LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — In the 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, facts surrounding the event have been debated and scrutinized, but that moment in Dallas will forever live on in the memories of so many who loved the young, charismatic president.
“I remember it well,” said Carolyn Lawson. “I was 18 years old, Rex and I got married in October and President Kennedy was killed in November. We were helping my parents work in tobacco when we heard the news. We were all devastated. And being a good Democrat made it more devastating.”
Although he lived and worked in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1963, Laurel native David Floyd remembers well the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot and later died.
“I was 26 years old and drove a truck for Sears and Roebuck out of Hamilton, but I was off work that day,” Floyd said. “I was married and my wife (Joyce) and I were at a shopping center getting groceries. We always left the radio on in the car so when we got in (and started the car), the radio was on and we heard it on the radio.”
Floyd recalled that the shooting of Kennedy had just happened and the couple rushed home to watch the TV news to learn more about what had occurred in Dallas that fateful afternoon.
“The people in the store didn’t even know about it. It had just happened. I couldn’t believe it,” Floyd said. “I guess we were in shock.”
Floyd said he and his wife, like the rest of the nation, watched the TV news almost constantly during the next few days.
“There really wasn’t much else on,” he said. “We watched Vice President Johnson get on the plane. I think they swore him in (as President) on the plane, and then we watched him get off the plane when they got back to Washington. It was a sad time.”
TV news broadcasts centered mostly on the tragic events from the assassination of President Kennedy, including his televised funeral — which Floyd and his wife also watched.
“We watched the kids following in the funeral procession and his wife and brothers and other family. We were pretty saddened by the whole thing. Even if you voted for him or not, we had lost a President. We just couldn’t believe that someone would do that.”
Floyd said he knew that another U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, had been assassinated because he was taught that in school. But the idea a second President had been killed by a sniper’s bullet was still unimaginable.
“We knew about Lincoln being shot, and we never thought we’d ever see it again, but we did,” he added. “We were all pretty saddened by it.”
To Billie Gilliam, it feels like only yesterday. When asked about President Kennedy, tears came into her eyes, even 50 years later.
“We were living in Florida at that time. I don’t recall what I was doing but I was devastated, as was the rest of the country. We all loved him.”