Cecil Stoughton

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Cecil Stoughton

Cecil Stoughton Signed Photo of President Johnson’s Swearing In - 1963

Iconic photograph taken by Cecil Stoughton of President Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in, following the assassination of President John Kennedy. Above his original signature Stoughton has also printed the date and place of JFK’s assassination and Johnson’s oath of office aboard Air Force One. To the left of Johnson is Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of Kennedy (still wearing her blood-splattered dress); to his right is Lady Bird Johnson, and sitting down near the airplane window is Jack Valenti, an aide to Johnson who later was president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

CECIL W. STOUGHTON (1920-2008) was an American photographer. Stoughton, a captain in the United States Army Signal Corp, was assigned to the White House Army Signal Agency, and is best known for being President John F. Kennedy’s photographer during his White House years. Stoughton’s behind-the-scene pictures of John and Jacqueline and their children in their public and personal life were pivotal in shaping the public’s view of the U.S. first family. He took over eight thousand pictures of the family spanning the 34-month period beginning with Kennedy’s inauguration and ending with his assassination.

Stoughton was present at the motorcade at which Kennedy was assassinated, and was subsequently the only photographer on board Air Force One when Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the next President. Stoughton’s famous photograph of this event depicts Johnson raising his hand in oath as he stood between his wife Lady Bird Johnson and a still blood-spattered Jacqueline Kennedy. Stoughton also served as White House photographer during Johnson’s first two years in office, and recounted this service in an oral history contributed to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

In the immediate chaotic aftermath of the assassination, Stoughton learned that Johnson was being sworn in on the aircraft on a Dallas airfield and rushed over in a car. As he was running across the tarmac, the Secret Service thought it was another assassination attempt and almost fired at him. As reported at the time, Stoughton’s camera jammed just as Johnson was about to be sworn in but he gave it a good shake and it starting working again.

Though the program was taped in June 2008, Stoughton was featured on the television series Antiques Roadshow when it aired on November 3, 2008—coincidentally, the day of his death—recounting his story and presenting prints of his photographs from his personal collection, including a print of this photograph of Johnson being sworn in that the President had signed to Stoughton. A partial transcript of the story in his own words:

“I was in Dallas during the horrible assassination. I was in one of the cars in the motorcade five cars back. Heard three very distinct reports, sounded like rifle shots. Didn’t know where they came from. A few minutes later, I was on my way to the Air Force One. I had seen vice president Johnson leaving the hospital and I asked where he was going and someone said, ‘The president’s going to Washington.’ So that meant that Kennedy had expired in the hospital, where I was standing outside the operating room door there. And I said, ‘So am I.’ And I picked up my camera and went out to the plane. And when I got there, the press secretary, acting press secretary, Malcolm Kilduff, said, ‘Thank God you’re here, Cecil.’ He said, ‘The president’s going to take his oath on the plane and you’re going to have to service the wires with the photograph.’ So I took the only photograph of the swearing-in that you see.”Hailed by National Geographic and many others as “perhaps the most famous-and most important-image ever taken by a presidential photographer.”

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