As I used to be driving my 1957 black Chevy convertible previous Lexington’s Blue Grass Subject, I used to be feeling good. Solely 19, I already was protecting highschool sports activities for The Chief, town’s afternoon newspaper, and I used to be on the way in which to Princeton, in deep western Kentucky, to cowl a playoff sport between Lafayette Excessive, a crew I had lined all season, and Caldwell County, led by Kerry Curling, a two-way star who had dedicated to Coach Charlie Bradshaw on the College of Kentucky.
The drive was so lengthy and boring that I didn’t need to make it alone, so I recruited three of my fraternity brothers at Transylvania Faculty (now College) to maintain me firm. Certainly one of them was sports activities fanatic Invoice Poulson of New Jersey, however I can’t bear in mind the others. I’m positive we have been chattering about one thing boys our age chattered about – ladies, sports activities, the occasion after the subsequent day’s Kentucky-Tennessee sport – when the automotive radio crackled with a bulletin that shut us up.
It was slightly after 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.
President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.
A little bit greater than a half-hour later got here the information that the President had died on an working desk in Parkland Hospital.
The remainder of the journey is a blur. Someplace on the Western Kentucky Parkway, the sky turned darkish and it began raining. After we lastly acquired to Princeton, we went to the funeral residence owned by frat brother Al Templeton’s household. They have been anticipating us, and had some meals prepared. We additionally acquired to observe some protection of the tragedy in Dallas on a black-and-white TV set.
The sport was depressing. I slogged up and down the sidelines, alternately taking notes and images. The sphere was so sloppy that it robbed Lafayette of its trademark velocity. When it was mercifully over, Caldwell County had gained, 6-Zero, on a landing run by Curling.
The journey again to Lexington appeared to take endlessly. The radio was off as a result of my buddies all have been sleeping. I lastly dropped them off at Transy at about four a.m., then went to the Herald-Chief constructing on close by Quick Road to drop off my movie and sort up my sport story.
I bear in mind the empty newsroom was strewn with copies of that morning’s Herald. Big headlines proclaimed the President’s loss of life. I wrote my story and eventually went residence, the place I fell into mattress, completely exhausted, at about 6 a.m.
I didn’t get a lot sleep. Surprisingly, the UK-Tennessee sport was not postponed and I sat within the stands with my date and a few frat brothers. UK misplaced, 19-Zero, and the occasion afterward was extra of a wake. The extra grownup drinks we imbibed, the sadder we turned. The favored music, “Cry Child,” by Garnett Mims and the Enchanters, completely suited our temper.
I all the time dredge up these unhappy recollections on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. At the moment, the 57th anniversary, isn’t any exception. Much more than the President died that day in Dallas. It snuffed out a whole lot of our goals, idealism, and patriotism. It planted the seeds of the cynicism, mistrust, and anger that divides our nation in the present day.
The phrase “charisma” could have been invented to explain JFK. Solely 43 on the time of his loss of life, he was a lot nearer to our age than President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the grandfatherly determine who guided our nation by means of the 1950s. He appeared to have all of it – rugged beauty, a gorgeous spouse, a beautiful son and daughter, some huge cash, and a zest for all times that we discovered irresistible.
As well as, he was a Harvard graduate, our first Roman-Catholic President (Joe Biden will develop into the second), a extremely adorned PT Boat commander in World Warfare II, and the son of Joe Kennedy, a political wheeler-dealer in Massachusetts who made at the very least a part of his fortune as a bootlegger. He additionally was President Roosevelt’s ambassador to England simply earlier than the outbreak of World Warfare II.
The elder Kennedy had determined that his eldest son, Joe Jr., would get into politics and finally develop into President. That dream died when Joe Jr. was killed in a aircraft flying over the English Channel. So the elder Kennedy turned to John, the subsequent son in line.
