Remembering JFK: 50 years later


Nov. 22, 1963 – nearly every man, woman and child knows what happened on that day. It is the day America lost a president, Caroline and John-John Kennedy lost a father, and Jacqueline Kennedy lost a husband. For everyone in the U.S., whether they were alive that day or not, John Fitzgerald Kennedy means something significant.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. As you have walked into stores, malls or other places that sell books, tabloids and newspapers, you have probably seen the face of the young, handsome and vibrant man.

Many history enthusiasts, as well as others, have a Kennedy fascination. There were so many questions left unanswered after assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was killed, 48 hours after the assassination, by a strip club owner named Jack Ruby.

Kennedy was only 46 years old when he died, but in his short lifetime he impacted a great many lives, and the very course of the country. Many question Kennedy’s morals and political tactics, but he was still our president, and his life was cut tragically short. Kennedy captures the interests of many at Franciscan University of Steubenville since he was the nation’s first, and only, Catholic president. Many Franciscan professors and faculty members were young children when they saw the president pronounced dead by CBS’s Walter Cronkite. The same generation, only a few years later, would witness the assassinations of Robert Francis Kennedy, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Franciscan professor Thomas Wilson, JD, in his American State and Local Government class, shared how he met John F. Kennedy in 1960. Then-senator Kennedy was campaigning and decided to make a stop in the Ohio Valley since he was up for election in the West Virginia Primary. Kennedy was scheduled to stop at the Weirton Community Center.

Wilson and his family waited with their cousin, a police officer, who was initially stationed at the front of the community center, but was later ordered to wait at the back entrance. This shift upset the Wilsons because they had been among the first at the front of the building and now found themselves in the back, where it likely would be difficult to see Kennedy.

Suddenly the back door opened and a limousine pulled up. The Secret Service men opened the door and out walked a bright, young John F. Kennedy. With his famous Boston accent, Kennedy greeted the Wilsons and posed for photos with them. To this day, Wilson has kept the picture he took with Kennedy in 1960, when Wilson was only 10 years old.

Regardless of your age at the time or whether you were even alive for the assassination, Kennedy remains an influential figure. Today, Americans still remember the traumatic event of his death. When Kennedy was assassinated, the American people lost a young leader who was heading for even bigger things.

If you are interested in learning more about Kennedy’s assassination, check local TV channels, many of which are running specials all month. Also, Friday, Nov.22, NBC will present a two-hour special titled, “Where Were You: The Day JFK Died,” hosted by Tom Brokaw.

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