- A topic that usually lends itself to the plotlines of action
adventure novels and motion pictures, "assassination" visited
the living rooms of millions of Americans when a beloved
Irish-American president was killed during a visit to an
all-American Texas town.
On November 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
(1917-63) was shot in Dallas, Texas as his motorcade passed by a
book depository. Starting at 1:30 PM that same day, the voice of
Walter Cronkite reported to the nation the tragic bulletin
"In Dallas, Texas three shots were fired at President Kennedy's
motorcade. The first reports say that the President was
seriously wounded, that he slumped over in Mrs. Kennedy's lap,
she cried out, "Oh, No!" and the motorcade went on...The wounds
perhaps could be fatal"
The President died several hours later and Vice-President,
Lyndon B. Johnson was appointed acting President. Shortly after,
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested as the lone gunman responsible
for the assassination.
On November 24, 1963 the NBC network captured the live footage
of the Oswald's murder (the first live on-camera assassination)
of the 24-year old alleged killer of the President. NBC had just
concluded a two-minute report from Hyannis Port when Frank McGee
in New York heard Tom Pettit (setting up at Dallas police
station) shout twice "Give me Air!"
Quickly, NBC switched to the Dallas remote set up just in time
to record Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of shooting
President Kennedy, being escorted by detectives in the basement
of the Dallas jail for transfer to an armored truck.
Suddenly, out of the lower right corner of the TV screen came
the back of a man. A shot was heard. Oswald gasped and then
grabbing his side began to fall. Reporter Tom Pettit shouts on
the air "He's been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot! There is
absolute panic...pandemonium has broken out!"
The murderer of Lee Oswald was Jack Ruby (who died of cancer a
few years later), the operator of a small nightclub whose
vigilante action deprived the nation of a trial.
A commission ("Warren Commission") designed to clear up
speculation about the presidential assassination produced the
now famous "Warren Report" which concluded that Oswald acted
alone in the assassination of the JFK. However, a home movie of
the assassination showed the President's body was possibly shot
by bullets coming from directions other than from the book
The theory that there were other marksmen positioned on a
"Grassy Knoll" not far from the book depository and the fact
that numerous potential eye witnesses to the shooting died
within a few months of the assassination opened the door to
speculation that the assassination was a well planned
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassination relying on
acoustical evidence, concluded that a conspiracy was "likely"
and that it may have involved organized crime. Rated as a bomb
of a movie in the TV Movies and Video Guide edited by film
historian Leonard Maltin, the motion picture Executive Action
(1973) starring Burt Lancaster concluded from the preponderance
of circumstantial evidence that Kennedy was killed via a "group"
rather that a "lone" gunman.
In the 1990s, writer/director Oliver Stone created his own
theatrical film JFK that told the story of the JFK
assassination. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-68), the
president's brother met a similar fate in 1968 when he was
gunned down by lone assassin, Sirhan B. Sirhan at a Democratic
presidential primary rally in Los Angeles. The event was
captured by movie camera and the results aired nationwide.
On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan while walking to his
limousine after giving a speech at the Hilton Ballroom in
Washington, D.C. was shot and wounded with a .22-caliber handgun
held by assassin John W. Hinckley, Jr. Reagan was rushed to the
George Washington University Hospital with a possible collapsed
lung. The event was covered extensively by all major TV
Another major assassination that received TV coverage was that
of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who moved the
consciousness of the nation, won the Nobel Prize for Peace in
1964, and led the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. on
March 28, 1963...a peaceful rally designed to end the "Jim Crow
policies so prevalently found in America. Speaking to the
250,000 people who participated in the march, King proclaimed
his now famous speech and the lines
"I have a dream that one day the nation will rise up and live
out the true meaning of its creed...all men are created equal."
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed by a sniper
(allegedly James Earl Ray) while standing on the motel balcony
in Memphis, Tennessee. Protesting his death, black communities
rioted in some 63 cities. More than 150,000 people attended
Luther's funeral at his old Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta,
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