Friday marked 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. A Hardin-Simmons University communications professor said reporting on Kennedy’s presidency leading up to the assassination made such an impact on his life, that he changed career paths.
On Nov. 22, 1963, Dr. Paul Potter was an eager disc jockey running the KXIL Radio control board in Dallas. His shift ended at 6 a.m. – just a few hours before Kennedy was shot and killed.
Before he left the radio station, he recorded a segment for Radio Press International previewing JFK’s visit.
“A month earlier, the ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, had been in Dallas for a speech and [was] hit over the head with a placard and he had suggested that Kennedy not come to Dallas,” Potter said. “So I had put a little paragraph at the end of the story that this was a chance to show our southern hospitality – so, I'm doing the voicer, got to that paragraph and just stopped. Closed it out - Paul Potter reporting for Radio Press International - and did not put that in the story about our southern hospitality. So reflecting on that day, very strongly I remember having written that one little line and so glad I did not put it in.”
Though he never knew Kennedy personally, Potter said everything changed for him.
“Shortly after that, I did quit broadcasting – it affected me so dramatically,” Potter said. “There was something about Kennedy, regardless of where you were politically at the time it was just a Camelot experience.”
He said the airwaves also changed in the following days.
“All of our programming changed,” Potter said. “Rock and roll was no more – jazz and other types of programming – everything sounded like a dirge of classical music was being played. No commercials for those several days up to the funeral.”
Potter said Kennedy’s death is a reminder that life is fragile. The HSU library has a collection of books, photographs, newspapers and keywords relating to the assassination on display until the end of the semester. It is open to the public.