, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 22, 2013

News of Kennedy’s murder rocked area

A book report about First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stopped suddenly with news about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Autholene McElroy remembers that afternoon — Nov. 22, 1963 — when she was a junior at Warner High School.

“I was doing an oral book report on Jackie when it came out over the loud speaker,” she said. “All I got to in the report was the name and the author.”

McElroy, 67, said she remembered “a lot of people were really upset.”

“Everybody was so upset, the teacher was upset,” she said. “I think they made the kids go home from school because everybody was upset.”

McElroy said she was “kind of in shock” when she heard the news.

Shock, sadness and surprise filled most memories when Muskogee residents were asked to recall where they were and what they were doing when the news of Kennedy’s death broke early in that November afternoon.

One thing many recalled was a need to reach their families.

Muskogee attorney Bill Settle recalled teaching U.S. history at Edison Junior High in Tulsa when the news came out over the intercom that the president had been shot.

“I put my class on good behavior, went to the office and called my wife, who at that time was home with our second daughter who had been born Nov. 9,” Settle said. “That was, what, 12 days earlier. She (his wife) told her mother and her mother didn’t believe her.”

Settle said he went back to talk with his class about the shooting. He said he didn’t recall what was said, but there probably was a lot of sadness and disbelief among students. Settle said he was teaching school as he worked his way through law school.

Cherokee Elementary Principal Suzie Orton was a third-grader in Granbury, Texas, about 70 miles from Dallas.

“We were out on the playground playing, and they brought us all into the building,” Orton said. “I remember coming home from school and my mom was there. She had the TV on and she was watching it in black and white. It was a real sad day.”

Orton said she also remembers watching the funeral.

“We did not go to school that day,” she said. “It was probably real to me because Granbury was so close. Kids did cry. That had never happened in my lifetime.”

The news broke into people’s workplaces.

Lee Roy Reynolds of Okay was a brakeman for Midland Valley Railroad, working in Pawhuska. He recalled seeing the news on TV while waiting to be called to work.

Reynolds, 82, recalled different reactions when he got to work and told people about Kennedy’s assassination.

“There was an old conductor who lived on a caboose, Sid Taylor,” Reynolds said. “He was sitting up on the bunk and he was crying.”

Reynolds said he later told someone who owned a feed store.

“And he was mouthing off saying he was glad Kennedy got killed,” Reynolds said.

He said that when the conductor heard what the feed store owner had said “he had a pistol under his pillow. He grabbed his pistol and said, “I’ll kill the S.O.B.”

Ben Robinson, senior vice president at American Bank of Oklahoma, recalled being in the office of the president of Western Casualty and Surety.

Robinson said the company president’s main question was “Where was the vice president?”

“He was concerned with the transfer of power, if we were going to stay civil,” Robinson said. “There was an immediate outpouring of sadness from everyone. Grown men in tears.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

Text Only
Local News
AP Video
Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later

Should a federal judge have the power to strike down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage?

     View Results
Featured Ads

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.