Flea market yields history for JFK history buff

Former Fort Worth City Manager Doug Harman was rummaging through a flea market when he came across some folders with an intriguing label.

by JIM DOUGLAS / WFAA

Former Fort Worth City Manager Doug Harman was rummaging through a flea market when he came across some folders with an intriguing label.

"Yeah — 'President Kennedy Breakfast,'" Harman said with a laugh.

He is a collector of artifacts, especially bits of history discarded as insignificant. In this case, he uncovered the working plans for President John F Kennedy's visit to Fort Worth on November 21-22, 1963.

"Here is the first notice of the Kennedy visit," he said, thumbing through yellowed memos from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

He held the plans for the November 22 Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hotel Texas, now a Hilton. He believes someone must have emptied out an office at the Chamber years ago.

"The breakfast ended up costing the Chamber $710, Harman said. "Here is where tickets are still available... three bucks."

There are letters from people asking to meet the president. One is from the widow of a pilot killed along with Kennedy’s older brother Joe during a World War II secret mission. Their airplane exploded.

Harman read from a small, handwritten note detailing gifts to President Kennedy from the Chamber.

"It says, 'Hat size 7-1/2 oval. Boot 10-C.' Then it says, 10.5 B. Kennedy,'" he said. "It's interesting minutiae."

Harman was Fort Worth City Manager in the 80s, then ran the Convention and Visitors Bureau for nearly two decades.

Now he collects all things connected with JFK's brief stay in Fort Worth — Hotel Texas ash trays, water glasses, silverware... even soap. His home is part museum, part attic.

He spread out four yellowed editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from November 22. They chronicle elation followed by horror as multiple editions hit the streets that day.

Doug Harman's collection of documents shows how hard so many worked make the Kennedys' few hours in Fort Worth perfect — before history swept those hours away.

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