Like everyone in America at the time, I remember vividly where I was on Nov. 22, 1963, when I heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas.I was 11, it was a school day, and I had ridden my bike home for lunch in Roswell, N.M. When I got there, my mom and dad were watching Walter Cronkite.The Star-Telegram is planning extensive coverage as the 50th anniversary of that terrible day approaches, and it kicks off with a special keepsake edition that we’ll be delivering to subscribers in a sealed plastic bag Oct. 9.We’re going to reproduce much of the Star-Telegram’s coverage from those four historic days, Nov. 22-25, 1963, just as it was presented then. The pages are exact reproductions of pages from the period, all in black and white.If you want extra copies, they will be available for $2.95 each at select single-copy locations inside stores.For this project, the first challenge we had was to find copies from that era that we could reproduce. Unlike newspaper pages that today are archived electronically and are pristine, we had to use versions that in some instances are a little fuzzy and not as sharp as today’s readers are used to.Then we had to find a press to print the pages on. Newspaper pages have shrunk over the years, and our presses today are not set up to print the wide pages that existed in the 1960s. .The Star-Telegram printed both morning and and evening editions in those days, and the keepsake section starts off with two pages from the evening edition — KENNEDY SLAIN, CONNALLY ALSO HIT. Jerry Flemmons, acknowledged as the best writer to ever work at the paper, wrote the lead story, and it’s pretty amazing in the detail it provides. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m., which is just about the time the presses were supposed to start in order to get the papers printed and to subscribers before 5 p.m. They obviously pushed the deadline back a little that day, but it’s still pretty impressive work by the Star-Telegram staff to produce what they did in such a short time.There’s a picture on the front page of Jackie Kennedy up on the back of the limousine with a Secret Service agent hanging on the bumper. Gov. John Connally is quoted as saying all the shots “came from behind’’ — ruining a favorite conspiracy theory that someone was shooting from the grassy knoll in front as well.Next we feature a couple of pages from that morning’s edition, which had a much cheerier headline — WELCOME, MR. PRESIDENT! — set against a shot of Fort Worth’s night skyline.The Saturday morning paper focused on Lee Harvey Oswald, arrested for the assassination. On Page Two that day was a story from Star-Telegram reporter Bob Schieffer, who later went on to fame with CBS News.Schieffer answered the phone at the city desk that day and a woman asked for a ride to Dallas. “Lady, don’t you know the president’s been shot? We don’t run a taxi service here,’’ Schieffer told her.The answer she gave surprised him. “I know. I think my son did it.’’Schieffer quickly agreed to take her to Dallas and got an exclusive interview with Oswald’s mother.On Sunday, Oswald was shot and killed in front of a national TV audience as millions watched. The Star-Telegram put out an “extra’’ that afternoon, and we scooped The Dallas Morning News with its own photo.For some reason the Star-Telegram had no photographer at the jail to record the transfer of Oswald. But the Dallas paper did, and it gave The Associated Press the copyrighted photo of Oswald being shot to send to other members to use. It was common practice in those days to “out’’ your competitors, or forbid them from using a photo, but somehow those instructions were left off the cutline by the AP that day and the Star-Telegram used it before Dallas went to press.
Jim Witt is executive editor of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7704 Twitter: @jimelvis