Dallas. The quick shots and a nation in shock. Nov. 22, 1963, has vivid memories for those who are old enough to recall the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Some of those memories were shared with the Enid News & Eagle by some of our readers this week. Following are a sampling of those memories.
• Karen Shulz Conley — Karen was 5 years old. It was the year before she started first grade. Her regular shows like “Captain Kangaroo” were not on, and she recalls watching the funeral, the riderless horse sticking in her mind. And the drums are very vivid in her memory. “I’ve been watching a lot of the 50th anniversary programs, and in one of them you can hear the drums,” Conley said.
• Enid’s Lee Thompson worked for Champlin Petroleum at the time. He recalls being in his office at Maine and Washington when the wife of his boss called and told of the assassination. Thompson was producer of the University of Oklahoma football broadcasts and was scheduled to fly to Lincoln, Neb., the following day. He recalls some question about whether the game should be played. Coach Bud Wilkinson was a friend of the Kennedy family, and President Kennedy had appointed him his physical fitness director.
“Bud Wilkinson called Bobby Kennedy, and Bobby told him that Jack would want him to play the game,” Thompson said.
However, the game was absent the pageantry of a normal game, and was quiet and somber. The next morning in their hotel, the broadcast crew saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s alleged killer. “It was weird and eerie. I remember it very well,” Thompson said.
• Enid attorney David Ezzell recalls being in the third grade at the time. He had just returned to school from lunch when the news broke. Ezzell does not remember exactly how he found out, but thinks another teacher told his teacher and his teacher cried.
“It was a bad day. I remember seeing Walter Cronkite delivering the news, then pulling his glasses off and wiping his eyes. I don’t remember whether I saw that or have just seen it played since then,” Ezzell said.
He began to sense that Cronkite was a man whose reporting he could trust. His steadiness throughout the process and his humanness struck the young Ezzell. “I can’t imagine Wolf Blitzer pulling that off,” Ezzell said.
That day, Cronkite was broadcasting from the CBS news headquarters in New York City, when unconfirmed reports began to drift in that President Kennedy was dead. “We have received a report, apparently true, that President Kennedy is dead,” Cronkite said, repeating the time that Kennedy had been shot.
As the news of the assassination of President Kennedy began to sink in overnight, the nation followed the events on television and in their local newspapers. On Nov. 22, the Enid Daily Eagle published a story of the assassination and the aftermath.
In a story by the wire service United Press International, the entire shooting was recounted. The story said both Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally had been shot. Kennedy was hit in the head by a bullet while riding in an open car through the streets of Dallas and his wife was in the same car but was not hit. Connally was struck in the wrist and the head, the story said.
Mrs. Kennedy cradled the president in her arms until they arrived at the hospital, where he died. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was in a car following the president’s car and was immediately surrounded by Secret Service agents until he could take the oath of office. Johnson was whisked away and his location kept secret until he took the oath of office about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m.
Dallas police found a foreign-made rifle and sheriff’s officers were questioning a young man picked up at the scene. The UPI story said the president was alive when he arrived at the hospital and Father Huber, pastor of Trinity Roman Catholic Church, was called and administered last rites of the church.
Johnson took the oath aboard Air Force One with his wife, Lady Bird on his right, and Mrs. Kennedy at his left, the story said.
After arriving back at Andrews Air Force Base, the Johnson’s remained aboard the plane until the casket, with Mrs. Kennedy at its head, was lowered from the plane.
Johnson made his first public statement as president: “We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy,” Johnson said.