Photo Credit: Walt Cisco/Dallas Morning News via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Carl Mydans, Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
As we inch closer and closer to the 50 year anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the tributes, commemoration events, special documentaries, the resurrection of conspiracy theories, chilling photo galleries and video footage of that ill-fated day, will be coming thick and fast from newspapers, online news sites, blogs, and television networks in the days ahead.
It doesn’t really seem to matter how many books and articles you’ve read, the amount of documentaries and stacks of pictures you’ve sifted through-what took place in a blink of an eye at about 1:30 EST on November 22, 1963, when the 35th president of the United States was ruthlessly gunned down, presumably by a lone assassin, while his motorcade traveled through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas-is best relived by the people who remember that painfully dark, tragic Friday afternoon and are still around to share their vivid recollections.
As a result, I reached out to some of my favorite journalists and asked if they could recall where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assassinated.
Here, then, are some shared memories.
``I was at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat that Friday putting the finishing touches on a major weekend feature piece on how Barry Goldwater could win in '64. When the news came in, I told the editor we had to kill the piece completely. I saw the report on the ticker, and we headed for the TV room, just off the newsroom to watch it all. Some of the women were crying.''
-Pat Buchanan, a senior advisor to three U.S. presidents, is an American conservative political commentator, author, syndicated columnist, broadcaster and author of 10 books, including: ``Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?''
``I was working and covering the story for The Washington Star—I took David Broder’s dictation from Dallas (he was The Star’s political reporter at the time; I was a ‘dictation-clerk’—one step above copyboy, essentially an apprentice reporter), then and was sent to Capitol Hill, then outside the White House that Friday night, and on through the events ending with JFK’s funeral and burial at Arlington. (I’d gone to work for The Star as a copyboy when I was 16, during the Kennedy campaign in 1960, actually; I was 19 at the time of the assassination).''
-Carl Bernstein, American investigative journalist and author, who has recently agreed to write a memoir of his years as a cub reporter in Washington, titled: “The Washington Star,” which is scheduled to be released in 2016.
``I was in New Haven, CT in my junior year in a class on French history. The professor was lecturing on the Terror and the counter-revolution. Someone went up and handed him a note. It seemed very rude. You never interrupted a lecture. He looked at it and read, "The note I have been handed says that President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson have been shot in Dallas." Pause. "Class dismissed." We all went to a television to watch Walter Cronkite announce that Kennedy had died.''
-Bob Woodward, American investigative journalist and non-fiction author who has worked for The Washington Post since 1971, and now holds the position of associate editor. Woodward's most recent book, ``The Price of Politics'' (a book chronicling the hostile turf battles between the executive and legislative branches in repairing the battered U.S. economy) was his 17th.
``I was a 14-year-old at Alice Deal Junior High in Washington, DC, decorating the gym with fellow student council members for a school dance that night. The school was largely deserted because it was a half day, due to a city wide public school teachers' meeting that had ended classes at noon. My friends and I heard the news from the school janitor who heard it on the radio. We found it hard to fathom -- maybe the story had been garbled? -- and had no access to television. So we decided to go home and find out what was going on. I will never forget walking on to Nebraska Avenue to catch a bus home and seeing how slowly the cars were moving -- not because of traffic but because clearly drivers were shocked by the news they were hearing on their car radios. I knew at that moment that the horrible bulletin we'd heard was true.''
-Frank Rich, American essayist, former New York Times op-ed columnist & writer, who is now an essayist and editor-at-large for New York magazine.
``I was in the third grade and my parents let me skip school that day, the family was driving from our home in Shreveport, La. to Fayetteville Ark. to go to the University of Arkansas (my Father and both sisters alma mater) vs. Texas Tech football game. We had the car radio on and as we drove through Texarkana we heard the first bulletin that shots had been fired at the President's motorcade and each of the subsequent ones (including one that reported that both the President and Vice President Johnson had been shot). At one point, my Dad stopped the car and went into a bar to see if television had any more information (it didn't). We were unsure whether to keep going to Fayetteville (would the game even be played?) or turn around and go home. It was a major debate all over the country whether sporting events should be held or not. The general conclusion was that the President would have wanted games to go on so I think a few were cancelled. I don't remember who won the game.’’
-Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for National Journal magazine, where he writes a twice weekly column.
``I was a student in political science and economics at McGill University in Montreal, and word reached the campus just as we were going into the first class of the afternoon -- on American history. We assumed the class would be cancelled, but the professor arrived on time, opened his notes, and said in a low, unstrained voice that he had changed the sequence of lectures, and would that day be speaking on a topic he had scheduled for the following term -- "Violence in the history of the American south". He made no mention of JFK or what had happened, and we sat there stunned, and silent. It was an unusual form of eulogy, but very powerful, and I can remember much of what he said that day today, 50 years on.''
-John F. Burns, British journalist, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and Chief Foreign Correspondent of The New York Times based in London.
