ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – Fifty years ago today, our nation was shocked. A beloved, energetic, young president was fatally shot by a sniper before thousands while traveling in a presidential motorcade.
His death marked a significant turning point for the naive country and has forever changed those who witnessed the event.
Among those in the sea of people crowded between buildings 42 and 1 on that sunny fall afternoon was then-23-year-old Robert Potthoff.
“It was a big deal to see him because, you know, he was just an electric-type guy,” Potthoff said.
Potthoff got to see President John F. Kennedy 14 months before the assassination, when he spoke at the McDonnell Aircraft Company in Hazelwood, where engineers and mechanics were building the Phantom fighter jet and the first two American spacecraft, the Mercury and Gemini capsules. Listen to that speech HERE.
“I guess if it wouldn’t have been for him, we probably wouldn’t have had a space system like we had at that time,” he said.
St. Louisan Don Musick has an extra reason to remember November 22nd, 1963 — he turned 11 years old that day. “I was supposed to have a birthday party that Friday evening with all the kids from my class.”
“We came home and I had three Jesuit priests in my family and all three came to dinner that night with several other Jesuits. We prayed for the country and for the Kennedy family,” Musick recalls.
Nearly every person in America can tell you where they were when they heard the news.
At just 6-years-old Mayor Francis Slay remembers, “I was in my third-grade class, sitting up front, and the teacher – a nun at the time, Sister Julianne – left the room and came back with a television and she was crying uncontrollably.”
While other educators handle the situation differently.
“The professor walked out and he said ‘history has been made’ and he said ‘class dismissed.’ In those days there weren’t televisions everywhere so we all went back to our dorms,” Irene Taich a freshman at Ohio State University in 1963 said.
But no matter how you learned of the news, President Kennedy’s life and death changed the nation.
After the assassination, Sparta, Illinois native, retired teacher, and author Ed DeRousse wanted Kennedy’s 1955 book “Profiles in Courage.”
“That was one of the first books that I think I ever bought. I read it from page one to the very last page and really enjoyed it. I was really impacted by what he and the people in that book did.”
What DeRousse did was become an educator, inspired by President Kennedy to make a different in the world.
St. Louis Chief of Police Sam Dotson says now the partnership between Secret Service and local police begins more than a week prior to the president’s visit.
Adding, “I don’t think we can afford to take anything for granted and while I think 99.999 percent of the people mean no harm, there’s always the opportunity or the chance that someone will have an ax to grind, an issue they want to press.”
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, KMOX pays tribute to JFK with this audio slideshow featuring clips of some of his famous speeches and sound bites from the news coverage of his death.
More JFK Coverage:
- Watch CBS News Coverage
- PHOTOS: President Obama At Kennedy’s Grave Site
- PHOTOS: JFK Archive Photos
- Mayor Slay, Chief Dotson On Kennedy’s Impact On St. Louis
Additional Coverage from CBS Dallas: