Reactions to the assassination of John F. Kennedy
The first hour after the shooting, before Kennedy's death was announced, was a time of great confusion. Taking place during the Cold War, it was at first unclear whether the shooting might be part of a larger attack upon the U.S., and whether Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been riding two cars behind in the motorcade, was safe.
The news shocked the nation. Many people wept openly. Many gathered in public places to watch the television coverage. Traffic in some areas came to a halt as the news spread from car to car, even gathering around cars to listen to radio reports. Schools across the U.S. dismissed their students early. Misplaced anger against Texas and Texans was reported from some individuals. Various Cleveland Browns fans, for example, carried signs at the next Sunday's home game against the Dallas Cowboys decrying the city of Dallas as having "killed the president."
However, there were also instances of Kennedy's opponents cheering the assassination. A journalist reported rejoicing in the streets of Amarillo, with a woman crying out, "Hey, great, JFK’s croaked!"
The event left a lasting impression on many worldwide. As with the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor before it and the September 11 attacks after it, asking "Where were you when you heard about President Kennedy's assassination" would become a common topic of discussion.
In the United States, Kennedy's assassination dissolved differences among many people as they were brought together in one common theme: shock and sorrow after the assassination. It was seen in statements by the former presidents and members of Congress, etc. The news was so shocking and hit with such impact; according to the Nielsen Audimeter Service, within 40 minutes of the first reporting of the assassination, the television audience doubled, by early evening, 70% were at their television sets.
CBS Washington correspondent Roger Mudd summed it up: "It was a death that touched everyone instantly and directly; rare was the person who did not cry that long weekend. In our home, as my wife (E.J.) watched the television, her tears caused our five-year-old son, Daniel, to go quietly and switch off of what he thought was the cause of his mother's weeping."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had been up 3.31 points (0.5%) for the day, at the moment shots were fired at Kennedy. 40 minutes later, as news of Kennedy's death was breaking, it had already plunged 21.16 points (-2.8%), on very heavy trading volume. With the stock exchange already running 20 minutes behind floor transactions, the Board of Governors of the NYSE announced that they had closed orders for the day. AMEX and commodities exchanges quickly followed.
The first trading day after the assassination, November 26, market averages rebounded sharply, recording the largest gains for any single day in history, and the fourth highest single day trading volume in NYSE history to that point.
After Kennedy's assassination, many world leaders expressed shock and sorrow, some going on television and radio to address their nations. In countries around the world, state premiers and governors and mayors also issued messages expressing shock over the assassination. Many of them wondered if the new president, Lyndon Johnson, would carry on many of Kennedy's policies. LBJ and the world would sympathize from the "concern etched on Mr. Johnson's face."
In many countries, radio and television networks, after breaking the news, either went off the air except for funeral music or broke schedules to carry uninterrupted news of the assassination, and if Kennedy had made a visit to that country, recalled that visit in detail. For example, in London, there were reports that the BBC Television Service and the Independent Television Authority in London suspended their regular programs upon breaking the news. In several nations, monarchs ordered the royal family into days of mourning. Fidel Castro announced Cuba mourned Kennedy.
At U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, switchboards lit up and were flooded with phone calls. At many of them, shocked personnel let telephones go unanswered. They later opened up condolence books for people to sign. In Europe, the assassination tempered Cold War sentiment, as people on both sides expressed shock and sorrow.
News of Kennedy's assassination reached Asia during the early morning hours of November 23, 1963, because of the time difference. In Japan, the news became the first television broadcast from the United States to Japan via the Relay 1 satellite, instead of a prerecorded message from Kennedy to the Japanese people. (Back in the U.S. where it was still November 22, the cancelled broadcast of Kennedy's message was shown on NBC-TV's Huntley-Brinkley Report).
Hostile reactions to the late President Kennedy were registered from far right elements.
In the South, where Kennedy wasn't popular because of his position on civil rights, some isolated incidents occurred, where some expressed joy to the death of Kennedy: schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and suburbs of Dallas itself.
