Hoosiers Remember JFK Assassination 50 Years Ago

A Monroe County Historical Center exhibit includes a wall filled with Monroe County residents’ remembrances of the president's assassination 50 years ago.

JFK exhibit

Photo: Jashin Lin

The JFK exhibit at the Monroe County History Center allows people to share their memories 50 years after the assassination.

Hoosiers are taking today to remember President John F. Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago.

The Monroe County History Center in Bloomington is commemorating the anniversary with a special exhibit.

The exhibit, which continues through the end of the month, includes photographs of the president, newspaper clippings, and a wall that’s filled with Monroe County residents’ remembrances.

Monroe County Historical Center board member Sue Sheldon was ten years old when she heard the news.

“I had gone home for lunch and I was coming back to school, again ten years old, and I remember coming back and somebody said ‘oh the president was shot with a bb gun’ and I thought ‘big deal’,” Sheldon says. “And then only afterwards learned the truth, that he was dead, and that it was such an awful, awful occurrence.”

Sheldon compares her experience to when elementary school children learned about the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Memories From A News Anchor

Fifty years ago, Steve Bell was working as a reporter and anchor for WOW, the CBS affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska.

“All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door,” he recalls. “It was the assignment editor from our station. He had run all the way from the station because all the phone lines were jammed from people calling to alert others a bout what had happened. He said pack for Dallas.”

Bell says he was resistant. His wife was pregnant and due to have the baby any day.

“My wife said, ‘Pack for Dallas. We have friends that can take me to the hospital.”

At Ball State on Friday, professors were screening CBS coverage of the assassination minute-by-minute as it happened.   Bell says the first 20 minutes of each station’s broadcast that day was essentially radio with a news bulletin graphic.

“Having a hot camera in a studio was a big deal then. Normally there wasn’t one,” he says.

Bell says Walter Cronkite and other news anchors were reading what sounded like unconfirmed reports.

“They simply put unsourced information on the air. Unsourced in the sense that they didn’t share any source with the audience,” he says. “Today you would try to reference your source–someone in the administration, someone in the Kennedy party.”

Then 27-year-old Bell was sent to report in Dallas with only one camera.

When assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was to be transferred from the city to the county jail on November 24th, Bell headed to the county jail.  Because of it, he says he missed Jack Ruby shooting Oswald at the city jail.

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