1960: The End of the World, 1963: the End of a Dream, a Long Goodbye & the Funeral

 This one is inspired by Keka's very first Huffington Post article: JFK: A Death in the Family. It's edited and rewritten from two of my Memories posts.

The End of the World:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy White House Portrait

As my old man “Mac” so eloquently summarized America’s 1960 Presidential election, “If Kennedy gets elected, this country gonna get taken over by Micks, Mafioso, spics and niggers and we’re all screwed! 

In order to understand the end of the world, you have to understand the paradox of the Indiana Republican in the first half of the 20th Century.  Back then Indiana Republicans weren’t just big city bankers and business folk who proudly belonged to the party of Lincoln, they were also farmers and small town store keepers many of whom were proud members of the Ku Klux Klan.  I don’t think my Mom and Dad or any of our grandparents actually joined the Klan, but I do know that they were all bigots and unafraid to express their prejudice.  That’s why we lived in Irving, Texas instead of Dallas where Dad’s office was located.  All the class photos from Paul Keyes elementary are completely white bread.

The disputed election of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (Daley stole Chicago for Kennedy and Johnson’s cronies just stole the whole Rio Grande Valley.) marked the end of the world as we knew it.  Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge were supposed to save us from this disaster, but Nixon blew the debates on TV and the fix was in.  We all went to bed not knowing who had won the election; but on the morning of November 9th after 5th grade recess, my friend Zach walked up to proudly announce to his “little Yankee Republican buddy” that Kennedy and Johnson had won.  Zach just wanted to gloat but when I burst out in tears, all he could do was look at me as if I was some man from Mars.

…1963 – the End of a Dream:


At his inauguration John F. Kennedy accepted the challenge of the presidency as a member of a “new generation” of Americans and he issued his own challenge to all Americans and every citizen of the world: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  He served for 1037 days and did the best he could as he saw it.  He was loved and hated for what he did and did not do; as well as for his personal style and how he served.  JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 pm CST on November 22, 1963.  He was shot once in the upper back and killed with a final shot to the head.  Taken to Parkland Hospital for emergency medical treatment, he was pronounced dead at 1:00 pm.  Those are the facts.


With confirmation from a report by Dan Rather , Walter Cronkite was the first to confirm the tragedy.  He was on the air talking about the police security for JFK’s visit to Dallas, “… the Dallas Police have been augmented by some 400 policemen called in on their day off because there were some fears and concerns in Dallas that, uh...that there might be demonstrations, at least, that could embarrass the President.  Because it was only on October 24 that our ambassador of the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, was assaulted in Dallas leaving a dinner meeting there…” then as an editor handed him a bulletin from the Associated Press, Cronkite stopped speaking, put on his eyeglasses, silently read the text, took off his glasses, and with a choked up voice said: From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: "President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time…2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”

…the Long Goodbye…:


Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of a Dallas police officer and eventually charged with the murder of President Kennedy.  At the time the assassination of the President of the USA was not a federal crime.  Oswald denied shooting anyone; but on November 24, while President Kennedy’s body lay in state at the U. S. Capitol Rotunda, Jack Ruby killed Oswald. 


Ruby was arrested and convicted for murder.  He appealed his conviction and death sentence but died of cancer on January 3, 1967, before the courts set the date for a new trial.  Those are the facts.

After Cronkite announced the death of Kennedy they sent us home from school early.  To be truthful I can’t remember much of the next three days.  Mom came home early and started dinner.  Dad came home and we ate.  Over the weekend we watched TV and on Sunday, November 24, we saw Jack Ruby step from the crowd in the police garage and shoot Oswald who died at 1:07 p.m. at Parkland Memorial Hospital where President Kennedy had died 48 hours before.

…and the Funeral

There were pictures of Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One, and on Monday we watched the state funeral.  At some point “Mac” made a bad joke about JFK and with tears in my eyes I angrily snapped back at him.  To my surprise, he was chastened.

Google image

Google image

Google image

Google image

In those years since his election portended “the end of the world,” I had formed my own opinion of this man.    I’d seen him take responsibility for the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba and deal with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit and during the Cuban Missile Crisis  and Berlin Wall.  In less than three years as President he’d pulled the world back from the brink of nuclear war, negotiated the Limited Test Ban Treaty, launched the Space Race and the Peace Corps, stood up for the Civil Rights Movement, and navigated America through the early stages of the Vietnam War.  As I saw him grow into the office of the Presidency, JFK did the best he could as he saw it; and now he and the dreams of that “new generation” of Americans had evaporated in a spray of blood on a sunny afternoon in Dallas, Texas.


Ascendant America was deeply divided in the election of 1960, but with the exception of Texas, Georgia and fewer than ten other states, the red and blue of the electoral map hasn’t changed that much in 2012.  Of over 68 million votes cast in 1960, the Kennedy-Johnson ticket won with a razor thin margin of 112,827.  In 1963 we were bound together in an unthinkable tragedy but that unity quickly faded.  It wasn’t the first or last tragedy of that violent era that we survived.  During the decades that followed, the Boomer generation experienced the end of the American Century and with some unexpected twists and turns the world has evolved into a new kind of balance.  Some say we’ve seen the end of the American Dream.  Perhaps that is true.  Perhaps that dream of a good paying 8-5 job and a ranch house purchased on the GI Bill in the suburbs with two cars in the garage is over; but no one can deny that we’ve come a long, long way since 1960.

