Remembering Nov. 22, 1963

By Joe Darby

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to you all. When you read this I should be, if the Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, in South Louisiana with family, getting ready to eat some of the best turkey and dressing that you could ever want. I sincerely hope that you, me and all of us have a wonderful day.

Now, to my column for this week. I actually should have written this piece last week. It would have been more timely. But it occurred to me recently that another Nov. 22 had rolled around. And that is one of those dates that, if you are old enough, you will remember for the rest of your life what you were doing and where you were when you heard the news.

I’m talking, of course, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — Nov. 22, 1963. And I can’t believe that it’s been 56 years since it happened.

I was a senior at LSU and I had gone home for lunch and was watching the noon news when CBS broke into the local program and announced that Kennedy had been shot. I was a great admirer of Kennedy at that time and I was both grief stricken and very angry. I got up from my chair and punched a door jam, almost breaking my hand.

In mid afternoon, I picked up my girlfriend from the law building, where she had a government class. I could see by the expression on her face that she knew what had happened.

My reaction was not very wise or mature, but I drove to our favorite lounge and proceeded to get pretty drunk. While the girl and I were sitting in a booth talking, some guy at the bar said he was glad Kennedy had been shot. Many southerners hated Kennedy because he was a supporter of civil rights for blacks.

My girlfriend must have seen the rage on my face because she grabbed my hand and said “Let it be.” Getting in a fist fight would not have solved anything.

The TV networks gave extensive coverage to the events of the next four days, which are kind of a blur in the memory. But many things stand out. The arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, Oswald’s shooting by Jack Ruby, the funeral procession which included the riderless horse, the muffled beat of the drums and little John John saluting his father’s casket.

So that was my personal experience of the assassination and its aftermath. My opinions have changed about some things over the years, which I’ll get to in a moment, but those four days were in fact pretty traumatic for a young Louisiana kid who thought Kennedy was the great hope of the nation.

Now, my admiration for Kennedy has diminished somewhat over the years. He had absolutely no regard for his wedding vows and recklessly slept with many women, including a girl with ties to the Mafia and another one connected to Soviet intelligence.

Also, it may be likely that Kennedy’s father, with the help of the Mafia, stole votes in Illinois that allowed Kennedy to defeat Richard Nixon.

For many years I dismissed all claims that Oswald had not acted alone, that there must have been some kind of conspiracy to murder the President. I had faith in the Warren Report, which came to the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. I never have, and still don’t, like conspiracy theories. But I’ve read some books that are pretty persuasive that the mob just might have had a hand in the killing.

I’m not real firm on that opinion. I just don’t know. We may never really know. Or some evidence might pop up years from now that will reveal what really happened. In any case, Nov. 22, 1963 will stick in my old brain until it’s no longer functioning.