Fifty years ago, Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, the nation was stunned as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 1:25 p.m. in a burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas, Texas while riding in an open car through the city’s streets. The shooting occurred as President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, were riding with Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife, Idanell Brill “Nellie” Connally.
A full story about the anniversary of the tragedy, written by Rachel Gray, can be viewed here. The column below looks at the coverage of events following the tragedy.
Sunday, Nov. 24, 1963
The citizens of Marietta, which were still not fully recovered from the fatal gas explosion at Atherton’s Drug Store on the Marietta Square, were reported as having reacted with stunned grief to the death of President Kennedy the Friday before. Within minutes of the shooting, the Square was almost completely deserted as people huddled in stores and offices around television sets and radios.
A group of people also gathered outside the pressroom doors of the Marietta Daily Journal waiting for the papers to confirm the news.
Another story reported several observations of grief the day of the shooting –
- Lockheed workers continued at their jobs, but a noticeably slower pace.
- The girls at a junior high school class received the news and sat at their desk crying.
- An elderly woman was seen sitting on her front porch swing with a paper in her lap and her face in her hands.
- The Community Players held a backstage “buck-up” session the night after the shooting and then performed to a packed house.
- A couple sat in an automobile outside a restaurant listening to radio reports of the president’s death with their plates from eatery on the seat between them.
- Marietta policemen said they learned of the assassination in an announcement over the police radio network
- Smyrna Mayor J.B. Ables, an employee at Lockheed, called the Journal after Kennedy was shot to confirm the shooting and ask about the President’s condition only to later learn of his death in a Lockheed intercom announcement.
- The flag over the Cobb-Marietta Library on Atlanta Street was lowered to half mast immediately with others in the city following suit.
- After the announcement of Kennedy’s death, the Journal received a telephone report that Vice President Johnson had suffered a heart attack. A check with United Press International in Atlanta dismissed the report.
A special community-wide prayer and worship service to pray for the family of the slain President and for guidance for President Lyndon Johnson was held in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church. Rev. Lewis Davis, pastor of the Powers Ferry Road Methodist Church and president of the Marietta Ministerial Association, participated with the pastors of First Baptist, First Presbyterian, St. James Episcopal and First Methodist churches. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church held a requiem high mass.
All schools, county and city offices, along with federal government buildings and several businesses were to close on Monday, Nov. 25 in memory of the late President while President Johnson declared it a day of national mourning. Southern Tech, which is now known as Southern Polytechnic State University, and the University Center of Georgia Marietta Center also announced canceled classes.
Over 2,000 extra copies of the MDJ were circulated the evening of the assassination. Circulation showed a record number of 18,538 copies of the paper were distributed.
John Hill, who was the MDJ’s distributor at Lockheed, was the first carrier to hit the streets with the paper. Normally, Hill carried 477 papers daily to the plant. But, that day he came back twice for more and sold about 1,200 paper to employees as they started home.
Monday, Nov. 25, 1963
Work came to a halt at noon at Lockheed as people joined in a memorial service to the late President. In addition to the Marietta plant, the Atlanta, Dawsonville, Clarksburg, W.Va., Charleston, S.C., and Sandusky, Ohio locations also went silent in preparation of the Washington, D.C., memorial. At the Marietta plant, W.A. Pulver, president of Lockheed-Georgia Company, went on the plant-wide public address system to lead the observance.
A flag flying at half staff out of respect was reported stolen from the American Legion Post No. 29 on Gresham Street in Marietta. Commander Doyce Lambert called it “the worst act of vandalism, I have ever encountered” and offered a $50 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals.
Another story observed:
- A wreath of white flowers was reported hanging near the door of the County Courthouse.
- A young man walking nervously across the Square with red eyes, told a Journal reporter that he hadn’t cried since he was a baby.
- There was very little automobile traffic on the Square and open parking spaces.
- Dobbins Air Force Base was virtually closed. Only about 15 men, security and firemen, were on duty.
- Banks were closed at noon. Savings and loan associations were closed all day.
- The parking lot at the new Cobb Center, which normally held thousands of cars, only had about 30 in the lot.
- At Kennestone Hospital, the glass front doors closed at 11 a.m. Patients, visitors and staff paused for a moment of silent prayer before Rev. Joseph T. Walker, rector of St. James Episcopal Church, read from the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans over the speaker system.
About 1,600 people were also reported as having attended the memorial services at First Baptist Church.
Friday, Nov. 29, 1963
Dobbins Air Force Base commander, Brig. Gen. George H. Wilson announced that a tree would be planted at the base in memory of the President on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. Participating in the event would be the Marine Air detachment, Air Force reserve units, the Naval Air Station and the Georgia Air National Guard. The tree was to be planted with a plaque unveiled as an expression of the base’s personal sorrow in the passing of the commander-in-chief.
Damon Poirier is the Newsroom Administrator for the Marietta Daily Journal.
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