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First Lady’s Assassination Dress To Be Kept From Public Till 2103

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota man is among the few who have seen one iconic piece of history from the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated: the suit worn by First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

The simple pink suit with black collar and pillbox hat became among the most iconic of modern images, and came to symbolize the day life changed in America.

Mrs. Kennedy wore the outfit, a copy of a favorite Chanel design, while sitting next to her husband in the motorcade in Dallas.

And she wore it on the plane back to Washington when Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office, and when her husband’s casket was off-loaded into a gray U.S. Navy ambulance.

Few people have seen it since.

Minnesota Federal Judge Jack Tunheim is one of them.

“It sits there folded, in a box, on a shelf,” Tunheim said.

He served on the 1990s-era commission that re-investigated the Kennedy assassination, and reviewed the records of the Warren Commission.

He’s handled all of the physical evidence from that day, but says Jackie’s dress is especially haunting.

“It’s still the bright pink that it was the day of the assassination,” he said. “It hasn’t faded.”

The garment is stored in a climate-controlled room at the National Archives in Washington with other assassination artifacts, like the rifle Lee Harvey Oswald used to kill JFK.

The blood stains are still there, but Tunheim says they are much lighter now. Inexplicably, Jackie’s mother had the dress laundered.

“It’s been cleaned so that you can only see traces of the president’s blood on it, as opposed to the way it looked the day of the assassination,” Tunheim said.

Jackie refused to change out of the dress that day. She said she wanted everyone to see what they did to her husband.

But when the Kennedy family gave it to the National Archives, it added one condition: It cannot be seen in public until 2103.

Tunheim also inspected other artifacts, including the president’s bloody clothes and Oswald’s rifle.

“This dress witnessed that horrible event that day,” he said. “You wonder if has more answers, the answers that we really want to know about the assassination. You wish it could talk.”

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