Newspaper headlines announcing John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination and state funeral also heralded a years-long wave of violence targeting American leaders.
The grim list of dead includes Malcolm X (gunned down in a Manhattan ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965), the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (slain April 4, 1968, on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn.) and, of course, the late President Kennedy’s younger brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (shot to death on June 6, 1968, as he left a California hotel during his campaign for president).
John F. Kennedy’s youthful vigor, optimism and call to public service had raised the nation’s hopes for the future and prompted millions of Americans to vote for him in 1960. So, when the 44-year-old leader died, a nation mourned.
In its final afternoon edition for Nov. 22, 1963, the front page of The Pittsburgh Press showed President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally in the motorcade as it headed toward Downtown Dallas. “President Kennedy Slain By Assassin” was the headline.
In a story about local reaction that carried no byline, The Pittsburgh Press noted that, “Word traveled on those invisible lines of communication that make individuals listening posts and transmitters.”
Due partly to deadlines for morning newspapers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wound up treating the president’s death as a second-day news story on the front page of its Nov. 23 editions. “Kennedy Is Slain, Johnson Sworn In,” it announced. The newspaper published a large picture of the late president edged in black.
Inside the newspaper was a stark one-page announcement from local department stores Gimbels, Horne’s and Kaufmann’s. It read: “With a shocked and grieving nation, we mourn the tragic loss of John F. Kennedy …”
The now famous photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald’s killing dominated the front page of the Nov. 25 Post-Gazette. Above the picture were two headlines: “Kennedy’s Body Is Taken To Capitol” and “Oswald Slain In Jail Shift.”
On its Monday, Nov. 25 edition, The Pittsburgh Press headline read, “Nation Lays Kennedy to Rest.”
While that statement was true, many Americans remain fascinated by events of that era despite the passage of a half-century. Many of us will pause, on this 50th anniversary, to remember JFK, a leader whose promise was unfulfilled because of violence.