Athens Review, Athens, Texas

November 22, 2013

Daughter of minister tasked with sharing tragic news speaks at CCL

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — The Rev. Luther Holcomb, the religious and civic leader from Dallas greeted President John F. Kennedy at Love Field Airport on Nov. 22, 1963.

He later announced to a waiting crowd gathered at Dallas Trade Mart to hear President Kennedy speak “The president had been shot.”

Holcomb, who had been invited by Governor John Connolly to meet Kennedy at Love Field, is the father of Mabank resident and retired educator Jan Flowers.

Flowers was at Aley United Methodist Church, west of Seven Points, Wednesday evening. She presented a slide show and memories of her father's infamous day with President John F. Kennedy.

When Rev. Holcomb was introduced to President Kennedy, Governor Connolly told the President Rev. Holcomb would be saying the invocation at the luncheon that day. The only thing the president said was, “Make it a good one.”

Holcomb, good friends with the Connolly family, sat with John Connolly's wife Nellie at Parkland Hospital waiting on word of Governor Connally's condition, who was shot the same time Kennedy was.

Fifty years ago, Holcomb led the stunned audience at the Trade Mart in a moving prayer, opening with a verse from Psalms in the Bible, “Lord lead us to a rock.”

Flowers said, “My dad's public and behind-the-scenes work in Dallas during the 1950s and early 1960s helped Dallas achieve peaceful racial integration of its public schools, restaurants and hotels and remove barriers to employment opportunities.”

Rev. Holcomb, a baptist minister, was referred to by the Dallas Morning News as a 'Pastor at large.' He was a fourth generation Baptist minister.

Rev. Holcomb rode in the fifth car in the procession of cars in downtown Dallas on that faithful day. Flowers said her father said he heard what he thought were gunshots. Former Dallas Mayor Earl Cabell, an avid hunter, rode in the car with Holcomb confirmed they were indeed shots being fired.

Cedar Creek Lake resident Lucille Quick was there to hear Flowers tell about Rev. Holcomb. Quick, who was working in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22,  said, “Some girlfriends and I went to watch the President. We waved at him and he waved back.”

She said by the time we got back to the office, we heard he had been shot.

Ralph Monroe, a retired realtor from Cedar Creek Lake, said, “I was working at Texas Instruments. The word spread throughout the shop. We couldn't believe it happened in Dallas. Everyone was in a state of shock.”

Kennedy had appointed Holcomb to represent Texas on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1961. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson named Holcomb vice chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Commission, then a new regulatory agency created to enforce the employment opportunity provisions of the Civil Right Act of 1964. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon reappointed him to a second term.

Holcomb began his clergy career as a traveling evangelist, preaching at weeklong meetings called "youth revivals" in scores of cities throughout Texas and the south.

Flowers told the crowd, “It is important you talk to your grandparents and have your children talk to their grandparents, if we are going to remember historical moments in history.”

Flowers was an 18-year-old college student in Denton the day President Kennedy was assassinated. She said she regretted not being able to make it back to Dallas for Kennedy's visit.

Flowers said she was lucky a lot of her father’s life has been documented on the Internet.

Flowers said her father was also asked to make arrangements for Lee Harvey Oswald's funeral. Oswald is thought to be the lone gunman who killed President Kennedy. According to Flowers, her father worked with Oswald's brother, Robert, to work out the funeral arrangements.

Flowers said she is proud of her dad and the part he played in American history. She is thankful her father left pictures and stories she can pass along to the next generation.

Holcomb died at Cedar View House, an assisted-living center at Cedar Creek Lake, in 2003. He was a month shy of his 92nd birthday.