The JFK assassination: 50 years later

Tribune reporter

The horrifying news from Dallas brought the nation to a standstill that Friday afternoon 50 years ago this month. The president had been shot. Here's what Tribune readers saw the next morning.

Coverage: "President John F. Kennedy was assassinated today." That was the simple, dramatic beginning of the Tribune's lead story from Robert Young, who was traveling with the president on his Texas trip that Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. The Tribune ran 13 pages of news coverage, eight of them free of advertising. The scope of the event meant that aspects of the story were reported throughout the newspaper, including in sports, business and features. The Trib followed an old newspaper tradition and reversed the margins to frame the stories with black lines of mourning. The Tribune's Saturday front page recognized there were two huge stories: The slaying of one president but also the inauguration of another. More than 1.15 million copies of the paper were printed. About 31,000 copies of a special section reprint of the coverage were sold in December in just 48 hours.

Photos: The portraits of Kennedy and Johnson ran in color, a fact the Trib boasted about later in the retelling of the historic day. The newspaper's editors apparently felt the formal portraits were more appropriate, despite having gripping news photographs available, which they published inside the paper, and as less prominently placed photos on Page One.

Reaction: An editorial on Page 3 read, "A shocked nation grieves for a man whose charm and grace of bearing and expression were acknowledged even by his political opposition. To his widow, his children, and his devoted family will be extended the sympathy of all Americans." Other stories reported that then-Mayor Richard J. Daley "broke into tears" when he heard the news, and area churches and synagogues were jammed with mourners.

Impact: It is hard to grasp how deeply the nation was affected by the tragedy. Consider this partial list: From Friday afternoon to Monday evening, TV networks aired nothing but Kennedy-related coverage, no advertisements, no other programming. Religious services were held Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the day of the funeral. Pope Paul VI said a special mass for Kennedy. Wall Street trading was halted early Friday to avert a panic. The United Nations adjourned all sessions. The Canadian Parliament adjourned; bells rang in Berlin; condolence messages poured in from leaders around the world. Chicago and New York theaters canceled Friday night performances, as did the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The entire Big Ten's Saturday football schedule was called off, though plenty of other college games were played. NFL games were played Sunday, but AFL games were postponed. Public and Catholic schools in the Chicago area closed Monday, the national day of mourning. Most universities also shut down. Most stores, restaurants, businesses and museums closed all day Monday or during the funeral. The Midwest Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade were closed. A U.S. rocket launch was postponed. Las Vegas casinos closed that Monday for just the third time in history. And finally, this: Telephone operators across the nation stopped accepting calls for a minute of silence at 11 a.m. Monday.

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