November 18, 2013
President Kennedy is Assassinated

Three-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father's casket. (Courtesy The Associated Press)

50 Years Ago in News History: President Kennedy is Assassinated

On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade in downtown Dallas. Kennedy was in the city to mend a feud within the Texas Democratic Party and to rally support for his re-election bid.

At 12:34 p.m. CST, United Press International issued the first bulletin, which signaled a tragic day for the country and an unprecedented day for broadcast news:

"Three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade today in downtown Dallas."

Newspaper reporters and photographers scrambled to cover the story from outside the Texas School Book Depository, where the shots originated, and Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was rushed to the emergency room. TV journalists raced to landline telephones to relay updates as the story unfolded.

The three major networks at the time, ABC, CBS and NBC — with their four days of non-stop coverage — established television as the primary source for breaking news. Two days after the assassination, about 93 percent of NBC viewers witnessed the shooting of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald live on their screens. TV cameras focused on every aspect of the tragedy gave Americans an unprecedented opportunity to stay informed and mourn the loss of the country's 35th president.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, the Newseum will feature exhibits, programs and events that explore media coverage of his presidency, home life and death.

  • "Three Shots Were Fired" chronicles the assassination from newspaper field coverage to the live broadcasts of Kennedy's funeral and burial. Never-before-seen artifacts, including Abraham Zapruder's camera, are on display.
  • "Creating Camelot" features private images of the Kennedy family from the collection of photographer Jacques Lowe. From 1958 to 1961, Lowe took more than 40,000 photos of the Kennedys' memorable public appearances and unseen private moments.
  • An accompanying Newseum-produced film, "A Thousand Days," recounts the youthful glamour the Kennedy family brought to the White House.

The exhibits are open now through Jan. 5, 2014.

  • On Nov. 20, Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent for CBS News and moderator of "Face the Nation," and Clint Hill, a former Secret Service agent who was in the presidential motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, will share their memories of that day. This program is sold out. Follow it on Twitter at #JFK50.
  • On Nov. 22, the Newseum will host "JFK Remembrance Day," featuring a number of daylong events. Follow the programs on Facebook and Twitter at #JFKNewseum.
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