JFK assassination allows for journalistic growth

Bill Little

Like all good young journalists should do, we immediately began thinking, ‘How can we cover this event given that it’s 200 miles from us?,’ and you sensed that history was happening, the magnitude of it…but the excitement of covering the story for journalism students of the time clearly was evident to us.”

“The year before, as a junior, I had gone with Vice President Johnson and the Press Corps when he’d come down to Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio…I just basically called the press secretary … And said, you know, I’m a writer for The Daily Texan and I’d like to go with Vice President Johnson on this trip … I can just remember him going from cubicle to cubicle and office to office, walking in and saying, ‘Hello. I’m Lyndon Johnson, your vice president,’ and introducing himself to everybody in Brooke Medical Center at the time, and then we flew on down to the LBJ ranch.

It was about 80 degrees when we got there, and Mr. Johnson said to the guy at the ranch, ‘What’s the temperature?’ And the guy says ‘80 degrees sir,’ and he said, ‘Well, we’re going swimming’… I remember winding up in the swimming pool with him, and he and I were the only two people in the pool, and the extent of my hard-hitting interview was he’s going ‘I really enjoy this,’ and I said, ‘yeah,’ and he said, ‘yeah, we’re thinking of putting one of these into the house in Washington, and I said ‘yes, they are nice things to have,’ and that was the extent of my hard-hitting interview. But it did give being able to spend a day with him. It did give a personal picture of who the guy was.”

“I stayed in Austin, and my job was to write the story on Johnson as the new president.”

“Since obviously I wasn’t there to see [Johnson sworn into office], you had to envision what it would be like…For a Texan to be going into the White House carried significance for those of us who had grown up in Texas, and yet, at the same time, that’s not the way you would have wanted it to happen.”

“It was an age of innocence for those of us who were young there. It was something that the vibrance of the youth within the White House was contagious. The Vietnam conflict was just starting, we had survived the missiles of October, we’d all grown up in the threat of the bomb blowing us all up when we were kids, and our parents had gone through Depression and war, and we had seen as youngsters the Korean War, but this was a day that touched us the way we’d been told that Pearl Harbor touched our parents.”

“Coach Royal was to have gone to the airport to meet him when he got off the plane…and so we were the number one football team in the country at the time, so there was a lot of interest in football on campus…The Aggies had kidnapped Bevo, and there had been a big story about that. That was how innocent our lives were in that it would be a front page story that Texas A&M had kidnapped the Texas mascot, and then three days later, our lives changed forever.”