President of the Memphis Citizens Council Richard Ely told the Nashville White Citizens Council that "I firmly believe Mr. Kennedy died a tyrant's death. He did not set back communism. He encouraged integration, which has the support of communism. He was a tyrant", causing half of the room, some were Peabody College professors, to leave after they unsuccessfully demanded Ely to provide evidence for his claims. In Biloxi, Mississippi, student Thomas Hansen was thrown across the front glass door after protesting against the banners of celebration of the local section of the John Birch Society before being hit with ultimately abandoned charges of vandalism.
As written by William Manchester in Death of a President:
An Oklahoma City physician beamed at a grief-stricken visitor and said, "Good, I hope they got Jackie." In a small Connecticut city a doctor called ecstatically across Main Street — to an internist who worshiped Kennedy — "The joy ride's over. This is one deal Papa Joe can't fix." A woman visiting Amarillo, the second most radical city in Texas, was lunching in the restaurant adjacent to her motel when a score of rejoicing students burst in from a high school directly across the street. "Hey, great, JFK's croaked!" one shouted with flagrant delight, and the woman, leaving as rapidly as she could, noticed that several diners were smiling back at the boy. In Dallas itself a man whooped and tossed his expensive Stetson in the air, and it was in a wealthy Dallas suburb that the pupils of a fourth-grade class, told that the President of the United States had been murdered in their city, burst into spontaneous applause.
On December 1, after Malcolm X made a speech, reporters asked him for a comment about the assassination of President Kennedy. The spokesman for the Nation of Islam said that it was a case of "chickens coming home to roost" and added that "chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they've always made me glad." The New York Times wrote, "in further criticism of Mr. Kennedy, the Muslim leader cited the murders of Patrice Lumumba, Congo leader, of Medgar Evers, civil rights leader, and of the Negro girls bombed earlier this year in a Birmingham church. These, he said, were instances of other 'chickens coming home to roost'." The newspaper noted that his comments were greeted by "loud applause and laughter" from the all-black audience, although it quoted an unnamed audience member who told a reporter he applauded Malcolm X's remarks "more for the fact that he had the nerve to say it than that I really approved of it".
Hastily organized memorial services for Kennedy were held throughout the world, allowing many to express their grief. Governments ordered flags to half-staff and days of mourning. A day of national mourning and sorrow was declared in the U.S. for Monday, November 25, the day of the state funeral. Several other countries such as Ireland did the same. Throughout the United States, many states declared the day of the funeral a legal holiday.
Not all recreational and sporting events scheduled for November 22 and during the weekend after were canceled. Those that went on shared the sentiment NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle expressed in deciding to play NFL games that weekend: "It has been traditional...to perform in times of great personal tragedy." After their win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia, players on the Washington Redskins asked Coach Bill McPeak to send the game ball to the White House, thanking Rozelle for allowing the games to be played that weekend, saying that they were "playing...for President Kennedy and in his memory."
Mourning during the funeral
On the day of Kennedy's funeral, November 25, 1963, people around the world attended memorial services. This was a day of national mourning in the United States and in many countries around the world. Events were called off because of the mourning. Town streets were deserted while services were held. Everyone who could followed the proceedings on television. Others heeded the call for the day of national mourning by going to their place of worship for a memorial service. Around the world, footage of the funeral procession was sent abroad via satellite. Many schools, offices, stores, and factories in the U.S. were closed. Those that were open scheduled a minute of silence. Others permitted employees time off to attend memorial services. During memorial services, church bells tolled. In some cities police officers attached black mourning bands to their badges.
In many states, governors declared the day of national mourning a legal holiday, allowing banks to close. There was silence across the United States at 12:00 EST (17:00 UTC) for five minutes to mark the start of the funeral.
Early example of breaking news
The somber mood across the U.S. during the weekend following Kennedy's death was evident on the broadcast airwaves. The assassination of President Kennedy was the longest uninterrupted news event in the history of American television until the September 11 attacks. By 3 p.m. (EST) on November 22, nearly every television station canceled their commercial schedules to stay with around-the-clock news coverage provided by the three U.S. television networks in 1963: ABC, CBS, and NBC. From 3 p.m. that day until November 26, all network entertainment and commercial programming ceased on U.S. television, and as such, this coverage was one of the earliest examples of what modern television viewers commonly known as a breaking news event. Overnights included taped footage of earlier news mixed with a few breaking news items. On Sunday night, NBC broadcast continuous live coverage of mourners passing the flag-draped bier in the Capitol rotunda as an estimated 250,000 people filed by. On November 24, a concert performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2, with Leonard Bernstein conducting, was telecast by CBS. Near the end of NBC's coverage of the assassination and funeral, which ended past 1:00 a.m. ET, November 26, the network broadcast a live special post-midnight concert by the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the director, Dr. Howard Mitchell, at Constitution Hall. Many radio stations – even many Top 40 rock and roll outlets – also went commercial-free, with many non-network stations playing nothing but classical and/or easy listening instrumental selections interspersed with news bulletins. (It has been reported, though, that some stations, such as WAPE in Jacksonville, Florida, and other stations in parts of the country where Kennedy was unpopular carried on with their normal programming as usual.) Most stations did return to normal programming on the day after the funeral.
Tributes to Kennedy abounded in the months following his assassination, particularly in the world of recordings. Many individual radio stations released album compilations of their news coverage of the president's murder; ABC News released a two-LP set of its radio news coverage. Major record labels also released tribute albums; at one point there were at least six Kennedy tribute albums available for purchase in record stores, with the most popular being Dickie Goodman's John Fitzgerald Kennedy: The Presidential Years 1960–1963 (20th Century 3127), which climbed to number eight on the Billboard album chart and stood as the biggest-selling tribute album of all time until the double-CD tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales thirty-four years later.
Two days after the assassination (and one day before the funeral), a special live television program titled A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts was broadcast by ABC on network television. The program featured dramatic readings from such actors as Christopher Plummer, Sidney Blackmer, Florence Eldridge, Albert Finney, and Charlton Heston, as well as musical selections performed by such artists as Marian Anderson. Actor Fredric March (Eldridge's real-life husband) hosted the program. Plummer and Finney performed Hamlet's dying speech (I am dead, Horatio) with Finney taking the role of Horatio. The program has never been repeated, nor has it ever been released on video in any form.
Perhaps the most successful Kennedy tribute song released in the months after his assassination (although later hit songs such as "Abraham, Martin and John" and "We Didn't Start the Fire" also referenced the tragedy) was the controversial "In the Summer of His Years", introduced by British singer Millicent Martin on a special edition of the BBC-TV comedy series That Was the Week That Was, conceived as a somber and respectful tribute to Kennedy. Martin recorded the song soon afterward, and though it was not deemed suitable for single release in the U.K., it was released in the U.S. and "Bubbled Under" the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at No. 104. A cover version by Connie Francis climbed the Hot 100 chart to number 46 in early 1964 despite being banned by a number of major-market radio stations who felt that capitalizing on a national tragedy was in poor taste. Other versions of the song were recorded by Toni Arden, Kate Smith, Bobby Rydell, and gospel legend Mahalia Jackson.
Phil Spector's Christmas album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, was pulled from store shelves at Spector's request, having sold terribly since the public was not in the mood for cheery holiday music; it was put back for sale for the 1964 season but did not chart until 1972.
Also in Britain (where the publishers of "In the Summer of His Years" refused to allow the song a single release by any British artist), Joe Meek, composer of The Tornado(e)s' hit "Telstar", released an instrumental titled "The Kennedy March" on Decca Records, with royalties marked to be sent to Jacqueline Kennedy for her to donate to charity. The Briarwood Singers "Bubbled Under" the Billboard singles chart in December 1963 with a recording of the traditional folk song "He Was a Friend of Mine", which was later recorded (with new lyrics written specially by Jim McGuinn) in 1965 by the popular American band, The Byrds, on their second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!. In 1964, songwriter William Spivery penned "Mr. John," which became popular in the midwestern United States. Topical folksinger Phil Ochs paid tribute to Kennedy in his song, "That Was the President", written shortly after the assassination, and again two years later in his masterpiece "Crucifixion", connecting Kennedy and Christ.
