I was in Miss Perkins’ 7th period music class at Hugh Morson Junior High School on November 22, 1963, longing for the school day to end and the weekend to begin, when our principal, Mr. Proctor, announced over the PA system that President Kennedy had been shot. A few girls began to cry; a couple boys made derisive comments about the president; but I, as did most of my classmates that day, just sat there in stunned silence.
We were dismissed earlier than usual that Friday, and I hurried home to deliver the evening paper. I pulled one from the bundle sitting on the curb, and read the headline: “President Kennedy Is Shot to Death by Sniper in Dallas.” Whoa! ‘President. ‘Shot.’ ‘Death.’ ‘Sniper.’ That was a bit too much reality for a 12-year old Raleigh Boy to take in. I knew then that this was one of ‘those’ moments in history that would impress an indelible memory on me forever.
This is the full front page “Extra” for the Raleigh Times, Nov. 22, 1963.
Budding historian that I was in those days, I thought to reserve a single newspaper describing the latest events of each day as the tragedy unfolded over the weekend. These are the papers I collected then, and still have in my possession to this day.
The headline of Saturday’s Raleigh Times still bore the black bars signifying mourning.
Next day, the front page of Saturday’s Raleigh Times detailed the status of Texas Gov. Connally (who had also been shot in the presidential limousine), how Vice President Lyndon Johnson was coping with the unexpected responsibilities as the nation’s leader, and preparations for Kennedy’s funeral on Monday.
At the bottom of the page was an article mentioning Lee Harvey Oswald for the first time.
Oddly nestled within the article on Oswald, Kennedy’s accused assassin, was a short mention that Raleigh’s Christmas parade would be held on Tuesday evening at 6.30.
On the day of President Kennedy’s funeral the headline of the N&O announced the killing of Oswald on Sunday by “strip joint owner” Jack Ruby.
This photo on the front page captures the moment Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.
The day after Kennedy’s funeral the N&O featured extensive coverage of the event on the front page. The photos show the funeral cortege as it made its way across the Potomac River bridge to Arlington Cemetery, and the now-familiar image of 3-year old John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket as it passed by.
An article inside the paper featured the memorial Mass for the president held at Raleigh’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
During all this time, of course, there was extensive coverage of the assassination, Oswald’s slaying and Kennedy’s funeral on television. My Dad remained glued in front of the TV all weekend. In fact, we Morson students watched the funeral on Monday on a black and white TV set atop a table on the auditorium stage.
After all these years, the remaining pages of yellowing and crumbling newsprint which I can still hold in my hands, and read, will always be my direct connection with that momentous time so long ago — an indelible memory for me forever.