UNION COUNTY — Some were adults who were at work or at home taking care of their children while others were children of various ages themselves, but they all remember where they were the day the president of the United States of America was assassinated.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. Kennedy was shot while riding through Dealey Plaza in a presidential motorcade with First Lady Jacquelyn Kennedy at his side. Though rushed to Parkland Hospital where doctors worked frantically to save his life, Kennedy was pronounced dead a short time later.
Kennedy’s assassination stunned the American people and even though 50 years have passed, his death is still a vivid memory for a number of Union County residents.
“I remember my parents talking about it,” Union County Recreation Department Director Becky Cobb said Thursday.
Cobb, who hadn’t reached school age when Kennedy was killed, said she also remembered the emotional reaction to the tragedy.
“I remember the sadness that the whole town was overcome with,” Cobb said.
Neil Valentine, the father of Union County Auditor Brad Valentine, said he was in social studies class at Union High School “when they came around and announced it.”
Also in school was Union Mayor Harold Thompson, who said that from the moment Kennedy’s assassination was announced to his burial, his family followed it on TV. He said he also remembered when Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed.
“I was in elementary school playing in the schoolyard,” Thompson said. “The teacher came and took us back inside and told us the president had been assassinated.
“I remember my grandfather, he loved history, and we were pinned to that TV for the rest of the day, the next day, and all the way up on until he (Kennedy) was buried,” he said. “I remember very vividly them arraigning Oswald. I remember him being shot by Jack Ruby on TV.”
Mary Martin remembers how first learning he’d been shot and then that he’d died affected everyone in her class, including the teacher.
“I was in sixth grade in Main Street School, Mrs. Pierce was my teacher,” Martin said. “It was a little after 1 and of course we didn’t do nothing else but look at each other. We thought this couldn’t be right.
“It was a little after 2 that the speaker came on and said he’d passed away,” she said. “We were just shocked, we didn’t know what to say. Mrs. Pierce was just sitting there. I know she was crying, but trying to hold it back for us.”
Grace Lybrand said a stillness descended on the school when it was announced the president had been killed.
“I was at Union High School and I had study hall,” Lybrand said. “We got the news at the end of the day and the students just remained silent.”
Torance Inman, executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, was 13 at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. Inman said he was in school both on the day Kennedy won the presidency in 1960 and when he was killed.
He said everyone was left speechless when they learned of Kennedy’s death.
“I remember the shock, it took your breath away,” Inman said. “It basically took everybody’s breath away, nobody knew what to say.”
Donnis Henderson was at work when she heard the news from a colleague.
“I was in Atlanta, I was at work,” Henderson said. “One of my coworkers came running in saying ‘The president’s been shot!’ We said ‘What?’
“Being at work we didn’t have a TV so I didn’t see anything until I got home,” she said. “It was just tragic.”
Susan Glaser said she and her family had just moved back to Union from Columbia and she was watching TV with her infant daughter when she learned of Kennedy’s assassination.
“My daughter was a baby, almost 4 months old,” Glaser said. “We had a little black and white TV. We lived in an apartment on Reid Street.
“Walter Cronkite came on and announced it,” she said. “My daughter and I were sitting there watching the TV. I was just sitting there stunned. I could not believe it. It was just tragic.”
Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair said Kennedy’s death influenced his actions and those of one of his brothers.
“I was at Union High School in the eighth grade,” Sinclair said. “School was let out for a couple of days. We had one of the few TVs in our community and the neighbors were stuck to the TV.
“The personal impact on me and one of my brothers was that we began to collect Kennedy books and writings,” he said. “His guiding principle — ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country — is and should be a guiding principle for all.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org