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11/14/2013

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Betty (Pardieck) Graff

I was a 25 year old “women’s page” editor at the Burbank Daily Review. It was a far-right-wing-owned-by-Copley-press operation with a young, inexperienced and virtually leaderless staff.
The AP’s loud bells or ringers at about 10:30 a.m. could be heard above the general existing din of the newsroom next to the linotype machines and composing room. I ran over. And then everyone else followed. The news dribbled out in bulletins. I’m sure the AP has a full record of them. With bells at every new sentence or two. (We called them “takes.”) We didn’t have a television in the building, and some did turn to radios, but mostly it was the AP machine.
The daily deadline was 12:30 for the afternoon run. Someone actually decided to throw out everything for the front page and start over. We actually reported the death and had pictures from Dallas. (We had a magic machine that could translate pictures into curved plastic plates that went right on the press.)
I have a copy of the paper somewhere. I thought it might be valuable someday, and told the publisher I thought they should run off a few hundred extras in case anyone wanted them.
Given the general right wing atmosphere emotions were mixed.
I remember a profound sense of change and history; but being preoccupied with making sure my Friday paycheck got deposited at the bank so that I could buy groceries. I spent the weekend with my four year old pointed at the tiny black and white television set in my tiny house saying, “remember this. you will want to someday say you remember this.” Of course she remembers little.
I think the Burbank Daily Review lost money on the extra copies.

Jerry Lazar

The best new book on JFK's assassination is an imaginative and meticulously researched alternate-history novel in which he DOESN'T get assassinated ... but instead survives the Dallas ambush and then (with his attorney-general brother Bobby) tries to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him and seek revenge... They become the original conspiracy theorists!... It's called "Surrounded By Enemies : What if Kennedy Survived Dallas?", by award-winning screenwriter and journalist Bryce Zabel... And this novel contains more truth than most non-fiction JFK assassination accounts!....Check it out at http://www.SurroundedByEnemies.com and http://www.WhatIfJFKLived.com ...

 Edmund Lambeth

The day JFK was murdered, I was a Washington correspondent covering the Senate for the Gannett News Service. Several of our staff – editor and political writer Jack Germond, Pentagon reporter Jim Canan, and House correspondent Dick Gale – and I – were finishing our coffee at the National Press Club. Suddenly, the news wires erupted in their sharp, steady ring that typically announced a developing crisis. I jumped from the table and arrived second – the first reporter having already split for the elevator. The first news from the wire came from Merriman Smith of United Press International - who was later to win the Pulitzer Prize for an unrivaled display of initiative and talent in covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Smith's report was the first to disclose that Kennedy had been shot. Not surprisingly, none of the telephones were accessible, having flooded with both outgoing and incoming messages.

Germond, a respected political reporter and columnist, wisely stayed at the GNS office and coordinated our work from our newsroom, as telephone access became available. Canan, Gale and I split for the elevators to corner cabs for the trip to Capitol Hill. My first instinct was to go – not to the Senate Office Building – but directly to the Capitol office of Democratic Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana, located near the senate floor. The secretary posted just outside his office entry nodded to me as I entered the small anteroom between his office and the Senate floor. The Senator was advising his butler to expect a throng of reporters. The first to arrive was not a mere scribe, but Mansfield's Republican counterpart – Illinois senator and minority leader Everett McKinley Dirksen, a colorful figure with an oratorical flourish and a key insight into the "Upper Chamber." By contrast, Mansfield, once a manual laborer in the mines of Montana, was a soft-spoken and self-educated scholar widely known for his diplomatic demeanor.

As the two men began exchanging their thoughts on the horror of the assassination, I took notes for the story I filed. I remember Mansfield, with obviously heart-felt loss and anger, said: "Damn Texas! When Adlai [Stephenson, former Illinois governor and Democratic presidential candidate] went down there to help them solve their petty political quarrels, they spat on him. Damn Texas!" As for Dirksen, he declared. "In a dictatorship, where the hates and fears are congealed, you could believe it [a tragedy such as this]. But in our democracy, it just can't be believed."

For context I would add that it was the conservative Dirksen who gathered the required number of senators to shut off debate on the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. It was he who enlisted the required number of senators to successfully close debate (cloture) on a civil rights bill. His friend and colleague, Mansfield, served as ambassador to Japan for more than a decade, longer than any other to have held that office. For his service there, he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom . Mansfield voted for all of the major legislation of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty." But he strongly opposed the Vietnam War.

Ed Lambeth, Professor Emeritus of Journalism, University of Missouri.

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