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November 22, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
The Herald-Star from Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963, carried an entire front page dedicated to the horror from Dallas the day before. The page hangs above my desk in the newsroom, one of a score of famous Herald-Star front pages in history, one I had nothing to do with. I was nearly 14 months old. But it haunts me to wonder what it was like in the newsroom on North Fourth Street that afternoon.
“JOHNSON LEADS U.S. MOURNING” says the huge block 100-point headline at the top of the page that was part of the 1960s Herald-Star design. Johnson is shown in a UPI Telephoto as the main art on the page, forlornly being sworn in, Jackie Kennedy at his side. Below the block headline: Pro-Soviet Texan as Kennedy’s Killer And the headlines and leads on the front page, beginning with the left columns: Police Convinced They Have Sniper In Dallas Ambush DALLAS, Tex. (AP) — A young man who once tried to renounce his country is charged with firing the two bullets that killed President Kennedy.
Apparently Proud Of It Suspect Admits He’s Communist DALLAS (AP) — Dallas police chief Jesse Curry said today Lee Harvey Oswald has “readily admitted he is a Communist.” Curry said Oswald admitted to officers in questioning Friday night that he was a “member of the Communist party.”
Toward the middle of the page:
Kennedy Lies In Death In White House, Body To Be Borne To Capitol Sunday; Rites Set Monday” WASHINGTON (AP) — In a closed, flag-draped coffin, President John F. Kennedy reposed today in the historic East Room of the White House.
First Full Day As President Johnson Working In Former Office WASHINGTON (AP) — President Johnson, his face pale and drawn, went to work on his first full day as Chief Executive today in the office he used as vice president.
News Reverberated Around World Shock of Kennedy’s Death Gives Way To Tears, Grief WASHINGTON (AP) — The tragic flash from Dallas reverberated around the world like a clap of thunder: The young vigorous President of the United States was dead at the hands of an assassin, and everywhere the great and the lowly mourned John F. Kennedy’s passing.”
At the top of the page on the right: God’s Help Asked As New President Assumes Problems WASHINGTON (AP) — A sorrowing nation began to pay its final, formal tribute to a dead president today, and its new leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, started to pull together a still shocked government.”
The local angle was covered under the headline “Area Mourns, People Shocked and Grieved.” Bishop John King Mussio, sending a wire from Rome, where he was attending the Ecumenical Council, proclaimed a period of mourning to last at least until JFK’s funeral. He also wired sorrow and condolences to Mrs. Kennedy. There followed a comment from the Rev. Charles S. Thompson, president of the Steubenville Council of Protestant Churches, “A hush covers our entire land — Tragedy has struck — America and the world mourn — Our president lies dead. “People of all creeds, of all races, of all political parties unite in their sincere expressions of sympathy and love to the bereaved Kennedy family. Prayers of all faiths are raised simultaneously in their behalf. “This is a dark hour, but may we as a Nation prove to the world that it is our finest hour. May we rise as one to meet courageously the problems of the day. may we rally behind our new leader, when he most needs to be flanked solidly in both spirit and deed by all.” The story then jumps inside, and I do not have the rest of the paper hanging on the wall.
The final Kennedy-related story on the front page was that Gov. James A. Rhodes declared Monday (Nov. 25, 1963) a day of mourning in Ohio dedicated to President Kennedy’s memory. State offices were to be closed, and a proclamation was expected for a 30-day period of mourning.
The stories run long, and they don’t reveal anything of the controversy about the investigation and the shooting of Oswald and the questions about the Warren Commission that would follow. Those things hadn’t happened yet. The Herald-Star, indeed all newspapers, were in those pre-Internet, pre 24-hour news cycle days, a snapshot in time, of what we knew right then. And what the folks of the Herald-Star that day, most of whom I never met and whose mantle I now carry, knew then was that the nation had lost a president; that some apparent Commie punk was being charged with killing him and that LBJ somehow had to lead the nation and pick up the pieces.
That and it was going to be cold Sunday, with a low in the 20s. Just like this coming weekend.
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