After retiring from the Naval Reserve in 1945, the younger JFK labored briefly as reporter for Hearst newspapers. However his future was in politics. He was elected to the U.S. Home of Representatives in 1947 and served till ’53, when he was elected to the Senate. That’s what he was doing in 1959 when the Democratic Celebration chosen him to run for President in opposition to Republican Richard M. Nixon, who had been Eisenhower’s Vice-President for eight years.
Kennedy gained, barely. His father was accused of conspiring with Mayor Richard Daley to purchase votes in Chicago. Nonetheless, the switch of energy was orderly, in line with long-standing custom. In his inauguration speech, Kennedy promised America would put a person on the moon by the top of the last decade.
The Chilly Warfare nonetheless was raging in Europe and Asia, and Kennedy believed that stopping the expansion of Communism was one of the vital necessary elements of his job. His administration, staffed by a whole lot of younger buddies from Boston, tried an invasion of Cuba that failed miserably. Emboldened by dictator Fidel Castro’s victory at what got here to be referred to as the “Bay of Pigs,” the Russians started secretly delivery nuclear missiles to Cuba in 1962.
When U.S. spy planes acquired images of the hidden missiles, it precipitated what got here to be referred to as the “Cuban Missile Disaster.” The Russians ignored JFK’s demand to take the missiles residence, so the U.S. arrange a blockade designed to cease the Russian ships earlier than they reached Cuba. Because the Russians steamed inexorably towards the blockade, the world braced itself for World Warfare III, which might have been a nuclear battle that may destroy the world.
On the final minute, the Russian ships stopped. Then they circled. As considered one of JFK’s aides put it, “We have been eye-to-eye with the enemy and I believe the opposite man simply blinked.”
That victory gave the Kennedy administration confidence and credibility. It was simply hitting its stride when gunshots from the Texas Schoolbook Depository, and maybe one different website, tore into Kennedy’s head as his motorcade rolled by means of Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963.
Proper then the world modified, by no means to be the identical.
One motive I favored JFK was his love of sports activities. He was on the varsity swimming crew at Harvard, and he beloved to play contact soccer with household and buddies on the White Home garden. He all the time attending the Military-Navy soccer sport, dutifully spending a half on either side of the sphere. He tried to be impartial, however everyone knew he wished Navy to win.
Sooner or later, he turned buddies with Vince Lombardi, who was teaching the Inexperienced Bay Packers when Kennedy was inaugurated. On the finish of the 1961 season, the Packers reached the NFL championship sport in opposition to the Philadelphia Eagles. Sadly, it regarded as if they’d be with out three of their greatest gamers, together with multi-talented star Paul Hornung, as a result of that they had been referred to as to lively Military responsibility due to the Chilly Warfare.
Boldly, Lombardi referred to as the President and requested if he might give Hornung a dispensation only for the championship sport. Kennedy did simply that, arguing it was good for the nation’s morale or some such. Hornung, who died final week, scored a landing and kicked three discipline objectives within the Packers’ 37-Zero victory, the primary of their 4 NFL titles.
Really, JFK and Hornung would have gotten alongside properly. Each have been earthy males who appreciated bawdy jokes, lovely ladies, and a few cocktails. The identical could possibly be stated of JFK that after was stated of Hornung – ladies wished to be with him and males wished to be like him.
Over these 57 years, I’ve usually considered what the world can be like in the present day if President Kennedy had survived. I need to consider it could be a a lot better place, however perhaps I’m improper. All I do know is that JFK represented the perfect and brightest of his technology. Our process in the present day is discovering the perfect and brightest of this technology, and future ones, and convincing them to hunt careers in public service as a substitute of Company America.
The JFK in my soul refuses to let me surrender on America, regardless of what number of of our brethren appear to favor a dictatorship to a democracy. The outdated black non secular, “We Shall Overcome,” echoes within the recesses of my thoughts.
Sometime we once more may have a President who joyously performs contact soccer, or perhaps ladies’s discipline hockey, on the White Home garden, vibrant sunshine forcing in the present day’s darkness into the shadows of historical past.