Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
When Kennedy was shot by a high-powered rifle as he rode in the back seat of a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible limousine that was traveling in a presidential motorcade through huge crowds lining the streets in Dealey Plaza in Dallas at 12:30 p.m. on that fateful day in 1963, a lasting memory was etched in the minds of countless millions of people – an image so vivid that many can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing when the tragedy occurred.
In this feature, some area residents share their versions of that memory.
Millie Hayes (Houston). “I was in class in the sixth grade and when it happened the teacher told the whole classroom. Everybody was just bawling. It was like losing a family member – everyone was crazy over him and all of us girls thought he was a good man. I think that was the saddest day I can ever remember.”
Joe Morrison (Houston). “I lived in St. Louis and worked at the post office. When I went in to work, the guard where we had to show our badge said ‘the president’s been shot.’ I went to the cafeteria and all three TVs in there were on and everyone was glued to them. You could just see the look of despair and their faces and the wonderment of what was going to happen next and who was going to do what. Everybody was just stunned; nobody was talking and nobody was moving – it was like walking in a morgue and everything just stood still in time.”
Ted Scroggins (Houston). “I was working at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis at the time, and an announcement came over the intercom that the president has been shot. A few minutes later, it came on that he didn’t make it. It was a very sad situation – you could see people being very emotional, and this was a factory full of a bunch of old guys. It was not a good day. It was a sad day in history.”
Shirley Daugherty (Eunice). “I was at the kitchen sink doing dishes. My two-and-a-half-year-old son was lying on the floor watching TV and all of a sudden the announcement came on and I went to see what was going on. My son never moved; he watched the whole thing because even he knew something was wrong because it interrupted his show. I don’t know whether I finished my dishes or not.”
Everett Donley (Licking). “I was only four years old, and my mom and I were sitting on the front porch on Campbell Street and had the TV on. It came over the news that he had been killed and I remember she was very surprised. She got up and went in the house to hear more details.”
Harold Wiggins (Houston). “I was in eighth-grade class at Alton Junior High School in Alton, Missouri, and the teacher left the room. Then there was an announcement on the intercom that the president had just been shot. He hadn’t been pronounced dead yet, but she came back in crying and they dismissed school. We got on the buses, and when I got home, my dad was glued to the TV and my mother was crying. I remember watching Walter Cronkite on CBS, and since my mother was crying, my brother and I cried also. He was six years younger than I, but we both understood what had happened. And my dad kept talking about history repeating itself.”
Phyllis Arthur (Houston). “I was coming to town on ZZ Highway and I had the radio on and they told about it. I nearly stopped in the road. I can remember the exact spot I where I was. It was such a shock that we were without our president.”
Steve McCarry (Houston). “I was in the service when he got shot, at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. I was stunned, and I guess everybody else was, too. I thought it was the end of the world, but I guess it wasn’t.”
Neva Wade (Houston). “I was working at Fort Leonard Wood in the laundry department and our boss called us to stop work and gather and he gave us the message that Kennedy had been killed. Then he told us to back to work and that’s what we did. You really didn’t notice people reacting, but you could feel it – there was a feeling there and anybody could feel it. It was very emotional.”
Frank Coleman (Hutton Valley). “I was working the afternoon shift, so I was sleeping. My wife woke me up and told me, and I was somewhat shocked. We put on the TV and couldn’t imagine it – it seemed to me unreal. But those kinds of things happen; you just pray and go on.”
Chester Herndon (Houston). “I was barbering in Lebanon and it came on the radio that he had been shot. Everybody who came in was shocked about it – they couldn’t believe it. For two or three weeks after that, people kept talking about it real often. They’d say ‘man that’s something,’ or ‘what’s wrong with our country?’ Nobody could believe it.”
Lyman Brown (Houston). “I was a senior in high school, and I was in math class. It was mid-afternoon – about 1:30 – before we heard anything about it. I remember everyone being pretty struck by what had happened. Everyone was real quiet; it was almost unbelievable. It’s one of those things you just always remember.”
Mary Norrflaise (Houston). “I was in my back yard and my friend up the street called me and I heard in her voice that something was wrong. She said, ‘JFK’s been assassinated.’ She and her husband owned a store and my children and I went up to the store and stayed until we found out much more. We turned on the radio and listened to reports. It was sad.”