Is This the Last Photo Ever Taken of JFK?

On the night of November 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy flew to Texas for a five-city re-election campaign tour. Less than 13 hours later, he was pronounced dead from a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The "Zapruder Film" captured the assassination on 8 mm home-movie film, but the last still photograph taken of President Kennedy was something else entirely.

The famous “Zapruder Film,” the amateur home-movie shot by the late Abraham Zapruder, depicts the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Zapruder was a clothing manufacturer who worked in downtown Dallas and had come down to the street to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade and hopefully to capture some footage with his home movie camera. “As Kennedy’s limousine passed, Zapruder began filming with his 8mm Bell & Howell camera and inadvertently captured the most complete record of the president’s murder,” according to Biography. While the film was crucial to the Warren Commission’s investigation of Kennedy’s assassination, it’s not the final still photographic image of Kennedy while he was still alive.

President John F. Kennedy's car in Dallas motorcadeShutterstock

The overhead view of the Dallas motorcade seen here is Exhibit 698 from the Warren Commission’s investigation. While it’s most definitely one of the final photos taken of the President while he was still alive, it is not the last.

President John F. Kennedy riding in motorcade with first lady Jacqueline KenndyUncredited/Shutterstock

In the background of this photo, the Texas School Book Depository Building’s distinctive facade is clearly visible. It was in front of this very building that President Kennedy was fatally shot. Therefore it’s possible to conclude this was the final still photography mage of President Kennedy before the fatal shot was fired.

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, John ConnallyAltgens/AP/REX/Shutterstock

But the final still photography image of Kennedy still alive may well be this photo, taken by the late James William “Ike” Altgens, an American photojournalist, photo editor, and field reporter for the Associated Press. The photo, which is Exhibit 203 from the Warren Commission investigation, taken less than two seconds after the fatal shot rang out, shows President Kennedy’s hand reaching towards his head and Jackie holding onto his forearm. Here are the last words Jackie ever heard her beloved husband say.

There are still so many questions about what really happened on November 22, 1963. But as more government documents are released, we will hopefully learn more. Next, find out more still unanswered questions about JFK’s assassination.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren has covered knowledge, history, the British royal family, true crime and riddles for Reader's Digest since 2017. Having honed her research and writing skills as an attorney in the 1990s, she became one of HuffPost's first bloggers in the early 2000s, graduated to reporting hyperlocal news in the 2010s and has been researching and writing news and features for a wide variety of publications ever since. Aside from Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in Mashed, Tasting Table, Eat This, Not That!, Grown and Flown, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Insider, Business Insider and many others.