A fateful decision that might have saved JFK's life

Jim Lehrer was in Dallas covering the Kennedy assassination 50 years ago.
CBS News

(CBS News) DALLAS  President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas fifty years ago next week. Among the young reporters on the scene that day were Peter Jennings of Canadian TV and later ABC; Dan Rather of CBS; Jim Lehrer of the Dallas Times Herald and later PBS; and a cub reporter from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- our very own Bob Schieffer. Those who covered the assassination and who are still around all these years later have had a long time to think about what might have been.

It was a misty morning as the president spoke in Fort Worth. But by the time he got to Dallas, the sun had come out.

Complete coverage of the Kennedy assassination
Schieffer: America "never quite the same" after Kennedy was killed
Seldom-heard police recordings tell story of JFK assassination

Jim Lehrer was at Love Field assigned to cover the president's arrival for the Dallas Times Herald. He remembers seeing the bubble top on the presidential limousine.

"I asked the agent, a man I knew, who was the agent in charge of the Dallas office of the Secret Service," he said, "'You gonna leave the bubble top up?' I'll never forget it, Bob, he looked up at the sky and [said], 'It's clear.' So then he turns to the other agents who were all there by the car ... and he said, 'Lose the bubble top.'"

Lehrer believes it was a fateful decision. "I think Lee Harvey Oswald probably would not have taken the shots," he said had the bubble top been on the limousine.

The bubble top was not bullet proof, but it could have made the president a difficult target or it could have deflected the bullet.

Jim Lehrer ran into that same Secret Service agent later that evening at the Dallas police station. He recalls that the agent came up to him and said, "Jim, if i just hadn't taken off the bubble top."

This Saturday night at 9, 8 central time, Bob will host a special "48 Hours Presents: As it Happened: John F. Kennedy, 50 Years." Then on Sunday, Bob will bring you "Face the Nation" from the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.