November 18, 1963

On November 18, 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a five-hour trip to Tampa, Florida. From his family’s winter home in Palm Beach, Kennedy flew into MacDill Air Force Base. The president then toured Tampa International Airport before embarking on a 28-mile motorcade through downtown Tampa. Thousands of people came out to see the 35th President of the United States ride down Grand Central Avenue (now named after him) in a 1961 Lincoln model 74A convertible.

A black and white photograph of President John F. Kennedy smiling as he walks to a podium. A man stands behind Kennedy clapping.
President John F. Kennedy on his way to the podium in Tampa, Florida, on November 18, 1963. (Florida Memory)

Amidst speeches and hand-shaking, the Florida Chamber of Commerce arranged for Florida historian and Catholic priest Michael Gannon to meet Kennedy. They hoped to encourage a presidential visit to the Ancient City before St. Augustine’s Quadricentennial celebrations.

At the MacDill Air Force Base Officer’s Club, Gannon told Kennedy stories about the oldest occupied European settlement in what would become the United States. In a 1977 oral history interview, Gannon recalled finding a champion for St. Augustine’s history in the president.

A black and white photograph of Mike Gannon presenting a framed document to President John F. Kennedy.
Dr. Michael Gannon presents President John F. Kennedy with a framed copy of the oldest written record from St. Augustine at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, on November 18, 1963. (UFDC)

“As he left, he said ‘I’ll keep in touch,” remembered Gannon in a 2015 interview with Florida Today. “But four days, he was dead.”


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