ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – In a candid account Friday, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, described his memories of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago.
Clay was a second-grade student at St. Francis Xavier school in midtown St. Louis on November 22, 1963.
“I was a second grader who loved school and was just getting excited about the bigger world around me,” Clay recalled. “About 1pm, our principal, Sister John the Baptist, came on the PA system to tell us the terrible news…the President was dead, struck down by an assassin.”
Classes at St. Francis Xavier were dismissed early that afternoon and Clay rode home on the Delmar streetcar with his sister.
“We were glued to to the television and it was as if the whole world had stopped,” he said.Clay’s father Bill Clay, who would go on to be a U.S. congressman, was a St. Louis alderman at the time and had recently led anti-segregation protests at Jefferson Bank, an effort that landed him in jail.
“At dinner that night, my Dad got up and excused himself from the table. That was the first time that I ever saw him cry,” the younger Clay recalls. “I could not know then, what I know now. My Dad’s tears were not just for the death of one good man, he cried for what we lost as a nation.”
Clay remembers Kennedy as a man who inspired a generation to believe public service was both honorable and necessary. The seeds he planted, according to the congressman, led President Lyndon Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
“So while we remember all that we lost on that terrible day in Dallas, let us also give thanks for President Kennedy’s incredible vision, his courage, his unbounded optimism and his belief that freedom and justice are worth fighting for. They still are.”