In the pages of my 1938 University of Texas annual is this image of a young John Connally, who would have been no more than 21 years old. Here he is celebrating his win as president of the student body. He had no way of knowing he would be seated with another president 25 years later, when he became Governor of Texas.
Most young folks (or frankly, even middle-aged folks) have probably never even heard of Connally and don’t know he was riding in the same limousine as JFK on that fateful day of November 22, 1963. Per the Warren Commission Hearings, Connolly asserted he immediately recognized the first shot as a rifle shot. Fearing an assassination attempt, he turned to his right to see if he could see JFK. As he turned to his left, he felt an impact to his back. He stated to the Warren Commission: “I immediately, when I was hit, I said, ‘Oh, no, no, no.’ And then I said, ‘My God, they are going to kill us all.'” He looked down and saw his chest covered with blood and thought he had been fatally shot.
His wife, Nellie, wrote in her book that she pulled him onto her lap and covered him with her body. “I didn’t want him hurt anymore.” When the third shot hit its mark, exploding Kennedy’s head and showering Nellie with bits of blood and flesh, she was exposed but her husband was not. Nellie felt her husband move underneath her, bleeding heavily but alive. “I felt tremendous relief,” Nellie wrote, “as if we had both been reborn.” She pulled his right arm over his chest to draw him closer and comforted him as if he were a frightened child: “Shhhh. Be still,” she said. “It’ll be all right. Be still. It’ll be all right.” (https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/the-witness-2/)
Connally was lucky to make it out alive, undergoing four hours of surgery for his wounds, which included three broken ribs, a punctured lung, a shattered wrist, and a bullet lodged in his leg. When Connally died in 1993, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and the Assassination Archives and Research Center petitioned Attorney General Janet Reno to recover the remaining bullet fragments from Connally’s body, believing that the fragments would disprove the Warren Commission’s single-bullet, single-gunman conclusion. The Justice Department had no authority without consent of his family, who refused. (June 19, 1993, “Wecht presses to recover Connally bullet fragments,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)