JFK Assassination Through My 6-Year-Old Eyes

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President John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie riding in his motorcade through the streets of Downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963

President John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie riding in his motorcade through the streets of Downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963

As a kid growing up in Dallas, I was only 6-years-old, in the first grade when Senator John F. Kennedy was elected President Of The United States. It was also the first time in a number of years that the Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was from Texas.

I remember my parents being a little divided on the election but then again they never discussed anything argumentative in front of me and my brother. A couple of years later, my dad bought a vinyl LP called “The First Family”, a comedy album recorded in October 1962 as a good natured parody of the Kennedy family. Oddly enough, it was recorded the same day as Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis speech to the Nation. The artists on this record sounded exactly like the Kennedys!

The day that changed the world came on November 22, 1963. It was a sunny but cold and windy day in Dallas. I was a fourth-grader sitting in the library when the principal, Bill Abbott, came on the public address system to inform the kids what had happened and that there would be no school on Monday, November 25.

I know that I didn’t fully understand what the impact was because when I got home and turned on the TV thinking my favorite shows would still be on, I was mistaken. On CBS, Walter Cronkite broke the news during As The World Turns with a CBS News Special Report slide and Cronkite on a live microphone. By the time I got home, Charles Collingswood and Harry Reasoner had taken over to give Cronkite a breather. CBS then announced that all regularly scheduled programming would be cancelled for the next four days (although the NFL did play their games on that Sunday which the League vowed later would never happen again under repeated similar circumstances).

Since there were no internet as we know it today nor were there satellites or cell phones, most information and video were transmitted via phone lines. I remember seeing NBC’s Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and ABC’s Frank Reynolds expressing frustration on the air about getting the facts quickly but accurately. The existing phone lines could only handle so much.

This year represents the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and the November 2013 calendar is identical to that of November 1963 calendar in terms of what days the dates fell on. My older son was born on November 22, 1988 so he shares a date with history. This month, CBS News has a comprehensive coverage plan for this occasion. Both Scott Pelley and Bob Schieffer will be reporting from Dallas on the CBS Evening News and Face The Nation. Schieffer is the only current network news anchor who was in Dallas on that day as a reporter for the Fort Worth Star Telegram and made history by meeting Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother by interviewing her.

Next week I will outline the plans CBS News has. You won’t want to miss it. See you next time.

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