This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
Wicker: The details he gave us were good and mostly—as it later proved—accurate. But he would not describe to us the appearance of the President as he was wheeled into the hospital, except to say that he was “gravely wounded.” We could not doubt, then, that it was serious. I had chosen that day to be without a notebook. I took notes on the back of my mimeographed schedule of the two-day tour of Texas we had been so near to concluding. Today, I cannot read many of the notes; on November 22, they were as clear as 60-point type.
Dugger: Because I had reached Yarborough first before many of the reporters came up, I then told a group of them what he had said from the first. This was a common scene the rest of the day, reporters sharing what they had learned with their colleagues.
Wicker: Mac Kilduff came out of the hospital. We gathered round and he told us the President was alive. It wasn’t true, we later learned; but Mac thought it was true at that time, and he didn’t mislead us about a possible recovery Kilduff promised more details in five minutes and went back into the hospital. We were barred. Word came to us second-hand—I don’t remember exactly how—from Bob Clark of ABC, one of the men in the press “pool” car near the President’s, that he had been lying face down in Mrs. Kennedy’s lap when the car arrived at Parkland. No signs of life I knew Clark and respected him. I took his report at face value, even at second-hand. It turned out to be true.
Kilduff: At 1:04 they were still trying to work on him, as Dr. Perry’s statements have subsequently indicated. It was only a few minutes later, however, that in talking to Kenney O’Donnell [White House Appointments Secretary] that we knew the President was, in fact, dead . About 10 or 15 minutes after 1:00 I got hold of Kenney and I said, “This is a terrible time to have to approach you on this, but the world has got to know that President Kennedy is dead.” He said, “Well, don’t they know it already?” and I said, “No, I haven’t told them.” He said, “Well, you are going to have to make the announcement. Go ahead. But you better check it with Mr. Johnson.” His [President Johnson’s] reaction was immediate on that. And he said, “No, I think we better wait a minute. Are they prepared to get me out of here?” By this time it was about 1:20. I went back and talked to President Johnson, and I said, “Well, I am going to make the announcement as soon as you leave.” Then the two of us, President Johnson and myself, walked out of the emergency entrance together, and everyone was screaming at me, “What can you tell us?” It was a scene of absolute confusion.
Dugger: Reporters trying to make phone calls found that all the hospital phones had gone dead. I chased across the street to find a phone in a filling station to call [the] paper I was working with. While I was standing in the storeroom where the phone was, waiting to get through, I heard it announced on the radio, “The President is dead.” I told the editor and rushed back to the hospital. I first believed and comprehended that he was dead when I heard Doug Kiker of the Herald Tribune swearing bitterly and passionately, “Goddam the sonsabitches.” Yes, he was dead. But who had announced it? In the press room that had been improvised out of a classroom, no one seemed to know.