The gunshots that rang out in Dealey Plaza in Dallas 58 years ago today have reverberated across the country, including Yakima.
Residents of Yakima County, like their counterparts across the country, were shocked by the news that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he was riding in a motorcade through Dallas. Businesses closed, flags were lowered, and churches offered prayers on behalf of the Kennedy family and the grieving nation.
At the time of his assassination, Kennedy was setting the stage for a 1964 re-election campaign, traveling to the Western States for support. A few weeks earlier, he was at the Hanford nuclear reserve for the inauguration of the N reactor.
In Dallas, Kennedy was scheduled to give a lunch speech while trying to unify Texas Democrats. Kennedy was pronounced dead around 11 a.m. PT. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in aboard the presidential plane 90 minutes later, with Jacqueline Kennedy by his side, her dress stained with her husband’s blood.
As news of Kennedy’s death spread, the people of Valley were stunned by the death of the young president.
Pacific Bell reported that the area’s phone lines were so flooded that people were slow to get a dial tone, while the switchboard at the Yakima County courthouse was overwhelmed.
The flags around the valley were quickly lowered to mid-length in mourning for Kennedy; some people have been seen openly crying in the streets.
“I wonder how many people think (the Kennedys) like human beings? He had a wife, two children and a mother, ”said Reverend Riley R. Johnson, rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. “They are all human beings. It is a human tragedy. “
At the Yakima Daily Republic and the Yakima Morning Herald, reporters scrambled to cover the story, from the reaction of people on the streets to the making of a photo retrospective on Kennedy’s life. The Republic, the evening newspaper, came out that afternoon with a front page featuring the photo of Kennedy surrounded by a mourning border, with the all-capitalized headline “JFK MURDERED” at the top of the page.
A Republic editorial praised Kennedy as a man who fought for what he believed in, even though the newspaper’s editors sometimes disagreed with him.
“He deserved the worship of a hero – not a bullet from an assassin,” the editorial said. “He fought like all Americans fight to win.”
Yakima Mayor Jack Larson issued a proclamation declaring a day of mourning and urging residents to attend church services to pray for Kennedy and Johnson.
The Yakima faith community jumped into action that day, with the Central Lutheran Church and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church offering prayer services.
That Sunday, churches put aside their Thanksgiving programs to bring comfort in the wake of Kennedy’s death. Pastors reported that the number of people coming to church that day was comparable to Easter services.
Washington State Patrol Soldiers were on high alert, as State Patrol Chief Roy Betlach warned them to expect the unexpected, including the possibility of accidents caused by panicked people.
At the Yakima Shooting Center – now the Yakima Training Center – 1,000 troops were assembled to hear the official announcement of Kennedy’s death by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
The 1963 Apple Cup match between the University of Washington and Washington State University has been moved from November 23 to 30 out of respect for the assassinated president.
Local business leaders have urged businesses to close their doors to mourn Kennedy’s death. Yakima’s Fruit Row packing houses remained open on the day of the funeral, but allowed workers who wanted to attend services to be absent.
The next day, businesses and schools were closed as Kennedy’s funeral service aired from Washington, DC Yakima Avenue, already decorated for Christmas, was quiet until noon, when the funeral service was over.
At the shooting center, a 21-round salvo was fired in Kennedy’s honor in the morning, and that evening a 50-round salvo – one round for each state – was fired.
TO. In St. Paul’s Cathedral, Reverend John Ecker celebrated a Requiem Mass for Kennedy on behalf of the Diocese of Yakima, while other churches offered prayer services.
Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, is said to be arrested hours after Kennedy’s death, but not before killing a Dallas police officer. Oswald never faced justice, as he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail, triggering savage conspiracy theories that continue to this day.
A relic of that day in Dallas is in Washington. The presidential plane Johnson flew in Dallas is on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight. The plane Kennedy took to Dallas, and in which Johnson was sworn in before bringing Kennedy’s body back to Washington, is in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.