitewash but his silence may have

contributed to the growing perception that our elected leaders can

rewrite history to fit their political agendas.

Had Connally spoken out, as a high-ranking political figure with doubts

about the "official" version of what happened, it might have sent a

signal that Americans deserve the truth from their government, even

when

that truth hurts.

© Copyright 2005 Capitol Hill Blue

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