Photo: Tony Zappone

The Tampa Tribune had all of its photographers stand out at various locations which created a shortage of staff lensmen, so they assigned me as a stringer to handle the motorcade as it made its way through downtown Tampa. Once the president left the International Inn, he was to head east on Grand Central Avenue, which became Lafayette Street at the University of Tampa, and on to Franklin Street where his limo would go north. His ultimate destination was Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory.

I positioned myself at Twiggs and Franklin Streets. I didnt know what to expect and frankly I never considered his car would be moving so quickly. I waited less than ten minutes when I heard distant sirens getting closer and coming fast. I fitted my 35mm camera with a 200mm telephoto lens so I could get one shot of the motorcade at a distance and have time to change lenses for one more shot when it got right up to me.

Well, it wasnt as easy as I thought. The Presidents car was moving fast, real fast, much faster than normal traffic ever did on Franklin Street. I was shocked and unprepared. Somehow in my mind I thought maybe the President would stop his car and pose for a shot or two. Yeah, right!

I got off one shot (bad choice of words in retrospect) with the telephoto lens. The best picture, the first I took, (shown above) appeared the following day on one of two picture pages in The Tampa Tribune devoted to the Presidents visit.

His car was escorted by police officers on motorcycles and I nearly got run over by one of them who recognized me at the last minute and quickly swerved around me. It was Officer J. D. Stanton who later told me he was ordered to drive straight and run down anybody who got too close to the Presidentand from everything I remembered I totally believed him.

Another point that struck me at this writing, nearly 40 years later, is that had the President decided to sit down in his limo while passing through downtown Tampa, I would have missed him entirely because I was standing on the opposite side of the street. It's hard to believe your heart can palpitate with nervous relief that long after such a close brush with what could have been the biggest failure of my career in the news business.