Sunday, November 22, 2009

New JFK documentaries

I was a green 24-year-old cub reporter for KRLD-TV and barely knew how to operate a camera when history happened.

Even after 46 years have drifted by, I still have a little difficulty discussing the Kennedy assassination. Part of me wants to pump our book “When the News Went Live” while part of me recalls the numbness of those terrible days back in November of 1963.

I am always surprised at book signings when I choke up while describing the President and Mrs. Kennedy landing in Dallas. It is still emotional to remember. But we must.

Here’s what I wrote for Birds on a Wire, a blog written by a friend in New England:

My news director, Eddie Barker, divided us into teams of reporters to cover the JFK trip to Dallas. I helped George Sanderson film Air Force One landing at Love Field. Bob Huffaker picked up coverage as the procession rolled past welcoming crowds lining the curb along Main Street -- toward the triple underpass at Dealey Plaza. In the motorcade, we had Jim Underwood riding in one of the press cars. Bill Mercer was covering the live desk in the studio.

When the shooting started, I was outside the Trade Mart awaiting the President’s arrival for his noon speech.

Suddenly, sirens wailed from the freeway overpass. Lots of sirens. In the crowd, a woman started crying, “He’s been hit. He’s been hit.” With what? Rock? Bottle? Brick? I never thought rifle fire.

And in that instant, the world changed. The whole damned world.

A handful of new JFK documentaries will air tonight and tomorrow. Three of my buddies and co-authors will be featured. I couldn’t make the trip to Dallas at the time of the productions.

The History Channel will air JFK: Three Shots that Changed America sometime near or on the 22nd.

The National Geographic Channel will air The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination Monday the 23rd.

The History Channel's and National Geographic's documentaries use all the reporters’ various voices to tell the story without any voice-over narration, and both are excellent and reliable.

The Discovery Channel will air two JFK specials on Sunday the 22nd: Did the Mob Kill JFK? and JFK: The Ruby Connection. The two are supposed to run back-to-back at 8 PM (ET/PT) and 9 PM (ET/PT).

Huffaker writes: “I know nothing of what Did the Mob Kill JFK? will turn out to be, but I participated in the reenactment of the Oswald shooting in JFK: The Ruby Connection, along with Detective Jim Leavelle, photographer Bob Jackson, and other fellow geezers who were in the midst of it. Since I am skeptical of conspiracists to the point of disgust, I'm hoping that JFK: The Ruby Connection will not be embarrassingly sensational.”

When the News Went Live is available in hardcover and paperback.

Pictured below are Jim Leavelle and Bob. Detective Leavelle, you’ll recall, was handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald as Jack Ruby came out of the crowd and fired that fateful shot.


Paula said...

You're absolutely right: it is important to remember this date, for so many reasons. Those of us who were inspired by the man and his mission, need to honor his memory. Those born much later can learn from his story. And, those who, today, talk lightly of violence against elected officials and call for public mayhem, need to see how that approach played out, in real life. I don't remember any glory in that violent week, and can't see how anyone gained from this man's death. If the assassination was a conspiracy and not simply the work of a single, deranged shooter, thd conspirators failed to stop the momentum of JFK's proposed legislation. His legacy, the Great Society, won out, at least for a little while.
Three years after the JFK's death, I took a teaching job at an inner city high school in DC. At the end of the year, my homeroom class gave me a set of bookends engraved with quotes from some of JFK's most notable speeches. I could barely look at them without loosing it, so I wrapped them up and stored them in a closet. I'm not sure what happened to them after that.

Ken Martin said...

I grew up in Dallas and left for active duty in the Marine Corps in early 1958, more than five years before that fateful day. I know that place so well, physically. For several years while I attended high school in downtown Dallas, I delivered telegrams downtown on a bicycle for Western Union. As a kid growing up in Oak Cliff area of Dallas I went to the movies in the theatre where Oswald was arrested. I was even married in the old red brick courthouse that overlooks the site of the assassination.

What I could not understand, and still can't, was the mindset of the people who robbed us of a great president.

Not to undercut the solemnity of this remembrance, but if you watch the movie, "The Shooter," in which an ex-Marine sniper (Mark Wahlberg) is framed for killing a visiting dignitary who was standing next to the U.S. president, there is a brief discussion about the JFK assassination. The sly weapons expert that Walhberg goes to see says it was a group of shooters in addition to Oswald, and they were soon buried in West Texas.

"How do you know that?" asks Michael Peña, the FBI agent who with Wahlberg is on the run.

"Still got the shovel," says the old-timer.

Anonymous said...

Leavelle later said to author Joseph McBride that to him, the murder of President John F. Kennedy was "no different than a south Dallas nigger killing". This remark reveals that Leavelle was a racist who was not really concerned about who killed President Kennedy.

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