``I was discharged from the Army on Nov. 21, 1963, Fort Hood, Texas. In the days leading up, I wrote to many papers. I had worked on a small paper before getting drafted two years earlier. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote back. They had a general assignment position open. The managing editor invited me for an interview. We set it up for the day after I was discharged. I would stop in St. Louis on my way home to Cleveland. We scheduled the interview for 2 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 1963.
I passed through Dallas Thursday evening. Went right through Dealey Plaza, right past the Texas School Book Depository. Got to St. Louis at 6 a.m. Friday. I got a few hours of shut-eye at the Statler Hotel that morning. Still have the receipt-$6.50 for a serviceman in uniform. Got out of the shower at 12:30. Had the black and white TV on for company. Noontime programming on KMOX-TV was a lady playing the piano. Suddenly, she stopped playing and an off-screen voice said the President had just been shot in Dallas.
Selfishly, my first thought was about myself. All job interviews would be cancelled. I called the managing editor's office. I talked to his secretary. We agreed that I would fly home the next morning and I would call them in about a week to reschedule. I flew home to Cleveland Saturday.
After the 12 o'clock Mass at St. Clement Church in Lakewood that Sunday, I ran into an old family friend from the parish, J. Ralph Novak, who had once been a reporter for the Cleveland News. He was still in touch with his old newspaper friends. He told me that The Plain Dealer had an opening in sports. He said he would call sports editor Gordon Cobbledick and tell him I would be calling. I called Cobbledick Monday morning. He said come on down for an interview. I did and I got the job. They're still waiting for me to call them back in St. Louis. ‘’
-Dan Coughlin, who has covered the Cleveland sports scene for 45 years, is a former sportswriter for The Plain Dealer (1964–1982) and was additionally a broadcaster and commentator for WJW-TV 8 in Cleveland (1983–2009). Coughlin was inducted into the Press Club of Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame in 1996.
JFK Assassination Facts:
- The type of gun used to kill Kennedy was a 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano Italian military rifle, Model 91/38, Serial No: C2766. It's currently stored at the National Archives in College Park, MD., along with his shirt, the original windshield of the limousine, and the wrapping used to support his back.
- The presidential limousine (1961 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible-SS 100X) JFK was riding in on the day of his assassination (license plate number: GG300, D.C.) is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
- There were 6 passengers in the limousine: The driver was Secret Service agent Bill Greer, age 44. Seated next to him was Roy Kellerman, 48, special agent in charge of the White House Detail; behind him was Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife Nellie; and in the back was President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. None of these passengers are living today.
- The shooting of JFK took approximately 4.6 seconds.
- It took approximately 6 minutes to transport the president to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was assigned to Trauma Room No. 1. The first to examine him was Charles J. Carrico, a second year surgical student, According to the Warren Commission Report, Dr. Fouad Bashour, chief of cardiology, Dr. M.T. Jenkins, chief of anesthesiology, and Dr. A.H. Giesecke, Jr., all joined in the effort to revive the president. Kennedy was pronounced dead by Dr. William Clark at approximately 1:00 p.m. CST.
- The first news of the president being shot came at 12:36 p.m. (CST), 1: 36 p.m. (EST), when Don Gardiner of the ABC Radio network interrupted Doris Day's recording of "Hooray for Hollywood’’ to make the stunning announcement. The CBS television network followed at 12:40, when Walter Cronkite broke into the soap opera: ``As the World Turns''; NBC didn’t go live until 12: 45, when they broke away from a fashion show.
- The last rites to Kennedy were administered by Father Oscar Huber of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, who recited the words: ``Si capax ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis, in nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen'' (``If it is possible, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and the son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen''). Fr Huber then dipped his thumb in holy oil, traced the sign of the cross on Kennedy's forehead and said; ``Through this holy anointing may God forgive you whatever sins you have committed. Amen.'' The First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, softly voiced the following words: ``And let perpetual light shine upon him''. According to Fr. Huber, after the final blessing, the First Lady bent over and kissed the president.
A Footnote: Father Huber died on January 21, 1975
- There were 2 Pulitzer Prizes awarded for the Kennedy Assassination. The recipients were: Merriman Smith of UPI, who was riding in the White House press pool car; and Robert H. Jackson of the Dallas Times-Herald for his historic photograph, capturing Jack Ruby plugging bullets into the chest of Lee Harvey Oswald.
- According to Bowker's Books in Print Database, as of November, 2013, there have been 1,500 books published about John F. Kennedy, ranking him as the third most popular book subject among U.S. presidents, behind Abraham Lincoln (3,584) and George Washington (1,909). Specifically on the JFK assassination, Bowker lists 636 books in their database (all markets, print or ebook), which includes both adult and children’s titles and backlist as well as forthcoming titles.
