Friday, November 22, 2013


As do most Americans who were alive then, I vividly remember the day JFK was assassinated. As a fledgling newsman and announcer at WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, it was rather a surreal experience. Virginia had voted for Nixon in 1960 over Kennedy, 53% to 47%.  The management of the station initially refused to suspend commercials, but gave in when the entire on air staff threatened to walk out if they didn't follow the lead of all other broadcasting outlets.

At the time, of course, no one realized that an era of innocence and optimism was suddenly ending. Our TV station was a CBS affiliate, so Walter Cronkite was creating a note of calm in chaos as he soothed the nation with his mellifluous tones, while a somewhat hyper Dan Rather reported from Dallas, thus becoming a national figure for the first time.

Like most TV stations then, we went off the air following the 11pm news and a video of the Star Spangled Banner. No nonstop cable news, so we had to wait until the next morning to pick up what was happening.

We all knew something momentous had happened, but had no idea what was coming next. Some feared the Russians would attack, especially when it came out that Lee Harvey Oswald had spent time in Russia. In Richmond, I heard more than one supposedly patriotic citizen voice satisfaction at the turn of events.

There was a lot of attention focused on Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and celebrating of the elevation of the first Southerner in a long time to the White House. This was, after all, a time when
it was still illegal for a white person to marry a black person in Virginia, and where the concept of "massive resistance" to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision continued after nine years. The antipathy to Kennedy expressed by many Virginians was due in no small measure to the fact that most black voters had favored him over Nixon in 1960.

Speaking by phone (rotary dial phones were all we had then, Bell Telephone, in fact, introduced the first push button phone just four days before the assassination.) to friends and family in Philadelphia, it did seem I was on an island of disconnect. They described how people were gathering in groups to mourn together and offer each other comfort. This was not happening in Virginia. My girlfriend and I comforted each other in isolation and silence once I got home.  We were only 106 miles South of Washington, but might have been in another country altogether.

A few years later, I was working at WRVA Radio, also in Richmond, and filling in for Lou Dean, the all-night talk show host. For two straight nights, my guest was Mark Lane, author of Rush to Judgment, the first book to despute the Warren Commission's findings about the assassination. My opinion then is pretty much unchanged now. I felt that if any conspiracy was involved, someone would have come forward to tell their story. Today, with so many more media outlets available, and so much money to be made for stories like this one, it is inconceivable to me that the truth wouldn't have already come out.
Check out my prosperity blog:

No comments: