JFK, LBJ & Saying No to AuH2O

My Political Activism: Born Friday, 22 Nov, 1963, 12:30pm

My first political activity was during the 1964 presidential election. I was still in high school, too young to vote but old enough to drive voters to the polls in a farm and ranch community of 15,000 people. Technically, that was in aid of the Johnson campaign, but in reality it was an act of opposition against Barry Goldwater and his John Birch Society backers. “Impeach Earl Warren” was the “Lock Her Up” of its day. I knew little or nothing of LBJ at that age, except that he was from Texas and that his accent on TV made me ashamed to be from the same state. (Though I came to appreciate that he was actually a brilliant man, you only had to hear him drawl out “My fella Amerkuns” from behind the presidential podium to think, “OMG, who is this ignorant sob? We’re doomed!”)

No, my real commitment at the time was to do everything humanly possible to keep Goldwater far, far away from America’s nuclear arsenal. Unlike the present situation with Trump, the operation against Goldwater was successful. Here’s the nativity story behind that event.

After lunch on Friday, Nov 22, 1963, my friend and I returned to the Weatherford High School parking lot and were listening to my car radio (WFAA, WBAP? I no longer remember.), while intensely smoking cigarettes— dosing up for the coming four hours of nicotine deprivation that would end the school week. The special live radio coverage du juor was of the JFK motorcade in Dallas, forty miles to the east of my school. Except for some of the state’s numerous military installations, presidents just didn’t visit Texas very often in those days and JFK was popular in the then-Democratic state.

The station had a relay of newscasters strung out along the route, including the one in Dealey Plaza, across from the Texas Schoolbook Depository, for the end of the formal motorcade. This newscaster was filling airtime with an account of JFK’s speaking engagement, which was to immediately follow, when the motorcade came into view. Naturally he began hyping up the crowd’s excited reaction. Then everything changed…what turned out to be gunshots — smoothly dismissed at first as a car backfiring — were audible on the radio. Then the announcer lost his spiel. He was stunned. Seconds of open-mic, on-air confusion passed, followed by his obviously worried report that “something had happened.”

Then — after additional broadcast confusion —though still-audibly-shaken, he was back on the air in his professional persona to report the Secret Service leaping onto the limo and it subsequently speeding away, flanked by Dallas PD motorcycles. Then came a speculative report that the presidential limo was headed toward Parkland Memorial Hospital.

The outdoor bell for the first afternoon class rang at that point and my friend and I — stunned & confused by what we had just heard — shut off the radio and went to class. A few minutes later, the school PA announced that the president had been shot and that we were to all remain calm — and pray — as the president was “receiving treatment” in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital…later still, the President’s death was confirmed & all classes were dismissed.

The following Sunday, while awaiting lunch at my girlfriend’s house, I saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald on live local TV. Then, quite a while later, I coincidentally happened to pass Dealey Plaza (going the opposite direction of the motorcade) on a trip to Dallas right at the time the Warren Commission was doing on-site investigation. Oswald’s Carcano rifle, among other things, could be seen in the sixth floor window. Along the street below, amidst surveyor’s transits, cameras & much else, the Lincoln convertible was being inched along paint markings on the pavement. Chief Justice Earl Warren was seated in what had been JFK’s seat.