On Nov. 22, 1963, Baylor Lariat reporter Ed DeLong was in Dallas, covering the visit to that city by President John F. Kennedy. After President Kennedy was shot while riding in his motorcade through downtown Dallas, DeLong filed reports for a special edition of the Lariat that was put out late on Nov. 22. Four days later, on Nov. 26, the Lariat published a first-person report written by DeLong about his experiences in Dallas on that fateful day. In remembrance of President Kennedy as we approach the 49th anniversary of his assassination on Nov. 22, we have received permission to reprint DeLong’s Lariat story from Nov. 26, 1963. In addition, we also have included a story from the Nov. 26 Lariat by reporter Maggie Bigham about the reaction of some Baylor students to Kennedy’s assassination.
Lariat Sees Tragedy
By Ed DeLong
Lariat Associate Editor
As Associate Editor of The Baylor Lariat, Baylor University’s newspaper, I had been covering the entire trip of the President through Texas. On Friday morning at 12:30 p.m. I was in the Dallas Trade Mart, where Kennedy was scheduled to speak to a bi-partisan group.
With other reporters there to cover the speech — among them the members of the Washington Press Corps — I was searching for someone to release a copy of the President’s text.
As the minutes passed their (sp.) was no text and no President.
I went to the Press Room set up on the fourth floor of the Trade Mart and found a hushed state of confusion. Asking what the delay was, I received the answer:
“The President has been shot.”
Hurrying back downstairs, I joined three Washington newsmen and we rushed out to the street. Inside the Trade Mart people continued laughing and eating, unaware of the reason all the newsmen were leaving so quickly.
A Dallas policeman flagged down a car for us and told the driver to carry us to Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy had been taken minutes before.
Confusion reigned at Parkland.
At the emergency entrance the President’s black limousine stood in the drive — it’s top, usually open, covered by a long black convertible hood.
Two policemen stood solidly blocking the door to the emergency room.
Uniformed policemen, Secret Service agents and Senator Ralph Yarborough stood by the President’s car. Yarborough described the shooting and then broke into sobs as he recalled what he had seen from the second car behind the President.
After talking with Yarborough, I hurried into the hospital.
A woman on a stretcher in the hall watched puzzled as nurses and interns gathered in hushed groups and newsmen scurried around searching for telephones.
Two priests from the parish in which the hospital is situated came out. One of them, identified only as “Father Huber” was said to have performed last rites for Kennedy.
Then Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff came out and made the fateful official announcement:
“President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1 p.m. (CST) today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain.”
The several hundred newsmen — tough veterans who are not usually affected by the stories they cover — let out a gasp even though they already knew unofficially that the President was dead.
Then they bolted for telephones.
I had secured a telephone behind the information desk in the lobby. As I called the news to The Lariat, the lady at the desk put her head at the door to the booth, listened briefly and then turned her head and sobbed.
For the next three hours I held that telephone open to Waco. Other phones were connected directly from the hastily set up press room to long distance operators. Over these the story poured out across the nation — the official announcement by Kilduff, the doctors’ descriptions of Kennedy’s and Connally’s wounds . . .
And then the news that Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson had been sworn in as new President of the United States by Dallas’ Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes.
Until this announcement Kilduff had not revealed where Johnson was “for security reasons” and there were no newsmen present at Dallas’ Love Field where Johnson was sworn in and immediately took off in Air Force One for Washington.
Then the center of attention turned to the Dallas Police Station.
As I went there from the hospital about 6 p.m. there was a totally different atmosphere in Dallas, which had been gaily welcoming Kennedy six hours before.
Christmas decorations hanging over the downtown streets were the only ironic signs of gaiety, except for one car I saw bearing the sign across its back window: “Welcome John Kennedy to Dallas.”
There were people still standing along the streets, but none were smiling and few were even talking. A cold front had dropped temperatures about 30 degrees.
Inside the police station was a young man who had been arrested earlier as the suspected murderer of Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit, a killing that had taken place about 30 minutes after the President was killed.
As the afternoon passed, it was learned that Lee H. Oswald, a 24-year-old Dallas man, had worked at the building from which the President was shot. Thus he became a suspect as the President’s assassin.
