By Darrell Todd Maurina
Terry Cone was sitting in his business class as a junior at Eastern New Mexico University on Nov. 22, 1963.
He doesn’t remember much of what the teacher said that day, but he remembers vividly what someone else came to the classroom to say.
“They came in and made the announcement during class that President Kennedy had been shot,” said Cone, who is now chairman of the Roosevelt County Democratic Party. “We were all stunned and went over to the student union building … to watch it on TV.”
Cone said he couldn’t believe the events of the next week as the news media covered first the assassination of Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald and then the killing of Oswald by Jack Ruby.
Longtime Clovis businessman E.O. “Doc” Stewart said the news of the assassination was a shock — not just because the president had been killed, but also because it occurred in a part of the country believed to be safe.
“It was absolutely devastating to me, as well as my wife and the rest of my family, that something like that could happen in Dallas, Texas, of all places,” Stewart said.
The location was also a painful surprise for Homer Tankersley, who had moved to Clovis from Dallas only four years earlier and was just beginning his men’s clothing business in downtown Clovis.
“It was a terrible thing for it to occur; Dallas is my hometown and therefore I was saddened even more,” Tankersley said.
“I wasn’t particularly a Kennedy man, but that’s no reason to take a man’s life for a political assassination. I think it’s a shame that we’ve come to the point that if you don’t like a certain figure in politics that you have to go to the extent of murder to get rid of them.”
Tankersley noted that the Kennedy assassination was only the first of a number of similar assassinations and attempted assassinations of political figures.
“Thinking of things like the assassination of President Kennedy, unless our country turns back to Jesus and recognizes him as God, we will continue to have these kinds of things happen throughout the world,” Tankersley said.
For Rev. Terry Martin, pastor of Triangle Baptist Church, the assassination was a wake-up call to the seriousness of political divisions in America. Martin was in fifth grade at Lincoln-Jackson Elementary School when the announcement of Kennedy’s assassination came over the intercom system.
“Basically we looked up on (Kennedy) as a symbol of freedom that we can be all that we can be,” Martin said. “The assassination made me realize what politics were and the different parties and the hate not just for black Americans but for anyone who stands for democracy.”
Martin said Kennedy’s death galvanized many black Americans to enter politics rather than retreating out of fear. Although Kennedy was white he had supported many civil rights goals, and his death showed civil rights advocates that even those at the highest posts of government could become targets.
“The effect more or less made us stronger as far as trying to accomplish life goals,” Martin said. “I believe it made me a stronger man as far as being a black American, knowing that we do count.”