McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

November 24, 2013

McAlester looks back on the unforgettable day of a president's assassination

McALESTER — Fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy died following his assassination in Dallas, Texas.

For many of those who were old enough to remember at the time, the day when they first heard the news of the assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, is marked in their memory.

While the nation has been looking back on the events of a half-decade ago, here are the thoughts and recollections of some local and area residents who recall that day.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor

“I was in the eighth grade at McAlester Junior High School. It was between classes and I was walking down the hall to my next class. Ireta Roth (a classmate) came up to me and said President Kennedy has been shot. I got to my classroom. Mr. Stockton was my teacher. He was a retired Navy officer and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking.

“I went home. My parents were greatly moved by this. It may have been the first time there was 24 hours of TV.”

Justice Taylor also has a vivid memory of the events of two days later when Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of shooting the president, was himself shot.

“I recall precisely it was on a Sunday. My dad and I were watching TV. We see it live on TV as Jack Ruby shoots Oswald. I was sitting on the couch with my dad. It’s chiseled in my memory.

“I already had an intense interest in history and politics.

“I’m sitting here and it’s like it happened yesterday. It just moved the whole country. It moved me.”

Bob Sullivan, retired recording engineer

“I was living in Fort Worth. I was on the way from the house to do a session at Sumet studios in Dallas. I didn’t listen to the radio because of the traffic.

“At the studio, the musicians were tuning up. A secretary came down the hall and said the president had been shot. Everybody gasped. Then, Cronkite came on the TV and said the president was dead. That ended the session.”

Two days later, Sullivan watched on television as Oswald himself was shot and killed. When he learned who had shot Oswald, Sullivan felt a shot of recognition when he saw Jack Ruby on the TV screen.

“His real name was Jack Rubenstein. He had come by the studio one day with a guy making a record. He was a short little guy. He came in and sat in the control room. He just sat there and asked why it took so long to cut one song. He was beside himself because it took from two-and-half to three hours to record two songs.”

McAlester City Manager Pete Stasiak

“I was in Casper, Wyoming, in the fifth grade at St. Anthony’s Catholic School. I explicitly remember the nuns coming into our classroom and explaining that the president had been assassinated.

“It was very quiet. A lot of people were crying. About 30 minutes after it occurred, they took us to the gymnasium where we all tried to watch a little black and white TV.”

Stasiak said he still remembers that day, down to details of the chalk board and the windows in his classroom.

“I never thought anything would impact me so much.”

District 17  state Rep. Dr. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester

“I was standing along  Highway 82 in Cookson, Oklahoma. I was in the seventh grade and I was standing on the highway waiting for the OSU Extension Agent to pick me up to go see my pine tree project.

“My stepfather, Jack Payne, drove up to tell the president had been killed. Then, the OSU agent called and said he wasn’t going to be able to make it.

“I was numb. I didn’t think something like that could happen in the United States. We had Secret Service men and guys who rode on the car.”

Renegar added that his mother and step-father had been married for a relatively brief period of time.

“It was the first time I had ever seen my step-father cry, when he told me our president had been killed,” Renegar said.

That changed his attitude toward his stepfather, he said.

Retired banker, Liz Berry-Shaw

“I was attending OSU at the time. I had heard there was some shooting in Dallas. It didn’t enter your mind it could happen.

“Then, over the radio, here it came. Everybody at the campus stopped and got out of their cars. I remember looking across the campus. Everybody was sitting on the grass, staring.

“I remember how sad it was. It was devastating.

“He was the epitome of what we felt our president should be.”

Like many others, she’s amazed that something that happened five decades ago can be recalled so vividly today.

“That’s the part I can’t get. The 50 years have just flown.”

Primus Moore, retired educator

“I was at L’Ouverture in a typing class. I was a sophomore. There was an announcement the president had been shot.

“We were all in shock it had happened. We thought it was unbelievable, with what he was trying to do to end segregation and all that stuff. We couldn’t believe it would happen.”

Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Cathy Zukosky

“I was in grade school at Hartshorne. I knew something had happened.

“It scared me. I thought maybe something had happened to my mom or dad. It was still frightening when I figured out that the president of the United States had been shot.

McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison

“I was in the seventh grade at Monroe Junior High School in Tulsa. I remember watching the whole thing on TV for several days. We didn’t think something like that could happen.

“I remember having a big color picture of the president in my room.”

Miller Newman, president of the Pittsburg County Branch of the NAACP

“I was working for Hunt’s Department Store. I was in the stockroom, getting a shipment ready. Art Quadracci, who had the sporting goods department, came up an told me ‘The president has been shot.’ I stayed and watched TV most of the afternoon. Everybody was about in tears; many were.”

District 1 Pittsburg County Commissioner Gene Rogers

“I’d been working in Arkansas. I was driving home and pulling into my dad’s driveway. I remember it very well.

“It flabbergasted me. I couldn’t believe something like that would happen. I think he was a good guy. I think he was the best president in my lifetime. I think people like him and President Clinton cared about poor people.”

Like many others, Rogers says he will never forget the day he heard that President Kennedy had been shot and killed.

“It will always be in my mind.”

Contact James Beaty at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Rogers, Webber, ready for hearing on Webber's candidacy for District 1

    Former District 1 Pittsburg County Commissioner Bill Webber says he plans to be at the Pittsburg County Courthouse this week for a hearing to decide if he can run again for his former post.

    April 19, 2014

  • Council to consider city water plant's future: Karr to take Ward 4 seat

    City councilors are set to again consider letting a privately-owned company take over the operations of the McAlester Water Treatment Plant.
    It’s among the items on the agenda when the city council meets in regular session at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at City Hall.

    April 19, 2014

  • Powers: Good Friday, then and now

    Chris Powers, of First United Methodist Church, spoke Friday about the meaning of Good Friday —what it meant to the people of Jesus’ day, and what it means to believers today.

    April 19, 2014

  • mc-safety2.jpg OHP slates free motorcycle safety course

    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will be back in McAlester to give a free motorcycle safety course on April 26.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • equality-mcdaniel.jpg Couple seeks to help homosexual community in McAlester

    A McAlester woman says she and her spouse are working to bring equality to McAlester.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Look what's going on downtown McAlester tonight

    Tonight, area residents are invited to join other community members in front of the old Hunts building at the northwest corner of Choctaw Avenue and Second Street in downtown McAlester to listen and to play music in an open street jam, karaoke, cruise-in and to enjoy one of McAlester's two downtown districts. Set-up starts at 6 p.m., jam will be underway by 7 p.m. and at approximately 8 p.m. karaoke all the while cars cruise in. Everyone should feel free to bring lawn chairs and grills, instruments and music equipment, or classic, modified, modern -- all -- show cars. There are no contests or prizes planned, just community fellowship. 

    April 18, 2014

  • Police Badge MCC.jpg Detective's Dispatch: Buckle up

    It only takes a few seconds to put your seat belt on. These few seconds could change the rest of your life!

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • KTC Proclamation McAlester KTC students compete in state FCCLA contest

    Kiamichi Technology Center, McAlester Campus, recently participated in the 2014 Oklahoma State Students Taking Action with Recognition Events for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18-BREAKFAST1.jpg Lackey: Challenge of today's church is to empower Christ

    Christians everywhere make up the Body of Christ.
    Tom Lackey, of the First Presbyterian Church, delivered that message to the fourth gathering of those participating in the Men’s Holy Week Breakfasts.
    Lackey spoke to a group estimated at more than 100 men and boys at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in McAlester on Thursday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Moon Shadow McAlester crowd gathers to watch lunar eclipse

    More than 60 local and area residents gathered to endure the cold temperatures and late night hours to witness one of Mother Nature’s celestial night shows Tuesday morning.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.