Communication Professor Reported on Kennedy’s Visit to Dallas 50 Years Ago

Communication Professor Reported on Kennedy’s Visit to Dallas 50 Years Ago

By Dr. Paul Potter, HSU Professor of Communication

 

 

 

It was around 6 a.m. November 22, 1963, when a young disc jockey running the control board at KIXL Radio, an easy-listening station in Dallas, Texas, recorded a newsfeed for Radio Press International. The lead news story was President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Fort Worth and Dallas. While many people remember that day as one frozen in time, HSU’s Dr. Paul Potter, professor of communication, remembers it, perhaps, more profoundly than most.On the morning of November 22, Potter wrote and recorded a newsfeed for the audio actuality news service RPI. Scheduled to leave the radio station before sun up, Potter decided the newsfeed would be more informative if it included an editorial paragraph regarding the president’s visit to Dallas later that day.{{more}}“It was really just a generic story about Kennedy’s visit,” says Potter. “In the last paragraph I decided to add that the visit was an opportunity for Dallas to regain some of its lost reputation for southern hospitality after its disgraceful welcoming of Adlai Stevenson a few days before.” Potter was referring to an event on October 24, 1963, when the United Nations ambassador, grandson of former U.S. vice president Adlai Stevenson, was jeered, spit on, and intentionally hit by a sign during a visit to mark U.N Day. According to the historic record, Dallas police were fearful that similar demonstrations were going to happen to Kennedy. Stevenson warned Kennedy against travel to Dallas.Adlai Stevenson. Courtesy of Associate Press“I was about to go home and get some sleep before I went to my second job at KERA where I worked as a director. When I recorded the audio feed, I didn’t say what I had written in that last paragraph. Something stopped me from including the comment about the city recovering from its disgraceful treatment of Stevenson. I just gave the story straight.” Potter points out the irony, “Obviously Dallas did not get back into the good graces of anybody.” Potter says he was so impacted by that day that he changed his career path. Quitting his jobs in radio and television, Potter briefly sold life insurance before completing his education with numerous degrees. He also became an ordained Baptist minister, and has worked in higher education at numerous universities.“It’s been interesting as a teacher to talk about that day 50 years ago,” reminisces Potter. “Stations stopped playing commercials because it didn’t seem respectful to play them after such a national tragedy. When 9/11 happened, my students finally had a reference point; an event so tragic that many television stations and radio stations did not play commercials or do any regular programming.” Potter continues to teach communication classes with mass media emphasis in HSU’s Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts.John and Jackie KennedyIntended Schedule of Events of Kennedy’s 1963 Texas Trip: Thursday, November 21 • San Antonio dedication speech for U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base • Houston testimonial dinner at the Rice Hotel, honoring Congressman Albert Thomas Friday, November 22 • Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast speech at Hotel Texas • Dallas luncheon speech to the Citizens Council at the Dallas Assembly and Science Research Center at Trade Mart • Kennedy was scheduled to go to Austin that evening to deliver a fundraising dinner speech at the Municipal Auditorium and then spend a weekend of relaxation near Johnson City at vice president’s Lyndon Johnson’s ranch.Actual Events of Friday, November 22, 1963:• Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline arrive at Love Field aboard Air Force One at 11:40 a.m. after a very short flight from nearby Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. The original schedule was for the president and his entourage to proceed in a long motorcade from Dallas Love Field through downtown, and end at the Dallas Business Trade Mart. • At 12:30 p.m. the presidential limousine made a right turn on Elm Street at Dealey Plaza where the Texas School Book Depository was located. Most witnesses indicated they heard three shots fired. • The limo driver and police motorcycles turned on sirens and raced full speed to Parkland Hospital, passing their intended destination of the Dallas Trade Mart, arriving at Parkland eight minutes later.• President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. • At 1:33 p.m., the White House press secretary made the official announcement of the president’s death in a nurses classroom filled with reporters, “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1 o’clock Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound to the brain. I have no other details regarding the assassination of the president.” • Following the official announcement of President Kennedy’s death, the three television networks cancelled their regular programming and commercials for the first time in the history of television, running coverage non-stop for four days. The assassination of President Kennedy was the longest uninterrupted news event in the history of American television until September 11, 2001, when networks covered the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., and the downed plane in Pennsylvania.About Dr. Paul Potter: Potter is a graduate of North Texas State University where he earned a Ph.D. in higher education with a teaching field of speech communication and drama. Prior to his appointment at HSU, he held the endowed James Pedas Professor of Communication Chair at Thiel College in western Pennsylvania. He has served as executive director of a church leadership training program in Tennessee; administrative pastor for Door of Hope Church in Fairbanks, Alaska; director of administration and operations for a church camp and retreat center in Alaska; and a number of positions in academic teaching and administration for universities in Texas, Oklahoma, and Ohio. Potter earned an Associate of Arts, El Centro College-Dallas County Community College District, 1968; a Bachelor of Fine Arts, broadcast film arts, Southern Methodist University, 1969; Master of Fine Arts, broadcast film arts, Southern Methodist University, 1970; postgraduate study, Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology, 1971; postgraduate study, Dallas Baptist University, 1972-73; Doctor of Philosophy, college teaching, speech communication and drama, North Texas State University, 1978; postdoctoral study, University of North Texas, 1992-1993.