Newsmen crowded around the door to the homicide office in a narrow third-floor hall. From time to time Oswald was brought out handcuffed and taken down the hall to an elevator on which he was taken to other floors in the building where he underwent tests such as fingerprinting.
Each time Oswald came out he screamed, “I didn’t shoot anybody. I don’t know anything about it.”
Then Dallas Homicide Capt. Will Fritz came from behind the closed doors where Oswald was being questioned to say that the thin, unshaven young man had made no admission to either shooting but had been charged with the murder of the policeman.
The night dragged on. Reporters and Texas Rangers in uniform poured into the police station. Oswald was carried down for identification by witnesses and the witnesses were taken into the homicide office and questioned. Policemen, Secret Service agents and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents streamed in and out of the office.
The killer’s rifle, found with three empty shells in the building from which Kennedy’s sniper took aim and fired, was carried down the hall and into the office.
Rumors rose and died, and the police said nothing.
Then, at midnight Friday, Fritz and District Attorney Henry Wade came out to announce that Oswald had been charged with the murder of the President.
Although Oswald had not confessed to either murder, both men said there was strong evidence pointing toward him in both killings.
“We have enough evidence to get a conviction,” Wade said.
The newsmen again went scurrying to telephones to report that the police had found their man. Except for the reporters there were no spectators — all
others were barred from the building by the officers.
In Dallas, people received the news almost immediately via radio and television. For most there was a single reaction, already tentatively voiced during the afternoon: “It was a Dallas man that did it — Dallas is ruined,”
By Saturday the immediate shock had passed.
The President had been killed and less than 12 hours later a killer had been named. As they listened to the round-the- clock news, people began to get accustomed to the title of President attached to Johnson’s name.
But there were lingering signs of the tragic day before.
Stores in Dallas and across Texas were closed. Classes were discontinued at the University of Texas, Baylor and at public schools across the state until after Kennedy’s funeral.
And Southwest Conference schools in Texas paused in the last leap of the football season and canceled Saturday games.
Baylorites Find it Hard To Express Feelings
By Maggie Bigham
Baylor students found it difficult to express their feelings Monday about the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy.
“I was extremely shocked…now I am very much saddened…” said Bill Daniel.
Sandy Hendrick said, “There’s not much to say in a time like this…everyone regrets that it has happened.”
Art Goolsbee’s reaction to the assassination of President Kennedy was “it is a tragedy and a sad one for the family.”
The assassin of President Kennedy was described as “a madman” by Hendrick.
Hendrick said that the impression that seems to be left across the nation is that the murder was done by a violent segregationist.
“But I’m convinced that this Oswald boy did it…he was an admitted Marxist…I think it is important to make it clear that it was done by a left wing lunatic,” Hendrick said. “Apparently the Soviets are putting propaganda out that the man was a racist. The newspapers should report to counteract this…to defend a possible uprising of hatred. It would be a horrible tragedy to stir up one American against another over something not true.”
Goolsbee said one of the first things that will come to the minds of people when Dallas is mentioned is that President Kennedy was assassinated there.
“I don’t blame Dallas, but Dallas conveys the image that
it is antagonistic to a lot of people,” Goolsbee said.
Hendrick said, “Oh, no…I certainly don’t blame Dallas, the state of Texas or the United States. It could have happened in San Francisco or Boston.
Daniel expressed his feeling that Lee Harvey Oswald was unjustly murdered. “I feel that it was important that Oswald have every opportunity to defend himself and to let the world through a public trial know him and the background and reason.
Hendrick agreed. “I am appalled that some people seem to approve of the murder of Oswald…we should never approve of murder regardless of the importance of the man.”
The three commented on the funeral of President Kennedy that was carried on radio and television.
“I was immensely saddened while watching the funeral and at the same time I was proud of our institution of government — that in a period of crisis it could perpetuate itself,” Daniel said.
Goolsbee said, “The magnitude of the parade is a sign of the memory of him (Kennedy)…the magnitude of his office.”
Said Hendrick: “It (the funeral) was very appropriate. The military funeral was solemn.”