This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
Wicker: When Wayne Hawks of the White House staff appeared to say that a press room had been set up in a hospital classroom at the left rear of the building, the group of reporters began strutting across the lawn in that direction. I lingered to ask a motorcycle policeman if he had heard on his radio anything about the pursuit or capture of the assassin. He hadn’t, and I followed the other reporters. As I was passing the open convertible in which Vice President and Mrs. Johnson and Senator Yarborough had been riding in the motorcade, a voice boomed from its radio: “The President of the United States is dead. I repeat—it has just been announced that the President of the United States is dead.” There was no authority, no word of who had announced it. But—instinct again—I believed it instantly. It sounded true. I knew it was true. I stood still a moment, then began running . I jumped a chain fence looping around the drive, not even breaking stride. Hugh Sidey of Time, a close friend of the President, was walking slowly ahead of me. “Hugh,” I said, “the President’s dead. Just announced on the radio. I don’t know who announced it but it sounded official to me.” Sidey stopped, looked at me, looked at the ground. I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t think about it. I couldn’t do anything but run on to the press room. Then I told the others what I had heard. Sidey, I learned a few minutes later, stood where he was a minute. Then he saw two Catholic priests. He spoke to them. Yes, they told him, the President was dead. They had administered the last rites.
Dugger: Then it was that Hugh Sidey of Time came in and, his voice failing with emotion, told the assembled press that two Catholic priests had told him and another reporter or so that the priests had given the President the last rites.
terHorst: I had just paid somebody in the hospital, a nurse’s aid or somebody, $15 to keep a line open to Detroit . I ran down through the corridor and Hugh Sidey was saying, “I have just talked to Father Huber and he said, ‘He is dead, all right.’” I ran back down the corridor to the telephone, to relay this to my office in Detroit, and I couldn’t talk. The girl who had kept the line open for me went and got a little paper cup of water. When I said over the telephone what Father Huber had said, my rewrite man on the other end dissolved. He couldn’t go on. They had to put another rewrite man on.
[AP Log]: Bob Ford held an open line to the office. Then Val Imm, society editor of the Times-Herald, came bursting through a mob of newsmen, grabbed an adjoining phone, shouted into it. Ford relayed her words
Smith: Telephones were at a premium in the hospital and I clung to mine for dear life. I was afraid to stray from the wicket lest I lose contact with the outside world. My decision was made for me, however, when Kilduff and Wayne Hawks ran by me, shouting that Kilduff would make a statement shortly in the so-called nurses room a floor above and at the far end of the hospital. I threw down the phone and sped after them. We reached the door of the conference room and there were loud cries of “Quiet!”
Kilduff: I got up there and I thought, “Well, this is really the first press conference on a road trip I have ever had to hold.” I started to say it, and all I could say was “Excuse me, let me catch my breath,” and I thought in my mind, “All right, what am I going to say, and how am I going to say it?” I remember opening my mouth one time and I couldn’t say it, and I think it must have been two or three minutes.