- On November 22, 1963, out of 552 employees in November 1963, there were 70 special agents and 8 clerks--or 14 percent of the total Secret Service work force--assigned to protect the President and vice President with 320 agents worldwide. Today, there are well over 3000 Secret Service agents worldwide.
- President Kennedy had two caskets. The first, used in transit from Parkland Memorial Hospital to Bethesda Naval Hospital was an 800 pound Britannia model. Since this casket was damaged when it was removed from Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base on November 22, 1963, a second or burial casket was selected at Gawlor's Funeral Parlor in Washington, D.C.: Marcellus No. 710 of hand rubbed, 500 year old African mahogany upholstered in white rayon.
- Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald’s assailant, died on January 3, 1967, in a Dallas hospital from lung cancer. He was 55.
- The notorious Texas School Book Depository Company (now the Dallas County Administration Building) located on northwest corner of Elm and North Houston Streets, at the western end of downtown Dallas (411 Elm Street) moved out of the building in 1970 and relocated to North Dallas. Opened to the public in 1989, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (located on the 6th floor of the Dallas County Administration Building) is today a thriving repository of approximately 45,,000 items, including photographs, film and video footage, documents and artifacts, related to the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy.
Select minute-by-minute timeline of the assassination (Eastern Standard Time) as recorded in William Manchester's Book: ``The Death of a President''
- 1: 30 p.m.: Lee Harvey Oswald shoots JFK from the 6th floor of the Book Depository
- 1: 34 p.m. : First UPI flash
- 1: 38 p.m.: Parkland Memorial Hospital admits case ``24740'' described as a white male suffering from ``gunshot wound''.
- 1: 57 p.m. : Father Huber arrives at hospital
- 2:00 p.m. : JFK is pronounced dead
- According to poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), 75 million Americans knew of the assassination at this time.
- Robert McNamara summons the Joint Chiefs
- Washington phone system breaks down.
- 2: 05 p.m.: Robert Kennedy learns his brother is dead.
- 2: 32 p.m.: UPI quotes Father Huber: ``He's dead...''
- 2: 33 p.m.: LBJ boards- Air Force One.
- 2: 40 p.m.: Oswald enters a Texas movie theater: ``War is Hell'' is showing.
- 2: 50 p.m.: Oswald is arrested.
- 3:06 p.m.: LBJ phones lawyers in an attempt to locate the oath of office.
- 3: 14 p.m.: The Associated Press erroneously reports a Secret Service Agent was killed.
- 3: 38: LBJ is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States.
- 4: 15 p.m.: Networks report Oswald has been arrested.
- 8:00 p.m.: Autopsy on JFK commences.
- 8: 50 p.m.: Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of John and Jacqueline, is informed of her father's death by Miss Shaw.
News Magazine Cover stories that never went to press due to the Kennedy Assassination
• Life magazine originally planned a cover splash on Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, including 22 pages of text and pictures.
• Time magazine discarded their cover feature on jazz musician Thelonious Monk
John F. Kennedy Demographics
- Born: May 29, 1917 at home in the master bedroom on the second floor of 83 Beals Street, Brookline, Massachusetts.
- Social Security Number: 026-22-3747
- Confirmation Name: Francis
- Hair Color: Reddish brown
- Eye Color: greenish gray
- Blood Type: O RH positive
- Height: 6' 1"
- Shoe Size: 10C
- Weight: 172 1/2 pounds
- Waist: 32 inches
- Personal Car: 1959 Pontiac Convertible Coupe. Vehicle Identification/Engine #859F-1111.
- License#: 53332D
- License Plate: As Senator: MA-1995
- Favorite Poems: "Ulysses" by Tennyson; "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," by Alan Seeger
- Favorite Proverb: "Know Thyself" by Socrates and the Oracle of Delphi.
- Favorite Songs: ``The Wearin' o' the Green’’, ``Londonderry Air’’, `` Danny Boy’’, ``When Irish Eyes are Smiling.’’
- Smoking Habits: Kennedy smoked 4-5 cigars a day. His preference was for Upmanns or Monticellos.
- JFK's Favorite Newspapers: Those read daily, included the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, New York Herald Tribune, New York News, New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the Washington Star.
Source: JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
• Federal budget reaches nearly $100 billion
• National Debt: $315 billion
• Employed: 69.8 million as of October 31, 1963
• Unemployment Rate: 5.5 percent or 3.4 million as of October 31, 1963
• Per capita annual income: $2,500
• Gross National Product: $600 billion
• Defense Spending: $52 billion
• Two-thirds of the world’s automobiles are in the United States
• First class postage stamps increased to five cents an ounce.
• Cost of a Drive-in movie? $1.50 per car
• A pound of Maxwell House coffee cost 38 cents.
• A four bedroom house in North San Bernardino, Ca. was selling for $17,100
• A subway token was 15 cents.
• A Royalite typewriter, including a carrying case, standard keyboard pica or elite was selling for $49.95.
November 14, 2013