JOHN F. KENNEDY ASSASSINATION ●
Adapted from article by ERIC LINDQUIST ● LEADER-TELEGRAM STAFF
I was playing music for an Orangeburg, S.C., radio station on what seemed like an ordinary Friday afternoon 50 years ago when, suddenly, bells sounded and the newsroom’s teletype machine started furiously clanking out bulletins.
, then 20, I hustled over to the machine and saw the news — on Nov. 22, 1963 — that would shake the entire nation.
The first bulletin, which I read on the air for WORG-AM, indicated that President John F. Kennedy had been shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas.
“It was probably the most dramatic thing that I’ve personally done on the air,” said Green, the retired manager of WAXX-FM and WAYY-AM radio stations in Eau Claire .
“I can still hear those bells ringing in my head from the teletype. They went off for two or three minutes straight.”
Eerily, I also remember the song he interrupted to read the fateful bulletin: “Every Day I Have to Cry Some,” by Steve Alaimo.
“You knew immediately this was going to be a big moment in American history,”
The enormity of the event was confirmed soon after the initial announcement, I recalled, when the teletype resumed clanking and he removed The Associated Press bulletin that answered the biggest question on everyone’s mind. It read “(DALLAS) --TWO PRIESTS WHO ADMINISTERED THE LAST RITES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY SAY THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE IS DEAD.”
I still keep a copy of that momentous bulletin, immediately decided to stop playing rock ’n’ roll out of respect for the president.
But being in a part of the South not-so-friendly to Kennedy because of his push for civil rights, it didn’t take long for Green to notice some reactions that weren’t so respectful.
One indication that the Chicago native wasn’t up north any more came when he informed his news director that the president had been shot. Instead of expressing sadness, she callously remarked, “Well, I didn’t shoot him.”
Green, who often was called “Yankee” by people in Orangeburg, also recalled being deeply troubled by a sign in the window of a flower shop across the street from the station and not far from a Confederate soldier monument. The sign read: “We will pretend we are mourning ... But we are not.” “I went berserk,” Green said. “I went on the radio and said the flower shop should take that sign down. I said regardless of what you think of his politics, he is the president of the United States and a husband and father.”
The message must have reached its intended target because the offensive sign was taken down within a few minutes.
I refer to the Kennedy killing as the nation’s first “electronic assassination” because there were no broadcast media around when Presidents Abraham Lincoln (1865), James Garfield (1881) and William McKinley (1901) were slain while in office.
“This was live on radio and TV immediately as it was happening, and that had never happened before in our country,” I rank the JFK assassination along with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the 1986 crash of the Challenger space shuttle and the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden as the biggest news events in the past 50 years of broadcasting.
“This is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, but to me it seems like it was yesterday,” Green said. “When you’re 20 years old and you’re on the air when something like that happens, it’s something that’s going to stay with you forever.”
Marty Green, retired station manager of WAXX-FM and WAYY-AM radio in Eau Claire, still keeps a copy of the Associated Press bulletin confirming the death of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago in Dallas. Green read this and other bulletins on the air for WORG-AM in Orangeburg, S.C., as they were released on Nov. 22, 1963.