November 22 marks a dark day U.S. history
A fall afternoon 47 years ago led to a weekend of killing that shocked the world and left indelible marks on those who can remember the time.
The killings ended with an on-TV shooting murder that was broadcast live. Then, the nation mourned together on Monday.
Those events of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are not forgotten by the people who lived through them. And decades later, the murders have been analyzed by millions more people from other generations who work to prove conspiracies were at work to kill the president and change the government.
President Kennedy was shot in the head by rifle fire as he rode in an open car motorcade through downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963. Texas Gov. John Connally, who was riding with his wife in the same car with President and Mrs. Kennedy, was also seriously wounded in the shooting.
At the time, the country had only three television networks and few color TV sets in homes. The black-and-white images of the four days from Kennedy’s shooting on Friday up to the state funeral on Monday.
Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite was in the CBS studios in New York and his live bulletin on the shooting is now part of history. He broke into the showing of the popular soap opera “As the World Turns.”
“Here is a bulletin from CBS News in Dallas, Texas, that shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously injured by the shooting.”
The news bulletin with Cronkite lasted almost six minutes and can now be found on different Internet sites, including YouTube.
Cronkite looks shocked at the news of the shooting and the broadcast goes to a live scene from KRLD in Dallas at the Trade Mart, a giant convention center where Kennedy was to give a luncheon speech. A local reporter says that people are saying that the president has died. Cronkite repeats the reports but emphasizes the news is unconfirmed.
The reports include one that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was slightly wounded in the arm, but apparently Mrs. Johnson told someone the vice president was fine.
Cronkite removes his large, dark-framed glasses a few times as he stays professional for the news. Then comes word from CBS’s own newsman at the scene, a young Dan Rather, who is not shown, that the president is dead.
Then comes official confirmation. The newsman has a small choke in his voice. “President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central standard time, 2 p.m. Eastern standard time, some 38 minutes ago.”
Cronkite takes off his glasses and doesn’t speak for about three seconds. A pause that almost half a century later is dramatic. He then continues.
Soon, word came that a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit, was shot to death after stopping a man who matched a description of the assassin. Then the suspect in Tippit’s murder and the death of the president, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested in a Dallas movie theater.
To a modern, some of the next events seem unreal. The Dallas Police Department even lets Oswald go before reporters, without a lawyer, and he fields some questions. He denies he had anything to do with the assassination, saying he was set up. Those words are repeated by conspiracy theorists.
Then on Sunday, Nov. 24, shortly after noon, Dallas police officers begin to transport Oswald to the county jail. The garage area of the police department is full of newspaper, TV and radio reporters and photographers. Also, a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, who knows lots of cops, is in the group. As Oswald is led out, Ruby steps forward and shoots him in the abdomen with a .38 pistol. The event was caught live on television and captured in a classic photograph.
The murders weren’t the only images burned into memories. The government changed hands. Jacqueline Kennedy, the youngest First Lady and one of the most popular, was in shock when Lyndon Johnson was given the oath of office as the next president. Her pink suit was still covered in her husband’s blood.
She kept a dignified look through the official mournings and events. Her two young children, six-year-old Caroline and John Jr., “John-John”, who had his third birthday in November, were with her.
On the Monday during the funeral procession and events, little John-John stepped forward and gave a salute that he had been taught to give to the American flag. The flag at that moment, covered his father’s casket. Few people did not shed tears.
Months later, the official Warren Report came out and said Oswald acted alone. Since that time, people have disagreed and an industry developed of researchers who try to prove a conspiracy. Some say the conspiracy involved the Mafia, some Fidel Castro, and some even claim the U.S. military and Johnson were involved.
The most famous conspiracy theorist was John Garrison, the district attorney in New Orleans, who unsuccessfully prosecuted a businessman for the conspiracy. His story was made into a popular, star-studded movie by Oliver Stone, “JFK.”