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#37 - Kennedy Assassination: American Flag from Presidential Limousine
Presidential limousine flag attributed to JFK's assassination car, from the collection of a Secret Service witness
This American flag is believed to have been flying over the right front bumper of the presidential limousine on November 22, 1963 when 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Provenance supplied by George Hickey III, son of Secret Service Agent George Hickey, Jr., establishes a clear chain of custody of the car flag from November 1963 until the present day. Also included in the lot are Hickey's framed Secret Service certificate, laminated dashboard "Official Car" placard, White House Police business card, laminated lanyard badge, and a laminated luggage tag from the Executive Office Building.
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RR Auction acknowledges the existence and prior sale of another flag that was reported to have been on the presidential limousine the day of the assassination. However, in Agent George Hickey, Jr.'s testimony to the Warren Commission, he provided a minute-by-minute timeline of his whereabouts the afternoon of November 22nd, thereby establishing a plausible chain of custody of this flag (see below for a partial transcript of Hickey's testimony). Hickey had no prior interest in the sale of memorabilia; in fact, his son reported that he destroyed the blood-spattered suit he wore that day, which could have been of significant monetary value. Hickey can thus be viewed as an objective participant in the historical event. We believe Hickey's account to be true based on 1) the chain of custody of the flag, and 2) the integrity of Hickey as an unqualified witness. When Hickey's son approached a third party to handle the sale of his father's effects, he maintained no special interest in its monetary value. Rather, he asked only that the flag be represented accurately, and that he could provide a sworn affidavit establishing the object's provenance.
The Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot American car flag is made of nylon and wool, with a 1" long gold tassel fringe. Its 13 alternating red and white stripes are complemented by a cobalt blue union with 50 stars (Hawaii had just become a state on August 21, 1959.) A 2.75" wide sleeve runs along the left side of the flag to accommodate the car flagstaff; the upper grommet is intact, but the lower one is slightly detached from the fabric. A printed, handwritten, and initialed cloth label is found in the top part of the sleeve, reading:
"Size # 6 - Skeecia (?)
FLAG NATIONAL U.S.A.
NYLON AND WOOL BUNTG.
W/ FRINGE 1' 6" HOIST
2' 2" FLY DTD 11/25/59
P.Q.M.D. M.F.G. DIV.
Job #5741 E.F."
The flag is in very good to near fine condition. Expected wear includes a few stray threads, a few smudges on some white stripes, and isolated darkening to the fringe ends. The flag measures approximately 19.5" x 30" overall.
The companion pieces personally owned by George Hickey Jr. include: a signed United States Secret Service training school certificate issued from Washington, D.C. on April 15, 1966, confirming Hickey's successful completion of his graduation requirements, framed behind glass to 12.75" x 9.75"; a laminated dashboard "Official Car, U.S. Secret Service" placard, 9.5" x 8.75"; Hickey's White House Police business card; laminated lanyard badge, #4730; and a luggage tag reading "George W. Hickey / Room 181 / Executive Office Building / Washington, D.C. / 20500."
Secret Service Agent George Hickey Jr. (1923-2005) was assigned to Presidential security detail in the Secret Service Follow-up Car (known as 679X) on November 22, 1963. (Hickey was seated in the left rear seat of the 1956 sedan.) Hickey's testimony to the Warren Commission is well-documented. Following the shooting, Hickey was part of the motorcade that rushed to Dallas's nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital. After completing some duties there, Hickey was directed to replace the bubble tops on the official vehicles, take them to Love Airfield, and secure them for transport to Washington, D.C. Hickey removed the car flags from the presidential limousine and preserved them in a top desk drawer until his death. Hickey's son, who was 9 years old in 1963, recalled his father's emotions. The agent felt distraught and guilty for not doing enough to protect the President, and regarded the car flags as almost holy relics.
Provenance: Warren Commission
Hickey testified before the Warren Commission on November 30, 1963. His testimony appears in Commission Exhibit 1024, p. 761-765. In part:
"When we arrived at the hospital the President and Governor Connally were taken inside and about the same time the Vice President had arrived. I requested him to come into the hospital to a place of safety and he was surrounded by his detail and the other assigned agents, and myself and led into the hospital. When he entered I returned the gun to 679X as ordered by Agent Roberts.
By this time a great number of police had arrived with newsmen and others in the motorcade, and Agent Kinney and I stood by the cars. Agent Kinney requested that I go and see if I could find out what was to be done with the cars. As I was on my way into the hospital to do this, Mr. Kenneth O'Donnell asked me to take him to where the President was and he could not get by the police. I did this and he joined Mrs. Kennedy and Mr. Dave Powers outside the President's operating room.
Agent John D. Ready was stationed outside this room and he requested that I take his place for a few moments and to allow no unauthorized persons to enter or linger outside the door and to care for Mrs. Kennedy if necessary. I did this until Agent Ready returned and relieved me.
As I was leaving to go back to the area where Agent Roberts was, Mr. Dave Powers asked me to get a priest which I did. Agent Roberts informed me to wait until later when a decision might be made about the cars. Upon returning to the cars, I assisted Agent Kinney to put the tops on the cars.
A short time later Agent Roy Kellerman told Agent Kinney and me to take the cars to the plane and stand by for orders. Agent Kinney drove 679X and I 100X [the presidential limousine] to the plane and loaded them and secured the plane, allowing no one to enter except the regular crew.
After Airforce #1 left, we received orders to depart for Washington, D.C. and return the cars to the garage and preserve any evidence that might be in them. Departed Love Airfield, Dallas, Texas via U.S.A.F. plane #12373 at 3:35 pm."
Provenance: George Hickey III Affidavit
Accompanied by a photocopy of an original letter signed by George Hickey III dated May 1, 2007.
"Shortly after the assassination, and on many occasions in the ensuing years of my father's life, he relayed to other and[to]me the circumstances surrounding his possession of the American car flag…which, along with a now missing Presidential seal car flag, adorned the Presidential Limousine at the very moment of the Kennedy assassination…
I was only 9 years old at the time, but an event so profound and leaving such a personal impact on our family, it has left a lasting memory of the events. I remember my father bringing home these relics as a keepsake of his fallen President and placing them in the top drawer of his personal desk where they remained for the remainder of his life. He was very upset at that time and I recall him placing his blood spattered suit in the fireplace…
I am quite certain that the facts relayed to his family and others concerning this flag are accurate. He [Hickey, Jr.] would be happy if he knew that someone worthy was becoming the new custodian of this important piece of history, and that they would now continue his long record of preservation of both the artifact itself and the important facts surrounding it's[sic]past."
The presidential limousine was a modified 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible. Code named 100X, the presidential limousine had been lengthened, reinforced, and fitted with special handles and foot rails. When the President was a passenger, a Presidential seal flag flew over its left fender, and an American flag over its right.
Disclaimer: RR Auction believes that this flag was represented by Hickey's son to be the American car flag flown on JFK's limousine at the time of the assassination. However, in the absence of material fact, RR Auction makes no warranties.