SNAP BACK IN TIME OPINION: A nation in shock 60 years ago
Published 10:11 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023
Editor’s Note: The following opinion pieces appeared 60 years ago following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. These pieces appear as they were printed:
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Nov. 26, 1963
By George B. Weaver, News Editor
By birth a product of what has aptly been described as “the great American dream.”
In early manhood, a hero through his courageous actions while in the service of his country.
By inclination, an intellectual, with rare gifts of expression and insight into human personality.
His personality, warm, friendly, almost radiant, magnetic, with a ready smile and an engaging wit.
His ambition, to serve his fellow man, to uphold freedom and justice, and to seek peace among all men everywhere.
As a father, exhibiting the love and tenderness of a fond parent, along with the faith of a devout Christian.
In middle life, elected to the highest office the citizens of the United States can offer, respected by heads of state around the world, and with a growing stature of leadership among statesmen of the world.
In death, a martyr to the causes he espoused, and perhaps as strong a testimony for right as in life. He died in the service of his fellow man and his country.
Significantly, as is so often the case, the full appreciation of what he was did not reach the minds and hearts of people in this land and elsewhere until the impact of his loss was felt.
A nation in shock needs prayer
Nov. 26, 1963
Three shots rang out about 12:30 c.s.t., Friday, in Dallas, Tex., and the effect of them reverberated around the world within just a few minutes. A sniper, armed with a highpowered rifle, killed President John F. Kennedy and seriously wounded Governor John Connally, of Texas, who was riding in the car with the President.
The first reaction throughout this Nation was shock. It was a benumbed people who sat with their eyes fixed on television screens as the story of the dastardly crime was unfolded. The second reaction was revulsion-extreme revulsion that such a thing could have happened in this country.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was no ordinary man. Although born to wealth, so that he could have lived in ease and luxury, he chose a path of service. Endowed with great courage, an excellent intellect, and high sense of duty, Mr. Kennedy served his country in World War II, earning a hero’s acclaim. Entering politics after the war, he distinguished himself as Congressman and Senator and served the country so well that in 1960 he was firstballot choice of the Democrat Party for the Presidency.
History will record that he served as leader of his country and of the free world during nearly 3 years in an era when danger of a nuclear holocaust was uppermost in the minds of men around the globe. Under his leadership the Nation was spared the horror of hydrogen war, and enjoyed a high degree of prosperity and progress. Significant achievements were recorded, both at home and on the diplomatic front.
As must be said of all men in high places, not everyone was in agreement with President Kennedy. But even his severest critic could not accuse him of being insincere. His administration was dedicated to the cause of peace and sought in every way possible to further the cause of freedom.
His life of service and usefulness was cut short at 46, an age when most Presidents have not even thought of running for that high office. The youthful age at which he attained the world’s most responsible office attests the ability he demonstrated and the faith which his colleagues had in his leadership.
Reaction from around the world was that of disbelief, of shock and incredulity, and this soon gave way to uncertainty about the future, for a new President was sworn in a few hours after Mr. Kennedy was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital, Dallas.
Taking over the reins of leadership is Lyndon B. Johnson, a stalwart Texan and a man well experienced in the intricacies of the Federal Government. This Nation, if it has to experience the loss of a President, is fortunate in having as his successor a man of the ability and experience of Lyndon Johnson.
There is no way of foretelling what the future may hold as this Nation continues to try to uphold freedom and the dignity of man around the globe.
But this we can say that Mr. Johnson is a dedicated Christian leader who has already in this dark hour, invoked the guidance of God and the support and cooperation of the people in carrying on the tremendous task of Government.
Even while our tears drop in mourning for our fallen leader, it behooves us as a people to look ahead, gather new confidence, and to rally our forces in support of our new leader. His path may not be the same as that chosen by Mr. Kennedy, but his is the responsibility for leadership. Our responsibility is that of intelligent cooperation and faithful support.
And may we pray, as did Dr. Gerner at Pfeiffer on Friday afternoon, that the enmity and hatred which prompted such a dastardly deed may give way to the spirit of Christian love and brotherhood befitting a free and democratic nation.
Why such tragic hate?
Nov. 29, 1963
A self-styled Communist, hiding behind a sixth floor window, sighted down the barrel of a powerful rifle with a telescopic lens, and pulled the trigger three times. The President fell into the arms of his lovely young wife, mortally wounded, and the Governor of Texas was grievously hurt.
That was about 1:30 p.m. Friday, November 22, a date which will live in infamy and perhaps be known as “Black Friday.”
Though the sound of the three shots was not audible over television or radio, the impact reverberated around the world in just a few hours. Friend and foe, alike, sent words of regret, of condolence.
The American people, as one individual, reeled with the incredulity of the crime and then settled themselves in front of television screens, their minds forming one big question, “Why?”
The man Dallas police say definitely killed President Kennedy, a Dallas policeman, and wounded the Texas Governor was himself shot fatally in the basement of the Dallas city hall by a nightclub operator. He died only a few feet from the spot where President Kennedy breathed his last about 48 hours earlier, in Parkland Hospital, where Albemarle’s Jack Price is administrator.
There are so many loose threads of the situation, so many coincidences and unanswered questions, that one cannot help wondering if the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed because of what he might have told police if he had lived. We may never real’y know.
On the other hand, there is a stark realization in the hearts of people everywhere of what hatred-cold and calculating enmity-can do to human personality.
Mr. Kennedy returned to Washington and to the White House, where the people of this great land paid him high tribute. Perhaps a quarter of a million men and women marched silently by his bier as it lay in state in the Capitol rotunda.
I shall never forget the sight of that spirited, prancing and impatient black horse, without a rider, following along behind the caisson bearing the President’s body. In that horse it seemed I could almost see and feel the zest, the will, the spirit of the departed President, chafing at the bit and eager for action, for living.
The skies wept over Washington the day after Mr. Kennedy was killed, but the sun shone brightly as the crowds gathered to pay him tribute.
In every phase of the observance, from the time he was brought back to the White House until the casket was lowered into the hallowed earth of Arlington, in the shadows of majestic Custis-Lee Mansion, there was dignity and the aura of tribute. Symbolic of the President’s influence, his widow lighted a perpetual fire at the head of his grave, which will be viewed by hundreds of thousands of Americans in the years to come.
Heads of state, kings, queens, princes, prime ministers, emperors – the most impressive array of world figures I can recall – testified to the esteem in which our President was held.
But, during it all, another figure emerged as heroic, an example for American womanhood of all the years to come. Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy cradled the head of her dying husband en route to the hospital, rode with his body in the plane to Washington, remained near him all through the night, visited him in repose in the East Room of the White House, maintained dignity and stately composure in all her many appearances at the Capitol, the final rites, and the reception afterward at which the heads of state formally paid their respects to her.
Poise and grace were evident in her and her children, and “Jack,” had he been alive to see them, would have been proud of their demeanor. “Jackie” has earned the praise of Americans everywhere in these days of mourning and loss.
It is never possible to put into words all the things one feels at a time such as this. Hearts and minds have been saddened beyond expression. Such sorrow has not gripped the Nation in many, many years, and never has a people felt so personal a loss, for John Kennedy had come into our homes and talked with us on many occasions. It was almost as if a very dear member of the family had gone beyond.
Though the loss of one so young, so brave, and so handsome must be met with deep grieving, the Nation and the world must carry on. We are fortunate to have a man of Lyndon Johnson’s experience and ability to take over leadership.
But we can hope that the well-springs of hate, which beget such tragedies may be replaced by the Christian spirit of brotherly love.