Tampa native shares photos, memories of JFK's 1963 visit

Tony Zappone shot photos as a 16-year-old

TAMPA BAY - "He was all I had ever expected and more. He was the real thing," recounted Tony Zappone.

Zappone was a baby-faced 16-year-old 11th grader from Jefferson High School who toted a camera, an all access media pass and some real guts.

"They wanted to know who I was representing I said, well, the school paper," he said. "I mean, you weren't supposed to get close to the President, but I did anyway.

"And you'll never take another picture like that again?" I asked.

"No. No. And I look at the pictures now, and people still don't believe I took them. I don't believe I took them," he answered laughing.

But he did.

On November 18, 1963, Zappone snapped away at MacDill Air Force Base, at Fort Hesterly Armory and along what's now John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa where the President waved hello to Tampa.

"When he was here, it made us feel like Tampa counted," said Zappone.

"There was a General sitting next to him but nobody else around him, except a driver and a Secret Service man and the limo. So I walked up to him and welcomed him to Tampa, backed up, shot a picture of him waving," he said.

The photographs document what turned out to be JFK's second longest exposure to the public during his Presidency-- a visit that transformed Tampa.

"He created a feeling amongst everyone, a jubilant feeling. I mean Tampa was a tiny town yet the streets were lined with people just to see him for 10 seconds," said Zappone.

The President's visit also changed this teenager forever. At 65-years-old, he still loves to talk about that day.

"He created visions for people and we miss that a lot now," he said.

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