On this fateful day 50 years ago, I was a 12-year-old 7th grader in what was then called junior high school. Every Friday, School dismissed an hour early at 2:00 in the afternoon. Unless there was inclement weather my best buddy and I walked the 9/10 blocks to and from school most times. That day we had a little debate going about whether or not a certain child star was in a movie coming on later that day.
When we got to my house, my friend stopped in so I could show her the scheduled movie starring the child star in the TV Guide. As soon as we stepped in the house, my maternal grandmother shouted, “THEY SHOT THE PRESIDENT!” Guess how I responded? I said, “What president?” My grandmother shouted, “KENNEDY!” My friend and I both responded with open mouth gasps. I told my friend, “Well, the movie is not coming on now.” She left to go home which was around the corner.
I was only home 10 to 20 minutes when the NBC person announced the death of Pres. John F. Kennedy. I sat glued to the TV with my grandmother. I remember when they announced that Lyndon Baines Johnson took the presidential oath and was now our President. By the time they showed Pres. Kennedy’s body being returned to Washington, D. C., both of my parents were home from work. The schools were closed that following, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
I also remember watching the suspected assassin of Pres. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald getting shot on live TV. My mother was almost hysterical at the fact that she saw someone actually shot before her very eyes! My parents were as you suspect, Democrats. I was 9 when the country elected Kennedy. When I questioned why they did not want VP Nixon to be President, my mother said Negroes (no one said black or African-American back in 1960) do not vote for Republicans. Negroes and other everyday working class people have it worse when they get elected. Now over the years, I do know of 2 Republicans who received my mother’s vote.
As a 12-year-old, I thought about young Caroline and John-John not having their Daddy anymore. I loved my father so much and knew it would be beyond horrible if I lost my father in any case. I wondered about Lyndon Baines Johnson being the President. He or his wife hardly came across as young, sophisticated and vibrant as the President and his wife, Jackie Kennedy did.
Of course, I would come to like Pres. Johnson, but in recent years, my like for him greatly diminished. I later changed my view of his wife Lady Bird Johnson’s southern hick image since I learned that the handlers of that day played down her intelligence. Also, after listening to how she critiqued her husband’s speeches in released tapes of their telephone conversations showed an articulate understanding of his administration’s policies. I wondered why she never sounded like that when shown speaking on TV!
John F. Kennedy believed in cutting taxes, building and keeping big businesses flourishing. Now that does not sound like today’s Democrat. He was not the great civil rights champion as many would want to believe, because he did not want to lose the support of southern states who were very much about racial segregation at the time. As Senator, he did not vote for the Civil Rights bill of the late 50s. But he eventually did start to abide with measures against any situation that was pro racial segregation before his death. As a Republican I can support and leave you with our late President Kennedy’s, … “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”