Neither can anyone deny that there are still people today who are doing everything possible to reverse the equity of that hard won struggle.  We can only hope that our children and grandchildren will remember JFK’s challenge and that they will ask not what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country so that they may find some peace and sanity and complete their own journey to reshape a new American dream: A dream where they are judged, not by the color of their skin, or their religious beliefs, or who they love, or how much money they have; but by the content of their character.  In their own time and in their own way, I hope and believe that they will somehow manage to do just that.  I have to believe that, and I feel that Jack and Bobbie Kennedy, LBJ and Martin Luther King would most certainly share in that hope.


Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2013 JKM (apparently an ineffectual boilerplate joke?)

Views: 458

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on November 19, 2013 at 10:48am

Friday's gonna be a little tough.

Comment by Keka on November 19, 2013 at 12:16pm

I have to agree, Jonathan--it will be a tough day for many, this Friday. And this piece explains why, and more. The quote from "Mac" at the beginning of the piece sums up what my fears were back then. I was a little black girl watching a president take on George Wallace, go to the aid of MLK and try to pass a Civil Rights Act. But I knew there were people out there who were not happy about all this. And when he was killed, I devastated. In my young mind, it really was the end of the world. Wonderful and comprehensive piece, JMac!  How well I remember Cronkite losing it on the air--a first for him and TV news in general. But I was deeply moved and proud of him for it.

Comment by Lyle Elmgren on November 19, 2013 at 3:36pm

I have read and seen many many articles on the JFK era and his death. Somehow, I think the truth behind his assassination will never be  known.

I don't see much improvement in morality and unkindness over the last fifty years. Likely worse off.

Comment by Kathy Knechtges on November 19, 2013 at 6:17pm

We need to dream again. The country was still united by WWII, and there was more of a feeling of solidarity. We aren't perfect, but we need to feel proud again, and give up this defeatism.

Comment by Arthur James on November 20, 2013 at 3:12am


I listened @ Open Salon. You guys did research.

The Inaugural Address always makes me sigh.

The R.E.M lyrics causes me to sniff the air.

The italics are stuck on. Maybe comment

Get stuck? If so - Ill backtrack and try.

The italics are still stuck. Report FBI?

The last sentence ` Ask not what

your country can d for you. Ask

hat you can do for your country.

Right/Wrong or Naive - drafted.

I worried I'd not be able to get

back to America. 


I wrote about How I got into

Vietnam - @ Atlantic Free

Press - It might be there


lorianne & me Here

Why comment stuck?

Why not answer?

You fix my blog?


Comment by James Mark Emmerling on November 20, 2013 at 8:44am

I see what u mean about “the end of the world”…

Here’s a letter Ronald Reagan wrote to Nixon in 1960; “"Shouldn't someone tag Mr. Kennedy's 'bold new imaginative program' with its proper age Under the tousled boyish haircut it is still old Karl Marx—first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his state 'State Socialism', and way before him it was 'benevolent monarchy'."


A lot of JFK’s presidency was illusion, we now know. But a new generation did arise. And fought the entrenched powers-that-be, and…won. America 2013 is a radically better country...

Sure there are some who want to return us to pre-diluvial times, but there are always gonna be those kinda people. They inevitably fail.The great philosopher  Whitehead summed it up well. “A race preserves its vigour so long as it harbours a real contrast between what has been and what may be, and so long as it is nerved by the vigour to adventure beyond the safeties of the past. Without adventure, civilization is in full decay.”


A great JFK quote:



For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us—recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state—our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:
First, were we truly men of courage— Secondly, were we truly men of judgment—with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past—of our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others—with enough wisdom to know what we did not know and enough candor to admit it?
Third, were we truly men of integrity—men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in us—men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?
Finally, were we truly men of dedication— 

Comment by Rosigami on November 20, 2013 at 12:27pm

This event marked the beginning of my awareness that the world outside my home and school was a real place that affected me in bigger ways than I had ever realized. I was 8 years old...
Thoughtful and well-written, JMac. 

Comment by John Manchester on November 22, 2013 at 8:01am

Well done. A sad day.


You need to be a member of Our Salon to add comments!

Join Our Salon


Where Jaws was Filmed

Posted by J.P. Hart on June 18, 2019 at 11:19am 0 Comments

I’m Not A Buddhist

Posted by Robert B. James on June 18, 2019 at 7:42am 1 Comment

2 Questions for Kosh and Jon

Posted by Ron Powell on June 18, 2019 at 2:30am 2 Comments

Greeting of the Day

Posted by Ron Powell on June 16, 2019 at 10:08am 0 Comments

Go Big or Go Home

Posted by Ron Powell on June 16, 2019 at 9:30am 2 Comments

Waiting And Seeing

Posted by Robert B. James on June 16, 2019 at 7:29am 1 Comment

© 2019   Created by lorianne.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service