This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
Smith: I ran back through the hospital to the conference room. There Jiggs Fauver grabbed me and said Kilduff wanted a pool of three men immediately to fly back to Washington on Air Force One, the Presidential aircraft. “He wants you downstairs, and he wants you right now,” Fauver said. Down the stairs I ran and into the driveway, only to discover Kilduff had just pulled out in our telephone car. Charles Roberts Sid Davis and I implored a police officer to take us to the airport in his squad car. On the way to the airport, the young police officer driving said, “I hope they don’t blame this on Dallas.” I don’t know who it was in the car that said, “They will.” The Secret Service had requested that no sirens be used in the vicinity, but the Dallas officer did a masterful job of getting us through some of the worst traffic I have ever seen. As we piled out of the car on the edge of the runway about 200 yards from the Presidential aircraft, Kilduff spotted us and motioned for us to hurry. We trotted to him and he said the plane could take two pool men to Washington; that Johnson was about to take the oath of office aboard the plane and would take off immediately thereafter. I saw a bank of telephone booths beside the runway and asked if I had time to advise my news service. He said, “But for God’s sake, hurry.” Then began another telephone nightmare. The Dallas office rang busy. I tried calling Washington. All circuits were busy. Then I called the New York bureau of UPI and told them about the impending installation of a new President aboard the airplane.
Wicker: [In the press room] we received an account from Julian Reed, a staff assistant, of Mrs. John Connally’s recollection of the shooting . The doctors had hardly left before Hawks came in and told us Mr. Johnson would be sworn in immediately at the airport. We dashed for the press buses, still parked outside. Many a campaign had taught me something about press buses and I ran a little harder, got there first, and went to the wide rear seat. That is the best place on a bus to open up a typewriter and get some work done. On the short trip to the airport, I got about 500 words on paper—leaving a blank space for the hour of Mr. Johnson’s swearing-in, and putting down the mistaken assumption that the scene would be somewhere in the terminal.
Smith: Kilduff came out of the plane and motioned wildly toward my booth. I slammed down the phone and jogged across the runway. A detective stopped me and said, “You dropped your pocket comb.”… Kilduff propelled us to the President’s suite two-thirds of the way back in the plane . I wedged inside the door and began counting. There were 27 people in this compartment.
Davis: the Judge, Mrs. Sarah Hughes, of Dallas, told the President to raise his right hand and repeat after her. Then he repeated the oath. At that moment, I started the second hand on my watch and I clocked it at 28 seconds.
Smith: The two-minute ceremony concluded at 3:38 p.m. EST and seconds later, the President said firmly, “Now, let’s get airborne.” Col. James Swindal, pilot of the plane, a big gleaming silver and blue fanjet, cut on the starboard engines immediately. Several persons, including Sid Davis of Westinghouse, left the plane at that time. The White House had room for only two pool reporters on the return flight and these posts were filled by Roberts and me, although at the moment we could find no empty seats. At 3:47 p.m. EST the wheels of Air Force One cleared the runway.
Wicker: As we arrived at a back gate along the airstrip, we could see Air Force One, the Presidential jet, screaming down the runway and into the air.