- United Press International & American Heritage Magazine 1964, pp. 43, 48–49
- Associated Press 1963, p. 16
- Associated Press 1963, p. 29
- Associated Press (November 25, 1963). "Browns Set Back Cowboys, 27 to 17". New York Times. p. 35.
- Loftus, Joseph A. (November 25, 1963). "Ruby is Regarded a 'Small-Timer'". New York Times. p. 12.
- Moser, Bob (2010-08-04). "Welcome to Texas, Mr. Obama". The Texas Observer. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Brinkley, David (2003). Brinkley's Beat. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40644-1.
- White 1965, p. 6
- Dinneen, Joseph F. (November 24, 1963). "A Shock Like Pearl Harbor". The Boston Globe. p. 10.
- "United in Remembrance, Divided over Policies". 1 September 2011.
- White 1965, pp. 6–7
- White 1965, p. 13
- Mudd, Roger (2008). The place to be: Washington, CBS, and the glory days of television news. New York: PublicAffairs. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-58648-576-4.
- UPI (1963-11-23). "Stock Markets Close on President's Death". Quad-City Times. p. 15. Retrieved 2018-05-23 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1963 Trading Volume Highest In History of Stock Exchange". The New York Times. 1964. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
- "World Leaders Voice Sympathy and Shock as Their Countries Mourn President". The New York Times. November 23, 1963. p. 8.
- United Press International & American Heritage Magazine 1964, pp. 46–47
- Moore, William (November 24, 1963). "Law Permits 2 Full Terms for Johnson". The Chicago Tribune. p. 7.
- Canadian Press (January 24, 1973). "LBJ Gets Commons Tributes". Winnipeg Free Press. p. 18.
- "Many Nations Share America's Grief". The New York Times. November 24, 1963. p. 6.
- NBC News 1966, pp. 20–21, 24, 28–31
- Adams, Val (November 23, 1963). "Networks Drop Regular Shows". The New York Times. p. 10.
- Daniel, Jean (December 7, 1963). "I Was With Fidel Castro When JFK Was Assassinated". New Republic. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Associated Press 1963, p. 47
- Associated Press 1963, p. 40
- Associated Press 1963, p. 49
- "Capitals of Asia Express Sorrow". New York Times. November 23, 1963. p. 12.
- Rothenberg, Fred (November 6, 1983). "Television Comes of Age in 70 Hours of Assassination Coverage". Associated Press.
- "Japan Sees U.S. TV by Relay Satellite". The New York Times. November 24, 1963. p. 14.
- Moser, Bob (2010-08-04). "Welcome to Texas, Mr. Obama". The Texas Observer. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Clark, Doug (November 21, 2013). "Doug Clark: Cheering at Mississippi school added to JFK assassination horror". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- "Reaction To JFK's Death Varied Across The U.S." WBNS-10TV. 2013-11-22. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- DeBerry, Jarvis (November 21, 2013). "Hatred of Catholics led some to cheer JFK's assassination: Jarvis DeBerry". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Sawyer, Jessica (November 21, 2013). "Alabamians recall mixed reactions to news of JFK's assassination". AL.com. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Owen, Walter (November 22, 2013). "In Dallas, Some Schoolchildren Cheered the Day J.F.K. Was Shot". The Hive. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- Buchanan, Thomas G. (1964). Who killed Kennedy. p. 15.
- McGill, Ralph (December 11, 1963). "President Johnson Is Committed". Fort Pierce News Tribune. p. 4. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
- Downes, Nathaniel. "John Birch Society – Original Tea Party Anti-American Group Had Role In Kennedy Assassination". AddictingInfo. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- Manchester, William (2013-10-08). The Death of a President: November 20-November 25, 1963. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316370721.
