Remembering JFK: Hugh Aynesworth November 18, 2013
Hugh Aynsworth -
On Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas Morning News reporter Hugh Aynesworth was not among the group of reporters and photographers assigned to cover the Dallas visit of President John F. Kennedy. Within 36 hours, however, Aynesworth had witnessed the assassination of the president, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and the shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby. He recounts those events in his book, November 22, 1963: Witness to History. Aynesworth reminisced at the opening of Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition For The President And Mrs. John F. Kennedy on Oct. 22 at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
“I didn’t have an assignment. Everybody else on that paper had something they were going to do. I kept thinking I had been a reporter already for 12 or 13 years and I don’t know why I don’t have some role in all of this.
“So at that moment after I saw Jack Ruby come in and have his breakfast in the cafeteria at the News I decided to go see the president. You don’t see a president every day. To me that was important enough to walk four blocks.
“I could hear the crowds from the News. They were seven and eight deep and excited. I’ll tell you for sure there were some Kennedy haters in Dallas but they didn’t show up that day. It was exuberant; it was wild. They were cheering. People were just excited. They were ecstatic. And the Connallys and the Kennedys were eating it up. They were grinning and waving. I was so thankful I was there.
“Then they passed me right there by the [School Book] depository building and if I had looked up I would have seen the man in the window. But I was watching them. I remember vividly there was a very, very large black woman behind me and she said, ‘Oh, she’s wearing my dress.’ She had a pink dress similar to Jackie’s.
“Then they passed and that’s when Nellie Connally said, ‘You can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.’ That was her last remark to the president.
“Then I heard what I thought was a motorcycle backfiring only it wasn’t. Two or three seconds later I heard a shot and then another shot and I could tell – and I’m not a shooter – those two were definitely rifle shots.
“Then everything broke lose. Everybody went crazy. We didn’t know at first who was shooting, how many were shooting, where they were shooting from. We knew nothing. And so I probably would have run if I had known where to run. People were throwing their children down, protecting them. People were crying. People were throwing up. People were screaming. I’ve never been in a war zone but it came to mind that that’s probably what might happen.” n