But I do think the front pages my father saved from November 1963 are pretty interesting.
We lived in Sunset, Utah, at the time. I was a fourth-grader at Doxey Elementary School. My father saved the front page above from the evening edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the daily paper delivered to our home. It apparently started Dad (and then me) on a couple lifetimes of saving historic front pages. This is the oldest of dozens of papers Dad saved over the next 15 years before his death. As the journalist in the family, I got his collection and added dozens (maybe hundreds) more.
Take a look at the front page above. Kennedy was shot at 12:30
a.m. p.m. Central time, 11:30 a.m., right on (or perhaps after) deadline for an evening paper. Clearly they just had enough time and material for one wire story (from UPI) and a file mug shot of the president. There isn’t even a wire photo from Dallas.
The huge screaming headline conveys the gravity of the story, but the rest of the front page is a routine and eclectic mix of wire stories (I presume a local story or two were bumped from the front page).
The lead on the assassination story is pretty strong:
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated today in a burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas. Texas Gov. John Connally was shot down with him.
The President, cradled in his wife’s arms, had been rushed in his blood-spattered limousine to Parkland Hospital and taken to an emergency room. An urgent call went out for neurosurgeons and blood.
The story was written by UPI’s Merriman Smith, who became a news-biz legend by keeping control of the radio-telephone in the car that carried wire reporters in the presidential motorcade, shutting AP’s Jack Bell out on the story, resulting in an actual fight between the two.
The story refers to Smith and the radio-phone, with a gentle reference to the unnamed Bell (note the stray line of type above the paragraph; someone added identification of Smith but failed to remove that line):
He and three other colleagues along with Kilduff raced to the hospital behind the President’s car and arrived at the emergency entrance before litters were brought up to remove the President and the governor from the car.
By the way, I can’t find a first reference in the story to Kilduff, but that’s Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff, who announced the president’s death to the world at Parkland Hospital.
The fifth paragraph has a misspelling (I suspect that was not Smith’s fault, but the work of a UPI editor taking dictation from him, or possibly a Standard-Examiner editor or typesetter):
The President was conscious as he arrived at the hospital. Father Huber from the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church was called and administered the last rights of the church.
That should be “last rites.” And, like many breaking stories hastily assembled in multiple takes, it is repetitious at times, including a later reference to Father Huber (whose first name isn’t published either time, but it’s Oscar and he died in 1975) administering the “last sacrament of the church.”
A fascinating paragraph in the story would make a great 50th-anniversary story:
At the height of the emergency room drama, a weeping Negro woman bearing a small bloody child rushed into the hospital where a nurse and an intern went quickly to her side.
If the child survived and/or if the woman is still alive, that could be an interesting 50th-anniversary story. (I couldn’t find it in a brief Google search; if you’ve read such a story, please share the link in the comments here.)
The front page shows interesting quirks of the day’s journalism (beyond the reference to the woman as “Negro”): A one-sentence filler brief at the end of the assassination story, which ran nearly 70 paragraphs, and a couple of other filler briefs; the paper’s 5-cent price; the use of both AP and UPI stories; “names in the news” on page one; the vertical design; Connally’s photo above the story about Miller.
The story right next to the assassination story on Page 1 is interesting, too: William Miller, who would be Barry Goldwater‘s running mate in 1964, was speculating about the ’64 race, saying he expected Goldwater and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to run, but not Richard Nixon. No one thought to update this paragraph:
He told a news conference the Republicans would gain in the South, Midwest and Texas, where “Kennedy had better get political or he just might be in trouble there.”
(By the way, I’m editing photos of these front pages while on the road; I’ll scan or shoot better shots of these two passages and sub them when I get home. The full pages don’t fit on my scanner, so I shot photographs with them of my cellphone.)
But that’s not even the most interesting item in the paper that didn’t get updated. Check out Page 2:
Nixon visited Dallas the day before the assassination, speculating that Kennedy might “dump” Lyndon B. Johnson from the 1964 ticket. On Page 1, LBJ is the president, sworn in and whisked away: “His whereabouts were being kept secret.” And on Page 2, he’s in danger of losing his vice presidency.
Yes, that Nixon visit and the speculation about Johnson remaining on the ticket are favorite nuggets of people who believe in conspiracy theories. (For what it’s worth, which isn’t much, I think it stretches credulity that Oswald acted alone. Without question, most of the conspiracy theories clearly have to be wrong and the evidence for any single conspiracy theory is as shaky and incomplete as the evidence that Oswald acted alone. The one sure thing about the Kennedy assassination is that we’ll never know the full story. Our chance to establish something beyond a reasonable doubt died when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Which was probably the point. The shakiest thing about he Oswald-acted-alone argument is that you have to believe a mob-connected thug killed an assassination suspect to spare Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of a trial. That’s kookier than any of the conspiracy theories. We just have to accept the historical fact that this story will always remain as mysterious as it is tragic.)
The next day’s front page shows LBJ being sworn in:
This time, all the front-page stories are from AP, though the flag does identify the Standard-Examiner as a UPI paper, too. I found it interesting that the story on Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest was at the bottom of the front page, the least significant play of the five assassination-related stories on the cover. The whole front page is about Kennedy, except for a story about a fire killing 60 people at an Ohio nursing home.
Monday evening’s paper plays the Ruby-Oswald photo below the coverage of the president’s funeral:
This may seem odd news judgment at first glance, but remember that Ruby shot Oswald on Sunday, so that photo dominated Monday morning newspapers. It was older news by Monday evening and the Monday morning funeral was the fresh news.
(Yes, that’s an incredibly fuzzy photo of that front page. Obviously, my phone camera didn’t focus on that shot. I’m traveling now, but will shoot that front page again tomorrow after I get home and sub a focused shot.)
If you’ve read this far, you deserve an interesting conclusion. My last cover from that era is not from Dad’s collection. I found this Look magazine in an antique store. Even weekly magazines had a time lag of a few days between when they went to press and when they arrived in people’s homes. And sometimes the date on the cover was a few days after they reached the readers.
I can’t find an explanation online of when it was printed, except for this listing from the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza’s store, which states the obvious, that it was printed before Kennedy’s death. Check out the date on the photos below (the first one is my photo of my magazine; another is a clearer scanned copy I took from a web image):
As I was working on this post, I realized that I’ve featured historic front pages several times in this blog, so I created a new category for posts about or featuring historic front pages from various newspapers. If you share my love for them, I welcome a guest post. Share photos or scans of some of your favorites, along with your memories or observations. I’ll probably share a few more of Dad’s and my historic pages in future posts. Here are some covers from historic days featured in earlier posts here:
Cedar Rapids flood (the great “Epic Surge” double-truck front page we did)