I am a native Texan. In fact I grew up just about 60 miles South of Dallas in Hillsboro. So Dallas was to our family the big city where one went for shopping, entertainment and nice restaurants. I remember my dad driving us through the Triple Underpass many times when I was a youngster. He also liked to drive past the nearby Dallas Morning News building and have me read the George Bannerman Dealey quote on the facade that begins with, “Build the news upon the rock of truth….” Dallas was a big part of my life.
But after graduating from Baylor and working a couple of years at a small TV station in Bryan, I wanted to broaden my horizons. Thus, on November 22, 1963 I was living in Orlando, Florida, just a few months into my career in television weather at WDBO-TV the local CBS affiliate. I was also what we called in those days a”booth announcer”. The person in that position kept the station log, did live station breaks and sometimes commercials.
My announcing shift was from 6 AM till Noon. I would go home for a nap and then come back to the station in the late afternoon to do the 6 PM weathercast. Thus, at 1:30 PMEastern time on that fateful day I was, as usual, asleep. I did not find out what happened until a couple of hours later. By that time it had been confirmed that President Kennedy was dead. It was Friday afternoon. I immediately went to the TV station. But, of course, there was no local news or weather that evening. In fact regular television programming did not resume until after President Kennedy’s funeral on Monday.
Saturday was my day off. So I watched TV from home along with everybody else in the country. Network programming was continuous with coverage of the events following the assassination punctuated with periods of symphony orchestras playing classical music.
Sunday morning I was back in the announcer’s booth at WDBO-TV watching along with the rest of the country as suspected assassin Lee Harvey was escorted from his holding cell through the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters to be moved to another venue. Channel 4 (then KRLD-TV) news reporter Bob Huffaker, a dear friend of mine from my time in Bryan, was in that basement along with CBS News correspondent Nelson Benton. Benton told Bob that, since nothing interesting was likely to happen down there, he was going to go outside to report as the car carrying Oswald pulled out onto the street. He couldn’t have been more mistaken.
So it was that Bob Huffaker, now representing CBS, was standing only a few feet away from Oswald and Dallas Police Detective Jim Leavelle when Jack Ruby lunged at Oswald and shot him at very close range. I watched in shocked disbelief as Huffaker quickly gathered his wits and announced to the nation that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot.
Fifty years later that memory is firm in my mind.
We all have memories of the funeral coverage, such as little John John saluting and later standing beside his mom an she bent to kiss the President’s casket. But my most vivid memory of that day came as the horse drawn caisson carrying the President’s casket was approaching Arlington Cemetery. Arthur Godfrey was covering that part of the funeral for CBS. As the casket passed Godfrey said, “President Kennedy now belongs to the ages”.
Watch “JFK 50: A Texas Tribute”, streamed LIVE on ktxdtv.com; Friday, November 22nd from 7am-7pm CST (UTC-6 Hours). This special 12 hour broadcast will feature rare video of President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas, live interviews with people who have first-hand connections to some of the darkest days in our country’s history, and live coverage of the observance in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza celebrating the remarkable life, legacy, and leadership of our 35th President. Follow the conversation about the broadcast on social media by following our twitter page at http://www.twitter.com/JFK50Texas and liking our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/JFK50Texas.