NEWBERRY — Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963 in Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Newberry County reflects on the assassination and the historical significance of this major event.
“It was one of those pieces of history that is embedded in my mind. I was sitting with my brother in the car waiting for the car to be washed. I was just stunned. I think the whole country was numb by the fact that he had been killed. Even now thinking back on it, it seems like such a waste. Who knows how that changed the history of this country. It was one of those world changing moments. I wish it would’ve never happened but it’s part of life and you have to keep rebounding and never quit. It makes you think, had that not happened how would our world be shaped?”
— Ted Smith
“At that point this was in Nov. 1963 and I was in town (Newberry) at the old 5 and 10 cents store and I was saddened and hardened and it was shocking. I couldn’t believe it. I had followed that family early on and kept up with him and Jackie throughout the years. I was 32 years old and not teaching yet.
When I left the store, I could hardly finish shopping. I was in the store talking with people . For weeks I couldn’t get over the fact that he was murdered. I was always into elections and politics and voting and helping (at the polls) all my life. When I was a little girl, I was on the front porch of the neighbor’s house and my dad was a manager of a poll. One thing he told me in the end of his life was, ‘You keep up that work and manage the polls.’ I’ve always been into helping with voting and interested in election outcomes. To this day, every year, I keep up with it (elections).”
— Bonnelle Yarborough
“I was driving home from Panama City, Fla. to Montgomery, Ala. and I heard it on the radio. When I got home, I got to watch most of it on television. At that time I was just amazed that someone would assassinate a president. I was 24 years old. Even though I was a Republican I still felt sad. The 22nd was also my brother’s birthday; he’s deceased now. I always remember my brother as well. Life is what it is and you take advantage of what you can and enjoy what you can.”
— MC Yarbrough
“I was a senior at Chapin High School and I was in class and someone told us the President had been shot and was dead. I remember everyone always tells me you remember and I do. It made our country vulnerable. It was catastrophic.”
— Paulette Lindler
“I was in Catholic school when it happened and Kennedy was a Catholic. I was 10 and in Mrs. Young’s class. It was a school that did not have TV in every room. We were told over the intercom and a lot of teachers were crying. We went to church and went on from there to pray. After school we were glued to the TV. At home all we did was keep the news on. The events that followed were surreal. Everybody was in slow mode it seemed. The killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby was like watching a cop show on TV. It too was surreal.”
— Frank Netzel
“On Nov. 22, 1963, my class was coming back from lunch at school and the principal announced on the intercom that the President had been shot and later died. It was as if time stood still and we couldn’t seem to understand why this terrible thing had happened to our President. I will never forget the sadness and tragedy of that day.”
— Bette Brannon
“I was working for the Bristol Herald Courier at the time. I was an advertising salesman and was headed to Casem Auto Sales at the end of State Street. I remember pulling into the parking lot when the bulletin came across the radio that the President had been shot. I immediately returned back to the paper.
“The editor yelled to me and said to run to the press room to halt the press because we were a twice a day paper. You didn’t just stop the press for any reason, so I knew this was something really big. When the press stopped, they re-plated the front page. We had two front pages that day…the one they were running, and the one with the news of the President.
“It was a 24/7 television event. All programming did not stop. It was the youngest President we’d had. We’d just come out of the war, the economy was good, it was an upbeat time in the nation when we were looking forward to what the new President could do. It permeated everybody’s lives. The intensity in which the news room covered that was something to watch.”
— Don Wilder
“I was a senior in high school. We didn’t really have the communications that we do now. They announced it within the school. I remember going home and my daddy was totally shocked. He was a big Kennedy supporter. I remember that he was visibly upset and shaking.”
— Billy Hollingsworth
“I was 19 when President Kennedy was assassinated. We had just moved from Edgefield to Newberry at the time. My great aunt was over at the house, helping me make curtains, when it came across the television and we watched it together. It was just startling. We were getting ready for a family wedding about that time that was the following week. I just remember watching television and trying to figure out how in the world this could have happened. I was just in disbelief, not thinking that anything like that could happen here.”
— Ann Threatt
“I remember being in downtown Newberry. I was 19 years old and was shopping downtown, when I got into my car and it came over the radio that Kennedy was assassinated. It was devastating, but I went on home from there to turn on the television. On the television, I tried to gather up the local news to see what had happened. I remember talking with friends about the news. Everyone was devastated over this tragedy.”
— Emory Lester
“I was doing practice teaching at the middle school here in Newberry, teaching South Carolina History. When the word came down that he had been shot it was sometime that afternoon. I turned on the educational TV, and it was amazing to see the reaction of the kids in the classroom when they found out that he had been shot.
“Kennedy was someone that you either liked a lot or you didn’t, and it reflected in the kids, some were crying and seem devastated and some seemed not to care….that was an indication of the times. That was the first time that my generation had experienced that kind of incident. It was mind boggling, because you never thought about someone assassinating the President of the United States, it was something unheard of at the time.
“It was a slow-moving kind of thing. From that first announcement, no one thought about anything except staying glued to the televisions and finding out what was happening in Dallas. We had already been through the drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis with Kennedy, on a personal level you couldn’t fathom who would do something like this to the President. I had a very strong interest in what was happening and why.
“From the first announcements where that shots rang out and they were taking him to the hospital, no one ever thought it was just one person, because it was too big of a thing to be just one person…everybody was looking for the next “rock to be uncovered”….conspiracy theories.
“The biggest thing that I remember out of the whole thing, is the emotional effect it had on the adults. For the younger adults who were just coming up and going out to work, he was kind of their hero - kids who wanted to go off to college, to the peace corps, be involved with community activities — his administration was geared toward young people and getting them involved in the community and careers.
“It was a very gut wrenching time. He represented the leadership that the post-war generation could look up to and get people working together to improve the communities…to have that leadership wiped out was disheartening.”
— Jim Hale
“I was at the Passaic Eagle in the editorial room. I was social editor and they had a small TV in the circulation department. When it came over the news, my editor froze. There was a Catholic church on the corner from where we were and he wanted a photograph because people just dropped on their knees praying. This was already a bad time, after World War II. People thought this was the end of the world. We made a special edition. It was the traumatic experience I had in the newspaper field. I saw him in person in downtown Paterson, N.J., during my senior year of high school. The school allowed us to cut two classes to see him.”
— Lorraine Bradley