Fort Worth citizens to remember President Kennedy’s final visit


    It has been nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but memories of that day and time still resonate with the public.

    Tickets for “Fort Worth Remembers JFK," a joint program put on by the Schieffer School of Journalism and Strategic Communication, the university's Office of Community Projects and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram were snapped up within days of becoming available.

    CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer will moderate as panelists recall the celebration, shock and sadness surrounding Nov. 22, 1963. Residents who were present at the time will also be recognized.

    The panel will include Mike Cochran, a former Fort Worth Associated Press correspondent and Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter, former local radio personalities Gary DeLaune and Bob Huffaker, former Dallas Morning News reporter Hugh Aynesworth, and actor/director Bill Paxton, who as a young resident of Fort Worth had missed school to see the president's speech.

    DeLaune is said to have been the first to broadcast Kennedy's death over radio, while Huffaker is recognized as having broadcast TV's first murder when Jack Ruby killed Oswald.

    “It’s one of those things you never forget,” Schieffer said. “This is, in my mind, kind of the weekend that America lost its innocence. It’s never been like it was before the Kennedy assassination.”

    Some media members who witnessed the events have died, and Schieffer said he feels it is important to retell the story in order to keep history alive. The idea for the program came from John Lumpkin, director of the Schieffer School.

    Schieffer, who worked for the Star-Telegram at the time, took a call in the newsroom from Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother the day of the assassination. He and another reporter wound up giving her a ride to Dallas.

    Because few people besides the media attended Oswald’s funeral, Cochran helped carry the casket, Lumpkin said. Kennedy’s death jarred the world and also ignited tales of conspiracy.

    After being shot, Kennedy was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where Dr. Kenneth Salyer, an intern at the time, was one of those who participated in his treatment, Lumpkin said.

    Although Salyer, a craniologist, will be unable to personally attend the program. His recollections will be shown via video. “It is something that changed his life,” Lumpkin said.

    The special event will also address how President Kennedy's death changed news reporting, Lumpkin said.

    “It changed TV news profoundly,” he said.

    That weekend, people watched the news as it was being gathered, and from that point on, most people got their news from TV, Schieffer said.

    "There was pushing, there was shouting – bedlam," he said. "They closed off the border to Mexico. We didn't know if we were seeing the first bomb of World War III."

    Lumpkin said he was walking to his dorm from class at the University of Virginia when he noticed students huddled around open car doors with radios blaring.

    “I stopped, and that’s when I was told about what had happened in Dallas,” he said.

    Former Dallas Morning News science and aerospace reporter Hugh Aynesworth was in the crowd at Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was shot.

    “At that time, at first, we thought it was the Russians,” he said, “because of the Cold War.”

    However, it was Lee Harvey Oswald who was charged with the murder.

    In an added twist, Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald a few days later. Oswald was buried in Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery in East Fort Worth.

    Aynesworth said after he had “lucked into all the happenings of the week,” he was assigned to chase down each conspiracy theory that sprouted.

    “The public did not want to believe that two nobodies changed the course of history, but they did,” he said. “It just went on and on and on. I have had five people confess to me that they did it.”

    Aynesworth has written a book about his recollections titled "November 22, 1963: Witness to History" and will sign copies from 5 to 6 p.m. prior to the event.

    "Fort Worth Remembers JFK" will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 in Ed Landreth Auditorium.

    First-year mathematics and philosophy double major Timothy Betts said he plans to attend "Fort Worth Remembers JFK," and has previously visited The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which chronicles the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath.

    “We have a good piece of history right here,” he said. “It definitely was a turning point in our nation’s history.”

    Editor's note: This story was updated to include the correct date President Kennedy was assassinated on Tuesday September 10, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.