JFK assassination relived in newspapers

By David Stevens

About a year-and-a-half ago, Doreen Mondragon of Clovis said she found a stack of old newspapers in the trash behind her apartment.
Last month, she brought those papers to this newspaper office in hopes someone might care to keep them.
Arrangements have been made to pass them along to Curry County historian Don McAlavy.
The papers Mondragon found included several from Clovis High School during the 1959-60 school year. Last week in this space, some of that news was re-reported.
The other papers Mondragon found were from Nov. 22-27, 1963 — the week John Kennedy was assassinated.
The headlines in the Nov. 22, 1963, “Special Edition” of the Clovis News Journal included: “Kennedy is dead,” “Assassin’s bullets end his life,” and “Gov. Connally wounded as he rides with president.”
The evening paper was published just hours after Kennedy died. The front page included four United Press International stories related to the president’s death and three stories from the CNJ staff.
The lead story began:
“DALLAS (UPI) — President Kennedy has been assassinated.
“A single shot through the right temple took the life of the 46-year-old Chief Executive. He was shot as he rode in an open car in downtown Dallas, waving and smiling to a crowd of 250,000.
“Vice President Lyndon Johnson — the nation’s new President – was in the same cavalcade but a number of car lengths behind. He was not hurt.
“Terribly shocked Johnson, who has a record of heart illness, was whisked off under heavy guard to be sworn in as quickly as possible as the 36th president of the United States.
“Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy was riding in the same car with her husband. She was not hurt. She cradled her husband’s head in her arms as he was sped, dying, to the hospital.”
One front-page story included reaction from Clovis-area ministers.
“No statement would be adequate,” said Rev. R. L. Willingham, pastor of First Methodist Church. “All I can say is God have mercy on us all and keep and bless the president’s family.”
One photo included President and Mrs. Kennedy boarding a plane headed for Texas. The photo was taken about 24 hours before Kennedy was shot.
The day’s top news, prior to the assassination, would likely have been Clovis High School’s band trip to Los Angeles.
Three different band stories were published in the Nov. 22, 1963, paper.
“Clovis Wildcat Marching Band, which (Norvil) Howell has directed since 1956, is recognized as one of the best high school bands in the Southwest — and possibly in the country,” the reporter wrote.
Other items of note:
• The paper cost 10 cents (daily or Sunday) and included 12 pages.
• An advertisement invited readers to Marshall Junior High’s auditorium for “The finest big game hunting and wildlife movies from Alaska.”
• The top sports story was a preview to a high school football game in which Clovis was scheduled to host Alamogordo in the season finale for two teams that did not qualify for the playoffs. While many college and professional sports events were canceled because of the assassination, most area high school games were played as scheduled.

From the Editor’s Desk is a weekly memo to CNJ readers. David Stevens can be reached at 763-6991, extension 310, or by e-mail:
david_stevens@link.freedom.com