By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, remembered this week during its 50th anniversary, created a shock strong enough to hold the event well in memory of some local residents who recall where they were.
Register publisher Jim Perry said he was a ninth grade student in November 1963. While attending Vinita High School in Vinita, Ark., he was outside class when the news came dramatically.
“I was on the school grounds and the teacher comes running out and says to us, ‘Kennedy’s been shot,’” Perry said Thursday.
County Judge John Roane also said he was in high school that season — a senior at Valley View High School.
“I was in biology class and that became the topic of conversation for the rest of the day,” he said. “That was in November 1963; I graduated in 1964, and that’s how I’ve always remembered it.”
Perry added he later learned that while many newspapers were unable to report the incident in print until 24 hours after the fatal shots, the daily edition of the Nov. 22 Register was held while the staff scrambled to change headlines and insert related copy.
County historian Jayleane Smith, a Gainesville Middle School student at the time, also said she was informed on campus. She also said she was surprised to hear the timeliness of the Register release — explaining that it was one of the few sources of information available at the time, pre-internet or even cable television.
“All we had back then were people and word of mouth,” Smith said Thursday. “And what we saw on TV was very limited. Because TV went off at a certain time of night. We maybe had the ‘Ten O’Clock News’ but that was it and we wouldn’t know anything until the next morning.
“It was very limited, what we heard,” she said. “It was only we got on TV or the newspaper or people talking about it on the streets: the tragedy and sadness of what we all felt. And still do.”
From the Associated Press
Honoring the legacy of John F. Kennedy, President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the assassinated president's gravesite during a ceremony held this week as a nation remembers that terrible day in Dallas a half-century ago Friday. Obama also recognized a group of distinguished Americans — including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey - with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award created by Kennedy.
Obama was joined at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday by Clinton, and each president held hands with Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, as they climbed a flight of stairs to the burial site on a steep hillside overlooking the nation's capital.
First lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped their husbands place a large wreath of white flowers in front of the roped-off gravesite of America's 35th president, which is marked by an ever-burning flame.
Both couples placed their hands over their hearts as taps sounded near a U.S. flag at half-staff before greeting Kennedy relatives, including some who arrived in Obama's motorcade, before Friday's 50th anniversary of the assassination.
The day of tributes began at the White House, where Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 living and deceased Americans for their contributions in fields ranging from sports and entertainment to science and public service.
“These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” Obama said.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, daughter Chelsea Clinton and film director Steven Spielberg were among scores of people seated in the White House East Room for the ceremony, which Obama said is “one of my favorite events every year.”
Kennedy established the modern version of the medal but was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, weeks before he was to honor the inaugural group of recipients. Hundreds of notable figures since have received the honor.
Obama continued to lionize the slain president Wednesday evening at a dinner honoring the medal's recipients. At the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Obama was introduced by Kennedy's grandson, Jack Schlossberg, whose mother, Caroline Kennedy, is Obama's newly confirmed ambassador to Japan.
“He reminded us that everyone has the capacity to explore, to imagine and to give back to our great nation no matter the path we choose,” the younger Kennedy said of his grandfather.
Obama said Kennedy stays in America's imagination not because he was assassinated, but because he embodied the character of the people he led. He said Kennedy was defiant in the face of impossible odds and determined to make the world anew.
“This is a legacy of a man who could have retreated to a life of luxury and ease, but he chose to live a life in the arena,” Obama said. “Sailing sometimes against the wind, sometimes with it.”