|Most have never forgotten where they heard of JFK’s murder|
|Written by News Desk|
|Thursday, 21 November 2013 19:31|
It was 12:40 (CST) on November 22, 1963 when the bells on the Associated Press teletype machine at The Florence Times began their clanging noise. I rushed to the machine and watched as it spit out these words:
"DALLAS — PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS SHOT TODAY JUST AS HIS MOTORCADE LEFT DOWNTOWN DALLAS. MRS. KENNEDY JUMPED UP AND GRABBED HIM. SHE CRIED: 'OH, NO!' THE MOTORCADE SPED ON."
Just a few minutes earlier in the Dallas AP offices, the telephone rang and bureau chief Bob Johnson answered. On the phone was staff photographer James W. "Ike" Altgens, almost out of breath. He had recorded the Dealey Plaza chaos — including images of Kennedy grasping his throat and of a secret service agent reaching for the first lady across the limo's trunk.
Bob, the president's been shot," he shouted from a pay phone. "Ike, how do you know?" Johnson demanded. "I was shooting pictures then and I saw it," Altgens said. "Ike, you saw that?" "Yes, there was blood on his face." Johnson typed furiously, folding in Altgens' details.
Instantly, in newsrooms everywhere, bells clanged on wire teletype machines as they churned out the unimaginable, line by line. Newspapers and broadcasters quickly ripped off the copy from their wire machines and passed it on, mainly in the same brief form.
It has been said that "Fifty years on, that first bulletin — its type spilling down the page from being pulled by some forgotten editor as it printed out — is an artifact of the moment." It is preserved in the AP news service's corporate archives. I was just a young reporter and it is still a moment vivid in my memory.
The fiftieth anniversary will be this Friday.
During the half century since President Kennedy was assassinated, we have heard about many conspiracy theories. However decades of investigations, hearings, documents, records, books and interviews have failed to satisfy conspiracy theorists with a definitive answer to question as to whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot the President.
At one time or another, doubters of the lone gunman theory "have accused 42 groups, 82 assassins and 214 people of being involved in the assassination," according to author Vincent Bugliosi.
Kennedy visited Huntsville and Muscle Shoals in 1963.
Photo: Bob Martin (then a Florence Times reporter) with President Kennedy at Muscle Shoals on May 18, 1963)
On May 18, 1963, Kennedy visited Nashville, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and the Tennessee Valley Authority facilities at Muscle Shoals, where he spoke at the 30th anniversary of TVA. A total of four helicopters carried the president and his guests -- Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Alabama's two U.S. senators, John J. Sparkman and Lister Hill, Tennessee's two U.S. senators, Albert Gore and Estes Kefauver, along with other members of both states' congressional delegation.
I had the opportunity to cover that event and be among those greeting the group when the President's helicopter arrived at Muscle Shoals. I was able to interview him as we walked up the path from behind the TVA headquarters building and shocked when, about two months later a local photographer came by the office and presented me with a photo he had made of me walking up that path with the President.
The President's visit also helped me with one of my political science professors at Florence State College. I was able to get him press credentials and into the roped-off press area for the speech. After the President's address, I looked around and spotted a local radio reporter interviewing the professor. She thought he was big time CBS news personality Eric Sevareid. He never told her any different.
I couldn't vote in the 1960 Presidential Election. Back then you had to be 21 to vote. However, I did have my opinion and had I met the age requirement I would have cast a vote for Richard Nixon. Boy, what a mistake that would have been!
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