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Texas governor's bloody clothes are centerpiece of JFK anniversary

By Jim Forsyth

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas State Archives will display the bullet-riddled clothes worn by former Texas Governor John Connally on the day he was wounded and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago in Dallas.

The white cotton shirt, with faded bloodstains clearly visible, and a black business suit are the centerpiece of a display in Austin, Texas that starts October 22 to mark the Kennedy assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. The exhibit will run through February 14.

"I think it makes it real," Sarah Norris, the conservator for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission said of Connally's clothing. "You can read about it and you can think about it, but to actually be in the room with it certainly gives you pause."

Connally, then-governor of Texas, was riding with his wife, Nellie, in the jumpseat of the open-topped limousine while Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, were in the back seat driving through Dallas when Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire.

The Warren Commission set up to investigate the assassination concluded that Connally was hit by the same bullet that first hit Kennedy.

"There are bullet holes both in the back and the front of the suit jacket," she said. "There is one bullet hole in the wearer's right cuff, and there is another in the left leg, on the front."

John Anderson, who as preservation Officer for the Commission is responsible for taking care of the items of clothing, said it was only by accident that the clothing survived that day.

"The governor was in extreme pain as they were trying to remove his trousers at the hospital, and he said something to the effect of 'just cut the damn things off,' but then he lost consciousness," he said.

Connally donated the shirt, suit, and the striped tie he was wearing to the state archives while he was still hospitalized.

Connally served two terms as governor, became the secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon and, like many Texas Democrats of his generation, switched to the Republican Party.

He ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1980, and died in 1993.

"This is the first time in 50 years that the public will have seen these clothing items," Texas State Archivist Jelain Chubb said. "We want people to be able to see evidence of history and let them draw their own conclusions."

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Karen Brooks, Greg McCune and L Gevirtz)

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