- "Malcolm X Scores U.S. and Kennedy". The New York Times. December 2, 1963. p. 21. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
- United Press International & American Heritage Magazine 1964, pp. 52–53
- Press, GREGORY KATZ Associated. "JFK death news sent 'wave of grief' around world".
- Clark, William (November 25, 1963). "Business Near Standstill to Pay Its Last Respects to President". The Chicago Tribune. p. C7.
- "Government Offices Closed by President". The Washington Post. November 24, 1963. p. A15.
- Brady, Dave (November 24, 1963). "It's Tradition To Carry on, Rozelle Says". The Washington Post. p. C2.
- Walsh, Jack (November 25, 1963). "Game Ball Going to White House". The Washington Post. p. A16.
- Associated Press (November 25, 1963). "Redskins Send Game Ball to White House". The Chicago Tribune. p. C4.
- "'A Sudden Extinction of a Shining Light'". Washington Post. November 26, 1963. p. A11.
- Associated Press (November 26, 1963). "Cities Throughout U.S. Pause for Tribute to Kennedy". The Washington Post. p. A4.
- Phillips, McCandlish (November 26, 1963). "Grieving People Flock to Kennedy Memorial Services Here and Across the Nation". The New York Times. p. 9.
- Reuters (November 26, 1963). "Telstar Carries Rites". The Chicago Tribune. p. 10.
- Ingalls, Leonard (November 25, 1963). "Business of City Will Halt Today". The New York Times. p. 1.
- Associated Press (November 26, 1963). "Philadelphia Police Mourn". The New York Times. p. 10.
- Apple Jr., R.W. (November 26, 1963). "New York Like a Vast Church". The New York Times. p. 1.
- Carter, Bill; Rutenberg, Jim (September 15, 2001). "Viewers Again Return To Traditional Networks". New York Times. p. A14.
Sometime around 9 a.m. yesterday a television milestone was reached: three broadcast networks had covered one news event for more consecutive hours than any previous event in American history. The terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon have truly become the story of a lifetime on television, surpassing even the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which no network covered for more than 70 consecutive hours. As of yesterday morning, CBS, NBC and ABC, the three networks at the time of Kennedy's assassination and funeral, had been on the air continuously, without commercial interruption, for 72 hours (though some affiliates continued to air regularly-scheduled local newscasts during that time).
- "A permanent record of what we watched on television from Nov. 22 to 25, 1963". TV Guide. 12 (4): 24–40. January 25, 1964.
- NBC News 1966, pp. 122–123
- "John F. Kennedy Memorial Concert (1963) (TV)" – via www.imdb.com.
- Associated Press (November 27, 1963). "National symphony Gives Concert for 'Neighbor'". The New York Times. p. 22.
- NBC News 1966, p. 158
- Adams, Val (November 24, 1963). "TV Will Continue a Sober Approach". The New York Times. p. 9.
- A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts on IMDb
- Grevatt, Ren (28 December 1963). "Those Kennedy Singles Show Lively Sales Despite Slough-Off By Disc Jockeys". Billboard: 3.
- "Music As Written". Billboard: 30–32. 21 December 1963.
- The following are among many works that discuss "Crucifixion" as an allegory about Kennedy and Christ:
- Brend, Mark (2001). American Troubadours: Groundbreaking Singer-Songwriters of the 60s. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 106. ISBN 0-87930-641-6.
- DeLeon, David (1994). Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 424. ISBN 0-313-27414-2.
- Harris, James F. (1993). Philosophy at 331⁄3 rpm: Themes of Classic Rock Music. Chicago: Open Court. p. 230. ISBN 0-8126-9241-1.
- Niemi, Robert (Winter 1993). "JFK as Jesus: The Politics of Myth in Phil Ochs' 'Crucifixion'". Journal of American Culture. 16 (4): 37, 39. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1993.00035.x.
- Schumacher, Michael (1996). There But for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs. New York: Hyperion. p. 110. ISBN 0-7868-6084-7.