With November 22nd being the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, we're being inundated by specials and tributes to commemorate the event. Tomorrow in particular. I thought I would get a jump by presenting a first-person account you've never heard and quite frankly is somewhat astounding.
In 1963 Geoff Edwards was a San Diego disc jockey who got a job in Los Angeles radio. Eventually he would become quite popular on big stations like KMPC and KFI, and then go on to become a national game show host. (Today he writes wonderful travel books and has a great podcast.) I first heard of Geoff Edwards that fateful weekend because he was interviewed frequently on the major networks. He was an eye witness to the Jack Ruby shooting. Anyway, I asked Geoff if he wouldn't mind sharing with you his personal account of being in Dallas and covering this story some fifty years ago. I knew it would be interesting, but I had no idea HOW interesting. Thanks, Geoff for a truly remarkable true story.
I was in San Diego listening to KFMB, my former radio station while packing for my new job at KHJ in Los Angeles. The news broke: President Kennedy had been assassinated. A few hours later I arrived in Dallas, reporting for KHJ and the Mutual Broadcasting System.
My first impression of Dallas was a hefty Dallas policeman directing traffic with a cigar hanging from his mouth. Little did I know it was a metaphor.
Press coverage of this momentous event is hard to believe given the ways of today’s electronic world. No cell phones then, no internet broadcast abilities, and even with the FBI everywhere, no one defined as “in charge”.
I entered the Dallas Police Headquarters, walked right past the desk sergeant and down the halls without showing any Press Credentials, or indeed any ID at all.
There were reporters from all over the world and a room had been set aside for us. We gathered there and exchanged information, nailing down certain facts so all our reports would agree on times, each of us telling what we had uncovered.
Oswald was brought down a hall with the press lined on one side yelling out questions. His rifle held high by an FBI agent, he was asked if he had a lawyer.
“No”, he said in a soft voice. “I want Melvin Belli”. Belli was a well known defense attorney out of San Francisco. After Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald, Belli represented Ruby for free.
There was a phone on the table. I dismantled it, and wired it into my tape recorder. The tape recorder’s microphone was placed near Oswald and thus delivered the only live broadcast of the questions and Oswald’s answers.
Listeners wanted to know the reactions of the general public. I went into the office that was collecting telegrams and phone call messages from US citizens. After locking the door, I called Mutual and read a sampling over the phone, and thus, live on the air. The police information Captain knocked loudly and rattled the door handle. I told him I’d be done in a minute. Still needed no ID.
Opening the door to an interrogation room, I was surprised to find Oswald and his mother. That was the one time during the weekend I backed away.
On the morning that Oswald was to be transported to County Jail, the Dallas Police Chief brought us up to speed, pointing out snipers on rooftops set to protect Oswald on the route.
At the garage entrance door, press credentials were checked for the first time. I walked up to the back of the van that was waiting for Oswald. A police officer roughly yanked me back.
The mass of press was outside a guard rail and a few steps down.
Jack Ruby somehow made his way through the group, and, well, the rest is history.
President LBJ said information relating to the Kennedy assassination would be kept secret until everyone alive at that time was no longer around.
The question should be, what is in those records that we were not supposed to know?
UPDATE: Here is the NBC account of the Ruby shooting with Geoff being interviewed. The NBC reporter is Tom Petit, who happened to be a neighbor of mine. Did I mention the whole thing was surreal? Thanks again to Geoff Edwards.