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Journalists Recall Kennedy Assassination; Discuss Fateful Day

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - In a little more than a month Dallas and the rest of America will mark a solemn anniversary: the killing of President John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza. On Saturday four men who were journalists there that day shared their thoughts at Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum.

“It was a day that the news went live,” said Bob Huffaker, who along with Bill Mercer, George Phenix, and Wes Wise were all on the street that horrific day, working for the CBS radio and TV station KRLD. It was a watershed event, both for history and for TV news, as Huffaker related. “We had not used mobile television capabilities to broadcast news from the scene before that very day. It was just simply not done.”

They feel fortunate that 50 years later they can still assemble to talk about it. The men co-authored the latest edition of their book, “When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963,” and after the discussion, they signed copies of it. Interest in those historic days cross cultural and age lines. Cheryl Vorhas wasn’t even born then. Still it matters. “It’s become real personal. Just hearing them talk and feeling what they feel. And what it must’ve been like to be present and be part of something so tragic.”

The men spoke to CBS 11 News about what they did that fateful day. Bill Mercer wound up at the Dallas Police Department. “(I) went to the Lee Harvey Oswald press conference and told him, yes he had been charged with the murder of the President. Nobody had told him yet. I just happened to get the news before I went out.”

Wes Wise would later become Dallas Mayor and be instrumental in saving the Texas Schoolbook Depository from the wrecking ball. “There was a very strong movement both on the city council and the city in general to tear down the building,” he recalled. But Wise says Gov. John Connally—himself a victim of the Kennedy shooting—urged Wise to intervene in order not to give more ammunition to conspiracy theorists. “When this came before the city council one last time I quickly gaveled it shut and said, ‘No, this is not a city affair. This is not a city building, and we’re not going to go forward with this resolution.’ And that’s the way it went.”

Wise recalls the shooting and aftermath as emotionally trying for everyone covering it. “There was never a time that one of us journalists didn’t get off in a corner and cry over the event. But we were still part of the event and part of the coverage of the event and we’ll always be proud of that.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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