3 Knoxville residents remember John F. Kennedy's assassination

3 Knoxville residents remember John F. Kennedy's assassination

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"We had been studying the presidency that day. We were scheduled to talk about a smooth transfer of power for any government," teacher Jean Payne said. "We had been studying the presidency that day. We were scheduled to talk about a smooth transfer of power for any government," teacher Jean Payne said.
"The school nurse came in and said, 'President Kennedy has been assassinated.' It was shocking," said Robert Booker. "The school nurse came in and said, 'President Kennedy has been assassinated.' It was shocking," said Robert Booker.
"But Kennedy, a skeptical historian would argue, was a much more inspirational, compelling figure in some ways after he died," said Dr. Dan Feller. "But Kennedy, a skeptical historian would argue, was a much more inspirational, compelling figure in some ways after he died," said Dr. Dan Feller.

By DON DARE
6 News Reporter

KNOXIVLLE (WATE) - Friday marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

About three-quarters of Americans either weren't born when Kennedy was shot, or were too young to grasp what happened, but three Knoxville residents told 6 News they remember exactly what they were doing the day Kennedy died.   

Thousands of people had crowded the streets of Dallas on November 22, 1963 to get a glimpse of President Kennedy and his wife who had come to Texas for a pre-election campaign swing.

At nearly 12:30 local time, as the open top limousine reached Dealey Plaza, three shots were fired, two hitting the president.

Within moments of the shooting, afternoon television programming was interrupted.

Back in Dallas at Parkland Hospital, the scene was chaotic. Was the president dead or alive? Then, the somber news broke that the president had been killed.

"I remember I was teaching at central, I had Civics classes," said Jean Payne.

"Will never forget it. I was teaching French at Howard High School in Chattanooga," said Robert Booker.

Knoxville historian and civil rights activist Robert Booker and retired city of Knoxville teacher Jean Payne remember that day as if were yesterday.

"Verdell Nicely, who was the assistant principal, called me and said, 'Jean, come in here quickly.' And he looked at me and he said, the president has been shot," recalled Payne.

She taught Civics at Central High School and recalls that Friday afternoon in detail.

"We had been studying the presidency that day. We were scheduled to talk about a smooth transfer of power for any government," she said.

"The school nurse came in and said, 'President Kennedy has been assassinated.' It was shocking," said Booker.

The entire nation was shocked by Kennedy's death.

"He was this strapping, handsome figure that all the ladies admired. And we thought who had a new vision for the country," said Booker.

Booker was jailed in 1961 for trying to buy a ticket at the Tennessee Theatre. He would go on to become the first African American Tennessee state representative from Knox County since reconstruction.

However, he recalls the Kennedy administration moving slowly on civil rights.

"He never had a chance to do much. His heart may have been in the right place, but he had just begun to move in the right direction," he said.

"We remember the golden promise," said Dr. Dan Feller.

At the University of Tennessee, presidential historian Dr. Dan Feller directs the papers of Andrew Jackson project. He was in junior high school in 1963 and remembers JFK as being bigger than life.       

"But Kennedy, a skeptical historian would argue, was a much more inspirational, compelling figure in some ways after he died," said Dr. Feller. "So, we are left to dream about all that Jack Kennedy might have accomplished."

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