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Remembering Dallas In 1963 . . . Thanksgiving A Blessing, But Not Always A Happy Time

November 25, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

The final months of every year have some of the best holidays, many people think, from Halloween to Christmas, and then New Year’s Day to turn over a new leaf.
As the last month of 1941 arrived, Catholics looked forward to the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6, the Immaculate Conception on December 8, Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, then Christmas.
But just after the sainted early Christian bishop had returned to Earth to leave treats in children’s house shoes, the following morning of December 7 brought the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust the United States into hostilities already underway elsewhere and turned the U.S. upside down through 1945, and longer.
What did U.S. Catholics feel like when they went to that December 8 holy day Mass? It wasn’t to be the Christmas and New Year’s that people had planned.
The U.S. and other locations finally recovered, but history isn’t an arc always headed upward, always and everywhere. As National Socialism was buried in Europe, international Communism expanded its evils.
Walk forward through history a bit. In 1963 Thanksgiving was less than a week away, on the calendar for Thursday, November 28, when President John F. Kennedy made a stop to give a talk in Dallas, in Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s home state of Texas, on Friday, November 22, just before the final weekend before turkey day.
For years thereafter, all you had to do was say “November 22” and everyone instantly knew the meaning. However, time passes. These days many younger people may not recognize the significance of that date without being informed.
Thanksgiving 1963 turned out to be somber, just as many people may feel 2021 to be, under the heel of Marxist-poisoned Joe Biden.
President Kennedy rode in a motorcade through downtown Dallas in an open limousine with his wife, along with the governor of Texas and his wife. Out in the freedom of the sunlight, Kennedy was shot fatally by a rifleman. Presidential limousines that look more like tanks these days are one result of that tragedy.
He was pronounced dead at nearby Parkland Hospital, and a young man with apparent Communist sympathies was arrested later that day. He was Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine who went to live in the Soviet Union for a few years then brought home a Russian wife.
Later years spawned various theories about motives for Kennedy’s killing, but the instant information was about Communist inclinations, including Oswald’s participation in the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. How the liberal-tilted media of those days hated to say that. They preferred to deflect by whipping up worries about a conservative “spirit of hate” in Dallas.
Two days later, on November 24, Oswald was to be transferred from Dallas police headquarters to the county jail. Among newspaper photographers present were Bob Jackson, of the afternoon Dallas Times Herald, and Jack Beers, of The Dallas Morning News.
Jackson won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his head-on photo of Oswald grimacing and starting to clutch himself immediately after nightclub owner Jack Ruby lunged forward with a handgun and shot him fatally.

Deep Shadows

Also in 1964, when I was a member of Explorer Scouting in journalism in Phoenix, Jackson came to town to give a talk. What he snapped in that police basement catapulted him from a single-frame photographer to a press celebrity making the dinner circuit.
I interviewed Jackson, who told me he was right at the same level as the walking Oswald when there was a sudden movement to Jackson’s right, so he quickly raised his camera for a picture without knowing just what he snapped.
A courier offered to take his film back to the office to develop it, Jackson told me, but he wanted to keep the film tightly in his own possession, to make sure he got full credit. This, of course, was long before a camera within your phone could do all sorts of marvelous things on the spot.
I already had stepped into 1960s-style darkrooms for high-school and daily newspaper journalism, so I could imagine the smells and deep shadows Jackson worked in, washing the prints in a chemical bath to see the result. Jackson had a powerful product.
Some other jobs like bakery work are at their best with a scrumptious result, but newspaper photography may be at its best when it’s at its worst, like an accused presidential assassin being gunned down. Phoenix’s Arizona Republic didn’t even publish Jackson’s photo on its front page because it was so graphic as the bullet hit Oswald, but put it inside the paper. The photo it chose for the front page was that of the other Dallas daily photographer, Beers, of the Morning News.
Beers’ was slightly less graphic, showing Ruby jumping forward with his gun, but just before he fired it, so Oswald, looking away from him, hadn’t suffered the impact.
We readers saw the Republic’s Page One and thought what a powerful photo that was, then opened the paper and discovered something even stronger.
Jackson told me that Beers had less mobility because he was on a ledge, while Jackson was right at floor level. You can see this because Beers’ photo is looking down on the scene, and you can see the top of gunman Ruby’s hat.
But the main difference between the photos was only fractions of a moment, between the time Beers clicked his shutter, when Ruby jumped out, and Jackson clicked his, after Ruby pulled the trigger.
The story at the time was that Ruby was outraged at Kennedy’s assassination and wanted to punish Oswald, but a different motivation was bruited later, that Ruby was more than a nightclub owner and wanted to silence Oswald.
This fed into theories that Kennedy’s death may have been due to other incentives, from romantic ties to revenge by Communist Cuba because Kennedy futilely tried to overthrow the Castro government.
Culturally and politically, many in American liberalism would dream of a blessed future “convergence,” when the Soviet Union would become a bit more like us and we a bit more like them. You know, some socialism here, some atheism there, what’s the difference? The last thing they wanted to hear was that a fanboy of Moscow had murdered their beloved JFK.
(Today’s political leftists, of course, have moved far beyond JFK sympathies and would loathe his politics. However, Ronald Reagan as president had a very different view of the Kremlin. His theory: “We win, they lose.”)
Indeed, at the very time Kennedy was killed, a weekly TV adventure series was in preparation that included suave, handsome Soviet secret agent “Illya Kuryakin” working right alongside American agent “Napoleon Solo.” It went on to be a very popular program from 1964 to early 1968, as if the grim reality of Kremlin Communist thugs with malign designs hardly mattered.
Wikipedia observes: “The series was remarkable for pairing an American character, Napoleon Solo, with the Russian Kuryakin as two spies who work together for an international espionage organization at the height of the Cold War.” The show was named The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Earlier in 1963 in Dallas, a retired U.S. Army major general known for strong anti-Communist views, Edwin Walker, received minor wounds when a bullet was fired through a window at his home. Although Oswald wasn’t a suspect at the time, the U.S. government’s Warren Commission, created to probe Kennedy’s assassination, concluded that he was the gunman.
Amid all the other emotional pain arising from Kennedy’s assassination was photographer Beers’ professional regret that he snapped his picture slightly too soon to draw the attention of Jackson’s Pulitzer-winner. Some people reportedly suggested that the two men receive a co-Pulitzer, but that was not to be, and Beers was hurt over it for the rest of his life.
A story published on June 30, 2002, by Beers’ paper, The Dallas Morning News, said: “Those who knew him say he never recovered from missing the Pulitzer by six-tenths of a second — the time between his photograph and Mr. Jackson’s.”
The story added, “‘I know this sounds stupid, but for years, I wouldn’t even talk to people about it. It hurt a lot,’ says Darlene Beers Williams, 50, the second of Mr. Beers’ three children, whose father died of a heart attack in 1975. He was 51.”
It’s always true around the world that someone is happy when someone else is sad, someone is being born when someone is dying, someone is falling in love when someone else has a broken heart. This side of Heaven, there’s no universally perfect time or place.
Let’s be grateful for Thanksgiving 2021 and look forward to better times. And hope that even Marxist-poisoned, pro-abortion fanatic Biden and his administration are converted from their wicked ways. The Lord came to save sinners, but even God is powerless over the hearts of proud, unrepentant ones.

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