This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
Dugger: Kilduff came into the classroom and stood on the dais before the bright green blackboard his voice, too, vibrating from his feelings. “President John F. Kennedy—” he began. “Hold it,” called out a cameraman. “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately one o’clock Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain. I have no other details regarding the assassination of the President. Mrs. Kennedy was not hit. Governor Connally was hit. The Vice President was not hit.” Had President Johnson taken the oath of office? “No. He has left.” On that, Kilduff would say no more. As Kilduff lit a cigarette, the flame of his lighter quivered violently.
Donovan: there was a brief flurry of questioning among the reporters themselves in the press room as to whether Johnson would take the oath there or take it in Washington, and the consensus immediately prevailed, of course, he would take it in Dallas, because in the kind of world we are living in, you can’t have the United States without a President, even in the time it takes to get from Dallas to Washington.
Smith: I raced into a nearby office. The telephone switchboard at the hospital was hopelessly jammed. I spotted Virginia Payette, wife of UPI’s Southwestern division manager and a veteran reporter in her own right. I told her to try getting through on pay telephones on the floor above. Frustrated by the inability to get through the hospital switchboard, I appealed to a nurse. She led me through a maze of corridors and back stairways to another floor and a lone pay booth. I got the Dallas office. Virginia had gotten through before me.
Wicker: The search for phones began. Jack Gertz, traveling with us for AT&T, was frantically moving them by the dozen into the hospital but few were ready yet. I wandered down the hall, found a doctor’s office, walked in, and told him I had to use the phone. He got up without a word and left. I battled the hospital switchboard for five minutes and finally got a line to New York The whole conversation [with New York] probably took three minutes. Then I hung up, thinking of all there was to know, all there was I didn’t know. I wandered down a corridor and ran into Sidey and Chuck Roberts of Newsweek. They’d seen a hearse pulling up at the emergency entrance and we figured they were about to move the body. We made our way to the hearse—a Secret Service agent who knew us helped us through suspicious Dallas police lines—and the driver said his instructions were to take the body to the airport. That confirmed our hunch, but gave me at least another wrong one. Mr. Johnson, I declared, would fly to Washington with the body and be sworn in there. We posted ourselves inconspicuously near the emergency entrance. Within minutes they brought the body out in a bronze coffin . Mrs. Kennedy walked by the coffin, her hand on it, her head down, her hat gone, her dress and stockings spattered. She got into the hearse with the coffin. The staff men crowded into cars and followed. That was just about the only eyewitness matter that I got with my own eyes that entire afternoon. Roberts commandeered a seat in a police car and followed, promising to “fill” Sidey and me as necessary. We made the same promise to him and went back to the press room.
Davis: Jiggs Fauver, of the White House transportation office, grabbed my arm and said, “Come with me. We need a pool. Don’t ask any questions.” I grabbed my typewriter and left .